Powerdown: has it started?

9 11 2014

When I first discovered Peak Oil all those years ago (is it 14 already?) I got most of my information from Richard Heinberg’s groundbreaking books (at the time), “The Party’s Over”, and “Powerdown”.

Published a whole ten years ago, Richard wrote on his website “If the US continues with its current policies, the next decades will be marked by war, economic collapse, and environmental catastrophe. Resource depletion and population pressures are about to catch up with us, and no one is prepared. The political elites, especially in the US, are incapable of dealing with the situation and have in mind a punishing game of “Last One Standing.”The alternative is “Powerdown,” a strategy that will require tremendous effort and economic sacrifice in order to reduce per-capita resource usage in wealthy countries, develop alternative energy sources, distribute resources more equitably, and reduce the human population humanely but systematically over time. While civil society organizations push for a mild version of this, the vast majority of the world’s people are in the dark, not understanding the challenges ahead, nor the options realistically available.”

Today, the price of oil has fallen to around $78 a barrel, something that seemed unimaginable even three months ago… What on Earth is going on?  All my usual sources for information on these matters have been abuzz with theories, theories like the Americans and the Saudis have linked up arms to sink the Russians who need oil (like almost everybody else!) above $100 a barrel to stay afloat, and punish them over the Ukrainian crisis.  Then, another theory came up that the Saudis were feeling threatened by the rising amounts of shale oil coming out of the US, no matter that it is both financially and energetically unviable.  Demand for oil has fallen, so why are the Saudis flooding the market with cheap oil?  Are they trying to sink both the Russians and the Americans?  Rumours also abound that if the Saudis are not careful, and the resulting drop in revenue from selling oil at cost or maybe even below results in economic problems for their country, a revolution could even occur in Arabia.  Such are the religious tensions in the Middle East, that I have frankly given up trying to predict what will happen next.

If the Saudis are attempting to sink the US shale oil industry, it is starting to work as the shale-oil drilling boom is showing early signs of cracking.  Rigs targeting oil, according to Bloomberg, sank by 14 to 1,568 this week, the lowest since Aug. 22, Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) said yesterday. The Eagle Ford shale formation in south Texas lost the most, dropping nine to 197. The nation’s oil rig count is down from a peak of 1,609 on Oct. 10.

Drillers are slowing down as crude prices tumbled 24 percent in the past four months. Transocean Ltd. (RIG) said yesterday that its earnings would take a hit by a drop in fees and demand for its rigs. The slide threatens to curb a production boom in U.S. shale formations that has helped bring prices at the pump below $3 a gallon for the first time since 2010 and shrink the nation’s dependence on foreign oil imports.

“We are officially seeing the slowdown in oil drilling,” James Williams, president of energy consulting company WTRG Economics, said by telephone from London, Arkansas, yesterday. “There’s no doubt about it now. We’re already down 49 rigs since the peak in October. It’ll have fallen by more than 100 rigs by the end of year.”

Then, we have coal fired power stations closing down in Australia…..  Business Spectator reported that “Receivers KordaMentha have announced that the 151 megawatt Redbank Coal Power station, in NSW, will be shut down, prompting the question as to whether Anglesea coal power station in Victoria, which Alcoa is looking to offload, will be next.”  This, at a time coal is as cheap as chips, and electricity the dearest it has ever been……  what is going on?

To top it off, ABC TV’s 7.30 program recently aired a fairly extensive item regarding Australia’s oil security that had me almost falling off my chair.  “After steadily cutting domestic oil production and refining, Australia is now more than 90 per cent dependent on oil imports mainly from the Middle East.”  Yeah right…..  we’ve been cutting domestic oil production.  Why would we do that?  Why can’t anyone in mainstream media utter the words “Peak Oil”?

The fact more than 50% of our oil comes through the Strait of Hormuz is news to me also.  It wasn’t that long ago, Vietnam was our biggest supplier, then it was New Zealand (no, you are reading this right!) and obviously something momentous occurred in those countries, and I suspect it’s called the Export Land Model

We used to import a lot of oil from Indonesia.  It was even a member of OPEC.  But once it could no longer export oil, it could no longer be a member of an export cartel, and we had to look elsewhere (check out the red bit at the bottom RH of the Indonesian graph…. that is IMPORT!).  So we in Australia started importing oil from Vietnam, but it too hit the ELM wall, so we started importing from NZ (which frankly amazed me at the time) but it seems NZ must have also hit the wall.  Egypt, one of my favourite ELM examples is now in chaos as it starts to collapse.  The more oil producing nations hit this wall, the more precarious everyone’s oil supplies become, and Australia is no different.  We are running out of countries to import from..

Richard Heinberg’s Powerdown was offered up as a planned descent mechanism.  Nothing about what we are currently seeing is planned.  There can be no other outcome to lack of vision and planning, and that’s chaos, and we could see it happening very soon, maybe even within two short years….




12 responses

9 11 2014

more unsupported fear hype, might as well run around being chicken little’s pronouncing the sky is falling, like I said if you want people to believe this hype hen show us the alternative, for powering vehicles let alone homes.

9 11 2014

Numerous linked references and graphs abound, but poor old Bev still can’t grasp our collective predicament… at least that is (it seems), not until somebody conjours up a magical new solution to keep the circus going somehow.

News flash Bev… believe the “hype” or not, but humans have spent the vast majority of our time on earth without “powering vehicles let alone homes”. And per the various issues mentioned above, the Power Down is inevitable and is your only “alternative”. It’s just a matter of time and how well (or poorly) prepared we are for it.

9 11 2014

oh! ten years from now the same thing will be being said

9 11 2014
Dr Bob Rich

>There can be no other outcome to lack of vision and planning, and that’s chaos, and we could see it happening very soon, maybe even within two short years.

Spot on. This is one of the many threatening tipping points. We stagger along, and all it takes is a few mis-steps one after the other. See “How to predict disaster,” http://wp.me/P3Xihq-aQ


9 11 2014

Bev, I hate to say it but the alternative will be NO vehicles. Shanks pony, horse, pony or mule, oxen perhaps? There is no long term utopia of a world running on clean green energy as the technology is simply not in play today. You say we will be saying the same thing in 10 years? I’ve been hearing that technology will fix all our problems for years too. Still waiting. As for powering your home, get ready for wood fired cooking and heating, candlelight or simply daylight. IF you can get hold of any wood and have access to tallow (no petroleum based candles either).. Start stockpiling now.
Mike, thanks for the heads up about the tipping point being here and now. If Australia is scrambling around, scratching for oil from here, there and wherever it can be found then things are dire indeed.

9 11 2014

I’m not a greenhorn in a energy debate and i’m deeply green hearted, leaning towards sustainability but the sceptical part of my engeenier soul whispers me to keep abreast with developements in the field of cold fusion as it may be the chance to give ppl time for transition.

Could any of you point here out some pro/contra sources of info on the subject

10 11 2014

Personally, I would be VERY concerned if cold fusion (or any fusion) is developed as it would give us enough energy to finish the planet off….

Had we shown ANY sense about using vast amounts of energy wisely in the past, I’d say go for it, but now we have no choice but to powerdown before it’s too late, and that’s IF it’s not too late already.

My attitude to ‘fusion’ is that it’s been ‘fifty years from now’ for fifty years, and that it will stay that way……

10 11 2014
Chris Harries

Gosh, cold fusion is the last technology that I would pin hopes on. It’s a total charade. The reason you don’t hear of it any more is that it has been debunked.

That said, even though I’m one agreeing that we’ve overshot tipping points and have to face the music, there is still a need to know what technologies may have relevance in the aftermath of the big ‘correction’. It’s not like it’s possible to go back to a totally non technological agrarian society and whatever energy we (our progeny) do use it has to be very elegant and genuinely sustainable… insofar as any technology can be.

12 11 2014

Damn you, Damn the Matrix! You sucker me in here with laughs and then you feed me this downer!

13 11 2014

Dave Kimble had some difficulties posting thios information here, so I am passing this on for him…

Australian Petroleum Statistics for August 2014 (latest) in Table 4A shows the country of origin of all quantities of petroleum products, from Crude Oil, to petrol, diesel, Natural Gas, LPG, etc.

It shows that the only oil passing through the Straits of Hormuz comes from UAE, and is 15% of our imports. Our biggest suppliers of Crude Oil in order are Malaysia, UAE, PNG, Indonesia, Vietnam, Nigeria, New Zealand, Gabon. These monthly figures vary, with Russia regularly getting on to the list of Crude Oil suppliers.

Singapore is the main supplier of Automotive Gasoline, Aviation Turbine fuel and Diesel. They are a big refiners themselves, but also broker supplies from other countries.

Australia’s oil production is still in decline. The August figure is equivalent to 210 kbpd, 25% of our peak in 2000:

Our refining capacity is in decline too, for economic reasons. We are totally committed to globalisation, so resilience to disruptions is not an issue for Government. Our oil production is in any case insufficient for our consumption – the only year we ever extracted enough oil to meet our demands was in 1986.

13 11 2014
Chris Harries

Has powerdown started? Today’s momentous news about the US / China climate accord is obviously good news, but look how it’s being dressed up:

Obama argues: “a low-carbon, clean-energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come”.

The joint US-Chinese statement says: “economic evidence makes increasingly clear that smart action on climate change now can drive innovation, strengthen economic growth and bring broad benefits”.

The above article is about oil, but it’s also about about powering down being real. Yesterday Australian journalists were quick to suggest that China would look to switching to ‘low-emission’ LNG from Australia, to replace coal imports.

One step forward, two steps back. Powering forward using dubious rhetoric and resources.

27 12 2014

bev… sigh.

As you are writing here about Australia, you forget that the US is devastating (with the help of Germany and others) one country after another in old Europe. No wonder consumption goes down here to compensate the expanding grid in Asia.

The areas you have to wonder about are the two areas under the two graphs, first the power down in Europe and the power up in Asia. That is why there are ever more “10 years left” of BAU. For those still in the loop. See e.g. newly sold cars around the world.

So much for trolls, but there may be readers wondering about his question.

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