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The last gasp of oil

Written By: - Date published: 8:23 am, January 23rd, 2015 - 109 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, energy, global warming, peak oil, sustainability - Tags: , , ,

Currently oil supply is up and the cost of oil has halved over the last 6 months. It’s largely down to a fracking boom in America, which has boosted their production by two thirds. There are all sorts of political and economic ramifications (far too many to pursue in this post!).

Some observations: Most of the writing on peak oil did not anticipate this. It significantly delays the “end of oil”. Although consumers get to enjoy (somewhat) lower energy costs, it is of course bad news because we’re going to burn all that oil and pump all that carbon into our overheated atmosphere (not to mention the environmental costs of fracking). We’re planting our collective foot on the accelerator as we speed towards the brick wall. Brilliant.

An interesting piece in The Economist recently imagines a bright side:

Seize the day

The fall in the price of oil and gas provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix bad energy policies

The plunging price of oil, coupled with advances in clean energy and conservation, offers politicians around the world the chance to rationalise energy policy. They can get rid of billions of dollars of distorting subsidies, especially for dirty fuels, whilst shifting taxes towards carbon use. A cheaper, greener and more reliable energy future could be within reach.

There are growing signs that low prices are here to stay: the rising chatter of megamergers in the oil industry (see article) is a sure sign that oilmen are bracing for a shake-out. Less noticed, the price of cleaner forms of energy is also falling, as our special report this week explains. And new technology is allowing better management of the consumption of energy, especially electricity. That should help cut waste and thus lower costs still further. For decades the big question about energy was whether the world could produce enough of it, in any form and at any cost. Now, suddenly, the challenge should be one of managing abundance.

The most straightforward piece of reform, pretty much everywhere, is simply to remove all the subsidies for producing or consuming fossil fuels. Last year governments around the world threw $550 billion down that rathole—on everything from holding down the price of petrol in poor countries to encouraging companies to search for oil. By one count, such handouts led to extra consumption that was responsible for 36% of global carbon emissions in 1980-2010. Falling prices provide an opportunity to rethink this nonsense.

That should be just the beginning. Politicians, for the most part, have refused to raise taxes on fossil fuels in recent years, on the grounds that making driving or heating homes more expensive would not only annoy voters but also hurt the economy. With petrol and natural gas getting cheaper by the day, that excuse has gone. Higher taxes would encourage conservation, dampen future price swings and provide a more sensible way for governments to raise money.

Environmental authors such as Bill McKibben and Tim Flannery have also made the point that we need a period of energy transition – paradoxically we need a lot of energy to build the technologies that we we will need for a low-carbon, sustainable energy future. So the current glut of oil does seem to provide this opportunity.

The wisest thing to do, in my opinion, is leave the oil in the ground. The chances of that happening are nil. So will we at least have the wisdom to use the current glut constructively, to implement a transition to more rational energy policy and to more sustainable sources of energy? Can we actually, in the long term, cut emissions? Or will we squander it all on a brief boom, oil industry profits, and business as usual. I’m not optimistic.

109 comments on “The last gasp of oil”

  1. fisiani 1

    Wooly headed thinking. There is the same volume of oil in the ground as there always has been. Using old technology it could have been scarce. Using fracking there is an abundance. I suspect there is easily enough oil in reserve to last another 100 years or more. It will run out one day but not in our lifetimes. Hardly the “last gasp of oil” -that should have been tagged with ‘humour’.

    • vto 1.1

      how would you know? what a waste of space

      • Gosman 1.1.1

        He may well be wrong. However his views seem no difference in principle to some here who were suggesting the 2015 would be the beginning of the end for civilisation as a result of Peak oil and that we would never see prces below 100 USD be barrel ever again in our lifetimes.

    • Colonial Rawshark 1.2

      As the collapse in fracking rig numbers in the USA shows, there will be plenty of fracking oil left under the ground, which no one will be able to extract economically.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 1.2.1

        Fracking- which was originally developed by US government money for increasing gas supplies- doesnt create long term oil reserves. Once a recoverable oil reserve was seen at about 15 -20 years. With fracking its between 5 and 10 as the costs to keep production flowing are so much higher.

        • Colonial Rawshark

          As I understand it a fracking well hits peaks flows within the first 6m and then it is all gone within 3-4 years.

          In a sign of desperation, some operators were talking early last year about going back to re-frack wells that they had already fracked as they claimed that improved technology would allow them to extract even more oil…

    • Sabine 1.3

      do you have children? Grand Children? Anyone in your Family who is younger than ‘you’?
      Because you see, some of us are not arguing so much for “us” or the “in our lifetime’ but for the younger generation that is just starting ‘their lifetime’.

      Again, the thing that gets me with the crowd that wants to believe that everything is still there in abundance in ‘their lifetime’ obviously does not give a flying squirrel for their offspring, or any of the other young ones that will run this world when we are at the end of ‘our lifetime’.

      Your I can’t give a shit attitude is self defeating Fisiani. and lacking any sense of humor.

    • Murray Rawshark 1.4

      Yeah, use fracking so we run out of potable water and hydrocarbons at the same time. I suppose that you wouldn’t find life worth living if you couldn’t clean your boss’s car every day anyway.

      • AmaKiwi 1.4.1

        + 1

        You’re right. The poisoning of ground water supplies from fracking is horrific. That’s why some regions (such as NY State) are banning fracking completely.

  2. Colonial Rawshark 2

    A brilliant and timely post. I agree with all the points you make Anthony, except for one: the “collapse” in oil prices (oil today is till twice as expensive as oil in the 1990’s) doesn’t delay the end of oil at all, what is happening now is that we are living through the end of oil.

    Just like a man who is drowning and being pulled under the waves gets one brief clean gasp of air into his lungs before being dragged under again: no one would claim that the man has suddenly gained a reprieve from drowning.

    Points to note:

    1) Usually a drop in oil price primes a boost in economic activity. Not this time – the collapse in non-conventional oil activity eg. tar sands and shale oil operations suspending work means the North American economy is taking a huge hit.

    2) The financialisation of oil as a commodity has increased the whipsawing effect on oil prices – and that is going to break the real economy.

    3) Our leaders will not use this drop in oil prices to take subsidies away from oil producers who are currently being killed by this lower market price. Only large conventional producers are making a profit at $50/bb and even then the likes of Saudi Arabia and Russia are not making enough profit to cover their country’s budgets.

    4) NZ has 15 years left to get a low carbon transport, communications and power grid infrastructure in place. And to transition away from global markets provided products and jobs.

    5) Meanwhile, doing all of this looks expensive and unnecessary again, when compared to cheap oil, lessening politicians’ motivation to push on with what needs to be done.

    Dmitry Orlov has made some good observations:

    The fix for low oil prices is… low oil prices. Past some point high-priced producers will naturally stop producing, the excess inventory will get burned up, and the price will recover. Not only will it recover, but it will probably spike, because a country littered with the corpses of bankrupt oil companies is not one that is likely to jump right back into producing lots of oil while, on the other hand, beyond a few uses of fossil fuels that are discretionary, demand is quite inelastic. And an oil price spike will cause another round of demand destruction, because the consumers, devastated by the bankruptcies and the job losses from the collapse of the oil patch, will soon be bankrupted by the higher price. And that will cause the price of oil to collapse again.

    And so on until the last industrialist dies. His cause of death will be listed as “whiplash”: the “shaken industrialist syndrome,”


    • greywarshark 2.1

      Colonial Rawshark
      Thanks for that good full comment. Helpful.

    • nadis 2.2

      Don’t disagree with much of your comment, but you’re way off on point 1. Anticipated boost to the US economy is around 1%. There is absolutely no way that anyone can coherently argue that low oil prices are bad for the broad US economy. Theres a graphic here, this is consistent with multiple sources of research I’ve seen.


      In the US you’ve got around 8 states who are net losers (in a state revenue sense) including Texas, North Dakota, Alaska etc) everyone else is net better off.

      Another important way to think about oil is the budgetary breakeven for countries which is significantly higher than the production cost break even. Deutsche Bank research summarised here:


      A lot of countries need >$100 per bbl to breakeven.

      And US employment in the Oil and Gas industry is very low – just 216,100 employees as of Dec 2014, out of a total non-farm payrolls of 140.35mm. Thats barely 0.15% of US non-farm jobs. So even if employment in Oil and Gas halved (which it won’t) – it would barely show up in the stats.

      In terms of production from marginal oil sources in the US (i.e., fracking) most production is profitable (just) at around $50 per bbl. But (as you point out) there is a serious impact on future production as the industry in the US (which is mostly smaller companies) is not re-investing in future production. So there will likely be a run off in US supply over the next 2-3 years – down from 9mm bbl per day to closer to 7mm bbl per day. The current overhang in the market ioos somewhere around 2 to 3 mm bbl per day. Obviously Saudi could solve that with one phone call but I don’t see that happening until there is a production shakeout in the US. That won’t be apparent for minimum 6 months if not 1 year.

      • Colonial Rawshark 2.2.1

        Don’t disagree with much of your comment, but you’re way off on point 1. Anticipated boost to the US economy is around 1%.

        OK I’m open minded on this and am happy to watch this play out over the next 6-12 months to see what the actual effect on US economic numbers are.

      • tracey 2.2.2

        CV has posted a fascinating article further down the thread in a discussion about king abdullah which is worth a read to see all the possible different factors in play regarding oil prices shale gas and other stuff.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.2.3

        Thats barely 0.15% of US non-farm jobs.

        And yet National keep telling us that drilling for oil will create lots and lots of jobs.

      • Lanthanide 2.2.4

        Unfortunately I can’t find the statement, but it was somewhere on fivethirtyeight.com.

        Employment in the US has grown past 2007 levels now (start of the GFC), but the statement was that it has only increased in the shale-gas/oil states; in all other states employment is still below or just meeting the 2007 level.

        That suggests that although there are only a small number of jobs directly involved in gas/oil extraction, there is significant downstream and activity and employment as a result of that extraction. There was an article in the Economist not to long ago about on-shoring certain types of manufacturing back to the US away from China, due to very cheap energy.

        • Colonial Rawshark

          Oil employment is far better paid than they typical $7/hr McJobs/WalJobs i.e. they enable something of a middle class with discretionary spending power to reform. Also when you think of a shale oil operation as a drilling operation which runs in parallel to a Wall St investor/property investment office you can see where the real money lay.

  3. Ad 3

    It’s a hard challenge for the traditional left because the impending crisis of energy that was supposed to spur political and social transition has disappeared over the horizon.

    Movements such as the Greens however have built up a constituency for their messaging that now suffuses most of ordinary life. The very long game has become the successful game.

    • Colonial Rawshark 3.1

      You don’t reach the calm at the eye of the storm and signal the all clear.

      The Greens are blind as everyone else. More so because they are promising the middle class and the upper class that their privileged lifestyles can continue without any real change.

      So all I hear you saying is that the Greens will do better electorally in the short term on the issue of energy depletion because they are offering the comfortable classes a higher dose of hopium.

      • Ad 3.1.1

        “CrIsisaholics Anonymous” struggle for public change relevance.

        NZGreens are the strongest in the world.
        Politically, this is as good as Greens get. Other than communitarian efforts, that’s our baseline.

        • Colonial Rawshark

          “CrIsisaholics Anonymous” struggle for public change relevance.

          Well, this is very true.

          Which is why politicians and mainstream political parties will keep telling the electorate what they want to hear.

          NZGreens are the strongest in the world.
          Politically, this is as good as Greens get.

          I have no doubt that this is true, but it’s approximately just 15%-20% of what we need at this stage.

        • tracey

          are they? i am not saying you are wrong but I thought they were pretty strong in germany and I (know it is only a poll) saw the UK greens are polling ahead of Lib Dems and just behind UKIP in UK?

          • adam

            Polls in First past the post are effectively pointless Tracey. All we know for sure about First past the post, is male idiots always win. Remember social credit, they did bloody well in the polls too. Polls are just propaganda tools. If I supported NZ First, I’d push for a 26 weeks ban before an election.

            • tracey

              so what is the definition of “strongest” in the context used by Ad and to which I was responding

              greens have 10% of seats in euro parliament. 64 seats in bundestag

              • adam

                Germany then. In realpolitik. If only we could convince the communists party in China to be green. At least we know, most of it will be made in post-inclosed China.

              • Ad

                Aren’t they over 10% of parliament here?

                Sorry if I sound pessimistic, but i struggle to believe much of what is wrong with the world can now be reversed.
                – Oil multinationals
                – Climate change
                – Agglomeration of capital to the 1% (or .001%)
                – Environmental degradation
                – Etc

                I believe that neither democracy, the idea of policy, nor the state are sufficiently strong now to challenge these trends.
                I also believe the best we can do is do our best with our own communities and families.

    • Sabine 3.2

      and still the Greens are so commercialized, so standardized, so utterly corporate that really they are no solution either.
      They remind me of hard core Vegans that refuse to eat food because they can afford to buy soy based products (that in my eyes are equally damaging to the planet – just go have a look and read up on how soy milk is produced and go have another soy latte right after that) to replace their meats, but were they to experience sever hunger I am sure they will pretty much eat what given – the might cry a hot tear over the fact that they ate something containing butter or eggs, but they will rationalize it away with survival.

      Nope, as long as it is profitable to ignore global warming, or global weather weirding, or long droughts, or fast storms and devastating floods nothing will be done. And our current regime is the standard bearer for this attitude.

      Still hoping that the left parties will come together for the future….but not holding my breath.

  4. esoteric pineapples 4

    Interesting article from Nexus Magazine on this subject – The Looming Shale Gas Fracking Disaster By F. William Engdahl. The short-lived US shale gas boom is about to go bust, a victim of a hyped confidence bubble and inflated estimates of recoverable reserves


  5. “Most of the writing on peak oil did not anticipate this.”

    JMG did and has been writing very consistently about this ‘bubble’ for years http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.co.nz/

    What to do? Not much really – they will pretend everything is all okay, they will merrily continue their silly practices and we will all suffer the consequences uneveningly.

    What to do?

    What’s more, there’s no shortage of examples in relatively recent history to guide the sort of crisis management I have in mind. The tsunami of discontinuities that’s rolling toward us out of the deep waters of the future may be larger than the waves that hit the Western world with the coming of the First World War in 1914, the Great Depression in 1929, or the Second World War in 1939, but from the perspective of the individual, the difference isn’t as vast as it might seem. In fact, I’d encourage my readers to visit their local public libraries and pick up books about the lived experience of those earlier traumas. I’d also encourage those with elderly relatives who still remember the Second World War to sit down with them over a couple of cups of whatever beverage seems appropriate, and ask about what it was like on a day-by-day basis to watch their ordinary peacetime world unravel into chaos.


    understanding what is happening and what will happen is important, learning from the past and how others have dealt with major life-changing world events is another important aspect, and understanding ourselves – who we are, what we believe in and what is important to us is also there – the future is here.

    • Kiwiri - Raided of the Last Shark 5.1

      what it was like on a day-by-day basis to watch their ordinary peacetime world unravel into chaos

      ….. and so we shall look to our own households and try to manage on a day-to-day basis, focusing our attention and energies to our okionomia, building or growing from our real economy at a community level.

    • disturbed 5.2

      1000% Marty mars, true to the point of clarity.

    • Colonial Rawshark 5.3


      NZ is about 20 years too late to conduct a proper economic and cultural transition off fossil fuels. And things like the TPPA are going to make us even more reliant on global supply chains which are going to start failing to deliver for NZ citizens on a regular basis – guaranteed.

      What we have left open to us are basically adhoc crisis measures to try and lay down basic physical and social infrastructure over the next 15 years, to operate in a low carbon economy.

      Personally I think Wellington will be focussing on a game of ‘pretend and extend’ through most of those years.

  6. disturbed 6


    Please don’t take the bait of Super NatZ paid troll Gosman to pollute our thinking.

    Ignore them all,

    I suggested two days ago ignore him/her and their ilk including Hooten, as we don’t get any positive input from them and they are damaging our forum discussion.

    As for these Fracking clowns, they are simply morally bankrupt individuals.

    Also the oil companies and the automotive industry are most likely behind driving this corrupt plan to pollute the earth while destroying our entire underground water supply and air.

    Wilful damage is what they should be charged with as the activities are harming all of us and they should be held responsible for their deliberate intent to injure or kill us all.

    • greywarshark 6.1

      @ disturbed
      I do agree with you about DNFTT. However sometimes the restraint slips, and they get a verbal slap on their bottoms. It’s very satisfying and you would notice I didn’t enter into any discussion with Gos because it’s a waste of time. He can’t reason and may never have learned to do that in his life.

      For most of the literate RWs that write here they are writing from their version of concrete bunkers, possibly like someone I know, sitting in a nice house, with nice ‘appointments’, looking out on a nice view, in a nice neighourhood. So much niceness should not be challenged in any way. Nirvana has been reached, they are all called Jack, as in “This is the house that Jack built’ (they are all self-made men, except if they are women, perhaps 10%).

      I understand that, and so I resent them getting too much oxygen. They maintain their sense of superiority by writing scathing comments, striking superior postures about ideas different to their own, and denigrating those who point out unfairness as envious layabouts and hopeless failures. And this of course is mainly untrue, there may be 10-20% of such people about. They will always exaggerate the negative, and we need to accentuate the positive. And remember to smile sometimes and perhaps listen to some music.

      Or Aretha Franklin belts it out at


  7. Tarquin 7

    I don’t think we will ever run out of oil, we’ll just stop using it. As soon as someone invents a system of storing electricity our problems will be solved. Hopefully it’s not too far away.

    • weka 7.1

      Why do you think that will solve our problems, and what makes you hope it’s not too far away?

      • Tarquin 7.1.1

        Basically, it’s all about efficiency. We live in the oil age just as people lived in the steam age. Oil trumped steam and I believe electricity will trump oil. This is a good thing because electricity can be produced relatively cheaply from renewable recourses. The only problem is transmission and storage. Up to a third of electricity is lost in the lines, so the best thing we can do is generate as close as we can to the end user. I’m a fan of tidal generators and also think we shouldn’t write off small nuclear plants. As for a better battery, a lot of money is being spent trying to solve this one. When someone solves this problem oil will be consigned to the scrap heap, which can only be good for everyone.

        • Colonial Rawshark

          The oil and steam age that you mention are both the same age: industrial fossil fuel use.

          For NZ there are two main problems with fossil fuel depletion
          1) Our transport systems are almost entirely reliant on fossil fuels.
          2) We rely on a globalised supply chain to provide us with the very basics of day to day living. That globalised supply chain is entirely reliant on fossil fuels.

          Hopeful talk about a renewable grid is important, but does nothing to resolve those two critical issues for NZ.

          I’m a fan of tidal generators and also think we shouldn’t write off small nuclear plants.

          Your comment about small nuclear plants shows that you haven’t thought this through. It is impossible to build and fuel a nuclear plant without massive amounts of oil.

        • tracey

          hmm electricity and electric cars have been around a while… oil is the preferred option because of the hold and money the OIL companies have.

        • weka

          “Basically, it’s all about efficiency”

          Are you familier with the Jeavon’s paradox? how would you get around that?

          We already have storage via hydro. Admittedly it’s not that effecient, but even if it were, we would still use up out capacity and then want more. The problem isn’t lack of technology, it’s modern human’s inability to live within their means.

        • Lanthanide

          A realistic and mathematical approach to creating a country-sized battery for storing electricity: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/#more-126

  8. Colonial Rawshark 8

    Kansas state officials admit close correlation between fracking and earthquake events


  9. greywarshark 9

    Of course – only one thing matters…

    State Rep. Tom Sloan, a Lawrence Republican who has served on several Federal Energy Regulatory Commission committees and task forces, said a moratorium would hurt the economy.
    “How do you draw the line?” he asked.
    “If you don’t allow fracking, you will shut down the entire industry,” he said.

    When legal slavery was being condemned, the business people said the same thing.

    • Colonial Rawshark 9.1

      NB slavery continues in the USA in the form of the prison industrial complex from which private prison corporations make millions a month.

  10. tracey 10

    speaking of last gasps

    king abdullah has died. the USA will be having talks with the saudis to have an election and move toward democracy…

    too late..

    79 year old brother is taking over.

  11. Corokia 11

    This would be a good time to introduce the ‘fee and dividend’ scheme as put forward by James Hansen. A price is put on carbon and fossil fuels are taxed at the mine, drill site or port of entry. The money raised goes directly to citizens on a per capita basis. That would add a bit to the price of petrol (less noticeable right now that the oil price is down), but everyone gets dividend money deposited in their bank accounts.

    • Colonial Rawshark 11.1

      Great moving around of electronic currency units, but it doesn’t help us transition off fossil fuels.

  12. Jay 12

    If we stopped using petroleum based products our lives as we know it would end. Isn’t it hypocritical to criticise oil production when the the pen you write with, the keyboard you are typing on, and the clothes you’re wearing were all made using petroleum?

    The end of oil has been predicted for decades. Now that it seems that oil is endless, we criticise methods of extraction, again using our petroleum keyboards, or driving our diesel powered boats out to protest sites.

    If and when oil does run out I guess we’ll adapt, in the meantime I’m not in any hurry to go back to living in the industrial age and dying at forty, if I’m lucky that is.

    • McFlock 12.1

      Anyone who talks about “endless” oil is obviously unfamiliar with the concept that three-dimensional spaces have a finite volume.

      The funny thing is that we’ll probably end up mining landfills or cleaning up the Pacific vortex to get hydrocarbons for plastics. Energy will probably be okay, too, although that depends on emerging technologies achieving near-enough-parity to hydrocarbons as an energy source, in costs and practicality.

      The problem that is looming massively with no real hail mary pass in sight is climate change (including ocean acidification). Longer term fuckage, and significantly more extreme.

      • weka 12.1.1

        yes, and Jay, the same 3 dimensional space world has physical connections and consequence. This means that the more oil we burn now, the worse CC will be and the more likely we will end up losing the gains from FF eg longer life expectancy.

        The sooner we transition off carbon, the more likely we will keep some of our wellbeing and standard of living.

      • Colonial Rawshark 12.1.2

        The funny thing is that we’ll probably end up mining landfills or cleaning up the Pacific vortex to get hydrocarbons for plastics (1). Energy will probably be okay, too, although that depends on emerging technologies achieving near-enough-parity to hydrocarbons as an energy source, in costs and practicality (2).

        1) There won’t be the energy to do that to replace more than a tiny fraction of our current usage.
        2) The world consumes 4.4 billion MWh of energy per month in oil. Assuming 80% is waste heat or double counting, that leaves a world shortfall of 0.9 billion MWh per month.
        3) In the short term, humanity will try and make up that short fall by burning more coal and natural gas. Those will run out circa 2060.
        4) The world uses 300 million metric tonnes equivalent of oil per month, of coal. That’s 3.5 billion MWh per month. Let’s say half of that is used for energy: 1.75 billion MWh per month.
        5) We assume that the same again is burnt in natural gas.

        Therefore between oil, coal and natural gas, the world uses 4.4 billion MWh per month. That’s the kind of power which would require 23,800 Benmore dams to supply. The oil component of that alone is 4,900 Benmore dams.

        So IMO energy will probably NOT “be okay”. No “emerging technology” Deus ex machina (what are you thinking of here? Thorium? Fusion? Dilithium? Tylium?) is going to cover that.

        And that’s excluding the energy investment that we would have to make converting fossil fuel based infrastructure to electricity based infrastructure.

        • McFlock


          I suspect the shortfall will be largely made up of existing tech alternatives that have been improved and implemented as fossil fuels commercially phase themselves out. This includes previous technologies that fossil fuels surpassed, such as wood-fueled trucks. A variation on that theme would be cng production from wood (or algae) in centralised production facilities.

          And rather than building more coal stations, we build hydro, wind or solar farms.

          Then there’s crossover uses – e.g. effective batteries (just coming out of their nascent stage) would simply use the pre-existing electricity infrastructure.

          Then, yes, we get into the potential products of blue-skies research, such as hot fusion, thorium, cold fusion, or megawatt plants that utilise the energy generated by teenage masturbation.

          If history is anything to go by, the longer shot is to assume that we will lose a substantial energy source and not develop any reasonable substitute. Indeed, we tend to fail to develop new and more efficient energy sources until the old one is about to be lost.

          • Colonial Rawshark

            Fuck mate, we’re out of time for that pollyannish shit, the prime energy source for our civilisation will be largely gone in less than one generation, more coal will be burnt in 2015 than in 2014, and you ain’t got shit apart from wood burners as a back up plan.

            23,800 Benmore dams worth of wood burners and wind turbines, you go do the math.

            • McFlock

              That seems to be a somewhat less-than-nuanced interpretation of what I wrote, but whatever.

              Hell, apparently most of us will be dead from ebola by 2016 anyway, so that might lower energy demand.

              If you’re really lucky, you might get to see even half of the cataclysms you predict come true. I doubt it, though.

              • Colonial Rawshark

                You always pride yourself on being the scientific one.

                So do the math, look at the physical facts, assess how many exojoules of fossil fuels the world uses a year and what happens when the majority of that becomes unavailable; don’t waste your time on fanciful dreams of a techno Deus ex machina arriving ‘just in time’.

                That shit only happens in TV shows and Hollywood movies.

                • Lanthanide

                  If you Google “do the math” you’ll find a website that does the math for you. He considers all the major forms of alternative energy sources available – wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, biofuels and in particular geo thermal and finds all of them grossly inadequate to replace oil. The best to hope for is a mixed bag that can cover some of the bases. Incidentally coal and gas are the best replacements.

                  Just found the summary page, which has a brief description and linkto a detailed article on each power source

                  • McFlock

                    Interesting as a situation/progress report, but the thing is that as oil gets more expensive, greater investent in developing alternatives becomes more feasible. And out of all the options, we only need breakthroughs in one or two to lessen the impact of the oil crunch: a pretty achievable strike-rate, if the last couple of hundred years are anything to go by.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Can Solar Power the World?

                    Short answer: Yes.

                    We have to look at what we can do and not at what we’d like to do. That’s basic economics.

                • McFlock


                  Technological advances only TV and movies. The end is nigh, pull the blanket over one’s head, for we are all doomed. /sarc

              • Colonial Rawshark

                By the way, 530 Three Gorges power schemes should cover the eventual shortfall in fossil fuels. (Of course, there is no way to build such power schemes without massive use of fossil fuels, and if they aren’t available, they cannot be built).

    • Colonial Rawshark 12.2

      Jay – Can’t a drug addict criticise the failure of the war against drugs?

      Can’t someone who owns a property criticise how home prices in NZ are becoming unaffordable?

      Can’t someone who drives a car criticise how reliance on even more motorways is a losing strategy?

      Your line of “thinking” seems quite soft in the head. As if you don’t know how to think independently at all.

      If we stopped using petroleum based products our lives as we know it would end.

      The problem is not that we are leaving petroleum. It is that it is leaving us.

      Except in your dream world of course.

    • Ad 12.3

      We should criticize the use of oil because it is damaging. We should criticize everything damaging.

      That a long term contest is futile does not in any way remove our responsibility to do our very best to decrease harm. It’s being truly human.

      As the Eagle comes in, raise your finger.

  13. greywarshark 13

    Jay at 12 (I haven’t got reply buttons at present)
    If we stopped using petroleum based products our lives as we know it would end.

    This is absolutely true. You are right. That’s what we keep trying to point out, and it will happen. So think on that. I find it hard to get my head around that for sure. We can spend the time from now till then thinking of how we can handle the change and find alternatives to the things we now take for granted, and that we wll need into the future.

  14. gnomic 14

    Er, the basic premise of this post, ie that oil prices have fallen because of fracking in the US is rather dubious surely? In fact I’m pretty sure it’s wrong.

    Definitely want to see the web links supporting this theory. I rather suspected the collapse of the oil price was due to geopolitical plotting by dark forces of the deep state. Just making life hard for Russia and Iran would provide a sufficient motive.

    Last I heard the Economist was the pulpit of neoliberal economics. And the Saudi regime dominates OPEC.

    However I fear the poster is correct in saying there is little chance that humanity will manage to limit its insensate demand to consume more and more energy until the rubber band finally breaks. Greed and stupidity rool OK?

  15. Agent orange 15

    Wolf, wolf, wolf! In 1978 we were told there would be no more oil by the year 2000. Carless days were introduced, the speed limit was reduced to 90kph, motor racing was off, even talk of banning horse racing, yes horse racing, as there would be hundreds of motorists diving to the races wasting precious fuel, we believed the doomsayers. 37 years later some are still crying wolf. However some rich capitalist pig or money hungry corporate will spend billions and find a way to harness another form of energy, be it wind, tidal, solar or whatever and we will be saved! I could say more….

    • Colonial Rawshark 15.1

      All the easy cheap to exploit oil is gone. In the late 1800s you could give a few guys shovels, pay them enough for food for the day, and they would strike oil.

      Now we need hundred million dollar exploration ships. We have to extract oil from a mile under the sea, out of solid shale rock, or try and melt tarseal down for it.

      This is the last gasp of oil.

      And because every dollar of our modern economy is predicated on oil, when it begins to peter out so will the modern economy. We are already living through that now.

      Wolf, wolf, wolf! In 1978 we were told there would be no more oil by the year 2000.

      This is a lie. You started your comment off with a lie. I just thought I would make that clear to readers here.

    • greywarshark 15.2

      @ Agent orange
      You bring up some interesting factoids which you think make some useful point. You could say more apparently but you wouldn’t be making a better point.

      Yes some person or corporate behemoth will harness another form of energy. You are counting on this so you don’t have to do anything personally just write sarcastic comments. You want to continue as a bum-thinker who wants to float along on other people’s efforts and achievements to guard us all against wipeout.

    • Murray Rawshark 15.3

      “However some rich capitalist pig or money hungry corporate will spend billions and find a way to harness another form of energy, be it wind, tidal, solar or whatever and we will be saved! I could say more….”

      Nah mate. Some underpaid woman in a university will invent something with her team, that builds on work funded over years by the taxpayer. Then your guys will come along and monopolise it. You could say more, but you’ve made enough of a fool of yourself already. Please don’t.

  16. It is all irrelevant now

    Guy McPherson with Edge of Extinction, Episode 1
    Published on Jan 2, 2015

    This premiere episode of Edge of Extinction describes the range of time during which habitat for humans will persist on Earth. Details include nuclear Armageddon, collapse of industrial civilization, a 50-gigaton release of methane from the Arctic, and abrupt warming of Earth’s global-average climate.
    All you are doing is shuffling deck chairs – WAF

  17. When you add up all the GHGs out there it is looking like the planet is approaching, if not past 1,000 ppm CO2/CO2e.
    For the past 800,000 years the planet has averaged about 400ppm CO2/CO2e.
    If nothing else Al Gore is going to need a higher scissor lift.
    It is very much all over Rover )
    And the collapse in oil precises has another ‘issue’ once an oil project becomes unprofitable to run, it also becomes unprofitable to clean up or maintain, something like 30% of fracking wells fail – leaching even more CH4 into the environment.
    I guess that is the same story for the nuclear power industry, once the fictitious money system goes tits up, who is going to maintain the power plants?
    The Zaporizhia nuclear plant in Ukraine is having problems, but no one is talking about it. They are trying to put USA made bits into a Russian reactor, kind of a Chernobyl meets Fukushima scenario.
    The ‘sub prime’ junk bonds that are the tar sands and fracking industry’s financial backing are collapsing 401K/Kiwi Saver anyone?
    Maybe ‘they’ can bluff their way through until we are all choking to death.
    If the newborns want to see their 2nd birthday we better hope the John Keys of this planet can keep the BS going, just that little bit more.

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