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Peak Oil Matters

A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face


Category: A New Direction



U.S. crude oil production is falling because investments into shale oil production dried up as the price of crude oil fell below $60/bbl. Companies aren’t interested in putting new capital to work, and because these oil fields deplete, that means crude production is falling. Why is that significant? Because most of the world’s new oil production in the past 6 years has come from U.S. shale oil fields. It is hard to overstate the global importance of the new crude supply that came online in the U.S. since 2008

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Research has powerfully illustrated that a lack of knowledge in domains such as energy and the environment can lead to bad decisions and erroneous beliefs that hinder a society’s ability to create change in domains that require it

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An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Tom Murphy.

I like the characterization that what we face here is a predicament, rather than a problem. Problems call for solutions. Predicaments must settle for responses. Our predicament is that we rode the fossil fuel bonanza to the highest possible heights, without a plan for what to do when the inheritance tapers off. Surely we mustn’t entertain the notion of getting a job when the inheritance wanes! continue reading…





My posting today was intended to be the last original one of 2012, but it can wait.

Peak Oil is no less important an energy topic today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. But in light of what happened at Newtown on Friday, it’s not all that important right now.

I grew up with weapons in my home. My Dad is a Korean War veteran, and a long-time member of the NRA. I fired more than my fair share of guns in my younger days. My stepson is in the United States Army. Eleven middle-aged adults are in my immediate family; seven of them consistently vote Republican. I practiced law for a lot of years, and was a political science major. I have more than a passing acquaintance with the Second Amendment and conservative viewpoints.

Ideology has consequences. Rigid ideology devoid of any rational thought, perspective, and respect for reality is dangerous.

Public figures like right-wing loon and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee should pause to see if they can’t locate a wee bit of intelligence before flapping their gums. Huckabee said the Newtown massacre should not have been a surprise “because we have ‘systematically removed God’ from public schools.” What kind of God does he worship—One who is in such a snit about our refusal to invite Him somewhere that It’s perfectly okay with six- and seven-year olds being gunned down instead? Yeah, that’s gonna make others just filled with adoration! Address that first!

There’s a lot of room for discussion, negotiation, and compromise between “no guns anywhere, ever” [see this for some clear-headed truth-telling—what a concept!] and “guns everywhere for whatever reason.” Fifty? Two Hundred? Three thousand? How many more innocents have to be gunned down by deranged others before we find room in that vast middle to legislate some meaningful and effective controls to help alleviate this ongoing national disgrace? [See this, also.] This is a mark of an “exceptional” nation?

The failure to have meaningful gun control laws is far from the sole reason why Newtown (and others) have happened. A wide range of social, cultural, and psychological factors play prominent roles as well. Duly noted.

But everyday citizens do not need to carry assault weapons around or have enough bullets on hand to mow down twenty children plus; churches don’t need guns among the worshipers; and perhaps it would be a good idea if moronic, close-minded assertions like this one were held in check until the speaker had a chance to buy a clue (hate to break the news, but stupidity is not a virtue, although sometimes it’s hard to be sure):

‘Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun.’

The wingnut jackasses of the Michigan legislature, with their integrity-free MO (is there some national legislative contest as to who can destroy more of democracy and reason in lame duck sessions? You guys win!), offered Exhibit A of their collective madness:

Changes to the concealed weapons law passed the state House and Senate late Thursday, allowing trained gun owners to carry their weapons in formerly forbidden places, such as schools, day care centers, stadiums and churches.
Schools, however, and privately owned facilities could opt out of the new law if they don’t want people carrying guns in their buildings.

Day care centers? Seriously? How f’ing stupid is that? And stadiums? Won’t that be fun after a couple of beer-fueled patrons have at it! By all means let’s make absolutely certain that anyone, anywhere, at any time, who is pissed off just enough, has the “right” to settle any dispute with guns rather than conversation. The countless innocents who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Tough luck is what it is….Even a damn shame.

Instead of working so hard to protect the paranoid, tin-foil hat fears and fantasies of a small minority of knuckleheads in an otherwise honest and law-abiding group of gun owners numbering in the tens of millions (and keeping the coffers of gun advocate groups well-stocked … you never know when another misrepresentation might be needed!), how about we have a national debate and put into place rational legislation to provide a bit more protection, safety, and security for all of us? Imagine doing something like that!

Tonight and every other night from now on, twenty sets of parents (among others suffering) will never again experience or share the tenderness and love for their sons and daughters so eloquently stated by James Russell Lowell:

Remember, dearest little daughter, that you are your papa’s only little girl and that his first thought is always and ought to be about you. I never go to sleep without asking all the good angels, and especially one, to be near you. You grow dearer and dearer to me the farther I go away from you

On that note, some words of wisdom which might offer a bit of guidance to us all:

Nothing in this world is so powerful as an idea whose time has come – Victor Hugo

You must be the change you wish to see in the world – Mohandas Gandhi

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must first be overcome – Samuel Johnson

If we gather a set of strong enough reasons to change, we can change in a minute something we’ve failed to change for years – Tony Robbins

We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them….This is because we must accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it – M. Scott Peck

A man cannot despair if he can imagine a better life – Wendell Berry

You have an obligation to act for the common good – Napoleon Hill

The way to mend the bad world is to create the right world – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

* My Photo: sunrise at Good Harbor Beach, MA – 09.03.05






At the conclusion of the second part of this series I asked a question I’ve repeated on many occasions: What kind of a nation are we? What kind of a nation will we be?

Others wonder the same. We ought to consider a heart-felt answer to those inquiries as we vote today.

You can add today’s commentary to your musings about other important considerations in casting your vote. I’m offering some observations/quotes worth noting … and pondering further.

I’ll reserve most of my comments for other times. For now, the narrative offered via these independent yet interrelated quotes are sufficient on their own.

Mitt Romney told a lie Friday, scaring Ohio’s Jeep workers with a claim that Jeep is shutting down US manufacturing and moving it to China. Now he is doubling down on this lie with a new ad. He is calculating that the lies will scare enough poorly-informed people to vote his way, never mind the truth. And we could see a president elected based on just lying….
The things Mitt Romney says can just astonish you. Romney shows a wondrous perfection of the ability to smile and just say whatever needs to be said at the moment to make the sale.
This time he tries to scare Ohioans by saying Jeep is leaving the country and taking all its jobs with it (when it is really expanding into other countries) and then promises to ‘fight for every American job.’ He says this even as Bain Capital’s Sensata is closing their factory here and sending all its jobs to China — adding even more money to Romney’s huge fortune….
If we elect a president based on a campaign of flat-out lies, deception and misdirection what kind of country will we have as a result? [1]

[See Robert Reich’s take on the lies here].

It is no secret that political candidates are capable of doing awful things when they are reach the desperate final days of an election campaign.
But trying to scare American workers into believing that a government initiative that saved their industry was some sort of secret scheme to shutter major plants and offshore jobs is more than just creepy. It’s economic fear-mongering of a sort that is destructive to the spirit of communities and to the very future of the republic as an industrial force….
George Romney’s ne’re-do-well son, a very different sort of businessman who devoted his career to taking apart American companies and offshoring jobs, is trying to resurrect his presidential candidacy with a big lie.
And the lie is about Jeeps….
Jeep’s parent company, Chrysler, rushed to clarify that Romney was completely, totally, incredibly wrong.…
What was Romney’s response.
Up the ad buy.
Expand the big lie so that it is now enormous.
The deception has become such a serious issue that, on Tuesday, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne felt compelled to clarify what is becoming an international controversy.
‘Chrysler Group’s production plans for the Jeep brand have become the focus of public debate. I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,’ wrote Marchionne….
Yet, Mitt Romney’s campaign is still running the ad.
Still lying. [2]

Lying is a form of abuse. It is a form of battering. It shows incredible disrespect to the people you expect to believe your lies. People who are lied to repeatedly lose their sense of what truth is, their grounding and their faith. They can become cynical, and no longer even able to trust those they should trust.
Lying to a country harms the country. Policies based on lies lead to disasters. A population that has been primed to believe things that are not true is a population that can be herded into outrageous actions. Look at the damage done when the country discovered that Nixon was dishonest — to this day people cannot believe in their government. Look at the damage done when people realized that Bush lied us into the Iraq war. If Romney is elected based on a campaign of lies, what will be left of us? What is left us us already, that he could rise so far?
What does Romney’s campaign of lies say about our country — and US? This is a question we all need to discuss honestly. Can we? [3]

Echoing those thoughts is an op-ed by Bob Cuddy:

[A]fter the events of the past several weeks, especially the second presidential debate, two things are as clear as clear can be about Romney.
First, he’s a bully.
Second, he’s a relentless and spectacular liar….
As to the lying, it’s true that ‘they (politicians) all do it.’ But Romney takes dissembling to new horizons. He’s almost light-hearted in the open way he changes his tune. He cheerfully admits that he said something different last week, and doesn’t seem to care that everyone can see it.
Romney and his camp own up to his lies as though they were an unimportant and necessary cost of doing business.

Mitt Romney kept quiet last week when the subject was rape and God’s will. He remained silent the week before when the news was all about Illinois factory workers pleading with him to stop his alma mater Bain Capital from offshoring their jobs.
At no time this year did Mitt denounce Republican employers who threatened their workers if President Obama is re-elected or condemn repeated Republican legislative attempts to suppress Democratic votes.
Throughout the campaign, Mitt Romney confronted numerous George Washington moments — opportunities to establish an aura of honor. It takes moxie to tell fellow Republicans that voter suppression is un-American. Only a guy with strongly held principles would stand up to the firm he founded and insist they stop the morally bankrupt practice of offshoring jobs from profit-making American factories. At every turn, Romney chose the ignoble path. He kept his mouth shut rather than speak up for what’s right. [4]

I hope we close this campaign by reminding voters that the values of the 47% video and the Republican convention are not just Romney’s values, but his party’s values, and that putting them in charge of the country would be a disaster. [5]

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner, and with a rather impressive CV and more than a passing knowledge about economics and fiscal policy, offered this in a recent interview for Salon with Andrew Leonard:

The budget cuts that Romney/Ryan propose will certainly slow growth. If the European downturn continues that could tip us into a recession. The cuts certainly won’t provide the kind of stimulus that Obama’s jobs bill, for instance, pushes. Romney’s plan is based on magic: Just because he gets elected, the economy is supposed to take off. There is no evidence that anything like that would happen. Quite the contrary — I think the opposite would happen. The business community would see the cutbacks coming and that would itself cause a slowdown in the economy.
So that’s the macroeconomy. Secondly, the Romney/Ryan budget promises to spend more on the military while cutting taxes and cutting the deficit, and that means only one thing. If you look at the arithmetic, it means less investment in infrastructure, R&D, education … it just can’t add up any other way. And that means we’ll be growing more slowly in the future.
The irony is that these two things — lower growth now and lower growth in the future — means that our debt-to-GDP ratio won’t improve, it will get worse….
If Romney wins, we will become a more divided society, a more unfair society. And that in turn will bring greater inequality, and will also undermine our growth.

And finally, from The Atlantic’s right-leaning/libertarian-ish/definitely-not-a-fan-of-and-not-voting-for Obama (or Romney) Conor Friedersdorf:

[Romney] supports policies that are an affront to the Constitution, can’t possibly make good on his domestic agenda, and has terrible foreign policy judgment….
For months, he has attacked the incumbent. He would have us believe that he is more attuned to American values and prudent enough to understand the importance of limiting federal power. He speaks as if he holds the values of the founders in high esteem, extolling the Constitution and portraying himself as a principled champion of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
What a joke….
In his capacity as a husband and father, Romney seems to be a man of integrity. As a politician and elected official, he has repeatedly shown himself willing to lie without a hint of shame or remorse. He has a well-deserved reputation for flip-flopping in a particularly off-putting way, insisting not only on his new position, but that it is what he’s fervently believed all along….
As Romney tells it, he’ll cut tax rates 20 percent, repeal the estate tax, refrain from raising taxes on the middle class, refrain from cuts to Medicare, spend more on the military, possibly wage a war against Iran, and reduce the deficit. Doing all he’s promised is mathematically impossible. The conservative media can pretend that Romney isn’t awful on all the issues I’ve mentioned.
I won’t. [6]

Neither should any of us. It’s our future, too, after all.

We don’t have a perfect President. Many have honest, fact-based, and/or legitimate philosophical differences with him. He has disappointed many, and failed to live up to (perhaps too high) expectations in any number of instances.

We have many challenges ahead. We can try the “every man for himself/get the government the hell away from me [except for bedroom matters, of course]” approach, or we can act as a community and as a nation that has a clear vision about where we are heading … together. Each candidate has made it clear which mission is his.

Those who hold to the notion that American “rugged individualism” was the model for successes past and ought to be the same model for the ever-changing future will soon enough find themselves in a world of trouble. Too many challenges on too many fronts affecting too many people in too many ways will leave those hoping for a government-free, no tax or regulation, you are on your own, Leave-It-To-Beaver world suffering needlessly.

That’s not to say that government is/ought to be the problem-solver of first resort all the time. But given the climate and energy problems looming on the horizon [facts still suck], notions that individuals will be better served without an involved government, fair taxation, needed regulations, and at least some reasonable measure of “liberal government” is as delusional as the birther argument.

That’s the choice we face, and all the spin in the world won’t change the fundamental issue for us all: Who benefits more? Who loses more? Not just today and next week, but the future—all of it.

Asking those questions matters. Finding the truth amid the pandering and misdirection and misrepresentations and irrelevancies is not easy. Make the effort, or don’t. That’s our choice, and by our votes will we make clear whether we cast aside reality and head merrily along to the cliff because the words soothe and lip-service to “values” is enough, or take a half-step back right now and play out the two scenarios awaiting us before we decide on which policies and actions will actually matter most to most of us. After is too late.

Are we a nation catering to the 1%, or at least 99% of us? On your own, or all together?

Understand the policies and the likely outcomes based on the facts, and then vote as if your well-being matters. It does.

NOTE: I’ll be back next Monday.

* My Photo: Long Beach sunrise, Rockport MA, 08.12.11


[1]; The Latest Lie: Romney Doubles Down On Friday’s Lie by Dave Johnson – 10.29.12
[2]; Yes, Romney’s a Liar, but This Is Getting Ridiculous by John Nichols – 10.30.12
[3]; What Does Romney’s Campaign Of Lies Say About Our Country? by Dave Johnson – 10.30.12
[4]; Romney Willing to Win Without Honor by Leo Gerard – 10.30.12
[5]; Obama’s Closing Week Should Highlight His Economic Plan, Romney’s Elitism and the GOP’s Obstructionism by Mike Lux – 10.29.12
[6]; Why I Refuse to Vote for Mitt Romney by Conor Friedersdorf – 10.31.12





As I explained in the first part of this brief series [beginning here], we have some other issues to ponder before tomorrow’s election.

You can add today’s commentary to your musings about other important considerations in casting your vote. I’m offering some observations/quotes worth noting … and pondering further.

I’ll reserve most of my comments for other times. For now, the narrative offered via these independent yet interrelated quotes are sufficient on their own.

We must base our strategies and our end goals not on the inevitability of disaster (or redemption), but rather on a vision for a world which people can get behind based on its merits alone. From efficient use of resources to secure, clean energy and a better quality of life—a sustainable, resilient future is our best bet whether or not a new oil boom has begun. [1]


America still does not have an energy plan, and neither Obama nor Romney have cured that potentially fatal flaw. Both have offered general directional strategies and political fodder, not anything you could call an actual plan.
But the directions they would take us in could not be more different, and their implications will echo long into the future….
Governor Romney’s energy strategy is painfully regressive and utterly blind to these clear and present dangers. It sounds like an energy policy from 1970, not 2012. Not only are his claims about our current energy situation wrong — for example, citing U.S. oil production at 15 million barrels per day, according to the Washington Post [ link in original], when the reality is 6.2 million barrels per day — but his expectations for the future of oil are absurd, claiming ‘we’ (meaning North America) will be producing over 23 million barrels per day eight years from now. That’s more than the world’s top two oil producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia, combined.
At least as far as energy policy is concerned, there isn’t really a choice between the two candidates at all. One is leading us toward a semi-realistic future, while the other would leave us in the lurch as fossil fuels decline. And while it’s true that elections are about more than energy issues, if energy becomes the biggest challenge of this century as I expect it will, then maybe that’s all you really need to know [2]


Essentially, the [Romney energy] plan is intended to remove most impediments to the exploitation by US energy firms of untapped oil, gas and coal fields in the United States, Canada and Mexico, regardless of the consequences for national health, safety or the environment. In particular, the plan has five key objectives: eliminating federal oversight of oil and gas drilling on federal lands; eviscerating all environmental restraints on domestic oil, gas and coal operations; eliminating curbs on drilling in waters off Florida and the east and west coasts of the United States; removing all obstacles to the importation of Canadian tar sands; and creating an energy consortium with Canada and Mexico allowing for increased US corporate involvement in—and control over—their oil and gas production….
Clearly, any move to eliminate the federal government’s role in overseeing oil and gas drilling on federal lands is bound to result in a greater risk of environmental catastrophe, as it will become impossible to adopt uniform standards for air and water protection, health and safety measures, wildlife protection and so on. [3]


So, what is the greatest impediment to the initiation of making energy development this nation’s #1 priority? It is the powerful opposition of the oil industry and its corporations, the most profitable in America. They want no part of new energy development, even if they occasionally make commercials claiming that they do. They fully intend to stifle the development of any new energy sources that they feel would threaten or diminish their massive, obscene profits. And so they are using their power and money to make certainthat ‘their’ senators and representatives in the Congress remain under their control. [4]


Only the oil industry would now have the audacity once again to peddle a story that it has gotten wrong for more than a decade as if it were brand new. Enlisting the media and its army of paid consultants, the industry is once again telling the public that oil abundance is at hand. And, what is doubly audacious is that it is promoting this tale as oil prices hover at levels more than eight times the 1999 low. Clearly, the industry is counting on collective amnesia to shield it from ridicule.
The industry’s purpose is transparent: To ensure that the world remains addicted to fossil fuels by convincing all of us that our energy sources–more than 80 percent of which are fossil fuels–don’t need to change. It’s a winning strategy even if the industry’s premise is wrong since the oil companies still have huge inventories of fossil fuels underground that they want to sell at top prices. And, they are only going to get those top prices if government, businesses and households fail to convert to alternatives and thus remain hostage to fossil fuels. [5]


What is the logic behind the industry’s campaign to spread the false promise of American energy independence?
The answer is actually quite simple. If the industry tells the public and policymakers the truth, then the industry’s attempt to vastly expand its U.S. operations will almost certainly fail. The truth is that the industry is having a difficult time finding good prospects in the limited areas overseas that it can now explore. So, it wants to return its focus to the United States and drill protected public lands and currently closed offshore areas so it can fulfill its primary mission, namely, making money for its shareholders and managers….
But the oil industry has pretty much gotten all the easy oil there is to get on private land in the United States. The remaining really big easy oil is on public land and in offshore areas controlled by the federal government.
In addition, new methods for bringing both oil and natural gas to the surface such as hydraulic fracturing currently enjoy environmental exemptions which the industry got written into federal law. The exemptions are little more than methods for transferring immense environmental costs onto the public through water, air and soil contamination as well as human and animal health effects–all in order to enhance industry profits.
But if these exemptions were portrayed as a necessary compromise to help the United States achieve energy independence, then the public might be convinced to accept them with little complaint. And so, the industry has found that the best way to distract the public from the industry’s unsavory motives is to insist that its new zest for drilling America’s wilderness and offshore areas is all about helping the country achieve energy independence. [6]


There is something like $50 trillion to $100 trillion of capital equipment worldwide that is built to operate on liquid fuels – and I am talking about cars, busses, ships, trains, airplanes, and golfcarts. You don’t quickly convert those or replace them, particularly if the problem takes place in a worldwide recession – there is less money available, governments are already weakened because of the present recession, governments will not be able to afford to do this kind of a thing.
So it’s going to be very difficult and it is going to take a considerable amount of time to either convert an existing piece of equipment to operate on something else or to build a whole new one and have it put into operation, because what we are talking about is a scale that is absolutely enormous as far as the world is concerned. [7]

* My Photo: Wellfleet, MA – summer of 2004  


[1]; Is Peak Oil Really a Thing of the Past? by Sami Grover – 07.03.12
[2]; Obama vs. Romney: Who has the best energy plan? by Chris Nelder – 09.05.12
[3]; Mitt Romney’s Extremist Energy Plan by Michael T. Klare – 10.23.12
[4]; Angry Over Rising Gas Prices? It’s Just The Tip Of The Iceberg by Michael Payne – 03.05.12
[5]; Fool me twice, shame on me: The oil industry repackages the fake abundance story (from the late 1990s) by Kurt Cobb – 07.22.12
[6]; The Oil Industry’s Deceitful Promise of American Energy Independence by Kurt Cobb – 05.04.12
[7]; Oil, politics and resource wars. Comment by Dr. Robert Hirsch at the 10th conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas in Vienna, Austria – May 30 – June 1, 2012





As I explained in the first part of this brief series, we have some other issues to ponder before next Tuesday.

You can add the commentary in this four-part series to your musings about [among other considerations]:

* who should appoint our next several Supreme Court justices [the same Supreme Court whose majority in its wisdom decided that corporations and the ultra-wealthy are free to corrupt democracy simply by writing bigger checks than any of us, as they are actively attempting to this day];
* whose policies will govern women’s reproductive rights [see this];
* whose concerns for the well-being of the middle class are genuine—consistently so, and not just since America got a first-hand look at one candidate’s genuine thoughts and feelings about the 47%;
* whose policies are directed to serving employees and employers rather than just the latter, wealthiest group, and
* whose policies for investing in our future and making the best use of our national government and resources are best-positioned to address the concerns about our future and the challenges we’ll face.

These are the things that matter. The fear-mongering and misrepresentations and blatant displays of disrespect for their constituency which one party has so ably demonstrated have served a purpose—not an especially honorable one. But that game must come to an end.

The future matters, too.

A few observations for starters, with more to come:

It’s no great insight to point out we’re stuck in an age of truthiness, where factchecking has been relegated to a section in the paper….When I say ‘policy analysis is missing’ I’m not talking about coursework from the Kennedy School of Government.  I’m talking about the math that says you can’t cut taxes 20% across the board and balance the budget.  Trickle-down doesn’t work.  Climate change is a real threat.  Occupying other countries without clear benchmarks and goals is not in our interest.  If we deeply cut federal spending, we can’t invest in public goods including education, economically productive infrastructure, a safety net, pollution abatement, and so on–investments that matter to many of all political stripes.
But again, what bothers me about the Romney campaign and the current moment is not just the policy agenda.  It’s their ability to completely deny that agenda and gain ground in the polls.  It’s Romney’s ability to very successfully argue that he doesn’t really have a big tax cut (the first debate), that the tax cut he doesn’t really have can be paid for by magic math, that his foreign policy is the same as the President’s (the last debate), that his plan will add 12 million jobs—the number that forecasters tell us we’re likely to see regardless of who wins.
How did we devolve to a country where someone like this can just assert things with virtually no backup from reality and not only be taken seriously but be allegedly gaining ground on a President with a solid, if not inspiring, record?  A President who can, with building evidence, make the case that were heading out of the economic woods, who’s got a budget that’s been scored by the CBO to stabilize the debt within the next decade, who plans to implement historic health care legislation that will unquestionably help tens of millions of people? [1]


Scientific knowledge and new technologies are the building blocks for long-term economic growth — ‘the key to a 21st-century economy,’ as President Obama said in the final debate.
So it is astonishing that Mr. Romney talks about economic growth while planning deep cuts in investment in science, technology and education. They are among the discretionary items for which spending could be cut 22 percent or more under the Republican budget plan, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the plan, which Mr. Romney has endorsed, could cut overall nondefense science, engineering, biomedical and technology research by a quarter over the next decade, and energy research by two-thirds.
Mr. Romney seems to have lost sight of the critical role of research investments not only in developing new medicines and cleaner energy sources but also in creating higher-skilled jobs.
The private sector can’t do it alone. We rely on companies to translate scientific discoveries into products. But federal investment in research and development, especially basic research, is critical to their success. Just look at Google, which was started by two graduate students working on a project supported by the National Science Foundation and today employs 54,000 people.
Richard K. Templeton, chief executive of Texas Instruments, put it this way in 2009: ‘Research conducted at universities and national labs underpins the new innovations that drive economic growth.’ [2]

Ideology + policy/no-policy + action/inaction = outcomes/results/consequences. Who benefits more? Who loses more? Not just today and next week, but the future—all of it.

Look at the facts, not the spin from those with vested interests in keeping the citizens who are dependent on them for advice and information at best misinformed with half-truths, irrelevancies, or—if all else fails—pure nonsense. How will the ideologies and policies play themselves out here in Reality Land, which one party visits only on rare occasions?

What kind of a nation are we? What kind of a nation will we be?

* My Photo: The Day After Sandy – Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, MA


[1]; How Did Things Get So Screwed Up? by Jared Bernstein – 10.28.12
[2]; Science Is the Key to Growth by Neal F. Lane – 10.28.12





But, honestly, it’s time to get real about things. Honestly, it’s time for someone to ‘politicize’ this storm for what it is.
Based on what the various candidates actually have told the people whose votes they are soliciting, over the past 48 hours, it has been far better for the nation that Barack Obama and Joseph Biden are running the executive branch than it would have been had those jobs been held by Willard Romney and Paul Ryan. Both of the latter are on record — and on audiotape, and on video, and all over the Intertoobz, and, for all I know, bellowing from the fillings in your teeth — as recommending that the federal government’s responsibility for things like disaster relief be either handed back to the states, or privatized entirely. They have made this argument in public. They have made this argument as part of the reason why you should vote for them. They also have similar plans for the National Weather Service, and for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and they have made those arguments as part of the reason why you should vote for them. If those ideas had prevailed, and those plans had been passed through the Congress, and signed by President Romney, more people would have died because of this storm, and more people would still be dying from this storm two or three weeks from now.
What they are saying now in an attempt to walk back their earlier arguments is almost assuredly nothing but a barrel full of lies. They’d be out there saying the very same things today if they hadn’t gotten blindsided by this storm. Do you honestly think, absent the arrival of Miss Sandra along the east coast, Willard Romney and Paul Ryan would be out there refining their opinion on federal disaster relief? That they would have abandoned the notion of handing disaster relief back to the states, or to their various corporate cronies. That they would have distanced themselves from barely camouflaged bigots like John Sununu, who repeatedly calls the president ‘lazy’? [1]

Can any of us rationally contemplate what kinds of relief efforts might be taking place right now in the eastern third of the country under a Republican “leadership” which believes that disaster relief is better left to the states; better still to private industry? [See this.] Whatever efforts might be employed would of course take place after decreased funding for the very research and technology which enabled forecasters to serve us all so well in the many days leading to the arrival/onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. [See this.] The good news is that the very wealthy would get a tax break! I guess that evens it out?

Ideological pronouncements have their place, but in the real world, actions and words have consequences. Ideological beliefs which serve as the foundation for policies and non-policies likewise have consequences. Followers who blindly accept the rantings of “leaders” whose interests clearly diverge from those millions whom they arguably serve are not immune to what happens in the real world. They too will have to endure the repercussions of limited government in a world where the rare catastrophes aren’t so rare any more.

How’s that going to work for us?

Ask residents of New York City (where our daughter has been without power since the storm hit) or New Jersey how delighted they would be with scores of state agencies and private companies tripping over each other as they each try to get a handle on the thousands of considerations which must be addressed in an undertaking of this scope. Who needs coordination and the power of a national operation when you can have chaos instead?

And through it all, the media can’t even get Mitt Romney to acknowledge their presence, let alone answer a simple but important question: What does he plan on doing with FEMA and other federal government disaster relief efforts? We’ve all seen his answer already, which pretty much amounts to “Good luck to all of you!” [See this terrific summary by Alex Kane.]

Of course, by the time you read this, it’s entirely possible Romney will have completely reversed his position, as he has with tax policy, the auto bailouts [see this and this], and on and on it goes [for example] … but I digress.

As we regain our footing in the aftermath of the awesome display of power Hurricane Sandy wielded at the expense of millions of residents, we have some other issues to ponder as well before next Tuesday.

So between now and the election, I’m going to take advantage of my little soapbox and offer some observations/quotes worth noting … and pondering further, as we approach the election. Thinking for ourselves would be a good thing, and each of us is capable of doing just that.

I’ll reserve most of my comments on each for other times. For now, the narrative offered via these independent yet interrelated quotes are sufficient on their own.

I’ll do so for reasons admirably expressed by the always-reasonable and thoughtful Jared Bernstein:

Yes, it’s time to start thinking again, but more pointedly, it’s time to realize what a potentially wonderful country we have here in America and to once again embrace the responsibility for its stewardship.  Right now, that means making the effort to see through shape-shifting flim-flammers whose platform reduces to ‘tell me what you want and I’ll tell you that I can give to you at absolutely no cost.’ [2]

Facts matter.

* My Photo: The Day After Sandy – Long Beach, Rockport, MA


[1]; Sandy: Evidence That Romney Is the Wrong President by Charles P. Pierce – 10.30.12
[2]; How Did Things Get So Screwed Up? by Jared Bernstein – 10.28.12

Per my last post on May 25, computer problems took a couple of weeks longer than anticipated to work themselves out, and thereafter I decided to take a couple of additional weeks to assess where I go from here with this blog.

For the next 10 weeks or so, I expect to post at least once each week on the topic of Peak Oil, consistent with the direction I’ve been taking in the past few months. A couple of weeks’ vacation coming up in August will be a (welcome) detour, and I will also be using this time to expand my writings elsewhere on the ‘net while also devoting a fair amount of time to turning my outline for this blog into a book outline. More details will follow.

Certainly the bizarre debt-ceiling antics on Capitol Hill have added a bit more drama to the economic challenges now confronting us, and I’m expecting that more political discussions will find their way into upcoming posts, although I’m not ruling out a separate blog.

So, my next post—a continuation of the series I started weeks ago (first one here)—will find its way into print early next week.

Stay tuned!

[NOTE: This is the latest installment in an ongoing PeakOilMatters series (which started here). It’s about finding a new and better vision to get to, through, and beyond Peak Oil and its widespread impact on what we produce, how we produce, and how we live. We won’t be falling off a cliff tomorrow, and the full brunt of Peak Oil’s effects won’t be experienced all at once, either. Gas and oil do not have to disappear entirely, nor do gas prices have to rise into the stratosphere before Peak Oil’s impact is felt.
Gradually, but inexorably, changes will be in the offing, however. We need to come to a better understanding of this, and start preparing ourselves now for the lengthy transition and just as lengthy ongoing impact of Peak Oil on all of us. Many issues must of necessity be considered, and I hope to make a contribution to the public dialogue we need to have. I hope you’ll find the discussion of these objectives enjoyable as well as beneficial. We have more of a voice than we think we do. Finding that voice just might be our best hope.]


“‘By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.’” [Source:]
“While there are two ‘coulds’ in that statement, the mere possibility that such an imminent arrival and massive shortfall could be true should give every prudent adult a few second thoughts about what the future may hold. If surplus production capacity disappears in just a couple of years, there’s an entire world of planning that should really take place beforehand at the international, national, community and personal levels.” [1]

That statement needs little embellishment or explanation. It goes to the very heart of my reasoning for developing this lengthy series, and coming from someone like Chris Martenson, who has earned legitimate credibility, I can only hope that the underlying message will soon resonate with many more officials and citizens.

Several weeks ago, in the course of gathering my notes and writing rough drafts of this and my last post, I came across yet another well-reasoned and pointed discussion from Lindsay Curren at Transition Voice (here). In expressing her own concerns about the lack of leadership on the subject of Peak Oil, she offered this:

“In spite of the difficulties President Obama faces in navigating this minefield, he does have one trump card that can turn his prospects around. He just doesn’t know it yet….
“Like other presidents, Obama has reminded the American people that oil is a finite resource, that it’s running out and can’t be replaced. He’s talked about how conservation and a shift to a broad portfolio of renewables and mass transit can, at the very least, shift the direction while also creating jobs. In essence, he’s hinted at America 2.0, the lower-energy version.
“What he hasn’t done is come out boldly and say the words ‘peak oil,’ explaining to the American people that this is the end of the era of cheap energy for good.”

Chris Martenson adds this, from the same article cited above:

“The impact of peak oil on markets, lifestyles, and even national solvency deserves our very highest attention – but, it turns out, some important players seem to be paying no attention at all.”

What Chris suspected, and as was confirmed in a presentation (by Rick Munroe) cited in his article, is that while our military (among other nations’) is definitely concerned about Peak Oil and its impact on the operations and responsibilities it’s currently charged with and will likely face in years to come, nothing is being done at the national political level. (Munroe himself, in another article, offered this: “This author has yet to encounter a study conducted by a military analyst which dismisses peak oil as an implausible, alarmist issue.”) There are no governmental departments and no bureaucrats who’ve been assigned the task of figuring out anything about what we should do.

Acknowledging as have others that electoral politics hampers our officials from dealing with long-range planning and problems, Martenson added:

“So I came away from the ASPO conference pondering two completely polar trends that combined to create a lasting discomfort. On the one hand we have more and more private and military organizations coming to the conclusion that peak oil is imminent and will change everything, possibly disruptively. On the other hand there appear to be no plans within the civilian government to deal with a liquid fuels emergency.”

Uh-oh! We’re already years behind in establishing anything approximating even a minimal understanding of the variety of challenges and impacts that will arise from declining oil production. That energy resource so thoroughly permeates just about everything we own, use, or do that it is a nearly incomprehensible task to imagine how much will have to change when we’re faced with less oil for everything. So not planning or even discussing it will help us … how? And Republican budget proposals to cut even more funding for research and innovation so that the Koch brothers et al pay even less in taxes helps us … how?

A few months ago, I wrote this, and my assessment has not changed:

“Plans are in order—lots of plans. This is no quick-fix modern day dilemma, and it is most definitely not a challenge that we can rely on the “market” to solve on its own. What remains just as doubtful is the ability of our national government to lead the way, and that’s a problem. I’m not sure right now that Congress could easily, quickly, or even by majority vote declare December 25 as Christmas Day. Certainly they couldn’t do so if President Obama offered that up. This is not encouraging, and it’s even less so when we have a more-than-insignificant number of “leaders” who cannot seem to accept anything that even remotely resembles scientific fact.
“We’re going to need a national government with national leaders who can … you know, lead; people who actually understand what is at stake, have some kind of vision for what we need to do now and going forward, are willing to articulate that to the citizenry, can explain what we all have to contribute, and are willing to make the tough choices devoid of ideology. Declining oil production has absolutely nothing to do with conservative or liberal philosophies of governance.
“We’ve got an entire industrial and commercial infrastructure that is going to have to be modified, re-built, or in many cases created anew to allow us to move forward with something other than oil to power it. There’s no pretending otherwise, and waiting is simply not an option any more—not that it has been.”

If we can’t count on our leadership to so much as give voice to the problem’s name, then planning and implementing is rendered all the more difficult. My effort—to offer some semblance of comprehensive proposals and a vision for how we might address this, as inconsequential as the attempt might be—will at least be a start. But Lindsay Curren is absolutely correct: the President has to start telling us the truth about this. It is beyond inconceivable to think that he, or any of his recent predecessors, knows absolutely nothing about Peak Oil! This is not a tiny little problem that just crossed someone’s radar screen for the first time yesterday afternoon.

The truth will also include clarifying a bit of disingenuous fact-telling called out by Gregor Macdonald in a piece he wrote at the beginning of the year:

“One of the methods EIA Washington and IEA Paris have increasingly relied on in recent years to obscure the very serious and now very real problem of oil depletion is to include biofuels and natural gas liquids in the accounting of global oil production. The technique that both agencies use to conduct this obfuscation is a familiar one, in which the key information is aggregated (buried) into a much larger barrage of data and presentations….
“In order to rebut this Secrecy by Complexity it’s the obligation of responsible energy analysts to explain the falsehood of adding biofuels and natural gas liquids to measures of oil production. The reason is simple: natural gas liquids are not oil, and they contain only 65% of the BTU of oil. Worse, biofuels are barely an energy source themselves and are the product of a conversion process of other energy inputs. Accordingly, the world is not producing 84, or 85, or 86 million barrels of oil per day. Nor will the depletion of oil be solved by the production of biofuels in the future.
“When the EIA in Washington falsely composes such forecasts, aggregating future natural gas liquids and ethanol into a supply picture for ‘oil’ as they do each year in The Annual Energy Outlook, this disables the public’s ability to accurately understand the true outlook for global oil supply.”

We’re already burdened enough by the deniers and certain groups of elected officials for whom disclosing facts and engaging in truth-telling are onerous exercises to be avoided as often as possible. We don’t need this Administration to add to the confusion.

Expanding on a quote I recently offered from Ezra Klein, his observation seems especially apropos in this context:

“In order for most Americans to tune out of politics and not get ripped off due to their inattention, politicians need to be acting in an honorable, ‘non-self-interested’ way.
“This is why things like partisanship, evidence of corruption, the public understanding of earmarks and so forth are so damaging. They’re signs that the process in Washington is broken. As Hibbing and Theiss-Morse note, most Americans don’t have terribly strong views on policy and figure people of good faith could fairly easily come to agreement on the nation’s major problems. When that’s not happening, people get scared. They’re not paying attention, and they’ve certainly not hired high- powered lobbyists to butter up members of Congress with attention and campaign contributions. But they know others have. So they worry — rightly — that their disinterest leaves them holding the bag for the favors that powerful interests are getting. And the worse the process looks from afar, the more they figure they’re right to be worried.” [2]

It’s not necessary to belabor the point that no one wants any more problems to contend with. Certainly problems that go to the very core of what enables all of us to lead the lives we do, produce the goods and services we offer, transport ourselves in the variety of ways we do, and enjoy the benefits of our ingenuity and industry are major challenges no one has the stomach to deal with voluntarily. But deal with it we must. The problems and restrictions—which a declining oil supply is going to impose on us (no matter how fiercely we choose to deny or ignore it)—call on each of us to wade in and play a role in coming to terms with Peak Oil.

As I’ve urged in recent posts, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and find a place where we can participate and contribute to the massive undertakings needed to adapt to a future with different sources of energy. But we cannot do it alone, and our efforts may prove to be nothing but futile if we aren’t getting direction and the truth from our leaders. We can then all find a place in the big middle to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

“When we begin to tell the truth we can tell better stories than anyone who has to tell lies. It is a story about heroism, and responding to dreadful odds, about courage and self-sacrifice for the betterment of the future – all the things that everyone actually gives a damn about that are never asked of them. It is so easy to say that other people are fools when those people have never heard anything but lies and they have never been asked to be more than consumers. Time to ask. Time to tell the truth.” [3]

Amen to that.

More to come….

[NOTE: Owing to out-of-town commitments, this will be my only post of the week.]


[1]; Future Chaos: There Is No ‘Plan B’ For Oil by Chris Martenson – October 14, 2010 [citing a statement in the 2010 Joint Operating Environment report, which provides information designed to assist U.S. military officials in planning future exercise and endeavors.]
[2]; Americans don’t like politics — and that matters by Ezra Klein – February 25, 2011
[3]; The election is over – Now what do we do with all the fear? by Sharon Astyk – November 3, 2010