The Peak Oil Election

6 12 2016

The fact is that because oil production cannot be increased, economic growth is now over. Donald Trump’s promise to bring back coal production, increase all fossil fuel extraction and rebuild manufacturing are simply not going to happen, not because of Trump but because policy is no longer in charge. From now on, geology and physics call the shots.

 

The peak for conventional crude production arrived between 2008 and 2011. It seems that we passed the peak for “all liquids” in 2015, even though it will take some more time to be sure that an irreversible decline trend has started. Of course, reaching the peak has generated a vehement denial that the peak even exists. In this article, Eugene Marner comments on how and why the presidential elections completely ignored the hard facts of the declining net energy supply from fossil fuels.  (Image from “The Victory Report“)

Republished from Ugo Bardi’s excellent blog……..

From  The Daily Star, by Eugene Marner

Here in the USA, we held an election recently that left most surprised, many dismayed, and many others eager to explain what happened, why it happened and what we do now. Lots of deep thinking and heavy breathing have gone into those analyses and I don’t mean to compete here with students of history and politics. I would, however, like to offer what I think may be an important part of the context for recent events, a context that is defined and enforced by geology and physics. I suggest that the election of 2016 can be called the Peak Oil Election, although the issue certainly never came up in public.

Back in November 2000, The Daily Star published a guest commentary in which I wrote about peak oil, the moment when global production of oil reaches its maximum and starts its inevitable decline. I had hoped to rouse people to think about the grave consequences that would ensue when oil, the key resource that fuels and supports our civilization, is no longer widely and cheaply available. Clearly that didn’t work very well, as most people still don’t have any idea what peak oil means, much less that its consequences are unfolding around us right now. No doubt our media, always complicit in a corporate agenda (oil companies are big advertisers), have not done much to inform the public but, more alarming than the blithe disregard of the population at large, is the apparently total cluelessness of both the two major presidential candidates and most of their advisers and entourages as well as the Congress. The Army Corps of Engineers issued a report back in September 2005 called Energy Trends and Implications for U.S. Army Installations that sounded the alarm about peak oil coming soon but that didn’t get much attention, either.

The economy is widely acknowledged to be the critical factor in most elections. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, like most politicians everywhere, talked and continue to talk about “economic growth.” Voters can forgive scandals, bigotry, nastiness, stupidity and just about everything else but, when they see their standard of living falling, their jobs vanishing, their children with no future (and sometimes with nothing to eat), they blame politicians, rightly or wrongly. Politicians usually pretend to have solutions that almost always involve some path or other to “growth.”

Although none of us alive today can remember a time when economic growth was not part of our expectation for the future, such growth has only been conceived of for about the last 200 years. Until fossil fuels became the energy that powered the Industrial Revolution, economies grew by making war on their neighbors and taking their wealth. That was the stuff of history: empires rose on the principal of capturing territory and exacting tribute and eventually collapsed under the weight of their military costs and the expense of hauling all the loot back home.

Europeans had nearly exhausted the resources of their corner of the Eurasian landmass when Columbus came upon what was called the New World. Of course, it was just as old as every other place and, contrary to the persistent mythology, was not empty but chock full of animals, plants and, yes, many millions of human beings living in complex cultures. For the next three centuries, first the Spanish and Portuguese and, soon after, the Dutch, French and English crossed the Atlantic to subdue, conquer, and kill off the inhabitants in order, in traditional imperial fashion, to steal their stuff. Europe became rich again. That was how growth was done before about 1800 and the beginning of the fossil fuel age.

From the beginning of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was powered by coal, which was dirty but had much higher energy content than wood and charcoal, the main fuels that humans had used until then. In 1859, a hustler who called himself “Colonel” Edwin Drake drilled the first commercially viable oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania and the petroleum age began. Oil is an incomparable fuel: at the beginning it was easily extracted, easily transported and, best of all, a single gallon of oil contains as much energy as a fit man working hard for three months or about 700 men working for an hour. One gallon. That huge amount of energy suddenly available is what gave rise to what we now call “economic growth.” More production and consumption requires more energy inputs and oil made it possible. But on a finite planet, nothing can go on forever and, by the 1960s, oil companies were finding less new oil each year than we were burning. Thus, about 40 years later, peak oil. Coal and gas will continue to be available for a while, but both will start to decline within a decade or two. Both already have serious financial problems, and neither one can do what oil does.

Let me return to why I called this the Peak Oil Election. Neither candidate spoke about it. Perhaps they don’t know about it. Or if they do, don’t want to believe it. Or maybe no politician can get elected by promising that the economy will continue to contract and energy supplies become ever scarcer. It was the Peak Oil Election because peak oil defeated both of them. Without increasing energy consumption, there can be no economic growth and, without increasing supplies, there can be no increase in energy consumption. The so-called renewables are hopelessly dependent upon fossil fuels for manufacture, installation and maintenance and are much less energy-intensive than fossil fuels.

The fact is that because oil production cannot be increased, economic growth is now over. Donald Trump’s promise to bring back coal production, increase all fossil fuel extraction and rebuild manufacturing are simply not going to happen, not because of Trump but because policy is no longer in charge. From now on, geology and physics call the shots. The remaining oil is too expensive to get to and extract. Oil companies can’t make a profit at a price that customers in a contracting economy can afford to pay. The growth game is finished as will be soon the multitude of financial frauds that, starting with the peak of United States oil production in 1970, have come to comprise much of our economy.

We need a new sort of politics and economy: local, cooperative, community-based, low-energy, conservationist, non-polluting, an economy that sustainably supports biological needs and health, rather than pursuing riches. I don’t think any politicians are going to do that for us; we need to do it for ourselves.

In Genesis 3:19, God instructs Adam that his punishment for disobedience will be “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Apparently, humans didn’t like that very much, as all of history reveals them trying to get around that decree by any means possible: forcing others to do the work (slavery), getting rich and hiring others to do the work (wage slavery), or by burning oil (energy slavery). The time is here again for community cooperation, for low-tech solutions like the power of oxen, horses and mules, for relatively inexpensive simple technologies that can be made locally, like hoes, scythes, and pitchforks, and for the sweat of our faces. This isn’t a matter of virtue but of necessity; a simpler life is coming whether or not we choose to embrace it.

Eugene Marner lives in Franklin.

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24 responses

6 12 2016
Eclipse Now

New EV’s are about 1% of all car sales. This is gradually changing. The moment peak oil really hits, the clean energy curve will finally overtake the fossil energy curve. No sane peak oiler talks about oil disappearing overnight: there will be plenty of energy to make the leap to a mix of renewables and nuclear. Just adopting car-sharing apps will double, triple, or quadruple oil energy efficiency, depending on how many people we cram into cars going the same way.

Just remember: at one stage electric light bulbs were only 1% of the market gradually replacing gas and oil lamps, and because they were so good, they gradually became ubiquitous. Over 80% of the electricity required to charge today’s fleet already exists on today’s grids, with HALF charging on otherwise wasted electricity at night.

If emergency legislation declared all cars would be EV’s moving forward, the fleet would be replaced in 16 years with natural attrition and replacement. We have *far* more than 16 years oil left… and yes I know that the second half of the oil age is more expensive and difficult to get at, blah blah blah. But exactly how much oil is left in America alone? It’s *staggering*.

Oil can be replaced with EV’s, trains & trams & trolley buses, boron, hydrogen, synfuels, etc. It’s already happening.

6 12 2016
mikestasse

Just remember: at one stage electric light bulbs were only 1% of the market gradually replacing gas and oil lamps, and because they were so good, they gradually became ubiquitous.

They became ubiquitous because fossil fuels did a far better job! And fossil gas isn’t poisonous, unlike town gas……..

New EV’s are about 1% of all car sales. This is gradually changing. The moment peak oil really hits

The moment peak oil really hits, manufacturing will end……. and YOU forget that originally, most cars were electric. The re was a good reason IC cars took over…. they are much better!

6 12 2016
Bill Boyer

This is an excellent explanation (last piece of the puzzle) of what I have been trying to understand for years! The description of how humans, through the organization of countries, have created wealth, now, completely makes sense to me. Thank you, for putting the last piece of the puzzle in place for me.

I fell into researching energy and power 20 years ago, while teaching a high school class, which required me to explore “energy and power” to knowledgeably teach the subject. I first discovered what crude oil is and how it is used in just about everything we do and make, especially its use as our energy source. I also, became aware of other fossil fuel’s key role in producing electricity and manufacturing, and finally, it’s importance to food production with the “green revolution”. Capitalism makes total sense under these conditions of seemingly cheap energy. I can now with full confidence understand why, “The party is over”!
Additionally, I totally agree with the statement, “We need a new sort of politics and economy: local, cooperative, community-based, low-energy, conservationist, non-polluting, an economy that sustainably supports biological needs and health, rather than pursuing riches. I don’t think any politicians are going to do that for us; we need to do it for ourselves.”

I believe people must develop the skill of being “self employed” in order to stay a productive part of a community that works. Grow food sustainably in small “people” manageable plots, develop cooking skills, sewing, carpentry, all time honored crafts will be par for the course. Cottage industry will be the businesses of the future. It will be great, if we can manage it with our “eyes wide open”.

My lesson plans will now include this new insight which will allow all the other previous knowledge to be relevant.

Now, all I have to deal with is this “elephant in the room” called climate change.

7 12 2016
MargfromTassie
7 12 2016
Bill Boyer

Thank you very much ! I especially look forward to spending time at “thesimplerway” site. In a couple of years I will be retiring to some sort of system like this, if I can get it established in my community.

7 12 2016
MargfromTassie

Wikipedia has excellent summaries of Steady State Economy and Degrowth. Also check out the writings of Ted Trainer of The Simplicity Institute, whose many writings include descriptions of what daily life would be like under these economies.

8 12 2016
Chris Harries

Steady state economic theories and degrowth are along the lines that we have to think – asymptotic growth being at the nub of the human condition. However, those theories hit a brick wall when we look at the global economy, utterly underpinned by economic growth. If growth goes into negative, that great bubble in the sky goes BANG very loudly and the global economy, as we know it, goes down the gurgler very quickly.

That all may sound good, in a way, but it spells massive hardship and chaos for most of humanity. There’s no other way, unfortunately, as you say in your later Post, Margie. We can either bring it on or wait for it to happen – but happen it will.

We have no control over what will happen when, and how, and where. We can only surmise all that. Trying to escaped and defend oneself is questionable from a practical and moral perspectives. Building local resilience probably offers the best overall defence.

7 12 2016
EtyerePetyere

Except there will be no oxcart utopia and the 7,5B people kept alive by the surplus power of fossil fuels will not lay down and die peacefully . Oxcart utopia and subsistence farm practices will not do . That`s a fairy-tale Just as much of an outlandish idea as mr Eclipse Now with his 1% ev penetration (which is not ) delusion .

7 12 2016
Bill Boyer

We cannot save the whole world, you are right. The trick is to survive long enough, staying away from war torn areas, that when the dust settles these “utopian”communities can begin to prosper. Again, if climate change is not too far advanced. Humans survived well enough in the distant past and even now in secluded tribes, to prove that we could do it again.

8 12 2016
EtyerePetyere

regressing into some sort of a subsistence lifestyle and economy could be an option the world has never done that . Up until now even if there was a collapse people just moved maybe another place and picked up where they have left of . Now it is different . You cant just pick up and start building an industrial infrastructure etc (although it was done with the rebuilding of Europe after the wars ) because now the fundamentals are missing even now from a stagnating but sort of stable stage we cant even proceed into just growth . What Trump is hallucinating about . How will you proceed with no energy no resources and than the climate . So this time it is absolutely unique .And worst at the same time .i cant see but a “Mad max” scenario

7 12 2016
MargfromTassie

Sorry for the double post earlier.
Yes, the sad truth is that millions of humans will need to die if the natural environment, wilderness and a broad diversity of other species have any hope of surviving.

8 12 2016
EtyerePetyere

Billions . All the billions down to a few million in the single digits

8 12 2016
EtyerePetyere

As of going back to some early-er times reconstructing the “Good ol” days i have a song . Grateful Dead – The Wheel http://www.lyricsfreak.com/g/grateful+dead/the+wheel_20062503.html

9 12 2016
Boiiboy

In response to: “We have no control over what will happen when, and how, and where. We can only surmise all that. Trying to escaped and defend oneself is questionable from a practical and moral perspectives. Building local resilience probably offers the best overall defence.”

I have gleaned a lot of information and comments from many people on blog sites like this, relatives including my father, friends, formal education and anywhere else I find it, through my quiet attention. Both science and spirituality have their perspectives on mankind’s fate.
Human history seems to indicate we still have not gotten our “act” together. (As evidenced by current events) Our political, economic, education or religious controls have proven NOT to be the answer to prevent the evils that we have created.
Objectively, there are billions of genetic combinations that physically create different human beings and then subjectively, every human being experiences different inputs throughout their lives. We all have unique “bubbles”, “matrixes”, “realities”, “shells” whatever you want to call your personality. Whenever someone tries to control your personality, someone losses. Big time losses when a large system tries to control large populations. It seems impossible to create a system that works for everyone when everyone has such unique perspectives on reality. What model can work for us ?

My biggest insight came a few years ago, when it was brought to my attention that the concept of “survival of the fittest” from Charles Darwin’s research does not mean, the strongest creature has the advantage to survive. Rather, “survival of the fittest” means the creature that “fits into a system” will function well (survive and prosper) within that system. Nature (Gaia) seems to work well, it has survived for billons of years and will be here when we are gone, I’m sure. It seems we need to pay attention to how nature operates. We need to fit into the natural world not try to control or use up natural resources for our greedy needs. We need to respect every aspect of the natural world for every unique element of its functionality.

Small scale communities that fit well into the local environment seem to offer the best model for survival and potential success. I am involved in growing a local economy through a business model that a group of us have established a few years ago http://www.localrootswooster.com/ . I know it is only a first step toward a system that might work, but we have to do something. This model has gotten attention from other groups that have been inspired to start a similar business model in Michigan and Kentucky. We have been positively recognized by the USDA, the state of Ohio and national publications. It is just a start, but worth wedging into the current capitalist system in order to make some positive changes.
At this point in time, the large systems will only continue to fail to recognize individual talents that “fit” into humanity. We need to develop small resilient economies. Instead of : ” It’s every man for himself” is can be “make you community fit”

1 01 2017
Bobbing Around Volume 16 Number 7 | Bobbing Around

[…] Mike Stasse has reproduced an essay by Eugene Marner titled “The Peak Oil Election.” […]

5 01 2017
Eclipse Now

I’m not going to use an expression I used to hate. “The stone age didn’t end for a lack of stones.”
Ford’s putting $4.5 BILLION into EV’s
https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/robot-evs-are-just-happening/

But note: not just EV’s, but Automated EV’s. Robot Electric! Why is that a big deal? It might mean the end of individual car ownership for the masses, and result in a planet of only 200 Million cars, not 2 Billion cars! If every car is a super-cheap taxi cab because you no longer have to pay the driver’s salary and it costs about 10% the cost of hiring a cab now, why would anyone ever buy a car again? Governments could solve traffic by increasing trains, trams, and trolley-buses and having Robot-cabs take up the slack. When you only have to build a tenth the cars, solving peak oil will be EASY!
“A robotic electric car could displace the usage of ten regular vehicles. This will also reduce the supply chain ramp-up burden. Instead of needing to make 2 billion electric vehicles, 200 million robotic ride sharing vehicles would have the same displacement effect. Only 80 gigafactories instead of 800 would be needed to generate the displacement effect,”
http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/01/robotic-ride-sharing-electric-vehicles.html

But that’s not all folks. Maybe in European countries they might get it down to about 10%, but what if in America they’re just too addicted to their cars? What if, say, only the poor decide not to buy their own? Let’s guess that maybe America only reduces it’s car fleet to half today’s fleet. According to NREL, most of that could charge on spare electricity at night!
https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/recharge/

Don’t hate me Mike, I’m only the message bearer.

5 01 2017
Eclipse Now

Hi Mike, could you please delete my last comment as the writing was clunky. This next one is clearer. Thanks.

5 01 2017
Eclipse Now

Ford’s putting $4.5 BILLION into EV’s
https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/2017/01/05/robot-evs-are-just-happening/

But not just ordinary EV’s, Automated EV’s are in there as well. Robot Electric vehicles! Why is that a big deal? Only the fact that it might put every cab and truck driver in the world out of business as hiring a taxi cab drops to 10% of today’s prices! Why would any normal commuter ever buy a car again? Maybe tradesmen will still buy their own vehicles, but the rest of us probably will not have to. Governments could solve all traffic jams by increasing trains, trams, and trolley-buses and having Robot-cabs take up the slack. The net effect? We might not have to replace all today’s 2 billion cars. In fact, we might get away with only having a tenth of them!
“A robotic electric car could displace the usage of ten regular vehicles. This will also reduce the supply chain ramp-up burden. Instead of needing to make 2 billion electric vehicles, 200 million robotic ride sharing vehicles would have the same displacement effect. Only 80 gigafactories instead of 800 would be needed to generate the displacement effect,”
http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/01/robotic-ride-sharing-electric-vehicles.html

But that’s not all folks. Maybe in European countries they might get car ownership down to about 10%, but what if in America they’re just too addicted to their cars? What if, say, only the poor decide not to buy their own? Let’s guess that maybe America only reduces it’s car fleet to half today’s fleet. According to NREL, that could charge on spare electricity at night! In other words, if America only had to replace half their cars, and the car fleet turns over in about 16 years, and if the energy is *already* there at night time… what’s the fuss over peak oil about again?
https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/recharge/

8 01 2017
mikestasse

“Why would any normal commuter ever buy a car again? ”

I ask myself this every day……….. 😀

8 01 2017
Eclipse Now

How is that funny? Remember you said electric vehicles would never be a thing because the energy density, the this, the that, the other. And yet in 2015 EV’s passed the ONE MILLION mark
https://www.carbonbrief.org/iea-there-are-now-more-than-one-million-electric-cars-on-the-worlds-roads

And they’ve got exponential growth moving forward at 40% per year. They’re not selling at 1% of new car volume, but if anyone knows the power of exponential growth, it’s you. Why don’t you tell us how soon 40% growth per year becomes 100% of the market if we stick to, say, just 30% growth? 😉
https://cleantechnica.com/2016/06/05/electric-car-sales-increased-42-globally-q1-2016/

8 01 2017
mikestasse

Oooh…. a whole million hey….. there are more cars than that just in Brisbane! That’s 0.1% of the global fleet.

Plus you’re asking the wrong question….. how fast will 30 or 40% exponential growth in EVs deplete all those sexy resources needed to build them?

How and who will pay for the replacement and/or maintenance of the ageing global road infrastructure? Did you know 50% of the USA’s bridges need replacing? NOW..?

And who will be able to afford to discard their IC vehicles for a shiny new EV when they’re up to their eyeballs in debt…..??

8 01 2017
Eclipse Now

Ah, the doomer strategy par excellence. Just ignore the actual data and scatter-bomb with pessimistic questions.

1. Resources for EV’s will never run out as they can be recycled, and with robot-EV’s, we’re only building 200 Million, not 2 BILLION as we have on the road now.
2. Tax.
3. You weren’t paying attention, they won’t be *buying* their own EV’s as it will be too cheap just to hire them.
4. Unemployed cab and truck drivers will be a real change for the economy, just as all those ice-haulers had to find new work after we invented the fridge, and just as all those Kodak employees had to find new work after we invented the digital camera. Creative disruption of the marketplace.
5. Ultimately, we may not need to work as much as AI & robotics improve and many people end up with an ‘allowance’ from the government. The classic essay about the end of work and the new human condition

http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-nation.htm

8 01 2017
mikestasse

“it might put every cab and truck driver in the world out of business as hiring a taxi cab drops to 10% of today’s prices!”

That sounds like such a good thing for the economy….. all those unemployed cab and truck drivers queuing up for an EV at the local dealership…… I can just see it now.

8 01 2017
Eclipse Now

(That is, we’ll take 10% growth per annum off what’s really happening, just to be conservative).

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