Peak Oil News: 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Slow down - to save both fuel and money

Aspen Times Weekly

By Allen Best

Just for grins, let’s talk about lowering the speed limit on our interstate highways — say, to 65 mph on roads where it’s now 75 mph, and where most people drive 80 mph.

Go ahead, roll your eyes.

We’ve done this before, and I’ll admit it wasn’t much fun. That was in 1974, in response to the embargo of oil from the Middle East. We adopted the double-nickel limit of 55 mph. I got a rash of speeding tickets, two of them going 67 mph, and lost my driver’s license. I’m sure that my hair, which was back then down to my shoulders, did nothing to help my cause.

As oil prices dropped, we got back to 65 mph, and, in the mid-1990s, when discretion was given to the states, to 75 mph on rural interstates in most parts of the West. Oil was cheap, and time was valuable, or so went the logic of the time.

Now, we’re fast advancing toward our fifth year in a war that arguably is mostly about ensuring the orderly flow of oil from the Middle East, and we’re still roaring down the highway as if nothing has happened.
I’m rolling my eyes.

Engineers say the most efficient speed for a motor is somewhere between 30 and 55 mph. Beyond 60 mph, the fuel economy drops off substantially. The cost is only pennies per mile, but that amounts to a couple of bucks for an hour’s drive. Several studies show about a 12 percent reduction in gas consumption for those who slow from 75 mph to 60 mph. Those figures square with my personal experience. When I drive fast, and often I still do, I spend more money at the gas pump.

Recently, after spending yet another $50 to fill up the car, I vowed an experiment on my next two trips, on a highway where the speed limit is mostly 75 mph. Instead, I vowed to hew to 65 mph.

I’m here to report that 65 is a lonely number. Cars whizzed past me on the left like I was a street lamp. Occasionally, cars would come up behind me and, even though there were opportunities to pass, they did not do so — at first. I thought perhaps they had slowed because of my example. Nope. Soon enough, they’d blast past, probably still unsure of the kook in the Buick.

In four hours I passed four vehicles.

Our habit of rushing to and fro in the West is mystifying. We take great pride in our landscapes. We love our wide-open spaces. But then we do our best to compress them. Interstate 25 along the Front Range of Colorado is a good example. Beyond to the west are the peaks of the Continental Divide layered in blue and chalked with snow. Here and there amid the urban clutter are still vestiges of the yeomen and their agrarian homesteads. But on the highway, it’s bumper to bumper at 80 mph, traffic so hurried you’d think we were fleeing a war zone.

It’s been a gilded age, this time of free-flowing fossil fuels. We live so well, or at least so luxuriously, that the $3 per gallon that is the new norm has modified our travel habits only slightly.

Soon enough, though, we can expect $4 to $5 per gallon gasoline, and perhaps in time, the $10 per gallon that the French and English already pay. How can this not happen? Decades ago we notched our peak production of oil in the United States, and ever since have been importing ever larger amounts from foreign shores. While oil remains on Alaska’s North Shore, it’s probably little more than a pittance. Pre-oil kerogen from the shales of the Green River Formation of Colorado and Utah remains problematic. Biodiesel from French-fry grease makes us feel good, but it’s largely symbolic. In most cases, it’s only a 10 to 20 percent blend. Cellulosic ethanol, try as it
might, is unlikely to be the miracle.

Internationally, production is still increasing, but for how long? A growing number of oil experts think we’re up against global peak oil even as the Chinese begin ramping up their production at an incline that looks more like a 30-degree slope in the Palouse of Washington state than a wheat field in eastern Montana.

Would you slow down 10 minutes on the hour and look at the scenery? Yes, that is a preposterous notion. Isn’t that what wars are for?

Allen Best is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( He writes about environmental issues from the Denver area.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Study: Energy efficiency leads to greater consumption

A new report released last month by CIBC World Markets, "The Efficiency Paradox," outlines how energy efficiency initiatives and regulations often end up increasing consumption. CIBC World Markets Chief Economist and Chief Strategist Jeff Rubin, author of the report, found an "efficiency paradox" in which consumers have been able to use the cost savings generated by more efficient products to invest in additional energy consuming products.

Rubin notes, "While seemingly perverse, improvements in energy efficiency result in more of the good being consumed - not less."

As energy efficiency regulations have increased in the wake of concerns over the depleting conventional oil supply and greenhouse gas emissions, so has energy usage. The report finds that while energy usage per U.S. gross domestic product unit has fallen by nearly 50 percent since 1975, total U.S. energy usage has risen by over 40 percent in the same time frame.

"The problem is that energy efficiency is not the final objective - reducing energy consumption must be the final objective to both the challenges of conventional oil depletion and to greenhouse gas emissions," adds Rubin. "Despite the huge gains in energy efficiency, that is simply not happening. Instead, energy consumption is growing by ever increasing amounts."

According to the report, most government efficiency regulations have been aimed at the transportation industry and residential sectors, which combined account for half of the total U.S. energy consumption.

Rubin says, "While these initiatives have largely been successful at promoting large increases in energy efficiency - almost double the pace in the rest of the economy - overall energy usage in the transportation and residential sectors has risen faster than in the rest of the economy. In short, energy usage has risen fastest where energy efficiency gains have been the greatest."

Rubin does believe the world has a need for energy efficiency, however, he also believes the scope of current initiatives will not see this achieved. "In order for efficiency to actually curb energy usage, as opposed to energy intensity, consumers must be kept from reaping the benefits of those initiatives in ever-greater energy consumption. Otherwise, energy usage will be the beneficiary of our best efforts towards greater energy efficiency."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Peak Oil Crisis: Storm of the Century

Falls Church News-Press

By Tom Whipple

A “Perfect storm” refers to the simultaneous occurrence of events which, taken individually, would be far less powerful than the result of their chance combination. Such occurrences are rare by their very nature. -- Wikipedia

In recent weeks we have been bombarded with reports of perturbations in the mortgage/liquidity crisis that is creating havoc in the financial world.

The travails of the “financial industry”, as it is called these days, are affecting oil prices at least as much as the normal forces of supply and demand.

Commentary on what is about to befall us is becoming scarier with each passing day. Learned professors are writing in the New York Times that our financial system is in danger of coming unglued. The general thesis is that America’s financial institutions are only capitalized at $1.1 trillion yet they are supporting $11 trillion worth of mortgages. Home prices are going to have to fall by 30-50 percent before most people can afford to buy homes again. When this drop in housing value is over, some 20 million homes will be mortgaged for far more than they are worth and a fair portion is likely to be abandoned. Some think the banking system is in for some very hard times. Others have dubbed the burgeoning financial crisis “peak money.”

But there is more: global warming seems to be causing unprecedented droughts and glacial melting which in turn are leading to lower food production and empty reservoirs and a substantial drop in hydro-electric production around the world.

Welcome to “peak climate,” “peak food,” “peak water,” “peak electricity,” or as some people are putting it, “peak everything.”

Some parts of the world are pumping so much fossil fuel emissions into the air that they can barely breathe. Perhaps they are reaching “peak air?” Then there are worries about the world’s carrying capacity –- “peak people?”

There is no question that a lot of bad things are about to happen –- more or less simultaneously. If some “peaks” we can see looming ahead occur at the same time, they will reinforce each other leading to a far more serious situation than if they occurred decades apart where they could be dealt with separately. Simultaneous shortages of fuel and water in the same area would have serious consequences as large resources would have to be devoted to providing life-sustaining water supplies, putting additional pressure on oil supplies and prices. If the drought in the Southeastern U.S. continues much longer, Atlanta may be the first large city in the U.S. to experience this phenomenon.

Other peak situations cut both ways and may have unforeseen and unintended consequences. Food grain-based biofuels (peak oil vs. peak food) should in theory help to mitigate the peak oil situation but is contributing significantly to peak food and higher food prices. The amount of corn-based ethanol being produced today is making a minimal contribution to keeping down oil prices while resulting in much higher food prices. Increases in fuel and food prices are starting to result in significant inflation which in turn is complicating efforts to deal with peak money.

The timing of the various peaks will have a lot do with how they interact with each other. Serious consequences from global warming (peak climate) is usually thought of as being many years ahead, but if the Georgia drought turns out to be a consequence of global warming then massive economic damage from global warming may be closer than many imagine.

Keeping in mind that as yet unimagined interactions and consequences of the various peaks may arise, at the minute it seems that a major financial crisis and peak oil will set in during the next few years. The interaction of these phenomena will be complicated. At times they will mitigate each other and at times will reinforce the troubles. Currently the consensus of the global market is that as prospects for a recession improve, oil prices deserve to go down based on an eventual drop in demand. In recent weeks, we have seen nearly every governmental attempt to deal with the liquidity crisis in the U.S. and Europe resulting in surges in oil prices in hopes they will be successful.

The interaction of declining oil supplies and a world monetary situation out of control would seem to have the most potential for serious trouble in the immediate future. Newspapers, magazines and the cybersphere are filling with stories by credentialed and knowledgeable people saying that a financial meltdown has already started and that the situation will get much worse in the next year.

Current evidence suggests that at least in the U.S., Europe and China the demand for oil will continue to remain high until completely overwhelmed by economic difficulties. With the world’s population increasing by 76 million each year, the demand for food is unlikely to subside and prices are likely to increase – food-based biofuels production or not.

Thirty years ago when inflation grew and the economies sagged, we called it “stagflation.” This time the term may be too mild to encompass what seems about to happen. Within the next year our liquidity problems, unsatisfied demand for oil, growing food and water shortages, and other consequences of overindulgence appear likely to merge into an unprecedented economic storm. In the midst of this storm, which could continue for years, world oil production is likely to decline forever and the resources to mitigate the storm are likely to become very scarce.

Someday the events we are all going to live through in the next decade may become known as the century’s most perfect storm.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Post-Oil Economy: After The Techno-Fix

By Peter Goodchild

"Even when grappling with the idea of economic disintegration, Americans attempt to cast it in terms of technological or economic progress: eco-villages, sustainable development, energy efficiency and so on. Under the circumstances, such compulsive techno-optimism seems maladaptive."
— Dmitry Orlov, "Our Village"

The path beyond petroleum begins by considering five principles: that alternative sources of energy are insufficient; that hydrocarbons, metals, and electricity are inseparable; that advanced technology is part of the problem, not part of the solution; that post-oil agriculture means a smaller population; and that the basis of the problem is psychological, not technological.

Everything in modern industrial society is dependent on oil and other hydrocarbons. From these we get gasoline, heating fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, lubricants, plastic, paint, synthetic fabrics, asphalt, pharmaceuticals, and many other things. Speaking in more general terms, we can say that we are dependent on hydrocarbons for manufacture, for transportation, for agriculture, for mining, and for electricity. The peak of world oil production is (or was) about 30 billion barrels a year, supporting a human population of nearly 7 billion. In the entire world, there are perhaps a trillion barrels of oil left to extract — which may sound like a lot, but isn’t. By 2030, annual oil production will be less than half of what it was at its peak.

1: Alternative Sources of Energy Are Insufficient

Alternative sources of energy will never be of much use, mainly because of the problem of "net energy": the amount of energy output from alternative sources is not sufficiently greater than the amount of energy input (which is hydrocarbons). Alternative sources are not sufficient to supply the annual needs of "industrial society" as the term is generally understood.

The use of unconventional oil (tar sands, shale deposits, heavy oil) poses several problems. The first is that of insufficient net energy. The second is that of extreme pollution. The third is that is even if we optimistically assume that about 700 billion barrels of unconventional oil could be produced, that amount would equal only about 15 years of global oil demand.

Fuel cells cannot be made practical, because such devices require hydrogen derived from hydrocarbons. Biofuels (e.g., from corn) require enormous amounts of land and still result in insufficient quantities of net energy. Hydroelectric dams are reaching their practical limits. Nuclear power will soon be suffering from a lack of fuel and is already creating serious environmental dangers.

Solar, wind, and geothermal power are only effective in certain areas and for certain purposes. Such types of power, in any case, are of significant value only when converted into electrical energy, requiring the use of disposable batteries and some very rare metals. In terms of ecology (i.e. the relationship between population and resources), these types of power are therefore no better than the hydrocarbon-based power they are intended to replace.

The world uses 15 terawatts of power every year. It’s hard to imagine how much energy that is; it’s more than "a lot." By 2030 the world’s oil supply will be so depleted that the Industrial Age will be over, for all practical purposes. Yet proponents of "alternative energy" hope to transform the entire planet in a time frame that would be implausible even in a work of science fiction.

The quest for alternative sources of energy is not merely illusory; it is actually harmful. By daydreaming of a noiseless and odorless utopia of windmills and solar panels, we are reducing the effectiveness of whatever serious information is now being published. When news articles claim that there are simple painless solutions to the oil crisis, the reader’s response is not awareness but drowsiness. We are rapidly heading toward what has been described as the greatest disaster in history, but we are indulging in escapist fantasies.

2: Hydrocarbons, Metals, and Electricity Are Inseparable

Iron ore of the sort that can be processed with primitive equipment is becoming scarce, and only the less-tractable forms will be available when the oil-powered machinery is no longer available — a chicken-and-egg problem. Copper, aluminum, and other metals are also rapidly vanishing. Metals were useful to mankind only because they could once be found in concentrated pockets in the earth’s crust; now they are irretrievably scattered among the world’s garbage dumps.

Electricity is not a source of energy; it is only a carrier of energy. That energy comes mainly from coal, natural gas, nuclear power plants, or hydroelectric dams. Coal is terribly inefficient; only a third of its energy is transferred as it is converted to electricity. At the same time, the electrical grids are perpetually operating at maximum load, chronically in need of better maintenance and expensive upgrading. The first clearly marked sign of "the end" may be the failure of electricity.

Hydrocarbons, metals, and electricity are all intricately connected. Each is inaccessible — on the modern scale — only when the other two are present. Any two will vanish without the third. If we imagine a world without hydrocarbons, we must imagine a world without metals or electricity. There is no way of breaking that "triangle."

3: Advanced Technology Is Part of the Problem, Not Part of the Solution

Whatever choices may be available in the future, they will not be found in advanced technology, in "high-tech" solutions. There are three reasons why that is so. In the first place, any "alternative-energy" devices would have to be created from plastics and metals. Secondly, they would have to be controlled by electricity. Finally, they would have to be created by large and sophisticated machines and transported over long distances. But the whole point in speculating about "alternative energy" in the first place is to find an answer to that particular crisis — the fact that none of those three factors will exist in future years.

In addition, all that we think of as "modern industrial society" has its "sociological" components: intricate division of labor, large-scale government, and high-level education. Without hydrocarbons, metals, and electricity, we will find ourselves in a pre-industrial world in which there is no material infrastructure allowing those "sociological" components to exist.

Advanced technology is part of the problem to be solved, not the solution itself. There may be some form of technology that can save us from the depletion of hydrocarbons, but it is certainly not "high." To speak of "high-tech methods" as if they were largely synonymous with "methods employing alternative sources of energy" is ultimately self-contradictory and self-defeating.

We cannot enter a "post-carbon" world. Life on Earth has been "carbon" for at least half a billion years. It will not change in the next decade or so.

4: Post-Oil Agriculture Means a Smaller Population

Modern agriculture is dependent on hydrocarbons for fertilizers (the Haber-Bosch process combines natural gas with atmospheric nitrogen to produce nitrogen fertilizer), pesticides, and the operation of machines for harvesting, processing, and transporting. The Green Revolution was the invention of a way to turn petroleum and natural gas into food. Without hydrocarbons, modern methods of food production will disappear. Food production will be greatly reduced, and there will be no practical means of transporting food over long distances.

The starting point is to think in terms of a smaller radius of activity. The globalized economy has to be replaced by the localized economy. In the post-oil world, most food will be produced at a local level. The catch, however, is that most of the world’s surface is permanently unsuitable for growing food: the climate is too severe, or the land is too barren.

Nevertheless, a small human population might survive on agriculture, at least if it reverted to some primitive methods. Some Asian cultures brought wild plant material from the mountains and used it as fertilizer, thereby making use of the N-P-K (etc.) of the wilderness. Many other cultures used wood ashes. The nutrient "source" of the wilderness fed the nutrient "sink" of the farmland. (This is one of the basic principles behind all "organic gardening," although few practitioners would admit it or even know it.)

Using primitive technology, it will not be possible to feed a world population that has anywhere near the present size. Even the "alternative" catch-phrases harbor a number of misconceptions. "Intensive gardening," for example, is possible only with a garden hose and an unlimited supply of water. "Organic gardening" relies on sources of potassium, phosphorus, and other elements that will not be available without modern techniques of mining and transport. The maximum population that can be supported, therefore, is about four people per hectare of arable land.

5: The Basis of the Problem Is Psychological, Not Technological

As the oil crisis worsens there will be various forms of aberrant behavior: denial, anger, mental paralysis. There will be an increase in crime, there will be strange religious cults or extremist political movements. The reason for such behavior is that fundamentally the peak-oil problem is not about technology, and it is not about economics, and it is not about politics. It is partly about humanity’s attempt to defy geology. But it is mainly about psychology: most people cannot grasp what William Catton refers to as "overshoot."

We cannot come to terms with the fact that as a species we have gone beyond the ability of the planet to accommodate us. We have bred ourselves beyond the limits. We have consumed, polluted, and expanded beyond our means, and after several thousand years of superficial technological solutions we are now running short of answers. Biologists explain such expansion in terms of "carrying capacity": lemmings and snowshoe hares — and a great many other species — have the same problem; overpopulation and over-consumption lead to die-off. But humans cannot come to terms with the concept. It goes against the grain of all our religious and philosophical beliefs.

Further Reading:

BP Global Statistical Review of World Energy. Annual.

Campbell, Colin J. The Coming Oil Crisis. Brentwood, Essex: Multi-Science, 1997.

Catton, William R., Jr. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. Champaign, Illinois: U of Illinois P, 1980.

Deffeyes, Kenneth S. Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001.

Gever, John, et al. Beyond Oil: The Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ballinger, 1986.

Meadows, Donella H. et al. The Limits to Growth: a Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind. 2nd ed. New York: Universe, 1982.

Peter Goodchild is the author of Survival Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press. He can be reached at

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Peak Oil Crisis: Issues

Falls Church News-Press

By Tom Whipple

As 2007 winds down, it is good time to review some of the major issues that those of us following the peak oil story are watching closely.

Depletion vs. Production is, of course, the heart of the peak oil story. Every year production from the world’s existing oil fields declines by several million barrels a day. Every year new sources of liquid fuel, new oil fields, more natural gas liquids, ethanol etc., must be found to replace the losses and hopefully to satisfy increasing demand. For the last two years, new supplies have been roughly balancing declines so there has been little growth in world production. Some day soon depletion will get ahead of new sources of oil and other liquid fuels for such an extended period that it will be obvious to all that peak oil has arrived.

The prospects for an economic recession or worse increased markedly during the past six months. In recent weeks, oil prices have been moving up and down rather vigorously on economic news -- interest rates, subprime losses, government bailouts, etc. -- rather than on traditional oil market concerns such as stockpiles and geopolitical threats to production. Many believe that the recent $25 a barrel jump in oil prices was largely the result of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate cuts taken in hopes of forestalling an economic setback.

Should serious economic difficulties arise from the current mortgage/liquidity problem, then a significant drop in worldwide demand for oil is likely. If a reduction in demand for oil were to continue for many months or years, then it is likely that world oil production will never grow much beyond current levels. By the time demand was restored, geologic and economic constraints on production would prevent production from ever again reaching current highs.

So much of the world’s oil production comes from around the Persian Gulf that nearly everything that happens in the region bears watching for possible impact on oil exports. The machinations of Kurds, Iraqis, Iranians, terrorists, mullahs, and numerous small states, tribes, sects and clans all could be important to the uninterrupted flow of oil to the industrialized world.

As the world’s biggest exporter and the only one that may have some spare capacity to increase production, the Saudis are worthy of special attention. Not only are there questions about the ability of the Kingdom’s oil fields to sustain or increase production over the next few years, but concerns also are arising over Riyadh’s domestic consumption of its own oil production which is increasing rapidly. Expectations that the Saudis alone will fulfill the world’s rapidly increasing demand for oil, even at $100+, will never happen.

The rapid rise in oil prices in recent years has resulted in a wave of nationalism on the part of producing countries. Contracts with international oil companies that were written back in the days of $10 or $20 dollar a barrel oil are falling by the wayside as producing nations are demanding an ever increasing share of the profits. In the past year Russia and Venezuela have essentially taken back “their oil” from the foreigners and Nigeria and Kazakhstan are on the verge of doing the same.

From a peak oil perspective, it does not matter if governments or international companies take most of the profit, but as the internationals’ role declines, so does investment and the availability of technical know-how. As oil becomes increasingly difficult to extract from non-conventional sources, partnering with ideological soul mates such as Venezuela and Belarus to help produce oil is unlikely to result in increasing production.

With a population of 1.3 billion and an annual growth rate in excess of 11 percent, the course of China’s economy plays a key role in the peak oil story. Beijing is now a major importer of oil and products. For several years now, the Chinese have been making a major effort to secure long-term bi-lateral contracts with oil producers and have had numerous successes. It is only a matter of time before China’s demand leads to shortages in the developed world.

Given the close balance of the supply and demand for oil, the world’s importing countries are in constant threat of a sudden interruption to oil supplies. A hurricane, coup, earthquake, terrorist attack, assassination, bird flu or something we have not imagined could easily stop the steady supply of oil to the world’s fuel tanks. Although there are reserves, depending on the nature of the interruption, these could only be sufficient for a few days before serious disruptions occur. There are numerous chokepoints in the Persian Gulf where an interruption of more than a few days would cause serious grief around the world.

Nearly 40 percent or 5.3 million of the 13.6 million barrels of oil and products that the U.S. imports each day comes from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. We are going to have a little problem shortly because these sources of oil are going to dry up. Mexico’s biggest field is collapsing so that within ten years they will be out of the oil exporting business. For political reasons, Venezuela is doing its best to sell its oil to anybody but the U.S. and is off to a good start. If Hugo Chavez hangs in there as president for another five years the 1.4 million barrels a day we are currently getting is likely to be a lot less.

To many, Canada is America’s greatest hope to continue happy motoring for a while longer. They look longingly at those billions of barrels of “oil” trapped in the Alberta tar sands and assume that it will soon be flowing south in whatever amounts we desire. This is unlikely to happen for extracting “oil” from Alberta is turning the place into one of the greatest environmental disasters on earth. While production from the Alberta sands will likely continue for centuries, it will never reach the level to replace even a fraction of the 13 million barrels of imports the U.S. requires each day. It will not be long before the Canadian people start thinking about their grandchildren and exports will slow.

The truth everyone knows, but no one says


Is it only OK to talk about limiting population after it's too late?


Sam Smith, inimitable editor of The Progressive Review, perhaps the world's first progressive blog (if you count its days as a print publication), reports that even he finds it difficult to bring up discussions of population.

I have experienced something like what Smith talks about, where even mentioning Bartlett (who has been campaigning against exponential population growth for decades) is enough to get you called nasty names by liberals and "anti-life" by church members.

Here's today's series of looks at the issue, with Smith's preface first:

Electric Politics recently featured a low keyed discussion of an extremely hot button subject: population growth. The guest was Al Bartlett, professor of physics emeritus at the University of Colorado, who has been working on sustainability issues for decades. It is an issue that we raise from time to time, get a few letters accusing us of being racists or eugenicists and then move on to easier topics. But if what people like Bartlett are saying is true? Then much of we believe about economics and the environment may eventually seem extraordinarily short-sighted or just plain wrong. Nothing we do about the environment, for example, will matter if the world population continues to grow because that presumes an ever larger depletion of the natural resources of the earth. Interestingly, we avoid the issue even more than we did 35 years ago when a national commission issued some important suggestions on dealing with the matter. Some insights follow.


In March of 1970, President Nixon signed a bill establishing the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, known as the Rockefeller Commission, for it chairman, John D. Rockefeller 3rd. In 1972, the Commission released, its recommendations, including:

* In view of the important role that education can play in developing an understanding of the causes and consequences of population growth and distribution, the Commission recommends enactment of a Population Education Act to assist school systems in establishing well-planned population education programs so that present and future generations will be better prepared to meet the challenges arising from population change.
* Recognizing the importance of human sexuality, the Commission recommends that sex education be available to all, and that it be presented in a responsible manner through community organizations, the media, and especially the schools.
* The Commission recommends that the Congress and the states approve the proposed Equal Rights Amendment and that federal, state, and local governments undertake positive programs to ensure freedom from discrimination based on sex.
* The Commission recommends that (1) states eliminate existing legal inhibitions and restrictions on access to contraceptive information, procedures, and supplies; and (2) states develop statutes affirming the desirability that all persons have ready and practicable access to contraceptive information, procedures, and supplies.
* The Commission recommends that states adopt affirmative legislation which will permit minors to receive contraceptive and prophylactic information and services in appropriate settings sensitive to their needs and concerns.
* In order to permit freedom of choice, the Commission recommends that all administration restrictions on access to voluntary contraceptive sterilization be eliminated so that the decision be made solely by physician and patient.
* With the admonition that abortion not be considered a primary means of fertility control, the Commission recommends that present state laws restricting abortion be liberalized along the lines of the New York statute, such abortion to be performed on request by duly licensed physicians under conditions of medical safety.
* The Commission recommends that this nation give the highest priority to research on reproductive biology and to the search for improved methods by which individuals can control their own fertility.
* Recognizing that our population cannot grow indefinitely, and appreciating the advantages of moving now toward the stabilization of population, the Commission recommends that the nation welcome and plan for a stabilized population.
* The Commission recommends the creation of an Office of Population Growth and Distribution within the Executive Office of the President.
* The Commission recommends the immediate addition of personnel with demographic expertise to the staffs of the Council of Economic Advisers, the Domestic Council, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Office of Science and Technology.
* In order to provide legislative oversight of population issues, the Commission recommends that Congress assign to a joint committee responsibility for specific review of this area.

CHRIS RAPLEY -- By avoiding a fraction of the projected population increase, the emissions savings could be significant and would be at a cost, based on UN experience of reproductive health programs, that would be as little as one-thousandth of the technological fixes. The reality is that while the footprint of each individual cannot be reduced to zero, the absence of an individual does do so.

ROGER MILLER, SUNY POTSDAM -- Loss of biodiversity and natural habitats, depletion of the aquifers, air and water pollution, our eventual inability to grow sufficient food or to generate sufficient energy are all problems cause by a large and rapidly growing human population. Not only is it the primary cause of these problems, but no solution exists to solving these problems as long as the population continues to grow.

Populations cannot grow indefinitely in a finite environment. The United States population is currently growing at a 1% annual rate, and the worldwide population is growing at a 1.3% rate per year; rates that are fairly low compared to historic levels. If the world's population continued to grow at 1.3% for approximately 800 years, there would be 1 person for every 1 square meter of the earth's surface, and if it could continue growing at this rate for approximately 2200 years, the mass of humanity would equal the mass of the earth. Clearly before this happens we will reach a zero population growth level if we are lucky, and if we are not lucky we will have a period of enormous decrease in the population, whether by famine, disease or some other natural or man-made catastrophe.

JIM LYDECKER, GROWTH IS MADNESS -- The biggest crisis is overpopulation. Every problem, be it environmental, economic, social or political, is directly or indirectly connected to the 6.8-billion-pound gorilla in the room. We have known this for years but it is one of the issues no one, conservative or liberal, will touch. Instead, the official policy is one of ignorance allowing the human species to breed itself toward a massive die-off ...

In just a little more than 130 years, humans have run through more than half the world's reserves of oil and natural gas. Since population growth is contingent on a readily available supply of cheap oil, collapse is inevitable. The slippery slide down the slope of peak oil will be quicker than the trip up.

Without cheap oil and natural gas, the green revolution and the ability to feed all us billions will be history. Few industries will be affected as great as agriculture. Two that will be are those medical and pharmaceutical.

Thus, a future die-off of biblical proportions will be primarily due to starvation and disease. Throw in mass migrations and social strife and, boy, do we have problems.

BRIAN CZECH AND HERMAN E. DALY, WILDLIFE SOCIETY BULLETIN 2004 -- A steady state economy with long human life spans entails low birth and death rates. In our opinion this is preferable, within reason, to a steady state economy with short life spans, high birth rates, and high death rates. The same concept applies to capital and durable goods such as automobiles. We opine that a relatively slow flow of high-quality, long-lasting goods is preferable to a fast flow of low-quality, short-lived goods.

Nothing about a steady state economy precludes economic development, where development is defined as a qualitative process. Various sectors may come and go in a steady state economy. For example, organic farms may supplant factory farms, the proportion of bicycles to Humvees may increase, and professional soccer may attract more fans while NASCAR attracts fewer. As long as the physical size of the economy remains constant in the long run, a developing economy is a steady state economy.

Nor would any type of cultural stagnation result from a steady state economy.

John Stuart Mill, one of the greatest economists and political philosophers in history, emphasized that an economy in which physical growth was no longer the goal would be more conducive to political, ethical, and spiritual improvements

A steady state economy means a constant rate of employment ... Economic development continues in a steady state economy so that in the extractive sector, oilfield roughnecks may decrease in number while wind-power facility attendants may increase. In the arts, guitar playing may wax while flute playing wanes. In the sciences, industrial chemists may be replaced by wildlife ecologists ...

In a steady state economy, the average amount of money in real dollars earned by workers from the current generation to the next remains constant.

"Real dollars" means that inflation has been accounted for. Because income reflects the use of natural resources, stabilized income reflects a stabilized "ecological footprint," which is the area of land required to support a human being ...

If the steady state economy is established at a relatively low population level, the potential exists for each worker, and his replacement in the next generation, to earn a high income. This scenario is similar to that of a low-density deer population with plenty of forage per deer. If, on the other hand, the steady state economy is established at a high population level, less income is available for the average worker, as in a high-density deer population with little forage per deer.

We think it important that a steady state economy be established at a relatively low population level. This scenario is conducive to incomes high enough to allow retirement savings and social secu rity (in the generic sense), making the economy more politically acceptable and therefore more stable. If the steady state economy is established with-in ecological carrying capacity, each new generation may expect its workers to accumulate retire- ment savings of the same magnitude as the previous generation. So we think it important to establish a steady state economy as soon as possible. As the population grows, it becomes less likely the steady state economy may be established whereby incomes are high enough to support reasonable periods of retirement.

Won't the stock market crash if a steady state economy is established? ... Many people view the stock market as predicated on economic growth, so they wonder if a stock market could even exist in a steady state economy. It certainly could and probably would. In a steady state economy, firms still need to invest in capital--namely, at the same rate at which capital depreciates.

Publicly traded stocks provide the social benefit of liquidity to investors and offer an efficient mechanism for the acquisition of investment capital.

Stock markets tend to expand and contract in concert (though often with lags) with gross domestic product, the dollar value of newly produced, final goods and services. There are winners and losers in bullish and bearish markets, though the winners tend to be more prominent in the former. The stock market in a steady state economy of stable GDP would be neither bullish nor bearish for extended periods. It, too, would have winners and losers, with perennial losers becoming insolvent and being replaced by more competent firms. But in a steady state economy the stock market would be less of a casino than in the growth economy.

Economic growth, on the other hand, is bound to cause an extensive and extended stock market crash because demands for capital eventually will exceed the productive capacity of the earth.

Therefore, advocating a steady state economy is appropriate not only for purposes of wildlife conservation but also because it would reduce the volatility of the stock market.

There are, of course, alternatives to the stock market for purposes of financing capital investment. For example, capital may be financed by private banks, cooperatives, and governments. In fact, all of these institutions are active financiers throughout the world. The relative prominence of each in a given nation helps to describe that nation's history, ideology, and "political economy," which brings us to our next question -- a very big one.

Doesn't a steady state economy require a socialist government? More generally put, what kind of government is most conducive to a steady state economy? Might it be, for example, a capitalist democracy, a communist state or a dictatorship? In theory, each is capable of producing or coexisting with a steady state economy, but we do not think any of these is particularly conducive. Each has exhibited far more concern with GDP growth than with other important endeavors, such as poverty alleviation and, of course, wildlife conservation.

We think the form of government most conducive to a steady state economy, in the context of twenty-first-century nation states, is a constitutional democracy somewhat more socialized than the current American version. "Socialist democracies," as the term is used in political science, already exist in many nations, most notably such European nations as Sweden, Switzerland and England.

Economists more frequently call them "mixed economies." These are democratically operated governments in which the state plays a more prominent role in the economy than the American government plays in its economy.

Where have all the oil optimists gone?

By Justice Litle

There used to be a group of happy-go-lucky folks who thought the price of oil was always on the verge of collapsing.

Steve Forbes seemed to be their chief. He preached that the benefits of exploration would soon kick in, that all the peak oilers were nutty, and that the return of $35 a barrel was just a matter of time.

Now those voices have quieted down a bit (maybe even a lot). So why the chastening? Perhaps it's because we've had some genuinely big discovery news in recent months, and crude oil has stayed expensive anyway.

No time like the present

When Chevron hit deepwater pay dirt in the Gulf last year, that was supposed to be the death knell for all this $100-a-barrel hoopla. It wasn't. When Brazil announced an even bigger discovery just recently -- perhaps the closest thing to a new "elephant" find in decades -- you would have expected the price of crude to crater. It didn't.

The biggest problem with Brazil's good news? Timing. As Tom Petty sang, "The waiting is the hardest part." It will be years before that new source is tapped, but the world doesn't have years. We need more oil now.

The same goes for Chevron's big score 175 miles off the Louisiana coast. It doesn't matter how many billions of barrels we're projected to have in the distant future; the pressure is on here and now. A barrel in hand is worth two in the seabed.

What Wall Street missed

As a result of all this, there is a big shift happening -- at long last -- in the way Wall Street thinks about oil.

The past few years have been dominated by the peak oil debate. Are we really going to run out of black gold? Is energy conservation the issue of our time? Was M. King Hubbert a prophet, or a fool?

And yet all the peak oil hubbub, and the intense debate surrounding it, has turned out to be a distraction from the immediate issue. That issue is a shortage of resources involved in the getting of oil.

Simply put, there aren't enough engineers. There aren't enough geologists. There aren't enough rigs or pumps or service vehicles. There aren't enough exploration sites. There isn't enough water, and natural gas to handle the huge processing demands for North American shale and Canadian oil sands. There aren't even enough truck tires! (The giant ones are truly hard to find.)

The demand for oil is so consistent and so intense that we simply don't have the means to keep up with it. Globalization has created the biggest bottleneck in the history of mankind. This bottleneck is a reality whether or not you believe in peak oil -- and so is the huge opportunity that stems from it. (I like to think of it as "infrastructure arbitrage.")

Justice Litle is an Editorial Director of Taipan Publishing Group

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Serious Realities We Face As A Civilization

Borderfire Report

By Frosty Wooldridge

"The cheap oil age created an artificial bubble of plentitude for a period not much longer than a human I hazard to assert that as oil ceases to be cheap and the world reserves move toward depletion, we will be left with an enormous population...that the ecology of the earth will not support. No political program of birth control will avail. The journey back toward non-oil population homeostasis will not be pretty. We will discover the hard way that population hyper growth was simply a side-effect of the oil age. It was a condition, not a problem with a solution. That is what happened and we are stuck with it." James Howard Kunstler

“As we go from this happy hydrocarbon bubble we have reached now to a renewable energy resource economy, which we do this century, will the “civil” part of civilization survive? As we both know there is no way that alternative energy sources can supply the amount of per capita energy we enjoy now, much less for the 9 billion expected by 2050. And energy is what keeps this game going. We are involved in a Faustian bargain—selling our economic souls for the luxurious life of the moment, but sooner or later the price has to be paid.” Walter Youngquist

“The U.S. will set a record in the rate of rise—and fall of an empire. Between wide open borders and fall of the dollar and growing population against a declining resource base, the US will be defeated from within. Mobs will rule the streets in the nation that is now the third largest in the world and unable to support its population except by taking resources from other countries.” Arnold Toynbee

“Noble intentions are a poor cause for stupid actions. Man is the only species that calls some suicidal actions ‘noble.’ The rest of creation knows better.” Garret Hardin author of “Stalking the Wild Taboo”

Take action: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;

Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents – from the Arctic to the South Pole – as well as six times across the USA , coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens , Greece . He presents “The Coming Population Crisis in America : and what you can do about it” to civic clubs, church groups, high schools and colleges. He works to bring about sensible world population balance at his website

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Growing Food When The Oil Runs Out

By Peter Goodchild

Most people in modern industrial society get their food mainly from supermarkets. As a result of declining hydrocarbon resources, however, it is unlikely that such food will always be available. The present world population is nearly 7 billion, but food supplies per capita have been shrinking for years. Food production will have to become more localized, and it will be necessary to reconsider less-advanced forms of technology that might be called "subsistence gardening."

The peak of world oil production ("peak oil") will be at some point in the early 21st century; it is quite possible that we are already past that event. The "peak" will be (or was) about 30 billion barrels of oil a year, but by 2030 annual production will be less than half that amount [2, 4]. Without oil and other hydrocarbons, there will be no fuel, no plastics, no chemical fertilizer. Alternative energy sources will do little to solve the problem [16]. Partly as a further consequence of declining oil supplies, electricity and metals will also be in short supply [8]. But in terms of daily life, the most important effect of oil depletion will be a shortage of food.

The effect of oil depletion on food is partly obscured by two separate but related issues: skyrocketing food prices and the great increase in biofuel production [6, 9, 10]. In the present chaos, however, to follow questions of money is to go on a wild-goose chase, while biofuel production can only be seen as a mad attempt to evade the problem of oil depletion while depriving the world of needed food.


Subsistence gardening might be defined as having three characteristics. In the first place, as much as possible it involves less-advanced technology; reliance on machinery and chemicals will not be possible without a global economic network to support them, whereas a shovel, a hoe, and a wheelbarrow (with a non-pneumatic tire!) are probably a once-only purchase.

Secondly, it is water-efficient. Without a municipal water supply or a motorized pump, water for agriculture will no longer be abundant.

Thirdly, subsistence gardening entails a largely vegetarian way of life: the growing of crops takes less land than raising animals (although some animals can make good use of less-fertile land), and it is less complicated. With a largely vegetarian diet, of course, there can be a danger of deficiencies in vitamins A and B12, iron, calcium, and fat, all of which can be found in animal food. Most of these deficiencies are covered by an occasional taste of meat; daily portions of beef and pork are really not necessary. Animal husbandry does not have to be large-scale; in sparsely populated areas, even fishing, trapping, and hunting can be useful skills.


New land should be broken with a plow, a device that generally requires either a tractor or a draft animal, but a fair amount can be done with hand tools. Much depends on the time of year and the weather. In the spring after a good rain, it is possible to dig up 50 m2 in a day, even if one is not especially muscular. In August after a long drought, however, digging even 5 m2 in a day might be hard. But there are ways to the task easier: if the grass is long, it can be cut with a scythe before the digging begins, and hot weather can be avoided by starting work at sunrise. When the sod has been dug up, it can be shaken thoroughly to release the soil, and then piled up and burned.

Actually many of the native North Americans preferred forest, rather than grassland, as sites for agriculture. The forest land was more fertile, and digging up heavy sod would have been arduous with the available tools. The native people girdled the trees (i.e., cut a ring of bark from around each tree) to kill them, and then felled the trees much later, with fire and axes.


Besides grains and fruits, the most useful food plants in temperate climates belong to about nine families, including the Amaryllidaceae (garlic, leeks, onions), Chenopodiaceae (beets, chard), Brassicaceae (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, rutabagas, turnips), Leguminosae (beans, peanuts, peas), Umbelliferae (carrots, parsnips), Convulvulaceae (sweet potatoes), Solanaceae (peppers, potatoes, tomatoes), Cucurbitaceae (squash), and Compositae (sunflowers).

A good general rule is to choose old-fashioned (including "heirloom" or "heritage") varieties rather than modern, big plants rather than small (but small fruit rather than big), pole or vine rather than bush. Popular varieties over the last several decades, unfortunately, have been heading in the opposite direction. Commercial growers want faster varieties, urban gardeners want small ones. Choosing varieties that are hardy and drought- resistant means going in the opposite direction. The rule does not always work — bush beans are not necessarily worse than pole beans, for example — but it serves as a guide. A somewhat similar guide is to look for something that closely resembles a wild plant, or is roughly the same thing as a wild plant — dandelions, mustard, or purslane, for example.

Modern-day city-dwellers who live sedentary lives are likely to focus on low-calory food. Those concerned about subsistence gardening, however, will want to do the opposite: country living requires substantial meals. Subsistence gardening means the production of a large number of calories with a small amount of labor and a small amount of risk, and perhaps with not much land. With these factors in mind, one could say that there are not so many crops worthy of attention. There is no such thing as a perfect type of food to grow, because there are advantages and disadvantages to every type. Reliance on a single crop would be dangerous, and variety is essential. We never know exactly what will happen, and no rules are absolute. The following notes are based on a North American perspective, but they can be applied more generally to conditions in other parts of the world.

Many of what might seem obvious choices may be questionable. Potatoes are highly susceptible to Colorado potato beetles, blight, and several other pests and diseases. Most grains might be difficult to grow without a plow (with a horse or tractor) and other specialized equipment. The brassicas are excellent for vitamins and minerals, but some of them are bothered by pests and diseases; kale is perhaps the least trouble-prone.

A good starting point might be to focus on corn (maize), beans, and squash, the main crops grown by the native peoples of North America. These three crops are easy to grow, and they require little or no watering if the plants are well spaced. Corn and beans, eaten together, provide excellent protein.

Corn has the scientific name of Zea mays and several confusing common names. There are basically two types of corn, sweet corn and field (grain) corn, although these are not botanical distinctions. The former is the type that is usually eaten as "corn on the cob." Sweet corn, unfortunately, is unsuitable for drying, and it has more problems with diseases and insects. Field corn, on the other hand, is definitely worth growing. It has a higher yield per hectare than any other temperate-climate grain, and unlike other grains it requires no complicated threshing or winnowing.

It is essential to grow only open-pollinated varieties of corn; hybrid types do not reproduce properly. In modern times, however, one is unlikely to find varieties of corn that qualify as both "field corn" and "open-pollinated," with the exception of those colorful varieties that are generally known as "Indian" or "ornamental" corn. Of those, the hard ("flint") types do better in areas where spring or fall frosts may be a danger.

Beans (e.g., Phaseolus vulgaris) and other legumes are another important part of the diet, especially for people on a vegetarian or largely vegetarian diet. Beans are high in protein, they are not demanding in terms of soil or climate, and they need little or no irrigation, at least after they have produced a few leaves. Unlike most other plants, legumes actually add nitrogen to the soil; traditional agriculture has always relied on their vital service.

Squash can be divided informally into the soft-skinned "summer" types and the hard-skinned "winter" types. Summer squash, however, provide only 167 kcal/kg, as opposed to 475 kcal for winter squash, so it is the latter that are more important. All squash are members of the genus Cucurbita, and of these the three main species are C. maxima, C. pepo, and C. moschata. C. maxima includes Buttercup, Hubbard, and Delicious, all of which are drought-resistant. C. pepo winter squash worth growing are Acorn, Spaghetti, and the "true" pumpkin (a lot of so-called pumpkins are a type of C. maxima); these are also drought-resistant, but Acorn squash is not especially good for storing. Of the C. moschata types, the most familiar is Butternut; while it is not noteworthy for being drought-resistant, it is one of the best squash for storing. In general, vining squashes are more drought- resistant than bush types.

For green vegetables and fruit, one can sometimes even supplement the diet with wild plants. There over a dozen species of wild fruit to be found within a 10-minute walk from my own house here in central Ontario, and this is a rather infertile part of the world.


The amount of land needed for subsistence gardening depends on several factors, including the type of soil, the climate, and the kinds of crops to be grown. The following, however, may provide some rough figures.

The production of corn can be used as the basis for calculations, if we pretend for the moment that someone is going to be living entirely on corn. A hardworking adult burns about 5,000 kcal/day, or 1.8 million kcal/year. With fairly primitive technology, corn yields about 2,000 kg/ha, or 6.9 million kcal [13]. One adult, therefore, would need about 0.26 ha of land; it would be safer, of course, to use twice that much land. (Incidentally, the world even now has a density of only 3.3 people per hectare of arable land, but that does not account for unevenness of distribution, or for other use of the arable land.)

Oddly enough, if other crops are substituted for corn, there is usually no enormous difference in the number of kcal produced per ha. Beans (as "dry beans") produce about half the yield of corn. Root crops (turnips, carrots, beets, etc.) are impressive in terms of their bulk — mass — per ha, yet they do not differ greatly from corn in kcal/ha.


Most of the world’s land is not suitable for agriculture. Either the soil is not fertile or the climate is too severe. Anyone intending to buy a piece of land should take a sample of the soil and have it tested by a government-approved laboratory, while that kind of service is still available. If the soil is really poor to begin with, and especially if it is very low in potassium or phosphorus, there is not a great deal that can be done about it, at least with the resources available in a survival situation.

If most of the trees are evergreens, the land is too acidic. Acidic soil may also be indicated by chamomile, garden sorrel, mayweed, or sheep sorrel. Land that is excessively wet due to poor drainage may be growing buttercup, cattail, ferns, ironweed, Joe-Pye weed, or loosestrife. Other weeds might be indicators of reasonably good soil: amaranth, burdock, lamb’s quarters, purslane, ragweed, or thistles

Soil used for the growing of crops must have adequate amounts of organic matter (humus), which can come directly from decomposed vegetation or from animal manure. Organic matter holds water and air in the soil, contains — often to a rather limited extent — some of the elements needed for plant growth, and provides an environment for small organisms that are essential to the fertility of the soil.

Farmland must also have adequate amounts of about 16 elements — naturally occurring or otherwise. Of these 16, the most critical are phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and especially nitrogen (N). Calcium and magnesium are probably next in importance. Some of the elements may be found in organic matter, but the quantities are generally insufficient. These elements might be abundant in the soil before any cultivation is done, but whenever crops are harvested a certain amount of the three critical elements is removed.

The problem of inadequate amounts of the 16 elements is generally remedied nowadays by adding fertilizer, which can be artificial or can come from such sources as rock dust — the latter a fashionable "soil amendment" that will no longer be available without hydrocarbon-based mining and transportation. Acidity can be counteracted by adding crushed limestone (again, not likely to be available) or wood ashes, which contain calcium. Nitrogen, however, can be provided by planting any legume, such as beans or peas, since bacteria in the roots take nitrogen from the air; the plants must be dug back into the soil, of course.

Primitive societies had a simple but imperfect solution to the problem of maintaining fertility: abandonment. No fertilizer was used, except for ashes; as a result, the soil became exhausted after a few years, so the fields were abandoned and new ones were dug.

A common response to the N-P-K problem, used in many countries for centuries, has been to turn crop waste into compost and put it back onto the land. The problem with that technique, however, is that one cannot create a perpetual-motion machine: every time the compost is recycled, a certain amount of N-P-K is lost, mainly in the form of human or animal excrement after the crops are eaten, but also as direct leaching and evaporation [11]. One can come closer to sustainability by recycling those human and animal wastes, but the recycling will always be less than perfect. After all, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are elements, and by definition they cannot be created. Of the three main elements, nitrogen is by far the most subject to loss by leaching, but to some extent that can also happen with phosphorus and potassium.

There are partial solutions that are worth considering. Besides using vegetable compost and animal manure for increasing the sustainability of agricultural land, many societies have employed such related techniques as crop-rotation, fallowing (leaving land uncultivated for a year or so), cover-cropping, and green manuring. Such practices also replenish the humus content of the soil. Some of these practices can even partly replenish the phosphorus and potassium, since plants with deep roots can draw such elements to the surface. Some of these techniques are difficult with hand tools, however. In other countries, vegetation was brought in from the hills, or mud was taken from streams that ran down from the mountains [12].


The term "irrigation" refers to any use of water other than the direct use of rainfall or other natural precipitation. In a post-oil economy it will not be possible to used a motorized water supply for irrigation. Yet if one were to try using an old-fashioned hand pump to get the water out of the well, a good deal of manual labor would be involved. A garden needs about 2 or 3 cm of water a week. On a garden of 0.26 ha, that amounts to 66 m3 of water. That would mean carrying a bucket to the pump about 2,300 times a week, except when it rained. Not very practical.

What the North American native people and pioneers did was to give the plants plenty of space, and then just rely on the rain [14]. Almost any type of crop, given enough room, can be left to the mercy of the weather, although some crops need to be watered as seeds or seedlings. The essence of water-efficient gardening is to space the plants out so that the distance between them is greater than most modern gardening manuals recommend. That way the roots can spread out and explore in all directions to find the water that has been stored there over the previous months.

To keep that underground moisture from evaporating, a hoe must be used to remove all weeds, because most water vanishes through plant leaves. Hoeing also keeps the surface of the ground watertight by creating a "dust mulch": water does not easily pass through a layer of well disturbed dust, since the lack of water and the separation of particles prevent capillary action. ("Organic" mulches, such as wood chips or hay, are not much use on an entire garden; even if one could find enough material for so much land, there would be further trouble with bugs, weeds, and cold soil.)

If the garden has at least 1 meter of soil, and if there is also close to a meter of precipitation annually, with that moisture spread out fairly evenly over the 12 months, then it is possible to garden without irrigation.

On the other hand, if there is only about 30 cm of soil above the bedrock, or if there is less than about 50 cm of precipitation annually, gardening without irrigation is still possible, but the plants need to be spaced out far more.

Contrary to popular belief, in other words, "intensive" gardening is not practical without a garden hose and an unlimited supply of water. More plants per unit of land simply means using more water per unit. With such a method, the lack of bare ground between rows also means that it is not easy to get a hoe to the weeds; as L.H. Bailey said long ago, intensive gardening is just "cultivating the backache."


The following topics apply mainly to the control of insects, but roughly the same are relevant to the control of more primitive forms of life, such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria: (1) selection — choosing resistant species and varieties; (2) diversity — growing a fair number of species and varieties at the same time (avoiding monoculture); (3) rotation — not growing a crop in the same place in the following year; (4) health — keeping plants strong by providing good soil and enough water, light, and space; (5) sanitation — removing and burning any dead or dying plants, and avoiding contact with wet plants; (6) tillage — digging up the ground each year to destroy insects; (7) attack — fighting insects by handpicking; one might also want to experiment with sprinkling wood ashes or spraying solutions of garlic, hot pepper, or soap.


One way of storing vegetables for winter is to keep them in a root cellar or something similar. The basic idea is to keep the food just above freezing. In pioneer times a root cellar was often little more than a cave dug into a hillside and provided with a door. The earth provided the necessary coolness and humidity to keep the vegetables fresh all winter long. Nowadays a root cellar can be made by walling off a northern corner of a basement, including a window that can be opened to regulate temperature.

Rutabagas, carrots, beets, and parsnips require packing in damp hay, sand, or some other damp material to prevent shriveling. Turnips do not store as well as rutabagas. Potatoes and onions should be kept in loosely woven bags or at least open boxes, in a dark room. Winter squash need slightly warmer conditions than other stored crops.

Another simple method of storing is to build a clamp, which is an outdoor mound of vegetables placed on a 30-cm layer of dry vegetation (hay, leaves, or similar material), then covered with another 30-cm layer of dry vegetation, and finally covered with a layer of earth. Usually some sort of drainage is provided by digging a trench around the clamp, but that is easily done as the soil is dug to be put on top of the clamp. Clamping is simple and cheap, but it is not always successful: a winter might be extreme, freezing and ruining the food or solidifying the mound too much for it to be opened.

Drying is a good technique for preserving almost any crop. Grains and beans are very easy to dry. Squash can be peeled and cut into strips or spirals 1 or 2 cm wide, then hung up to dry in the sun. Beets, turnips, rutabagas, and carrots can be dried the same way. Fruits can also be spread out in the sun. Leafy vegetables can be tied in bunches and hung in the shade to dry for a few days before being packed into jars; in winter, these dried leaves can be crumbled and added to soup.


Producing one’s own supply of seeds means keeping an eye on the more-desirable plants, and earmarking those for the next year’s crop. The best plants should be chosen, not the earliest; contrary to popular belief, seeds that appear late in the season do not produce slower plants the next year. Hybrid vegetables should always be avoided, of course, because they do not reproduce properly.

There are two methods for producing seed, although they overlap considerably. For the first method, crops are just be left in the ground until they to go to seed. Annuals are the simplest crops to deal with, since they go to seed in the first year, and often the seed is precisely what is eaten; grains and beans are obvious examples. Biennials (two-year plants) — most brassicas, for example — are also possible candidates for this method. The main question is whether the biennials can be left in the ground over the winter, and the answer to that depends on the species or variety, on the climate, and perhaps on whether the selected plants are covered in winter with something such as leaves, grass, straw, or even twigs.

The second method is to dig up the plants at the end of the first summer, store them carefully over the winter, and then replant them. This second method requires more work, but it is safer, and it also allows one to "rogue out" (remove) stunted or deformed plants.

In most cases it is best not to grow more than one variety of a vegetable for seed, because varieties will cross and produce offspring with uncertain qualities. Growing more than one variety is possible, however, if they are allowed to go to seed in alternate years, or if the varieties are planted several weeks apart so that they do not blossom at the same time.

Seeds need proper care if they are to stay viable. The longevity of seeds can be a single year or it can be many years, depending on the species, but that longevity can be increased by careful storage. Most seeds need to be kept very dry, and most also need to be kept away from light, so they should not be stored in glass jars, and it is important that they be sealed against insects or larger creatures.


1. Ashworth, Suzanne. Seed to Seed. Decorah, Iowa: Seed Saver, 1991.

2. BP Global Statistical Review of World Energy, annual.

3. Bradley, Fern Marshall, and Barbara W. Ellis, eds. Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Emmaus, Pennyslvania: Rodale, 1992.

4. Campbell, Colin J. and Jean H. Laherrère. The End of Cheap Oil. Scientific American, March 1998.

5. Duncan, Richard C. The Peak of World Oil Production and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge.

6. Earth Policy Institute. Earth Policy Indicators.

7. Emery, Carla A. The Encyclopedia of Country Living. 9th ed. Seattle, Washington: Sasquash, 1994.

8. Gever, John, et al. Beyond Oil: The Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ballinger, 1986.

9. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Food Outlook: Global Market Analysis, November 2007.

10. Heinberg, Richard. What Will We Eat as the Food Runs Out?

11. Hopkins, Donald P. Chemicals, Humus, and the Soil. London: Faber & Faber, 1957.

12. King, F.H. Farmers of Forty Centuries. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Organic Gardening, n.d.

13. Pimentel, David, and Carl W. Hall, eds. Food and Energy Resources. Orlando: Academic, 1984.

14. Solomon, Steve. Water-Wise Vegetables. Seattle: Sasquatch, 1993.

15. Weatherwax, Paul. Indian Corn in Old America. New York: Macmillan, 1954.

16. Walter Youngquist, "Alternative Energy Sources."

Peter Goodchild is the author of Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press. He can be reached at

The real answer to climate change is to leave fossil fuels in the ground

Guardian Unlimited

The real answer to climate change is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. All the talk in Bali about cutting carbon means nothing while ever more oil and coal is being extracted and burned…

By George Monbiot

Ladies and gentlemen, I have the answer! Incredible as it might seem, I have stumbled across the single technology which will save us from runaway climate change! From the goodness of my heart, I offer it to you for free. No patents, no small print, no hidden clauses. Already this technology, a radical new kind of carbon capture and storage, is causing a stir among scientists. It is cheap, it is efficient and it can be deployed straight away. It is called ... leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

On a filthy day last week, as governments gathered in Bali to prevaricate about climate change, a group of us tried to put this policy into effect. We swarmed into the opencast coal mine being dug at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales and occupied the excavators, shutting down the works for the day. We were motivated by a fact which the wise heads in Bali have somehow missed: if fossil fuels are extracted, they will be used.

Most of the governments of the rich world now exhort their citizens to use less carbon. They encourage us to change our lightbulbs, insulate our lofts, turn our televisions off at the wall. In other words, they have a demand-side policy for tackling climate change. But as far as I can determine, not one of them has a supply-side policy. None seeks to reduce the supply of fossil fuel. So the demand-side policy will fail. Every barrel of oil and tonne of coal that comes to the surface will be burned.

Or perhaps I should say that they do have a supply-side policy: to extract as much as they can. Since 2000, the UK government has given coal firms £220m to help them open new mines or to keep existing mines working. According to the energy white paper, the government intends to "maximise economic recovery ... from remaining coal reserves".

The pit at Ffos-y-fran received planning permission after two ministers in the Westminster government jumped up and down on Rhodri Morgan, the first minister of the Welsh assembly. Stephen Timms at the department of trade and industry listed the benefits of the scheme and demanded that the application "is resolved with the minimum of further delay". His successor, Mike O'Brien, warned of dire consequences if the pit was not granted permission. The coal extracted from Ffos-y-fran alone will produce 29.5m tonnes of carbon dioxide: equivalent, according to the latest figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to the sustainable emissions of 55 million people for one year.

Last year British planning authorities considered 12 new applications for opencast coal mines. They approved all but two of them. Two weeks ago, Hazel Blears, the secretary of state in charge of planning, overruled Northumberland county council to grant permission for an opencast mine at Shotton, on the grounds that the scheme - which will produce 9.3m tonnes of CO2 - is "environmentally acceptable".

The British government also has a policy of "maximising the UK's existing oil and gas reserves". To promote new production, it has granted companies a 90% discount on the licence fees they pay for prospecting the continental shelf. It hopes the prospecting companies will open a new frontier in the seas to the west of the Shetland Isles. The government also has two schemes for "forcing unworked blocks back into play". If oil companies don't use their licences to the full, it revokes them and hands them to someone else. In other words, it is prepared to be ruthlessly interventionist when promoting climate change, but not when preventing it: no minister talks of "forcing" companies to reduce their emissions. Ministers hope the industry will extract up to 28bn barrels of oil and gas from the continental shelf.

Last week the government announced a new tax break for companies working in the North Sea. The Treasury minister, Angela Eagle, explained that its purpose is "to make sure we are not leaving any oil in the ground that could be recovered". The government's climate change policy works like this: extract every last drop of fossil fuel then pray to God that no one uses it.

The same wishful thinking is applied worldwide. The International Energy Agency's new outlook report warns that "urgent action is needed" to cut carbon emissions. The action it recommends is investing $22 trillion in new energy infrastructure, most of which will be spent on extracting, transporting and burning fossil fuels.

Aha, you say, but what about carbon capture and storage? When governments use this term, they mean catching and burying the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. It is feasible, but there are three problems. The first is that fossil fuels are being extracted and burned today, and scarcely any carbon capture schemes yet exist. The second is that the technology works only for power stations and large industrial processes: there is no plausible means of dealing with cars, planes and heating systems. The third, as Alistair Darling, then in charge of energy, admitted in the Commons in May, is that the technologies required for commercial carbon capture "might never become available". (The government is prepared to admit this when making the case, as he was, for nuclear power, but not when making it for coal).

Almost every week I receive an email from someone asking what the heck I am talking about. Don't I realise that peak oil will solve this problem for us? Fossil fuels will run out, we'll go back to living in caves and no one will need to worry about climate change again. These correspondents make the mistake of conflating conventional oil supplies with all fossil fuels. Yes, at some point the production of petroleum will peak then go into decline. I don't know when this will happen, and I urge environmentalists to remember that while we have been proved right about most things we have been consistently wrong about the dates for mineral exhaustion. But before oil peaks, demand is likely to outstrip supply and the price will soar. The result is that the oil firms will have an even greater incentive to extract the stuff.

Already, encouraged by recent prices, the pollutocrats are pouring billions into unconventional oil. Last week BP announced a huge investment in Canadian tar sands. Oil produced from tar sands creates even more carbon emissions than petroleum extraction. There's enough tar and kerogen in North America to cook the planet several times over.

If that runs out, they switch to coal, of which there is hundreds of years' supply. Sasol, the South African company founded during the apartheid period - when supplies of oil were blocked - to turn coal into liquid transport fuel, is conducting feasibility studies for new plants in India, China and the US. Neither geology nor market forces is going to save us from climate change.

When you review the plans for fossil fuel extraction, the horrible truth dawns that every carbon-cutting programme is a con. Without supply-side policies, runaway climate change is inevitable, however hard we try to cut demand. The talks in Bali will be meaningless unless they produce a programme for leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Peak oil: A problem that's not going away

By Bob Duff and Terry Backer

Oil supplies in the world are tightening. Even a small shortage of oil can cause a big tremor in people’s lives. Oil is the life-blood of our society and economy. A reduction in oil supply will push up costs for everything. Just look how far your dollar goes in the supermarket these days. The cost of oil has already hit your pocketbook.
Heating our schools and homes, keeping the lights on in hospitals, and the production and transportation of every product from shoes to medicines has and will continue to cost more. The ugly truth is we either have arrived at or are nearing peak oil.

Peak oil, currently off the public’s radar screen, describes the time when daily oil production hits an all-time high, then levels off before slipping into permanent decline. Back in 1956, geo-physicist M. King Hubbert forecast that the United State’s oil production would peak in 1971. It did. Nearly half of the world’s top-20 oil-producing nations are now past peak (U.S., Mexico, Norway, U.K., Indonesia, Venezuela, Iran) or near peak production (Russia, China). Geology, geopolitics and other factors are pushing us towards peak.

The Cantarell oil field in the Bay of Campeche in Mexico was a national treasure — the third-largest oil field ever found. But after 30 short years the field’s production is petering out. Mexico’s national oil company has informed the United States that the field is in terminal decline and will not be able to export by about 2012. That’s very bad news for us. Cantarell supplies about 12 percent of all U.S. oil. Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, Britain’s North Sea fields, Kuwait’s Burgan field, Russia’s Samatlor field-the list of mega-giants in decline goes on. Sadly, the second half of an oil field’s production is typically harder and slower to extract than the first half.

il and is a super optimist. He believes oil won’t peak for another 20-plus years. From our view, there are equal if not more qualified experts who say Yergin is off by decades and that peak is now or is about happen. Neither scenario should make any of us comfortable. What it means is that we have little lead time, even by the most optimistic projections, to address infrastructure changes.

All of the world’s mega-giant oil fields are in decline and no comparable fields have been found since the ’70s. The world is consuming three barrels of oil for every one we discover. Demand continues growing every year, especially from China and oil exporting countries. We currently use 21 million barrels a day in the U.S. and 86 million worldwide every day. Many experts believe that, for a host of reasons, we’ll never produce more than 90 million barrels a day.

Peak oil is a problem looming just around the corner, one that we have never encountered before and have few ideas on what to do. It is the toughest problem we have ever faced bar none and, though former President Clinton highlighted this problem last year, not one presidential candidate has mentioned it. Due to its immense impact it’s easy for politicians to avoid learning about peak oil or hope it goes away. It won’t.

State Sen. Bob Duff of Norwalk represents most of Darien, Connecticut and state Rep. Terry Backer is from Stratford. The two are members of the General Assembly’s Energy & Technology Committee and co-founders of the Legislative Peak Oil and Natural Gas Caucus.

Peak Oil and the Vision in the Mirror


By Aaron Wissner

If you don't know what peak oil is, then, first of all, you are not alone. Most people don't seem to have a clue about it. And, even some that do, don't seem to get the full implications. Let me lay it out for you as succinctly as I can...

Money is nothing. Energy is everything.

The energy supply has been growing for many years. So has the food supply. So has the population.

What happens when the energy supply stops growing, but the population continues to grow?

More importantly, what happens when the energy supply begins to decline, as population continues to grow?

The answer, of course, is things we would generally consider very bad. Keep in mind that the Great Depression happened. World War II happened. Famine and starvation have and do happen. Civilizations themselves have (and probably normally) collapse. In general, bad things do happen on a national and global scale.

The illusion that we live every day is that we are immune from these things. The Great Depression couldn't happen again, could it? We couldn't really get into another World War, could we? Most certainly, our civilization... in other words, the high-energy-consuming industrialized world... it couldn't have a bad ending... could it?

Well, there are movies out there, and undoubtedly books, that talk about these bad things and explore what happens, so we do think about these things... but probably not all that seriously.

Peak oil, on the other hand, is serious. In a nutshell, we humans are reaching the all time maximum rate of oil extraction from the planet. In fact, we very well may be at the point where the extraction has simply stopped growing. Some time in the near future, as in either now, or next year, or perhaps a few years hence, the oil extraction rate will begin to decline... and will continue to do so forever, no matter what we do. You see, oil is a non-renewable resource, and we have consumed perhaps as much as half of all that we will EVER get out of the ground.

I don't want to go into the details (which are many) but oil is essential to everything we do: making food, electricity, water, heat, moving things around (transportation) and more. A world without oil would be bad, very bad. If it happened suddenly, we would be in bad, bad, bad shape.

What would you do if all the gas pumps ran dry? What do you think would continue to work? Could you get to the store for food? Could the food get to the store in the first place? Could you get heat for your home? Could those that deliver the heat get to their jobs? Could you get to your job? Could you get to money to buy things? Would the ATM's and the credit cards work if the power plant operators couldn't get to work? What if the new loads of coal couldn't get to the power plant, what then?

Luckily, I don't think it is going to happen this way. I mean, I can't be sure. It might happen. Let's just say that there is a 10% chance of it happening that way within three years of now. That means, it probably won't happen... but I for one don't want to be caught unprepared for something that would be that catastrophic.

What is likely to happen? Now this is the part that a lot of the peak oil folks don't quite understand, so allow me to enlighten you... The problem is that people don't seem to understand supply, demand and price. People forget that price is part of the supply and demand formula.

In the recent past, the oil extraction rate has not increased (that is, not like it did in prior decades). So, did people want less oil? No. Did they use less oil? Yes. Why did they use less? Because that is all they could afford to buy. Why? Because, via a string of events, they bid up the price. Instead of being able to buy 1,000 barrels of oil for $30,000 they were only able to buy 400 barrels. Perhaps they found some more money, and were able to buy a bit more... but some people (companies, countries) simply could not buy as much.

For us in the industrialized world, that doesn't mean a whole lot. We still are buying the same amount. The USA, for example, is still using up 20 million barrels per day. It costs two or three times more than it used to, but we have the money, and so we are buying it.

Peak oil is impacting those that don't have the money to buy the same amount. Those countries that can only afford to buy a certain dollar amount of oil are stuck trying to figure out how to live with that. In turn, their companies and people are, in turn, trying to figure out how to buy more expensive fuel, services, and products (yes, that would be inflation). The governments are trying to decide if they need to fix the prices of the fuel (like gasoline, diesel, propane, etc.) or to start rationing. For these nations, these companies and businesses, and these individuals, peak oil is already having a big impact.

For us though, we are watching... watching the price go up... watching the supply stay the same... wondering if it will go down... wondering how high the price will go... wondering how it will impact our economy... gas prices... foreclosures... unemployment... medical costs... retirement savings... and etc, etc, etc... Although most of us don't realize that ENERGY is what wags the dog, not dollars... so most don't see the connections between peak oil and everything else.

What is a person to do? First off, they have to deal with the fact that this is something totally new, and in most cases, unexpected. It is a sea change, a paradigm shift, a life changing event. All those emotions and actions common in the grieving cycle will come to play... I've already felt the anger, despair, bargaining, and etc...

Those who have half a clue are trying to come up with ways to produce more energy, to keep the energy flowing. What they fail to realize is that there is no way to make that much energy. The fossil fuels are simply incredibly energy rich, and we are using them up as if they were infinite, which of course, they are not. So, all sorts of things get tossed around... "energy independence", "ethanol", "CAFE standards", "renewable energy portfolio standards", "hybrid cars", "tar sands", "deep water drilling", "wind", "solar", "biomass", "cellulose"... the list goes on and on and on. What these folks fail to see is the big picture... there will NEVER be as much...

So, what are the solutions... easy... each and every one of us needs to live absolutely on our own, growing food for our own family, providing our own water - heat - shelter and etc. Well, I hope not quite that extreme, but much closer to that than now. Look at that series of questions up top again... those are the things we should all be attempting to find solutions to in our own lives.

Where would you get food if the stores were empty? You need to have an answer to this. Where would you get water if the electricity was gone? You had better have an answer to that. What about heat? What would you do if your heating system was gone?

Peak oil, peak oil, peak oil... it is not a good thing for those of us who are unprepared. It is quite possible that there will be very bad times... super fast inflation... famine... rampant diseases... war. Our population is probably bigger than we will be able to support without a growing supply of oil. There will likely be widespread famines that begin... and then continue, worsen, and spread... as the oil supply declines.

The planet could probably support all of the nearly seven billion of us humans, but not spread out the way we are... in hot deserts... in snowy winter lands... in huge cities and suburbs... in dried out and soil depleted countries. How will food get from where it is grown to where all the people are? Will the people be able to move fast enough to get closer to the food? Will the decline in the fuel supply mean less food is grown? Will everyone eat less, or will we simply say that there is a shortage, so some will just have to starve? Will we try to throw money at the problem when money means nothing compared to energy?

On the other hand, peak oil is a good thing... for the planet. I can practically hear it speaking.

"Thank the Universe, they won't have the energy to deal me the finishing blow! Sure, I'll probably lose most of my biodiversity and biomass. I'll probably even have decimated areas where the humans have gnawed me clean like a dog to a bone. But at least their numbers will diminish, and they will have less and less ability to destroy me."

I wish this was not what I heard, but I have only to look out the window to see what we have done... and yet, the enigma, we are the earth...

Think of the past. The earth formed... then life formed of the earth... then more complicated life formed of the simple life of the earth... and after many millions of years, here we all are... and humans are one, just one, of the many living species which are part of the earth.

We are part of the earth.

Oddly, we think we are not.

We imagine we are apart. We dream that we are more; that we are more than water and dirt and sunlight. But that is all we are. We are part of the earth. A thousand years ago, every bit of your body was part of the earth. In a thousand years from now, every bit of your body will be part of the earth. And this very moment, you are part of the earth. You are a part of the earth... a very, very, very tiny -- almost microscopic -- and lightning short lived, bit of the earth.

The world beyond peak oil... I'm not sure how far beyond, maybe three generations, or maybe a hundred... the world beyond is one where we recognize that we are part of the earth. We "belong", so to speak, to the earth. We will live in harmony with our surroundings. We will realize that there is no such thing as waste, only a stream or cycle of matter and energy; that there is no such thing as an escape from death, but that it comes, often without warning, no matter what we do; that we are one of many thousands or millions of other living species that are also part of the earth; and that there is no good or evil in the world... (A culture or society without concepts of "good and evil" is so beyond our current sphere of comprehension that I can't even articulate a description for it.)

But how do we get there from here?

I have a vision of this future of our grandchildren, and the grandchildren of all the species, where all live together following only the laws of nature and the universe. Those humans recognize and respect all species and strive to follow the same rules that the others follow, to be in balance and in harmony with the rest. I have a vision of a garden planet, lush and green, with deep blue seas and rushing streams, and that humans would be there, in the garden, not separated from, but integrated with all the rest.

Would this be the perfection of Eden or paradise? Will our grandchildren have shed the remnants of "civilization"? Will we be few in numbers or many? Will we be living together as tens or thousands? Will we be altering the earth to grow food, or will we eat from the perpetual garden? Will we repeat our species current extreme cycle of growth and decline? Will we have accepted that evolution can only take place when those best adapted thrive while the rest decline?

I wish I could see this far. I wish I could see the ultimate and final fate of our species, and indeed all species, prior to the universe's curtain call to earth's habitability. I wish that I could be the ever-man that could live to see it all pass. But I am but a bit of the earth made conscious and aware for a moment... and while the atoms of my body will be here, the continuity of my conscious thought and mind will not.

What I can see from here is that we are the destroyers.

The earth was a garden not so long ago. The garden stretched from shore to shore and from highest mountain to deepest ocean trench. And now, much has been destroyed. It continues to be destroyed. By both our individual action, and our collective action, we continue to destroy the living earth. This is due to not only our instincts and our innate behavior, but also due to belief in good and evil, right and wrong, and our mistaken belief that money does not inherently lead to destruction. It is due to not only our dominant values, virtues, principles or beliefs... but also due to our ignorance about the mechanisms we have created and employ in the world.

Even the best of us falls prey to the misconception of money.

Indeed, even the most intelligent of us goes ahead and buys food from the grocer... who in turn pays others (via a string of intermediaries) to chop down and grind up nature to grow that food.

Even the keenest of us goes ahead and buys clothing from the shop-keep... who in turn pays others to rape the land and poison the seas to get this clothing made and to the sale rack.

Even the most peaceful of us goes ahead and asks the library to buy books on MLK, Gandhi and Tolstoy... that money which, by and by, goes into taxes which pay for "defense" a.k.a. government sanctioned murder, cruelty and torture.

The examples are limited only by the almost uncountable number of different transactions that are made with money throughout the world, for indeed, every dollar spent will continues to change hands, practically forever, and this money gets spread out to motivate the sum total of the behavior of our entire civilization.

This is a difficult concept to grasp. Even though energy is the thing of true value in the world, money is the mechanism which determines how, when, and where that energy will be consumed. This energy, in our hands, is the destroyer.

What could an individual do to escape participation in this monstrous, destroying system?

There are choices, and for fun, let's list them...

* Die - (I imagine there must have been at least one person who has done this... although I don't know who or how often.)

* Become 100% independent of everyone else, live as part of the earth, and swear off money forever

* Become 100% independent along with others, all live as a community which is a part of the earth, and swear off the global money system

* Strive to become 100% independent, and work towards this everyday, in every way, so that when things do get "bad" that you can take that last step towards sustainability and harmony with nature... and work with friends, family, neighbors, and community to do the same... and to be ready to work together when the time comes.

It is not enough to be green, or an environmentalist, or a conservationist, or a good person, or a pious person, or a happy person... if we participate in the system then we are guilty, so to speak, of the torture and cruelty that we as a species are inflicting on the rest --- that is, on that which we all are... the earth.

I know that I participate. I know that I am as guilty as the rest. It is not good. It is not evil. Neither exists. But it is causing killing. It is causing pollution. It is causing destruction. And I feel guilt and anguish that I continue to participate... and yet I continue. And as I seek for a rationalization, I think it is because I am comfortable... or because I have innate drives to survive, and I cannot allow myself to see survival apart from participation. This could be considered weakness... I certainly consider it such in myself... and yet, I participate... I continue my part in the destruction and decimation of life.

Peak oil is not simply an issue of learning to conserve or finding ways to do more with less. It isn't simply about the possibility of economic collapse, war, starvation or global pandemic. It isn't just about changing our behaviors or our beliefs. It is about turning ourselves inside-out, and not only surviving the transformation, but also being and living equal and in harmony with all the rest.

A Word From Author
(I moved this to the end so you would read the article first, so I guess this is more of an epilogue, reflection, or explanation.)

Lots of thoughts have been spinning in my head for the past week, month, year... and it is sometimes difficult to get them all out... trying to figure everything out is interesting, but also upsetting, and confusing, and (sometimes) seems a bit impossible.

A month or so ago, I wrote a journal entry, which was a rambling mind-walk through these thoughts... It was long... hours upon hours of stream of thought writing... going deep into philosophy and religion and self... I didn't publish it. I don't know if I want people to know the places that my thoughts can go. I have yet to complete it, although I may revisit it in time.

Still, I have a need to share... a feeling akin to admitting something aloud... a disclosure of sorts... or perhaps a confession.

I am still trying to work everything out. I feel like I am closer. But if you ask me about this writing in a week, or a month, or a year, I may have an entirely new perspective on everything... Which is to say... everything written here is simply a snapshot in time, at this instant, of my thought stream... and I can not know what thoughts and beliefs might or will change between now and any point in the future.

If by some odd series of events, you are drawn to quote me, or to refer to my ruminations to others, to me, or even to yourself, make it clear that this was the why and the when and the where... this, after all, is a journal entry... an exploration of one individual of his own thoughts and feelings.