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2015 is closer than you think

Written By: - Date published: 8:10 am, April 18th, 2010 - 49 comments
Categories: Conservation, energy, International, transport - Tags:

Here’s two fun facts about the American military. (1) People tend to take them pretty seriously, and (2) as an organisation they are the world’s biggest consumer of petroleum products. So when the US Joint Forces Command makes claims about the state of the world’s oil / petroleum supplies, it’s probably wise to sit up straight and pay attention. So listen up:

US military warns oil output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015
• Shortfall could reach 10m barrels a day, report says
• Cost of crude oil is predicted to top $100 a barrel

The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.

The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.

“By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day,” says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.

It adds: “While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India.” …

The warning is the latest in a series from around the world that has turned peak oil the moment when demand exceeds supply from a distant threat to a more immediate risk. …

If the report is correct, then the world is going to change. Soon. Substantially. New Zealand will not have the economic, political or military power to ensure a reliable supply of oil. Conflict is likely around the globe. The big question has to be asked – “After Peak Oil, Are We Heading Towards Social Collapse?”.

I believe that the time to start planning for a post oil future is now. I’m not expecting many countries to manage it. If you’re wise you’ll be making your own plans…

49 comments on “2015 is closer than you think”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly but my government does not seem to care. Perhaps this is because the peak will probably occur after the next election …

  2. Jenny 2

    Peak oil is only one of the crisis to affect late capitalism, along with collapse of peak oil, add, environmental crises, profitability crisis, and legitimacy crisis.


    As Grant Morgan argues in this essay these crisis are intersecting in a perfect storm which will affect all of us and possibly even threaten the continuation of human civilisation itself.

  3. Zorr 3

    Honestly, I have no concept of what a post-oil world will look like and the issues that will arise from that. I can surely imagine some of the situations due to he fact that quite a few of them will just be increases in hostilities and suffering that already exist.

    I have no issue with the research surrounding peak oil but I do think that it is a little early to start “planning” on the results of it. All I can really see myself doing currently until such time as other costs become prohibitive is riding my pushbike/walking places.

    Peak oil. Climate change. Humanitys pound of flesh.

  4. Bill 4

    “I’m not expecting many countries to manage it.
    If you’re wise you’ll be making your own plans ”

    Far too optimistic on that first point there.

    You think that some countries will manage their way through a chronic oil shortage? I can’t think of a single government that will come within a million petro-chemical miles of muddling through…unless you include the adoption of totalitarian forms of governance designed to keep the likes of you and me firmly in our place while elites strive to preserve their position in a dying fiction of increasing material wealth and endless growth.

    Far too optimistic on the second point too I’m afraid.

    No single person can lay down their own plans and hope to achieve anything beyond a one way ticket to being dead in the shorter rather than the longer term.

    So, if governments can’t do it. And neither you nor I can’t do it. That only leaves one possibility that you and I can do it. But that is going to mean joining a process whereby government is steadily pushed to the periphery in favour of genuine cooperation between neighbours, friends, family and strangers. It’s going to entail developing sustainable decision making processes for matters of importance to our respective communities as well as for questions of production and distribution. It’s going to entail developing, maintaining and participating in multi-layered democratic systems.

    • Jenny 4.1

      Very well said Bill.

    • rainman 4.2

      Transition Towns.

      Not perfect, but a start.

      • Bill 4.2.1

        I honestly can’t see that transition towns are anything beyond ‘feel good’ pieces of nonsense.

        There may well be kind of sort of okay things being proposed and pursued. Some individuals might have moved beyond the sandals and light bulbs mentality that marks so many well meaning drudges. And some businesses might even be engaged in a straight up non cynical way that doesn’t have the acquisition of money through jumping on this latest of advertising angles as a prime motivation. Some council incumbents might even be not merely looking to capture a particular voting constituency.

        But all the gate keepers are left in place to preserve and enhance their position within the scheme of things. And ordinary citizens are left to deal through or be dealt to through existing structures. Insomuch as this is true, transition towns are merely a sideways shuffle designed to preserve current structures and privileges masquerading as meaningful progress.

        • r0b

          Huh? What kind of transition towns are you talking about Bill?


          • Bill

            The one’s that introduces us to the ’12 step programme’ which includes such insightful and meaningful wondrous suggestions and instructions as ‘honouring the elder’ and ‘letting it go where it wants to go’….in other words a whole unbearable pile of tosh that contains nothing…and I really do mean nothing….of substance or practical use.

            I deleted the rest of my comment that originally went on from here cause my keyboard was taking too much of a hammering.

            ‘How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions’ Recommended read.

            Meanwhile, might I humbly suggest that we all avoid hippies, gurus and anything that sails so mindlessly into the worlds of ‘just another fucking Oprah Winfrey fad’ or Amway cult as Transition Towns?


            I read through your link. Downloaded shit on the off chance we were referring to different things. And I read drivel, dribble and poison. Nothing else.

            I was, on reflection, being way too kind and forgiving in my original comment.

            ‘Open Space Technology’ and ‘Energy descent Plans’….kill me now.

            • r0b

              Well Bill, I find my local TT friendly, practical, useful people who give good advice about vege gardens and plant trees. Their focus on local and sustainable communities is the only possible way forward in an an energy-constrained future. So who or what are you proposing as an alternative?

              • Bill

                I do not doubt for a second that well meaning, nice and even resourceful people are involved in TT. I assumed as much in my original comment.

                I simply don’t see how TT are in any way sustainable. And whereas local is necessary, local is not sufficient given societal needs for productive (industrial) outputs. TT doesn’t address any of the elephant in the room matters. TT assumes (seemingly) a continuing variation of capitalist production, distribution and consumption….with inbuilt ‘energy descent plans’?…or some such.

                Paracon : Life After Capitalism. Have a read. Pass it on to your local TT people if you think it worth while.

              • r0b

                OK Bill, I’ll try and track down a copy.

                Huh – all there on line. Very good.

  5. Im sorry but I dont beleive peak oil will be as bad as some are making it out, and it certainly wont kill capitalism. I remember about a year and a bit ago, some guy on here seemed to be pretty happy that stock martkets were crashing and people were losing their jobs, he seems to think this was the end of capitalism also and we will all turn to commuism.

    It anit going to happy, the world will find a way to deal with it.

    • Jenny 5.1

      Brett, You need to substantiate your comments, any genuine poster on this blog would be dismayed at the turn of world events and concerned for how it will all turn out. Your comment is notable for two things.
      #1 blaming the messenger
      #2 Denial

      Neither of which will be helpful in the debate on how to face up to the gathering perfect storm.

      • Brett Dale 5.1.1


        History will tell you that the “sky is falling” people are never right.

        • felix

          Of course, Brett. Of course.

          • Cnr Joe

            Read Collapse by Jared Diamond you sterling scholar Brett.

            captcha – serious

            • Chess Player

              Way more accessible is “A short history of progress” by Ronald Wright.

              Jared Diamond seems to use up a lot of pages trying to show how smart he is…

              • NickS

                There’s also some issues with some of Diamond’s case studies, primarily Easter Island, though I don’t have the resources on hand.

                It’s not that bad a book though, Diamond, in spite of the issues, does manage to build a rather strong argument about the reliance of human civilisations on ecological services/resources for their survival and economic wealth, along with the importance of trade networks and their potential failure modes and impacts.

        • Marty G

          Brett. Your own civilisation under went a thousand year period of technological, intellectual, and population decline following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

          The people of Rome and Marseilles and other cities whose populations topped a million duirng the classical periid numbered in their tens of thousands in the dark ages – they were literally living among the ruins of a greater civilisation.

          During the dark ages they talked of the ‘anicents’ who were more knowledgable and prosperious than they were.

          It wasn’t until the 1500s that European technology began to better what the anicents had had. It wasn’t until the enlightenment that they began to move forward intellectually.

          Fuck you’re ignorant.

    • So Brett how will you survive if you had to drive half as far as you do now, if your access to cheap chinese goods was reduced and if many of the businesses around you that rely on exporting or on tourism had their turnover severely affected.

      Do you have a plan B?

    • rainman 5.3

      Brett, from where I sit PO has already started having a rather direct effect. Some people like Dr James Hamilton (http://www.brookings.edu/economics/bpea/~/media/Files/Programs/ES/BPEA/2009_spring_bpea_papers/2009_spring_bpea_hamilton.pdf) suggest that this recession has it’s roots more in oil depletion than Wall St misbehaviour (although there was a fair bit of that), and I think his logic makes sense. But then I’ve been predicting something similar for a few years now.

      On that basis, the recession that caused my employer to downsize and take out pretty much all of their management roles, including mine, and continues to cause there to be:
      – a) far fewer roles out there than before, and
      – b) far more people contesting them, as they have faced similar circumstances to mine,
      means that my income has shrunk to virtually zip, with very limited prospects for changing this in the near term future. I’d say that’s a fairly big deal.

      The issue is not whether I can afford to drive my car to work at $3/litre petrol (all being equal, I could). It’s whether there’s a work to drive to. And whether that work has customers to sell to.

      Capitalism will do a good enough job of killing itself, but Peak Oil certainly does mean it can’t recover to it’s former glory, if you believe that it ever was so. The only question is whether we collectively get smart enough to find a better way, or sit like the sheep we usually are while those that “know best” find better ways to farm us, up to, but not beyond, the point of revolution.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.4

      Still denying reality there I see Brett.

  6. ianmac 6

    We are increasingly dependent on Tourism. Without it it would seem that our economy would collapse. Unemployment .
    Export of dairy products would collapse.
    Global warming would decrease but coal use would increase.
    So my little garden and the meat grown locally would become very very important. Holidays would be down at the local riverside or beach.
    Bring back the good old days, or not?

  7. Sounds like we as a country should get into auto production of the electric kind combined with solar panel manufacture.

    Imagine the jobs we could create ?

  8. ianmac 8

    Pardon the distraction but how do you use XHTML? Tried looking it up on Google but it doesn’t seem to say HOW to apply for example bold or ?

    sprout: have a look here ianmac


  9. Jenny 9

    Hi R0B

    As you said, one of the facts about the American military is: (1) People tend to take them pretty seriously.

    More from the Military, this time on Global Warming –

    Climate change nightmares of military strategists


    The above is a book review carried in last week’s New Scientist by Glynn Dwyer on the Pentagon and Nato’s take on the Global warming crisis. One of the five existential crises that joined together with peak oil, and the other crises make up the perfect storm threatening to overwhelm humanity.

    • r0b 9.1

      Hi Jenny

      Thanks for the link – some reading for tonight!

      the perfect storm threatening to overwhelm humanity

      That is my fear too. Combine that with the truth of Mickysavage’s very first comment in this thread, and the whole thing isn’t looking too cheerful. Why do we always have to learn things the hard way?

  10. Doug 10

    We must also realise that a lot of agricultural production is reliant on petroleum to displace physical labour. It may not be palatable to some but I see a resurgence of rural farm and farm service employment and the by extension rural communities (a reversal of the urban drift?)

    • Olmec 10.1

      I have been thinking about the same thing recently. When I tried to discuss it with my farmer neighbor they thought I was weired…. I reinforced this when I queried what poisons they were spraying on their weeds by the river….

  11. Sanctuary 11

    Our response is to let the minister for the trucking lobby build lots and lots of roads!

    New Zealand allways adopts a frozen possum in the headlights attitude to structural change like this. Under a Labour government, usually just enough is done in the teeth of bitter, hysterical and well funded coprorate opposition to turn catastrophe into mere disaster.

    Under National, the corporate lunatics are in charge of the asylum, and the country will be last seen riding the structural change H-Bomb out of the bomb bay with our business sector waving it’s cowboy hat and yelling “yeeeeeee-haaaaaaaa!!!! TAX CUTS FOR ALL!!!!!”

  12. jarbury 12

    It makes Steven Joyce’s $11 billion “investment” in state highways in the next decade seem rather silly doesn’t it?

    • George.com 12.1

      And here we are in Hamilton running a campaign to get a Hamilton-Auckland commuter train service off the ground and our regional council and 2 local Govt MPs are busy looking the other way at all the roads being built. Get a train service started as a form of future proofing.

  13. tsmithfield 13

    Sure, oil is running low. However, there is an abundant alternative, natural gas.


    • Draco T Bastard 13.1



      Gas reserves are much more difficult to assess than oil, and much more susceptible to economic factors, the most important of which is transport (pipelines/LNG). The USA is more depleted than anywhere else.

      Any proposal to use natural gas as the primary substitute for oil in the transportation sector represents at best a temporary solution, and at worst a distraction of human industrial resources (consuming time and capital, while oil and gas remain economic, to produce a fleet which will then soon become obsolete, rather than using the remaining economic reserves to create a lasting solution), as well as a waste of natural resources of great potential value to future generations.

  14. ianmac 14

    There have been arguments for years about the timing of peak oil. As soon as 2010 to 2020. The top half of the oil well is fairly easy to extract. The bottom half becomes harder and more expensive which adds to the cost and degree of availability. It is inevitable that oil will run out. How can we future proof? TSmithfield is right about natural gas but that must have limits too.
    Electricity must be one of the answers. For rail, cars, buses, etc. What are we doing about it? NIMBY? Increasing road traffic especially trucks? Delaying electrification of rail? Plans are afoot to close branch rails. A long term view?

  15. uroskin 15

    We see a little hint at what a post-oil peak Europe looks like: air travel grounded, other (non-oil using) public transport besieged, walking and cycling becoming popular.

    Captcha: time

  16. Mutante 16

    I’m planning to rampage through the decaying post-apocalyptic landscape wearing torn leathers looking for isolated fuel stashes.

  17. Rob A 17

    I’m not trying to come across as any sort of denier because like any sensible person I believe in what is coming. But I do have a problem giving much credit to a report from the US military, these peoples entire existence and funding comes from making a huge threat out of minor or distant issues (Iraq anyone)

    The last sentence of the report posted has got my bells ringing

  18. Jenny 18

    More on the peak oil crisis.


    Meanwhile in New Zealand the idiots in government continue to pour billions of dollars into motorways and starve the public transport sector of funds, as they bow down to the profit driven roading and private transport lobbies.

    This mad pandering to the private sector makes law makers blindly ignore the very real risk of, infrastructure collapse, (with all the human misery that entails), if not from peak oil, natural disaster could also brutally expose the weakness of this one eyed policy.

    This blinkered dependence on private transport infrastructure, as well as being wasteful and expensive and polluting, is rickety and fragile and belongs to be left in the last century.

    Hurricane Katrina showed that in natural disasters the private car is useless at evacuating large cities. Just witness the jams we have here at normal the Easter break.

    If a New Orleans or Haiti type disaster struck here, the motorways will jam with cars, and the population will be trapped.

    So last century.

  19. gnomic 19

    C’mon now, surely everybody knows that, just as anthropogenic global warming is a myth and still worse an evil plot by the eco-fascists, there is no problem with energy supplies for the future. Oil is being created abiotically right now, moreover there is plenty still to discover. In any case new technologies will have it all sorted in a jiffy. Nothing to see here people, carry on with the happy motoring. NZers love their cars and will never give them up. Say no to negative thinking! Electric cars are go!

    Part of the problem is that the whole issue is just too hard to think about. Governments in general don’t want to think about it because addressing the problems would mean telling the voters that the party is over and nobody wants to be the bearer of that item of bad news. I fear this has in the past been true of Labour just as much as National. The latter of course are a completely lost cause on this front, they will just carry on building roads until the bitumen runs out. That’s what they do, along with their cronies in the roading industry. As for Labour, sad to relate, Michael Cullen was apparently unaware of the ‘peak oil’ concept as recently as 2004. So far as I am aware Labour has not confronted the issue of future energy shortages in any meaningful way.

    Sad to say, there may in fact be no realistic plan for dealing with this one. Eat, drink, and be merry, could be as good as it gets. Some say blithely that NZ will still be able to feed its population without oil imports, but I doubt that stands up. There is of course much discussion of the matter on the internet, but some wonder how long the internet will last given that it is a major energy consumer. See http://www.energybulletin.net/node/48915 for example. An interesting weekly read is thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com.

  20. Not worried at all 20

    What I still cannot fathom is why the fact that the fossil fuel bonanza is coming to an end is difficult for people to understand. The US hit peak oil in the 70’s – remember that oil crisis?- and we have known this was coming for decades prior to that. But at that choice point something happened. So the question has to be asked why were the courses of action that we currently follow chosen? The artificial inflation of land prices, the increase in fossil fuel use, the denial of the need for and denigration of alternative energy, the dumbing down of the populace through ever more expensive education coupled with ever more stupid and strident forms of religion and ever more destructive black market drugs. I could go on and given a beer or two I probably will.

    So you say we arent prepared? Well maybe WE arent, but someone is. Keep your weapons handy if they havent already been outlawed to “protect you from yourself”

    Good luck with your transition towns, though I do believe the proverbial road to hell was paved with such intentions.

    Paranoid? Me? Naaaaaaa!!! 😉

    As for
    ‘How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions’

    Everything old is new again


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