Thursday, April 29, 2010

Living After the Oil Peak

Many leading geologists and scientists agree that the world oil production peak has recently been reached and that the world oil production downward trend is about to begin over the next year or two. Oil, natural gas and coal are finite resources of energy. They were formed 500 million years ago and are found deep in the ground. The past 100 or so years humans have managed to pull half of it out. The remaining half of the oil will take more energy to extract and take more energy to refine into usable fuel. Oil produces enormous amounts of portable energy. One gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 600 hours of manual labor. The discovery of significant oil wells around the world peaked during the 1960’s. During the past several years the world has been stuck on only being able to produce an average of 85 million barrels a day. The greatest amount ever pulled from the earth happened in July 2006 when the world pulled 85.4 million barrels a day. The United States has the most energy intensive lifestyle in the world. The world will need an ever increasing amount as China and other countries try to construct and replicate our oil intensive way of life. OPEC soon will no longer be able to meet the increased demand by opening their oil tap as their enormous oil wells hit their peaks. The Saudi’s have resorted to pumping millions of gallons of seawater a day into their wells in order to keep up their production and keep their wells pressurized. The United States represents only 5% of the world’s population and consumes 25% of the world’s oil. We also use 33% of all the automobiles in the world or 200 million of the 600 million vehicles. We consume 21 million barrels a day out of the world’s 85 million barrel daily allotment. We extract only 8.5 million barrels a day from our own ground. ANWR or the Artic National Wildlife Reserve, when fully tapped, will only provide the U.S. with about a year worth of oil. Wars will be fought over protection of oil fields in the Middle East where 60% of the worlds remaining oil lies in the ground. The 19 military bases in the Middle East may be involved in the future protection of those oil fields. We will have to compete with China, India and Russia for that remaining oil as they try to build the oil economy of our western world. Many of the insurgents in the Middle East know we are there to eventually take control or safeguard their oil so it can be rationed out fairly in the future which may or may not include them. The U.S. may have to square off against Russia over the oil under the polar ice cap as they have laid claim to over 450,000 square miles of the Artic seabed. The world’s population explosion has followed closely the explosion in oil production the past 100 years. The current population of 6.8 billion people happened as a result of cheap oil being available. This population will soon overshoot the carrying capacity of the planet as we move down from the oil peak plateau. A progressive decreased population the next several decades must occur in order for the population to adjust to the energy resources of the times. Many scientists project a population overshoot swelling to around 8 billion the next decade followed by a reduction down to 2 billion all during the next 70 years. Natural gas has its own shortages as the United States relies heavily on Canada for its natural gas. Two thirds of Canada’s natural gas gets sent to the United States. Russia is the main supplier in Europe. Natural gas is used in huge amounts to make fertilizers for our farmlands so we can eat. All the alternative energy sources, wind, solar etc. combined will not make up for the shortfall in oil. That is something that most people can’t understand. Technology will not solve the energy shortfall either as it is not an actual source of energy. Hydrogen is a carrier of energy not an actual easy to make source because you need energy to make the actual Hydrogen. Mining coal takes more and more energy as you go deeper into the ground. Each year in the U.S. a ton of coal yields less energy than the previous year. Utilizing our coal reserves will only put a small dent in the shortfall in oil unless we want to choke our atmosphere with mercury and other pollutants. China is building a new coal fired power plant every week, we aren’t. Replacing our cropland with Ethanol is not a solution because the energy you get from Ethanol does not exceed the energy you put in to make it. You also lose valuable land to make food. Nuclear acceptance, waste storage, safety and long timeframes to completion are all nuclear power issues. Nuclear plants need to be opening every month now, not 10 years from now. Most everything we own, see, touch or use comes from the use of cheap oil. Our entire suburban system was built and is maintained with cheap oil. Most all of our foods, goods and services are made using oil and then shipped and transported using oil via trucking. The demand and price of oil will continue to rise as we move past the peak or heyday of the industrial revolution. The government or media are hesitant to talk about the issue so people won’t find out until it’s too late as it would trigger the inevitable global market depression. Since our lifestyle relies on readily available cheap oil, a drastic lifestyle adjustment must occur to adapt to the lower energy resources of the future. This is a snapshot of what life may look like during the years 2012 to 2020 after the reality has hit the populace and we are living after the oil peak. Extremely wealthy people will be able to purchase energy resources and will be the last to have to make changes. However, the world they live in may be different.
The oil fed growth engine the global economy relied on died as soon as the world realized that peak oil is happening and is real. This caused an instant permanent global stock market crash. Debt ridden Americans who sank all their wealth in their homes find out their suburban homes are worthless and suffer the worst because they are too costly to maintain, heat and live in. The government lowered the gasoline ration from 10 gallons per week to 8. Panic at the pumps once again. Gas hovers between $11 and $12 per gallon as the government can no longer afford to subsidize the oil companies to keep our gas prices low. Everything skyrockets in price since everything is tied to oil. A candle for lighting costs $6, a bag of locally grown salad $7 while getting a new tire for your bicycle will set you back a painful $200. Beer and wine are homemade now and can be traded for with food within your neighborhood. 2,200 died in Iran last month as the battle over their biggest oil field continued. China’s rapidly built military proved too much for the U.S. military as they overtook the great fields of Saudi Arabia. Our country is living on oil fumes or about 11 million barrels a day or half the amount of the good old days. We seized control of the Venezuelan heavy oil field but they yield very little net energy since it is all heavy sour oil. ANWR is finally coming on line but they say it will have no noticeable impact to our dwindling oil supply. The government focuses most of the remaining oil supply on hospitals, police and the construction of alternative energies such as wind and solar in hopes to salvage part of the energy grid. The country transferred its remaining wealth into the few alternative energy hopes of the future, mainly wind and solar. The influx of money into alternatives made the boom seem like nothing. Those who invested in these alternatives before the oil peak became the new ultra rich reaping millions in profits. They armed their homes with ultra-expensive solar shingles and 40 foot wind turbines. They drive the latest plug-in hybrids that get 80 m.p.g. while the masses ride bicycles to town to scrounge and barter for a head of locally grown lettuce and rabbit meat. The globalization that could only function on cheap oil to ship the goods to us from 12,000 miles away destroyed the big box stores and shopping malls. Any national chain that relied on its goods being transported from other parts of the U.S. had to close. Fast food chains and supermarkets closed. Farmers markets are back, obesity rates plummeting, and illegal drug use all but disappeared. The drug dealers now control the vegetable seed market. Children grow up with both parents home and can rarely watch television. Kids reading scores skyrocket. People in the suburbs either can’t commute to work or their company closed. Inflation has been running at 15% a year with no end in sight. The electrical grid isn’t able to handle rotating blackouts because it is old and wasn’t designed to do that. 5 day regional blackouts are common. The reality hits the American spirit hard. The SUV, high maintenance, bar hopping crowd stayed in denial the longest until they went flat broke trying to fill their inefficient lifestyles to the very end. Rampant depression hit them the hardest. Most people don’t work anymore in the traditional sense. Those that fared the best have psychologically accepted that it isn’t the oil companies or anyone else’s fault but our own oil addicted based society. Everything became localized at the town level but only if there were natural resources such as water and farmable land. The turnouts at town meetings are huge. The hot topics at the town meetings are; obtaining more land for farming, allowing wind turbines on any sized lot, voting whether to have school services end at the 8th grade and adding more public horse drawn trolleys. The old rural New England towns are now bustling centers of barter for survival goods and services. Rail towns outside of cities are where the wealthy live. The local farmer is the CEO of his time. People in the direct suburbs of major cities abandoned their McMansions that became worthless inefficient boxes to live in. Swarms left the skyscraper cities because they couldn’t be powered properly. Those people took over the abandoned suburbs. People of the wealthy suburbs outside of major cities can’t believe how quickly the suburbs transformed into the slums of the future. Regional anarchy ensues over natural resources. Guns are commonplace. The family focuses on shelter, water, and food. Learning to plant a vegetable garden and jarring the food becomes a ticket to making it another year. Discussions with your neighbor evolve around how to collect surface water safely for drinking, how to build an outdoor latrine, and which animal fats make better candles. The south and southwest didn’t fare as well. They didn’t have the cheap oil to divert their water, irrigate and fertilize their land. Massive migrations north ensued from these states. Houses begin needing massive repairs. The abandoned big box stores, restaurant chains and strip malls become scavenger yards for construction materials. The cottage industry takes off in New England as fixing and repairing things becomes a marquee vocational profession. Clothing making, tool building, teaching locally, wood working and farming become the top vocational choices of the future…..

Many geologists and scientists believe that we are at the peak in global oil production. Hopefully all of them are wrong..



  1. Hello, I found your Youtube videos from your link in the comments at Guy McPherson's website.

    I have viewed them, and it appears you view collapse differently than he does. Your changes, though admirable, seem to assume that food will still be available in the stores, water will still be coming through the taps, and the power company will be continuing to produce electricity. Guy expressly denies this. If we lose these advantages, do you think you would be able to survive in your home as presently constituted? If you plan to grow more food in the future, how will you meet protein and carbohydrate needs? Plants, though nutritious, are low in these essentials. You seem to be comfortable with a six-month emergency supply, as stated in your videos, but that implies that the stores will reopen after six months; why do you feel confident of that?

    Broadly stated, you seem to be anticipating a soft crash over many years, whereas Guy is convinced of an imminent hard crash, which of course presents very different challenges. I don't see how your preparations will help you if the truly dystopian world Guy is predicting actually comes to pass. If you disagree with Guy's vision of the future, why?

    I'm trying to navigate my own way through these times (on very little money), so I'd be open to your expert response. I enjoyed your videos and thank you for making them available to the public.



  2. Jeremy, Many people have differing views of what might or might not happen....Of course no one can prepare for everything but we can all be "better" prepared than most despite what actually happens etc...the best way for you to prepare if short of funds is to learn to live an enriched life as if you are a poor graduate/college mobile, learn various skills, build community connections with various people that will help you get through the difficult times regardless of how things will play out...

  3. Dear Mr EnergyCzar,

    How did you prioritize your 10 year plan and how did you determine which changes to make first?

    Did you make the energy savings changes first, so you could direct the money you save into purchasing what you need? or was it making invisible changes i.e. laundry spinner before larger behviourial changes? Thanks.