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Farrar discovers peak oil, nearly

Written By: - Date published: 12:28 pm, March 20th, 2012 - 101 comments
Categories: economy, energy, transport - Tags:

Barack Obama will be breathing a sigh of relief after David Farrar gave his endorsement to the President’s call to end oil subsidies. It seems the 3rd oil price spike in five years is getting the attention of even the Right. Something, they’ve got an inkling, is wrong and rising petrol prices are here to stay. But, on the cusp of revelation, Farrar opts for the security blanket of neoclassical economics.

Here’s what Farrar wrote:

I am against subsidies for oil.

We should not shelter people from higher petrol prices. That is a market signal that supply is becoming more difficult

Is that Farrar admitting peak oil is here and the price signal reflects that? It looks like it. But, then, Farrar seems to catch himself and so turns to the neoclassical model that says supply is infinite as long as the price is right.

[high prices] will encourage investment in other technologies, plus encourage greater use of other forms of transport. As for investments in exploration and production, you do not need subsidies for that. As petrol prices increase, then exploration of new reserves becomes economically viable.

OK. Let’s assume that’s true. Let’s say that there are oil reserves and other energy sources out there that can be produced at the rate the economy needs –  preferably rising to allow economic growth – providing that the price of oil is high enough to incentivise it. Well, there’s your problem – if the price is high enough. The price of oil is currently so high that it is that it’s killing this so-called recovery. Any new energy source that is only viable at this price is too expensive.

Put it another way. Money is essentially a marker for embedded energy – the amount of work done to add value to something. So expensive energy is energy that takes a lot of energy to produce. They call it energy returned on energy invested. The old oil-fields were cheaper because you got as much as 100 barrels of oil for each barrel of oil worth of energy you used in drilling. With new oil sources, that’s down to 6 to 1.

It may be that there’s an energy source out there at the borders of our scientific understanding or beyond it (zero-point energy, dark matter?) and once we learn the trick of using it, the actual production is cheap (ie low energy). But that’s a hell of a big gamble to hope on. And, even if it’s out there, it’s never going to be a small thing to adopt a new energy source on the scale we’re talking about, let alone in a relevant timeframe. Even fusion is 40 years from commercialisation. We’re stuck with the increasingly expensive energy sources we have

High cost/low net energy sources are no solution even if they can be produced at the required levels. And they can’t. World oil supply has failed to budge significantly in the past six years even as the price has doubled. ‘Conventional’ oil has been in decline for half a decade despite massive (subsidised) investment. There just isn’t enough expensive oil and alternatives to replace the cheap sources that are being exhausted.

And what of Farrar’s suggestion of transport alternatives? All well and good, if you can afford to do it. But we’re in the domino recessions now – we haven’t even regained the GDP per capita of the previous recession and another is looming. Where are families meant to find the money for capital investment in expensive hybrids and electric cars? The average age of cars is rising as cash-strapped families find their budgets squeezed by petrol prices.

All this is made worse by the fact that we have a government that is wasting a billion dollars a year on state highways that could be going into public transport, and is subsidising foreign oil companies to drill up and export our oil even as we spend $8.2 billion a year on oil imports.

Maybe Farrar could have a word in their ear about spending decisions that mask the cost of peak oil…

101 comments on “Farrar discovers peak oil, nearly ”

  1. infused 1

    And you all say you don’t read his blog… what a load of crap that is.

    • vto 1.1

      It’s like looking over the fence at your ramshackle neighbour’s place with the rabid dogs from time to time. That is all, don’t get too excited.

    • McFlock 1.2

      I don’t – but I’ll have a laugh at any notable idiocy that someone is prepared to gossip about here.
      All nicely cleansed with the more repulsive bits edited out. 

    • bbfloyd 1.3

      damn!! infused has twigged that james henderson is really just the name we gave our hive mind…… i thought it would take longer……

  2. Lanthanide 2

    “Even fusion is 40 years from commercialisation.”

    Depending on the type of fusion. Polywell fusion may be as close as 5 years to commercialisation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polywell

    Currently funded by the US Navy:

    During 4Q of 2011, EMC2 modified the electron injectors to increase the plasma heating. The higher plasma density in WB-8 prompted the need for higher heating power. They plan to operate WB-8 in high beta regime with the modified electron injectors during 1Q of 2012.

    Also methane clathrates may become a real energy source in the future; unlikely to be enough or a versatile enough fuel for transporation use, but for electricity generation every little advancement helps.

    No, I am not pinning my hopes on techno-fixes. I really do see fusion as the only way out of this situation and it seems only something like polywell is going to make it happen; 40 years waiting for the billion dollar ITER project to bear fruit is too little too late.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Yeah there are a lot of people out there who believe that a high tech breakthrough will conveniently allow all of us to keep living good middle class high energy consuming lives going forwards as oil runs out.

      Something the equivalent of discovering Star Trek’s dilithium crystals or Battlestar’s tylium ore.

      It might happen. But probably not.

      My rule of thumb: if you can’t see a 1 MW reactor in practical reliable operation today, its not going to happen in time to help the masses.

      • queenstfarmer 2.1.1

        It might happen. But probably not

        Why do you claim it to be more improbable than probable?

        • Populuxe1

          Because CV enjoys being a pessimistic misery-guts.
          In fact, as WW2, the American-Soviet space race, and IT boom all demonstrate, it is perfectly possible for advanced technologies to dvelop very quickly when the pressure is on.

        • McFlock

          kind’ve answered in the following sentence.

          • queenstfarmer

            Not really. He was talking about a “high tech breakthrough“, which is what he claims will “probably not” occur. I am curious why, although it could simply be as Populuxe says that he is just a pessimist.

            • McFlock

              Not really. CV’s basic rule of thumb is pretty accurate, given that the Manhatten Project and even IT really only took off as direct responses to serious perceived threats to the power elite of the state. 
              Lots of poor people struggling or even dying doesn’t really count. 

              • Populuxe1

                Not really. CV’s basic rule of thumb is pretty accurate, given that the Manhatten Project and even IT really only took off as direct responses to serious perceived threats to the power elite of the state.

                Um, no, IT took off because of the inventiveness of certain visionary individuals and rampant consumer pressures. I’d probably agree on the other two counts, but even the most blatant propogandist realises that “Lots of poor people struggling or even dying doesn’t really count” is not a good look, and in this ocuntry even the uber-rich can’t isolate themselves completely from the demos. The rich can’t survive if there’s no state to rip off, nor can they maintain their lifestyles of excess if there isn’t an abundance. Nor are we North Korea to put up with that kind of nonsense (dictatorships require as much long term planning as retooling the grid).

      • Bored 2.1.2

        I dont see any immediate solutions to the peak energy crisis. There may be techno fixes but it is too easy to forget that the retooling the world will have to undertake to utilise any breakthroughs and the capital required are going to make instant fixes a long term thing. Consequently the oil supply diminution is going to wreck whole economies even if they can come up with alternatives.

        • Lanthanide

          But, I can easily imagine that if someone like Pollywell did turn out be possible, it could potentially be rolled out quite quickly.

          The US government could say “we’re going to spend $500 billion over 5 years building these new power plants” and that in itself would completely change the landscape. It would spur even more interest in electric cars and the associated battery technology.

          • Populuxe1

            If we were prepared to abandon environmental goals and NIMBYism and went full out on a sort of Think Big 2.0 building hydro dams, geothermal, wind and tidal, I don’t see that we would be seriously affected – especially if we brought in a nationalised electric train system on the big and small scale.

            • Bored

              Both yourself and Lanth make this sound like just (and merely just) a retooling of energy supply. When oil supply diminution is examined you discover that pretty much every thing you use has an oil component, for example think of a world without the readily available plastics. Its not just retool energy supply, it is retool the whole lot.

              Another issue is simple thermodynamics as represented by energy density and portability. Oil is really good and simple, electricity and hydrogen etc far less effective and far more complex to deploy. Which translates to time and cost merely to start utilising.

              I don’t share techno faith in energy replacements and believe that we will have to make do with a lot less energy. That may not be such a bad thing, most of the “stuff” I have would easily be substituted with something else, (if I needed as much at all). Caxton hand cranked his printing press, the paper was made by hand, the written words were still the words.

              • Populuxe1

                Plastics and other polymers were something of a fluke to begin with. There is no reason why most of them cannot be placed with silicone derivatives, ceramics and glass – which ultimately would be highly desirable, inaugurating easy recycling and an end of disposable consumer culture

                • Bored

                  Exactly, QED….the retooling is the issue.It takes time, costs money, and also uses energy which will be scarcer.

                  • Populuxe1

                    Energy per se is hardly a finite resource in that way. Oil is only the most efficient form of delivery currently widely available. A decent carbon catalysis or sequestration technology would, for example, make coal viable. Bio-ethanol and Bio-methane, provided they are primarily extracted from waste products, while not ideal, still offer viable alternatives.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      The main point is that the energy density of fossil fuels is unmatched.

                      Bio-ethanol and Bio-methane, provided they are primarily extracted from waste products, while not ideal, still offer viable alternatives.

                      Sure, if you expect people to go back to 1930’s-1940’s levels of energy usage.

                    • Populuxe1


                      Sure, if you expect people to go back to 1930′s-1940′s levels of energy usage.

                      The 1930s and ’40s weren’t short of luxury, craftsmanship still held an important place. So we have to be more conservative than we are now – you’ll love that because you’re such a miserable pessimistic shit most of the time. Are you ever constructive? But then you keep telling us how you live off your wife’s money, so why should it matter to you? By the way, if her money is where your mouth is, what are you doing to reduce your parasitism on the rest of us (especially as you delight in telling us the middle class is on the way out – are you some kind of masochist grinch or what?).

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I didn’t say that a 1930’s – 1940’s life style was problematic and indeed you are right it’s a bit of a luxury.

                      But then you keep telling us how you live off your wife’s money, so why should it matter to you?

                      By the way I live off my wife’s parents’ money, not my wife’s. Subtle but important difference.

                      By the way, if her money is where your mouth is, what are you doing to reduce your parasitism on the rest of us (especially as you delight in telling us the middle class is on the way out – are you some kind of masochist grinch or what?).

                      Well, I enjoy every bottle of Veuve Clicquot I drink as if it’s my last, if that’s what you mean.

              • Lanthanide

                Peak oil is mostly a transportation fuels problem. There are alternatives to that: electric or gas. A lot more needs to be done on the battery front for electricity to work well and gas is less convenient as well, but alternatives do exist.

                You can get huge amounts of plastic from only a small amount of oil. Lynn had a comment elsewhere talking about this: the 21st century may be where we see the predominant use of oil is actually for plastics, and not transportation.

                Now, I am definitely not as optimistic as Populaxe: those things might potentially work for NZ, because we’re small in size, but definitely won’t work on a global scale. Only something like fusion will, and even then it has to be something better than deuterium + tritium fusion; which is why I like polywell because one potential reaction there is proton + boron.

                • Populuxe1

                  Polywell isn’t actually more efficient than tritium and He3 reactions, it’s just easier because the fuel is more easily available (though the moon is covered in the stuff). It’s certainly interesting, but I suspect Bussard (he of the hydrogen ramjet fame) may be overly optimistic about the Bremsstrahlung breaking radiation.
                  Fusion is also only marginally cleaner than fission. It’s not a silver bullet.

                • Bored

                  Which is where we disagree big time. Oil currently underpins the entire economies of the developed world in absolutely every industrial process. Transport may be the biggest individual application but in reality may be the least of our worries when you realise the ubiquity of oil in our processes.

                  As stated we can probably use renewables for pretty much everything, and even fusion for power….but it all takes time, research and cash, commodities we are in precious short supply of.

                  • Populuxe1

                    What “we”, Bored? Governments have the power to prioritise – it’s just a pity ours is so stupid.

                    • Bored

                      “We” as in collective industrial people….I would have once had faith in governments…not so sure now they all follow the corporate dictates and not the electorates….I dont think iit stupidity, merely sectoral interests trumping all else.

                  • Kotahi Tane Huna

                    I don’t think this is a matter of opinion. Bored is right – this is a very very large hurdle we face, and what’s more, we are required to negotiate it in the face of increasingly unstable conditions.

                    I think Populuxe is right too: crises have a way of bringing out the best (and the worst) in people.

                    The future is a foreign country.

                  • Richard Christie

                    Oil currently underpins the entire economies of the developed world in absolutely every industrial process

                    Yes, and an observation so obvious only a libertarian would fail to see it.

                    Oil is such a useful resource it is stupid in the extreme to exhaust supply by burning it as fuel.

                    Finite reserves, when gone forever, will be gone for a very long time indeed.

                    And then there is man-made climate change.

                    Both spectres invisible to the right wing, Naomi Klein explores why:


                    • Mark

                      Ok, so if we accept that climate change is a man-made issue, and there is shitloads of evidence/debate either way.. this is a good read:

                      Then maybe the reduction in heating oil use, and the increase in potential food production (at source) is not such a bad thing

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Debate there may be. The evidence is unequivocal. And Mr. Christopher Monckton is not a lord, despite the fact that he is an inbred nincompoop.

                    • Mark

                      @ Kotahi.. 6:48 (couldn’t reply??)
                      Bullshit,  the evidence is far from unequivocal, and that has got to be one of the most unenlightened statements I have ever seen here.. and that’s saying something.
                      But go ahead, attack the man, then you have some small self justification for not either comprehending or getting the message.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Mark, how would you know what the evidence says? Seriously. I doubt you can even describe the basic theory.

                    • Mark

                      Oh, Kotahi, I have seen you display intelligence enough to be able to debate.. somewhere, I think.
                      All you are able to do now in the face of some conflicting Science is again play the man.. I’m disappointed.
                      But to answer, funnily enough I can read, assess, critically reason… the beauty of the internet is that body of mankind’s knowledge is available.
                      No excuses for ignorance.. fuck, I agree with Shearer, we need better teachers. 

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      “Conflicting science” ah ROFLMAO show me some then. Come on, put up or shut up.

                      I mean, you already quoted mendacious Monckton the proven fraud and liar, so your credibility can only improve from here.

                      How about some basic Physics?

                    • Richard Christie

                      Mark apparently gets his science from blogs and and fake flaky members of the House of Lords.
                      He ignores that every scientific body on the planet, with no exceptions, are on board with AGW.
                      No exceptions. All of them. In all the atmospheric and physical sciences.
                      There is no debate in the scientific community on the reality of anthropogenic global warming..

                    • Richard Christie

                      Lord Monckton Bunkum (1/4):


                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      His Excellency received me cordially enough; but my friend Judge Beyers, the gentleman who presented me, by mentioning that I was on a voyage around the world, unwittingly gave great offense to the venerable statesman, which we both regretted deeply.

                      Mr. Kruger corrected the judge rather sharply, reminding him that the world is flat. “You don’t mean round the world,” said the president; “it is impossible! You mean in the world. Impossible!”

                      Captain Joshua Slocum Sailing Alone Around The World 1900.

                    • Mark

                      Oh please, I didn’t quote anyone.. I merely showed but one example of where your die hard heroes of AGW were shown to be somewhat light on science and truth.. (but you people are  sheepishly happy to be dragged along uncritically to the music of bullshit masquerading as truth.. as long as it fits with what your sociology 101 tutor spouted at you) 
                      Read the link.. a good conflicting argument, evidence from all sides..
                       “He ignores that every scientific body on the planet, with no exceptions, are on board with AGW.
                      No exceptions. All of them. In all the atmospheric and physical sciences.There is no debate in the scientific community on the reality of anthropogenic global warming.”

                      You need to get up with the play, you embarrass yourself with statements like this.. 

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Sociology 101 (or was it?)

                      Right then, Mark, here we go.

                      The incoming energy from the sun is made of photons, or light, depending on whether you prefer a wave or particle model. Any black body will absorb light at all frequencies, and then emit infra-red radiation (heat) – also at all frequencies. The heat output must equal the light input (cf. laws of thermodynamics, Quantum Mechanics). No ifs no buts. They can both be measured in W/m2 (Watts per square metre).

                      In physical terms, the energy budget can be expressed as the solar constant multiplied by one minus albedo is equal to the Stefan Boltzmann constant multiplied by emissivity (1 for a black body) multiplied by surface temperature to the fourth power.

                      Only one side of the planet is lit at any given moment, but the entire surface emits heat, so dividing the input side of the equation by four solves for area. So (L(1-α))/4=εσT^4. So far so basic.

                      The Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, (CO2, H2O, CH4, Freon, SF6, etc) however, absorb radiation at particular frequencies. They too must emit as much as they absorb, but since they emit in all directions, send some heat back to the surface (a “feedback”).

                      This means that not enough energy is leaving Earth (ie: the planet plus the atmosphere) to balance the input, so the value of temperature (T) must rise until equilibrium is reached.

                      Can we take this as common ground and get into some more detail, Mark? (does it fit with what your woodwork teacher showed you?)

                    • Richard Christie

                      No exceptions. All of them. In all the atmospheric and physical sciences.There is no debate in the scientific community on the reality of anthropogenic global warming.”

                      You need to get up with the play, you embarrass yourself with statements like this..

                      You think there are scientific bodies who deny the reality of AWG, then name them.

                    • Mark

                      Here is some differing science.. I don’t take it all as gospel, but I do take it that  “No exceptions. All of them. In all the atmospheric and physical sciences.There is no debate in the scientific community on the reality of anthropogenic global warming.” is about the biggest crock of shit I have ever heard, and reading this blog for a while, that says a lot. . 

                      1. Oceans cover about 70% of the surface.
                      2. Because of the thermal inertia of water – short term noise is smoothed out.
                      3. All the questions re UHI, changes in land use local topographic effects etc are simply sidestepped.
                      4. Perhaps most importantly – what we really need to measure is the enthalpy of the system – the land measurements do not capture this aspect because the relative humidity at the time of temperature measurement is ignored. In water the temperature changes are a good measure of relative enthalpy changes.
                      5. It is very clear that the most direct means to short term and decadal length predictions is through the study of the interactions of the atmospheric sytems ,ocean currents and temperature regimes – PDO ,ENSO. SOI AMO AO etc etc. and the SST is a major measure of these systems.Certainly the SST data has its own problems but these are much less than those of the land data.
                      What does the SST data show? The 5 year moving SST temperature average shows that the warming trend peaked in 2003 and a simple regression analysis shows an eight year global SST cooling trend since then .The data shows warming from 1900 – 1940 ,cooling from 1940 to about 1975 and warming from 1975 – 2003. CO2 levels rose monotonically during this entire period.There has been no net warming since 1997 – 15 years with CO2 up 7.9% and no net warming. Anthropogenic CO2 has some effect but our knowledge of the natural drivers is still so poor that we cannot accurately estimate what the anthropogenic CO2 contribution is. Since 2003 CO2 has risen further and yet the global temperature trend is negative. This is obviously a short term on which to base predictions but all statistical analyses of particular time series must be interpreted in conjunction with other ongoing events and in the context of declining solar magnetic field strength and activity – to the extent of a possible Dalton or Maunder minimum and the negative phase of the Pacific Decadal a global 20 – 30 year cooling spell is more likely than a warming trend.
                      It is clear that the IPCC models , on which AL Gore based his entire anti CO2 scare campaign ,have been wrongly framed. and their predictions have failed completely.This paradigm was never well founded ,but ,in recent years, the entire basis for the Climate and Temperature trends and predictions of dangerous warming in the 2007 IPCC Ar4 Summary for Policy Makers has been destroyed. First – this Summary is inconsistent with the AR4 WG1 Science section. It should be noted that the Summary was published before the WG1 report and the editors of the Summary , incredibly ,asked the authors of the Science report to make their reports conform to the Summary rather than the other way around. When this was not done the Science section was simply ignored..
                      I give one egregious example – there are many others.Most of the predicted disasters are based on climate models.Even the Modelers themselves say that they do not make predictions . The models produce projections or scenarios which are no more accurate than the assumptions,algorithms and data , often of poor quality,which were put into them. In reality they are no more than expensive drafting tools to produce power point slides to illustrate the ideas and prejudices of their creators. The IPCC science section AR4 WG1 section 8.6.4 deals with the reliability of the climate models .This IPCC science section on models itself concludes:
                      “Moreover it is not yet clear which tests are critical for constraining the future projections,consequently a set of model metrics that might be used to narrow the range of plausible climate change feedbacks and climate sensitivity has yet to be developed”
                      What could be clearer. The IPCC itself says that we don’t even know what metrics to put into the models to test their reliability.- i.e. we don’t know what future temperatures will be and we can’t yet calculate the climate sensitivity to anthropogenic CO2.This also begs a further question of what mere assumptions went into the “plausible” models to be tested anyway. Nevertheless this statement was ignored by the editors who produced the Summary. Here predictions of disaster were illegitimately given “with high confidence.” in complete contradiction to several sections of the WG1 science section where uncertainties and error bars were discussed.
                      A key part of the AGW paradigm is that recent warming is unprecedented and can only be explained by anthropogenic CO2. This is the basic message of the iconic “hockey stick ” However hundreds of published papers show that the Medieval warming period and the Roman climatic optimum were warmer than the present. The infamous “hide the decline ” quote from the Climategate Emails is so important. not so much because of its effect on one graph but because it shows that the entire basis if dendrothermometry is highly suspect. A complete referenced discussion of the issues involved can be found in “The Hockey Stick Illusion – Climategate and the Corruption of science ” by AW Montford.
                      Temperature reconstructions based on tree ring proxies are a total waste of time and money and cannot be relied on.
                      There is no evident empirical correlation between CO2 levels and temperature, In all cases CO2 changes follow temperature changes not vice versa.It has always been clear that the sun is the main climate driver. One new paper ” Empirical Evidence for a Celestial origin of the Climate Oscillations and its implications “by Scafetta from Duke University casts new light on this.http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/scafetta-JSTP2.pdf Humidity, and natural CO2 levels are solar feedback effects not prime drivers. Recent experiments at CERN have shown the possible powerful influence of cosmic rays on clouds and climate.
                      Solar Cycle 24 will peak in a year or two thus masking the cooling to some extent, but from 2014 on, the cooling trend will become so obvious that the IPCC will be unable to continue ignoring the real world – even now Hansen and Trenberth are desperately seeking ad hoc or epicycle type fixes to locate the missing heat.
                      You might want to open your closed minds by checking

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Oh dear. A cut-and-paste job from a blog with no followers. 🙄

                    • Richard Christie

                      Oh dear indeed.

                      Mark if you think there are scientific bodies who deny the reality of AWG, then name them.

                      So far you are just taking your clothes off in public.

                    • Mark

                      God help me, this is a fucking sideshow.. I’ll say it once again, slowly, excuse the diction as I’ve had a good old Kiwi Vino (must be some subsequent Veritas)

                      You people (gang?) have stated as truth that every scientific body on the planet, with no exceptions, are on board with AGW.
                      No exceptions. All of them. In all the atmospheric and physical sciences.
                      There is no debate in the scientific community on the reality of anthropogenic global warming..

                      and used your own copy paste Kotahi with some strong argument/equation.
                      I also have copy/pasted  some science which conflicts with yours (so there may be some exceptions to above outrageous statement)
                      Anyway, the post was about..that’s right, the peak oil conspiracy theory.. and I’ve lost the energy  (no pun intended) but not the truth to shoot you down on that one..
                      Time to make the girls lunches and head off to bed to read a bit more RWNJ Neo Liberal Propaganda Bullshit.. not.
                      Leftie bastards 

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Mark, I discovered your cut and paste by a simple method. I pasted a sentence from it into google, put quote marks around it, and pressed the search button.

                      You are welcome to employ the same “trick:” to see whether my comment is a cut-and-paste or not. It isn’t, by the way. 🙂

                    • Mark

                      This thread is like a smack habit.. you know you shouldn’t , but too hard to resist trying to show someone the light.
                      Ok, so you didn’t cut and paste (from the internet anyway).. well done, fast typing maybe,  possibly you have a science head..
                      It still doesn’t excuse the totally bullshit statement made, so why don’t you address the argument, or refute my comment..
                      Hang on, I know.. you can’t 

                    • Richard Christie

                      Mark if you think there are scientific bodies who deny the reality of AWG, then name them.

                      Every scientific body on the planet acknowledges the existence of AGW. All of them. In all the Physical and Earth sciences. No exceptions.

                      Leftie bastards


                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      The noise to signal ratio is strong in this one. Perhaps it’s the wine.

                      Mark, unsubstantiated assertions do not make an “argument”. You could always have noted that GHGs create a “forcing” not a “feedback”, if you wanted to have a go at my comment. You can always link to the professional scientific bodies that deny AGW if you want to have a go at Richard’s.

  3. Farrar may not know that when US citizens fill up their car the first $15 goes to oil
    speculators in the financial markets.

  4. johnm 4

    A tough-oil world
    by Michael T. Klare
    A Tough-Oil World: Why High Gas Prices Are Here to Stay

    “In energy terms, we are now entering a world whose grim nature has yet to be fully grasped. This pivotal shift has been brought about by the disappearance of relatively accessible and inexpensive petroleum — “easy oil,” in the parlance of industry analysts; in other words, the kind of oil that powered a staggering expansion of global wealth over the past 65 years and the creation of endless car-oriented suburban communities. This oil is now nearly gone.

    The world still harbors large reserves of petroleum, but these are of the hard-to-reach, hard-to-refine, “tough oil” variety. From now on, every barrel we consume will be more costly to extract, more costly to refine — and so more expensive at the gas pump.”

    As AFewKnowTheTruth and R Atack would say, we’re past peak it’s all downhill now.
    I am surprised anyone takes any notice of David Farrar!

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 4.1

      Measures of credibility.

      David Farrar = Robert Atack
      AFewKnowTheTruth = Cameron Slater.

      just saying.

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1

        Equating known liars with people who tell the truth doesn’t do anything for your credibility.

        • Lanthanide

          KTH like myself takes a rather dim view of the somewhat hysterical tone taken by Robert and AFKTT.

          • Colonial Viper

            So if they took a more sanguine tone to the rapid closure of current economic arrangements, you would take them more seriously?

            BTW net growth per capita averaged over any 5 year span is never coming back to the western world.

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          I have no personal credibility on this subject, and am entirely reliant on extant literature for my position. Just like AFKTT and RA.

    • KeepOurAssetsDon'tSell. 4.2

      Here’s and interview with Michael Klare on his new book highlighted in the previous post’s link:
      Post 4

      “The Deadly Scramble for the World’s Last Resources”

      Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/the-mad-scramble-for-the-worlds-last-resources-20120319#ixzz1ptdDAqY0

      All goes to show: growth is over, we are on the start of IC’s (Industrial civilisation) decline trajectory which is guaranteed like a hangover not to be fun at all. But will require us as a society to attend AA on how to cope with not getting our growth fix for evermore. Going to be tough. Will also require a society of cooperation rather than competition where some hog more than their fair share of the wealth pie.

  5. Bored 5

    Getting back to the original tack, the whole concept of David Farrar and the National Party even thinking peak oil is going to be an issue cracks me up. They don’t have a clue, and are going to get run over by the impending nightmare it represents.

    How do I know this: simple, look at the roading projects list and commitments. Listen to their lip service to the interests of the trucking industry. Look at their adherence to growth and debt, underpinned by energy supply….I could go on.

    The real problem with peak oil and politicians of all colours etc is their adherence to ideologies that don’t take any notice of the issues of scarcity and assume that man and his technology will find a way of overcoming physical resource limits and the laws of physics (thermodynamics in this case). Then there is the other dogma of “markets” and “economics” as a driver that can overcome the above….its all pretty ludicrous.

    Then there is the extreme faith (bordering on cargo cult mentality) that “they” (whoever the undisclosed “they” happen to be) will “fix” the problem. This is a form of techno-narcism. Lan and Pop display this in spades…guys the rescuing “they” will be riding white horses…real white horses for a lack of alternative fuel or transport mode. Get with the program.

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      Sorry, I actually don’t believe in a techno-fix. I don’t assume we’re going to be saved.

      But, on the other hand, I’m not saying it *won’t* happen.

      There is talk in America at the moment, because of their ever-increasing glut of gas, that they will start to compete with European manufactured goods just because their cost of energy is so cheap compared to Europe’s.

      Now imagine a world where some cheap form of fusion does actually end up being a reality – it will be cheaper than current coal-fired power plants. It may be cheap enough to allow “mining of the oceans” where elements are separated out by electrolysis – something that has never been economical based on the amount of power that is required to do it. It will not solve the transportation fuels problem directly or by itself, but it will allow modern civilization to continue in some changed form, rather than the alternative of going back to 1900 levels of development that we’re faced with if we continue with our existing energy generation methods minus oil.

      • Bored 5.1.1

        Maybe I take a darker view: I actually do want some form of alternative to oil to be discovered, otherwise (for those of us who survive the great meltdown in things like grain production) its back to the 1940s or similar.

        Word of advice: dont believe the bollocks out there about the US being awash in gas. More recent estimates from the US Geological Survey contrast very wildly from market announcements (designed to hike share prices etc) and suggest there are only 10 years or less at current consumption.

        • Lanthanide

          “Maybe I take a darker view: I actually do want some form of alternative to oil to be discovered, otherwise (for those of us who survive the great meltdown in things like grain production) its back to the 1940s or similar.”

          I can certainly respect that perspective, but I don’t think we’re going to end up with starvation in New Zealand as AFKTT like’s to suggest.

          The world produces a huge amount of food that is simply wasted. Bear in mind that food is still cheaper than it has ever been in history: as prices rise, the food that is produced will be managed more efficiently.

          I do foresee massive unemployment, maybe even up to 30-40%, and I have no idea how society is going to manage that (and the consequent crime and deflation), but at the same time I don’t believe that people dying from starvation is a certainty.

          • Colonial Viper

            The world produces a huge amount of food that is simply wasted. Bear in mind that food is still cheaper than it has ever been in history: as prices rise, the food that is produced will be managed more efficiently.

            Agree. We need economic and social mechanisms which will allow that food to be utilised.

            In the US, many states forbid stores to give away food which has hit its best before date. It all must go into the bin. Therefore this well known sport amongst the US poor and newly poor:


            • aerobubble

              We could easily make money, if we had starch bags that we put organic waste in, we would immediately start saving our topsoil from the council tip. But we don’t, because nobody on the left wants to start a business that would make starch bags that degrade and I can leave in the garden.

              • aerobubble

                That then can be used to feed bamboo and scrub the atmosphere of CO2, which in turn means less taxes and rates payments to have govt do it for us.

          • Jackal

            The world produces a huge amount of food that is simply wasted. Bear in mind that food is still cheaper than it has ever been in history: as prices rise, the food that is produced will be managed more efficiently.

            This seems a very once over lightly theory to me Lanthanide. As prices of fuel rise, managing food to markets is going to become more difficult to achieve. There is already a lot of food wastage from transport issues; it’s not all about food spoiling on shop shelves. The other problem is that AGW will cause more crops to fail.

            With our food production systems dependent on large-scale transport logistics, any environmental change that effects areas of production and the cost of fuel required to get food to markets is going to have a huge impact on the availability and affordability of food. This is especially the case with areas that have totally commercialized food production supplies such as cities where distance and a lack of knowledge or ability for self-sufficiency is going to have a disproportionate effect.

            Without any large-scale governmental acceptance that AGW is real and a reorganization of production systems, the crops grown and production decentralization to ensure security of supply, there well could be more people dying from starvation because of the effects of AGW and/or increasing fuel costs. With around one fifth of the worlds replenishing fresh water supplies already destroyed, water is also going to be a key factor in our ability to maintain current levels of civilisation.

            Perhaps the best argument comes from animals, with some species already experiencing mass starvation because of the effects of climate change.

          • Draco T Bastard

            The world produces a huge amount of food that is simply wasted.

            Producing food is one thing, getting it to where it needs to be is another.

            but I don’t think we’re going to end up with starvation in New Zealand as AFKTT like’s to suggest.

            We could do if we maintain the same inefficiencies that the present capitalist free-market delusion fosters.

            I do foresee massive unemployment, maybe even up to 30-40%…

            Again, only if we maintain the capitalist system which is designed so that a few people benefit from a lot of people being out of work.

            …but at the same time I don’t believe that people dying from starvation is a certainty.

            People already are, that’s what all that poverty out there means.

  6. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 6

    Just when is/was peak oil? It keeps shifting. I first understood it would happen in 1989. Roxette’s The Look was the big song. Then 1995 (Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise). Then 2005 (Don’t Cha by the Pussycat Dolls is how I think we will all remember that year).

    Personally, I think it will be next year. What about you? And where will that crazy pop music be when it does happen?

  7. Mark 7

    The answer is easy.. small Nuclear plants, bury the waste  in the middle of Aussie (encase it in good old Golden Bay Cement, drop it in the bottom of a real deep shaft)
    All transport fuel becomes diesel .. super efficient efficient and clean burning Euro 5 standard engines. Current proven reserves will last for ever.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      The solution may be technically easy, but politically it’s a non-starter.

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        Small nuclear plants are not a technically easy solution.

        Small wood gassifier plants are however.

      • It is not technically easy, and it is probably not going to last in New Zealand, for – but not limited to – these reasons:

        1) New Zealand is too seismically active for nuclear reactors. Design specifications were going to tough from the start, but because of earthquakes in New Zealand forcing us to review our seismic building code, a hard task just got much worse. Because it was an earthquake and tsunami that damaged the reactors in Japan, where seismic activity is much higher than in New Zealand, their reactors – probably already built to the highest code in the world – now have a virtually impossible chance of surviving. Thanks to the earthquake and tsunami thats probably the end of them in Japan.

        2) You would have to set up an entire new industry. The uranium would have come from Australia, because we don’t have a viable quantity here (a tiny deposit exists on the west coast, but its so small no one could justify the extraction cost). It would need to be processed – there are two major stumbling blocks right there. Just imagine trying to get resource consent for a uranium processing facility here.

        3) A meltdown might be a low probability event, but the consequences for New Zealand – an island nation even smaller than Japan and lacking its financial resources – would be extreme. We would definitely lose our clean green image (what’s left of it)for good. Our tourism industry would be shot. Our agriculture would be in trouble. It would cost billions of dollars cleaning the mess up.

        • Colonial Viper

          We would definitely lose our clean green image (what’s left of it)for good. Our tourism industry would be shot. Our agriculture would be in trouble. It would cost billions of dollars cleaning the mess up.

          And don’t forget the extra million deaths over 20 years.

    • Bored 7.2

      And where pray tell does the uranium come from? That too has limited supplies. You might want to read Nicole Foss talking nuclear EROEI (energy return on energy invested) by the time you mine, smelt, make the steel, ditto concrete etc etc….it is a pretty poor return predicated on oil and coal to do the former activities.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    I don’t disagree with the concept of peak oil.

    However, I would point out that oil is priced in USD. The USD has been depreciating against a wide variety of commodities due to the fact that unlimited numbers of USD can be created out of thin air whereas commodities cannot. I was trying to find a chart that would demonstrate the effect of devaluation of the USD on oil prices.

    For instance, here is a live currency charting site that allows you to look at various currency and commodity pairs. Have a look at the chart for the USD vs a strong commodity currency such as the AUD. Notice how steeply the AUD has risen against the USD. This is somewhat similar to the rise in oil prices suggesting that a good deal of the rise in oil prices is due to the devaluation of the USD, rather than oil shortages.

    If this is the case, then, the current spike in oil prices is not anywhere near as dangerous as the spike in 2008 because the USD was worth comparatively more then.

    • tsmithfield 8.1

      Just further from my post above, the USD has devalued around 11% against the AUD since the peak oil price of approx $140 per barrel in 2008. So, if we assume that the AUD is a constant against the price of commodities, oil would need to be at $157 per barrel now to be at an equivalent price.

      If anyone wants to see a commodity that has gone truly parabolic, check out the chart for the price of silver! It was around $4.00 per ounce in the early 2000s. It peaked last year at around $47 per ounce and has since corrected somewhat to now be trading in the early $30s.

      I sure wish I had invested big time in silver back then!!

  9. Georgecom 9

    Higher and high oil prices look to be a structural matter now, accepting some who will argue black and blue against it. Solutions bandied about are ‘the market’ and ‘technology’.

    Yes, ‘the market’ may provide some solution. As oil remains high other alternatives become economic and other sources of oil, gas, methane cost less. But then I haven’t seen anyone state what the price of oil will be that makes these other sources viable. I also haven’t seen those prices lined up alongside the costs that economies can sustain. There may also be incremental shifts in energy efficiency that can partially offset rising oil prices. But, once again, I haven’t seen wads of rigorous research that prices such incremental efficiencies against loss of growth from higher oil prices and costs of alternatives.

    So, with ‘the market’ solution, it seems like a leap of faith.

    New technologies also seems a similar leap of faith.


  10. Good article James
    We are in the bottle neck of peak oil, alas the ones that make it through will come smack up against the cork of climate change )
    What the hell, we got Kiwi Saver, and a party pro the environment promoting it.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      Greenhouse gas emissions won’t be a big deal after the debt and energy depletion driven collapse of the industrial economy.

      edit – a collapse in the human population will also assist.

    • johnm 10.2

      hi Robert
      What price per barrel of oil, floor price, would signify we are truly in the bottleneck? An honest request for your opinion. Already collapse is happening since 2008, no recovery but continuing depression refer M. Ruppert. Europe is in the doo doo so is the U$$$$$……..ad infinitum. The bottleneck would be when people start starving in my book.

      • Colonial Viper 10.2.1

        The bottleneck would be when people start starving in my book.

        How about 50,000 NZ kids going very hungry every day, day after day. Close enough for you? Because that’s RIGHT NOW.

  11. johnm 11

    A very neat summary of our present situation:

    Peak oil is real and will stunt any economic recovery

    Rex Weyler, executive member of the Vancouver Peak Oil campaign group, has written a viewpoint on peak oil for Public Service Europe.

    During the last century, society squandered 500 million years of captured sunlight on drag races, traffic jams, private jets and overheated office buildings – warns campaign group. Oil company cheerleaders proclaiming huge supplies of oil are dead wrong. Peak oil is as real as rain, and it is here now. Not 2050. Not 2020. Now. Oil production has been flat since 2005. This is not by choice. The producers cannot increase production because new fields cannot keep pace with declining production from old fields. The plateau is the top of the global depletion curve. Furthermore, this end of energy growth only accounts for volume. Energy quality and net-energy are falling like stones as environmental devastation increases. Every producing oil field on earth is in decline, unless it is brand new, and peak discoveries are well behind us. Meanwhile, the aggregate decline rate appears to be about 5 per cent per year. To maintain world production, we would need to bring a new Saudi Arabia – equivalent to three billion barrels annually – into full production every three years. There exists on earth not one single promising field that remotely approaches those requirements…


    Maybe then the bottleneck is beginning.

  12. KeepOurAssetsDon'tSell. 12

    The Growth economy is dead. Our Pie is destined not only to never get bigger but to actually shrink.
    (Reason is Resource decline particularly cheap easy to extract oil is gone for ever) What is necessary in NZ is not the financial apartheid of: tax cuts for the rich, the selling off of our public assets to make the rich richer, the continuing assault on worker’s rights and conditions, the continuing blindness to poverty in New Zealand, the binning of a large minority of the population as the underclass, the undermining of legitimate support for beneficiaries.
    What is required is a totally new order where everyone shares the economic burden,where we truly help less fortunate kiwis, where we move forward together.

    “Infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet. Growth is dead. Growth is over. The physical resources needed are not there. And the conflict between the U.S. and Israel and Iran is — whether intentional or not — about whether the infinite-growth paradigm or something else will govern the remaining months of the old paradigm. What happens in those months may well determine the future survival of billions of human beings.

    As soon as the world stops chasing growth it can start chasing survival… It can start chasing peace. — MCR”

    And New Zealand can start addressing the very serious inequality in this society which divides us.

    link: http://www.collapsenet.com/free-resources/collapsenet-public-access/news-alerts/item/7078-the-biggest-bellwether-in-the-world-is-giving-some-ominous-comments-about-growth

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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago