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April 09, 2005

Very slick

The Oil Drum is a cool new academic blog and the latest addition to the Majikthise blogroll.

The authors describe their mission as follows:

Well, we're both pseudonymous bloggers. Heading Out is a senior faculty member in one of the energy production disciplines, and has been following the Peak Oil notion since the last crisis back in the 1970's. Prof. Goose is an assistant professor of political science who has been reading about peak oil for a few months voraciously. Both had been blogging the topic quite a bit in their respective venues until one day, it was decided that a greater effort could be accomplished together, and so became the Oil Drum.

We both see the petroleum economy as the fundamental lynchpin of our present democratic society. As cheap oil?energy/gas quietly fades into history, lives around the world will change. This real and tangible crisis of supply and demand is now inevitable. Whether it comes in six months or in four years, our purpose is the same: we are here to raise awareness of the reality of the current problem and to attempt to address the real issues that are often hidden by political pandering. What can be expected to happen as this crisis develops and unfolds? Stick around, because that's what we're going to talk about.

So, what is Peak Oil, exactly? I admit, I didn't know until I started reading Oil Drum.

Saint Bryan offers a succinct definition:

Peak Oil is an issue that refers to the point at which world oil production peaks and declines. This decline causes oil to become increasingly expensive and scarce will be a time punctuated with war, famine, and lots of death.

When they put it that way, I get all embarrassed about wasting time on pope trivia.


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» Peak Oil from Political Animal
PEAK OIL....Majikthise directs our attention today to The Oil Drum, a blog dedicated to the subject of peak oil. If you're interested in the subject, Land of Black Gold is another blog worth checking out. "Peak oil" refers to the... [Read More]

» Peak Oil from Political Animal
PEAK OIL....Majikthise directs our attention today to The Oil Drum, a blog dedicated to the subject of peak oil. If you're interested in the subject, Land of Black Gold is another blog worth checking out. "Peak oil" refers to the... [Read More]

» Peak oil from Random Notes
Well, conversations about peak oil are back in currency. The Oil Drum is a new weblog anchored around the idea that an energy crisis is inevitable - wheather it happens now or 5 years later is beside the point. It is run by two pseudonymous academics w... [Read More]

» Up next? $100 per barrel oil from SocraticGadfly
Actually, $105 is the called-for price by Goldman Sachs. Sachs says that price is what is needed to get Americans serious enough about oil prices to change their behavior. What Sachs doesn’t dwell on so much is that, due to various supply facto... [Read More]

» Peak Oil from WhirledView
by CKR Peak oil is a big issue. Google gave me 4,450,000 hits for those words. Kevin Drum and Majikthise have commented on it. There are numerous blogs and websites devoted entirely to the topic (metadirectory here). My old friend [Read More]

» Peak Oil from WhirledView
by CKR Peak oil is a big issue. Google gave me 4,450,000 hits for those words. Kevin Drum and Majikthise have commented on it. There are numerous blogs and websites devoted entirely to the topic (metadirectory here). My old friend [Read More]

» Peak Oil from WhirledView
by CKR Peak oil is a big issue. Google gave me 4,450,000 hits for those words. Kevin Drum and Majikthise have commented on it. There are numerous blogs and websites devoted entirely to the topic (metadirectory here). My old friend [Read More]


When they put it that way, I get all embarrassed about wasting time on pope trivia.

Need something to keep our minds off of it.

See also (via James Wolcott) this article in Rolling Stone.

yes, the Kunstler piece (the Rolling Stone article referenced above) can also be found over at The Energy Bulletin, which is a great source of energy news and links.

Thanks for the link and mention, Lindsay. I hope we can inform and educate folks on this issue, and perhaps soften the blow of the crisis that's coming...because whether peak oil is coming in six months or in a few years, we firmly believe that it *IS* coming...

James Woolsey, former CIA chief was on the tube asking Bush to rethink his energy strategy. He said that to remain foreign oil dependent was a serious danger to America.

The bulk of the worlds petroleum reserves were in the middle east and the region was too vulnerable to terrorist strikes and regime over-throws to have a garunteed stable oil supply.

He was extolling the virtues of hybrid cars and biomass diesel fuels as part of the solutions available to us now.

Now Woolsey was one of the most vocal advocates of the Iraq invasion and to hear him start sounding like Ralph Nader was a bit much. So I started surfing around and found... Peak Oil!

Cheney and Woolsey on Peak Oil

This is his piece in Energy User News:,2584,86387,00.html

It also puts Rice's recent remarks into perspective as well claiming that 25 nations are unstable and the US is preparing for intervention:

And lastly... Condi's slice of the pie:

So it sort of seems that Woolsey's not keen on invading more countries, but our Neocon oil barons are all for it.

So where are we going to get oil if not foreign where it happens to be found geologically? We don't have it here.

Short term it does come from foreign countries, but what Woolsey is advocating is energy conservation and alternative fuels now.

The CIA old guard has been warning for years that we were entering the era of "resource wars." Wars are however expensive and as Wolfowitz found out in Iraq... they don't pay for themselves.

If you look at the post on peak oil and go to the sites Amanda has posted you start to get the picture. Oil is a very finite resource.

The impact to the society is... well look around you and its just starting.

"When they put it that way, I get all embarrassed about wasting time on pope trivia."

Related trivia : how many tons of oil were used for the massive gathering of people in Rome this week ? How many tons of carbon dioxyde were put in the atmosphere because so many people just wanted to be there and view a corpse, and they had a cheap ability to do so ?

Woolsey is late to the party but it's sign of progress at least. From the looks of oil proces we're over the peak already. Look for a bumpy ride since most of us are dirt poor. That'll get worse.

The Rolling Stone article by Kunstler was pretty vague on why switching to nuclear power wouldn't be a reasonable option--pretty much the only comments it makes are in this paragraph:

If we wish to keep the lights on in America after 2020, we may indeed have to resort to nuclear power, with all its practical problems and eco-conundrums. Under optimal conditions, it could take ten years to get a new generation of nuclear power plants into operation, and the price may be beyond our means. Uranium is also a resource in finite supply. We are no closer to the more difficult project of atomic fusion, by the way, than we were in the 1970s.

OK, but ten years to get new plants in operation isn't all that long, the "eco-conundrums" associated with nuclear power are a lot more benign than global warming and other problems caused by fossil fuels (see this article advocating nuclear power by James Lovelock, creator of the 'Gaia Hypothesis', and this article by former Whole Earth Review editor Stewart Brand). And yes, Uranium is in "finite supply", but that doesn't tell us how long it'd take to use up that supply at current energy consumption rates--50 years? 100 years? 1000 years? As for fusion, this blog entry by Harvard physicist Lubos Motl says that the amount of power scientists have been able to get from fusion has jumped by about 14 orders of magnitude since Carter started funding fusion research, and that we're only about 2 orders of magnitude from the goal needed to start building viable fusion plants...I don't know if I completely trust Lubos as a source of info on this though, since he has some strong anti-global-warming views.

I remember that there was a very promising fusion reactor project code named shiva and then its big brother was to be Nova. It burned a dry form of hydrogen pellet hit with lasers. Carter funded it and Reagan killed the project.

It promised clean nuclear energy with no residue and one Nova was calculated to produce enough energy for 14 USAs. I don't know what ever became of it.

The problem with the present administration is that they are the old status quo paradigm, built on oil, getting oil, stealing oil, oil, oil, oil. The funds that could be spent on an alternative initiative are spent on wars to get.. oil. Stupidity at its finest and they can see no further than their own greed.

Fine, I've spent the last day researching peak oil.

Now I'm so depressed at the impending crash of the delightfully bloated lifestyle I've come to enjoy wallowing in, and the inevitable decline into a wretch shivering in a cave that I can barely move with the depression.

Shit. I've got to find an isolated farm to hole up in.

You could let your self get depressed... its understandable. But it would be better to write your congressmen and let them know that Bushes waste of time on "undoing the New Deal" is a waste of time and... energy.

What we should be doing is finding and funding new energy sources and technologies. Bush's only response so far is we need new oil... like ANWR drilling in the Alaskan wildlife preserve.

Which is just more Bushit... since geologist who did the surveys there tell us that there is hardly enough oil there to justify the expense and get a good return on their investment. NYT carried an article on this. Bush is such a putz!

Re : nuclear power

At the current consumption rate, uranium reserves could last more than 50 years.
But... with the current increase in world consumption, not.

And... apart from countries like France and Japan, big energy-hungry nations (first of them the US, and Australia, China...) rely on oil and gas for most of their needs (transportation, industry, even electricity). So if you switch all that to nuclear, and you are willing to take the risks (why not, we're desperate enough to send 1 500 people to die and kill 30 000 other people to get energy), the uranium supply will dwindle really fast.

At some point, lives will have to change. Rather than dreaming of how we will dodge the bullet for the next 5 or 10 years, maybe we can start the change now so that it's less painful.
- 1 : stop flying
- 2 : get a smaller, better insulated house where you don't have to commute
- other ideas ?

Not to belittle the subject, but all this is putting a damper on my will to get that 405hp 2006 GTO with the LS2 V8...

Anyway... As Carter said, and Congress followed...

Under ANILCA, much of the Refuge was designated as wilderness area, but NOT the coastal plain of ANWR. Rather, the Act set the coastal plain area aside for future consideration of the development of its vast oil resources. Current legislation calls for responsible development on no more than 2000 acres of the 1.5 million acre coastal plain. That's 0.01% of ANWR's total acreage of 19.6 million. The remaining 99.9% would remain off limits to development.

"This act of Congress strikes a balance between protecting areas of great beauty and value and allowing development of Alaska's vital oil and gas and mineral and timber resources... 95 percent of the potentially productive oil and mineral areas will be available for exploration or drilling... How to tap these resources is a challenge we can now face in the decade ahead."

-- President Jimmy Carter at the signing ceremony for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), December 2, 1980

To all the 'tree huggers', get off it. .01 percent? Considering the size of the reserve, most of the animals will never even bump into a drill rig. Not only that but "Coastal", meaning a few short roads, short pipelines.

Look, I'm all for protecting wildlife. But sometimes, that is out of hand. This is one of those times. Let them look, and actually find out via drilling. If the survey is accurate, and we start setting up to drill, look for the price of OPEC oil to drop to half or less. They wiil attempt to make it unprofitable to set up the oil rigs, and to transport the oil.

That is why you have companies backing out now. Fear of sudden price drops. Same thing that kills GW's Oil Company in the 80's. Sorry folks, got to be honest here. Truth be told, you can't plan to sell a product that cost $12.00 for $30.00, but then only be able to get $9.00... Not often defending GW, but in this case, he was hit with what all the Alaskan Bidderes fear. A sudden price drop!

In response to the Peak Oil definition:
It seems that the definition doesn't take into account remedies to the oil problem via technological advances. It doesn't seem the author has much faith in technology.
But should we? The main technological advances lately in this field is probably concentrated on developing machinery that gets oil and natural gas out of the ground quicker (especially considering oil companies might be tapping in hostile areas).
I have got to stop replying to these threads and get back to my work...

Sophie, thanks for the info on nuclear power. I also found this page which says that if we used all the reserves of uranium ore in the crust at a rate of ten terawatts a day (about the same rate the world consumes today), they would only last around ten years...but it also says that "breeder reactors could extend the amount of natural uranium by a factor of 100", unfortunately the price of that is that breeder reactors produce weapons-grade plutonium as waste. Still, this at least suggests it would be possible to avoid a drastic downgrade in the amount of power available to our civilization, as imagined in the Rolling Stone article.

Then I found this paper which argues that we are not actually due to use up the world's oil resources anytime soon, that there's a lot of oil that can be extracted from "unconventional oil resources such as tar sands and oil shales". The paper also says that uranium reserves could be greatly increased if we extracted it from sea water--the cost would be $1000 per lb., but the paper says that "this cost, although high compared to a 1983 market price of $40./lb, would add only 0.03 cents per kW-hr to the cost of generating electricity." I don't know much about the background of this paper though, it could be junk science (though it does come from a university website), but if so I'd be interested to know how other scientists would rebut these claims.

Readers of Stewart Brand's receint Technology Review article "Environmental Heresies" referenced above might be interested to know that Stewart Brand has recently endorsed a techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear power industry, written by a longtime nuclear engineer (me). This book provides an entertaining and accurate portrait of the nuclear industry today and how a nuclear accident would be handled. It is called “Rad Decision”, and is currently running as a serial at There is no cost to readers.

All sides of the nuclear power debate will find items to like, and dislike, within Rad Decision. I’m not sure myself what the future of nuclear energy should be. What I am sure of is that we will make better decisions if we understand what nuclear energy is right now.

If you find it valuable, as Mr. Brand did, I'd appreciate it if you would spread the word. The more readers I get, the better.


James Aach

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