Peak Oil Update 2011

 

ENERGY, ECONOMICS, PEAK OIL and POPULATION

CGF (Common Ground Fair 2011)


The purpose of this document is to subsume and condense the huge amount of background information and jump directly to a critical analysis of our human predicament as we run short of the energy required for continued population growth.

Please read this document through and become pro-active. We’ve run out of time to face the perfect storm of peaking energy, ecological devastation, over-population, and economic collapse. The time to become involved is now. Feel free to use this document in any way.


Where are we?

Civilization is bumping along a peak of growth which can no longer continue and is beginning to contract or collapse depending on one’s point of view and whatever steps we, individually and collectively, take in the immediate future. We take for granted unlimited availability of convenient, concentrated fuels because this has been the case for the last century. Concurrently, we have evolved a debt-based financial system that allows us to borrow against expected, continuing future growth. Our food and transportation systems have fallen into almost total dependence (over 86% of our total energy) on finite fossil fuel sources.

In addition, the extreme escalation in population made possible by the unprecedented availability of excess energy has severely stressed our ecological resources from clean water to soils to forests to fisheries and climate stability.


There are only two graphs used in this presentation:

The first, “Peak Oil Update” (above) uses the data directly from the U.S. DOE to show world oil extraction increasing exponentially in the 20th century and then clearly leveling off in the last ten years. In hindsight (fact), conventional oil did peak at about 75 million barrels per day in August, 2005 just at the time a flurry of “peak oil” books hit the market and this author (John Howe) gave the CGF keynote talk (Sept. 24, 2005) to introduce this subject. Since that date, the world has extracted another 180 billion barrels of oil by ever-more expensive and environmentally destructive techniques to desperately try and restart the growth process and keep up with the steady increase in population. But, nothing of substance grows or moves without energy. New offspring are brought into the world, but they cannot expect to grow and access ever-increasing food, fuel, and material commodities without concurrent energy. Some will argue that a more efficient use of limited energy will solve the problem of geological limits, but this imaginary panacea will only postpone the day of reckoning, especially as new consumers increase in numbers and demands.


The second graph, “Peak Oil, All Energy, and Population in a Two-Lifetime Span” (below) attempts to build on the first graph and show where we’re heading in the next 50 years with various scenarios of fertility (children per female or CPF) combined with the poorly understood concepts of population momentum and energy returned on energy invested (EROEI).







































Meanwhile, we struggle to extract and compete for the remaining oil left in our finite planet. Those who argue there is “plenty left” or “the scientists (or economists) will find a substitute” are in total, factual denial of the laws of physics and geological limits of resource capital. Also shown are the expected levels and dates of peak extraction for the other finite, fossil fuels. Way at the bottom are the equivalent energy contributions now, and possible from renewable sources: hydro power, bio fuels (primarily wood), solar, and wind. All require heavy inputs of petroleum energy to expand. Most are non-scalable because they are limited by the day-by-day input of solar energy.

The second graph includes a curve (R) showing the only possible scenario that will allow us to continue some semblance of our modern lifestyle, but with a 60% per-capita reduction in energy consumption in the next 60 years. This will be the context of the rest of this paper. If we were to COMBINE a fertility rate of ONLY one child per female (1CPF) PLUS a concurrent reduction in per-capita energy consumption of one percent per year, we could be on a downward trajectory that will reduce the total demand for energy, including food, similar to the decline in energy availability, as dominated by decreasing oil (shown in the curve “NO,” the net oil energy after energy input for extraction, EROEI). The inevitable contraction of total energy available will happen whether we like it or not. But, by understanding and planning accordingly, we could reduce the total demand on a somewhat-controlled schedule and still have enough energy to avoid mass starvation, global turmoil, and competition between the remaining energy haves and have-nots. A controlled energy descent could be the bridge to a low-energy future.


As oil (40% of our total energy and absolutely necessary for agriculture and modern travel) declines, there will not be time to substitute coal, natural gas, or nuclear. Besides, these are also finite energy sources primarily for utility-scale electrical power or heating and offer no future for motive power as we know it now. This is because we have to take our energy with us when we travel. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear do not provide the convenience of oil. In the meantime, we continue to exacerbate the climate change problem by shifting more energy dependency to coal for electrical power with only limited potential for heating or transportation.


A marketing problem:

Before the beginning of the fossil-fueled industrial age, about 150 years ago, humankind lived in a precarious balance within the limited carrying capacity of the local resources. The alternative was a nomadic life to continually access new resources or to follow a moving food supply and adapt to weather change. Now, we want to continue the easy, temporary, high-energy lifestyle we’ve known only in our lifetimes. There are many websites and books explaining our crisis, some written years ago, before anyone would listen. There is no shortage of “gloom and doom” messages, but unfortunately, most people would rather hear optimistic answers even in the face of reality, math and science. The picture is further clouded by a well-funded barrage of feel-good advertising from energy companies, politicians, the financial industry, and anyone else hoping to prosper from business as usual and continued growth. Can’t we just get the party going again?

The included bibliography includes a few resources. Most of the books are available on www.Amazon.com with reviews. There is even a book titled, “There Are No Limits of Growth” (LaRouche, 1983). One chapter suggests colonization of Mars with thermonuclear power to get there, along with the nuclear fusion we can expect on our planet. The world does not need another book. It needs action!


A call to action:

Our only hope now is for a grassroots movement by a huge number of people who are not ready to give up on the future of civilization, including any hope for an acceptable life for themselves and their descendants in the very near-term future. To be proactive requires much personal energy and persistence. A most depressing observation is the large number of people who “know” but refuse to get involved. Like, the hurricane is coming, can we all help with the dike? Or would we rather listen to the optimists and maybe it will miss us.


Please. Disseminate this information in any way possible and don’t stop there. Copy the link to this presentation on my website (Peak Oil Update 2011. Other related links are LEARN and the triple crisis (Why is gas so expensive ?)


Thanks. John Howe Howe@megalink.net


LEARN:


To guide my work after publishing the third edition of “The End of Fossil Energy” in 2006, I have used the acronym LEARN. This helps keep my thoughts in order while attempting to explain our predicament and options. To make this handout more complete by itself, I will summarize and update each of the five letters, some of which stand for more than one word:


L:

Limits and Localization:

The word “limit” is fundamental to our predicament. The meaning is clear. There are a number of books in the included bibliography that use the word in the title. It is difficult to understand how intelligent people can expect something that is limited or finite (like food or fuel) to keep growing and giving more. Yet, thus is precisely our problem. A farmer cannot keep adding livestock and feed more people if his farm is limited in size and productivity. Continued extraction of more difficult sources of fossil fuels and/or new technology will only postpone the day of reckoning while the population continues to steadily increase.


There are also limitations on the concept of localization. There are a growing number of communities around the country (and the world) that consist of a handful of individuals who understand the coming energy (food, fuel ... all synonymous) crisis. The Transition Town movement is typical. Maybe if we all circle our wagons we can weather the storm and live happily in a self-sufficient community. I would argue that, although it may help with temporary local food supplies, this thinking can’t possibly work in the long run. It may even be counterproductive by luring the participants into a false security and excusing action on a broader scale. Consider the following “limitations” of localization:


Population: It’s the same old problem. If a localized group increases in numbers and exceeds the carrying capacity of its local resource base, the per-capita food supply falls sharply. The included graph shows the excessive population momentum (growth) for two children per female (2CPF). Even 1CPF continues to grow in numbers for another 30 years while the energy supply declines, starting with oil. The graph is based on the assumption of a CLOSED society with any multiple of 70 on the y-axis; that is, a localized group of 700 people, a nation of 70 million, or a world with 7 billion would follow the same demographic trend as energy starts to nosedive. Conclusion: A localized community must keep its numbers stable without adding additional babies or immigrants, because the food supply is limited. How will this be enforced?


Food: We cannot expect to import food at any time of the year unless there is another community that can export food — and how are they going to do it? It takes an average of 2,000 kilocalories of food (fuel) each day for our personal needs. This is 8,000 btu of energy, which is equivalent to about 1½ pounds of food (or wood for that matter) dry weight. A well-managed acre of land can produce about 2,000 pounds per year (gross, not net after seed) of dry weight. This is a good estimate for grains and dry beans, although corn may be twice as high. A little math shows that not more than four people can depend on each acre of productive land. What community has that arable agricultural base and knows how to make it sustainable? Intensive output from a few square feet of raised beds will not assimilate the required solar energy for year-round requirements. Besides, how about the canned goods, protein (animal or otherwise), condiments, bananas, oranges, chocolates, as well as the paper goods, matches, soaps and all the other extras we routinely pick up at the supermarket? There is no such thing as a totally “self-sufficient” community on a food basis alone. Who will feed the masses of people in population centers? Going “local” or personal, for at least some of our food is absolutely commendable. It will partially insulate us from the shortages of quality food available from the energy-intensive, agribusiness food system, especially as energy becomes more expensive and scarce.


Powering the local farm: Think of everything we take for granted, especially agricultural and transportation, which is totally dependent on oil or other energy imported to the localized community via an electrical line, or gas line, or a gas bottle. If we are to feed four people annually from one acre, where does the power and energy come from to farm that acre? By hand, it would be hard to imagine one healthy adult providing the muscle power to work that single acre necessary to feed himself and three others, probably including a wife and at least one child. The history of long-surviving civilizations like China shows limits of one out of six of the population required as full-time farmers who work long hours with part-time help from family members. There is little excess muscle energy left for travel, recreation, or food transport. The farmer and dependants had to remain near the food source.


Two other related energy issues: Any draft animal assistance has to be fed from the same land it is working, thus reducing the net food available for human consumption. It takes about 1/4 of a farm area just to “power” the farm with horses or oxen. If extra land is available, one farmer can multiply his labor with animal power, but only if the skills and equipment are available. The same 1/4 rule-of-thumb holds true for bio-fuels grown on the farm and, in addition, also need extensive infrastructure and capital investment. Who will be in charge of bio-diesel or ethanol?


Finally, for honest sustainability, all nutrients and energy that leave a specific area of arable land must be returned directly to that source in the form of manure and waste products. Exported food or imported fertilizer and compost defy the principals of self-sufficiency. Long-distance movement of food is impossible without fossil fuels or water transport. The Romans were lucky to live near the Mediterranean Sea, but still found that land transport was limited to a few hundred miles, because it took more energy to feed the muscle power than the muscle power required to move the weight of the food.


Domestic Heat: The only source of domestic heat, other than sporadic solar thermal or efficiency improvements from capital-intensive geothermal, is firewood. It takes about one acre of woodlot to provide one cord (2,000 pounds, dry weight) per year without depleting the base forest. How can this wood be harvested and transported to the home without energy input other than human muscle power? It was done in pre-industrial days, but on a very limited basis. Also, long-term harvesting and burning of wood is not sustainable any more than removing hay or food from the land without directly returning an equivalent quantity of the nutrients removed. Even an axe or handsaw is dependent on finite materials and will someday wear out. In the “old days” there were local charcoal and readily available iron sources. We will have to be dependent on industrial-age scrap until it is gone. Sound depressing? Read on.


Travel: At least a localized community will require only limited travel. About a 20-mile radius from a community center is all that is possible with foot, animal or bicycle movement. We will never go far or fast again, or move large loads without oil. Most people are too far removed from bodies of water, and we can see why population centers remained near the potential for water transport. We’ve used most of the high-energy (anthracite) coal that was best for trains. Wood power and water for steam engines are very limited and inefficient.


Everything else: We could start with an alphabetical list and not get farther than “b” or “c” without getting hopelessly bogged down with all the day-to-day things we take for granted in our high-tech, oil-fueled world. It is well established that far-simpler societies than ours collapsed because of growing interwoven dependency on a complex system. (See “The Collapse of Complex Societies” by J. Taintor). Back to the “b’s: bulbs, bullets, batteries (more discussion in section “A”), belts, bottles (we will run out), bicycles, sanding belts, v-belts, bolts (and nuts), brushes, (who’s making the paint?).


On to the “C’s: computers (repair?), cans, chains, coins (will they suffice for barter and wealth indebtedness?), candles, canvas (no more plastic tarps), cartridges for the bullets, cement, cheese, coffee, clocks, cloth, copper wire, cords, and many more. Absolute essentials were woven into the fabric of previous societies until they became too complex, causing the interdependent system to unravel. No one could be responsible for everything. Specialization quickly creeps into a community until everyone is a part of a very fragile system and many hands, minds, and natural resources are easily overwhelmed by the failure of any one critical cog (like fuel, for energy).


In addition, every functioning community needs the human input required for functions we depend on: education, health care, local administration and interaction with other local population centers, civil control, and security requirements from the local to national level.


By now, the point should be clear. We cannot expect to isolate ourselves from the highly structured, high-tech society we live in. Despite the comradeship and minimal support we can expect in a “localized” movement, there is no hope that local resilience or transition towns will protect us from the imminent energy/population crisis. The same concerned people that start these groups are “those who get it” (TWGI) and should be the most vociferous and proactive to establish a realistic future. What should we do? Back to LEARN.


E:

Education, energy, economics, efficiency, ecology ...

The world we live in, at all levels, has become so complex that it is nearly impossible to sort out what is, and why things are happening. We feel changes in the wind from all directions and intuitively feel that all is not well, but what is wrong? And what should we do? In past civilizations, with far less knowledge than ours, “intelligent” humans would default to worship, sacrificial rituals, and astounding monuments; all to appease a higher power that must be in control and therefore might be able to make things better. Or maybe it’s the other “tribe’s” skin color, religion, or strange language that’s causing the problems. Chances are “they” want what we have and are breaching our natural or man-made fences. Shouldn’t we go and raid theirs first? We have the archeology to show that none of these beliefs and traditions could control the weather or resolve overpopulation pressure (within the limits of food, water, and local geography). Now, in our time, we are smart enough to invent 4th generation I-phones with 425,000 applications for entertainment. But, we can’t accept the fact that 2+4+8+16 can get to 30 before the first 2 dies off. The purpose of this paper is to argue that, because of our dependency on fossil fuels and our destruction of the environment, the carrying capacity of the world is not remotely adequate for even the numbers we have now.


Education: We need to start by listening to the facts. No one wants to hear the Cassandras and pessimists. If our gas tank is running low, we respect that fact and plan to refuel down the road. If we think we might make another 50 miles, or although a passenger may suggest, “don’t worry, we can make 75,” we accept the worst-case possibility and don’t consider ourselves “pessimists” if we play it safe and stop for gas in 10 or 20 miles. Better to be prudent than sorry. Yet, with the world clearly running low of finite fuels for everything related to our modern lifestyle, we would rather believe any optimist, pipe dream, or questionable solution than plan for a shorter trip or even slow down and conserve the fuel we have.


The two included graphs clearly show an end to the growth of oil extraction (hence, “peak oil”). There is no way overall extraction rates will begin to climb again when more than one-half of the world’s oil producing countries have already passed their peak of production. There will always be rumors and local exceptions especially as we drill deeper or introduce new technology.


A good example is the introduction of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) which, when combined with high oil prices, has turned old, established, tight (low permeability) sand or shale fields like the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana into instant cash bonanzas. The public hears vastly exaggerated claims, circulated, of course, by those anxious to prosper.


The Bakken formation has been producing oil for over 50 years and is thoroughly researched. Recently, the number of wells has quadrupled from the 200 level in 1999 to over 1,000 because of the new technology and price of oil. Even so, the best realistic estimates of economically recoverable oil are less than 3.6 billion barrels. This sounds huge until compared to present U.S. annual consumption of 7.6 billion barrels per year. The real “carrot,” of course, is the dollar value at $80 per barrel, or a quarter of a trillion dollars! Why should we save this energy endowment for our kids when we can make so much money today and burn it up as fast as we can? For a comprehensive analysis of this subject see: “The Bakken Formation: How much will it help?” Ref: www.Theoildrum.com, node: 3868)


The addition of “fracking” and other “non-conventional” oil extraction techniques like deep offshore and Canadian tar sands, at best, can only extend North American production a few more years. We can never rise again to the level of peak U.S. oil production in the early 70’s when we were the Saudi Arabia of the oil world. At that time, which was predicted by M.K. Hubbert 20 years earlier, our domestic production reached almost 10 million barrels per day (MB/D) and light, sweet crude was still flowing out of West Texas. 10 MB/D was great for growth when added to another 40 MB/D worldwide in 1972, but it is only one-half of our present consumption of 20 MB/D.


Not coincidentally, after World War II (which was fueled by us, and arguably fought because Hitler and the Japanese did not have domestic oil) and for the next 20 years, America was dominant in world affairs, growth was rampant, the Interstate highway system was up and running, and life was good. I remember those days well as a young engineer with the General Electric Company. We were vaguely aware that oil was a necessity for our energy-extravagant lifestyle, but the rest of the world: our north slope, the north sea above the U.K., Mexico, the Mideast, Russia, South America, and Africa were just getting started. Now, in the short span of 40 years since the U.S. production peak, the world summation of all sources is peaking at a billion barrels every 11 days, and $10 per barrel oil is a distant memory. Besides, when I was young, the scientists would find a better way. We could always turn to new, nuclear energy and fusion was just around the corner. Our biggest worry was whether we would “nuke” each other first. In the 80’s after the Arab oil embargo died down, President Reagan focused on Star-Wars technology and reduced embryonic, alternative energy research by 80%.


Energy: Besides hearing, “There’s plenty left, leave the problem to future generations,” we are bombarded daily by other energy panaceas. Much of this is from media, politicians, and experts that don’t understand the difference between energy (the capacity of something to do work, provide warmth, move objects, or feed living things) and power (the time-rate that the energy is being used or the work is being done). If we travel very quickly, the short burst of energy consumption will not be significant, but the power could be considerable. There’s no difference in the energy expended or work required for a person to climb a set of stairs in one minute or in 30 seconds, but the power is doubled to do the same work in half the time. Think of a container of water. Energy is analogous to the quantity of water in the container. Power is how fast you pour it out. Energy and work use the same units like foot-pounds, British Thermal Units (BTU), watt hours, and calories. Terms for power need a time unit in the denominator like foot-pounds per minute, BTU’s per hour, or in the case of electrical units, the time unit in the numerator drops out, leaving only watts as the units of power. If a wind turbine or solar panel has a peak power rating of 1,000 watts (1kw), it will not provide any wind or solar energy if the wind is not blowing or the sun doesn’t shine.


To provide the theme for this paper and any hope for the future of modern civilization, energy is the most important word in the dictionary. Yet the public is essentially energy-illiterate. So, we will continue on that subject. Understand, first, that electricity is not energy. It is just a very convenient flow of electrons that makes it possible to instantly move energy, at very low or high power rates, from where the energy is being produced or stored, to somewhere else where it can be used to do work or provide heat . All it takes is an electrical conductor like a copper wire.


In the biological world, every surviving animal-species needs to periodically accumulate at least enough energy in the form of food to satisfy the requirements for life processes, body heat, and movement. In addition, the energy must be stored, ready for use as needed until the next food is acquired. If the balance between the available food supply and the number of bodies that need the food is altered in any way, there will be an undeniable force tending to reset the “bio-static” carrying-capacity either up or down accordingly. A decrease in food supply is not pretty if there are surplus offspring, driven by hunger, ready to compete with the same or other species for the dwindling resources. Many must go hungry. A temporary increase in the food supply provides a hiatus and population increase for all who can use it until the numbers stabilize again. It’s as simple as that, but we “intelligent” humans in the industrialized world cannot accept the fact that in the last 100 years we have become totally dependent on a food system where every kilocalorie of food energy now requires an input of 10 kilocalories of fossil fuels to be grown, processed, delivered and prepared in our kitchens. Just an automobile round trip of several miles to the supermarket uses more energy than is in a market basket for a week. A “localized” food supply could be just as bad, energy-wise, if fossil fuels are required for travel, delivery, foraging for compost, ground preparation, and all the other familiar tasks we overlook or take for granted. At least, locally, the food quality should be better and we’ll be less dependent on a very precarious, long-distance supply system.


Sources of energy: Very briefly, we now get about 92% of our energy from temporary non-renewable sources: about 41% from petroleum products, 21% from coal, 23% from natural gas, and 7% from nuclear. Of the remaining 8%, about 5% is from hydropower, which cannot be scaled-up because it takes a vast area of land to supply the major rivers, and most are utilized by now. In fact, U.S. hydro-electricity output has declined because of climate-caused, decreased water flow. The best we could hope for is to slightly increase all renewable energy sources to about 10% of our present total energy consumption in the next 50 years as net petroleum output EROEI declines steadily. This will be especially difficult if we realistically acknowledge that the renewable sources of energy, other than hydro, are all dependent in some way on oil and have poor EROEI.


It is not the purpose of this paper to argue the future limits of coal, natural gas, and uranium. All are finite, will peak soon (especially considering the remaining poorer energy grades of coal), and produce only electricity. Technically, coal and natural gas can be converted to liquid transportation fuels, but those processes require considerable energy input (poor EROEI), support infrastructure, and would only hasten their depletion rates. The included summary graph shows the whole dire picture. We cannot expect to convert the remaining fossil-fuel energy to food to feed a growing population locally, or globally. Clearly, we have a critical energy problem. How is this manifested and what are our options?


Economics: Now that we have finally arrived at the critical, long-foreseen, juncture between population growth and a finite world, it should come as no surprise that the imminent crisis is covertly hidden as an economic crisis. In addition, politicians have waded into the crisis of a national and worldwide recession without admitting, right or left, that restarting growth is impossible without the backbone of increasing energy. Our huge truck is stalled on a hill and we’re trying everything to get it moving again, without bothering to check the fuel tank or the obvious fact that the engine is running too lean. Maybe we’ll have to coast back down.


The included bibliography includes dozens of prophetic books focused on the first decade of the 21st century as the time when growth will end. Several from that refer directly to an economic crisis as a symptom of our terminal illness are: Richard Heinberg, “The End of Growth, Adapting to Our New Economic Reality,” and by Garrett Hardin, “Living Within Limits, Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos.”


What could be simpler? We are living in an economic world that is totally dependent on continued economic growth to refund today’s debts and prosperity at all levels. The U.S. alone has over $65 trillion of unfunded future liabilities like Social Security, Medicare, and Veteran’s benefits. Private debt like credit cards and mortgages are also completely dependent on the premise of more wealth in the future to pay back the original loan principal PLUS the interest traditionally accommodated by growth and/or inflation.


In retrospect, in the early 2000’s and as shown on the first graph, the extraction volume of world oil began to level off (peak) right on schedule. This strained the traditional supply-demand balance and began the inevitable spot-price-climb from the comfortable $20 per barrel range to $40 per barrel by 2005, when conventional oil extraction peaked, and continuing up to $140 per barrel in 2008. On a personal level, marginally economic consumers (most Americans) were suddenly confronted with the choice between buying daily necessities dependent directly on the spot price of world oil (gasoline, heating fuel, and food) or missing a credit card or mortgage payment. The result was a collapse in the highly leveraged, speculative, housing market, including the banks waiting for a payment, from which we can never recover. There is just too much surplus housing stock available even with very low interest rates and a large part of our economy based on real estate construction and turnover.


To this day, we are totally dependent on the automobile for our necessary and/or sometimes frivolous lifestyles. At $90 per barrel oil and over $3.50 per gallon, about one-billion (!!) dollars per day is flowing out of the American economy for nothing more than the privilege of riding in a comfortable steel chariot to get somewhere else and (usually) back again as fast as we can ... like using precious finite energy to go around in circles. In many cases, the automobile (or pickup truck) is the great economic equalizer and a comfortable way to pass the hours watching the world go by. The subject of our 400 million gallon-per-day addiction to gasoline will be discussed in more detail in section “R” (Rationing) later in this paper.


The traditional Keynesian solution (from John M. Keynes, 1933) is for government to step in and re-prime the pump with bailout and stimulus inputs. This worked well in previous recessions, when there was always plenty of cheap oil to support a resumption of growth. Now, the patient is running short of food and continued jolts of electro-therapy or adrenaline will not suffice.


The most recent Obama-administration jobs-plan focused on rebuilding crumbling infrastructure by borrowing further into the future, reestablish job growth, and jump-start an energy-lean economy. Some parts of the Obama plan intended for renewable energy are commendable, provided they are not wasted on limited-potential concepts like geo-thermal or algae. No Keynesian plan will work without increasing energy. Today, the only domestic regions that are thriving are (like Texas and North Dakota) those that are extracting remaining fossil fuels, or growing food to be diverted to fuel like ethanol. In addition, all are subsidized by an out-of-control fiscal policy. The Conservative side of government, although recognizing our long-term debt crisis, can only propose less taxes, reduced government spending, and immediate ravaging of all the domestic fossil fuels we have left as the solutions to restarting growth. Neither side will dare admit the elephant in the room (peak oil), or discuss the future for more and more children being born every day. Each month, about 300,000 new job seekers enter the market, including a large percentage of immigrants. Far less than 100,000 are retiring, leaving almost a quarter-million per month with no work. This is the crux of our economic problem.


Efficiency: If we admit we’re running short of energy manifested as increased cost, won’t becoming more efficient save us or even allow a resumption of growth? Efficiency is a short-term remission, but can’t cure the disease. As far back as the 19th century, at the beginning of the industrial age, an English economist, William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882) was troubled by the question of Britain’s total coal resources and the steadily increasing rate of usage. He is credited with the concept, “Jevon’s Paradox” which suggests that increases in efficiency more than likely further increase consumption because of lower prices for the masses. Lower cost will not be the case as we pass peak oil and the price continues to reflect the delicate balance between the dwindling numbers of consumers who can afford a higher price and fewer, remaining exporters who are totally dependent on oil income to keep their countries functioning. Added to this volatile mix are growing numbers of a young, intelligent, yet superfluous population. Reduced oil income because of declining extraction combined with increased efficiency (or less usage, whatever it’s called) from importing nations is a growing problem for many Mideastern countries as well as Russia, the number one oil producing nation in the world today. Peak oil is most surely a major factor behind the turmoil called “Arab Spring” and the demise of harsh dictators who depended for years on oil income to keep their people under control.


We will surely become more efficient in our future use of energy as we already had started during the first oil crisis 40 years ago. The first peak shown in all oil production curves in the late 70’s was a reflection of easy efficiency improvements without a concurrent decrease in population growth. For instance, back then when the U.S. passed peak production of domestic oil and the world price of oil “soared” from $2 per barrel to $35, it was easy to convert our domestic auto fleet from carbureted 15 miles-per-gallon to 25 mpg fuel injected engines. Our new interest and mandates for clean air added impetus. Unfortunately, we were just getting used to an unpopular 55 mph speed limit when, into the 80’s, the higher price of oil “collapsed” back to the $15 range as new oil-exporting nations began flooding the market. All talk of efficiency, solar panels, and electric cars was soon forgotten.


Now, with no new worlds to turn to, just more and more difficult unconventional oil left, we will have no choice but to revisit efficiency. But how? First, we must accept the fact that without some form of equitable rationing, the wealthy will not be forced to make lifestyle choices, thus keeping demand and price high. At the same time, the poor and middle class are being squeezed out of the market because of the end of growth ... and jobs. Class warfare is inevitable and exacerbated by a tax code favorable to the wealthy. Do we really believe that tax breaks will encourage investment in growth and new jobs? I believe that more of the wealthy individuals and businesses understand about peak oil and peak growth than are willing to admit.


The included graph shows a decline of net oil production, after steadily poorer (decreasing) EROEI, of over 80% in the next 60 years. To adapt to this scenario (just like the gas tank running low) will take more than efficiency improvements. We cannot “efficiency” our way out of this dilemma. You cannot reduce consumption of something you no longer have. The inevitable alternative is to eventually do without, just as our ancestors did a few hundred years ago. Then, life was hard with a lot more muscle power in lieu of fossil fuels.


Nevertheless, there is a rapidly-growing industry focused on improving efficiency, the obvious “low hanging fruit” waiting to be eliminated while we still try to ignore the bigger picture and continue to add more

job-seeking consumers (Jevon’s Paradox). In other words, solid efficiency improvements will not offset steadily increasing demand, and our economic crisis will not go away. It will just get worse. It does no good (if you can afford it) to have your two children each drive Priuses that get twice the mileage of the single-family car they grew up in. Ultimately we’ll just have to wear much warmer clothes and walk instead of drive. At this point, I will leave the hackneyed subject of efficiency to the myriad publications and individual experts ready to help with the first easy steps down the ladder of imminent energy contraction.


Ecology: The last “E” we’ll “explore” is the directly related (to energy consumption) subject of ecological devastation. In the past, humans, like other animals, were limited to the destruction of their environment only within the local confines of their personal energy and range. Past advanced civilizations like Easter Island, ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia, and the Mayan culture of Meso-America quickly collapsed when the population expanded and devastated the resource base. Now the prehistoric, conveniently-stored energy we have become dependent on has vastly increased our numbers, power and range. We are destroying the entire world in a few hundred years. Many amazing authors who have spent their careers focusing on the subject of ecological destruction are typified by Joseph Tainter in his book, “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” another book by Clive Ponting, “A Green History of the World, The Environment and Collapse of Great Civilizations,” and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond. There is no shortage of attention to the subjects of global ecology and climate change. For instance, see: “World Without Ice,” National Geographic, October, 2011, which reveals a sudden, unexplained sea-level rise of 220 feet, 56 million years ago when a sudden release of carbon raised CO2 levels to that expected from burning all the fossil fuels we are about halfway through now. Unfortunately, the time frame of ecological change is slow for personal awareness, and we are much more sensitive to daily life and challenges. In addition, the “green movement” frequently does not emphasize and fully recognize the context and urgency of our immediate energy shortfall. The public confuses the two subjects or is more coerced by the need for economic growth at the expense of the environment. Significant parts of China, India, and Russia are obvious examples of growth and economic maximization trumping concerns for Mother Nature.


I have not meant to denigrate any part of the environmental movement. I apologize. My message is to refocus attention to the immediate crisis of oil depletion with complete understanding that decreased population combined with the inevitable decline in energy availability may someday help to mitigate environmental issues. Don’t worry about Mother Nature. She’ll come roaring back after our fossil fuel party is over. There are “green” non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) in Maine and all over the country raising money to save the North Woods, the whales, and everything else. But our imminent, total demise as an industrialized, well-fed, highly-mobile society is not going to be because of forest, soil, or fishery depletion, farming with pesticides, lack of fresh water, rising sea water, or global warming. These very-real, legitimate issues are all secondary to our utter dependency on oil.


We will fail because we’ve grossly overpopulated our planet, made possible by a short-term, huge surplus of energy. Now, we’re running short. Rural Maine, where we live, is no longer threatened by development or local population increases. The jobs are gone. The local farms have great difficulty competing with energy intensive, subsidized agri-business. The forest-product industries have contracted because of the end of economic growth. Tourism and recreation are hanging on, only because wealthier Americans are more insulated from the recession and terminal growth, and can continue their traditional lifestyles a while longer. However, as fuel continues to increase in cost, it will no longer be possible to keep the once-productive cropland cleared. First, the weeds, then brush, and finally the forests will creep back in. The towns are empty remnants of humming, local economic centers now surrounded by the steady return of the environment to land the Indians inhabited when the first explorers arrived. Only the stonewalls and silent cellar holes will remind our surviving descendants that subsistence and settlement were only possible when in delicate equilibrium with natural bio fuels, sporadic solar energy, precarious food sources, and much hard work.


A:

Adapting to solar energy: Back in the early 2000’s, when I first became totally convinced of peak oil and an imminent world-energy crisis, it seemed possible that solar energy, in its many variations, could be the “light” at the end of a long dark tunnel. At that time, world oil prices were still in the $20 range. It was very difficult to find alarm and support from anyone about a coming energy crisis. But, as a lifelong, career, product development engineer, I was very accustomed to peering into my own crystal ball to anticipate future direction and market needs long before the public was remotely aware that life (and business) as usual could or would soon change. At that time, photovoltaic (PV) solar panels cost over $5 per watt and were only of interest for remote sites or fanatics with lots of money. That said, the possibility of direct electrical energy from a “magic” panel that would keep producing for decades was the obvious path to explore. The dilute and sporadic power output could be overcome by a vast potential for increase in scale. However, like any other great promise, closer examination revealed a “cloudier” picture. We will start with the many variations of solar energy. In reality, most all our energy sources, including ancient sunlight converted by photosynthesis to convenient storage as fossil fuels, are forms of solar energy. The only exceptions are nuclear and tidal energy. This section will focus on the promise and limitations of renewable forms of solar energy. But first, we need to address the storage problem:


Energy storage: “Storage” is the critical weakness. Except for direct thermal-solar heating, warmth when the sun is shining, the needs of humans are greater than the weak, sporadic power of direct incoming solar radiation. Plant life solves this problem very well with photosynthesis, the biological process of using the incoming radiation energy to combine simple carbon dioxide and water to form higher-energy, complex carbohydrates. The higher molecular weight makes these compounds solid and stable (for a while) at normal earth temperatures and able to store a substantial amount of energy. Subsequent chemical reaction with oxygen (burning or metabolizing) releases the stored energy much faster (higher power) than it was accumulated, as a fuel when we need it, to keep us warm, moving around, and to do all the wonderful and bad things that define us as intelligent primates. The obvious examples are wood or food conveniently stored for us by plants or other animals farther down the food chain.


Electrical energy and batteries: The preferred method of electrical-storage in the industrial age is the battery, which converts a chemical process to electricity and back again (in the case of rechargable batteries). The ubiquitous lead-acid (L/A) battery has been the workhorse for residential applications for over a century. If treated well, it can have a useful life of more than 10 years. On the debit side, it is heavy, environmentally hazardous, inefficient, temperature sensitive, slow to recharge, and quickly degraded if discharged quickly. But, we have millions of tons in the system and it can be recycled.


For meaningful motive power such as personal or commercial transport, or agricultural work, the L/A battery is even more limited because of its poor energy density and intolerance for excessive current draw (Peukert’s Exponent). I have been investigating the pros and cons of PV and grid-charged L/A power for eight years and have built five concept vehicles for personal use and test: a golf cart and a Farmall Cub tractor with on-board panels, a 1962 MG, a 1939 Ford N9 and a 1948 Ford 8N tractor without on-board panels. These last three vehicles can be charged directly from the utility grid or from the 750 watt, high voltage PV array permanently installed on the Farmall Cub. The two larger tractors each have a 1,200-pound battery pack (ten 12 volt batteries in series for 120 volts) to store 12 kWh of energy at 75% depth of discharge (DOD). This is about the equivalent energy of not more than 1½ gallons (11 pounds) of gasoline, good for one or two hours of serious plowing or harrowing at up to 100 amperes (12 kilowatts or 16 horsepower). To recharge this much energy would take at least 16 hours of direct sunlight shining on the 3/4 kilowatt array on the Farmall Cub. All of this work can be seen on this website: (see Project Vehicles).


For agricultural power, the weight of the L/A battery is acceptable, and most of the tractor-use is needed in the long summer-sunlight days. In the winter, the heavy battery pack can supplement the residential storage needs. For transportation, the heavy L/A battery presents a much bleaker picture. When we travel and/or move something to somewhere else, we need to carry our energy supply with us, and be able to stop along the way to refuel.


Presently, about 90% of the energy we use for travel comes from oil. We will never go far or fast again without it. Winter travel will be especially problematic. We will never fly again without gasoline or jet fuel.

The age of air travel started just over 100 years ago, when the Wright brothers first added a gasoline engine to an air frame. Public air travel cannot last more than another 50 years as remaining oil becomes steadily more expensive and is critical for food production and distribution. Batteries that weigh 80 times as much (20 times as much for Lithium-ion) as equivalent petro-fuels cannot lift their own weight off the ground at speeds sufficient for the lift of a wing. My L/A battery-powered MG will go 100 miles without recharging but at very slow speeds, especially uphill when the batteries have to lift their own weight.


From my years of work with electric vehicles, I would summarize by saying, without grid backup, direct solar power is very feeble and cannot possibly replace fossil fuels. On the other hand, compared with the alternatives of draft animals or human muscle-power, a few panels would have been magic for our ancestors. And, when oil is no longer available, I was encouraged that, at least with solar-power, especially solar PV on a distributed personal basis, we could find a “modern” future without collapsing back into prehistoric levels of survival. Now, after more study and pondering, I don’t believe any acceptable future is possible without residual oil, natural gas, and coal; all finite energy sources and being used at a prodigious rate. Our society is too high-tech and the population has increased about five-fold too much. A good example is the ubiquitous L/A battery. When our PV-charged residential, tractor, or personal vehicle battery pack (Forget commercial diesel or air travel!) battery gives up after a few years, what are we going to do, jump into our cars and go to Wal-Mart for a replacement?


It gets worse. Today, all the L/A batteries are picked up and shipped long-distance to one of a handful of huge recycling centers like the East-Penn facility in Lyons, PA. New batteries are returned by the same diesel-powered 18-wheelers. How will this be done without liquid fuels? Battery-powered trucks? And worse (!), apparently, like other toxic processes, we’re shipping a substantial part of our L/A battery recycling to foreign countries, especially Mexico. According to a new report from the NGO, Occupational Knowledge International, 261,000 pounds of used batteries (12% of all used L/A batteries, of over 1000 tons total) and other lead scrap were shipped to Mexico in 2010 to avoid stricter environmental regulations in the U.S. (Ref: Home Power #145 Oct/ Nov 2011).


In addition, how about all the other parts of a high-tech society we take for granted? I could not possibly build and ship my thresher/winnower without gasoline or diesel-powered UPS delivery of motors and myriad other components (also used in the electric vehicles). This pessimistic discussion about the imaginary future of solar power leads directly to the last two letters, “R” and “N.” But first a few more thoughts about the other forms of solar energy and storage which face the same dead end of complexity when there will soon, in our children’s lifetimes, no longer be the support umbrella of fossil fuels for all we take for granted.


Lithium batteries: No discussion of electro-chemical energy storage would be complete without considering the panacea for our personal transportation in the post-oil days, lithium, in its many iterations of battery design. A recent book by Seth Fletcher, “Bottled Lightning,” is an excellent current summary of every facet of the subject. I learned a great deal. For instance, there is no shortage of lithium in the world including vast deposits in Bolivia, Chile, China, and Nevada. Possible variations on its use, including Lithium-sulfur, lisilicone, and li-air, keep the dream going of a transportation-energy future with lighter-than-gasoline power and a 500-mile range. Unfortunately, in my opinion, much of the hype is “fueled” by the 2009, $2.4 billion stimulus package specifically for clean energy and one million electric cars (hybrid or otherwise) on the road by 2015. Already, this temporary funding is drying up, leaving U.S. solar-panel manufacturers going bankrupt or moving to China where labor is cheaper. Without the mainstream public acceptance of the new electric cars, like the Volt at $41,000, there can be no future for even a tiny part of our life on the road to life without oil.


Where does the energy come from? If we ignore or look beyond the limitations of range and charging facilities for electric vehicles, we must still come to grips with the energy-source problem. There cannot possibly be enough wind or solar electricity to pick up today’s residential electrical requirements, especially without natural gas “spinning reserve” when finite coal and nuclear begin to eventually wane. Where will the additional energy for electrical transportation come from?


More questions: How will the massive infrastructure for electric vehicles be funded? By oil companies, our government, which is already in massive debt, or consumers (most of whom can hardly afford their next tank of gas because we’ve already spent our low and middle class American-wealth for gasoline)? In what time frame could an electric automobile system be built, considering the imminent crash of oil-powered civilization starting now? And, finally, how about commercial diesel, agricultural power and aviation fuel? Clearly, electric transportation, especially solar-powered, is not going to save us as the oil-age winds down. No one wants to hear the pessimists. It’s the same old story.


Hydropower: When heated, the atmosphere can absorb and hold additional moisture in large quantities. As the dense air pushes higher and is cooled, the moisture precipitates and redistributes the liquid water to higher levels. The potential energy from a large land-area of moisture collects in streams and rivers and can be stored in dams to be converted to mechanical or electrical energy as it returns to a lower level. We all know this, but overlook the fact that it takes a large land area and substantial vertical topography to accumulate significant water energy. Sometimes the water gets out of control, and other times, there is not enough to fill the dam for use as needed. In fact, hydropower is decreasing since the middle 1990’s because of climate change-caused decreased water flow. Micro-hydro is insignificant in its potential and suffers the same problems as distributed wind discussed below. For years, if suitable terrain is available, water has been pumped back uphill as pumped storage to be used as a supplement to other forms of energy. For all these reasons, hydropower is one of the best sources of energy but will always be limited to about 5% of today’s energy consumption. In the future, as finite, pre-stored fossil fuels steadily decline, hydropower will be our best chance for perpetuating a small fraction of a modern lifestyle. But, there is always the need for maintenance of dams, waterways, and the electric power and distribution infrastructure. How will this be done without petro-fuels?


Wind: Wind power is just another variation of weak solar. Heated convection currents move from one location to another. In fact the swept area of a wind turbine blade at peak performance will produce about the same power as a PV panel of similar area. I do not believe that residential (distributed) wind turbines are valid when compared to the alternative of distributed PV. I know of instances where small turbines have been installed but failed to deliver because of a poor wind regime or maintenance problems. Larger, regional installations are very unpopular, even with the alternative-energy, “green” crowd because of noise and aesthetics.

In addition, the problems of random, sporadic electrical output, distance, and right-of-way are much greater than with PV. Industrial-scale wind energy is already cost competitive with fossil-fuel electricity, but can never supplant liquid-fossil fuels in the time frame of peak oil. To scale-up from industrial-scale high-plains or offshore sources will take decades and billions of dollars of infrastructure including towers, turbines, and transmission lines. The present political wisdom, on both sides, and in Canada, would rather build oil pipelines from Canadian tar sands, south across the U.S. to refineries; or across pristine Canadian forests to be shipped to the highest world bidder.


Bio fuels: We would not be here if not for bio-fuels. They may compete with our food, and only in very limited quantities, should be the last resort for domestic heating. Any use of bio-fuels for the generation of electricity is totally wrong. To begin with, it takes considerable liquid petro-fuels to harvest, process, and ship in a short time the energy it took Mother Nature half the oil age to accumulate. The use of agricultural or forest “waste” for commercial heating or utility-scale electricity is an obvious, abrupt termination to biological life cycles and the environment of which we are an integral (and destructive) part. As stated above in section “L,” all nutrients and organic matter must return to their source.


Concentrated solar: Another form of solar electricity is to focus and concentrate incoming radiation onto a liquid collector system, which can, in turn, turn a turbine to generate electricity. The storage problem can also be solved by using molten salts to absorb the energy and give it back as needed. This scheme is under pilot operation in several parts of the world, but takes tremendous capital investment and transmission infrastructure. Like industrial wind, it only makes sense in remote parts of the country, far from population centers.


At this point, it sounds like John Howe is saying “nothing works.” If so, I’m not alone. That is the central thesis of this presentation as well as many of the books in the included bibliography. Referring back to my basic graph, shows the potential of all renewable energy at best, in the next 50 years, climbing to 10% of our present world oil extraction of 75 million barrels per day. Even that possible energy level of 7.5 mb/d would only be about 4% of our total present energy consumption from all sources. But there is hope, at least for a long remission, only if we consider the last two letters of our acronym, LEARN and become aggressively proactive on a mass-movement scale. We must not let the barrage of “feel-good” documentaries lull us into complacency while we wait for the scientists to save us with dreams of algae and cellulosic ethanol.


R:

Rationing, are you kidding? Whenever a critical resource begins a shortfall in supply, two things happen: the value (price) increases and consumers start competing for the remains. This is the situation with oil since 2005, when the peak of extraction could no longer follow the steady upward trend in demand. The only answer, to buy time and minimize chaos, is to equitably distribute the remaining supply with rationing.

Market forces and/or increased taxation only polarize the consumers between fewer wealthy and the growing number of poor. This is not a new concept. It was first proposed by the “Pope of Peak Oil,” Colin Campbell, and thoroughly covered in Richard Heinberg’s book, “The Oil Depletion Protocol.” Independently, I defined a “Five-Percent per Year” plan to reduce and save energy in substantial quantities, which would allow us to bridge the gap to a sustainable future. My plan focused on all energy; it was for U.S. only; and it could have started in 2005. In 2009, I added a comprehensive, 14-page essay to this website (Gasoline Rationing: Are You Kidding?) with the above title and more technical details.


Now, as we go into 2012, some form of rationing, starting with gasoline and combined with a reduction of birth rate, is our last hope to reach a future. A voluntary reduction of consumption will not work, because that is not the nature of the genetic drive for survival. Individuals will not go without if others can’t be trusted to do the same. But it can be done collectively. I remember World War II as a boy when we had coupons for three gallons per week. We gladly shared the sacrifice because it was a “national emergency” and all our oil was going to the war effort. What could be more of an emergency than now as we face the end of modern civilization? Consider the following details:


  1. It would be nationally administered in America only. We cannot control the rest of the world.

• Right now, we consume about 400 million gallons a day (1/8th of world oil consumption) or 2 gallons per day for each of 200 million licensed drivers. That’s about 50 miles per day, an absurd amount of travel. We all know the myriad ways we could cut way back individually, but totally ineffective on a national scale.

• Tradable Fuel Cards in the form of electronic swipe cards (TFC’s) could be distributed monthly by each state department of motor vehicles. Those in special need because of critical employment or hardship could apply for extra cards.

• The first year, overall consumption would decline 5% (0.05 x 400) or 20 million gallons per day. Instead of 2 gallons, each driver would be allotted 1.9 gallons.

• It would be so simple to save 10% just by driving slower or 50% by doubling up.

• Vacations and recreation could be easily accrued for on stay-at-home days.

• All drivers would be encouraged to purchase or use their more economical vehicle.

• The plan saves 182 million barrels of oil per year or about 25% of our strategic oil reserve.

• An overall reduction in national consumption of 5% per year would lower world oil demand and price, and leave more oil in the ground (at least in the U.S.) for the future.

• The tradable cards could be used for barter or to redistribute wealth between those who can afford more and those who choose to ride their bike.

  1. Most importantly, the reduced price and forced reduction in gasoline purchases will leave more money in the economy to begin again the demand for all things other than gasoline.


N:

Negative population Growth: If you think gasoline rationing is a tough sell, this topic will be the grand finale. At this point, please refer again to the main graph and the concept of population momentum. One more time ... because we expect to live to see our children, and their children and, hopefully, our great-grandchildren, the bulge (momentum) of total population grows long into the future even at a reproductive (sometimes called fertility) rate of only one child per female (1CPF). As shown, the population for a closed group of any size at 1CPF will reach peak population about 30 years after the start of the program and far beyond peak oil and the sum of all energy starting right about now. The numbers are based on a typical demographic pattern of: average age of reproduction at 25 years old, and average death at 80. The starting date for the methodology used assumes an age distribution as follows:

1 to 20 years old, 40%

21 to 50 years old, 43%

51 to 80 years old, 17%

If other age distributions are assumed, the results would be slightly different, but the conclusion would be exactly the same. Because, with modern medicine and dependable food systems, we are so adept at death control, our population grows much larger for even a small birth rate. Before industrial times, the average age at death was much lower because of infant mortality and continuing through brief adulthood with plagues, famines, child-birth death, wars, and just a hard, short life. We can’t have it both ways. Modern health care is not compatible with a fertility rate higher than 1CPF, especially now that energy in the essential forms of food, fuel, and transportation will soon decline precipitously.


Population Control: This is obviously the fundamental challenge if we don’t want to defer to the cruel indifference of Mother Nature interspersed with the aggressive, biological, genetic hard-drive to compete for insufficient, meager resources. The best example is any of the team sports like football, soccer, basketball, or lacrosse where the intent is to possess a single resource (like a football, which could represent a chicken) and return it, regardless of bodily harm, to home with cheering dependents. If there were footballs (chickens?) all over the stadium, there would be no incentive to “fight.” The men could stay home, build high-tech gadgets to avoid exercise, eat too much bad food, attract mates, and make more babies.


The included bibliography includes many titles specific to the population problem starting of course with Thomas Malthus, who was “proven wrong” for the last 200 years because of new lands, high-tech agriculture and unlimited fossil fuels. The best contemporary authors start with Al Bartlett (“The Essential Exponential”). He has given thousands of lectures on population throughout the world. Now, in his 80’s, he still has an office at the University of Colorado where he was teaching in the 50’s when I was there as a young engineering student. Another author who combines both sides of the population-resource equation is Lindsey Grant (“The Collapsing Bubble” and, “Too many People”). He is instrumental in the U.S. NGO, Negative Population Growth, Inc. (www.npg.org), which focuses directly on the subject. Another U.S. NGO is World Population Balance (www.worldpopulationbalance.org). In the U.K., several of the best books are: “The Rapid Growth of Human Populations” by William Stanton and “The Growth Illusion” by Richard Douthwaite. Similar work is spearheaded by the Optimum Population Trust (www.populationmatters.org). Many are trying to get the facts out. To date, few are listening.


The only possible way to achieve 1CPF in a modern free society is with vast publicity and peer pressure. The public must realize that extra children born today will not only compete with everyone else for resources, but their parents will be there to see them suffer in a world which will get a whole lot uglier. Isolated bunker mentality will not survive the coming tsunami because of the limitations of localization summarized in section “L” above. The planet is a finite entity so we must respect the reality of numbers. Please join this mission and get involved.


CGF B Bibliography


Listed below are most of the books in my library, which bear directly on the interdependent subjects of energy, economics, peak oil and population. Most are available from www.amazon.com, some for as little as one cent plus shipping. Many of the titles use the words “limits” or “collapse.” Some are decades out of print. Obviously, I can’t have read them all completely. I’m just a messenger. Time has run out. Is anybody listening?


Astyk, S. (2008) “Depletion and Abundance, Life On the New Home Front.”

Bartlett, A. (2004) “The Essential Exponential, For the Future of Our Planet.”

Bligh, J. (2004) “The Fatal Inheritance.”

Brown, L. (2008) “Plan B 3.0, Mobilizing To Save Civilization.”

Brown, L.(2011) “World on Edge, How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse.”

Bardi, U. (2011) “The Limits To Growth Revisited.”

Berry, W. (1977) “The Unsettling of America, Culture and Agriculture.”

Boughey, A. (1976) “Strategy for Survival, An Exploration of the Limits to Further Population and Industrial Growth.”

Baker, C. (2009) “Sacred Demise, Walking the Spiritual Path of Ind. Civilization’s Collapse.”

Campbell, C. (1997) “The Coming Oil Crisis.”

Campbell, C. (2003) “The Essence of Oil& Gas Depletion.”

Catton, W. (1982) “Overshoot, The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change.”

Carroll, J. (1997) “The Greening of Faith, God, the Environment, and the Good Life.”

Carr-Saunders, A. (1922) “The Population Problem, A Study in Human Evolution.”

Cipolla, C. (1978) “The Economic History of World Population.”

Cohen, J. (1995) “How Many People Can the Earth Support”?

Cobb, K. (2010) “Prelude, A Novel About Secrets, Treachery, and the Arrival of Peak Oil.”

Cooke, R. (2007) “Detensive Nation, Redefining the Role Government.”

Cribb, J. (2010) “The Coming Famine, the Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do.”

Czech, B. (2000) “Fuel for a Runaway Train, Errant Economists, Shameful Spenders, and a Plan To Stop Them All.”

Daly, H. (1996) “Beyond Growth.”

Deffeyes, K. (2001) “Hubbert’s Peak, The Impending World Oil Shortage.”

Deffeyes, K. (2005) “Beyond Oil, The View From Hubbert’s Peak.”

Deffeyes, K. (2010) “When Oil Peaked.”

Diamond, J. (2005) “Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.”

Dawkins, R. (2006) “The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary edition.”

Douthwaite, R. (1992) “The Growth Illusion, How Economic Growth has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many, and Endangered the Planet.”

Douthwaite, R. (2011) “Fleeing Vesuvius, Overcoming the Risks of Economic and Environmental Collapse.”

Erlich, P. (1971) “The Population Bomb.”

Fletcher, S. (2011) “Bottled Lightning, Super Batteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy.”

Gelbspan, R. (2004) “Boiling Point.”

Grant, L. (2000) “Too Many People, The Case for Reversing Growth).

Grant, L.(2005) “The Collapsing Bubble, Growth and Fossil Energy.”

Greer, J. (2008) “The Long Descent.”

Greer, J. (2009) “The Ecotechnic Future, Envisioning a Post-Peak World.”

Grover, J. (1991) “Beyond Oil, the Threat to Food and Fuel.”

Hardin. G. (1993) “Living Within Limits, Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos.”

Hardin, G (1998) “The Ostrich Factor, Our Population Myopia.”

Hartmann, T. (1998) “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.”

Heinberg, R. (2004) “Power Down, Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World.”

Heinberg, R. (2005) “The Party’s Over, Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies.”

Heinberg, R. (2007) “Peak Everything, Waking Up to the Century of Declines.”

Heinberg, R. (2006) “The Oil Depletion Protocol, a Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism, and Economic Collapse.”

Heinberg, R. (2010) “Post Carbon Reader, Managing the 21st Century’s Crisis.”

Heinberg, R. (2011) “The End of Growth, Adapting to Our New Economic Reality.”

Hopkins, R. (2008) “The Transition Handbook, From Oil Dependency to Local Resil.”)

Howe, J. (2006) “The End of Fossil Energy, and Last Chance for Survival.” (3rd Ed.)

Kunstler, J. (2005) “The Long Emergency, Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century.”

Laslo, E. (2006) “Global Survival, the Challenges and its Implications for Thinking and Acting.”

Magdoff, F. (2010) “Agriculture and Food in Crisis, Conflict, Resistance, and Renewal.”

Malthus, T. (1798) “An Essay on the Principle of Population.”

Martinson, C. (2011) “The Crash Course, The Unsustainable Future of the Economy, Energy, and Environment.”

Mesarovic, M. (1974) “Mankind at the Turning Point, the Second Report to the Club of Rome.”

McKibbon, W. (1998) “Maybe One, a Personal and Environmental Argument for Single-Child Families.”

Meadows, D. (1972) “The Limits to Growth.”

Meadows, D. (2004) “Limits To Growth, The 30-Year Update.”

Orlov, D. (2008) “Reinventing Collapse, The Soviet Example and American Prospects.”

Pimentel, D. (1996) “Food, Energy, and Society.”

Pfeiffer, D. (2003) “The End of the Oil Age.”

Ponting, C. (1991) “ A Green History Of the World”

Roberts, P. (2009) “The End of Food.”

Roberts, P. (2004) “The End of Oil, On the Edge of a Perilous New World.”

Romm, J. (2004) “The Hype About Hydrogen.”

Rothkrug, P. (1991) “Mending The Earth, A World For Our Grandchildren.”

Ruppert, M. (2009) “Collapse, The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World.”

Seidel, P. (1998) “Invisible Walls, Why We Ignore the Damage We Inflict on the Planet.”

Simmons, M. (2005) “Twilight in the Desert, the Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy.”

Scheer, H. (1999) “The Solar Economy, Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Global Future.”

Smil, V (1999) “Energies, an Illustrated Guide to the Biosphere and Civilization.”

Smil, V. (2005) “Energy At The Crossroads.”

Stanton, W. (2003) “The Rapid Growth Of Human Populations.”

Tainter, J. (1988) “The Collapse of Complex Societies.”

Weeks, J. (2005) “Population, an Introduction to Concepts and Issues.”

Wilkinson, R.(1973) “Poverty and Progress.”

Wilson, E. (2002) “The Future of Life.”

Young, L. (1968) “Population in Perspective.”

Youngquist, W. (1997) “Geodestinies, the Inevitable Control of Earth Resources Over Nations and Individuals.”


And a couple that just don’t get it:


Cole, H. (1973) “Models of Doom, a Critique of the Limits to Growth.”

LaRouche, L. (1983) “There Are No Limits To Growth.”