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The fiasco of suburbia

Hidden connection between suburbia life style and cheap oil and gas

News Cruise to Frugality Island Recommended Links Energy Bookshelf Secular Stagnation Energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) Science, PseudoScience and Society
Energy Geopolitics Ukraine: From EuroMaidan to EuroAnschluss Russian Ukrainian Gas wars the fiasco of suburbia Lump of energy problem The Great Stagnation Big Fukushima Debate
Casino Capitalism Inflation, Deflation and Confiscation All wars are bankers wars Why Peak Oil Threatens the International Monetary System Casino Capitalism Financial Humor Etc

The problem with surburbia is simple: it consumes too much energy for transpiration and heating.Tthat means that unless energy stays cheap suburbia sprawl will experience increasing difficulties and prices on suburbia houses might never recover to pre-2008 level.


"We're literally stuck up a cul-de-sac in a cement SUV without a fill-up" - James Howard Kunstler

Whoosh Lady

Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too has the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness.

Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream.

But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now, some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary.

The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today's suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia ?

The End of Suburbia DVD

Order your copy on DVD

Hosted by Barrie Zwicker. Featuring James Howard Kunstler, Peter Calthorpe, Michael Klare, Richard Heinberg, Matthew Simmons, Michael C. Ruppert, Julian Darley, Colin Campbell, Kenneth Deffeyes, Ali Samsam Bakhtiari and Steve Andrews. Directed by Gregory Greene. Produced by Barry Silverthorn. Duration: 78 minutes

DVD BONUS: Includes the vintage short films, In the Suburbs and Destination Earth, and producer/director commentary.


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Old News ;-)

[May 01, 2015] How to Reclaim Suburban Sprawl

The American Conservative
Regardless of your political persuasion or your views of suburban style development, you will find Ben Ross’s scholarly and precise writing style captivating and edifying. This journey through the intellectual and philosophical underpinnings of the American suburbs to the sprawl miasma of today is peppered with surprising facts and meticulously supported conclusions. Sifting through a wealth of materials, the MIT-trained author articulates a well-researched, compelling narrative that documents how and why we have arrived at today’s urban-suburban dichotomy. This dichotomy is itself fast approaching its shelf life and does not fully portray the blurring overlap between traditional suburban boundaries and renewing urban cores. Ross makes the case that today’s sprawl suburbs, created and sustained by the three pillars of zoning, covenants and historical preservation, stifle the ability of developers to offer products desired by the free market. These three pillars, in concert, dictate what can be built (single family dwellings, office parks and strip development, for the most part). Ross also argues persuasively that status and the desire for exclusivity were primary motivations for suburban development.

Some conservatives cite statistical evidence that the preponderance of growth is occurring in the suburbs, reflecting the middle class’s continuing fealty to that single family dwelling sited on a quarter acre plot of land. Ross maintains that consumer choice is stifled by the aforementioned building codes, zoning restrictions and other exclusionary devices (that effectively separate residential from shopping and business activities) that keep the suburban development machine going. This adversely affects the ability of the market to respond to demand for rental housing, especially since the suburbs have the greatest supply of land available for new apartment construction. Rising rents indicate both changing consumer preferences (especially among Millennials) and the relative scarcity of new rental housing construction. Ross also describes the myriad of subsidies that benefit the suburbs, including free parking, which, Ross points out, exceeds the value of all cars and trucks in the U.S. Ross also points out the contradictory positions that libertarians have taken regarding subsidies, especially when they advocate abolishing them but hedge on when to do so. Ross writes that they are “the St. Augustines of the free market – end government regulation and make me chaste some day, they pray, but don’t take away my subsidy just yet.”

Ross lauds the efforts of New Urbanism adherents to chip away at the zoning juggernaut. He sees these efforts coalescing around form-based building codes that give the zoning commissions control over the shape and size of structures but not what goes on inside them. Currently, developers who wish to build to the new urbanist mode must carve out sometimes hundreds of variances in order to build New Urbanist communities. This can be enormously expensive and discourage the heartiest of developers. Some New Urbanist developments have emerged but many have been compromised on some aspects to placate zoning boards and reduce expenses.

A paper written by the late Paul Weyrich, William S. Lind and Andrés Duany, one of the original founders of the New Urbanist movement, explored what the New Urbanism represented (the 27 point Manifesto) and whether conservatives could (or should) support New Urbanist principles (Conservatives and the New Urbanism: Do We Have Some Things in Common?). Weyrich and Lind found, among other things, that conservative and New Urbanist interests clearly intersect on the issue of codes. Both Weyrich and Lind believed that communities should have the ability to choose between codes that perpetuate current suburban development and the New Urbanist codes that promote (in their view) a return to time-honored traditions in how we develop our cities and towns. Ross makes a similar point in that suburban development represents a sharp deviation from how cities and towns were successfully developed and nurtured in the past and gives a detailed description of the obstacles New Urbanists face in suburbia.

As an alternative, Weyrich and Lind strongly advocated the adoption of a dual codes approach as one that conservatives could whole-heartedly support. It would allow developers to continue to build suburban sprawl if they so desire or opt for New Urbanist-aligned communities. This would allow the free market to work. Bth Weyrich and Lind expressed their apprehension over the culture-killing aspects of suburban developments – - where meeting your neighbor can be a difficult task, and any movement requires an automobile to accomplish. They viewed more traditional developments as fostering conservative norms and morals. Invoking Edmund Burke, they spoke of his view that “traditional societies are organic wholes. If you disintegrate a society’s physical setting, as [suburban] sprawl has done, you tend to disintegrate its culture as well.

Unlike many other works on suburbia, Mr. Ross has covered all aspects of this story. It is not an easy picture to paint, with so many factors and policies to describe and account for. He has traced the origins of suburban sprawl, its metamorphosis over the years, and its pervasive and saturating effects on all levels of society. He has detailed the associated devastating impact of the over-reliance on the automobile; the ghastly urban forms that have arisen to accommodate the automobile; and the traffic engineering that decrees that the automobile has premium claim on all street space and that all other street-based activity is subordinate (in effect, one automobile equals one streetcar loaded with passengers- no wonder the streetcar almost disappeared). He has documented the crippling effect on transit in this country, the attendant policies that resulted in the demolition of huge swaths of American cities in the name of urban renewal or new highways (through old but viable neighborhoods) distorting our national and state policies to service growth, and ramming tentacles of roads throughout America.

Ben Ross ends on a positive note, stating that we have the tools to redirect the ship, to successfully fight the status quo and to return to quality developments that serve all Americans. To our delight, Mr. Ross contends that it is rail transit that has the ability to light the spark of urban (and inner suburban) revival. He has drawn on his experience with the Purple Line in suburban Maryland to reach some conclusions on how a rail project can capture the imagination of citizens! He quotes the likes of Daniel Burnham, who said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.” Ross cites the ability of rail transit to “remake cities” and in doing so, “rail lines bring rethinking.” It is this characteristic that strikes fear in the heart of defenders of the status quo. While certain groups will fight tooth and nail, write endless editorials, and set up inflammatory websites to stop a rail project, no such fervor is ever directed by these groups toward a highway project. The reason, as Ross points out, is the ability of rail projects to force a rethinking of the urban and suburban paradigm. This has to be done one project at a time. While success is not always assured (witness the demise of Arlington’s Columbia Pike Streetcar), every new rail project that survives this process brings the day closer when a true level playing field will be established and flourish, whether for rail versus other competing modes, or being able to freely choose building codes for new developments.

I unequivocally recommend reading this book. The different perspectives are illuminating and clarifying. In my view, Mr. Ross has confronted a maddeningly difficult subject and successfully laid a meticulously documented foundation on which he builds his narrative. You may not agree with his conclusions but you will be challenged to formulate an equally vigorous reply.

Glen D. Bottoms serves as Executive

The Conservative Case Against the Suburbs

The American Conservative

In his recent column, “Why Suburbia Irks Some Conservatives,” the prominent urban geographer Joel Kotkin creates and then slays a number of straw men in defense of suburban development patterns and all that is right and good in this country. This, unfortunately, is a lament that too often goes unchallenged, ceding a large swath of the American experience in the process. It is time for conservatives to confront the true nature of the suburbs.

America’s suburban experiment is a radical, government-led re-engineering of society, one that artificially inverted millennia of accumulated wisdom and practice in building human habitats. We can excuse modern Americans for not immediately grasping the revolutionary ways in which we restructured this continent over the past three generations–at this point, the auto-dominated pattern of development is all most Americans have ever experienced–but today we live in a country where our neighborhoods are shaped, and distorted, by centralized government policy.

Kotkin begins his piece with a reference to Franklin Roosevelt. In the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt pushed for the creation of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The traditional way of building a home–in slow increments over time, sometimes with an attached commercial enterprise that helped with cash flow–became impossible to underwrite as government officials, desperate for economic growth, used regulation to make the single family home the only viable option for new homeowners. The federally-established Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac followed. The results were rising home ownership and economic growth, but on a very different framework, one where families held significantly higher levels of long term debt.

Dwight Eisenhower likewise embraced the capacity of centralized government action to reshape society. The Interstate Highway Act was a grand vision to connect the entire country with a world-class highway system. This undertaking was finished three decades ago, but policymakers found transportation spending such a seductively simple way to create short-term jobs and growth that we continue to expand it aggressively.

American governments continue to be obsessed with maximizing people’s capacity to travel, even as they ignore minimizing the amount people have to travel. Not only must American families pay the taxes to support this continually-expanding system, but to live in it they are required to purchase, maintain, and store a fleet of vehicles even as they endure heightened sensitivity to oil price fluctuations (and support the military adventures that result).

Like Medicare, Social Security, and a myriad of other federal initiatives, housing and transportation subsidy programs are as popular today as they are financially insolvent. In an effort to prop up our suburban experiment, we now have the Federal Reserve owning the mortgage-backed securities market while Republicans in Congress champion “pension smoothing” as a way to pretend an insolvent federal highway trust fund can continue to build more roads. As with any over-centralized effort, a lack of appropriate feedback mechanisms allows the system to continue barreling down its present course–until it buckles under its own insolvency. Our suburban experiment has an expiration date.

Kotkin argues for the popularity of subsidies for highways and dispersed single-family homes when he claims the suburbs, “represent the epitome of the American Dream and the promise of upward mobility.” This is a pleasant platitude, but is it true?

If it were, we should expect the typical American to actually enjoy more upward mobility than those in other societies. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Research shows that most Western European and English-speaking nations have higher rates of mobility than the United States, despite living at much higher densities.

We would also expect Americans to have more economic security–more accrued wealth–than those in other societies. Again, the reality is that Americans rank 19th in median net worth behind countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, and Japan, countries that have urban population densities many times that of the United States.

The sad reality is that, despite the marketing, the suburbs were never about creating household wealth; they were about creating growth on the cheap. They were born under a Keynesian regime that counted growth from government spending as equivalent to that coming from private investment. Aggressive horizontal expansion of our cities allowed us to consistently hit federal GDP and unemployment targets with little sophistication and few difficult choices.

That we were pawning off the enormous long-term liabilities for serving and maintaining all of these widely dispersed systems onto local taxpayers -– after plying municipalities with all the subsidies, pork spending, and ribbon cuttings needed to make it happen –- didn’t seem to enter our collective consciousness. When all those miles of frontage roads, sewer and water pipes, and sidewalks fall into disrepair -– as they inevitably will in every suburb –- very little of it will be fixed. The wealth necessary to do so just isn’t there.

To quote the late columnist Earl Wilson, “Modern man drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway on credit card gas.” Debt-to-income and debt-to-assets ratios for U.S. households have grown steadily during suburban expansion. That’s because there is an enormous ante required to participate in Kotkin’s version of the American dream. Two cars. Two incomes. Home, work, daycare, school, milk, and fun all require an enormous investment in time behind the wheel every day. It should be no surprise that younger Americans, burdened with student loan debt and having diminished job prospects, are less and less willing to tie themselves to a 30-year mortgages with two car payments.

Where Kotkin sees a “forced march towards densification and ever more constricted planning augurs,” I see the unwinding of our great suburban experiment. As government’s ability to subsidize this artificial pattern of development wanes, a return to more traditional living arrangements is inevitable. For thousands of years, cities have been engines of wealth creation. In America, they are becoming that again.

This leads us to a final truth: cities desperately need conservatives. These are places that have been abandoned to the left for decades. Many urban dwellers are hungry for better government. They want a more responsive bureaucracy. They favor unwinding many of the stifling regulations and perverse subsidies that have built up over the years. They are angry with the political patronage systems run by a governing class that has been unchallenged for decades. Why would conservatives cede this ground so easily?

If conservatives want to identify with the artificial paradigm of an urban left and a rural right meeting on the suburban battlefield, we will continue to empower a progressive governing minority in a country that is solidly conservative. Instead of abandoning America’s growing urban centers to the left, we must see the inherent conservatism rooted within traditional neighborhood patterns of development. These are our people. They are there just waiting for us to speak to them.

Clinging to the Kotkin Doctrine of suburban primacy during this period of change will not only lead to a generation of conservative exile; it will produce a much weaker America.

Charles L. Marohn, Jr. PE AICP (@clmarohn) is a licensed engineer, a professional planner and the president of the non-profit Strong Towns. His latest book, A World Class Transportation System, is now available on Kindle.

Guest Post As Things Fell Apart, Nobody Paid Much Attention

zero hedge

Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform

As Things Fell Apart, Nobody Paid Much Attention

The American way of life – which is now virtually synonymous with suburbia – can run only on reliable supplies of dependably cheap oil and gas. Even mild to moderate deviations in either price or supply will crush our economy and make the logistics of daily life impossible. – Jim Kunstler – The Long Emergency

America was a Garden of Eden with nothing but flowers, trees and vegetation. We bit into the forbidden fruit of oil over a century ago. It has been a deal with the Devil. Oil brought immense wealth, rapid industrialization, 2.7 million miles of paved roads, and enormous power to America. But, now the SUV is running on empty. In the not too distant future the downside of the deal with the Devil will reveal itself. America was the land of the free and home of the brave. Now it is the land of the Range Rover and home of the BMW. In a few years it could be the land of the forlorn and home of the broken down. Our entire society has been built upon a foundation of cheap oil. The discovery of oil in Titusville, PA in 1859 turbo charged the Industrial Revolution in the U.S. The development of our sprawling suburban culture was dependent upon cheap oil. Americans could not survive for a week without oil. Commerce in the U.S. depends upon long haul truckers. Food is transported thousands of miles to grocery stores. The cheap Wal-Mart crap is transported thousands of miles across the seas from China. Americans believe it is our God given right to cheap oil. We are the chosen people. Kevin Phillips, in his brilliant book American Theocracy describes our love affair with cheap oil:

Americans constitute the world’s most intensive motoring culture. For reasons of history and past abundance, no other national population has clumped so complacently around so fuelish a lifestyle. For many citizens the century of oil has brought surfeit: gas-guzzling mobile fortresses, family excursions on twenty thousand-thousand-gallons-per-hour jet aircraft, and lavishly lit McMansions in glittering, mall packed exurbs along outer beltways. Against a backdrop of declining national oil and gas output, Americans consume 25% of world energy while holding just 5% of its energy resources. As the new century began, Americans enjoyed a lifestyle roughly twice as energy intensive as those in Europe and Japan, some ten times the global average. Of the world’s 520 million automobiles, unsurprisingly, more than 200 million were driven in the United States, and the U.S. car population was increasing at five times the rate of the human population. How long that could continue was not clear.

John and Jane Q. Citizen mostly ignore these trends and details, and know nothing of geologist Hubbert’s bell-shaped charts of peak oil. Senior oil executives sometimes discuss them in industry conferences, but elected officials – many with decades of energy platitudes under their belts – typically shrink from opening what would be a Pandora’s Box of political consequences. Oil was there for our grandfathers, they insist, and it will be there for our grandchildren; it is part of the American way.

Ignoring the facts and pretending that we can count on cheap oil for eternity is delusional. It is also the American way. The age of oil is coming to an end.

There are consequences to every action. There are also consequences to every inaction. Over the next decade Americans will experience the dire consequences of inaction. The implications of peak cheap oil have been apparent for decades. The Department of Energy was created in 1977. The Department of Energy’s overarching mission was to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States. In 1970, the U.S. imported only 24% of its oil. There were 108 million motor vehicles in the U.S., or .53 vehicles per person in the U.S. Today, the U.S. imports 70% of its oil and there are 260 million vehicles, or .84 vehicles per person. Jim Kunstler describes our bleak future in The Long Emergency:

”American people are sleepwalking into a future of hardship and turbulence. The Long Emergency will change everything. Globalism will wither. Life will become profoundly and intensely local. The consumer economy will be a strange memory. Suburbia – considered a birthright and a reality by millions of Americans – will become untenable. We will struggle to feed ourselves. We may exhaust and bankrupt ourselves in the effort to prop up the unsustainable. And finally, the United States may not hold together as a nation. We are entering an uncharted territory of history.”

The land of the delusional has no inkling that their lives of happy motoring are winding down. The vast majority of Americans believe that oil is abundant and limitless. Their leaders have lied to them. They will be completely blindsided by the coming age of hardship.

If Americans had any sense of history longer than last week’s episode of Dancing with the Stars (how about that Bristol Palin!), they may have noticed that the modern age has lasted a mere 150 years and has been completely dependent upon cheap plentiful oil. This is a mere eye blink in the history of mankind. American exceptionalism refers to the opinion that the United States is qualitatively different from other nations. Its exceptionalism is claimed to stem from its emergence from a revolution, becoming “the first new nation” and developing “a unique American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire”. This feeling of superiority stems from the belief that we have a moral superiority and God has chosen our country to be a shining symbol for the rest of the world. It is the ultimate in hubris to think that we are the chosen ones. An enormous amount of credit for the American Century (1900 – 2000) must be given to pure and simple luck.

Everything characteristic about the condition we call modern life has been a direct result of our access to abundant supplies of cheap fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have permitted us to fly, to go where we want to go rapidly, and move things easily from place to place. Fossil fuels rescued us from the despotic darkness of the night. They have made the pharaonic scale of building commonplace everywhere. They have allowed a fractionally tiny percentage of our swollen populations to produce massive amounts of food. All of the marvels and miracles of the twentieth century were enabled by our access to abundant supplies of cheap fossil fuels. The age of fossil fuels is about to end. There is no replacement for them at hand. These facts are poorly understood by the global population preoccupied with the thrum of daily life, but tragically, too, by the educated classes in the United States, who continue to be by far the greatest squanderers of fossil fuels. – Jim Kunstler – The Long Emergency

Every accomplishment, invention, and discovery of the 20th Century was due to cheap accessible fossil fuels. The American industrial age was powered by cheap plentiful oil. One hundred and ten years after the discovery of oil in Titusville, PA an American walked on the moon. We harnessed the immense power of oil and rode it hard. An empire was born and grew to the greatest in history through the utilization of oil and oil byproducts. It is no coincidence that U.S. GDP has been dependent upon the growth in fossil fuel consumption over the last 150 years.

The self centered delusional myopic American citizenry see no parallel between the American Empire built on a foundation of oil and the Dutch Empire built upon wind and water or the British Empire established on the discovery of vast quantities of coal. The Dutch Empire of the 1600s had 6,000 ships and 1,000 windmills generating power. The British Empire used coal to power steam engines, pumps, locomotives and ships and forged a great empire in the 1700s and 1800s. Today, the Netherlands has a GDP lower than Mexico. The U.K. has a GDP on par with Italy. You can be sure you are no longer an empire when your GDP is on par with Mexico and Italy. The United States has grown its GDP to $14.7 trillion by exploiting fossil fuels. The American Empire is clearly waning as its dependence on foreign oil slowly bankrupts the country. We consume 140 billion gallons of gasoline every year keeping our suburban sprawl mall based lifestyle viable.

Americans believe our ingenuity, brilliance and blessings from God have led to the elevation of our country to eminence as the greatest empire in history. But, in reality it was due to a black sticky substance that we stumbled across in 1859. Those who believe in American Exceptionalism scoff at the idea that our empire would not exist without oil. They prefer to ignore and downplay the impact of oil on our society. Too bad. Here are the facts from

Our entire civilization will collapse in a week without oil. Try to imagine life if the 159,000 gas stations in the country ran dry. We are running on fumes and refuse to acknowledge that fact. We sooth our psyche with delusions of green energy (solar, wind, ethanol); drill, drill, drill mantras; abiotic oil theories; and vast quantities of shale gas. The concept of energy required to extract an amount of energy completely goes over the head of media pundits and those who prefer not to think. If you expend 2 gallons of gasoline in your effort to extract 1 gallon of gasoline, you’ve hit the wall. We have sacrificed our future in order to maximize our present, as William James concluded in the late 1800s:

“The most significant characteristic of modern civilization is the sacrifice of the future for the present, and all the power of science has been prostituted to this purpose.”

Americans have a fatal character flaw of desiring others to think they are successful because they drive an expensive gas guzzling automobile and reside in an immense energy intensive McMansion in suburbs 30 miles from civilization. Delusional Americans have convinced themselves that the appearance of success is success. Leasing $50,000 BMWs for decades and borrowing $500,000 to live in a $300,000 house has already pushed millions of egotistical to the edge. Of the 250 million passenger vehicles on the road today, 100 million are SUVs or pickup trucks. The average fuel mileage is 17 mpg. Approximately 70% of Americans drive to work every day, with 85% driving alone. They spend 45 minutes on average commuting to and from work and drive 15 miles to work. The average home size increased from 1,400 sq ft in 1970 to 2,300 sq ft today, despite the fact that the average household size decreased from 3.1 to 2.6. The bigger is better fantasy will be devastating on the downward slope of peak oil.

How will Americans survive without the 7,500 Pizza Huts, 5,000 Dairy Queens, and 8,000 7-11s that dot our highways? The average Joe is so busy tweeting, texting, and face-booking on their iPads, Blackberries, and laptops, watching Dancing With the Stars on their 52 inch HDTV bought on credit, or cruising superhighways in their leased Hummers to one of the 1,100 malls or 46,000 shopping centers, that they haven’t paid much attention as peak oil crept up on them. The globalization miracle of cheap goods produced in China and shipped across the world by cargo ship and then trucked thousands of miles to your local Wal-Mart is wholly reliant upon cheap oil. Our own military has concluded that:

By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD. – Joint Operating Environment Report

When worldwide oil demand slightly exceeded worldwide oil supply in 2008, prices surged to $145 per barrel. A 10 million barrel per day shortfall is unfathomable by the purposefully ignorant masses. The sprawling suburbia that now houses the American population will become not viable when oil prices rise above $200 per barrel. Out-of-town shopping and entertainment malls will be deserted. The prosperity borne from the advent of oil is waning. Jim Kunstler explains the end game in The Long Emergency:

The entropic mess that our economy has become is in the final blow-off of late oil-based industrialism. The destructive practices known as “free market globalism” were engendered by our run-up to and arrival at the world oil production peak. It was the logical climax of the oil “story”.

It required the breakdown of all previous constraints – logistical, political, moral, cultural – to maximize the present at the expense of the future, and to do so for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the many. Even mild to moderate deviations in either price or supply [of oil and gas] will crush our economy and make the logistics of daily life impossible.

The United States is already tottering, as the oligarchy of the Wall Street banking syndicate, global mega-corporations and corrupt political hacks in Washington DC have pillaged the wealth of the country and left a middle class gasping for air. The mood of the country is already darkening as The Fourth Turning gathers steam. The recognition by the masses that peak cheap oil is a fact will contribute greatly to the next stage of this Crisis. Fourth Turning periods always lead to war. American troops are not in the Middle East to spread democracy. They are the forward vanguard in the coming clash over depleting oil resources. We are entering an era of strife, war, chaos and destruction. The facts of who controls oil supply and who needs oil (U.S. – 25%, China – 10%) are clear. Kunstler bluntly deals with the facts:

Fossil fuel reserves are not scattered equitably around the world. They tend to be concentrated in places where the native peoples don’t like the West in general or America in particular, places physically very remote, places where we realistically can exercise little control (even if we wish to). The decline of fossil fuels is certain to ignite chronic strife between nations contesting the remaining supplies. These resource wars have already begun. There will be more of them. They are very likely to grind on and on for decades. They will only aggravate a situation that, in and of itself, could bring down civilizations. The extent of suffering in our country will certainly depend on how tenaciously we attempt to cling to obsolete habits, customs, and assumptions – for instance, how fiercely Americans decide to fight to maintain suburban lifestyles that simply cannot be rationalized any longer. – Jim Kunstler – The Long Emergency

Mr. Kunstler believes that the U.S. will be forced to downscale, localize and adapt to a new reality. I wholly support his attempt to warn the American people and would urge those who chose to think that preparing for a more agrarian lifestyle that will be forced upon us by circumstances is essential. No technological miracle will save us from our fate. Decades of inaction will have a price. I truly hope that his optimism that hardship will renew the American spirit will reveal itself:

“But I don’t doubt that the hardships of the future will draw even the most secular spirits into an emergent spiritual practice of some kind.”

As I live in the outer suburbs and commute 30 miles per day into the decrepit decaying city of Philadelphia every day, I’m less optimistic that the transition will be smooth or even possible. Kunstler’s view of the suburbs is accurate:

“The state-of-the-art mega suburbs of recent decades have produced horrendous levels of alienation, loneliness, anomie, anxiety, and depression.”

Families stay huddled in their McMansions, protected from phantoms by state of the art security systems. Their interaction with the world is through their electronic gadgets. Neighborhoods of cookie cutter 4,000 sq ft mansions appear deserted. Human interaction is rare. Happiness is in short supply. As I sit in miles of traffic every morning during my soul destroying trek to work I observe the thousands of cars, SUVs, and trucks and wonder how this can possibly work when the peak oil tsunami washes over our society in the next few years. Then I reach the bowels of the inner city and my pessimism grows. This concrete jungle is occupied by hundreds of thousands of uneducated, unmotivated, wards of the state. They live a bleak existence in bleak surroundings and depend upon subsistence payments from the depressed suburbanites to keep them alive. How will they survive in a post peak oil world? They won’t.

The Hirsch Report and Jim Kunstler’s The Long Emergency both were published in 2005. M. King Hubbert warned U.S. leaders decades in advance about the expected timing of peak oil. The warnings have fallen on deaf ears. We were busy with our wars of choice, home price wealth, gays in the military, and the latest episode of Jersey Shore.

And as things fell apart Nobody paid much attention

2.71875.Your rating: None Average: 2.7 (32 votes) .

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by Careless Whisper

09:45 #740865

go to hell with your peak oil lies, and take your globalist banksta promoted carbon taxes wit you.

Internet Tough Guy
09:49 #740877

Right on bro, we don't want to hear inconvenient truths. The fact that Mexico, US, the North Sea, North slope, China, Russia, Indonesia are not producing much oil any more is a damn commie conspiracy to steal our SUVs. Fuck it, let's take the Escalade to Cheescake Factory for a 5000 calorie lunch.

10:21 #740991

Don't waste breath on the fun-duh-mentally retarded (global warming and all).

They'll have a hard time denying reality when it hits them.

Pool Shark
11:11 #741204

Peak oil or no,

When adjusted for inflation, oil is currently pretty cheap.

Of course, that could change at any time.

Pants McPants
11:22 #741254

Thank you for pointing this out. I don't deny peak oil per se, but feel the pricing mechanism (to the extent it is not manipulated) is the single best indicator of whether or not we are running out of oil. The best way to measure oil price is to base it on another commodity like gold....or just adjust for inflation.

12:05 #741423

Try pricing in the externalities of oil production and's only 'cheap' at the pump.

Ask anyone in Louisiana, if you're in need of a clue.

17:33 #742320


Therefore, a "barrel" of drinking water is valued at $269.68!

Belief that capitalism will solve lifes problems? Priceless!

Which is over priced? And which is under priced?

Rusty Shorts
21:10 #742674

Water = Priceless

10:07 #740928

Before calling people "fucking idiots", perhaps you should do some critical thinking of your own. Of note is that the chart showing a decline in US oil production and oil imports mirrors that of ALL GOODS. I guess America must have reached peak textiles, peak cars, peak electronics, indeed peak all manufactured goods at the same time.

Or maybe, just maybe, the oppressive regime of regulations that started growing in earnest during the 70's put a lid on American production of everything, and lead to importation of everything?

10:33 #741045

-Eroei (energy return on engery invested). The oil sands and oil off the coast of Brazil is going to be more expensive to extract, and therefore prices will be going up forever

-It doesn't matter if oil is renewable if we're using it faster than it renews.

Read that comments below the oilprice article. They explain it.

10:50 #741117

>80% of the world's hydrocarbon resources are locked up in "heavy oil" and other sources of unconventional crudes.

because of technology limitations, these energy sources have not been available - but there are now numerous technology companies that have developed capacity to harvest these unconventional resources. that means there is PLENTY of oil for the future and that prices will come WAY down -

11:15 #741222

Yes, plenty of more expensive oil. Once the price goes up investment in R&D will go down, forever

13:27 #741658

these companies need $80 oil to be profitable. but at that price, there are unlimited quantities of oil.

my point is there's no such thing as $100 ... $200 ... $ 300 ... and up due to scarcity -

13:38 #741692

Like I said, that whole EROI thing flew STRAIGHT THE FUCK over your head, didn't it?

This dollar price you keep citing is really rather irrelevant..."unlimited oil" at $80? This is the claim of a stooge.

15:04 #741929

Trav -

the underlying currency oil is priced in is irrelevant -

the fact is that - with new technology - there is a positive NET BTU. that factor was not in place just a few years ago.

If EROI is constructive, there will be investment, and thus no collapse of oil supplies.

In anticipation of your next insult,


15:39 #742039

Unless additional "investment" can't solve the problem - at which point your premise collapses.

Again we're back to the argument that "the scientists will save us" and betting our entire future on that outcome as a given.

As a society, we've taken most gifts science has given us, and used them to paint ourselves further and further into a corner.

steve from virginia
21:03 #745286

+ $35 oil is already draining the world's economies as these have been built around extremely cheap inputs. It's no surprise that when oil prices reach + $75 bad things start happening in bond markets and currencies.

Oil prices have decoupled from production. Oil production remained flat from 2005 to 2008 when prices increased from $60 to $96 per barrel (average yearly price). Right now, high oil prices bankrupt oil customers faster than new oil can be put onto the market. This means the funds needed to bring oil to the market are diminishing. Since 'funds' means value rather than nominal amounts, adding 'liquidity' by printing will not bring more oil to market.

Unless the central banks can print something besides debt/currency, that is ...

Like the world's banking system, the world's energy system is insolvent. When shortages begin -- due to insufficient return on the use of the oil produced -- they will be permanent. If the economy cannot afford oil at current levels of activity, it cannot afford oil as activity shrivels ... due to diminished supplies of energy. Lower prices do not make more oil available but do the opposite. What we must fear now is low prices rather than high prices. Low prices indicated diminished wealth.

Both the US and overseas militaries support shortage scenarios beginning in 2012. I suspect because of the declining price and its relationship to production these shortages will appear next year and will be severe. There are already diesel fuel shortages in China leading to electrical blackouts. The fuel shortages will be felt here first in the US in the diesel markets.

The oil market is in a long term bear market with the 2008 high of $147 not likely to be seen for a long time if not forever. The world is going broke faster than ever.

Herd Redirectio...
15:07 #741945

$80 oil? What the f*ck is a dollar? (pardon my french)

Oil production has peaked. That doesn't mean there is zero production in the future. The implication is that resources will have to be put to better use.

The rate of consumption obviously can't exceed the rate of production (which, funnily enough, sums up how the economic crisis occurred).

It seems to me energy production stands a good risk of being nationalized if it really becomes that much of a problem. The industry doesn't HAVE to make a profit. Shareholders don't NEED increased dividends.

And mankind did pretty good back when we were sailing around, and riding horses.

PsychoNews: Exposing the Oligarchy, one Psycho at a time.

14:46 #741889

One thing you neglect is that extraction takes energy - that is derived from oil. So when we're at $40/bbl and some new shale pit is determined to be "profitable" at $80 - it doesn't mean that when we hit $80 that the old number is still valid. The margin for profit just went up to $95/bbl or whatever. And so it goes. Eventually it will become profitable, but at a higher rate than initially predicted.

The price will still impact the economy. If you don't believe this, you should be buying airline stocks hand-over-fist.

Herd Redirectio...
15:09 #741951

Who is in charge of the shitty math, if they say it is 'profitable' at $80 shouldn't they work that into their calculations?

I know what concept you are trying to illustrate, though.

15:49 #742063

I think it's the same people who are trying to convince us that we have x00 years of oil left everytime a new field is discovered. Those assumptions seem to always based on current consumption and assume complete recovery at an infinite rate.

11:43 #741140

"still don't know what really happened at wtc on 9 11 anyway"

We know ... you obviously don't (you probably still think some muslims did it).

"peak oil is a lie"

Are you in the oil industry and speaking from personal knowledge?

11:33 #741305

Several points:

1) It was once thought that the sun revolved around the earth;

2) Oil IS reforming;

3) We will NEVER exhaust all oil reserves;

4) Logic/reason is the only means by which to assess things.

It was logic/reason that finally prevailed in presenting man with the truth that the earth revolves around the sun (rather than the other way around). It is logic/reason that eneabled man to identify how oil was formed, which clearly tells us that oil IS forming (because its an organic process); BUT... it is the RATE of formation that matters, and unless we're willing to sit around for hundreds of thousands of years we can pretty much write off being able to use any substantial amounts of this reforming oil. Also note that logic/reason has enabled us to understand that the earth is not a big sphere filled with <unicorns/gold/oil>, there IS an actual physical LIMIT.

Oil will never be exhausted. At some point it will take more energy to extract than is obtained. Further, and perhaps more importantly, oil will NOT be able to supply enough surplus energy to allow continued growth; it's growth that makes everything work (gives us the ability to sustain a middle class etc.).

As a rural dweller with a (water) well, I can state (logic/reason) that there is an apparent infinite amount of water, every day there's water available! However... if I draw water faster than the well can recharge I run OUT of water! The fact that the well is recharging is of little value when I'm all soaped up in the shower and nothing's coming out or it's only a dribble. Our System cannot operate on a dribble of oil/energy.

The REAL argument is over levels/rates of consumption. But know this (FACT), there ARE physical limits, and failure to properly identify and account for such limits can have dire consequences. And the indisputable fact is, infinite growth on a finite planet ISN'T possible.

11:38 #741325

seer why do you ignore Nat gas?? current tech allows vehicles to run on nat gas as well as gasoline and oil..seems you are fixated on a product that can be replaced with a cheap alternative, so limits to oil are always limits to energy not at all.

12:50 #741566

jfc...what IS IT with you people?


Fuck me, man...I mean, even IF there is suddenly a technological breakthrough that allows us to "go get" suddenly more oil, JUST FOR HOW LONG do you idiots THINK the problem of GEOMETRIC GROWTH can be put off for?

We cannot even push this problem out 10 years assuming we found another Ghawar out there.

14:33 #741862

If there is no such thing as abiotic oil, what are these ultra deep microbes eating?

Why didn't these little bastards run out the supply millions of years ago?

Herd Redirectio...
15:14 #741969

They weren't hungry enough.

What I find interesting is the idea that Peak Oil is NOT Petrobiz propaganda, but abiotic oil IS.

Sorry, but peak oil theory states forever high prices, abiotic oil theory would probably result in nationalization of every oil well on Planet Earth. How would Big Oil benefit from that?

I am not saying all oil is abiotic, or that it is formed fast enough to meet our current consumption rates, but that there are still things about oil that are unknown.

17:33 #742318

I love that comment! Yes, there is MUCH we do not know... only what we think we know.


tmosley on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 01:11 #742774

Sorry, but peak oil theory states forever high prices, abiotic oil theory would probably result in nationalization of every oil well on Planet Earth. How would Big Oil benefit from that?

How so? I don't understand why a situation where wells slowly refilled would cause nationalization.

I agree that there is certainly some amount of oil that is being generated by means other than digestion of organic matter (I don't really understand how that chemistry is supposed to work anyways--anaerobic bacteria should cause the production of large amounts of CO2, which should cause major blowouts anytime anyone attempts to tap an oil well. Further, anaerobic digestion is quick, taking place over a few months rather than the millions of years people suggest. Honestly, as a chemist, the idea of a reaction that takes millions of years to run to completion is asinine, unless they are running at temperatures just a bit below the activation energy of said reaction (but temperature is not that constant--go a bit deeper and any reaction that is going to happen should happen quickly). Given my understanding of microbiology and chemistry, IF oil were an end product of such a reaction, it should form within a few months, and should be available in very large quantities in the ocean. To some extent, this is the case (methane calthrates), but not really that much with long chain hydrocarbons. In reality, such reactions would produce a light oil that will float to the surface and be digested by oil-consuming bacteria and UV light. This would happen so fast that nothing short of a sudden geological subsidence would account for the presence of a large amount of oil. I just don't see that happening.

From my understanding, the process MUST occur deep underground such that the oil seeps up slowly and is caught in oil reservoirs. This process may be slow, though it is likely to vary between areas. Ways to test this hypothesis would be to A. check old wells for hydrocarbon levels, especially methane, which should regenerate the fastest, and B. drill DEEP and examine the strata for oil consuming microbes (these have recently been detected nearly a mile under the seafloor in the Atlantic, far from any possible area where oil from organic sources could have been produced.

12:25 #741490


Didn't get a post off in a timely way but having read some of your earlier posts, thought you might be "putting em on" just a bit.

Voice of experience:

I was educated as a Chemical Engineer with emphasis on "what goes in and what comes out". I am now fallen away from that state of grace but the practice of thinking that way about why things are as they are doesn't go away.

In 1955, I had a summer job as "Roustabout Class B" in an oil patch in Van(East), Texas, maintaining pumpers that brought oil up from ~1,000 feet. The West Texas fields were about 3,000 feet and the oil, under pressure, could be extracted with only a "Christmas Tree.

Times have changed. Depth of knowledge in technology and methods of getting data on energy sources could not have been imagined then. Sources being accessed include ocean oil, oil shale, oil in inaccessable locations and biodegradable. Wind and solar as well but they will remain situational. And then we have highly developed nuclear technologh today which I consider to have the greatest long term potential. We have reports that Calpine is running a geothermal site in California. Geothermal, if it can be developed, will, of course, be limitless.

When we get through with all those, the methane cathlarates that caused BP trouble while they were wrecking the livelyhood of fishermen in the Gulf, are plentiiful in the ocean deeps.

The English PM just resigned under public pressure because he had made a remark in addressing the economic contraction to the effect that "Historically, the average Englishman never had it so good".

He was, no doubt, exactly right. Applys here as well.

How many readers know what an "Iron Lung" is? The worst of a host of diseases we will never have to deal with.

This is a time of change but there is lots of opportunity if you take your gun and kill the appropriate enemy. Put a bullet in every boob tube in the house. (not your computer, you will need that to order books.)

10:34 #741037

a little more critical thinking: (my numbers probably not real accurate but you'll get the picture)

1. 50% of population = children

2. 45% of workforce = government employees

3. 20% of workforce = unemployed

4. 10% of workforce = uncounted small business people gone bust

5. 75% of workforce = non-capitalist non-producers

6. 87.5% of population = dependant on 12.5% of population to survive

peak oil or not, this situation is unsustainable.

10:38 #741072

+1. Over the short term there are millions of people who should be worried about Peak Entitlement.

11:03 #741168

I for one am ready for peak, Harry Potter & peak GM.... ENOUGH ALREDY....

TBT or not TBT
11:56 #741386

Peak Entitlement was surpassed long ago in Europe and realised by the governements there far too late to save the various european nation states from decline.

Short of some miraculous technology coming the fore...which has happened several times in the last few centuries...the low birth rates brought about by socialism will compound with the the previous decades of low birth rates yielding even lower yield of new citizens, and they'll have such a distorted distribution of ages in their population as to make the whole works grind down into severe social crisis. In fact they are close already now. Even better, their subpopulation with the best reproduction rates and therefore with youth on their side, are openly against their host nations' values.

How about let's not do this in America?

12:02 #741413

Too late...

11:18 #741235

It's even worse, you forgot the retirees and disabled and non-working spouses from that list. It is NOT sustainable, the "12.5" can't support themselves anymore because they are FORCED to support those that don't. One more thought, you forgot WS leeches who siphon off from productive labor too. The real number may be as low as half of 12.5

Peak Everything
11:37 #741321

Interesting. The only plan I have seen proposed that might actually avoid WWIII and/or a massive die off is the America 2.0 proposal by Jay Hanson. The jist is that if we downshift our consumption to needs rather than wants then 5% of the population can produce those needs and the other 95% can stay home and look after their kids.

12:54 #741575

We will have to implement a Brave New World solution. As an Alpha++, I will look forward to flying over the tops of most of you in my helicopter

13:41 #741707

That is totally fucking retarded, and I am now dumber just for having clicked on that link.

11:41 #741335

And of the 12.5% who are capitalist producers," most of these are either:

1) Creating robots to replace workers;

2) Operating robots;

3) Work for non-essential entities like banks.

So, in reality, there are very few people in the US who actually "produce" anything meaningful. Most that is produced is by oil/energy and robots. I'll be "producing" food, which I believe is more important than the godly, capitalist "producers" that promote usury and ipods...

10:48 #741111

Peak Oil is a phenomenon which must occur purely as an inherent limitation on resources within a finite biosphere.

Oil does not come from dinosaurs- that is just stupidity coming from those who don't understand that proteins and carbohydrates will simply not reliably provide the levels of hyrocarbons which are used. The Russians and Ukrainians figures out a long time ago that the Western oil interests regarding their discussion of the genesis of hydrocarbon stores in the earth come from polymerization of methane gas and other hydrocarbon sources which, under pressure and heat, will form longer chains of methane (e.g. octane and the mix of hydrocarbons you find in petroleum (often C4 to C64 chain length hydrocarbons).

That said, the abiotic process which gives rise to more complex hydrocarbons is, indeed, finite (unless perhaps if you live a really, really long time). The question is how close we are to the end of easily recoverable hydrocarbons in the earth's crust or below and what will (or will not) emerge from the inevitable shortage of hydrocarbons as a source of energy.

Are we close to that point- I think we probably are (that was Matt Simmons' thesis- you know the guy who got blow darted to induce cardiac arrest in his hot tub for outing the fraud associated with the Maconda oil spill in the gulf) - but that assessment is infinitely biased by the carbon trading/global warming/limited hydrocarbon lobbying frauds that look for a revenue generating event coming out of the earth and when oil is burned.

21:38 #742718


Right on.When was this article written, before the McMansions were empty?.

America consumed 25% of the worlds energy, yet has only 5%.(not now, as tm said, the frigging mfg base is dead ).

Ok, that we know of?,we know nothing.

Our Green Queens,and special interest whores, will not allow exploration, and will not allow the use of what we know is here now,

Alaska has not been remotely explored, the coastal waters have not either.

We have more natural gas reserves than any nation on the planet.(yet I hear NO one pushing for an LPG option), makes too much sense, we would rather spend WAY more, and make $40k electric shitcans, that will go maybe to work, and need a recharge,before you can start home.

Instead of a $1,500.00 add on to a gas vehicle.

HOV lanes, 2 or more,wasted time, Billions of gallons of fuel WASTED for those sitting staring at a bare assed lane with 50 cars in it over a 15 mile stretch, while everyone else is bumper to friggin buimper.

Brilliant idea huh?.

We hear nothing but doom and gloom,how PEAK OIL is upon us, and it's ALL the Americans fault!.

Fuck You.

With that 25% consumption, w/5% reserves (as we are told,and a crock of shit because NO One will allow exploration).

What has that done for the rest of the planets humans ,economies, lifestyles?. How many billions would be dead if it were not for the humanitrian aid from America, and I mean private citizens?,because we have kind hearts.

Hell, add the gov't giveaways and were talking Trillions over the past 80yrs,.

Self centered chickenshit American scum.

This was before we threw down out ONE YEAR sobriety pin, and went on a drunk printing spree, to a figure we cannot ever repay, and most haven't a calculator with enough digits to even get there.

I am SICK UNTO DEATH of you whining chickenshits who focus all the blame on the Americans.

Where are the NEW nuclear reactors?,where are the new refineries?,where is the new transportation systems?, where is the new mfg plants, and blue collar jobs?,where are the high speed rail systems that nations the size of Michigan & Wisconsin are using,and have been for decades?, overseas.

Most Americans ( and even ones from different staes) have NO frigging clue, how far we have to drive/find transportation to just get to work, or anywhere else.

How do we get there?, carpools,excuse me, we are not the rural neighbors that are close buddies, nor do we work close together.

If I live in Dallas it takes 3+ hrs to drive to Midland (about 300+ miles), from there, it's just a mere 7-8 more hours to get that next leg into El Paso.

10 hrs min......A lot of your states can be crossed 3-4 times in the time it takes to just go to El Paso!, From Dallas!.

Back to the topic, instead of pissing and moaning and whining, and lying,why haven't these same DOOMSAYERS been on the nations leaders asses about new reactors, and alternative energy sources, developing the ones we have, and exploring for more?.(IMHO, there's a primary reason for Peak Oil,if its even true).

We have been talking it to death for 25 years, A little past time to have done something or shit and got off the pot huh?. Call the WHINE LINE.

You dont wait till you have 2 mos to live to start treatment on what was a curable disease, had you started 8mos earlier.

Alas,poor Yoric, Iknew him well.

Gordon Freeman
10:42 #741086

ATF: The only thing retarded around here is your internet tough guy act. Get a life--and think about giving up the booze so early in the morning...

10:07 #740930

Care to back up your allegation with some actual facts? The author has taken quite a bit of time to back up their thesis with verifiable [or falsifiable] data. Where's yours?

Way back when were you saying "Keep on smoking - there's no established link to cancer... it's all a conspiracy by the 'health' cartel?"

BTW, "go to hell" is not data.

Ever stop to think that if some substantial percentage of the population started to actually started to act in accordance with what the data on peak oil suggests, the banks would not actually benefit? You've fallen pray to disinfo perpetrated to confuse and delay.

A rise in fuel costs because of taxes would have the same effect as a rise due to scarcity - the economy would decline in the aggregate. We've all seen what a transitory spike to $147.00/bbl did the first time - and we are now seeing how devastating the the specter of $90.00/bbl is...

Do you actually think the "globalists" want to destroy air travel, shipping, and the economy that put them into the position that you seem to think they're in? Cheap oil is as important to any banker as the continued expansion of credit. Peak oil, in economic terms, means the end of real economic expansion. In it's place will be real decline hidden under the guise of inflation.

10:14 #740959

You miss the fact that there are many factions in the world. Those pushing peak oil are closely related to the ones pushing global warming. They want to shut down productive society rather than allowing the market to function. They benefit from the government subsidies to the companies they own which produce "green" tech.

Always look at who benefits and who loses from anyone pushing to do some major change to the status quo.

10:18 #740977

And then there are the factions that spread lies about peak oil and those who "push" it. How do you benefit from those lies?

10:23 #741001

I don't benefit any more than anyone else who wants to have a functioning society rather than one run by green mystics. I am a scientist, and as such I know a thing or two about conflict of interest and bias.

10:33 #741046

If you're a 'scientist' then perhaps you can do some simple back-of-the-envelope partial diff eq and figure out that the related rates problem represented by a billion Chinese buying cars will not be met by our decreasing if not flattened oil production.

10:59 #741149

Do your PDEs include the push for greater efficiency as the price of energy goes up? There isn't a binary choice between maintaining our current (c. 2006) lifestyle and the crash from one day suddenly turning off all the taps and not allowing for substitution, lower usage in general, and greater efficiency of what is used.

11:15 #741220

Count the SUVs on the road and try your "we'll conserve" mantra again.

Plot the curve of increased efficiency and put it next to the curve for population growth.

We don't have to "turn off the taps" for a world-changing crisis...we'll simply fall too far behind.

11:39 #741326

That's a great example: the efficiency curve. (I'm sure I've seen that somewhere on TOD.) Efficiency hasn't been driven by sustained price increases, largely IMHO because of a misguided cheap oil energy policy in the US, so I would argue that it doesn't begin to reflect the capacity for increased efficiency. Yes, there are too many SUVs on the road, but each of those SUVs has a lot of unused people-carrying cargo capacity. And at $9 gas that capacity will get used.

I'm not arguing the overall effect; obviously what we've got going is unsustainable. It's the suddenness and degree of the crisis that I think are much less certain.

12:08 #741434

You vastly underestimate the stupidity of the average man and his ability to remain in complete denial.

By the time we hit $9 gas, we won't have time to respond with alternatives. Estimates are 40 years to bring enough capacity online...can you go without for that long?

Are you unaware that the $9 will not be spent elsewhere in the economy?

17:28 #742304

You vastly underestimate the stupidity of the average man and his ability to remain in complete denial.

That, at least, is false. But I don't see what it has to do with the argument. Man will consume what he wants to and can afford to consume -- and beyond, if allowed credit -- and will continue to do so even when it's not in his long-term interest.

Forty years for capacity enough to do what? Re-start this usage rate? Of course that's not going to happen; you know that. It's not about "going without," it's about going with less. You can't just project these exponential curves indefinitely into the future. Hell, YOU were the one that brought up PDEs.

I'm sure the Euros are laughing at my horror over $9 gas.

13:32 #741667

Jevon's Paradox?

Look...this shit is really easy, don't fuck up on the trivial ones

17:43 #742322

Right. We'll use what we can afford. As we can afford less...

I never understood what was so paradoxical about this.

10:36 #741057

Apparently you don't know anything about physics.

13:03 #741591

look, tmosely, there is no way in hell you are a scientist. None.

If you were, you would be able to understand Hubbert's THESIS and the fact that the data PROVED his thesis.

Peak oil is not a theory, the shit has happened already in 6/7 of the oil producing nations on the earth. It has happened to every well, field, or nation, and it WILL happen to every future one.

You cannot feign ignorance of this shit if you are a scientist. Look around the world at all the nations and fields that have peaked then declined. You act as if this shit is some kind of prediction, GFDit, the US peaked FORTY YEARS AGO.

14:51 #741895

Funny. I guess you missed all of my posts talking about my work, and the continuing problems that have come from government intervention, NOT from oil becoming more expensive.

But since you seem to have placed your faith in the fact that I am not a scientist, allow me to shatter your understanding of the world:

Since you were dead wrong on that, might you not be dead wrong on other things?

Compare the production of oil with everything else the US produced. DAMN NEAR EVERYTHING peaked in the 70's. This was due to government regulations preventing people from being productive, especially in dirty industries like oil production. The only things that increased in production rates were those things where technological growth outpaced regulatory growth.

I don't know who Hubbert is, or what his thesis was. This may surprise you, but not all scientists know each other. I would bet that he never took regulatory action into account, though. Scientists rarely do. This is an economics problem, not a scientific one.

Further, abiotic oil is now a solid theory, as there are bacteria that live far too deep in the crust that digest oil in areas where there is no way that there was ever enough compressed biomass to create reservoirs. Read about it here:

Even further than that, THINK about the effects of what you are talking about. Even if there were no more oil available for cheap, so what? There is PLENTY of coal. Coal gassification can turn coal into oil at a cost of something like $150/bbl, and that is with the old, 1930's process. I don't really keep up with these things, but I would expect that either a better method is available now, or one can be developed quickly if there is incentive. Oil isn't the end all be all of energy.

17:53 #742362

Your refs say zip about abiotic oil. The original ref ( finds low MW hydrocarbons (C1-C4) with a skew towards methane. If low concentrations of liquid propane is "oil" then I humbly stand corrected.

19:45 #742535

Even so, is the surface of a planet the right place for an expanding technological civilization? Time to branch out -- even the Sun won't be around forever!

Rusty Shorts
21:45 #742725

'surface of the earth expanding" ??

i-dog on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 09:02 #743006

"everything else the US produced. DAMN NEAR EVERYTHING peaked in the 70's"

O/T to oil, but I'm interested in your observation, tm. Do you have any hints on what I should look for in the way of production stats?

The reason I ask is that 1962 could well mark the commencement of planning for the current final collapse of the US. While the private financial takeover was planned in 1910 at the secret Jekyll Island banksta meeting that led to the formation of the Federal Reserve System and the IRS in 1913, many other actions taken around 1962 (as I recently pointed out here) were directly antecedent to the final clampdown that I believe is currently underway.

1962 could well be when a detailed 50-Year Plan was put into action, to culminate in the imposition of authoritarian martial law around 12-21-2012 (though this is only my working hypothesis at the moment). Peak oil and peak industrial production in the 1970s would 'conveniently' fit in with this hypothesis.

DaveyJones on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 10:52 #743086

if you don't know who Hubbert is or his thesis, you just disqualified yourself for the debate

17:43 #742342

I love your tense and aggressive posts. It makes me all the more confident that peak oil is total nonsense. Why would you have such strong emotions over a debate?

You seem to care for no one and like to attack us idiots. Why do you care... do you think that you are somehow hurting me of anyone else that you insult with swear words and other rude comments? What a child.

Hubbert was an oil insider using oil industry data. If I were an insider with access to any "data" I wanted to create then I would be able to put on an even more scary show.

FACT: We peaked because we assumed certain things about where oil could be found. I am not sure if we have really discovered how to look for oil assuming abiotic oil.

DaveyJones on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 10:55 #743089

assuming - funny how one word can change a whole paragraph

16:00 #742092

I think most "environmentalists" are more concerned with impeding the "Tragedy of the Commons" then interfering with commerce because they don't like merchants.

When the "corporate Id" tries to externalize all environmental costs so they can make a quick buck at the expense of everybody else, it is the "free market" that responds by regulating them.

"Environmentalism" is necessary a part of the free market - not the antithesis of it.

17:16 #742280

Then let there be no commons, nor corporations. Only private property and companies.

18:43 #742453

I'm right there with you regarding corporations [at least in terms of eliminating limits to the liability of the officers for pathalogical decision making], but the problem with privatizing everything is what do you do when the neighbor upriver starts shitting in your drinking water...

19:47 #742537

Which is probably the only legitimate use for Govt: Get the courts to order a cork placed up his arse!

tmosley on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 01:21 #742781

Dumping pollutants into water that flows over your land is an offense the has remedy either in the courts or through private arbitration. People don't shit in water they own, only in water that no-one owns.

10:27 #741013

When multiple competing interests wage propaganda campaigns to maintain their profits, I tend to think the ones with the deepest pockets will have the loudest voice. Are you saying that during the Bush/Cheny years the oil lobby, which was invited to write our energy policy, was outdone by a bunch of hippies?


"Green" energy [that can take over right where dirty energy left off] is a bunch of crap. Reduction in consumption is the most efficient/only method of managing our contraction in a timely manner. BTW - who was pushing that they were on the forefront of green energy the most in terms of advertising? BP. I promise you they don't want any reduction in consumption.

10:56 #741135

When multiple competing interests wage propaganda campaigns to maintain their profits, I tend to think the ones with the deepest pockets will have the loudest voice.

doesn't GE own a bunch of TV networks all over the world like Time Warner?

doesn't Disney own ABC?

The information we get is filtered. We do not know the truth. We are always guessing. However, fomenting petty bickering among the peons is an old strategy that works.

The media is too concentrated, too few people own too much. There's really five companies that control 90 percent of what we read, see and hear. It's not healthy. Ted Turner

DaveyJones on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 11:00 #743098

one of the many reasons we're on this website. The web is the modern pitchfork

17:21 #742288

If Republicans represent the oil lobby, then Democrats represent the "green" lobby. Simple as that.

And you are absolutely wrong that reduction of consumption is the only answer. That is the exact equivalent of amputation as a solution to starvation. You might use less energy with less body weight, but not that much, and you have destroyed your ability to get more energy inputs.

The only real, sustainable solution to any crisis is free markets, and government downsizing.

19:49 #742539

As I've stated before: Time to remove the words "Disposable" and "Planned Obsolescence" from our lexicons!

10:27 #741015

Don't worry. You idiots have already won...we won't be doing anything to address any of our long-term energy problems and certainly not in time to make a difference.

The "productive society" will shut down of its own accord when people can't drive to work and starve to death for lack of petro-chem necessities.

17:27 #742302

So what's your solution? Government regulation? Let me know how that works out for you IF you don't starve to death first.

Rising prices cause markets to allocate resources to where they are needed most. Period. High gas prices might make life more difficult, but it won't be long before you switch from your car to an electric vehicle to get to work, or a bicycle. Lots of people might move back into the cities so they don't have to drive ASSUMING the cities cut their taxes such that that is the most economical option.

Everyone can run around screaming "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE NEXT THURSDAY WHEN WE RUN OUT OF OIL", but that doesn't make it true. Market forces are real. Government intervention is also real. Oil isn't the only form of energy in the world.

11:48 #741363

Six degrees of separation...

So, gravity doesn't really exist because if it did we'd be siding with the "terrorists" who brought down the WTC buildings? I mean, if we agreed with that then we too would be terrorists!

Logic- FAIL!

12:57 #741584

WTF...there is nobody PUSHING peak oil, you freakin idiot.

Peak Oil is a PHYSICAL phenomenon. Put it up there with those people pushing Gravity and Thermodynamics.

M. King Hubbert was a RAVING greenpeacer, right?

How MANY times are you going to have to be told, moron, before you COMPREHEND?

17:38 #742331

Offer a solution then, and maybe we can talk. Until you do, you're just a crazy person running around with his hair on fire.

As it is, I'm not interested in your "Repent, the end is near" rhetoric. My IQ is three standard deviations above average. If I can't understand, it's because you aren't clear. Your name calling doesn't help. I read up on Hubbert, and I find him to be nothing but a Malthus impersonator, and we all know how tremendously wrong he was. He doesn't account for any form of new technology (Malthus' undoing), nor does he account for the natural tendency to shift from one resource to another as the first becomes more expensive. Further, his equations apply equally to overexploited resources as they do to non-renewables. Funny that he doesn't take recycling into account in his non-energy resource calculations. Eventually, it will be cheaper to mine garbage dumps for X resource than to take it out of the ground.

Plenty of renewable resources are approaching the point where they are affordable enough to replace much of the energy generation requirements of the grid, which will free up plenty of oil resources for cars. Research is being done that will put an end to the need for ultra pure silicone and other limited resources in those fields. Hell, I read a paper a couple of days ago that days ago describing a new process to create ultra-pure and/or doped graphene controllably on a metal foil. This means solar panel printing presses are not far, with the only feedstock being carbonaceous material and reusable metal foils.

TumblingDice on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 05:52 #742897

If we cannot get ur oil at a certain efficiency then the infrastructure collapses. Agriculture, the daily commute, etc. are not flexible enough to adapt to new energy sources as fast as the market is going to change. You can depend on the free market, and I agree with you that in most cases it is the best option humanity has, but some, once some events that the free market has never faced before, such as the net decline of energy are worth making a government insurcance policy for.

The fallacy of the free market structure right now is that it is not really free. The monetary aspect is controlled. It is almost impossible to know whether the price we see is real or manipulated by the fed. I believe that it is being manipulated. America wants cheap and the fed delivers. Because the bodies in control need cheap oil so much they will not let the change to higher prices occur naturally as the supply of oil dwindles. The free market mechanism that would seek better energy sources would not function properly.

There is the obvious solution of eneding the fed and letting market forces settle this issue on their own, or while the fed is still plaguing the Earth with its existance, perhaps an investment into renewable energy sources by the govt is in order.

10:36 #741058

I'm on the fence on this one. anyone heard of deep abiotic oil? thats the theory that oil is created deep in the earth and seeps up. the russians have pioneered deep oil drilling around the caspian for decades. I mean how exactly did we get so many dead trees down there at deepwater, 3 miles under the earth? Peak oil is probably coming as its a good excuse for a world government even if its a fabricated decline

11:22 #741252

They're called tectonic plates, idjit. You may as well be suggesting that we can run our cars on fairy dust.

17:41 #742336

Then why is there oil more than a kilometer below the bottom of the Atlantic, where the plates are seperating and no subsidence is occuring, nor has occured for billions of years?

Maybe we won't all die next Thursday?

Coast Watcher
11:39 #741328

Abiotic oil has been debunked so many times by so many people in so many places that no one brings it up anymore except true believers and those new to the discussion. The old Soviet Union drilled a couple of very deep, very dry wells trying to prove the abiotic oil theory, but then you have to remember that the Soviet scientific establishment was the same one that rejected evolution in favor of a homegrown "acquired characteristics" theory right up there with fairy dust and unicorns.

11:53 #741384

Abiotic oil has been debunked so many times by so many people in so many places that no one brings it up anymore except true believers and those new to the discussion.


Lab experiments are such a bitch!

12:34 #741524

First, methane is not oil.

Second, abiotic production of methane is not what I'd call novel. It's been observed on other planets/moons, and to my knowledge no one has suggested biotic origin.

17:45 #742345

Methane is easily converted into oil via serpentization reactions, which are well known to occur deep in the earth's crust.

Read this paper:

Think about where they got those samples. From the middle of the Atlantic. That's right, the place where new crust is being formed out of the mantle. There has never been subduction in that area. Yet there are oil digesting microbes almost a mile beneath the sea floor. How did it get there? Must have been the GP's fairy dust.

18:34 #742438

Seriously? From the paper:

Our results raise the intriguing possibility that hydrocarbons in very deep ocean rocks support microbial communities.

We have known abiotic origin of CH4. Check.

We have known abiotic processes observed to convert CH4 to other low MW (C2-C4) hydrocarbons (; ref 3 in the PlosONE paper). Check.

We have low concentrations of microbes that eat hydrocarbons in the crust. Check.

I don't see the lakes of oil. I see trace amounts of low MW hydrocarbons being metabolized by small numbers of microbes. Methane is not oil. Neither is propane.

tmosley on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 01:42 #742793

Yes, but those materials are feedstock for higher molecular weight oils via a simple process patented by standard oil:

It is not difficult to imagine this going on deep within the surface of the Earth.

Further, carbonacious chondrite is found in meteors, and is a precursor to crude oil. How do we know that there aren't thousands of cubic miles of this stuff in the mantle and crust, slowly being cooked into crude oil? That is, unless you think that these meteorites all came from some blown up planet full of fossil fuels...

11:50 #741372

Abiotic oil likely has some legitimacy - most oil initially comes from algae that formed on or near the surface of inland continental oceans during the late Jurrasic and Cretaceous eras. These oceans were warm, mostly abiotic, and comparatively still, which meant that algae descending from the surface as it died wouldn't be decomposed by oxidation. Over time, these algae mats were compressed first by more algae, then later by sediment as the oceans dried up.

Thus, abiotic oil forming below the surface of the earth is possible. However, it will be very deep, and it takes time - tens of thousands of years, if not hundreds of thousands, for depletion of these resources to be replaced. 10,000 years ago, human civilization was still in the neolithic period.

Critically, the energy that this oil contains thus represents the energy inputs from the sun coupled with the energy inputs due to high compression, both of which, until now, humanity got for free. Now, even with producing energy from algae farming, we still have to provide those inputs ourselves, so the overall EROEI is actually much lower.

We haven't used up those reserves - there is still a lot of oil on the earth - but we have in a historical eyeblink used up the cheapest oil and the next cheapest and the next cheapest after that, so the overall EROEI is declining pretty dramatically. It is that number, not the overall peak of production, that is truly the one to focus on when dealing with energy futures.

21:52 #742735


You nailed it.

Peak Oil if it were true(can't prove it one way or the other), until every inch of the known globe above/underseas,and checked and is mapped for it,doesn't matter.

IMHO the Creator of this planet, and this universe knew long before we think we did, how much of everything we would need before HE said Time No More.

Game Over,His call, not ours.

And with everything else we're contending with and facing, it's about that time appears to me.

ArmchairRevolut... on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 09:58 #743039

Why bother to enter the discussion? Your creator card trumps any other fact/reason in your mind. So you always get to come to the conclusion you want regardless.

10:16 #740969

Do you actualy work for Exxon-Mobile, or do you just shill for them for free?

10:24 #741006

Do you work for Al Gore's corporate government subsidy scam, or do you shill for it for free?

11:39 #741327

So they do pay you. Good to know.

Green Leader
11:54 #741385

I honestly think Mosley is a troll on payroll.

13:43 #741714

they need to hire better trolls

17:46 #742350

Well, you guys are dumb as dogshit then, since I agree with you on so many other issues.

11:56 #741392

Six degrees of separation...

And Al Gore is a proponent of nuclear energy ( - yes, he darts and dodges, but any true lefty tree-hugger, as you'd paint him, would unequivocally state they were against nuclear power). Now then, where does that leave you? Confused? Don't fret, that's the normal state of the ignorant (party/ideology hacks).

Thanks for playing. Keep trying!

20:16 #742578

I don't think anybody here is dumb enough to think Gore is a "lefty tree-hugger". What pisses them of [me too] is he's a FUCKING CON MAN. Not qualified to be tree-hugger cause that would neccesitate some integrity and loyalty to a cause........not to mention a set of balls.

10:27 #741014

Manufactured Crisis. Peak Oil? LMAO.

Thanks to Jane Fonda & The CHina Syndrome we have no (few) nuclear power plants. Thanks to the children of Jane Fonda, George Soros & The China Syndrome we have a wealth of oil and natural gas off limits.

Time to put a dagger into the heart of the "environmentalist" and start tapping US oil and natural gas reserves.

And if LEO & THE CLOWNS weren't trying to juice up the solar industry we'd be that much closer to truly efficeint solar. Way to go guys. Fuck R&D. Wall Street needs bubble stocks.

12:15 #741454

"Time to put a dagger into the heart of the "environmentalist" and start tapping US oil and natural gas reserves."

Yeah, baby, strength through exhaustion! I'm a proponent of burning up all this shit as fast as possible so that I can finally be free of all this stupid-assed logic!

Fucking environmentalists, if we didn't have them we wouldn't have massive deficits, we'd be more like these folks:

NOTE: The "environmentalist" movement was hijacked a LONG time ago (nothing's stronger than Madison Avenue - thanks Edward[ Bernays]!). A more reasoned view is presented by Murray Bookchin's "social ecology."

13:03 #741592

I thought we had so few nuke plants because the cost of construction is so high that they don't start showing profits for about 25 years, which is also about when the maintenance costs start to climb.

But shit, if Jane Fonda is responsible, well then I'm pissed off too.

Harg blar!

13:44 #741720

what US oil reserves?

Name them.

Morons like you are sadly in abundance.

10:50 #741115

Well, everything on the planet is finite, it's just arguing over when it runs out. Could be couple hundred years, could be a few thousand. Regardless, I bet something else takes us down before we have to worry about oil.

11:41 #741338

The wind and the sun are good for a few billion years.

12:19 #741465

Yeah! I'm long sun! (for low-tech reasons, like producing forage for grazers- read "free inputs")

14:53 #741899

It's got nothing to do with "running out" - it's all about not being able to keep up with demand.

Repeat after me: "Peak Oil = Peak RATE of extraction"

19:55 #742548

Acknowledged -- time to leave the cradle and migrate to other planets.

harry tuttle
11:36 #741313

Look, given how little understanding there is over past climatic shifts, antropogenic global warming (AGW) is a very, very hard case to prove. There's little question that the hard-core collectivists/statists/globalists have hijacked the issue to enhance their real agenda....just as they continue to do with health care, land-use planning, energy policy, economic policy, housing & financial regulation, etc.

There's also little question that they have helped to exacerbate all of the problems we're now facing. Peak oil? Maybe, maybe not. It's pretty hard to prove just how technology, R&D, exploration, and a lack of counter-productive government interference might have reduced our dependency on foreign imports. Even then, it's hard to know how much a stronger dollar might have bought us time. Those are the roads not taken and, sadly, long past in the rear-view mirror, T. Boone Pickens notwithstanding.

Kunstler: Here's a fellow that may or may not be right about peak oil and the ripple effects that might result from having avoided turning down the "right road" so many times. There's little question that he's right about the fact that that our economy and standard of living are based on unsustainable practices. After the past three years, is that really a surprise to anyone?

Still, for all of his insight, Kunstler is a boorish, hate-filled, reactionary. As with anyone filled with that much venom, it's unwise to swallow his pablum wholesale. Read enough of him and you'll realize he's fully entrenched with the same folks that would have us all living in cattle cars, errr, government sponsored work camps, errr, I mean cities. He might promote another, slightly smaller scale path, but his buddies and acolytes tend to be full-on, centralized-planning, bureau-nazis.


12:26 #741487

That You have very little undestanding is YOUR issue.

I wonder what and who you'd be blaming if you're wrong...

I could argue the complete opposite. As an anarchist, that's exactly what I do: I see nothing but ideological idiots on both sides of the infantile political spectrum.

13:47 #741733

You're totally right man.

The fact that the US peaked FORTY FUCKING YEARS AGO despite all the technological improvements we've come up with and thrown at the problem isn't persuasive at ALL.

This whole thing is still "unknowable."

Dude you, like most, are on the wrong side of the Downing Effect.

17:50 #742354

Nothing to do with regulations. The US hasn't dropped in any other field of production.

trav777 is a moleman, and knows everything that goes on underneath our thin layer of dirt, and yes, he assures us that there is no such thing as serpentinization reactions.

harry tuttle
15:05 #741933

Two peas in a pod right there. Somebody needs to strap their helmets on a little bit tighter, less they hurt themselves.

Cognitive Dissonance Example #1: "The Anarcho-Fundamentalst" - They must always argue the opposite, a particularly entertaining and time-consuming aid to internal dialogues.

Cognitive Dissonance Example #2: "The Genius-Party-of-One" - Always, always, always on "the right side of the Downing Effect". More than just a bit ironic, when you actually stop and think about it.

12:47 #741559

Peak oil is real but it is not because we are running out of dead dinosaurs. Those who admonish dissenters of Peak Oil to "do some research" are total jackasses. What kind of research are you talking about? Do you mean review a report done by someone who beleives in peak oil, or to actually go out inot the world conduct scientific tests and so forth. If you mean just review someone elses work... nah I'll pass and so will anyone else who has a brain of their own.

I, and probably many others who think that we have plenty of hydrocarbons disagree as to the origins of hydrocarbons. Peak oil nitwits think that hydrocarbons are unique to our planet due to the MASSIVE accumulation in single very dense points of dead things, which then are taken deep below to just the right depth (miles) where it was magically transformed into various hydrocarbons. This is so speculative... really it is.

Peak oil dissenters simply observe that we really do not know where hydrocarbons come from. We seem the on other planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Titan, Uranus, Neptune) that do not have any life on them (that we know about or recognize) have plent of hydrocarbons. We look at fundamental scientific research done in the Soviet Union, which had no motivation for adhereing to stories that place limitations on supply (unlike the greedy powers in the West) but pioneered and proved that oil is part of the fundamental makeup of the earth.

Lastly, zerohedge is the perfect place for us dissenters. This is about the crumbling of Western civilization that was built upon many lies and ignorance, lies and ignorance that go beyond, waaayyyyyy beyond finance into virtually every realm of our existence.

200 years from now , historians will lokk at the period of 1950 to 2010 (give or take a few years here or there) as an age of unbritaled stupidity of common society.

There exists now a society that lives above this ignorance. Their existence has been speculated about and rumored for years. They live lives that would appear fantasic to us, because we live in a matrix that severely and unnecessarily limits our own lives. CEOs, politicans, and the academic establishment are the knowing and also unknowing gatekeepers (who is the guy in the matrix who keeps popping up and cannot be destroyed?).

No, peak oil is a huge matrix lie, but then again the use of oil is also a backward and severely limiting burden that keeps us so imprisoned... anyway... back to the struggle for existence...

13:07 #741598

What is your understanding of the meaning of the phrase "peak oil"?

16:57 #742234

Peak oil is simply a fantasy that has been created by those in control of the industry. What would happen and who has the most to lose if oil was not an infinite, but nevertheless, vast resource?

IMO the truth will not be found on this by any single person no matter how many papers and powerpoint presentations they "research." How pathetic are we that most of anyone's "research " is based on what they find on the internet.

Rather it will take a country with sufficent motivation and power to break the stranglehold. I think China or India is a good bet as they have much to lose. Russia is now benefiting too much for them to care about the truth... they like high prices.

Peak oil is real but because the murderous powers that be set it in motion decades ago.

19:52 #742545

You don't seem able to answer the question.

You don't know what "peak oil" means, sir.

13:49 #741737

How many times are you idiots going to demonstrate the Downing Effect in one day?

I mean beside the fact that you are insane.

16:48 #742213

To call someone insane during a discussion on a message board because you do not like what they say is not quite healthy.

I suppose you would rather have a messaghe board where everyone just agrees with you?

Have a nice day there guy.

Lord Koos
17:37 #742326

Forget the catch-phrase peak oil, and just think about the fact that although there may still be plenty of oil, most of the low hanging fruit has been picked. From here on out the extraction of oil continues to become both more expensive and more damaging to the environment. We now have to go to extremes to get at it, drilling in the Arctic, deep sea, etc, and we import more every year. In the meantime even the present so-called "liberal" administration makes no leadership calls for more serious energy conservation. This is not a situation with a happy ending and people are in denial if they think otherwise.

09:52 #740885

This fiction is the product of a mind that has studiously sucked up all the doomster porn he could find and/or a depressed character that is trying to exorcise the demons in his mind by literary effort.

Yummy doomster porn.

America is coming back strong. This time next year all this crying and moaning will subside to a dull roar. And all the glib nihilists chopping away at their keyboards will turn to something else to tear down. Twenty twelve will present an astonishing renaissance to everyone that doubted.

"Do not ask 'how?',

Let us go and make our visit."

09:54 #740891

Keep on smoking that great stuff . . . the clouds surrounding your vision is an added benefit.

10:10 #740943

Yeah - don't ask how "America is going to come back" because nobody's figured out a plausible answer for that yet...

10:15 #740962

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself" morphed into we have nothing real to fear but reality itself.

But reality is so over-rated.

Carry on.

IQ 145
10:16 #740968

Yes, last time I looked the Gulf of Mexico and Canada and North Dakota were not foreign locations unfriendly to the West; If we don't allow ourselves to be fucked over by sientifically illiterate hippies with their global weather fantasies there's plenty of time to change the commuting paradigm. Electricity is meant to be generated from Urananium, and Thallium; we have a political problem; we appointed Jane Fonda as national nuclear engineer and inherited a permanent dis-advantage vis a vis France; which has a rational government and over 90% of the grid supported by nuclear power.

10:42 #741084

"...sientifically illiterate," from IQ 145. Funny.

11:37 #741320

I see ya caught that little oops too. HaHa. Milestones

11:56 #741393

"You can build a thousand ships and no one calls you a shipbuilder, but you suck one dick..."

13:54 #741752

that was but one of many.

Urananium and Thallium for to me. I come to ZH to learn something new every day.

What I'm learning is how pervasive Dunning-Kruger/Downing Effect is. And to be perfectly honest it scares the fuck out of me.

There are a few of us here who are pretty sharp and we are all laughing at the same inside joke. The thing that stuns me is the audacity of the average intellect to think his stupid opinions have any fucking merit whatsoever.

20:10 #742573

I once read a science fiction story where all useful machines and processes were being performed by genetically-engineered lifeforms -- which seems much more sustainable and fitting for a planet based on biology. "Chew" on that for awhile!

Lost My Shorts
11:20 #741242

It's tiring to hear this nonsense RNC soundbite repeated over and over by wingnuts. Evil liberals suppressed nuclear power. BS. Consider the truth if your Republican mind is capable:

Nukes generate electricity. Electricity has not been in short supply. Nukes are alternatives to coal and natural gas, which are abundant in the USA. Three factors prevent development of nuclear power:

1) Nuclear plants built safe enough that anyone would want them nearby are not cost-competitive with coal and natural gas. The last generation of nukes built in the USA were huge money-losers.

2) NIMBY. Show me the gated golf course community full of tea party wing-nuts that wants a nuke next door. Where do you live? How many nukes do you want in your town?

3) Unlike France, the US government (heavily lobbied by the coal industry, and influenced by Reaganite ideology) does not impose uneconomical investments on society like nuclear power would have been in the last two decades.

Jane Fonda and all those leftie enviros you love to hate so much have no power at all.

17:54 #742363

I want nukes in my back yard. I would seriously LOVE to have one of those little Japanese self contained reactors in my back yard, so long as I got free electricity for life.

Did you ever stop to think that both sides made a deal with each other to prevent nuclear power from growing? Environmentalists are not adverse to "deals with the devil", and neither is big oil.

13:28 #741656

Cantarell's production is not falling off a cliff because of a bunch of mexican hippies are stalling more development.

BTW - do any of you who quote "stated reserves" as an indication of future production rates actually believe that when all the OPEC countries doubled their reserve claims at the same time production quotas were being set up, that this was any more than an accounting trick to allow for greater profits?

12:36 #741530

"It's only an iceberg, this ship is unsinkable!" Imagine the nerve of the doubters, those whacko doomers!

The quesion is this: do you feel lucky?

Yeah, I think that more suburban housing and more fuel consumption is the right way to go! That increased demand will mean that the US will finally be able to exhaust it's oil reserves!

17:57 #742371

Actually, you're more like someone screaming about how the ship was gong to run out of fuel, ignoring the much larger and more imminent problem of government intervention.

We can work around changing energy requirements. We can't work around ever shifting and expanding government regulations.

09:52 #740888

You miss the point. Nobody truly deep down inside really gives a shit. We all talk about the course of future events all day long, sometimes politely, oft with passion and frequently devolving into bare knuckled challenges of pure ego. But it represents naught, for subsequent to the talk, actions remain dormant, redundant, for we, the arguing parties have done our part. I have told others that which they must do in order to essure my collective survival and prosperity.

But alas, it all ceases subsequent to the promulgations and self congratulatory prose of brilliant remanufactured and stolen thoughts.

That's why talk is considered cheap; behavior oft more properly termed hypocrisy.

10:03 #740920

"This concrete jungle is occupied by hundreds of thousands of uneducated, unmotivated, wards of the state. They live a bleak existence in bleak surroundings and depend upon subsistence payments from the depressed suburbanites to keep them alive. How will they survive in a post peak oil world? They won’t."

Seems like this group doesn't care? But they somehow vote in EVERY election and that's why Illinois is run by the Democrats. Their kids can't make it to school AND do their homework. They live in pit holes, but, hey, they put their faith in their political masters and vote straight ticket every time!

Since they don't work, pay nothing in taxes and only care about their cell phones, hub caps and bling - they sure don't care about any thing else.

12:41 #741543

Another fucking party hack... Yeah, like Arkansas is a bed or roses.

People, stop fucking voting! I'm tired of you all pushing your shit on me! I'm not responsible for the crap that you keep making (by voting in all your corporate cretins).

Now then, what the hell contributions do YOU (the superior one) make to society?

Lord Koos
17:42 #742337

When/if the shit hits the fan, the middle class might be surprised to learn that inner-city folks, and the poor in general, likely are tougher than they are, and have better survival skills to boot.

09:55 #740897

Talking about finding new oil one of my spec shares is a small Norther Terrirtory of Australia company exploring in the Georgina Basin, where it has been assessed there are a potential three petroleum systems. Having done there exploration drilling they are about to commence a oil drill campaign.

Been in this one for a while and buying up stock on a regular basis at 0.006c

12:44 #741554

Perhaps you might want to consider spending some of your hard-earned money on a good spellchecker.

Sorry, but I'm not going to help pull up your bad bet (propping up the price of this crap).

12:13 #741448

[ahem] Professor Cat is in the house:

Radio waves are electrical signals in air. The radio signal coming from a radio tower are radio waves. With an antenna you can collect them for the music content, and you can also pull the electrical energy back out of them. This is how a microwave oven works; the food is an antenna (if it contains water) and the radio energy output of the internal Magnetron tube (or whatever they are using now) dissipates in the water in the food as heat. However, the radio waves in either broadcast radio or microwave ovens were created by a generator somewhere that probably ran on a power source (ie, your microwave oven is plugged into the wall AC) so all you are really doing is transmitting electrical power over radio waves to use somewhere else.

The radio power in your microwave oven is not however "free energy" nor does it "come from the sky". Nor does this other stuff which comes from a radio transmitter somewhere in your area. That tower is certainly running off the shared electrical grid, just like your microwave oven. You are using their power for your own purposes, which is just fine, but it doesn't come from the universe. It comes from coal or oil or hydro or etc.

Nothing is truly free in an ultimate sense. Basic physics still applies. Sorry.

The story that Tesla was railroaded by the utility companies may be true. It is also true that he was brilliant. He is one of my favorite engineers, ever. However he was also a brilliant crackpot; his idea was to transmit electrical power over air from the source into peoples' homes without wires, using ... microwaves. Well if you really were to do that you would turn their homes into microwave ovens to a degree. Sorta puts your "cell phones give you cancer" meme in a whole new light.

The idea that the Sun is full of positive energy and the Earth is negative and this is a huge battery that a few diodes and capacitors can exploit is ... loopy. Crystal unicorn Aquarian stuff from the '70s. If it makes someone happy, then I'm for it. Doesn't belong in a peak oil discussion.

Anything out in space, stays there. Cosmic rays are lethal, they are filtered out by the atmosphere and this is a good thing. We get plenty of harmless light (thank heavens) and we know many ways to use that. I mean here, growing plants and drying clothes. Even fossil fuels are nothing more than stored sunlight, put there by ancient fern forests and algae.

Excluding nuclear power, the Earth is run entirely from light energy from the sun and always has been and always will be. All else is illusion.

12:38 #741536

Merci. The commiserations of the banal are infrequently soothed by the knowledgeable.

20:26 #742593

The circuit in question looks a lot like a crystal radio receiver with a voltage doubler stage follower, which would indeed take incoming radio signals and convert them into a DC voltage -- free energy for someone, until the radio transmitter stops broadcasting. I wonder if it would work with silicon power diodes in place of the germanium 1N34s.

20:47 #742634

That amount of energy coming out of that "voltage doubler" couldn't keep a fleas nuts warm. Tesla was indeed brilliant but the Tesla cult is a bunch of paper hat fools...

21:34 #742713

Good god.. I have a vivid imagination and I burst out loud when i read this!

Thank You.

21:31 #742710

Here is a video of the the only free thing that isn't a scam.

That's all your gonna get fer nuthin...

09:58 #740904

Ugh.. yea. However, we are a great nation. We have an incredible spirit that is now awakening. We have plenty of Natural Gas and with the Internet the world has thousands of tinkerers in their garages working on free-energy.

There is no question that oil prices will climb, however, one must also first look into abiotic oil vs. "fossil" oil.

There are so many ways to keep all of the above moving, changing and improving. The only obstacle is last millennium's reptilian thinking. Soon, post 2012, there will be a complete and sudden shift from non-trust and pessimism to a full out renaissance.


10:05 #740923

Speaking of Natural Gas, just a few years ago the price was skyrocketing and we were short of supply and then all of sudden we are swiming in the stuff. Did everyone and there brother drill a well in there back yard or something?

Internet Tough Guy
10:36 #741060

It's not just what goes in your tank that takes gas. Petrochemicals, plastics, the asphalt on the road, fertilizer, everything has oil in it. Can you make these things from natural gas?

11:16 #741081

Eroei (Energy return on energy invested) ie it's too late for that. Oil became the dominant fuel source because it's the cheapest. All of those energy sources are far more expensive to mine per unit of energy. Add onto that the cost to change over the infrastructure. Prices are going way up, forever.

Peak cheap coal

13:10 #741606

"we have plenty of nat gas which could run our cars and such for 200 yrs"

How many cars are you claiming could be run off of NG, for 200 years?

If it's the current number, then fine, I could basically agree (though actual numbers and consumption would have to be verified). BUT... if you're talking about changing over the bulk of existing cars to NG, then wouldn't that mean that there would be a faster draw-down, an increased extraction and consumption which, simply, would mean that that 200 years worth of NG supply would now be less than 200 years worth?

Presenting single-dimension information on a multiple dimension problems is, well, problematic.

Is the US capable of supplying all of it's NG needs? in 2009 it imported 3,751,360 million cubic feet of it ( Also ask what of the ramifications of the US decreasing NG imports from Canada, that doing so would mean less money to Canada to turn around and buy US goods: moral of story: it's much more complicated than "drill baby drill."

As for the other things... no mention of quantities of given energy sources/materials. Sadly, way too many people believe that demand creates supply: seal yourself up in an airtight room w/o oxygen and let me know how well demand works out for you.


USGS downgrades oil potential in Alaska reserve ( junkies always believe that they are going to get the next fix... sooner or later, however, they won't, and the probability of encountering life-threatening situations in their quest of the next fix is extremely high (likely).

10:13 #740955

Abiotic oil is like a dragon, interesting to think about but doesn't exist. And if oil was created abiotically we're still on our way to doom via CO2 emissions.

tmosley on Sat, 11/20/2010 - 01:49 #742801

Dragons do exist, as it so happens. They might not be as impressive as the fire-breathers of the old stories, but they are certainly deadly:

CO2 is likely sequestered by natural processes such as serpantinization:, which leads to the production of more methane.

IQ 145
10:18 #740976

There is no free energy. Scientifically illiterate dreaming is useless. Uranium and Thallium exist; the problem is grotesque human stupidity.

10:27 #741018

Tell that to the atom and every f'ing thing that is moving.

13:13 #741617

All their energy comes from within, there's no external stimuli?

18:29 #742432

Are you saying that you want to power the world on Brownian motion?

Sure, to a certain degree, solar, wind, and wave power are ultimately derived from atomic interaction - but so is petroleum energy and everything else for that matter. But so what? It's not like you stick a plug into the "aether" and your toaster is going to work...

Thermodynamics is a bitch.

10:44 #741096

How much U232?

Enough to provide baseload plants for the world past say 25 years from now?


The problem is grotesque human arrogance.

13:15 #741623

As Dr. Albert Bartlett says, the biggest problem is the inability to understand the exponential function. Sigh, we've created an environment of better living through ignorance...

20:30 #742602

Human stupidity: Very little demand for it, yet a seemingly infinite supply! Who sez God doesn't have a sense of humor? :>D

10:00 #740905

I take it this guy doesn't like oil???

13:17 #741628

Is that a question or a statement?

If one states that it's not a good idea to set oneself on fire does that mean that one doesn't like fire?

13:44 #741636

It's a questment. I take it you don't like it either?

10:01 #740910

Quote du Jour

Democracy is not something you put away for ten years, and then in the 11th year you wake up and start practicing again. We have to begin to learn to rule ourselves again.

Chinua Achebe

Author of Things Fall Apart

13:20 #741635


And we've got to first understand that there should be no gods or masters. Also need to understand that "democracy" doesn't scale (only smaller groups can maintain a true democracy).

Panel discussion James Howard Kunstler and Nikos Salingaros (Part 1) Peak Oil News Clearinghouse

by Lakis Polycarpou

Car culture on the decline - June 1... A few months ago, I conducted a panel discussion with urban theorists James Howard Kunstler and Nikos Salingaros for the magazine Next American City. Because of space limitations, the magazine was unable to publish the full interview. Since some very interesting portions of the discussion were cut, I thought it would be worthwhile to present the unexcerpted piece here. Because it’s long, I’m going to post in two parts. The original article can be found at: Respect for the Human Scale.

James Howard Kunstler has written numerous books about urbanism and “the fiasco of suburbia”, including The Geography of Nowhere, Home from Nowhere and The City in Mind. In his most recent book, The Long Emergency, Kunstler explored the shocking implications of what the imminent decline of oil and natural gas imply for the American way of life. His recently released novel, The World Made by Hand, is set in a small upstate New York town in a not-too-distant “post-petroleum” future—a place where highways and suburbs have been abandoned and life has become “extremely local.”

Nikos Salingaros is a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and a renowned urban theorist. The author of Principals of Urban Structure and A Theory of Architecture, Salingaros links mathematical, fractal and network theory to urban planning and architecture. Over the years he has been a close collaborator with numerous noted architects and urban planners, including Christopher Alexander, Andrés Duany, Leon Krier and others. Among his admirers is Charles, Prince of Wales, who has called Salingaros’ work “provocative” and “historically important.”

LP: I would like to start with a quote. Writing 50 years ago on the inauguration of the Interstate Highway System, Lewis Mumford commented that “the current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation, but on the religion of the motorcar; and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism.”

Half a century later the religion of the motorcar is, if anything, stronger than ever. Is there any hope of changing course in the coming years, or are we doomed to repeat the auto-centered planning mistakes of recent decades? Is there any way for healthy cities to make peace with the automobile, or must it be banished from them altogether?

JHK: First of all, I don’t think that we’re going to have to make a whole lot of further accommodations to the automobile. I’m serenely convinced that the automobile is going to be a diminishing presence in our lives. We’re not going to come up with any “miracle” or “rescue remedy” for the petroleum scarcity problem.

I think you’re going to see an interesting political problem arise, where motoring simply becomes an elite activity again, and will be greatly resented by the masses of Americans. There are all kinds of problems including unanticipated ones.

Now that’s the second half of the Mumford question. The first half has a lot to do with what I call the “psychology of previous investment.” The investment we’ve made now in the happy motoring life is so enormous, that no matter what reality is telling us about it, we’re probably going to see a big campaign to sustain the unsustainable at all costs. I maintain that this will probably work out as a gigantic exercise in futility and a further waste of our remaining resources. We’re probably going to campaign to keep suburbia going, but it’s not going to pay off for us, and it’s really basically a waste of our time and our resources.

LP: Would it be correct to say that it’s too late to make the necessary changes?

JHK: From my point of view, I think the mistake a lot of observers and commentators make is in assuming that there’s some sort of a smooth transition between where we’re at now and where we’re going. I maintain that there’s actually a lot of noise in the system, and what we’re faced with is some sort of a discontinuity that is liable to be rather sharp and produce a lot of disorder.

LP: So it’s not that you think it’s impossible to run a modern society on much less energy, with maybe healthier city planning, it’s just that we’re not going to do it in time?

JHK: Well, no, I think I’d go further and say that most of the thinking about alternative energy solutions is delusional. We’re not going to run Walmart and the Interstate Highway System or Walt Disney World on any combination of the alternatives that are in play right now, or even close to it. We’re going to have to make very different arrangements, and we’re simply not psychologically prepared for that reality.

LP: Nikos, where do you stand on the issue of peak oil and the depletion of energy?

NS: Yes, we’ll I’m speechless because James has given such a succinct answer to these things. I want to pick up on his point on investment and the societal blindness that follows this investment. The anthropologist Jerrod Diamond writes about that [in his book Collapse]. Civilizations can see the coming collapse, they just cannot bring themselves to make any change, there’s just so much inertia in the system that they just go toward the collapse. Why’d they die? It doesn’t sneak up on them.

Now, going back to the first part of the question about religion, I have written many articles on the “pseudo-religious” aspect of architecture. People get infatuated with ideas, and it becomes a religion for them. And the automobile is really more than a utility, like a can opener. It has occupied such a central place in the American psyche and now the world psyche; it offers the insulating cocoon, and the same time total perceived liberty of communication between point A and point B in the continental United States.

And even those who realize the delusion, it still takes them two and half hours to drive across the city because terrible traffic. So it’s not so easy. But even so . . . we stick to the ideal, and that where the religion comes in; there is a dogma: the automobile makes you free to go anywhere you want at any time. In the middle of the night you can go to Walmart to shop, at 4 a.m., and buy a consumer toy that will break down in six months.

And the automobile insulates you from all the other people. Our society is spending of billions of dollars piping information into our houses and therefore into our minds about a hostile society . . . it’s them, everyone outside, they’re nasty, they’re gonna kill us. So they force us to retreat to our little enclave in suburbia, and our car is our cocoon, so we enter our car to navigate through the hostile territory, along with everyone else. We don’t realize that we are them. Like Pogo used to say, “the enemy is us.” But there’s been such a massive brainwashing over the decades about the perceived freedom and protection that the car give us.

LP: Is there a connection you can see between the religion of the automobile and the religion and the religion of modern architecture?

NS: Well, there is a tentative link, because the arch-destroyer of cities, [the famous architect and urban planner] Le Corbusier, had the latest sports cars of the 1920s always parked inside of his buildings; or he would draw a car in front of his buildings. So in his mind, modern architecture was linked with the automobile. And all his urban megalomaniac plans have the superhighway filled with racing cars. A few of them. I think Le Corbusier vastly underestimated the number cars you would need. So in all his drawings you see sports cars cruising on free highways.

LP: It kind of makes you wonder what he would think if he saw the world that we’ve built now.

NS: Well, he saw the world then, and he despised the world, and he wanted to destroy the world that we know and love. He was not only a megalomaniac, but a sadistic psychopath.

LP: To go back on something you were saying—Jim, you can jump in on this also—about the role of investment: Going back to Mumford, one of his criticisms of Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities was that she blamed urban planners for the problems of American cities without addressing larger, more destructive forces at work. By the same token, Christopher Alexander has suggested that the New Urbanism has failed, in part, for a similar reason: for being too accommodating to the pressures of banks and developers at the expense of a more step-by-step process to create truly living cities.

JHK: Well this is an interesting question for me, because I went up to Toronto and interviewed Jane Jacobs at length in the last couple of years of her life, and I found it very hard to direct her attention to the issue of the suburban fiasco per se. She just kept on deflecting my questions about it.

You know, Mumford and Jacobs had quite a rivalry, in their time, and Mumford supported Jacobs very strongly in the beginning, and then turned on her, rather viciously. And I’m not sure quite what that was about.

Mumford was in a strange position because he identified very clearly the pernicious forces that were in motion. But unfortunately he was writing about them even before they attained their apogee of influence in our culture. What we see in the suburban paradigm really is a self-organizing, emergent structure that’s responding to the conditions and circumstances of a particular time and place, namely, the mid-twentieth century, and the circumstance of abundant, cheap oil, which the United States possessed in spades. So we set out on this project . . . and it also coincided with some other things. The end of the Second World War, and in effect the Great Depression, or the extension of the Great Depression through the hardships of war. I’ve always maintained that suburbia was sort of a present that we gave ourselves for having triumphed against those combined adversities.

Now the New Urbanism has been in a strange situation. I think that the real triumph of the New Urbanism in the last 15 years has been the retrieval of vital information and principal that was thrown in the garbage can by two previous generations of architects and urban planners and municipal officials—you know, the whole complex of people who support the ideology.

So the New Urbanists dove into the dumpster of history and very valiantly retrieved this vital information and principal. That was their great achievement. Not necessarily the building of the 400 acre so-called “New Towns,” although there was a lot about them to admire. But I think we’re going to view that particular aspect of their work as transitional.

I agree with the implication in your question that to a certain degree the New Urbanists sold out, or became hostage to the methods of the production home-builders of our time, in order to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish. Now that the housing bubble is upon us, and the production home-builders are going down, perhaps for good, my own opinion is we’re not going to be building any more suburban fabric at all. Including New Urbanist TNDs [Traditional Neighborhood Developments].

All the action, if there is any action in the years ahead, in my opinion, is going to be in retrofitting the existing towns and small cities. Not the suburbs. I don’t think the suburbs are really salvageable, myself. And I think the increment of development is going to be much smaller than what the New Urbanists are used to, because they could avail themselves of this tremendous finance that was around, and do these 400 acre megaprojects. But we’re going to be a far less affluent society when this economic shakeout is over, and we’re going to have far fewer investment resources.

LP: So in some ways it’s kind of a moot point because even the New Urbanists are not going to be able to develop things on such a large scale . . .

JHK: Well, certainly not the kind of things that were controversial, like the TNDs located in far-off suburbs. We will view that as a transitional form. A form that, for all of its good intentions, did not really anticipate the true catastrophe of the peak oil situation. You know there was an assumption with that all the way that they were going to make a partnership, a grand compromise with the needs of the motoring community, and in fact it was only toward the tail end—and I know this for a fact because I know these guys who started the movement. Guys like Andrés Duany became aware rather late in the game that there was this petroleum problem lurking in the background. Andrés has certainly made the adjustment, but a lot of his colleagues have not.

LP: What do you think about this issue Nikos? I know you have a close working relationship with Christopher Alexander. What do you think of a step by step process versus the developer, banker-led movement?

NS: There are many important issues on the table with this question. Of course Christopher, being the great genius that he is, is always right. But it’s not necessarily always the best way to implement things. And going back to the Jane Jacobs/Lewis Mumford debate, there is a fundamental misunderstanding, in that change comes from great forces that push on our society. And the forces that push on our society are capital and gain.

This is where the brilliance of our friends the New Urbanists has come in, by tapping these forces to create new traditional developments. I mean, Andrés Duany, Stefanos Polyzoides and Peter Calthorpe tapped into this. And, okay, Christopher is right when he says they sacrificed some of the important elements of urbanism, but they made up for it with enormous successes. I think it’s a success story of our era. The fact that we have this compromise, new traditional development that is adopted by people who otherwise used to build sprawl and megatowers.

JHK: That’s a good point, by the way.

NS: And this is absolutely an incredible success. Okay, Christopher is right, he says they have compromised on many issues. Okay, yeah, sure they’ve compromised, but on the other hand today, all over the world there are new traditional developments going up, by people who do not understand urbanism, but they have Duany’s code-book. And they’re applying it mindlessly, but it produces fairly good results. Not the greatest, but fairly good results. And if this impetus could be continued, it could regenerate many regions of cities.
Now, I have to interrupt myself and say that Andrés Duany has told me on many occasions that he would love to redo some of the central parts of the cities. It’s just such a nightmare of bureaucracy that only in one or two places in his whole career has he been able to do it. He just usually looks at the obstacles and gives up, and goes outside the city to where a single developer owns the and land and can bend the zoning to build what Andrés would like. Inside the city it’s a bureaucratic nightmare, and that’s the reason why haven’t seen this applied to the interior of our cities. So James is right, this has not been done so far, but there’s no reason why we cannot then turn to the inside of our cities. But it’s a legislative and government problem.

LP: You worked on the Athens Charter . . . do you have any comments on that?. . .

NS: Well, there are two Athens charters. The original one written by Le Corbusier was a blueprint to destroy cities. The new Athens Charter was put together by a group of European urbanists who try to look at a more reasonable “network” view of society. That’s an excellent document, but people in the United States don’t know anything about it.

LP: That’s another question I wanted to ask you . . . sometimes we have in this country an American-centered focus. In your book on urbanism you mention that there are things we can even learn from shanty-towns that grow organically . . .not that we want to adopt everything there . . .

NS: Well, yeah, the organic growth is Christopher’s bottom-up, step-by-step principle, in practice. Not because those people apply Christopher’s ideas; they don’t know Christopher’s ideas, most of them cannot read. But this is the way that structure evolves and is put together. And human beings without any training will go through this extremely sophisticated, scientific procedure and put together the shanty-towns. I have managed to get Andrés Duany interested, and we wrote a lengthy paper on social housing in South America, where we apply Christopher’s ideas with a combination of a top-down intervention in order to propose a better model for social housing.

LP: So we can learn something from the developing world?

NS: Oh, we learn the most fundamental things about human scale. We so-called civilized or more technological people have lost the human scale. And if we only learn that single thing it would transform our cities overnight. Respect for the human scale. Which includes pedestrian links. But more than that, it’s the human scale, the range of human scales, from the size of a finger to the size of the head, to the size of a human body, to the distance of a short walk.

LP: That’s what you’ve called “fractal”.

NS: Right, right. A fractal hierarchy of scales which we have eliminated from our cities. If we can reintroduce them in the physical structure and then accommodate them in the physical structure to human beings, who want to walk three meters, and who want to lie against a low wall, sit on a low wall, sit on a bench. Now we eliminate them, because we think, “this place will be invaded by vagrants.”

Many of the solutions that I have proposed in my writings and that Christopher has proposed, we know, we have old books from the 1930s full of them. But nobody pays any attention to them.

You know, something happened with the departments of urbanism in our major universities. They were closed down and moved into the sociology department, and merged with urban crime and urban social ills. And that tells you something: that our society looks at urbanism as in terms of just drug dealing and homeless people, and has forgotten the geometry of urbanism. And we—I mean our friends, James, Andrés, Christopher—all talk about geometry. It’s about geometry. Okay there are social problems, but those are separate problems. We should not sacrifice our cities and our children’s futures to be able to enjoy urban life just because of crime. Crime has always existed. And it should not displace the whole concept of urbanism.

LP: Well, it may or may not be even true that suburbanization decreases crime anyway . . . although, maybe it makes people, as you said, more secure, more insulated.

LP: Jim and Nikos, in the wake of September 11th, the two of you co-wrote an essay in which you said “this terrible event expresses and underlying malaise with the built environment” and you predicted that “no new megatowers would be built”. Are you surprised by the continued effort to build the Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan?

JHK: Well, I’m not personally surprised by it. I think that there are forces in our culture that perversely demanded it to be built. And when I wrote that article with Nikos, it was never a clear point in my mind that we would build absolutely nothing in terms of tall buildings again. In fact I would have probably, if pressed at the time, said sure, there’s going to be a residual kind of building of more of this stuff before we really have to reckon with the problem.

The problem really is more a logistical and practical problem in that we’re going to have a lot of trouble running skyscrapers in an energy-scarcer economy, particularly one that is challenged in natural gas resources, because we’re really coming to a crisis in North America with our supply; and you tend to get the natural gas on the continent that you’re on. Otherwise it’s much more expensive to bottle it up and move it in special ships and offload it, etc. etc. So a lot of this implies trouble with the electric grid and trouble with heating in the years ahead.

Now if you look at the history of the skyscraper, which is very short, and you actually look at how these things were serviced, it tells an interesting story. The first great skyscraper city, New York City, was originally basically a coal-based energy economy. And what you had at that time, in the period of let’s say between 1890 and 1920, is a lot of guys shoveling coal in basements in furnaces. And from that you get all the jokes about the ash-man in the cartoons in The New Yorker Magazine of the 1920s, of the guys throwing the ash-can down the alleyway. Those buildings were, for the most part, under 20 stories, except for a handful, like the Woolworth building, etc. Mostly what you had there was 15, 17 story buildings.

Then, beginning after the First World War, you start to get oil furnaces. And it’s much easier; you don’t have to have these massive deliveries of coal, and it’s much cleaner. The truck comes in, pumps a little oil into a reservoir, and you’re ready to go. You don’t have to have a guy shoveling. Or a whole shift, or crews of guys. So that’s simpler. And then, after World War II, finally you get natural gas piped all around the city. There’s no delivery as you get with oil; it’s just there all the time, coming through the pipeline. It’s all automatic. Well, this is all going to be coming to an end, because the natural gas supply in North America is very endangered, and is probably going to deplete very very steeply in the next ten years. We have no idea how we’re going to heat these buildings. We have no idea what we’re going to do about the electric grid because almost all the power stations we built after 1980 are natural gas fired, and it’s going to be a huge problem. And I maintain that the cities that are overburdened with skyscrapers are going to have an extra layer of liability as we move further into the 21st century.

LP: Do you think that those cities are worse off than cities that are mostly . . .

JHK: They’re going to have special set of liabilities. There was an article that was very misleading that was published in The New Yorker Magazine about three years ago, and what it said was that New York City was the most ecologically sound city because you could stack so many people on such a small building footprint, and therefore that was a superior living arrangement. Well, what we’re going to find out is that is that the stacks, the physical stacks that we’re employing, are probably going to fail us; we’re not going to be able to run them that way. And if we’re wise—which is unlikely—we’re going to realize that there’s an optimum and maximum height that we can expect from urban buildings, probably not in excess of seven stories.

LP: One of the issues that comes up is that people will say that in order to avoid sprawl, we need a higher degree of density in our cities.

JHK: Well you can get very high densities at seven stories. But it’s not necessary to have 20, 30, 100 story buildings. This is simply a holdover, from the previous era of cheap energy, and it represents now a form of grandiose thinking.

LP: Nikos, what do you think about . . . do you advocate the four-story limit that’s in the New Urbanist Charter?

NS: Well, approaching the topic scientifically, as I have done in my articles and books, there is an optimal size and shape for every complex system. Sprawl is just as unsustainable, because of energy wastage, as skyscrapers are. Going up vertically wastes energy the same as going out randomly. All this tremendous energy—James put his finger on it, it’s the energy, the problem is the energy. We don’t have the energy, and when the energy price doubles, triples, goes up to a hundred times or a thousand times what we pay today, sprawl will be unsustainable because it will cost too much. He’s also right in that the skyscrapers are totems.

So governments and corporations will pay exorbitant amounts of money to keep these skyscraper’s going. And they’re so extremely expensive. We have tried to make clear in our separate articles that a place like New York City sucks in energy, not only from a circle 100 miles around it but from many places in the world, it just sucks in that energy and those resources and wastes it, and consumes it. So New York City is not an efficient city. It’s efficient when you look at the geometry, superficially, like you see a movie, “oh, it’s efficient because it’s going up”. But no, what’s coming in? All the networks that are supplying New York City just reach out all over the place, and it’s always one way. And it’s coming in.

It’s very expensive, but I would not be surprised if we continue to build skyscrapers, because people are essentially stupid. And they’re willing to up the ante and pay more and more and more and more. Suppose we run out of oil tomorrow. Well, we’ll build nuclear power plants, which is a separate point . . . because as James says, with natural gas there’s only a finite amount in the United States. So, okay we’ll build nuclear power plants so we can produce enough electricity, it won’t surprise me if we waste this extremely expensive new electricity to maintain skyscrapers that are totally inefficient.

We have to fight also the very sharp contemporary architects who are manipulating the media, and talking about new, hundred story skyscrapers that have a few solar panels on them, thus they label them efficient, thus they get a label, a gold star on it, and they say “oh, this is certified efficient.” Well all that’s baloney, it’s just a ruse to maintain their own careers, and they will go down in history as being just as devious and disingenuous as Le Corbusier was. But for the moment, there are conferences and books written about sustainable giant skyscrapers; it’s just an old confidence trick.

LP: So I take it Jim, that you’re also not a fan of LEED certification?

JHK: Well, I put that in the category of what I call “blowing green smoke up our ass.” I saw a fantastic example of that last night. In a commercial break from Iowa caucus returns, there was a commercial from General Motors for a hydrogen car, and the story they were trying to put across was, “we’ve already invented this, and you can go out and buy it tomorrow.” Which is complete nonsense. We don’t have any hydrogen cars, we don’t have a fleet of hydrogen cars, and we certainly don’t have any network of hydrogen filling stations conceivably even on the drawing boards that would service these things. So the whole thing was just an exercise in unfortunately bending and twisting the reality of the American viewing public. And we do an awful lot of this.

There’s a larger thing here that I feel that I need to discuss. Unlike a lot of other people who are looking at the scene with the cities, and trying to make sense of this, I have a real contrarian view. I think that what we’re about to see is an epochal reversal of the 200 year old trend of populations moving from the small towns and the farms to the big cities. That is going to reverse, and we’re going to see big cities contract substantially, and people moving back to the smaller cities, the smaller towns, and indeed to an agricultural landscape that is going to require a lot more human attention to make productive.

What I think this is really about is the metroplexes and megacities that have come to seem normal to us in our time—I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that they’re going to sustain themselves and as Nikos says, it’s all a matter of scale. The energy resources of the future will not permit places like Orlando, or Houston, or indeed any major American city at it’s current scale to stay the way it is. Now, something will be in almost all of these places, because almost all of them occupy important sites. There are some that don’t. I’m thinking specifically of Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas. These places will simply dry up and blow away, because they’ll have additional problems on top of energy problems, of not being able to produce food locally, etc. And water problems. But all the other major American metroplexes are going to contract, and it’s only a question of how disorderly this process is.

NS: Can I interject something? I want to defend the LEED certification in the following way: I think it’s a very positive response of the society, that represents the public conscience, to take these steps. What I’m criticizing is not the concept, what I’m criticizing is unscrupulous architects who see this as an opportunity to make even more profit and go through the steps of LEED certification, and then make a horrible building and they they say, “aha, it’s LEED certified, so I’m being a good architect.” That’s baloney.

JHK: Well I also have a problem with the idea that you can design a solar building that will be certified and yet it will have terrible urban characteristics.

LP: So, in dealing with these various issues, and maybe there’s no clear answer here, but what would you say, each of you, is the highest priority in going forward in terms of urbanism, energy, and this whole complex that we’ve been talking about?

JHK: My highest priority is that we have got to revive, repair and restore the American passenger rail system. There’s no project that would have a greater impact our our oil use; it would put tens of thousands of people to work at meaningful jobs; the technology already exists and doesn’t have to be invented. In fact, we need to start at a less grandiose level than the people who are pimping for mag-lev and high-speed rail. We need to demonstrate that we can do it on the Bulgarian level, because we have a rain system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of. We have to get up to that level first.

The fact that we’re not even discussing this in any forum whatsoever, politics, culture, whatever, shows how unserious we are as a culture. It’s dreadfully important. It’s important for an additional reason. We need to do a project as a nation that would demonstrate to ourselves that we’re capable of facing the difficulties that are coming down at us in the future. And this is one that is at least doable because most of the infrastructure is still lying out there rusting in the rain. And if we fail to do this, we’re going to find we’re in a situation where not only are we faced with an array of much more difficult problems all converging and ramifying each other, but we’re not going to have any confidence in facing these things.

LP: Do you think that when the energy situation gets bad enough we will go ahead and rebuild our rail system?

JHK: I don’t know if we’re going to be an orderly enough society and economy to do that. That’s the big question for me, is, is there a threshold point, or a tipping point, where the problems in your nation become so great that there’s simply not enough order left to direct the resources to solve a problem? And we’re approaching that point. And by the way, this goes to that point I made earlier, that we’re much more liable to see a delusional campaign to sustain suburbia and all of its motoring entitlements, and imagine all the resources that will go into that at the expense of rebuilding the passenger rain system, and the transit systems.

LP: How about you Nikos, do you have any highest priority?

NS: I support Christopher [Alexander’s] latest efforts in The Nature of Order. The last volume of The Nature of Order is a deeply spiritual work that talks about human beings' connection with the universe in almost religious terms. This is close to genuine religions, and totally opposite from pseudo-religions like the motorcar and the skyscraper totems.

I would like—and I don’t know how to do it—I would like people to regain the lost spirituality that human beings have, and that would solve many problems simultaneously. That would bring us into better contact with nature.

As soon as soon as we realize that our inner geometry—the genetic geometry of human beings—has a strong basis in the geometry of other living things—trees, plants, animals, ecosystem complexity—our geometry inside, our brain, or organs, our lungs, our circulatory system is the same geometry we see in trees and in ecosystems.

As soon as we realize that, then we can appreciate nature better, we can appreciate the need for preserving natural environments, which now we argue from the outside. We say, “natural environments are nice, it’s a good thing to do.” No, it’s not a good thing to do, it’s part of us, it’s like our fingers. We’d better take care of our fingers, because if we cut them off then we become less able to do things. That would lead us immediately to see the city as an extension of that geometry, and to appreciate the small-scale.

And then building on top of that, we could see, “oh, wait a minute, we have all these rail lines, lying around already, we could use them, all they need is a little upgrading.” And that would immediately increase . . . our transportation system. I think that’s a strong enough power—coming from a different direction, coming from outside urbanism, coming from a new spiritual understanding of human beings’ role in the universe—that would be strong enough to overcome the government’s inertia at doing this.

And then I would immediately jump in and support James. I would propose the Brazilian solution, where in these towns in Brazil people have come up with cheap ways . . . like in Curitiba, the mayor Jamie Lerner just put together a nice system of public transport; okay, it’s cheaper than the monorails. These are cheap ways that get tremendous payback.

But at the same time, I work a lot with Latin America. On the one hand, they’re developing phenomenal economical solutions that we can copy. And at the same time the adjoining city is copying the unsustainable solutions that we have built here. So one hand is creating, the other hand is breaking down, which is sad to see. But I agree with James that the solution lies in small-scale technology and low-cost technology, conserving what we have, like the rail lines.

In New York now there’s a new project, the Atlantic Yards project, where a world famous architect is proposing to tear up all the rail lines, and they’re going to do that, and someone is going to make billions of dollars. And in 30 years, people will say, “My God! We had rail lines here! They were entering New York City! Now we can’t possibly afford to put rail lines in. Where are we going to put them? We have to put them on the water.” Catastrophic short-sightedness to dig up existing rail lines.

LP: Do either of you have any final comments?

JHK: Well, I would advertise my forthcoming book, which is actually a novel, that takes place in America’s post-petroleum future. It’s coming out in March of 2008, an its title is World Made by Hand. The publisher is the Atlantic Monthly Press.

NS: I wish that people would look at the key players who are shaping the built environment, both on the architectural scale and the urban scale, and spend some time to notice a fundamental difference. I have a group of friends—Christopher, James, Andrés Duany, the New Urbanists, Leon Krier . . . we are a loose group of friends. If you notice what we do and how we operate, no one can fail to notice a respect for humanity, a value system; a moral system and a value system that respects something there, that respects some tradition, that respects nature. Altogether you have to dig through our writings and see that there’s a respect, and somehow a humility.

And then you go to the other side, to the star architects and the star urbanists who are fast destroying China, bulldozing down 16th century cities that have worked sustainably for decades, and putting up monstrosities of glass and steel and highways. I think you will not fail to see that these people are driven by ego and gain, gain at the expense really of running everything into the ground so they can make something. It is distasteful and ugly. I would like observers to note those differences. And then maybe they will appreciate the different types of products that the two groups propose for the future of the built environment.

05:40 PM | Permalink

[Nov 26, 2011] The Observer

November 26, 2011 by davald

I grew up in the suburbs, specifically in Concord, Calif., about 35 miles east of San Francisco, via the Bay Bridge and Caldecott Tunnel. It would not surprise me to learn that our housing tract was one of the first in the region, since the suburbs really didn’t take off until after WWII and the start of the boomer generation. I was five years old at the time of the move from a North Richmond apartment project. It was not until a few years ago that I departed suburbia for the higher-density of downtown Everett, Wash., which is in the throes of spasmodic transformation. It’s not quite a revitalization.

Over time I came to detest suburbia, with its endless sprawl, induced enervation, and necessary reliance on the automobile. Those few found walking along the sidewalks there were judged, in Jim Kunstler’s parlance, “short of their meds.” Unless they were teenagers, who were forced to walk long stretches to school or the local strip mall, since they had no cars of their own but the insatiable desire for social interaction.

And speaking of the automobile, in my last post I discussed briefly the notions of ecological footprint and carrying capacity. When the aggregate of the first metric exceeds the rather fixed volume of the latter, shit happens in the form of pollution, climate change, obesity, and, of course, wars. Planet Earth is a serious zero-sum game.

There is a strong correlation inverse between population density and gasoline consumption. How could it be otherwise? Consider this graph posted on Wikipedia:

Yet, we can appreciate that old ways die hard. Suburbia attracts because it is relatively inexpensive, at least initially. The dirt under the houses is typically converted farmland, requiring little preparation for foundations, lumber, sidewalks, and streets. The houses themselves, as Leinberger affirms, are poorly constructed (as in fast as possible) out of cheap materials. Heretofore low gasoline prices, ready credit, and government-funded roadways have also conspired to make the suburban house affordable.

The embedded costs, we should understand, have been artificially constrained by governments at all levels. The price we pay at the pump does not include the cost of war or damage to the environment. The roads upon which we drive have long been subsidized. Mortgage interest deductions, uncommon around the globe, encourage home ownership, as do low-credit thresholds and government-backed loans. These homeowner enticements may not survive the current economic doldrums.

If we agreed that the suburbs have met a deserving death, what might we do to facilitate, if not accelerate, the transition from suburbia to urbanity? Another professor, Louise A. Mozingo, suggests we focus on offices. Also appearing in the same issue of the Times, Mozino writes:

Rethinking sprawl might begin much more effectively with these business enclaves [i.e., suburban offices, mostly of the expansive campus variety]. They cover vast areas and are occupied by a few powerful entities, corporations, which at some point will begin spending their ample reserves to upgrade, expand or replace their facilities.

Here, too, we find massive subsidization. Local governments, anxious to attract new business, routinely grant tax exemptions, modify zoning, and build connecting roads. Employees of these suburban offices usually pay nothing for parking, which further encourages the use of automobiles and consumption of gasoline—contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. But subsidies, however noble in intent, impose costs on others, as I’ve discussed above.

Mozingo concludes:

All three steps — a halt to agricultural land conversion, connecting dispersed employment centers with alternative transit, and encouraging downtown development — are needed to create renewed, civic-minded corporate workplaces and, in the process, move toward sustainable cities. Even leaving aside climate change, very soon the price of energy will make the dispersed, unconnected, low-density city-building pattern impossibly costly. Those jurisdictions and businesses that first create livable, workable, post-peak-oil metropolitan regions are the ones that will win the future.

We’ll see.