Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Richard Heinberg in Grass Valley tonight

[blurry photo of Heinberg speaking]

A good presentation to a full house at the Center For The Arts in Grass Valley; I'd also say "a convincing presentation" had there been anyone present who'd been unconvinced at the start.

Take-home messages:

(Reality is that which, when you refuse to look at it, doesn't go away; we are in trouble.)

Demand will be exceeding supply of oil sometime soon; maybe next year, likely 5-7 years from now, possibly not until 20 years from now.

We are highly dependent on oil (almost 100% of our energy use is now fuel-based, compared with maybe 20% 150 yrs ago, much of which was wood); 1 gallon of gas is the energy equivalent of 6 weeks of human labor; the energy I use in a year is equivalent to having 300 people working for me around the clock

countries' "proven reserves" are clearly fradulent

the industrial revolution was like winning the energy lottery; the resultant "population bloom" has done to the human population what a 10% sugar solution does for the yeast population, in winemaking (before said population poisons itself and crashes)

"Are humans smarter than yeast?"

Economists (and those from other disciplines equally unfamiliar with actual physical limits) in government aren't suited to recognize the magnitude (and implacability) of the problem. Much of the solution will need to come from community organizations like APPLE ("we need to move forward with lifeboats"*).

We need to reduce both world population and per-capita consumption

The "solution" won't just be renewables; it has to involve demand reduction.

Solar is currently 1% of renewables, which are themselves a small fraction (?%) of total energy use

Economists' knee-jerk response is "price signals will save us" (high prices will spur conservation, and development of alternatives) - but the timing's wrong, the signals will come too late.

Authoritative sources - the Hirsch (SAIC) report (peak oil, wars, destabilization...), Chevron's willyoujoinus.com; U.S. legislator most actively speaking out on Peak Oil is a Republican.

Comparing the U.S. economic condition in 1950 vs. 2005 (from foremost creditor and oil exporter, to foremost debtor and oil importer) is sobering, and perhaps the inevitable result of our oil "balance of trade".

Solutions (or steps toward) -

Heinberg's Oil Depletion Protocol (countries agree to reduce their oil imports, exports to match the world depletion rate)

Community re-localization - support local agriculture, try various strategies to increase energy efficiency (car pooling,sharing, "community-supported hitchhiking"...), communicate with other communities on how to make this work...

Best question: "How many County Supervisors, City Council members and Planners are in the audience?
Answer: No supervisors, 3 city council members (out of 15?)

(If the people lead, the leaders will follow...eventually)


Russ Steele said...


Thanks for the summary. Did the speaker make any mention made of tar sands and shale oil deposit in Canada and US. Any mention of 300 years of natural gas?

How was this statement supported
"countries' "proven reserves" are clearly fradulent" Who is conducting this fradulent activity?

Who were the City Council members?

Again, thanks for the summary.

Anonymous said...

From http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/canada.html

"In 2002, Canada produced 6.6 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas, the third-highest level in the world behind Russia and the United States; the country also consumed 3.0 Tcf in 2002. Despite its high level of natural gas production, Canada’s proven natural gas reserves, 56.1 Tcf as of January 2005, only rank 19 th in the world. These reserves have decreased by 13.3% since 1996, and at current rates, production will completely deplete reserves in 8.6 years."

Anna said...

Hi Russ, you're welcome, and a belated apology for not having written anything about the peak oil Town Hall Conference from last spring (which I attended, and which had its moments, but at over 8 hours, the mph was glacial - in contrast, last night's event was excellent.)

"Proven Reserves":
The 'proven reserves' fraudulence (reserves of countries, not of companies - I didn't make that clear, sorry) was quite obvious from a chart he showed - he didn't have to spell it out (did he do so? I don't remember) and you didn't need to be a Freakonomics whiz to see it. (Same observation is made* (with graph) and explained* in last section of this page, at present.)

Anonymous said...

re: tar sands

from http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/canada.html

"What is the natural gas requirement relative to oil sands development?
It takes about 28 cubic metres (1000 cubic feet) of natural gas to produce one barrel of bitumen from in situ projects and about 14 cubic metres (500 cubic feet) for integrated projects. Currently, the oil sands industry uses about 17 million cubic metres (0.6 billion cubic feet) per day of purchased gas, or about four percent of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin production. By 2015, this increases to about 40 to 45 million cubic metres (1.4 to 1.6 billion cubic feet) per day, or nearly 10 percent, assuming gas production stay level at 467 million cubic metres (16.5 billion cubic feet) per day."

....which just makes bitumen, mind you. Care to bet how much additional energy it takes to convert something that is basically asphalt into light crude oil?

Anna said...

Hey Anonymous, while it's nice to have you here, could you adopt a pseudonym please? The supply is still abundant.

More answers to Russ:
(note: I may be blurring pts made by Heinberg and in The Oil Drum...)

Natural gas? I'm pretty sure he said it had peaked already (in N. America? world? not sure, haven't looked- fingers not motivated, they're freezing since nat. gas has gotten so expensive so I don't have the heater on in here...)

Tar/shale take a long time to ramp up, and are not cheap to extract (compared to oil).

In general the pt made is that yes there will still be fossil fuels, but the easy pickings will be gone so they'll be increasingly expensive to extract, which - particularly if we haven't done enough to prepare ahead of time - causes economic shock/depression/resource wars.

Here's Heinberg on the SAIC report (Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management"), with context and links. Best to read that, then look at the report itself (I haven't) if you want to go deep and can stomach the report's PDF format.

City council members, in response to a question from an audience member - (I think this is right:?) - Barbara Green from Truckee (is she a CC member?), David McKay from Nevada City, and - I think (but have a near-pathological memory for faces (prosopagnosia, which is horrible in a small town so anyone I snub on the street, it is not deliberate, plus when you are a hermit people keep being older and changing their hairstyles the next time you see them...)) - Dean Williams?

My impression (not mentioned by H.) is that the best evidence against peak oil, if you'd like to argue against it as well as global warming, is that oil futures prices aren't astronomical - futures prices ought to reflect experts' views of what the future will hold ("the wisdom of crowds" if they're expert crowds). I didn't ask about this...

also curious, from a sociological standpoint - my general impression is that the "global warming's coming, we're doomed" crowd doesn't talk to the "peak oil's coming, we're doomed" crowd which doesn't talk to the "bird flu's coming, we're doomed" crowd. And of course none of them talk to the "the Bible says I'm not doomed but you will be if you don't join my church" crowd.

(speaking of which - see the **excellent** church sign here; what's all this about "we can't be expected to treat minorities like white people"? or does the sign give a hint as to why CC&Rs and exclusive neighborhoods are popular?)

(back to doom)
Although if we're doomed because of bird flu, that does give those left standing a reprieve on peak oil...

Anna said...

Two more links -

Heinberg's website (no weblog, newsletters)

What looks to be the Hirsch/SAIC report in HTML format.

anonymous1 said...

"Hey Anonymous, while it's nice to have you here, could you adopt a pseudonym please? The supply is still abundant."

OK, how about this?

To be fair, as far as natgas is concerned, nearly all of it is in Russia and the Middle East. The only mineable energy source that North America has in abundance (I'll dismiss tar sands and oil shale as a bunch of hand waving at this point) is subdivided into lignite, subbituminous, bituminous, and anthracite types.

I suspect that the '300 year' number comes from not being able to tell the difference between your gas and some coal in the ground.

Anna said...

One answer, two more links, and an important question for the honorable opposition:

> > ... could you adopt a pseudonym please?

> OK, how about this?

Very nice. Elegant, subtle, uniquely identifiable.


The #1* Peak Oil evangelist is (Republican) U.S. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett.

From The Oil Drum, an intriguing post exposing what may be the beginning of The Swift-Boating of Peak Oil. Russ Steele, a question: what consequences might you face if you were to change your mind, shift gears, and argue publicly that peak oil is a serious problem facing our community, country and world, and that we need to prepare for it?

(and 2 corrections; misspelled "fraudulent" in the original post, and need to correct my apology in comments for not making "countries' fraudulent reserves" clear in original post, when in fact I had. Blasted copy editors...)

Russ Steele said...


This is a great discussion, thanks for the links.

I answered your question on my blog at: ncwatch.blogspot.com

I will have some more comments on the relationship between the peak oil folks, the global warming and pandemic folks. Just finished reading Plows, Petroleum, and Plagues. There are some interesting relationships.


Anna said...

Updates -

Here's Russ Steele's commentary; he also didn't much like The Union editor Pat Butler's peak-oil-is-a-problem column on the Heinberg talk. (however -


- it seems Russ is coming to believe in the reality of global warming) Russ points out that from Heinberg's website, he doesn't appear to be as mainstream a guy as he was onstage and as Pat suggested ("...did not appear to be a granola-munching vegan..."); I agree with Russ on this point, but think it's not a good reason to disregard the message, given that plenty of mainstream experts - including oil executives - are also sending it.

We need an online course in practical epistemology.

And Yubanet's got the Hirsch report online too, the executive summary in HTML and the full report in PDF format.

And Dean Williams was at the talk, he said in an Other Voices column today? yesterday? that I can't find (most likely because it's right in front of my nose) on The Union's website.

Anna said...

Couldn't find Dean Williams's column because it wasn't visible online; it is now.