From oilslick to tyranny

10 10 2017

A prosperous society is an orderly society.

Just found this……  says it all really.  I expect that one day Australia will also be ‘disunited’, I can see how easily Tasmania would cease to trade with the rest of Australia for starters…. republished from ExtraNewsfeed.

People with full bellies, stable homes and secure employment do not allow themselves to be involved in civil disorder. Unfortunately we are living on borrowed money in a bankrupt society. When our debts catch up with us, society will collapse, violent disorder will ensue and martial law will be inevitable. Pre-oil, despotic rule was the norm and democracies did not exist; we are going to return to that era.

The hallmark of the tyrant is already being stamped on the nation for anyone willing to recognise it. Suppression of truth is already in hand, information on climate change has been removed from government websites. It is the preparation for your future governance. No names are given here, because no-one will recognise the opportunist until he makes his grab for ultimate power. It will not be who you expect it to be.

forget Wall St., this is what world bankruptcy looks like:

Oil is our prime source of energy, ‘alternatives’ cannot power our industrial infrastructure.

Any business that continually burns through its assets at ten times the rate of replacement can be said to be bankrupt; that describes the global economy. Fossil fuels are the only asset we have, because everything else is a derivative of coal oil and gas inputs. Without heat, nothing can be manufactured. We elect politicians to lie on our behalf, because we want to be told that our resources and growth are infinite. In return for our votes, they are happy to do this. Everyone is complicit in the grand deceit, to accept the truth would destroy the existence of all of us.

So to perpetuate that lie there is a collective insistence that the global economy must continue to function to a very simple (but ultimately nonsensical) formula:

the more fuel we burn, the greater our gross domestic product. The faster we burn it, the higher our percentage growth.

Our machines and the (finite) fuels that move them now form the sinews that hold all nations together. They feed us, provide heat, light and transport, and with equal importance, stabilise international democracies and political systems.

No matter how complex or mundane your current job, whether garbage collector or brain surgeon, someone, somewhere is producing sufficient surplus energy to support it.

Prosperity is not an infinite right

Collective prosperity at the global level depends on cheap surplus fossil fuel energy. For 2 centuries we have been able to use those fossil fuels as collateral for future debt, to build ever bigger machines to extract elemental resources from the earth. This has been our great burning, because extracted materials of themselves are of no use to us unless we use heat to process them into desirable commodities.

That excess heat is altering our climate beyond human tolerance.

But heat provides our industrial growth economy: fuels must be consumed to sustain it and provide continued employment to make things that are ultimately thrown away in order to consume more to enable our debts to be continually carried forward. Our system of rolling debt depends on increasing energy input ad infinitum. So the one who asserts that climate change is a hoax gets voted into office, granting permission to burn our planet forever.

Without economic stability, democracy cannot survive.

Fuel resources have been a once-only gift of nature, and there are no viable substitutes. When they are no longer freely available, the effects will be catastrophic and force the events outlined here because the availability of surplus energy directly underpins our economic system. Without surplus energy you cannot have a modern democratic society. Be under no illusions, on current trends the events outlined here are certain. Only timing is in question by a few years either way.

Our global bank balance in oil has been falling for 70 years.

We are living on legacy oil. Oilwells cannot be refilled by votes, prayers or money.

We have created an industrial economy that is entirely predicated on a single factor: converting explosive force into rotary motion. Those six words separate us from the economics of the horsedrawn cart, windmill and sailing ship. They also separate us from the disease and deprivation that was the lot of our forebears only a century or two ago. Only fossil fuels can supply that explosive force at the rate we need.

The global industrial economy is now an interlocked progressive whole. It will not allow isolationism to function, neither will it allow a return to a previous era and downsized economic environment. We demand more, you have heard the aspiring tyrant’s words that promise more.

Political promises evaporate when there is insufficient energy to support them.

The notion of “Saudi America” is reassuring, but the facts are not.

Despite the rhetoric and posturing, reality cannot be ignored: the USA produces around 9 Million barrels of oil a day, but uses 0ver 19MBd. (2016). This imbalance is not going to change, despite collective belief to the contrary.

Price fluctuations and the ebb and flow of gluts should be ignored. If the cost of oil rises to a level that sustains the producers, users can’t afford to buy it; if it falls, oil producers can’t afford to extract it. This is the economic vice that is inexorably crushing the global industrial system as oil supplies decline.

Real wages fall in lockstep with oil depletion.

As surplus energy falls away, so does real income. We have substituted debt for income and allowed that debt to grow to mask the reality of our situation. We are stealing from our own future and from generations unborn to stay solvent. It might be called intergenerational larceny. When our great grandchildren arrive they will find nothing left for them to burn.

We are already in the phase of expending too much energy to get energy, which is why real income has been static for 30 years. We live in an energy economy, not a money economy. Wages are paid from energy surpluses, not printing presses, and that surplus has been gradually reducing.

The mirage of infinity.

The killer factor is Energy Return on Energy Invested, EROEI. Over the last 150 years civilisation has been built based on coal that returned an EROEI of 50:1, and oil that returned 100:1. Those ratios of return provided the cheap surplus energy that created our industrial infrastructure, and led to the expectation of infinite affluence.

We cannot maintain our current lifestyle using expensive fuels which give a return ratio of only 20:1 (and falling), which is what the best oilwells deliver.

Around 14:1 our society might hold together in a rudimentary sense if consumption could be balanced at that level, but 80 million new people arrive on the planet each year. They demand to be housed clothed and fed, spreading available resources even thinner. The mothers of the next 2 billion people are alive now. They will reproduce as a matter of personal survival, taking global population beyond 9 billion by mid century, guaranteeing our fall off the ‘energy cliff’.

The Energy Cliff:

There are numerous interpretations of the ‘energy cliff’, offering different return ratios that will supposedly allow our industrial society to function. 14:1, 12:1 even 8:1. The exact figure is irrelevant, right now we are entering the ‘elbow curve’ of the cliff, pinning our energy hopes on PV, wind, nuclear and tarsands; the ultimate downturn is inescapable. Wind and solar farms cannot supply sufficient concentrated energy to replace oil.

oil-gas-war-graffitiWe are 7.5 billion people on a planet that, pre-oil, supported between 1 and 2 billion. By any reckoning, 5 billion people do not have a future, let alone 2 billion more due over the next 30 years.

We must burn fuel to maintain what we have, but the act of burning destroys what we have. This is contrary to human instinct, so the only recourse will be armed conflict to take what others have. All wars are about survival and acquisition of resources. Conflict will drain what little energy we have left and finally exhaust any survivors.

When we reach the point of having only shale or tar sand oil or wind turbines returning 5:1, there will not be enough surplus energy in our industrial systems to provide the economic momentum we need, and maintain the necessary machinery to power the system.

When our wheels stop turning, we stop eating. Our situation is as brutally simple as that. Electric vehicles cannot function outside a hydrocarbon based infrastructure, and no transportation can exist beyond the extent of its purpose. A collapsed economy removes any such purpose. Battery power will not deliver fresh water and remove your wastes, and there isn’t going to be a bucolic utopia where we all become rural gardeners. We don’t know how, there isn’t enough room and probably not enough time. Hungry people will not allow a second harvest.

But the demand for answers will persist, a search for those responsible for our misfortunes, and insistence that our lives are restored to the ‘normality’ of previous times. Already the finger pointing rhetoric of the despot is being cheered on a wave of ignorance and bigotry: lock up opponents and dissenters, suppress the media, remove the unwanted, ignore the laws.

When that (and more) is done, all will be well. They are words from recent history, overlaid on our own time. We thought fascism was impossible in civilised nations; as long as prosperity held for all, that was true. As prosperity fails, it is stirring again, with an appetite easily fed but never sated.


As energy supplies deplete, the industrial economy will enter its terminal phase, still under collective denial. But no nation can hold together without the fuel sources that created it. Secession will become inevitable, into five, six, seven or more regions in the USA, along racial, religious, political and geographic lines. The faultlines are already there, with no energy base there will be nothing to stop ultimate breakup. Other conglomerations of states and provinces will also disintegrate. The EU, Russia, China, Africa will react and deny, but the end result will be the same: Energy depletion = social collapse.

As civil unrest takes hold, governments will act in the only way they know how: violent suppression to restore order. This will mean military intervention and imposition of martial law as civil breakdown becomes widespread.

At that point your elected leader will assume the role of dictator and suspend the constitution. Once established, godly certainties among those around him will cloak this in righteousness and subvert it into a theocracy of the worst kind. That will make it easier to identify the heathen and justify any form of retribution. It will be fascism cloaked in holy orders. It will not be the first time: Hitler’s army had “Gott Mitt Uns” stamped on their belt buckles.

Those who support him will become part of the new order. Those who do not will be dismissed from office, either voluntarily or by force. Police and military will fall in behind whoever pays their wages, and enforce the new regime. Totalitarian states have shown that there is never a shortage of willing hands to perform unpleasant tasks. They are always ready and waiting to be recruited.

The inevitability of regional secession will inflame regional differences, and spark civil war(s). It will be the time of petty states and tyrannies, each regime desperate to resist the decline into a different lifestyle, certain that the mess can be ‘fixed’, and only ‘they’ can fix it by enforcement of ideology. Yet without the power of fossil fuels there will be an inexorable regression to the brutalities of medievalism, with power resting only in the command of muscle.

Eventually they will be forced to accept each other’s existence, for no better reason than there will be insufficient means to do anything about it.

Welcome to the (dis) United States of America.

So what of the years to come? The dictator’s power will grow for a time, and make life unpleasant for millions, but ultimately his Reich will extend only to the door of his bunker. No doubt he will remain in his seat of imagined power for as long as possible, issuing incoherent commands that cannot be fulfilled because there will be insufficient energy to do so, just as his predecessor discovered 75 years ago.

You can follow me on twitter

or my book “The End of More”

might give a clearer insight into how we got into the mess in the first place.



14 responses

10 10 2017

Yes and no. Yes to the reality of the energy problem, but No to what will happen. Warfare will only accelerate depletion of resources. Winning will be a classic Phyrric victory, possibly even worse with more resources used than gained. Maybe it’ll be bows and arrows and save the oil? As communication lines break down we will see local warlords arise, each with a fiefdom, but it will only be temporary. More likely chaos will reign and no one will have the reserves of energy needed to govern. Not a pretty picture, but as we are a locust species, it’s what we’ll face.

10 10 2017
Rob Mielcarski

nice find

10 10 2017
Brendon Crook

Reading the first part of that I thought that’s got Norm Pagett written all over it then I saw his name.

A great writer and one of the best on OFW in my opinion.

I have wondered of late how Australia will disintegrate. In one big mess or bit by bit……………………..
It seems hard to believe when one looks around at our country this happening but things change quickly and in these times of dwindling energy anything appears possible at any time.

As ejhr2015 said we are a locust species and it’s what we face.

Human consciousness can be a double edged sword. I have come to believe we are a freak of nature, a celestial screw up.
We are something that just shouldn’t exist. An experiment of nature that’s ultimately a dead end for itself and a destructive holocaust for all the other unfortunate creatures caught up in the same time frame………………………….

11 10 2017

“I have wondered of late how Australia will disintegrate.”

Me too, as I live there/here (assuming you do too?)

While we drive and fly way too much, and our cities and towns are very far apart, there’s still quite a bit of the “old world” here. I’m thinking of farms and horses, people who know how to make and repair things. I’m somewhat optimistic for Australia enduring a hard transition.

11 10 2017

To be honest, I thought the graphic alone was worth republishing the whole thing…..

12 10 2017
Brendon Crook

Me too, as I live there/here (assuming you do too?)

Yes, I live here too.
I like to think we have a better chance although all bets are off if/when the resource wars get going in earnest.

10 10 2017
Dennis Mitchell

I wonder, have we been programmed to see all “warloards” as evil? Or will we just return to tribalism? I expect we will see good and bad. So many people are disenfranchised, unneeded, being part of will be an improvement. That is if we have any survivors. I hate to think what nuclear war will do to climate! Love the one you are with. It might be our last.

11 10 2017

Booooooring 🙂 The author has generated yet another peak oil screed – repeated 100s of times since 2000, and joining dozens of nearly identical articles here on DTM.

The only news I see there are updated usage vs. find numbers.

Mike, if you’re hard-up for doom & gloom content, I find original (I probably found it via DTM, don’t recall).

Like this one about how tech is starting to have resource (and physical) limit problems:

14 10 2017
Norman Pagett

my basic point was that whatever is built by the use of surplus energy (ie fossil fuels) can only be sustained by the continued input of fossil fuels.

This applies just as much to the house you live in, as the country you live in.

When access to fossil fuels becomes constrained (as it must because they are finite) then whatever has been constructed, must disintegrate.

No one wants to accept this, preferring the promises of infinite growth. (me too!!).
I try to find new ways of hammering home the reality, that electricity from solar panels isn’t going to replace the range of energy-functions supplied by oil coal and gas.

ultimately a waste of time, because BAU is what we’ve got used to, and demand. Our politicians agree, because it keeps them employed.

11 10 2017

Humanity may survive… the future humanity is those “uncivilised” tribes that still live a semi- Stone Age existence in the Amazon forests or deepest Africa….their lives won’t change at all.

11 10 2017

“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”

No need to fear a dystopian future when you’re already living in a dystopian present! The tyrannical rule has already been in place for a few years now, they’ll just tighten the screws when the need arises eg the “Arab Spring” – how many people got a knock on the door for something they posted on social media (possibly the stupidest yet most ingenious (from a power point of view) thing ever devised).

The biggest difference in Australia at the moment is as well as serving their corporate masters, the politicians now also are swayed by China. It’s all about money, and you may very well say money won’t do you any good when the world is cooking and mass extinction events are going on, but historically the rich and powerful have always, always come out on top. And, I suspect the way they view it is very much “make hay while the sun shines”.

I’ve said it many times, business as usual will continue right up until it can’t.

12 10 2017

The owl of Minerva strikes only at the falling of dusk

15 10 2017

“We elect politicians to lie on our behalf, because we want to be told that our resources and growth are infinite. In return for our votes, they are happy to do this. Everyone is complicit in the grand deceit”

Not every one, but the majority do, and the current crop of liars keep getting elected

gbell12, yes it does seem like just another doom & gloom. But consider the following
In OZ right now we are suffering the beginnings of a fuel shortage.
We import a very high percentage of our liquid fuels at a price much higher than our US war bretheren are paying, and we are exporting way too much of our gas reserves at up to half of what we are paying domestically for it.
In fact not only do we pay more but we have a shortage of it.

In OZ we are also facing electricity brown/black outs because coal is so yesterday ( but is our second? biggest export) and it seems renewables can not keep an industrial society running 24/7.

We have exported nearly every manufacturing activity of note, (now including cars) and wonder why the budget seems to be going backwards.
Even the call centre and back office jobs are going overseas.

It seems Keating’s banana republic has arived, and this is not yet the worst o it.

16 10 2017

Nailed it.

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