Peak Oil News: 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Plan for expensive fuel

Wise Bread

By Philip Brewer

Does your budget include a contingency for fuel to get much more expensive? Because it ought to.

I learned about the need for contingencies early. My first attempt at setting up housekeeping took place in 1980-1981, right at the peak of an inflationary spurt that saw the consumer price index grow at 14%. My budget was completely destroyed by prices that went up by more than 1% per month.

So what's your contingency for a spike in fuel prices?

For a few people who live in cities and walk or take mass transit, fuel is a small percentage of the total spending--small enough that a even a big increase in fuel prices won't break the budget. If you're not one of those people, you should either have a plan to take money from somewhere else in the budget, or else you should have a plan to reduce your driving if necessary.

What other line item can you take money from? Discretionary money--entertainment and the like--has usually already been cut to the bone in the initial budget-making process, so there's not much money to take from there. The closest thing most people have in their budget for contingencies is the money that's going into savings--and taking the money from there is a terrible idea.

That leaves reducing driving. Reducing driving in the short term is hard, but there are ways:

* combining trips--always a good idea anyway
* carpooling and other forms of ride sharing
* telecommuting
* bicycling or walking
* using mass transit

In the longer term there's the opportunity to take more drastic action, such as moving closer to work or making investments in fuel economy, such as a more efficient car. (A moped, scooter, or motorcycle would be cheaper than any new car and much more fuel-efficient as well.)

Electric meterWhen making your contingency plan, remember that transportation fuel is not the only kind you need to pay for. Heating and electricity rates will go up right along with transportation fuel costs.

This means that another part of your contingency plan should be energy-saving measures you can take at home: better insulation, adjusting the thermostat, etc. Even better, make the changes now and put the savings into a contingency fund.

Also, don't forget that fuel price increases tend to drive price increases in everything else as well, starting with food.

I'm making a big deal out of this because higher fuel prices are in the cards. Fuel prices will go down as well as up, but the long-term trend will be up. According to the US Energy Information Administration, only three out of the top ten oil producing countries showed increases in production in 2006 over 2005. None of them showed significant increases and the two biggest (Saudi Arabia and Russia) both showed clear declines. In fact, total world production of oil has been flat since 2004.Gas meters

Just as important as flat production is increases in consumption, especially in oil-producing countries. In part because of increasing domestic use, only two of the top ten oil exporting countries showed an increase in exports in 2006 over 2005.

We will no doubt continue to increase production of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, but it's an open question how much of the gap between flat supplies and growing demand can be filled by renewables. Your contingency plan is for the very real possiblity that any gap will push up fuel prices.

As I said, fuel prices will go down as well as up. There's a lot of low-hanging fruit in the US for conserving fuel. When prices get high enough, people will make the necessary changes, and many of those changes (moving closer to work, buying a more fuel-efficient car) will produce long-term reductions in demand--reductions that won't be quickly reversed, even if fuel prices drop. And, sometimes, that reduction in demand will be enough to produce a real drop in prices, but those drops in price won't come when you need them to save your budget. They'll come when you've finally given in and adjusted your fuel use to the new reality.

How will you handle higher fuel prices? You need to have a plan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oil Junkies for Jesus vs the Oil Crisis

By Len Hart

US involvement in Iraq is complicated by weird theology. Fundamentalist Christians insist upon an unconditional pro-Israeli policy no matter what! Israel is God's chosen nation. To oppose Israel, they say, is to damn our nation to hell. Another complication is our nation's symbiotic relationship with oil producing "infidels". GOP faithful believe that middle east oil is ours to plunder. Oil Junkies for Jesus openly boast of stealing Iraqi oil. For them, waging war for oil is not a war crime, it's a crusade, it's not an atrocity its a commandment. SUV's are not abominable energy hogs, they are God's own chariot. While we fear the mother of all energy crunches, Hubbert's Peak, oil junkies for Jesus look forward to just flying away from it all.

In 1956, geophysicist, M. King Hubbert, working at the Shell research lab in Houston, TX predicted that US oil production would peak in the early 1970s. Others predicted a peak occurring right about now. For his efforts, Hubbert was pilloried by oil experts and economists. Nevertheless, the 70's are remembered less for Disco Duck than for the long lines at service stations. The Arab Oil Embargo had driven home a point that the US had become an oil junkie nation. The US partnership with Arab oil producers was always a strange marriage of fundamentalist Christians from Texas and equally fundamentalist Muslims from the far flung deserts of the Middle East, primarily Saudi Arabia.

Amid long lines, hot tempers and high prices, the era of cheap energy was over by the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the so-called Yom Kippur War. The situation is complicated by what is conveniently and politically called "world terrorism" and the suspicion that the Bush administration turned a blind eye to the flow of "petro-dollars" finding their way into Saudi coffers and eventually into the hands of terrorists and, perhaps, bin Laden.

In the early days of the Iraq war, the moral implications of this were easily assuaged: just stick a flaq on your SUV, wave a yellow ribbon from your truck!

Americans are just barely aware that they pay about one-third the price Europeans pay for gasoline! But you have to credit the GOP with resourcefulness. The Bush administration delivered a message to the faithful: war in Iraq will result in lower prices at the pump even as the official line denied that the US attack and invasion of Iraq had anything at all to do with oil. That is revisionist history. The record of US Ambassador April Glaspie's interview with Saddam Hussein on the eve of his attack of Kuwait proves conclusively that Hussein's "problems" with the Bush family began when he tried to lower the price of oil.

Apparently the nation bought the GOP line. Alternative fuels, green energy and efficient cars were no longer "in". It was not always so. The famous Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston during the oil embargo was dominated by talk of Solar Energy, Offshore Thermal Energy Conversion, and Wind Energy. The brightest minds from MIT, Harvard, and Cambridge were there --modeling the economics of it all.

It's easy to find in the 1970's the growing antipathy between big oil and the Democratic party. President Carter got caught in the cross hairs as perhaps JFK had about ten years earlier when he promised to put an end to a Texas oil industry sacred cow --the Oil Depletion Allowance. But only a conspiracy theorist would connect that fact with his murder in Dallas, TX. Carter's advisors, however, favored lifting price caps but his political advisors nixed the idea. Clearly, American consumers were fed up with higher prices but absurdly long lines were the only alternative. Even now consumers may not have it both ways.

Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger favored lifting Federal price caps and doing away with what he called the "government's Byzantine allocation system". His proposal, he said, would go a long way toward spurring conservation while allocating scarce fuel more efficiently. Schlesinger said it would eliminate the long lines at the gas pump. It would mean the end of dirt cheap gasoline. When Carter over ruled Schlesinger the press reported that the President had refused to eliminate Federal Price Caps against the advice of his own energy secretary. [See: Merrill Sheils, "The Energy Plan," Newsweek, July 23, 1979] In Houston, MIT energy economist Morris Adelman would tell us reporters: 'All in all, it was a very weak, pallid performance,' said MIT energy economist Morris Adelman. 'The failure to decontrol will cost us a good deal.'

The future may be seen in our own past. It is simplistic to say merely that all the world's oil supplies will simply run dry, though oil supplies are finite to be sure. It is, rather, a matter of economics. Pennsylvania, for example, was America's first oil producing state --but Pennsylvania hasn't figured prominently in the oil industry in over a century. Oil seemed limitless; after all, it took some 60 years to consume the first 10% --a curve that has continually gotten steeper. Later --the Spindletop gushers in Texas startled the world only to be exploited and abandoned in a period of some twenty years or less.

Then the pattern repeated itself in West Texas. On the ranches just outside of Odessa/Midland, there is evidence that the robber barons of big oil simply walked away, abandoning wells to despoil the environment when it became no longer economically viable to operate them.

It ceased to be easy. That may explain why George W. Bush had to settle for stealing an election. In its first stages, petroleum exploration is a straight-forward technical procedure and, indeed, it was so easy wildcatters used to call it "land speculation with cash flow". Just shoot a modern seismic "net" across a basin and let the soundings delineate the significant prospects. The largest oil and gas fields are also the biggest and easiest targets; it was so easy in its early days that even an idiot could have made money. The fact that George W. Bush's ventures went belly-up twice is significant. Every other idiot was making money.

Shrub failed to find oil amid plenty but he did find "the Lord" in a hell hole --Odessa/Midland. By that time, however, getting rich in oil had become more complicated. Simply, the cost of producing oil outstripped oil's value. What happened in Pennsylvania, Beaumont (Spindletop), Odessa/Midland will one day happen to Saudi Arabia, The Persian Gulf, and Russia. The Arabs --inventors of Algebra --know this even if the blythe SUV-driving American idiot does not.

The demand for oil will increase from about eighty million barrels per day to about 125 million barrels per day by 2030; in the meantime, OPEC oil production will level off in 2014, if not sooner. A steep decline will begin in 2016 from which oil production will never recover. A big crunch is very nearly here if the shortfall isn't made up.

In the meantime, Halliburton, Unocal, Chevron rush to enrich themselves with Republican assistance, even complicity. The War in Iraq is just a part of the grand chessboard albeit a key one. Should Bush abandon Iraq, the American oil industry faces a crisis. It is a last desperate, ruthless grasp that has plunged the world into a "war on terror" and too many Americans have been asked to die for Halliburton --not America!

Who is the genius behind the preduction thatt bears his name? In 1969, Hubbert skipped Woodstock to do math. Hubbert suspected that a graph of world oil production would follow a standard statistical norm and his findings are not unlike those of Malthus who said essentially the same thing of arithmetic food production in populations which increase geometrically. Students of elementary statistics will know it as a "bell curve". Hubbert was not appreciated in 1969 --the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Nonetheless, he plotted a graph which predicted a peak of oil production followed by a precipitous decline. The future is now:

Hubbert is now said by experts to have made the "...only truly valid scientific projection of future oil production." A report by the Novum Corporation bluntly states that Hubbert was correct when he forecast oil production peaking in 1969. Since that time, domestic oil production has declined to within 5% of Hubbert's 1956 predictions.

The world oil map is not what it was in the 70's. Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf producers still make up a quarter of the world's oil supply to be sure but new supplies are now found in Russia where production fell by one-half after the break-up of the Soviet Union. But foreign supplies are likewise finite and cannot be depended upon to bail out the US --especially given the increasingly murky role of Saudi Arabia and volatile political situations throughout the middle east. The war on terrorism cannot be counted on to bring stability to the region or to oil prices.

Dick Cheney's Halliburton, Enron, Unocal, and Chevron, for example, have long proposed a "consortium" to build a pipeline across Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea --a pipeline supported by Pakistan but opposed by the Taliban. Only the insentient would not wonder if Dick Cheney's "pipeline" figured prominently in BBC reports that the United States had promised Pakistan a "little war" with Afghanistan --a promise made months before the events of 9/11.

Some conclusions: America's addiction to oil is not just a matter of taste, lifestyle, or provincialism. It is a matter of national security. Alarms bells should have gone off when Bush promised to end world terrorism at a time when his own family is in business with the people who finance them --Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan, for example, got carpet bombed; Saudi Arabia had merely to endure some bad press. Is that because the Saudis are well-connected with Bush et al?

Until fuel cell cars are made, scooters, economy vehicles, and public transportation --already popular everywhere, it seems, but in America --will become necessary in the US. The alternative is walking. More generally, there are glimpses of the future to be seen in various out-of-the-way places across the U.S: little communities where residents live "harmoniously" with the earth in super-insulated, comfortable houses coated with hardened clay. They do organic farming and telecommute. Just a bunch of hippies, tree-huggers, and liberals no doubt --but tell me that when your heating bill outstrips the value of your latter day manor house.

In the meantime, Hubbert's Peak is not a Soap Opera. It does, rather, explain why Bush and Dick Cheney (Halliburton) may have --as has been published and reported now in an increasing number of sources --threatened Afghanistan with "carpet bombs" before 9-11. It also explains Bush's one time love of Putin. Bush didn't see Putin's soul; he saw his oil! It also explains why the have since fallen out. The US was "negotiating" pipeline rights with the Taliban; dying for God and country is one thing --but for Halliburton?

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Len Hart is a Houston based film/video producer specializing in shorts and full-length documentaries. He is a former major market and network correspondent; credits include CBS, ABC-TV and UPI. He maintains the progressive blog: The Existentialist Cowboy

Monday, July 23, 2007

After peak oil: Will America survive?

News Target

By Mike Adams

As public awareness about peak oil continues to grow, and even the big oil companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. are now starting to admit that the future supply of oil looks troublesome (see this Boston Globe article), there's an increasing focus on renewable energy solutions. But most members of the public still don't understand energy very well, and they generally have no idea whether alternative energy sources like solar, wind or CSP (see below) can replace oil. Many people are concerned about a potential collapse of modern society due to the end of cheap oil. So to help answer some of these questions, I've put together a set of uncensored, science-based answers about oil, renewable energy and the future of modern civilization. This is offered in a Q&A format.

Question: Will oil really run out in the near future?
Of course it will. Even the recent conclusions reached by an Exxon Mobil about the future of global oil supplies are wildly optimistic and based on numbers that industry experts speaking off the record say are significant exaggerations of supply made for political reasons. Oil is running out, period, and we may already be past peak oil. From here forward, oil is only going to get increasingly scarce and more expensive. Demand for oil will soon significantly outstrip supply. The growth of China's consumption, combined with America's unprecedented thirst for energy means that from here forward, it's a bidding war over increasingly scarce supplies.

Can alternative forms of energy replace oil?
Yes and no. "Yes" because there's plenty of energy all around us that can replace oil. There's enough solar energy hitting the land in the state of Arizona, for example, to meet the entire energy needs of the United States. Likewise, there's enough wind power in Southern Wyoming to power the whole country, too. But this power is untapped. This is the "No" part of the answer: All the energy in the world is useless to you if you can't harness it. Without wind turbines, the wind in Wyoming is useless to us. Without solar panels, the Arizona desert is likewise useless to us as an energy source. Actually harnessing these alternative, renewable energy sources would require many billions of dollars in infrastructure spending, and right now, nobody in Washington seems to have the foresight to plan for a world without oil. There is currently very little investment in developing renewable energy sources.

Thus, the United States may find itself energy starved in the near future even though it is surrounded by abundant (unharnessed) energy!

What's the most promising alternative energy technology?
Few people know about this one, but based on my research, it's the most promising: Concentrated Solar Power, which requires no solar panels at all. It works by concentrating sunlight onto a small pipe using cheap parabolic reflectors. The pipe contains a liquid that's heated to very high temperatures by the sun and drives a steam boiler that rotates a turbine to generate electricity (much like nuclear power plants, but without the nuclear waste). It's cheap, low-tech, and far more affordable than solar power. Plus, it can be built in practically any desert, so it doesn't take up valuable land. As another bonus, when CSP operations are built near the ocean, they can desalinate ocean water as a side effect, providing fresh water for irrigation to grow food. This is the only renewable energy technology I know of that can produce cheap energy, fresh water and crop irrigation all at the same time. Plus, it has no emissions, no toxic chemicals, no nuclear waste and very little environmental impact.

CSP is, in my opinion, the single most promising technology for renewable energy. Isn't it interesting that almost nobody is talking about it? The best solutions, as usual, are routinely ignored.

What happens when the oil runs out?
That depends on whether the nation is prepared to operate without combustion engines. If the people have mostly switched over to electric vehicles, then operating an economy without oil isn't difficult. Sure, other forms of transportation still need oil, but the greatest consumption of oil is found in automobiles.

If the end of oil catches a nation unprepared, then things become quite chaotic. No oil means no more transportation and farming, and that's really all you need to know. No farming (or greatly diminished farming capacity) means no food. The United States, I submit, is about three meals away from mass social unrest. When the average American finds himself without food for three meals in a row, the ensuing chaos (riots, etc.) will make the United States a rather inhospitable place to be. Martial Law will immediately be declared, and the country will become a police state starvation camp. This can all be avoided, by the way, by shifting America away from an oil-based economy. If transportation is based on electricity rather than oil, none of these dire predictions need come true.

Why aren't our national leaders doing anything about this?
Because they are either idiots or crooks. I'm not sure whether they're clever enough to be considered crooks, so I'm sticking with idiots. The utter lack of vision and leadership found in the White House and Congress has been nothing short of astonishing. As far as the current president goes, Bush seems more interested in destroying other nations than saving America.

Can't we be saved by growing ethanol as a replacement for oil?
Put bluntly, the idea of growing ethanol to replace oil is one of the most short-sighted, politically-motivated and outright stupid ideas that has ever been proposed. This is true for two simple reasons: 1) The more corn you grow for fuel, the less corn you have for food, which means that growing enough corn to replace the oil we presently import would result in mass starvation, and 2) It takes almost as much oil energy to grow corn than you get from the resulting ethanol.

In other words, if you want to base your combustion-engine economy on ethanol, what you have to do is take over mass acreage of corn croplands, power all the farm equipment with oil, convert petroleum to the fertilizers and pesticides needed for use on the corn, then spend even more energy on processing, transportation and delivery of the ethanol. So you end up with a nation in a food shortage (corn is the based food ingredient in the vast majority of food products) that's still dependant on fossil fuel oil. So you'd still end up with an oil crisis, but with starvation as an added side effect. There's no faster way to destroy the food supply than to promote the widespread growing of corn for ethanol.

Ethanol, it could be said, is a highly inefficient way to convert oil and sunlight into fuel. You'd be far better off with CSP, which converts sunlight into electricity at much greater efficiency (about 40%).

But what about the massive tar sands in Canada? Can't we get oil from there?
Sure we can, at great expense and with enormous environmental destruction. Extracting oil from tar sands is a very expensive process. It takes sifting through two tons of sand to get one barrel of oil, and it costs about 300% more to refine tar sand oil than the light crude oil coming out of the ground in Saudi Arabia. As stated by Richard Heinberg in The End of the Oil Age:

"Oil sands are likewise reputed to be potential substitutes for conventional oil. The Athabasca oil sands in northern Alberta contain an estimated 870 billion to 1.3 trillion barrels of oil -- an amount equal to or greater than all of the conventional oil extracted to date. Currently, Syncrude (a consortium of companies) and Suncor (a division of Sun Oil Company) operate oil sands plants in Alberta. Syncrude now produces over 200,000 barrels of oil a day. The extraction process involves using hot-water flotation to remove a thin coating of oil from grains of sand, then adding naphtha to the resulting tar-like material to thin it so that it can be pumped. Currently, two tons of sand must be mined in order to yield one barrel of oil. As with oil shale, the net-energy figures for oil sands are discouraging. Geologist Walter Youngquist notes "it takes the equivalent of two out of each three barrels of oil recovered to pay for all the energy and other costs involved in getting the oil from the oil sands.

"The primary method used to process oil sands yields an oily wastewater. For each barrel of oil recovered, 2.5 barrels of liquid waste are pumped into huge ponds. In the Syncrude pond, 14 miles in circumference, 20 feet of murky water floats on a 130-foot-thick slurry of sand, silt, clay, and unrecovered oil. Residents of northern Alberta have engaged in activist campaigns to close down the oil sands plants because of devastating environmental problems, including displacement of native people, destruction of boreal forests, livestock deaths, and an increase in miscarriages.

"Replacing conventional crude with oil sands to meet the world's energy appetite would require about 700 additional plants the size of the existing Syncrude plant. Together, they would generate a waste pond the size of Lake Ontario. While oil sands represent a potential energy asset for Canada, they cannot make up for the inevitable decline in the global production of conventional oil."

Those who promote the "heavy oil" tar sands as some sort of magic-bullet solution to the world's oil shortage are not thinking clearly. Sure, it might contribute several hundred thousand barrels of oil per day to the supply right now, and it could even be ramped up to perhaps a couple of million barrels per day, but this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the 88 million barrels per day in global oil demand expected by 2008. The tar sands cannot replace Saudi oil, and Saudi oil is starting to run dry.

If this oil problem is so bad, why didn't anybody see this coming?
Plenty of people DID see it coming. M. King Hubbert predicted the peak oil phenomenon in 1974. He was widely ridiculed and laughed out of the oil industry. The thinking at the time was that oil would never run out. Curiously, this thinking continues even today.

See Peak Oil at Wikipedia.

Now, as then, no politician wants to hear the truth that cheap, abundant oil may be coming to an end. It's just like politicians not wanting to face the truth about the national debt, or the bubble real estate market. They simply would prefer to pretend that bad news doesn't exist. The preferred response today seems to be burying their heads in the sand (or the tar sand, as it were), and declaring the future looks bright even as they're staring into a dark pit of desperation.

What can I do to prepare for the post-oil era?
The most popular course of consensus action is to simply do nothing and wait to see what happens. This is what 99% of Americans will choose to do. They will continue to buy their gas-guzzling vehicles, live energy-hungry lifestyles and pretend that America will simply take over the oil supplies it needs in the future by military force. (Which may actually be the plan at the Pentagon, by the way...)

The smarter folks out there have already figured out that the war on Iraq is all about controlling oil supplies. So is the cozy relationship with the Saudis. If there's a revolution in Saudi Arabia, and someone takes over the country and decides to stop selling oil to America, the U.S. would stage a military invasion within days. The real mission would be to protect the oil and ensure future shipments to the U.S., but the public explanation for the invasion would be whatever fiction the national leadership thinks the public would swallow (most likely something related to "terrorists").

If you're genuinely interested in surviving the post-oil era with anything resembling quality of life, it requires modifying your lifestyle so that you do not depend on long, highly-complex supply lines for your food, water, energy and basic needs. That means moving out of extreme climates (where you have to heat your house all winter, for example), pursuing your own home garden food production (meaning you'll need good soil and water sources), and learning to live in a more self-reliant manner (or being part of a small community that can operate in a self-sustaining way).

Most Americans, flatly stated, have no interest in giving up the luxuries provided by an oil-powered economy and pursuing some sort of simple, sustainable lifestyle. Americans tend to believe that's the way people live in third-world nations, but not here in wealthy America. That imagined wealth, of course, will largely evaporate when oil becomes scarce. Even the cheap goods at Wal-Mart are shipped here from China using oil.

$10 a gallon for gasoline? Only a matter of time...
To really get a clear picture of what's coming, I invite you to think hard about what happens when gasoline hits $10 per gallon. It's coming. It's only a matter of time.

$10 a gallon for gas means all your milk, bread, beef and other processed food items will double, triple or quadruple in price thanks to the oil-powered miles necessary to transport those items to your local grocery store. $10 a gallon means triple or quadruple the price for an airplane ticket. The cost of building supplies would skyrocket, diminishing home construction. The entire economy would nosedive into a deep depression, and all the financial bubbles we now pretend don't exist (the debt bubble, sub-prime lending bubble, real estate bubble, etc.) would come crashing down.

$10 a gallon means massive layoffs and job loss. It means a huge recalibration of the economy, and it transforms "easy times" into "hard times." Oil is really that important to life as we know it today in first world nations.

I've attempted to explain this to a few individuals, but no one gets it. Generally speaking, people cannot believe that the future would be any different than the present. They believe that things will always be as they are now, even when discussing the worldwide consumption of a resource that exists in a finite supply.

There is very little rational thought being applied to the issue of peak oil today. Most individuals believe there will be no negative consequences of oil running out simply because they cannot imagine any negative consequences. They have no concept of life being anything other than what they experience as a daily routine right now. The mental flexibility required to even consider our modern world without oil greatly exceeds the safe, comfortable thought zones inhabited by the majority of people today.

Now, maybe all this is irrelevant. Perhaps someone will event a free energy machine that creates electricity out of Zero Point Energy. An Irish company called Steorn says they already did invent such a machine, but can't quite make it work in public demonstrations. The free energy, it seems, only appears to work when no one is watching.

I'm not betting my future on the invention of some new, radical free energy machine. Neither does it appear that hot fusion is poised for any major energy breakthroughs for at least the next fifty years. Cold fusion, as I've reported in previous articles, actually does work about 30 percent of the time, but it's not a technology that seems consistently reproducible, nor does it produce massive amounts of excess energy even when it does work (it simply heats a pool of water few degrees).

There are no magic bullet replacements for oil. If we want to have an energy source in the post-oil era, we're going to have to build the infrastructure starting right now.

The oil economy will soon be history
The era of cheap, easy oil is ending. The future can either be abundant and clean, or devastating and chaotic. It all depends on whether society will wake up and get serious about making a transition away from oil and towards clean, renewable energy sources. Constructing a couple thousand wind turbines isn't enough. Slapping some solar panels on the roof of your corporate headquarters building doesn't cut it (although it's great for corporate publicity and P.R.). We either pursue a massive switch to renewable energy using an Apollo space mission kind of national priority, or we are going to be stuck poor, broke and starving when the oil stops flowing.

If Bush had any brains left at all, he'd announce a JFK-like challenge to America to build a new, renewable energy infrastructure in the next decade. But alas, the man is too steeped in oil to seriously pursue alternatives.

The truth is that if our next president does not put this nation on a radical, accelerated shift towards renewable energy, it will soon be too late to save America from economic collapse. Never underestimate the enormous impact that cheap energy has made on America today. Our economy, our cities, our population and even our military strength are all totally dependant on oil. Take away the oil, and America collapses under its own weight.

Politicians fret over wrong crisis as Peak Oil looms

British National Party

Politicians fret over wrong crisis as Peak Oil looms

In a stunning reversal of its previous dogmatic ‘business as usual’ stance, the International Energy Agency has belatedly accepted the reality of Peak Oil, and the huge impact the phenomenon is going to have on the entire world.

The crucial and potentially devastating nature of the point at which humanity has used half of the world’s oil reserves - with the remaining half being overwhelmingly lower in quality, in smaller and harder to reach fields, and in less stable parts of the world – has been a BNP theme for more than five years.

Up until now the Chevron oil company has been the only mainstream oil industry player to have publicly acknowledged the clear and present danger posed to the global economy and to a world population which has exploded in recent decades on the back of the oil-based ‘green revolution’ of the 1960s. Hence for the IEA to join the Peak Oil camp is a massive step towards giving the issue the recognition it deserves.

The Paris-based Agency is made up of 26 non-OPEC oil producers, including the UK, South Korea and Denmark. Its board is made up of energy ministers or other senior representatives from each member country. Its power is shown by the fact that after Hurricane Katrina in the USA it was able to get its members to release an extra 60 million barrels of oil to offset the disruption.

The International Energy Agency report avoids the truly apocalyptic predictions that appear to follow logically from a full appreciation of the Peak Oil crisis. And it ‘spins’ the oil supply crunch it predicts as a problem of excess demand and lack of refinery investment (the first point is in any case an integral part of the Peak Oil analysis, the second is the consequence of oil companies being reluctant to invest massively in an industry whose raw material is going to be in increasingly short supply).

But despite such continuing coyness about the inescapable geological facts underlying the crisis, the new IEA report has contributed to the widest grasp of the real issue so far. Its prediction that the current record oil price will soar even higher as the supply/demand crunch hits over the next five years is certainly helping to concentrate minds. Radio Four is serialising a play about a Peak Oil researcher this week, and scarcely a day goes by without a Peak-related story appearing in the financial columns of the main British newspapers.


There are even signs that the Labour Government is waking up to the issue, and its potential to become a real crisis within the lifetime of this Parliament, although Dave Cameron is still fixated on the threats that might be unleashed by global warming several decades into the future at least.

But even those politicians and mainstream commentators (such as the Independent, which ran a Peak Oil front page last month) who have woken up to the looming Peak Oil crisis are missing the big picture: Peak Oil is not just an energy issue, more importantly it’s a food issue.

European Union and American targets to produce up to 20% of transport energy from bio-diesel and ethanol within a decade have already led to a sharp fall in the world’s total food production and grain reserves. Yet the Third World population explosion continues.

Part of the problem arises from the fact that the policy-makers are responding primarily to the wrong crisis. The target and subsidy-driven drive to biofuels is part of their answer to the perceived threat of global warming – something which even Al Gore and Co accept as a potential crisis several decades from now at least.

Even organisations like the IEA are still unable to grasp that Peak Oil has the potential to devastate the world’s debt-based, growth-addicted economy within a couple of years of arriving, and to cause mass Third World starvation and unprecedented social and political turmoil everywhere within a decade.

The key facts are that even the climate change enthusiasts accept that net global warming has now ‘stalled’, whereas even former Peak Oil deniers, like the IEA, are now being forced to agree with the analysis that the British National Party came up with five years ago.

Radical steps

But will the Powers That Be soon tell the public just how serious Peak Oil is and set about taking the radical steps necessary to save our civilisation from an energy deprivation spiral of collapse?

We fear not. Why? Because the ‘wrong crisis’ global warming ‘solutions’ tend to be international, and to provide spurious ‘justification’ for high taxes which the liberal political elite can then spend on do-gooding gesture politics around the world.

Peak Oil solutions, by contrast, will mainly be national in origin and impact. They would involve governments working primarily to set their own houses in order. Massive efforts need to be put into rebuilding home industries and food production, and into researching the new technologies needed to make even a transition from perpetual growth to steady-state sustainability.

Most important of all a recognition that the cheap energy era is over will bring globalisation mania to a grinding halt. Unless self-sufficiency shading towards near total autarky is the inevitable future – hardly an appealing message for the liberal-left mentality which dominates mainstream political thought in the West.

But every day in which our Masters refuse to see the danger is another day lost from the time which remains to find the solutions that could enable us to cope with the unprecedented problems of the declining half of the Age of Oil.

We ask readers to read our in-depth Peak Oil section and then write letters to local and national newspapers, try to raise the issue on radio phone-ins, and pester Establishment politicians to take a serious look at the Peak Oil problem. This isn’t a question of party political point-scoring, it’s a matter of civilisational survival.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Oil industry report says demand to outpace crude oil production

Oilweek Magazine

Conventional crude oil supplies won‘t keep up with growing global demand in the next 25 years and other fuels from ethanol to liquefied coal and oil from tar sands will be needed to close the gap, says a draft oil industry report.

The draft report by the National Petroleum Council, an advisory group to the U.S. federal government, is unusual in its emphasis on the need for a broad range of supplemental fuels and conservation to meet future petroleum needs.

The document, titled “Facing the Hard Truths about Energy,‘‘ is to be approved by the 175-member council Wednesday and then presented to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. A copy was provided to reporters Monday.

The council is made up of a cross-section of oil industry executives and other energy experts selected by the energy secretary to advise the department. Its chairman is Lee Raymond, retired chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp.

The report projected continued growth of conventional global crude oil production but said that it would not be enough to meet demand.

“It‘s a hard truth that the global supply of oil and natural gas from the conventional sources relied upon historically is unlikely to meet projected 50 to 60 per cent growth in demand over the next 25 years,‘‘ says the report.

Many of its details were reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal.

To bridge the supply-demand gap the report called for ramping up development of biomass fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, liquefied coal and unconventional crude oil sources such as oil from tar sands, ultra deep water areas and shale oil.

And it says conservation will be needed if supplies are to be adequate to meet the growing demand for energy, especially in industrially developing countries such as China and India.

The report called for improvements in auto fuel economy “at the maximum rate possible‘‘ although citing no specific fuel economy increases.

Among the “hard truths‘‘ about the global energy future outlined in the report is that “an expansion of all economic energy sources will be required‘‘ to meet the demand growth.

It also cautioned that curbing carbon dioxide to address global warming will “alter the energy mix, increase energy-related costs‘‘ and will require finding ways to scale back the growth in energy demand even more.

Nevertheless, the report said, coal, oil and natural gas will remain indispensable. In 2030, those three fossil fuels will account for the same share of global energy demand, about 85 per cent, as they did in 2000, the report said.

The report cited estimates by the International Energy Agency and the U.S. Energy Information Administration that projected total liquid fuel production of 116 million to 118 million barrels a day by 2030. International oil companies indicated that amount may not be achievable. Today global crude oil production is about 85 million barrels a day.

The report said production estimates varied among companies but averaged only 107 million barrels a day by 2030, suggesting there may be a struggle to meet future demand even if unconventional oil sources and other liquid fuels are taken into account.

The Peak Oil Crisis: July 2007

Falls Church News-Press

By Tom Whipple

While waiting for the formal release of the of National Petroleum Council’s report on the prospects for world oil and gas production, it seems like a good time to review the general peak oil situation prior to what many believe may be difficult times later this year.

The underlying fact is that OPEC oil production and indeed total world liquid fuel production currently is about 1.2 million barrels a day lower than in July 2006. Demand from China, India, most oil exporting states, and some developed countries keeps increasing so obviously a lot of poor countries are consuming a lot less oil than they were last year.

Hardly a week goes by now without a new report some underdeveloped country is running short of gasoline, electricity, or both. Factories are being shuttered and tens, or perhaps hundreds, of thousands of workers are being laid off. Realistically, these furloughs are likely to last for a very long time.

Back in America, we are still maintaining the status quo. By outbidding others for gasoline on the world market, we have managed to get well into the summer driving season with only a few local shortages. Maintenance problems and a flooded refinery in the mid-west have pushed gasoline prices in a few states to new highs, but as a nation we have managed to push our gasoline consumption to near or perhaps record highs without any problems –- yet.

Earlier this week, the price of Brent Crude oil, which at least for now seems to be the world standard, got within 25 cents of breaking the all-time record of $78.65 a barrel set last summer when the Middle East appeared to be coming unglued. Brent, of course, is not really the best crude around for making gasoline so many refiners are now paying record-high, over $80 per barrel prices for the really sweet crudes such as those from Nigeria and Louisiana.

To the astonishment of many, so far $80 oil seems to be having minimal impact on the economies of the U.S. and other developed nations. The Dow is flirting with 14,000, corporate profits are projected to grow, and employment is doing well. Despite $3 gasoline and increasing food prices, Wall Street keeps telling us that “core inflation” is acceptable and keeps talking of interest rate cuts. Those who watch the world economy seem to think the average growth rate will be 4.5 percent for the next five years and high flyers such as China will continue to grow at 10 percent.

Wall Street is nearly unanimous in saying high oil and gas prices don’t mean what they used to 30 years ago. In recent weeks, I have heard analyst after analyst maintain that the US economy is now so strong that $4, $5, or $6 gasoline will not trigger a recession for the foreseeable future. Europe is getting along with $7 gasoline and so little is being manufactured in the U.S. these days that we are relatively isolated from high energy costs.

So much for optimism! On the other side of the ledger, evidence mounts that the optimism of the financial industry is getting on shakier and shakier ground. The U.S. dollar continues to fall and, with it, the balance of trade deficit continues to grow. Sales of homes and U.S.-built automobiles continue to slip. Eventually this must translate into lost jobs and sagging income.

Many are warning that a major oil price squeeze is coming shortly. Worldwide, oil exports are declining for reasons ranging from simple depletion to insurgencies and mismanagement of investment. OPEC’s production is down about a million barrels a day while its leaders proclaim that the markets are “well supplied.” Nobody mentions the millions, soon to be billions, sinking into lives of short electricity, short gasoline, and soon, short rations.

The critical juncture is coming in mid-September when OPEC meets to decide on future production levels. Nearly all optimism for the world’s immediate future rests on OPEC’s restoring the million barrel per day production cut and then pushing on to increase output by another million barrels a day to produce the oil required to support that 4.5 percent growth that the world is confidently expecting in 2008.

There is growing skepticism as whether OPEC has either the capacity or the intention of increasing output much further. We should know the answer to the question of the decade shortly. In the meantime, if only the hurricanes will keep out of the Gulf and Al Qaeda can’t get close enough to some critical choke point to blow it up, we, at least in the developed world, should have a pretty good summer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On the Precipice: Energy Security and Economic Stability on the Edge

Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas

By Daniel L. Davis

I am a Major in the United States Army. When looking at this report for the first time, one may legitimately ask why an Army officer is writing about energy issues. The genesis for this project began many months ago when I was conducting research for a project related to the development of the future force in the US Army. I believed it was important to include an effective assessment of what the world might look like in the year the force was projected to complete its initial fielding (2030). So I set out to discover what some of the best minds in the world had to say about what the world might look like 20-plus years from now. Specifically, I intended to examine population growth, food production, water availability, and energy supplies. What I discovered shocked me.

Just under the radar of general public visibility a campaign has been waged for the past five or six years by geologists, scientists, economists, and former oil company executives to educate and inform all who would listen concerning serious supply issues related to the world’s primary energy source: crude oil. Like most people, I had never heard of the term “peak oil” before 2003, and had not given any thought to the possibility of what might happen if the supply of oil were to plateau and subsequently decline. After reading literally hundreds of sources on the subject and interviewing some of the key figures in the field, my eyes were indeed opened.

Amply supplied with significant amounts of research material, I felt an obligation to put pen to paper and write a report on the subject. The American public must first be made aware of the scale of this encroaching problem; it will then become apparent that significant Government action is required.

The ultimate objective of this report is to encourage the United States Government to immediately initiate a series of detailed studies to ascertain the true nature of the threat posed by the peaking of world oil production, and to begin now building the foundation for action that will be necessary the inevitable day the peak occurs. As pointed out by several leading authorities, the lead time for meaningful mitigating action is measured in decades. It is critical, therefore, that action begin now.

Finally – but critically – I wish to express my sincerest thanks Dr. Colin Campbell who took significant time on many occasions to explain a number of issues to me, and to ASPO-USA co-founder Steve Andrews for publishing this study as a Special Report. Without Dr. Campbell’s help and Mr. Andrew’s willingness to publish an obscure Army officer’s work, this report would never have seen the light of day.

To read the full report, click here for pdf.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Despite warnings, oil usage expected to increase

International Herald Tribune

By James Kanter

Despite four years of high prices and increasingly dire warnings about climate change, a new report Monday predicted that world oil demand would rise faster than previously expected over the next five years while production slips, threatening a supply crunch.

"Demand is growing and as people become accustomed to higher prices they are starting to return to their previous trends of high consumption," said Lawrence Eagles, the head of oil markets analysis at the Paris-based International Energy Agency. "It's important that we have more investment and a greater emphasis on energy efficiency."

The pressures on fuel supplies are growing because booming Asian economies are using more fuel to power their prospering manufacturing industries and to supply growing numbers of automobiles amid a spurt in consumerism.

Rapid growth of the petrochemicals sector and low-cost airlines are other important factors lifting demand.

Supplies are being squeezed by a scarcity of modern oil refining facilities as well as sufficient staff to operate them. Supplies also are a concern because of deteriorating production of oil from countries outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the price-setting cartel operated by the world's biggest producers.

The world "needs more than three million barrels per day of new oil each year to offset the falling production in the mature fields outside of OPEC," Eagles said.

Analysts said that behind the overall numbers were signs that the energy habits of the planet were moving in two distinct directions.

In developed countries, and in particular in the European Union, obligations agreed to by governments to conserve energy and use renewable sources of energy - both to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to maintain energy security - are expected to ease pressure on oil supplies.

But that trend is being offset by rapidly developing nations. While they still consume far less energy per capita, they also are manufacturing goods for rich countries and increasingly are adopting heavily energy-consuming lifestyles, including air conditioners, refrigerators and cars.

"My view is that energy consciousness will figure strongly in Western countries and could contribute to demand decrease, but it's not at all sure that we will see the same trends in China and India," said Colette Lewiner, global leader for energy at Capgemini in Paris.

In its report, the International Energy Agency, which advises 26 industrialized countries, said that global oil demand would rise by an average 2.2 percent a year from 2007 to 2012, up from a forecast in February 2007 of 2 percent annually from 2006 to 2011.

Developing world and emerging industrialized economies will see their share of world oil consumption rise from 42 percent of global oil demand to 46 percent by 2012, the report said.

Eagles welcomed progress in Europe and Asia, where governments are mandating more efficient cars. He said that the "United States is very clearly coming to the point where there would be a landmark change in fuel efficiency policies."

He also welcomed ramped up investment in refining capacity across the world, saying that could help exert some downward pressure on prices over the next three years. But those effects are likely to be short-lived, Eagles said.

Beyond 2010, Eagles warned, "tightness in OPEC's spare capacity will reassert itself."

And by 2012, he said, there would either have to be limits on demand or additional supplies in order to avoid price increases.

Eagles also gave a stark warning that biofuels - a renewable source of energy produced from plants - were unlikely to be a quick, silver-bullet solution.

Factories to make biofuels are becoming commonplace but agricultural products that are the basis of the fuels are - like crude oil in some parts of the world - becoming scarcer.

Prices of this feedstock including corn, sugar, soybeans, wheat and palm oil have risen sharply, making the production of biofuels increasingly expensive.

"Although we have a lot of policy statements on biofuels in many countries, the policies and mandates aren't fully in place at this point so we are not sure that this supply is going to be there," Eagles said.

By 2012 biofuels will still only account for only 2 percent of global oil supplies, the International Energy Agency said.

Yet another factor weighing on fuel supplies is periodic but severe problems in supplies of cleaner-burning natural gas, which has supplanted fuel oil in many industries over the past quarter-century.

But natural catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005, which knocked out U.S. gas production, and political decisions such as when Russia turned off gas supplies to neighboring countries in 2006, have led to renewed demand for fuel oil - putting yet more pressure on oil supplies.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Peak Oil Now?

The Daily Green

IEA: In Just Five Years, Demand For Oil Could Exceed Supply

Demand for oil is continuing to grow, and threatens to burn up excess oil capacity by 2012, according to a new report released today by the International Energy Agency, available on the Wall Street Journal Web site. (Subscription required.)

Excess capacity in OPEC is forecast to drop by 2 million gallons per day by 2009, and to virtually zero out by 2012. It won’t take until 2012 — or 2009 for that matter — for the cost of that tight supply to ripple through the economy straight down to the American homeowner and car driver.

Worldwide demand for oil is forecast to increase 11.2% in the next five years.

“It is possible that the supply crunch could be deferred — but not by much,” the report’s executive summary reads.

Even a slowdown in the global economy would give no more than a one-year cushion, before the world reaches “the point at which oil demand growth surpasses the growth in global oil capacity,” the report reads.

While this imbalance has a lot to do with oil pumping capacity and political volatility, it sounds an awful lot like “peak oil” — the point at which the Earth’s supply of fossil fuel oil is pumped at its maximum rate, leaving less and less oil available each year, even if demand increases.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Will the coming oil crisis be the end of suburbia?

The Pueblo Chieftain Online


Three years ago, when I started to teach Introduction to Sociology for Lamar Community College, my brother sent me the DVD, “The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream,” concerning the “coming oil crisis."

I showed it to my class to help the students better understand “social change” and what would happen to society during such a crisis. They hadn’t even heard that we were going to face such a crisis. It’s no surprise, most Americans hadn’t heard of it either; that was three years ago.

Today, the mainstream media are beginning to wake up to what geologists and environmentalist have been warning us for years.

We have reached “Peak Oil.” The demand for oil has outreached the supply and there are no new cheap alternatives. We have many years of oil left; this just means that it’s going to get a lot more expensive because of demand. We think $3 a gallon is bad now; it could possibly go up to $10 a gallon in a few years, even more.

This will be a world crises and not just an American one. Countries like Brazil, which is self-sufficient in energy, will weather this crisis much better than most. Even poorer counties of the Third World, who use less oil, will be able to adapt to living simpler.

Every semester I’ve shown “End of Suburbia” to my classes to mixed reviews to the message. I’ve warned them that it will be too expensive for most Americans to own big trucks or SUVs, especially at the current way they are made to consume gas.

This means our lives are going to change dramatically. Predicting social change can be difficult, especially for long-term future. The worst-case scenario is the total decline in our economy with a depression, social disorder and wars between states and communities for the remaining sources, much like the CBS TV action series “Jericho” in which residents of a small Kansas town are cut off from the rest of the world after major terrorist attacks.

The best-case scenario is that we have minor inconveniences and we find ways to use energy more efficiently and wisely.

Alternative energy sources will need to be developed to their full potential, out of necessity, like wind and solar. Whatever happens there is one truth that many Americans will have to face. We must change our lifestyles. We cannot continue to use natural resources the same way we have in the past and present.

In the last 60 years, the United States, only 5 percent of the world’s population, has used as much natural resources as of all of human history combined! This lifestyle change does not sit well with my Generation X and Y students, and I guess it will not sit well with most Americans.

Is there a political solution? With the national election coming up in 2008, some of the presidential candidates in both parties are talking about energy policy and this crisis, but few are telling us that we have to give up our lifestyles and big SUVs.

Even if it’s the truth, who is going to vote for a candidate who tells us we have to live with less in the future? What we will need is a “World War II kind of effort” to deal with this issue just like the “greatest generation” that had to deal with in personal sacrifice and rationing of goods and services. Our current greedy culture stresses individuality above all so the psychological aspects of this type of change will be one of our biggest challenges.

One question my students always ask is, “So what about this crisis in suburbia? I live in a rural community, how will this affect my life?” Well, first farming will become more expensive. Using gas guzzling tractors and machinery may not be affordable. Farming will become more labor intensive and most Lamar town residents will have to grow some of their food in their backyards and in community gardens.

Rural people will have to make most of their clothing locally along with many other items, which in turn will boost the local economy and create many jobs. Many people in cities like Denver, where I lived for 20 years, will be looking to get out to towns like Lamar, where transportation and living cost are less. For all rural and urban areas, cheap imports from countries like China will become too expensive to ship, but smaller family-owned stores will be making a comeback, with more locally grow food and made goods.

I also give my students one final challenge: “If in 22 years, when I hope to retire, come find me in the nursing home or hippie commune and if gas prices are still about $3 a gallon or less, I’ll take you out to lunch." Of course, I warn them even if gas is cheap and we are using fossil fuels at the same levels or even somewhat less amounts, we will still be facing an even bigger threat: “global warming.”

Eric R Green is the library director at Lamar Community College and an adjunct sociology instructor. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Oil reserves are drying up rapidly

By Bill Boyne

A worldwide oil shortage is due in four years -- not 40 years.

That is the prediction of the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre in London, an organization of scientists and oil industry experts. It was reported by The Independent newspaper in England.

The prediction was made in reply to a report by BP, a British oil company, stating that "the world has enough 'proven reserves' to provide 40 years of consumption at current rates."

Colin Campbell, the head of the depletion center, rejected that statement. He said, "It's quite a simple theory and one that any beer drinker understands. The glass starts full and ends empty and the faster you drink it the quicker it's gone."

Campbell is a former chief geologist and vice president for a number of major oil companies, including BP. He said the actual peak for the supply of regular oil occurred in 2005. Now the supply is coming from heavy oil, deep sea reserves, polar regions and oil from other sources that is more difficult to refine. He predicts that decline in the remaining oil will begin in 2011.

The center's method of predicting future oil reserves is the one used by M. King Hubbert, a U.S. oil industry geologist. In the late 1960s, he predicted that production of oil in the U.S. would peak in 1970 and that proved to be correct.

Part of the problem in determining when the peak will occur lies in the fact that oil-producing countries in the Middle East and elsewhere are believed to exaggerate the volume of their reserves. In Kuwait last year, a journalist is reported to have found documents suggesting that the country's oil reserves actually were half the size that the country claimed.

Some industry observers believe that Saudi Arabia's estimated reserves also are exaggerated.

Some experts have suggested that as soon as consumption of oil begins to exceed production, even by a small amount, the price of oil will rise dramatically.

The Independent's report lists some of the consequences that would follow a global decline in oil reserves:

"A reduction of as little as 10 to 15 percent could cripple oil-dependent industrial economies. In the 1970's, a reduction of just 5 percent caused a price increase of more than 400 percent.

"Most farming equipment is either built in oil-powered plants or uses diesel fuel. Nearly all pesticides and many fertilizers are made from oil.

Most plastics, used in everything from computers to mobile phones to pipelines, clothing and carpets, are made from oil-based substances. Manufacturing requires huge amounts of fossil fuels. The construction of a single car in the U.S. requires, on average, at least 20 barrels of oil."

Unfortunately, most estimates about the time required to build sufficient numbers of high mileage cars and to create an adequate supply of renewable fuels for cars and trucks range from 10 to 20 years or more.

If the analysis center's estimates are correct, the world faces an economic disaster of the worst kind. It is hard to imagine the consequences if most of the world's 500 million cars and trucks stopped running in a very short time.

Major military operations also could be stopped. The high volume of diesel oil and gasoline used by U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East was calculated recently by Michael T. Klare, professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. He said the consumption by these forces averages 16 gallons of oil per person per day.

Klare writes: "Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil, the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.

"Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditures for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia." Worldwide oil consumption by U.S. military forces would obviously be much greater.

It is easy to see that a true global oil shortage of the kind predicted by the Oil Depletion Centre would wreak havoc on U.S. military operations all over the world.

Few government, business or military leaders are brave enough to address this seemingly hopeless issue, but that must be done. The first step should be to ask U.S. scientists with no attachment to the oil industry to review the analysis center's predictions.

If the predictions are confirmed, Congress should take immediate corrective action, including a declaration of a national emergency and appropriate steps to reduce energy use, including a 55-mile-per hour speed limit.

It might also be desirable to pass a substantial increase in the gasoline tax. That would encourage an immediate reduction in gasoline use and buy time for developing further strategies. It would also raise substantial funds that could be used to produce more renewable fuels.

Those obviously are painful choices and they might or might not be truly effective. However, they make more sense than waiting four more years to confront an unmanageable crisis.

Bill Boyne is a retired publisher and editor of the Post-Bulletin who writes a weekly column.