I Am So Tired of Malthus

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Daily we are deluged with gloom about how we are overwhelming the Earth’s ability to sustain and support our growing numbers. Increasing population is again being hailed as the catastrophe of the century. In addition, floods and droughts are said to be leading to widespread crop loss. The erosion of topsoil is claimed to be affecting production. It is said that we are overdrawing our resources, with more people going hungry. Paul Ehrlich and the late Stephen Schneider assure us that we are way past the tipping point, that widespread starvation is unavoidable.

Is this true? Is increasing hunger inevitable for our future? Are we really going downhill? Are climate changes (natural or anthropogenic) making things worse for the poorest of the poor? Are we running out of food? Is this what we have to face?

Figure 1. The apocalyptic future envisioned by climate alarmists. Image Source

Fortunately, we have real data regarding this question. The marvelous online resource, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics database called FAOSTAT, has data on the amount of food that people have to eat.

Per capita (average per person) food consumption is a good measure of the welfare of a group of people because it is a broad-based indicator. Some kinds of measurements can be greatly skewed by a few outliers. Per capita wealth is an example. Since one person can be a million times wealthier than another person, per capita wealth can be distorted by a few wealthy individuals.

But no one can eat a million breakfasts per day. If the per capita food consumption goes up, it must perforce represent a broad-based change in the food consumption of a majority of the population. This makes it a good measure for our purposes.

The FAOSTAT database gives values for total food consumption in calories per day, as well as for protein and fat consumption in grams per day. (Fat in excess is justly maligned in the Western diet, but it is a vital component of a balanced diet, and an important dietary indicator.) Here is the change over the last fifty years:

Figure 2. Consumption of calories, protein, and fat as a global average (thin lines), and for the “LDCs”, the Least Developed Countries (thick lines) . See Appendix 1 for a list of LDCs.

To me, that simple chart represents an amazing accomplishment. What makes it amazing is that from 1960 to 2000, the world population doubled. It went from three billion to six billion. Simply to stay even, we needed to double production of all foodstuffs. We did that, we doubled global production, and more. The population in the LDCs grew even faster, it has more than tripled since 1961. But their food consumption stayed at least even until the early 1990s. And since then, food consumption has improved across the board for the LDCs.

Here’s the bad news for the doomsayers. At this moment in history, humans are better fed than at any time in the past. Ever. The rich are better fed. The middle class is better fed. The poor, and even the poorest of the poor are better fed than ever in history.

Yes, there’s still a heap of work left to do. Yes, there remain lots of real issues out there.

But while we are fighting the good fight, let’s remember that we are better fed than we have ever been, and take credit for an amazing feat. We have doubled the population and more, and yet we are better fed than ever. And in the process, we have proven, once and for all, that Malthus, Ehrlich, and their ilk were and are wrong. A larger population doesn’t necessarily mean less to eat.

Of course despite being proven wrong for the nth time, it won’t be the last we hear of the ineluctable Señor Malthus. He’s like your basic horror film villain, incapable of being killed even with a stake through the heart at a crossroads at midnight … or the last we hear of Paul Ehrlich, for that matter. He’s never been right yet, so why should he snap his unbeaten string?

APPENDIX 1: Least Developed Countries

Africa (33 countries)

Angola
Benin
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Central African Republic
Chad
Comoros
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Djibouti
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Gambia
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Lesotho
Liberia
Madagascar
Malawi
Mali
Mauritania
Mozambique
Niger
Rwanda
São Tomé and Príncipe
Senegal
Sierra Leone
Somalia
Sudan
Togo
Tanzania
Uganda
Zambia

Eurasia (10 countries)

Afghanistan
Bangladesh
Bhutan
Cambodia
East Timor
Laos
Maldives
Myanmar
Nepal
Yemen

Americas (1 country)

Haiti

Oceania (5 countries)

Kiribati
Samoa
Solomon Islands
Tuvalu
Vanuatu


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440 thoughts on “I Am So Tired of Malthus

  1. Good one as usual Willis.
    But look at the pacific islander nations listed amongst the LDCs….have you seen the size of those lovely islander people? Their sustanance intake cannot possibly be low

  2. Some 30 years ago, I have read a book in Dutch, called “De Groene Aarde” (“The Green Earth”), that the earth can sustain about 130 billion people for food. That was based on the population density (over 1,000 inh./km^2) of the two Holland provinces in The Netherlands which, despite the population density, still have a net export of a lot of agricultural products like milk, cheese, tomatoes, paprika’s, flowers and bulbs.

    That was the result of the “green revolution” (and glass greenhouses), and assumed all available good land to be used for agriculture, not as happens worldwide today for harbors, town expansion, etc… But even so, the evolution in techniques didn’t stop in the past 30 years and bio-engineering is looking for methods to enhance the ability of several plants to grow even in harsh conditions of drought and floods, on poorer grounds and/or more salt tolerant. So, the future still looks bright…

  3. I don’t see Zimbabwe on the LDC list. Are we on a LLDC list *grin*.

    The real threat to people is poor governance. Technology, land, labor and inputs are available everywhere but poor governance will always impede people’s ambition to improve their nutrition.

    The same is true of the impact of natural disasters. Haiti and NZ had similar magnitude earthquakes with very asymmetrical outcomes. Australia and Pakistan have had monumental floods with once again quite dissimilar effects on the population. Africa has an abundance of good land, water and climate for crop growing but poor governance severely constrains the continents ability to feed itself.

    Perhaps Malthus and Erlich are right about the effects of overpopulation they just needed to refine that down to a specific segment of the population, crap politicians.

  4. Its not what goes in but what comes out of humans is more of a worry!!! 6 billion turds a day, but as only about 1/3 of the world has toilets maybe it helps with the soil nutrients?

  5. Per Capita food consumption has grown on the rise of cheap energy that has manufactured and shipped fertiliser all over the world, powered machinery and punped water for irrigation. Rather than a green revolution we have had a black revolution based on cheap oil.
    Now however the cheap energy has gone, vast areas of flat fertile agricultural land has been built on, fresh water aquifers are rapidly being drained, large areas of other fertile regions are now degraded so their yield per acre are dropping fast.
    Phosphate is no longer cheap and our ability to get more and more tonnes per day extracted and distributed is now limited. Without phosphate modern agricultural practices can’t continue as they are.
    I believe we are at a point of peak agriculture and the consequences will be far more severe than anything CO2 increases might cause. In fact give us more CO2 to help grow more food!
    Hopefully the worst of Malthus’ predictions won’t happen, but with peak agriculture and peak oil just about on us we are living in interesting times.

  6. There are several assessments of the food impact of IPCC predicted climate change. The most comprehensive is by a IIASA team, coordinated with FAO, and headed by Gunther Fisher. Even using the worst-case A2 scenario (absurdly high population growth with lowest growth of output), and even more so with other IPCC scenarios, average food consumption, and even more significantly, percentage of people undernourished (ie consuming less than the bare minimum to survive at minimum weight with only light physical activity) will both improve greatly. The current worldwide undernourishment rate is about 14%, and about 17% in all developing countries taken together (developed countries are nearly zero). By 2080 both figures would fall to about 6% in A2 and 1-3% in other scenarios (FAO regards undernourishment rates below 5% as non significantly different from zero because of inherent uncertainties). The future rates of undernourishment are estimated by Fischer et al using a complex “Linked System” using climate projections plus economic models plus agricultural production models, and respecting agroecological zones ie without farms encroaching over unsuitable land such as virgin forests, and under very conservative estimates of future technological change and economic growth (much below current or recent rates).

    References
    Fischer G., M.Shah & H. van Velthuizen, 2002a. Climate change and agricultural vulnerability. A special report, prepared by IIASA as a contribution to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. IIASA, Johannesburg. Laxenburg (Austria): IIASA. http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Admin/PUB/Documents/XO-02-001.pdf.
    Fischer, Günther; Harrij van Velthuizen; Mahendra Shah & Freddy O.Nachtergaele, 2002b. Global agro-ecological assessment for agriculture in the 21st century: methodology and results. IIASA RR-02-02. Laxenburg, Austria: IIASA. http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Admin/PUB/Documents/RR-02-002.pdf.
    Fischer, G., M.Shah, F.N.Tubiello & H.van Velthuizen, 2005. Socio-economic and climate change impacts on agriculture: an integrated assessment, 1990–2080. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B, 360:2067-2083.
    Fischer, Günther; Mahendra Shah, Harrij van Velthuizen & Freddy O. Nachtergaele, 2006a. Agro-Ecological Zones Assessment. IIASA RP-06-03. Laxemburg, Austria.
    Fischer, Günther; Guy Jakeman, Hom M. Pant, Malte Schwoon & Richard S.J.Tol, 2006b. CHIMP: A simple population model for use in integrated assessment of global environmental change. The Integrated Assessment Journal 6(3):1-33.
    For undernourishment: FAO’s State of Food Insecurity in the World, an annual publication found at http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/.

  7. The fact that politicians (wrongly) propose vast increases in the use of bio-fuels tells you there may be a surplus of agricultural products.

    The fact that anaerobic digestion of food waste to produce “renewable energy” is on the increase tells you that we (wrongly) waste vast amounts of food.

    As Keith Battye rightly says “The real threat to people is poor governance” “crap politicians”.

  8. Well put Willis.
    Matt Ridley’s new book (The Rational Optimist) is excellent on all this.

    A second thought: your recent post on Armagh showed their land record against SST in the Atlantic and the Irish Sea. SSTs have of course changed from testing a bucket to engine inlet measurement and then the satellite date. The former was surface temp, and probably sporadic, the middle was deeper water, and the final method surface again, and more systematic. Maybe your fit with the land record was not that good after all?

  9. I may add that according to the same sources cited (FAO) undernourishment by 1980 was about 35% in developing countries, falling to about 20% by 1990-92 and 16.4% in 2004-06, increasing slightly in 2008-10 to about 17% according to very preliminary estimates released by FAO, due to world recession and international rise in food commodities prices, especially in 2008. But the price spike was not so high as initially estimated, nor lasted for long, and thus this estimated temporary increase may not have existed or may be promptly reversed. FAO computes undernourishment based on habitual consumption, approximated by 3-year averages, thus a passing price spike may not alter the figures much.

  10. Very good, Willis! I’m so tired of Malthus and the neo-malthusians myself, and try to stop the mouth of them whenever I can. I agree with you that per capita wealth is a bad measure, but that’s because arithmetic mean is such a bad measure of the expected value for skewed distributions. If they had only used MEDIAN wealth as a measure of per capita wealth, the numbers would have been much more interesting.

    Your food statistics is a very good weapon against the doomsayers, I’ll make use of that! My personal favorite evidence that the well-being of humans has been drastically improved even in the last few years is the fact that child mortality has plummeted since 1990: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64N0PM20100524

  11. Rod Gill says: … with peak agriculture and peak oil just about on us we are living in interesting times.

    There are four fallacies of modern thought:-

    Energy consumption will increase.
    Food supply will increase.
    GDP will increase.
    World Population increases.

    For those in the know, these are really just the same thing said in three different ways because they are so highly interlinked that a reduction in energy supply/consumption will mean a reduction in food supply, GDP and population.

    The only reason people think there is some kind of law that these all increase, is that modern thinkers haven’t lived through an age when they have decreased.

    The really interesting/critical question is what will the world be like when these presumptions on which the whole world economy and politics are founded fall apart?

    That is why I have a keen interest in history, because history teaches us what is likely to happen when energy (aka food) supplies run out — and the main thing it teaches us is that politicians even democratic forms of government are incapable of handling such situations and therefore the likely outcome of the end of oil is a profound decrease in democracy worldwide.

  12. Thanks Willis for another elegantly simple debunking of the green brigades alarmist rubbish.

    We haven’t even scratched the surface of what modern technology can do to improve traditional food production in the third world, and in the developed world the move to hydroponics will have a massive impact on efficiency and yield.

    The ‘peak ???’ doom-sayers always fail to take into account that circumstances change as we move forward in time. History proves that mankind makes progress in leaps and bounds rather than plodding along in the same groove.

  13. This is a very light weight post, all you’ve done Willis is extrapolate a trend.
    Whether or not the planet can feed 8 billion or 10 billion people hasn’t been addressed in any sensible way. The planet feeds more people now because we consume more resources, those resources are finite, technology gives us the ability to use what’s there, not the ability to create resources that aren’t there.

  14. THANK YOU, Willis! I had a geography professor who lauded Malthus day in, day out, and I’m like: “This guy’s ideas are bogus! Doesn’t anyone else think so?”

    I’ll read your post in full later (just took a look for a minute), but your title sums up my thoughts about Malthus pretty well.

  15. Excellent post. As someone who has spent time as a relief worker in some of the worst refugee camps on earth, I can relate from first hand experience that, short of temporary natural disasters, the problem is not that there isn’t enough food. There are warehouses with enough food. The problem is getting the food to the people who need it or moving the people to the food (think Darfur). As Keith wrote above, the problem is “governance”. More specifically, what stands in the way most often is men with guns who call themselves “the government” in these regions. It would be more correct to call them criminals, bandits or profiteers. Without the rule of law, they can trample anyone who is weaker and steal their resources or merely shove them onto marginal land where no one can survive.

    Forcing starving refugees across a border in search of food can be a tactical weapon to use against adjacent countries. Stealing donated relief supplies and selling them on the black market is just another way to fund their gang. We’re talking powdered milk for infants here. The more experienced gangs don’t even bother stealing the supplies, they just set up checkpoints and charge relief trucks a 60% “roadside tax” enforced with AK-47s.

    Whenever I hear news commentators talking about perma-refugees stuck somewhere with “not enough food” it never fails to evoke a bitter, sad laugh. It’s heartbreaking enough for us westerners to think that children over there are starving because there isn’t enough food. When you know that there is adequate food, often within 500 miles, that means these children are starving simply because evil men with power are doing what they always do. It is simply unconscionable. Those that continue to push the Malthusian scarcity meme are accomplices in crimes against humanity because their wrong ideas serve as a smoke screen masking the real problem and delaying real solutions.

  16. Mike Haseler you’re thinking like a malthusian and missing the A and O of demography. The fact is that when a country reaches a certain level of development (and thus, of food supply and energy consumption), it reaches the “fourth phase of demographic transition” and fertility plummets. The main reason is that in such societies, women decide to make a career instead of having ever more children. Even some countries which are considered very backwards by the west, Iran is a good example, now have unsustainably low fertility rates. Iran still has population growth, but if their fertility rate stays at 1.7-1.8 their population will of course start decreasing in a few years. Many European and Asian countries have now reached the fifth stage, where population starts decreasing. Some very rich countries have had a slightly higher fertility rates the last few decades, but it is still below sustainable, and the increase is IMHO solely a result of policies (availability of cheap day care, for instance).

  17. Mike Haseler says

    “a reduction in energy supply/consumption will mean a reduction in food supply, GDP and population.”

    It’s not so straightforward as that. Increases in the efficiency of energy utilisation mean that GDP and food supply can stay the same or even go up, while energy used goes down.

  18. Mike Haseler says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:39 am

    That is why I have a keen interest in history, because history teaches us what is likely to happen when energy (aka food) supplies run out — and the main thing it teaches us is that politicians even democratic forms of government are incapable of handling such situations and therefore the likely outcome of the end of oil is a profound decrease in democracy worldwide.

    I agree that energy is pivotal to all the rest.

    I disagree about peaks in oil or this that and the other.

    IF, a big if, there is a peak in oil, there is still coal, shale in large quantities, not to forget oil bearing sands.

    I tend to go with the Russian school who think that oil is endogenous to the earth mantle and is created/rises continuously. The finding of a Titan, I think, satellite with methane speaks to that.

    We then have sun energy, which is slowly materializing, maybe the flexible panels will become cheap enough to compete with oil, and other alternate solutions .

    And to top it all there is fission power, and fusion power. Once fusion is harnessed for production, there will no longer be an energy problem, but an occupation problem.

    Progress in technologies, from nano to micro to large scale, inevitably replace human labor with machine and robot labor. There will be this mass of humanity which will be fed and tended by machines, very few people needed for work and intellectual occupation. That will be the real problem.

    We have the start of it already, having taken agriculture workers who where over 30% of the population and are producing food with 1% of the population as workers.
    And now technology is taking away industrial jobs, that had become available to former farmers. ( ignoring outsourcing for the argument) This has given rise to the dole, and things will get worse and worse instead of better. How many service jobs can there be?

    One of the reasons for the rise of bureaucracies is that there is that enormous surplus of workers who in olden times would have been occupied in agriculture and are now in some government NGO niche creating work for themselves an others.

    This is the real problem the future humanity will have to solve: a leisure society created by free energy and robotics. History will tell us how the leisure societies worked: some were decadent, some produced Newtons and Da Vincis.

  19. I agree we have increased food production enough to feed the increased population. But we are starting to fall behind because of the scramble for biofuel crops. This is the greatest waste of agricultural land ever thought up. To divert land from food production to biofuel is stupid. True agritechnology will help to increase yields as genetic modification is increased, once the scare tactics of the environmentalists have been addressed, but will this be enough? It is not as if biofuels are better than fossil fuels they are not they burn poorer and more fuel is needed per mile driven or Kwatt produced.
    Many countries have agricultural land in abundance but due to civil war or lack of knowledge do not use it. Sudan is a case in point. I read that they use 5% of their agricultural land the rest is left to the weeds.
    One problem we will have is enough water for crop growth. Genetic modification will help but increased atmospheric CO2 levels, whilst not affecting climate, does help to reduce plant water uptake so the same plants will grow in dryer conditions. This may be important in the future.
    It is important to remember that, regardless of reasons for global warming if it happens, all plants prefer warmer conditions to colder ones and crop yield is better with warmth than cold. Plants will not grow under ice.

  20. Willis, I usually love your contributions but I take some issue with this one in that I am extraordinarily tired of people who have missed the bulk of what Malthus said.

    The Essay on the Principle of Population was a very scholarly work produced at the end of the 18th / beginning of the 19th century and should be read in this context. At this time farming methods had been largely static for centuries, implying constant food supply (subject of course to weather) but new developments were occurring as the Agricultural Revolution started up. Medicine had not had any radical developments and would not for a long time to come. New land was becoming available in North America.

    This enabled him to do two pieces of research. The effectively infinite new food supply in the colonies enabled him to draw the conclusion that, unchecked, population would double geometrically – every 25 years if I remember rightly. This figure is probably exceeded today in the Third World, given better medicine.

    The second piece of research was into historical records of population, pre Agricultural Revolution, including the many centuries of censuses in the Swiss cantons which provided a form of control environment. This showed that populations in fact tended to remain static.

    These findings simply provided empirical measurements backing up the intuitive propositions of the effect of unlimited food and the effect of trivial growth in agricultural production.

    Given this hard data, Malthus put the two together and posed the question “what happens to the potential population growth which has not happened if the population has in fact remained static?” His conclusion was that this potential excess would have died off from one of three basic causes – famine, war or disease. (At the time, contraception was virtually unknown and he advocated “moral restraint”, ie abstinence, as a means of avoiding the three nasties).

    So far, all eminently sensible. Malthus’ basic principle – as I understand it – was that sustained population growth cannot exceed sustained growth in food supply. One could restate this to say that the population will rise to meet the food supply available, as many examples in the Third World demonstrate.

    The discreditation of Malthus stems from his attempt to put a figure on the potential growth in food supply. At the beginning of the 19th century this was OF COURSE a finger in the wind and his estimate was that “the best that can be expected is that food supply increases arithmetically”.

    As we know, the point in time at which this estimate was made preceded the vast impacts that science and technology have made on food supply in the last couple of centuries. In damning Malthus for this misguesstimate – he never claimed it was anything more than that, unlike the metrics on history – critics sidestep the enduring issue Malthus raised, namely that population will rise to match any increase in food supply unless it is voluntarily limited (by the contraception he did not envisage or the postnatal contraception the Chinese used) or involuntarily by famine, war or disease.

    The ultimate issue is not whether we can continue to geometrically increase the food supply in the short term, but whether we can continue to do this for a sufficent period of time that worldwide people move to a contraception mindset which limits growth.

    I will avoid the issue of an ideal population, which is contentious in itself. However I think that the availability of water is going to be the factor which brutally limits growth in the medium term. No matter the other scientific improvements, some areas of the world are soon not going to increase agricultural production the way they have been doing. Look at the Nile valley. And then the pundits will have to acknowledge that Malthus’ basic principle (as opposed to his guesstimate) were right.

  21. What interests me is the amount of arable produce (wheat, rice, barley, potatoes, sugar beet etc.) that is used to make alcohol. The figure I have been told is about a quarter of the worlds production. Can anyone confirm this?
    I also understand that 80% of grapes grown are used for making alcohol and as we can see from the Muslim world alcohol is not needed to sustain a healthy life, so an awful lot of good food is grown not to feed people but just to make them drunk!

    Seamus Molloy

  22. John Marshall says:
    To divert land from food production to biofuel is stupid.

    Absolutely. This is why policies based on the AGW scare are actually doing real and grave harm today. If, in a few years or decades, it turns out that the sceptics were right, that CO2 warming is mostly benign, it will be too late for those that lost their lives due to food shortages. It will also be too late for ecosystems lost, e.g. the rain forests that have been converted to palm oil farms, and for the species that possibly got extinct on the way.

  23. .

    Willis, we DO have a problem here.

    Pakistan has quintupled (x5) its population in 50 years, and then complains that floods are killing many people, and it needs American food aid.

    Ethiopia is always complaining about famines, but has managed to septuple (x7) its population in 100 years.

    Bangladesh has quadrupled (x4) its population in 100 years, and has become a net food importer.

    What we have here, is the population-incontenent Third World growing their populations on the back of population-stable First World food. This is NOT sustainable, Willis.

    I don’t want my hard work undermined by the reproductively incontinent. We had a good example on the BBC last week. Someone in Africa was complaining that he was so poor and needed First World help to feed his 12 children. Well, FFS, I would be poor and need outside help if I had 12 children. Don’t ask me to sustain and promote your incontinence. I don’t like being punished for being responsible.

    (nb: Britain’s population has increased by just 1.5 in 100 years, and most of that was through the highly divisive policy of immigration – the Third World exporting their population-incontinence to the First World.)

    .

  24. Tenuc says:
    The ‘peak ???’ doom-sayers always fail to take into account that circumstances change as we move forward in time. History proves that mankind makes progress in leaps and bounds rather than plodding along in the same groove.

    Quite the contrary Tenuc, history shows there has been virtually no change in the basic forms of energy supply for over two centuries.

    The fact is that the main relationship between “innovation” and energy, is that making energy supplies available have enabled innovative ways to consume that energy. In fact, it is very hard to think of any “innovations” that have caused a drop in energy use … that is because “innovation” is really the concept of finding new ways to consume energy.

    We innovate because we have energy, unless you have a very long memory innovation hasn’t significantly changed our supply of energy:

    Heat from burning coal has been common since the 17th century
    Gas hasn’t really changed since the Victorians
    Electricity and (perhaps you could count Nuclear power) are the only new forms of energy.
    Wind power … was used by the Egyptians to sail up the Nile
    Bio-fuels, etc. are all green nonsense.
    … oh and I suppose I have to add the infernal combustion engine, which was developed over two centuries ago … together with the technology of drilling a hole and pumping out oil.

    To put it another way, the wave of innovation during the 20th century was driven by the previous century’s discovery of another way to delivery energy to the home: electricity. Unless I missing something, there has been no new mechanism to deliver energy to the home/factory in over a hundred years, it is therefore inevitable that sooner or later, that we will run out of innovative ways to use this new form of energy supply, much as previous civilisations ran out of ways to use previous “new” technology.

  25. Of course you can’t assume that the trend will continue. The Green movement and the wamists are doing their best to:
    1. Increase the cost of energy through the silly war on CO2 emissions
    2. Reduce the availability of food by mandating the use of biofuels

    These are the REAL things we should worry about. These are the factors that will lead to starvation.

  26. What I hate about the climate science is the old, white, male conservative denier can sound a heap more progressive than the young, post-modern, radical environmentalist.

    You’re turning the world upside down. Congratulations on this article Willis.

  27. Other contributers have spoken well on this subject. Deja Vu? Which of the WAGTD scenarios spouted forth over the last 500 years has ever come true? Erlich & his ilk are the negative, miserable doomsayers, who have limited brain capacity to actually sit down & think about a positive solution to a problem, but only the negative ones. That’s Marxist Socialism for you, take control, punish success, enrich yourself in the process, dole taxes out to corrupt elements in poor countries. Most of the named countires in Africa have corrupt socialist governments & or dictators, doing much of the aforemention practices.

    Humanity, namely the so called free democratic free world, rose to the challenge of rising populations, by doubing the food production & more! What the hell has Paul Erlich et al contributed to the world? IMHO, nothing, zilch, nada, rien!

  28. I hope you haven’t alerted the manipulators of statistics to the fact there’s still an honest and credible disseminator of information out there. The FAO will now need to be pulled into line, surely.

  29. Forgot to add, you colonials in the Virginian Colonies don’t play much proper sport, although your rugby team makes a valiant effort, but have you seem the size of those Samoan rugby players, built like brick lavatories!!! They must get fed somewhere.

  30. Andrew W says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am

    This is a very light weight post, all you’ve done Willis is extrapolate a trend.

    Not true at all. I said nothing about the future, and I did not extrapolate anything. I merely pointed out that a) right now we are feeding everyone better than we ever have, and b) there is no decrease in that rate of improvement, to date it is not slowing down.

    Does this mean it will continue in the future? I don’t know. I wrote this because I’m tired of people claiming that the food situation is terrible. It is at the opposite end of terrible, it is the best it has ever been in history.

    Whether or not the planet can feed 8 billion or 10 billion people hasn’t been addressed in any sensible way. The planet feeds more people now because we consume more resources, those resources are finite, technology gives us the ability to use what’s there, not the ability to create resources that aren’t there.

    Quite the opposite. Technology is what turns a raw material into a resource. Take the resource called iron as an example. The raw material is ore. The technology of mining and milling and smelting and refining the ore is what creates the resource called iron. As that technology improves, we can create more and more iron from a given batch of ore.

    Take another resource, uranium. How much is there? Depends. The Japanese have done very interesting work on extracting uranium from seawater. This is another resource which is created by technology. How much uranium energy is there available in the ocean? Enough to power the planet for thousands of years …

    However, let’s return to whether we can feed 9 billion people. We doubled the population from 1960 to 2000. Despite dire Ehrlichian predictions, that didn’t cause a decrease in human nutrition. By 2050 the population will likely increase by another 50%. Can we feed them? I don ‘t know.

    I do know, however, that there is enough potential rain-fed farmland lying idle in the Sudan to feed all of Africa. The problem is one of human greed and inefficiency and waste and post-harvest loss and hatred and stupidity and the like, not a shortage of resources.

    And I know that to date, we still continue to eat better and better. Now as you point out, that doesn’t mean the upward trend will continue.

    But by crickey, it does mean that at least to date we must be doing something right …

  31. Rod Gill: What evidence do you have to support your belief in peak oil and peak agriculture?

    Search the web on Peak Oil, but if cheap energy is readily available, why are oil companies spending US$100 million per hole desperately drilling in extreme deep water, thru molten salt and into even more uncharted and deeper terriotories (BP disaster in GOM) and getting excited about drilling in the Arctic (think ice bergs and cold that can shatter steel)? The oil that’s left is expensive and hard to get out of the ground. Result reduced capacity to get it out of the ground which is what peak oil is about.
    For peak agiriculture look back to 2008 when oil consumption peaked. Food riots. Look at Russia today. A bit of a drought and a few fires and they have to ban all exports. Food riots in some countries that depend on Russian wheat exports. Understand what’s needed to keep modern agriculture running and even a hint of peak oil sees it start to fall apart and that’s without water scarcity and idiots growing biofuel instead of food. If the negative PDO and weak solar cycle does produce Global cooling then agriculture is going to be hit big time.
    I’m an Engineer. Cause and effect. I live and work by cause and effect, so peak oil and peak agriculture is as obvious to me as is the fallacy of CO2 being a pollutant and causing run away global warming.

  32. I was quite distressed during Richard Dawkin’s first documentary on Charles Darwin (which was really an apotheosis of himself). He dealt with Malthus’ theories, then the documentary immediately switched to the HIV epidemic in Africa. Could Tricky Dicky have made his rather sinister views any clearer?

    Ehrlich said there would be starvation on a massive scale due to food shortages by the 1980s at the moment. The huge droughts in Africa were due to corruption, not shortages, and a cadre of Westerners with too much money to spare who made things worse with their gullibility.

  33. Mike Haseler says: September 9, 2010 at 12:39 am

    …I have a keen interest in history, because history teaches us what is likely to happen when energy (aka food) supplies run out — and the main thing it teaches us is that politicians even democratic forms of government are incapable of handling such situations…

    Mister Mr says: September 9, 2010 at 12:53 am

    Excellent post. As someone who has spent time as a relief worker in some of the worst refugee camps on earth, I can relate from first hand experience that, short of temporary natural disasters, the problem is not that there isn’t enough food… what stands in the way most often is men with guns who call themselves “the government” in these regions…

    Agree.

    What really concerns me is when
    * one group of people see factor A as crucial but completely underrate factor B, and
    * another group of people see factor B as crucial but completely underrate factor A –
    * and when mudslinging starts between the groups when it’s not really clear to outsiders what the full evidence is, either for or against either factor A or factor B.

    I see the Roman Empire dissolving in the chaos of the end of the Roman Warm Period. I see Nazi Germany arising in a general time of increasing affluence largely because of an acute economic bottleneck there (Versailles Treaty PLUS depression PLUS majority of citizens no longer able to grow their own food, being town-dwellers).

    I see crucial factors easily overlooked. And in a time of change such as now, I see the possibility for such factors to be hugely multiplied. But I also know that “Hope Springs Eternal” both in the spiritual and the scientific / technical realms.

    I think it’s seriously possible that the alarmists’ picture of Peak Oil is badly exaggerated. But I remain unconvinced that there is no problem here at all. And I am very sure that the foundation of energy is important. But Cuba managed in an extraordinarily creative way when the oil supplies were suddenly cut off. But OTOH North Korea managed extraordinarily badly in a parallel situation.

    I’m most concerned by those who shout “THE DIALOGUE IS OVER!”

    Thank you everyone here. And PS, a primer on the issues of Peak Oil both for and against, as a post here, to make the basic facts more accessible to flounderers like myself, would be nice.

  34. Normally I agree with the postings on WUWT, but not this time. I believe the dangers of AGW to be grossly exaggerated but the danger of adding 6 million more humans a month to the planet to be much understated.
    Probably shortages of water, rather than food, will hit first, and indeed in some parts of the world are already doing so, but food will do so when price or shortage of oil hits agricultural output. The halting of Russian grain exports and riots over food shortages in Africa and elsewhere should be ringing alarm bells.
    Malthus is much maligned – his theory is sound even if mechanised farming, which he could hardly have foreseen, delayed its reality.

  35. When we try to quantify things that are too fantastically complex, we make fools of ourselves. Malthusian calculations are the best example – or were until the rise of “climate science” – of the blindness engendered by intellectual conceit.

    Take a look about. The world is almost empty of people. There are bugs and plants everywhere…but very few people. Am I not supposed to notice that?

    As far as resources go, I’m with Julian Simon:
    “Coal, oil and uranium were not resources at all until mixed well with human intellect.”
    Am I not supposed to notice that?

    In spite of the Duke of Edinburgh’s yearning to be reincarnated as a virus to wipe out much of humanity, and in spite of the best efforts of Communism in Asia, the only sustainable (ugh) way to reduce birth rates – if you must – is to develop a society with a dominant middle class. Works every time! Am I not supposed to notice that?

    Of course, a big bourgeoisie is the one solution the elites don’t want to contemplate, because it entails a world indifferent to their theories and fulminations. Hence the popularity of the Che Guevara tee-shirt among the pensive classes.

  36. I wonder how many have actually read “An Essay on Population”? All the Rev. Malthus was pointing out is the difference between the arithmetic increase of food production and the geometric increase in population. If you increase your effort or land area you can double the food you grow, but you have then to maintain the same effort year in year out because the output is a linear function of effort and area. The increase in population, however, is a function of population – i.e. there is positive feedback. The current doubling period of humanity is lss than thirty years.
    The much-maligned “Club of Rome” did a similar exercise in “Limits to Growth” in the sixties, taking great pains throughout to repeat that theirs were not predictions but illustrations of the mathematics. Naturally, this message was lost.
    It seems that Willis is making the same error for which we castigate the warmisti – extrapolating a short trend. Surely nobody actually believes that continuing geometrical increase in the human population will not at some point overwhelm the available food supplies? Food, anyway, is not the only factor which makes life worth living. What about space? Many people are apparently happy to live crammed into small spaces, but anecdotal evidence shows movement away when wealth permits.
    I am reminded of the chap who jumped off a skyscraper and was heard to say, as he passed the 13th floor, “See, I told you it wasn’t dangerous”.

  37. Thanks Willis, for your usual application of intelligence, research, good sense, all delequently and succinctly expressed.
    Expanding on Keith Battye’s comments re the Christchurch (NZ) and Haitian earthquakes; the majority of buildings damaged severely in and near Christchurch were those classed as ‘heritage’ buildings and cherished as reminders of the not-so-distant past, built using the methods and materials of the Victorian era. Only two people were injured seriously and no fatalities occurred in the Christchurch ‘quake, while in Haiti many were buried and died under old colonial-era buildings that simply collapsed. A massive international effort was required to assist Haiti and there are now complaints that much of the promised aid has not materialised and rebuilding is very slow or not happening at all, while New Zealand is getting on with repairing the damage, estimated to be in the region of 2 billion NZ dollars, without any calls for international aid.
    The vast contrasts in these two cases are a stark illustration of the difference between a culture that supports good government at all levels and invests in scientific research which is applied to continually improving its own infrastructure and a culture that does not.
    The lessons that can be taken from these examples are; as the developing world becomes more afluent, better educated and subject to increasing levels of good government and governance, even massive and unforseen natural events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts and floods can have their impacts minimized by the sensible application of science and technology. The Malthusian view does not take into account Man’s abilities, but sees Mankind as a helpless mass. Nothing could be further from reality.

  38. I can’t see how, on a finite planet, there can’t but be, at some point, a limit to population and growth.

    Perhaps it wont be with 16 billion people and doubled economic output, perhaps not with 32 billion people and another doubled economic output but at some point things and space run out.

  39. “Then there is the huge amount of food that goes rotten before it gets to market because of bad transportation or bad government,”

    Then added to that there is the huge amount of good, edible, nutritious food that is thrown away and never gets to market because it is the wrong shape, or size, or the colour is not just right and it is rejected.

    Then added to that is the huge amount of food that does get to market, and is not sold by the “display before” dates and is thrown out, despite still being good and edible food.

  40. Hi Willis,
    You could also have added the vast tracts of un-cultivated land that is suitable for food production. There is also the IRRI recently released flood tolerant rice. There is also the development of drought-tolerant, and salt-tolerant rice. There is also work currently under way with the wheat genome to “develop new strains with greater yields“. Finally we have the development of heat tolerant wheat and corn. The list goes on…………….

    I dare say that the world’s population will stabilise long before any mass starvation. The Alarmists like to ignore the agricultural revolution as well as current crop research and assume land will run out or food output will flatten or drop which has not been the case since the 1960s. I too am tired of Malthus speak.

    References:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11099378

    http://ittefaq.com/issues/2010/06/16/news0234.htm

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/q68k376783w1qn16/

    http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Heat-tolerant-wheat-the-future-of-food-development

    http://tinyurl.com/y8azbqm [IRRI]

    http://www.irri.org/flood-proof-rice/

    http://www.scidev.net/en/news/tsunamihit-farmers-to-grow-salttolerant-rice.html

    http://tinyurl.com/2uj9e3y [IRRI]

    http://beta.irri.org/news/index.php/front-page/irri-bred-rice-varieties-for-the-philippines.html

    http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/sixbillion/sixbilpart1.pdf

  41. Andrew W says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am
    “This is a very light weight post, all you’ve done Willis is extrapolate a trend.
    Whether or not the planet can feed 8 billion or 10 billion people hasn’t been addressed in any sensible way. The planet feeds more people now because we consume more resources, those resources are finite”

    Andrew, there is more to this than summarized by Willis, as I tried to convey in a previous comment. As a person involved in estimating food production and food security for a long time, I can say something on this.
    1. World population is currently predicted to peak at about 9 billion around 2050-60 and then starting to decline. Currently published UN population projections go only up to 2050, when population is seen as still growing at a nearly zero rate, but using their own assumptions (not an extrapolation) to extend the projections a few more years, you may see the population falling. Declining from 2050-60, population by 2100 should be between 7-8 billion, and still declining.

    2. This may happen earlier indeed, because the UN uses a simplifying assumption that world fertility would stabilize at 1.85 children per women (worldwide and in each country) in the coming decades, forgetting that fertility levels are a function of economic per capita output, education, and similar variables. The decrease in fertility as a function of per capita GDP (or the wider Human Development Index of the UN encompassing GDP, education and health) extends down to about 1.3 children per woman, and then (at extremely high levels of income) it climbs back to about 1.5-2.0, still below replacement level. As observed trends agree with this, demographic growth in the coming decades is quite likely to be lower than expected by the UN (their figure for 2050 has been steadily falling at each yearly or bi-yearly revision since 1996 to 2008).

    3. Food production is not an extractive process, like burning oil. It is done by combining carbon with nitrogen and other substances, through photosyntesis. This year’s food is recycled (via your body waste and your own body decomposing in the future) into future food production. Moreover, increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations imply significantly increased photosynthesis and then higher yield for C3-type crops like wheat or rice, and not so high increase in photosynthesis but significant reduction in water requirement for C4-type crops like maize. Also, any global warming would enable plenty new land for agriculture and increased yields in temperate and cold regions like North America, Northern Europe, Russia or Argentina. All in all, including the negative impact of severe warming on agriculture in some tropical regions, world food production would increase even without any further technical progress. For the time being, thus, neither a population explosion nor an exhaustion of the planet resources is expected to cause increased hunger. The complex human/natural process of reproducing and feeding ourselves through agriculture has a lot of self-adjusting mechanisms.

    3. It is not true that “Whether or not the planet can feed 8 billion or 10 billion people hasn’t been addressed in any sensible way”. It has been addressed, including the case of 15 billion people by 2100 in the absurdly high population hypotheses underlying the A2 scenario. See my previous comment and references for more details. According to all serious endeavours in this matter (see also Mendelsohn 2000 and Mendelsohn & Dinar 2009) per capita food availability will be higher, and the prevalence of undernourishment and malnutrition would be decreasing towards vanishing proportions along the present century. Some analyses expect climate change to have an impact, either positive or negative for the world as a whole, but always by a very limited proportion of future food production. That does not preclude alarming predictions by some others (like Cline 2007 & 2008) using extremely faulty concepts, but the serious guys all agree on this.

    4. Note that predictions about future agriculture are carefully based on suitable arable land only, not involving any encroaching onto non suitable agro-ecological zones such as tropical forests. Even at its most conservative hypothesis, Fischer et al (2002, see refs above) predict increased rainfed cereal production in 2080, with predicted climate change but with today’s technology on land currently cultivated with rainfed cereals, thus not including more irrigation, not including new land opened to cultivation by global warming, and no technical improvement at all during the 21st century. All these omitted factors would have a positive impact.
    Cline, William R., 2007. Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country. Washington DC: Center for Global Development and Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    Cline, William R., 2008. Global warming and agriculture. Finance & Development 45(1): 23-27.
    Mendelsohn, Robert, 2000. Measuring the effect of climate change on developing-country agriculture. In FAO 2000, Two essays on climate change and agriculture – A developing country perspective. FAO Economic and Social Development Papers No.145. Fao, Rome. http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/x8044e/x8044e00.htm.
    Mendelsohn, Robert, William D. Nordhaus & Daigee Shaw. 1994. The impact of global warming on agriculture: A Ricardian analysis. American Economic Review 84(4): 753–71.
    Mendelsohn, Robert & Ariel Dinar, 2009. Climate change and agriculture: An economic analysis of global impacts, adaptation and distributional effects. Cheltenham (UK): Eduard Elgar.

  42. Rod Gill says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:14 am
    Now however the cheap energy has gone, vast areas of flat fertile agricultural land has been built on, fresh water aquifers are rapidly being drained, large areas of other fertile regions are now degraded so their yield per acre are dropping fast.

    I say you are wrong because there are still vast tracts of un-cultivated land (eg in Africa and South America), flood, drought and salt resistant crop varieties being developed, etc. You underestimate human ingenuity, the same ingenuity that has allowed you to post a comment on WUWT. Something unthinkable in 1950. If you look back in history you will read about commentators who thought that the streets of London would be piled high in horse manure by 2000.

  43. Rod Gill says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:14 am
    ———–
    Furthermore, there were those who though that sanitation would be a problem because of the copper drainage pipes on the outside of houses would run out. Humans simply switched to pvc. :o)

  44. Resources in nature are but discovered utilities resulting from human insight and investigation. Early man had fewer resources than are now known and used. Natural resources come into economic existence as they are seen to be worth extracting and processing. Resouces are a function of human resourcefulness – which is unlimited.

    The stone age didn’t end because man ran out of stones. Some cheaper or better substitute was developed. The same will happen with oil in the ground. If will become cheaper to use other sources of energy to make hydrocarbon fuels rather than extract them. This is not Panglossian optimism but something unwise to bet against.

    If trends in population are to be extrapolated then why not those in science and technology? Actually, as has been pointed out, population seems to be the thing soon to peak – and not because of lack of food.

    On all this read Julian Simon and Matt Ridley.

  45. Rod Gill says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:14 am
    ———–
    Finally, the real shocker might come in 20 or 30 years should nuclear fusion become viable. This would render solar and wind power redundant for the West at least and end the dreams of the eco-nuts who want us to return to wattle and daub housing.

  46. RW says: September 9, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Willis, I usually love your contributions but I take some issue with this one in that I am extraordinarily tired of people who have missed the bulk of what Malthus said…

    Thanks RW, an enlightening post.

    Ralph says: September 9, 2010 at 1:43 am

    …Pakistan has quintupled (x5) its population in 50 years, and then complains that floods are killing many people, and it needs American food aid…

    Thanks Ralph for crucial reminders. These issues are very difficult to put in a way that all sides can work with together. Good luck on developing this art further.

    Mike Haseler says: September 9, 2010 at 1:45 am

    …history shows there has been virtually no change in the basic forms of energy supply for over two centuries…

    Good reminder. But you seem to forget nuclear energy AND the future potential here w.r.t. LENR and thorium; to say nothing of even more exotic possibilities whispered about no debunked no illustrated well, at least, h’m, suspected.

    Willis Eschenbach says: September 9, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Andrew W says: September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am…technology gives us the ability to use what’s there, not the ability to create resources that aren’t there….

    Quite the opposite. Technology is what turns a raw material into a resource… there is enough potential rain-fed farmland lying idle in the Sudan to feed all of Africa…

    Here’s a classic case of where, IMO, the one is not quite the opposite of the other – both are important considerations. Thanks Willis for a generally thought-provoking thread and posts. But your Sudan link is not telling me anything. However, my awareness of permaculture definitely supports that possibility.

  47. Rod Gill says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:01 am

    Search the web on Peak Oil, but if cheap energy is readily available, why are oil companies spending US$100 million per hole desperately drilling in extreme deep water, thru molten salt and into even more uncharted and deeper terriotories “..

    And finding lots of the stuff. Then capping it (or, as in your example, attempting to) and moving on? Over and over and over again?

    Do you believe that “catastrophic climate change” is the only great lie?

  48. Peter H says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:20 am

    I can’t see how, on a finite planet, there can’t but be, at some point, a limit to population and growth.”

    As with most things Peter; Education, education, education.

  49. anna v says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:16 am

    This is the real problem the future humanity will have to solve: a leisure society created by free energy and robotics. History will tell us how the leisure societies worked: some were decadent, some produced Neutons and Da Vincis.

    To pick a nit, Newton was born and raised during the civil war and Da Vinci lived in one of the most oppressive and violent regimes of his period. Their art grew out of adversity, not leisure.

    I’m not sure it will be possible to predict what sort of society would result from he near-utopia you’ve described, but I would love to find out.

  50. First and foremost; these data come from the UN and IMHO should be treated with extreme caution but the point that Willis makes about population doubling together with ordinary read in the newspapers anecdotal evidence does seem to give the graphs credibility.

    Speaking as a complete synic I’m assuming that the UN FAOSTAT has some sort of vested interest in making it look like some other part of the UN is doing really well with their share of grants.

    The other thing is that you cannot equate lack of industrialisation with unavailability of food. The island nations mentioned surely don’t have their populations wasting away from malnourishment but it doesn’t stop their leaders expecting handouts from New Zealand.

    As somebody once said you don’t have famines in democracies.

    Either way I don’t think we’ll be seing any data from FAOSTAT in AR5.

  51. Nicely done. Guess it’s time to roll out the “no doom” links… but first:

    Willis, your estimates on sea water U are very short. The LAND Uranium is enough for about 10,000 years. Thorium adds another 20,000 years or so (and is presently in use in reactors). The ocean U has enough new U erode into the ocean each year to power the entire world and then some, so we can extract U as long as there is planet left. It is, functionally, infinite in lifespan. The present cost is slightly more than land based U, but well under the level needed to be effective. (About $150 / lb IIRC).

    For the issue of running out of food. 2 quick things. 1) Animals eat most of it and don’t turn it to meat very efficiently. We could support about 5 x present population just by being more vegetarian. 2) We can get about a 10 x increase just from greenhouses and such. The technologies are already identified. Rice Intensification, for example, is good for a 4x at least and maybe even a 6 or 8 x gain with some work.

    Rod Gill says: Per Capita food consumption has grown on the rise of cheap energy that has manufactured and shipped fertiliser all over the world, powered machinery and punped water for irrigation. Rather than a green revolution we have had a black revolution based on cheap oil.
    Now however the cheap energy has gone,

    Nope. PLENTY of cheap energy for tens of thousands of years to come. (Modulo stupid politicians). Nuclear is very cheap (ask India) and we have a few million years of it. And getting cheaper. Several hundred years of coal. Oil took 200 years to reach this point, and IF it’s “peak oil” it takes the same time to drop down the back side. But we’ve just started finding oil at a layer of depth that was previously thought to be ‘empty’. There is a whole new shell of depth to explore.

    vast areas of flat fertile agricultural land has been built on, fresh water aquifers are rapidly being drained, large areas of other fertile regions are now degraded so their yield per acre are dropping fast.

    OK, first off, ag land need not be flat. Heck, you can put a greenhouse on a rocky cliff and grown vegetables at market prices. (Most high end lettuce is now greenhouse grown and much of it hydroponic. Tomatoes too.) In Saudi Arabia they have a giant greenhouse making food using desalted sea water. The aquifers are an interesting issue, but not very important really. I have some tepary beans that grow in the desert and are tasty. For greenhouses, you can make them a nearly closed system if you like. BTW, Greenhouses give about 10x the yield per acre…

    But the notion that ‘vast areas’ are built on is just broken. The entire world population could fit in Texas and Oklahoma in standard suburban homes with large yards leaving the rest of the world empty. If done at the population density of London, it would clearly be far less land.

    Phosphate is no longer cheap and our ability to get more and more tonnes per day extracted and distributed is now limited. Without phosphate modern agricultural practices can’t continue as they are.

    Um, two things. First off, that mined phosphorus does not leave the planet. It’s still here. So it just gets moved to places a bit less convenient to ‘mine’. It’s still available if we want it. Second, check out what POT Potash corp is doing in expanding mines. There are LOADS of phosphate rock still to be mined. It is just not true that it’s limited. You stop expanding when prices are too LOW. When price rise, you expand the mine. For some reason “greens” regularly get tripped up on that simple economic feedback system and assume it’s something physical. Further, there is a load of phosphate in “poo” that we don’t bother to reclaim. Ditto bones, where huge quantities go to landfills. Not gone, just waiting.

    I believe we are at a point of peak agriculture and the consequences will be far more severe than anything CO2 increases might cause.

    Well, we are no where near “peak agriculture”. One small example. In a Farm magazine I was reading last week there was an article on corn spacing. Planted in even 30 inch rows in most places. By going to staggered positioning, you get about 6% more yield. Only a few folks have done that as it involves changing practices, but not new equipment, so it is slowly happening. The other point in the article was that by going to 15 inch rows, you get another 6% for about 12% total gain. Almost nobody was doing that, as you needed to buy another head for the harvester with 15 inch spacing. Over the next 30 years or so as the equipment is replaced, folks may move toward that. Or maybe not. It will depend on the price of corn…

    So here is an existence proof that WITH NO OTHER CHANGES you can increase corn yields by 12%, and it’s not being done because it’s not needed for most farmers.

    There are similar things with most every crop. We have high yield rices that are not grown because they don’t cook up the same as traditional food preferences require. (Calrose type does not appeal to folks used to Basmatti …) There are high yield crops we don’t eat because we like something else better (sorghum cakes? buckwheat muffins? Both grow on land that’s more problematic for corn.) And there are tomatoes that grow on salty soil and with brackish water, with work proceeding on other crops too. I’ve got my eye on some perennial wheat seeds recently developed, for example. Finally, we can grow about 10 x as much algae as wood on any given acre. About 500 TONS per acre per year. We can eat it or we can feed it to cows and chickens and fish. Oh, and it grows well on sewage. It’s CO2 limited, so is best near coal fired power plants with the exhaust bubbled through the ponds.

    The simple fact is that the problems facing agriculture are mostly about GLUT and not about shortage. We grow what we want, not what yields the most. Heck, I’m growing a 150 day corn this year in my garden. There are 45 day corns. I could get 3 crops instead of one if I wanted…

    So please, when you look around and see food just barely in balance with population, remember that “this behaviour is by design”! We don’t grow more because we would need to throw it away at a loss from price depression.

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/

    and that includes food…

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/

    and there never will be…

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/ulum-ultra-large-uranium-miner-ship/

  52. Archonix says:
    September 9, 2010 at 3:07 am
    Yes I know Newton was a scientist. Just thought I’d mention that.

    Leonardo da Vinci was as well.

  53. Everything I’ve ever read about this that relies on the figures rather than pet theories says Willis is right. The population has grown due to decreased mortality. The population will stabilise due to increased prosperity. Food production has so far outstripped population and will continue to do so. Even water supplies will support projected populations, provided such supplies are properly managed. The only “if” is that development, innovation and change be allowed to continue and grow. Hence the only chance the doom-mongers predictions will prove true is if we follow their advice and just give up. Our choice, I’d say.

  54. To be more specific, the middle classes are better fed than the rich these days as they tend to socialise and consume more. The urban poor would also be better fed than the rich if they would consume less junkfood and make their food from fresh ingredients – healthier and cheaper.

  55. Rod Gill says:
    For peak agiriculture look back to …

    Back in the days when I was into such thing I spoke to the civil servant in charge of renewables and asked why we didn’t have a renewables obligation for petroleum. But the futility of that course of action soon became very apparent when I actually did the sums – on a typical farm, around 50% of the “bio-fuel” crop needs to be used on the farm to power the machinery.

    That is to say, 50% of the energy output from a farm is energy input in fossil fuels. When you then add fertilisers, herbicides, and then add to that the energy in transporting that food off farm to manufacturer, from manufacturer to supermarket, then from supermarket to home. Then add to that cost any fossil fuel used in cooking.

    Well it soon dawned on me that the reality of “bio-fuel” is that we’d need some 3-7 times as much farmland as we have now just to grow the bio-fuel. At which point I realised that

    food production is just another fossil fuel powered manufacturing process

    Fossil fuel in, food out.
    Or … No fossil fuel in, no food out to the consumer.

    QED:

    PEAK OIL === PEAK FOOD === PEAK HUMAN POPULATION

  56. A totally enjoyable and informative post. People are either optimists or pessimists. Pessimists gain most column inches because they frighten the reader. Optimists are derided for their faith and hope based on common sense and experience.
    Keith Battye @11.59 asks “where is Zimbabwe?”. Rhodesia used to be called the diamond in the crown of the British Commonwealth, the breadbasket of Africa. Then good governance gave way to tribalism and tyranny. Likewise Uganda. In fact every one of those countries on the LDN list are poorly governed.
    It is a reality that the best way to reduce populations in LDNs is to educate the women. The men are too stuck in tradition whereas the women enjoy the freedom that comes from having an income of their own. The more affluent a society the more equal women are treated and the less children they have.
    As far as food production is concerned modern farming uses less fuel and fertilizer for unit of production now than in the past. Artificial fertilizers destroy the soils biodiversity so more farmers are finding natural processes to improve soil fertility rather than using artificial fertilizers. Biochar is just one. Cattle and pastures in rotation with grain cropping is effective, profitable and managed properly increases soil fertility as well as reducing erosion. The biggest threat to food production would be the ridiculous penalising of livestock in the interest of saving the planet from AGW. The last thing we need is some city green telling farmers how to run their farms.

  57. Have just read through some amusing comments that really ignore your facts Willis that humans are managing to feed the rapidly increasing world population despite all the doom and gloom.

    Why can’t we be thankful and at least think positively of ways that man can adapt and work with nature, produce new foods and energy sources. I wondered about the gent that thought we would run out of sources of fertiliser, and the other that talked about politicians talking crap. Thought, the penny might drop, that the increasing number of humans will also produce increasing amounts of crap (fertiliser) surely enough to combine with the rubbish that they don’t eat or waste and recycle that as composted fertiliser.

    The dreary tales of water shortages, lots of that to treat and recycle too, and already some countries with money are desalinating water from the ocean. and some advanced countries have been using less water to produce more food for years. Matter of education and opportunity meets need!!

    We do know that the one thing that does work to decrease the rate of population increase is to improve basic living standards and access to education, so therein lies part of the solution.

    Otherwise if you cripple those countries that have the ability to raise the technology and increase food production and the methods of delivery, all you are left with is natures way of controlling population, war, pestilence and starvation or,” worse still nature aided by “mad scientist”meddling in the efficiencies of control and culling, trying to play god. (the nature of man!!).

    It might not be our idea to use crap as fertiliser, but the chinese have done this for centuries, water conservation and drip feeding plants, or developing new food plants that need less water, new sources of protein?. Why do some recoil at eating horses and dogs for goodness sake, when they eat cattle, rabbits, little wooly lambs or whatever.

    I am sure that there will come a time when man finds to survive they need to adapt, I hope that future generations will ethically agree that eating their own is not the “only” solution, and look to other ways to limit population growth and continue to provide sufficient food, shelter and comfort to share among all.

    If they can’t then the matter will be completely in the hands of nature and whatever “god” you believe in.

    My two cents!!

  58. Re peak oil:

    I had an interesting interaction on a conspiracy forum with an advocate in the peak oil belief. Whilst I personally do not know IF we are reaching, or have reached, or are anywhere near reaching an actual peak oil. this person was of the belief that we are already there and global stocks have peaked.

    Yet they were also of the belief that the amount of oil coming out of the leak in the Gulf of Mexico was in an amount of millions of barrels that would make the Saudi oil fields the second biggest after the Gulf of Mexico. This and the discovery of lots of other fields showed that there was LOADS of oil left that can be extracted profitable at $80 per barrel, Yet he could not see why that would prevent the peak oil being a fact now.

    At $30 per barrel, we have long since passed peak oil, at $100 per-barrel we are no where near it.

    I think that we do not know for certain how much oil is left, and we have to rely on corporations who also do not know for certain how much oil there is. And even if they do, (which I doubt) then how do we know that they are telling the truth about their reserves?

  59. Keeping humans fed, educated, sheltered, entertained, healthy and comfortable right now is the best preparation for the future of humanity. In fact, it’s the only preparation, because it creates a class with high expectations. It must, of course, be a large and dominant class, not an elite. (Sorry Al and Rajendra, you’ll have to share.)

    As far as predicting the future goes, it’s a bit like your grandfather pronouncing that one day there’ll be a punch-card machine in every home. Predictions and extrapolations from present conditions are mostly wrong. Probably always wrong.

    Shop hard. Turn on the heating or the air conditioner, go for a drive for no reason, and generally enjoy this generation’s resources. Don’t “sustain” them for coming generations. They won’t want them.

  60. The reason the oil companies are drilling in more and more difficult situations is that they don’t have access to the easy stuff any more. Oil is still available in large amounts in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Really large amounts. Big reserves of gas are in Russia and the stans. That is a major issue for the oil companies, but is not a good indicator of how much oil there actually is.

    Presumably the people who work for the oil companies know how much oil there is. Are they getting out of the industry? My brother-in-law works for a major as a geologist. He knows what there is to find. He isn’t worried that he will be out of a job in his lifetime, though he does admit it will be increasingly gas, not oil.

  61. Change your diet and eat a tree!

    After you chew on the bark, you can use the wood to build a house!

    Beavers do, and so should you!

    :-)

  62. El Ejido, Spain. Once arid and poor situated south of the Sierra Nevada and supporting mostly goats but now prosperous and diverse because of food production. Distribution of that food extends to central Europe.

  63. Lee Kington says:
    September 9, 2010 at 3:15 am

    Yes… I suppose if I pick nits I should expect my nits to be picked in turn. :)

  64. Disputin says: I wonder how many have actually read “An Essay on Population”? All the Rev. Malthus was pointing out is the difference between the arithmetic increase of food production and the geometric increase in population. If you increase your effort or land area you can double the food you grow,

    Wrong. Just wrong. Shorter maturity crops, for example, can give 2 or 4 crops / year instead of one. Different varieties can give a double yield. See The System Of Rice Intensification, for example.

    Furthermore, population is NOT exponential. It is an S shaped curve. See any biology text.

    The much-maligned “Club of Rome” did a similar exercise in “Limits to Growth”

    Much maligned with good cause. I’ve seen reports that the same Club of Rome folks are behind the AGW scare too. The modus operandi matches. In “Limits” they used stupid computer models to show that if you assumed exponential growth in demand with linear supply eventually a catastrophe happened. “Given these conclusions what assumptions can we draw” fits it nicely. Just bogus.

    Did you know we completely ran out of natural gas in 1980? The whales are all dead now too… (I had an entire class devoted to debunking that book.)

    in the sixties, taking great pains throughout to repeat that theirs were not predictions but illustrations of the mathematics.

    No, they were the originators of the “projections not predictions” idea. Another way of saying “making up stuff, but not willing to be held accountable for it being terribly wrong.”

    Their major problem was not allowing anything for resource substitution (like, oh, using fast growth poplar species instead of old growth forests; and using aluminum in cars instead of steel). Secondary issues were not understanding the difference between a resource a reserve and a raw material. For example, the 20,000 years of energy we can get from known deposits of Thorium sands are counted as NOTHING in their book. Finally, they allowed nothing for technological advances. So the few TRILLION cubic feet of natural gas from “tight shale” that are now flooding the market could not happen. Just foolish.

    Naturally, this message was lost.

    I only wish it were lost … but it lives on like all Urban Myths, never dying as more folks are sucked in by it’s broken message.

    Surely nobody actually believes that continuing geometrical increase in the human population will not at some point overwhelm the available food supplies?

    Count me as one. First, there is NO geometrical increase. It’s S shaped. Second, we can manufacture food, if need be. Trash can be turned into sugars fairly easily. No, we won’t need to do that as there is just so much land we don’t need to.

    Food, anyway, is not the only factor which makes life worth living. What about space? Many people are apparently happy to live crammed into small spaces, but anecdotal evidence shows movement away when wealth permits.

    Nope. Given half a chance, folks abandon the country and move into a city. Look around. Small cities in one building. Me? I like the suburbs to country better but the other 3 people in my family want center urban. And you could fit the entire world population in London density cities in about 6 Britain sized spots. The rest of the world being completely empty. But if you want to spread out, everyone can have an ocean view condo, with no building higher than about 4 stories (IIRC) and with only ONE building thickness between ocean and backyard. (That is, one end of your condo looks at the ocean, the other end looks at ‘big empty’ inland. No other buildings). The math is rather interesting. (One issue you run into is the fractal nature of coastlines, but that’s another story…) So pretty low ‘density’ in any one place.

    The simple fact is that the world is astoundingly empty. You just think it isn’t because you live in a pile of other people (as most of us choose to do) and not out in the middle of Kansas or the Sahara or Alaska or the Outback or …

    We could use the entire Sahara to make food if we wanted to do so. It’s just cheaper to grow food elsewhere. (Saudi is presently using the needed technology to grow food for itself, so there is an existence proof.)

  65. The capacity of the planet may be finite, but anyone who claims to know what this “capacity” is is simply guessing and has no idea what they are really talking about. Heck, with high density housing, we could theoritically fit trillions of people on this planet, grow enough food given technological increases, and all at the same time increase GDP.

    But this is all a case of “possibilities.” Truth is, no one knows what the human capacity of the planet is. With scientific development typically resulting from “necessity” and not “whim” its difficult to peg at what point our farming practices will max out at if they do indeed max out at some point.

    Given any resource, its price over time drops (see Julian Simon). Peek oil/gas/food is over-hyped. Its a given at any point we will reach the maximum production of a certain commodity but this is based on economics, not on need. If oil becomes too expensive, well then we will probably switch to other sources (common sense) and the production total of oil is maxed out, but this does not create huge economic issues as stated, rather its just a gradual change from one commodity to another.

  66. “Ian Wilson says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:05 am

    ….and riots over food shortages in Africa and elsewhere should be ringing alarm bells.”

    These riots are nothing to do with supply, there is no shortage. Ethiopia is not the dust bowl many poeple think it is (There is a lot of food waste in Ethiopia IMO and experience, certainly in Addis Ababa). It is infact VERY fertile, one problem there is traditional farm practices, which are slowly changing, with water conservation schemes where a farmer can cultivate two main crops in a single year rather than waiting for “rains” and transport. Fuel is “expensive” and these costs are passed on to very poor consumers. My wife is Ethiopian and our family there has lost all their land the family had to corrupt Govn’t officials and now cannot raise beasts or food, there just isn’t enough space for that now.

    The main problem is cost, due to imports, pressure on farmers to export (Better price), fuel and official corruption. Cost of food, if people cannot produce themselves, is outstipping incomes. There is also a trend of migration from rural areas to the city, Addis Ababa.

  67. Perhaps this is what you all want – the mega metropolis in Star Wars that covered an entire planet.

    You may desire such a future – the inevitable consequence of reproductive-incontinence – but I would consider it to be hell on Earth.

    Anyway, history has taught us that civilisations that cannot control their populations are always doomed to failure and extinction. Look at Teotehuacan in Central America, or Angkor Wat in Vietnam. Two of many civilisations that appear to have succumbed to famine when at the peak of their powers.

    Don’t think that we are so clever that we cannot not suffer the same fate.

    .

  68. >>Ethiopia is not the dust bowl many poeple think it is. It is infact
    >>VERY fertile, one problem there is traditional farm practices.

    Whoa, there Patrick.

    Everyone is saying we should return to traditional, sustainable farming, instead of building mono-culture mega factory farms. But that is simply not possible.

    If you are campaigning for population increase, please do not let anyone campaign for Green agriculture and sustainability at the same time.

    .

  69. Apparently the authors has zero awareness of basic principles of ecology. You will never do better than the moment when you are in maximum overshoot just before the crash begins. And then, of course, the crash begins, but you’re so deep in overshoot that it’s too late to do anything about it.

    This is your typical pipe-dream cornucopian post that is really the intellectual equivalent to the person who jumped from the 88th floor and while he was passing the 20th on his way down, said “See, I’m doing fine, nothing to worry about”

    Yes, we produce enough food to feed our present population. No, we aren’t going to produce even a fraction of that when the converging effects of peak oil, gas and phosphorus, fossil aquifer depletion, topsoil loss and climate change make our present way of producing food impossible in most areas. So there is plenty to worry about.

    Hector M. says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:29 am

    1. World population is currently predicted to peak at about 9 billion around 2050-60 and then starting to decline. Currently published UN population projections go only up to 2050, when population is seen as still growing at a nearly zero rate, but using their own assumptions (not an extrapolation) to extend the projections a few more years, you may see the population falling. Declining from 2050-60, population by 2100 should be between 7-8 billion, and still declining.

    These are often quoted numbers, the problem is that it is very unlikely that they will ever be reached. Two things are more likely to happen:

    1. The die off will begin before that, around 2030.
    2. As the demographic transition in the Third world is predicted solely on the assumption that the Third world will become rich and developed, it is useful to ask the question is the Third world going to stop reproducing at the current rate if it doesn’t develop. And it is 99% certain that it will not develop as the energy and resources for that simply aren’t available, which means that fertility rates aren’t going down any time soon there. Of course the die off is still 100% certain in such a case, but it may be that it will not start before 2050 and then those projections will be surpassed.

    3. Food production is not an extractive process, like burning oil. It is done by combining carbon with nitrogen and other substances, through photosyntesis. This year’s food is recycled (via your body waste and your own body decomposing in the future) into future food production.

    Food production at present is not only an extractive process like burning oil, it is in fact burning oil. We are essentially using soil to convert oil, gas, fertilizers and fossil fresh water into food, while destroying a lot of that soil in the process. And it is not recycled, it typically goes into the ocean

  70. Espen says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:56 am
    “Mike Haseler you’re thinking like a malthusian and missing the A and O of demography. The fact is that when a country reaches a certain level of development (and thus, of food supply and energy consumption), it reaches the “fourth phase of demographic transition” and fertility plummets. The main reason is that in such societies, women decide to make a career instead of having ever more children.”

    Espen is spot on about the Demographic Transition (DT). It’s unfortunate that dummies like Paul Ehrich and John Holdren cannot grasp the concept. However the DT is not always a given. For example, without massive food aid from the US, Haiti would have been a Malthusian hell a long time ago.

    There are several things that promote the Demographic Transition in a developing country:
    •Urbanization
    •Industrialization
    •Strong property rights
    •Universal public education
    •Respect for the rights of women
    •Rudimentary public health measures

    Is population a problem? Yes and no. Other things being equal, smaller populations in the developing countries would mean higher living standards there. For example, more meat and/or dairy products on the table.

    On the other hand, human population in a developing country can become a non-draconian, self-regulating system if the initial conditions for the Demographic Transition are satisfied. The catch is that even with the DT kicking in everywhere, human population levels would be displeasing to certain influential misanthropic Environmentalists. Hence the present hoo-ha.

  71. Lucy Skywalker says: Thank you everyone here. And PS, a primer on the issues of Peak Oil both for and against, as a post here, to make the basic facts more accessible to flounderers like myself, would be nice.

    I cover it to some reasonable degree in the “no shortage” postings. Some expansion in the comments. The “short form” is that most oil fields deplete in a bell curve, so by extension the whole world, if thought of as one ‘field’ ought to do the same.

    The “issues” that make this view problematic are pretty straight forward.

    1) Saudi is NOT developing at full possible speed, so we don’t know how much they really have. They ‘banked it’ for a long time, and they are the major player.

    2) Depth. We’ve recently found oil at ‘impossible depths’. The prior theory said oil could not exist that deep, so folks didn’t drill that deep. Now that we know better, a very large number of places that ‘had no oil’ may in fact have oil, just deeper.

    3) Refilling fields. There is a theory, mostly popular with the Russians, that oil is made by carbonate rocks being subducted and heated. Since we can turn carbonates into oil in the lab, this seems pretty well proven as possible. Further, most of the worlds oil fields are found near present or former subduction zones (California, Indonesia, Saudi) or collision zones between ancient plates. In the Gulf of Mexico, there is at least one ‘played out’ well that was found to be refilling from below with oil of a different isotope signature… The fact is, we don’t really know where oil comes from or how much more there is.

    4) Technological advance. In the short term of 20 or 30 years, a field is a bell curve depletion. But over 50 to 60 years we develop whole new ways to raise oil. We’ve gone back to ‘empty’ fields and made them produce more. At present, fields that are ‘empty’ have about 1/2 their oil still in them… and technology is still advancing.

    5) What is “oil” changes over time. We’re now using ‘tar sands’ that were ‘useless’ 30 years ago. There is more oil in “useless” shale right now than in the rest of the worlds reserves combined.

    6) We can make oil. Companies like Rentech and Syntroleum turn trash and plants into oil. How much oil you want? We can get 50 tons / acre of wood, or about 10 x that in algae, and make it into oil.

    There are more “issues” but then this would not be a short summary. I’ll just end with noting that the 200 years it took to reach this point implies 200 years before we ‘run out’… Oh, and the whole ‘EROI’ Energy Return On Investment argument is broken. It says you reach a point where it takes more than a bbl of oil to raise a bbl so you stop. The reality is that we will use nuclear electricity to raise the oil as the FORM of energy in oil is more convenient. Oh, and the whole ‘need it for chemicals and plastics’ is broken too. We can make them from trash, trees, anything with carbon in it. Even coal, that was used before we decided oil was handy. BTW, right now we use natural gas for plastics as it’s cheaper and more plentiful…

    Hope that helps.

  72. We DO have to stamp out the biofuels industry. It is a waste of energy in every way and only serves to raise the cost of food to the point where poor in the world cannot afford it. It is criminal to make food into fuel when there is not a shortage of fuel and also criminal to commandeer crop land, which could be raising food, for biofuel-specific crops.

    The biofuels industry has its purpose which is stated above – to raise the cost of food and allow people to die naturally, of starvation.

  73. [Snip]

    [REPLY: Aligning / comparing AGW supporters with Radical Islamic Terrorists is NOT going to fly… (biglee57 ~ mod)]

  74. If we turned Rhode Island into a soccer stadium, everybody in the world could be accomodated. However, there would be a bit of a traffic jam after the match if everybody left at once.

  75. The population of the planet and the land area of Ireland in m^2 are similar. Now imagine everyone standing in Ireland with the rest of the world available for housing, agriculture, energy, manufacture etc. A silly idea I know but helps to put things into perspective. BTW, last time I was in an Irish pub on a Saturday night, 1m^2 per person would have been a luxury!

  76. (Mea Culpa for the last ‘toooooo tooooo’ near the edge)

    “I Am So Tired of Malthus”
    Everything you said is so true. Unfortunately, nothing we say here will change anything outside of WUWT. As illogical and wrong as their argument is about population and global resources, about anthroprogenic global warming, about ‘climate credits’, etc., they will continue to use every argument (and ‘Food’ is a good one) to win their way. This is not a polite argument about a complicated scientific theory where each side is merely trying to determine the ‘truth’.

  77. Why do Malthusians have large families? Why don’t neo-Malthusian groups like the ‘Optimum Population Trust’ ask for proof of sterilisation before granting membership? If they lead by example, people may trust them more.

  78. “Ralph says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:19 am
    >>Ethiopia is not the dust bowl many poeple think it is. It is infact
    >>VERY fertile, one problem there is traditional farm practices.

    Whoa, there Patrick.

    Everyone is saying we should return to traditional, sustainable farming, instead of building mono-culture mega factory farms. But that is simply not possible.

    If you are campaigning for population increase, please do not let anyone campaign for Green agriculture and sustainability at the same time.”

    Nice one Ralph, take my post out of context! Well, you are wrong. I did not mention sustainable farming practices but that traditional farming practices, like “waiting for the rains”, were not reliable (Hence famine). Water conservation is improving in Ethiopia because of, in part, LiveAid in the 80’s and western influences. Local farmers find it works.

    As for mono-cultures, it is a BIG issue, and with bee populations under pressure, I don’t see that as sustainable. Australia’s bee population is the ONLY bee population on earth right now that is not infested with the viroa bee mite. In fact we export bee colonies to other contries, with vast mono-culture systems, to assist in fertilisation. They are “sacraficial” bees as they become infested with the mite at the local site.

    This planet can sustain many many more people, the only problem is human nature and the desire to screw others for profit (Africa = Govn’t/official corruption for resources = coal, gold, silver, oil and diamonds. Like Elephant tusks, change the market, the “resourse” recovers).

    You were aware that Afican’s had no concept of borders, until the “whiteman” (I put that in quotes because if one traces one’s mitochondrial DNA, on your mothers side, it will lead you to Africa) arrived?

  79. “simpleseekeraftertruth says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:49 am ”

    Actually, the entire population of the planet could, albeit pretty compact (LOL), stand on the Isle of Wight, just south of Portsmouth, England.

  80. simpleseekeraftertruth:
    Alas, you are off by a factor of 10.
    Area if Ireland: 84,421 km2 = 84 billion m2
    You could fit them all in County Cork!!

  81. Great post, Willis. Great comments. I especially enjoy those who try so hard to be pessimistic in this group of trained specialists in how optimism works. The “bad government” argument is a very serious one. I think no funds (tax-payer money) should go to those bad governments under the guise of helping (feed, etc.) the “poor people of the world”. When we do these things, we primarily support bandits and thugs. Instead we should encourage the inventive use of human minds through technology in the presence of raw materials How? By sending our helpful tax dollars to those governments/societies that are creatively enabling their populace to work productively at their food supply and to live enjoyably (yes, many different definitions here, but the possibility seems to encourage amazing work efforts), men and women with relatively equal opportunities. Anything else seems like shooting ourselves in the foot. We know Earth can feed everyone.

    As to the bad times — when we cannot feed ourselves, other than when bad governments are in charge — these seem to come not from “peak” something, but from drastic “climate change”. A massive volcanic eruption or multiple large ones, large impactor(s) from space, or our present unknown — the creep into the next ice age. Knowing that almost every civilization has fallen from these kinds of events (if you can’t feed your people or if those who can’t feed themselves want your land….), one would think that the malthusian-types would turn their pessimism, along with inventiveness, toward prevention, including food storage for the bad (cold) times. Historically, geologically, cosmically, these events/conditions are inevitable. We simply are very fortunate if they do not happen in our individual life times. Someone mentioned the model of Christchurch-New Zealanders building with those inevitable destructive earthquakes in mind. That’s the model I have in mind.

  82. Jimbo says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:37 am
    If you look back in history you will read about commentators who thought that the streets of London would be piled high in horse manure by 2000.

    … or earlier!
    And remember Ford’s comment that if you had asked the average late-19th century traveller what development he would like to see he would have replied “a faster horse”. One of the reasons why the neo-Malthusians and their close relatives the eco-luddites can win arguments relatively easily is that they can always end an explanation with “it stands to reason.”
    Every time I hear that phrase I know that I am going to have an uphill battle on my hands. It is a seductive statement, partly because it involves both the speaker and the hearer in that most pleasant of pastimes — not having to exercise the intellect.
    Most human development has to some extent been counter-intuitive; almost all science has sprung from a refusal to accept the status quo. Marx and his disciples (especially the ones who take his writings at face value because the alternative would be to exercise their intellects) persistently refused to acknowledge the existence of human nature either as a force for good or a force for bad or simply as a force for disproving theories.
    I have never forgotten the simple marxian theory that if you set a boy to do something that will take an hour then two boys will do the same thing in 30 minutes. Anyone who believes that has never met boys; you’ll be lucky if the job gets finished in a day!
    Unless of course you provide an incentive but even then the inevitable interaction between them will almost certainly act to extend the time.
    And that does “stand to reason”!

  83. Some of the best food in the World is available aplenty to us here in Oz. We have no limit to growth except age. My teeth are getting too weak to rip into a huge T-bone steak.

    The concept of peak fertilizer is hardly correct. You have to look beyond the consumption phase to the waste cycle and realise that for a given, stable population there is a circulating flux of most nutrients that sustains with very little topping up. Elements like P and K do not disappear into the ether, they just get put somewhere else where it might be more expensive to recover them.

    It is so blindingly correct that the big problem is government. Cross the border from Calif to Mex. Why, you can clearly see the border on Google earth because the organised patterns of US agriculture degenerate into low yield subsistence farms in a few miles. And that’s even allowing for Arnie being not too bright.

    Then compare agricultural output N & S Korea. Israel and Lebanon. Use your head, not your heart.

  84. “Some 30 years ago, I have read a book in Dutch, called “De Groene Aarde” (“The Green Earth”), that the earth can sustain about 130 billion people for food. … So, the future still looks bright…” – Ferdinand Engelbeen

    ‎”130 billion people for food” is a LOT of Soylent Green!!! Yum, the future looks bright indeed.

    [:)]

  85. RW says: (September 9, 2010 at 1:33 am) Willis, I usually love your contributions but I take some issue with this one in that I am extraordinarily tired of people who have missed the bulk of what Malthus said. […] The Essay on the Principle of Population was a very scholarly work…

    Thank you for this comment. RW; it brings a nice addition to knowledge. It is all too easy to suffer from a little knowledge to the detriment of our attempts to gain wisdom.

  86. Patrick says “Ethiopia is not the dust bowl people think it is.”

    I spent a month in Ethiopia back in the 90s. Never saw so many Mercedes and Land Rovers – pretty expensive cars for such a poor country. In the country-side to the south locals would stand by the side of the road selling everything from chickens to fresh vegetables. There was food everywhere. We ate like kings (of course we had lots of money).

    If history teaches us anything it it that humans have been incredibly successful. The most successful are also the wealthiest – regardless of whether you use a mean or median to calculate it.

    To discuss peak oil or peak food (which are interesting points of discussion but are hardly limiting the Earth presently) you also need to discuss the distribution of oil and food to the poorest regions of the world. What do you do when people do not have money to buy?

    Show me a place on this planet where humans have enough money but cannot get access to food and oil and I might start thinking like a Malthusian.

  87. Ferdinand Engelbeen says:
    September 8, 2010 at 11:54 pm
    That was the result of the “green revolution” (and glass greenhouses), ….
    Hope global warmers´greenhouse effect would be true. Warm is good, cold is bad!

  88. There is, however, a big problem in developed countries: starving of real knowledge and starving for lack of human values.

  89. “Steve from Rockwood says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:31 am
    Patrick says “Ethiopia is not the dust bowl people think it is.”

    I spent a month in Ethiopia back in the 90s. Never saw so many Mercedes and Land Rovers – pretty expensive cars for such a poor country.”

    Ethiopia, the Head of the African Union. Many many countries with embassies there, including the US. But I am surprised, Mercedes and Land Rovers? Surly you mean Fiat/Lada and Toyotas in terms of numbers. But wow, what an impression after only a month.

  90. “Fat in excess is justly maligned in the Western diet”

    Actually, it is unjustly maligned. The cause of the “diseases of civilization” (diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, alzheimer’s, and other chronic diseases) is not dietary fat, but dietary carbohydrate. We’ve misdiagnosed the problem for the past 40 years thanks to low-fat advocates who twisted and tortured the science worse than anyone at CRU.

    http://webcast.berkeley.edu/event_details.php?webcastid=21216

    Fat, *real* fat (not the trans fats in “I can’t believe it’s not butter”), is good for you, in any quantity. The killer is the carbohydrate we eat.

  91. friendship says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:47 am
    How about a volcanic winter with no preparations for 7 billions???
    Agrarian pyramid populations COLLAPSE EVERY TIME because of this!

    Better come here to WUWT and stop watching those channels!

  92. Mike Haseler says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:45 am
    “…Quite the contrary Tenuc, history shows there has been virtually no change in the basic forms of energy supply for over two centuries…”

    Sorry Mike, but you are completely wrong about this!

    The first Nuclear powered generator (Calder Hall at Windscale, UK) was connected to the grid and delivering electricity in 1956. Nuclear power stations currently produce around 15% of the worlds demand for electricity and it would be feasible to build enough new stations to provide for the energy needs of the world for the next several thousand years.

    The only reasons we do not use the nuclear option are that it costs more than fossil fuel generation and there are political issues which need to be resolved. Safety and disposal of nuclear waste are no longer a serious problem regarding modern plant designs.

    While fossil fuels remain plentiful and cheap, there is little interest in developing pf commercialising alternative energy generating technology. The current crop of uneconomic ‘green’ solutions are not suitable for base load generation and have only been introduced as a sop to liberal sentiment.

  93. 220 wrong predictions of the End of the World, mostly for religious reasons:

    “The oceans will shrink. Deserts expand. Crops will fail; there will be massive starvation Widespread emotional and mental collapse; increase in crime and violence. Changing weather patterns; basic laws of nature will be disrupted…”

  94. I don’t see what the problem is. Given the fact that CO2 is a plant food and less than doubling it could create >35% crop yields and a doubling of pine tree growth

    http://rps3.com/Files/AGW/EngrCritique.AGW-Science.v4.pdf

    The answer seems simple to me. More CO2 = More food.

    Now, how man can affect the atmospheric CO2 content to such an extent given his current, minuscule contribution in comparison to the natural is, quite frankly, one for the boffins to sort out. ;)

  95. Food supply is adequate and growing. However, a global crop failure, most probably because of an abrupt cooling event, could wreak havoc with the world any time.

    The market is inadequate for providing reasonable food security. It’s because food is a special commodity in that if consumers are denied of it for a couple of months, they get permanently removed from the market (because later on, even if food becomes available, they neither eat nor can make money any more). Therefore the time window to make up for a long time investment in food storage is very short.

    World food stockpile is at an all time low, it can cover consumption only for two or three months. It means we are just a single major volcanic eruption away from a global disaster unprecedented in human history. Could be worse than the extreme weather events of 535–536.

    This is because governments utterly fail to take due responsibility and neglect public food stockpiling recommendations described in this paper (stocks for seven years are needed).

    There was a sign from the sun, the like of which had never been seen and reported before. The sun became dark and its darkness lasted for 18 months. Each day, it shone for about four hours, and still this light was only a feeble shadow. Everyone declared that the sun would never recover its full light again.

    That’s how climate change looks like.

    “We have had a winter without storms…” “a spring without mildness [and] a summer without heat… The months which should have been maturing the crops have been chilled by north winds,” “When can we hope for mild weather, now that the months that once ripened the crops have become deadly sick under the northern blasts? …Out of all the elements, we find these two against us: perpetual frost and unnatural drought”

    “the stars were lost from view for three months. The sun dimmed, the rain failed, and snow fell in the summertime. Famine spread, and the emperor abandoned his capital…”

    “Then came drought [or floods], famine, plague, death…” “Food is the basis of the Empire. Yellow gold and ten thousand strings of cash cannot cure hunger. What avails a thousand boxes of pearls to him who is starving of cold”

    “At first, relatives and domestics attended to the burial of the dead, but as the violence of the plague increased this duty was neglected, and corpses lay forlorn narrow in the streets, but even in the houses of notable men whose servants were sick or dead. Aware of this, Justinian placed considerable sums at the disposal of Theodore, one of his private secretaries, to take measures for the disposal of the dead. Huge pits [that could hold up to 70,000 corpses] were dug at Sycae, on the other side of the Golden Horn, in which the bodies were laid in rows and tramped down tightly; but the men who were engaged on this work, unable to keep up with the number of the dying, mounted the towers of the wall of the suburb, tore off their roofs, and threw the bodies in. Virtually all the towers were filled with corpses, and as a result ‘an evil stench pervaded the city and distressed the inhabitants still more, and especially whenever the wind blew fresh from that quarter.’”

  96. Today we have more obesity than hunger in the world. We also have a lot of government meals at schools and huge amounts of food are wasted.

  97. Jimbo says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:27 am
    Hi Willis,
    You could also have added the vast tracts of un-cultivated land that is suitable for food production.

    That is absolutely true: Hundred of thousand hectares have been cultivated along the former deserted lands of west South American coast where rainfall per year is ONE or two millimeter per year, and the majority of these crops are exported to the US.
    This has been done with new irrigation technologies, where almost all nutrients for crops are dosified through the irrigation system, being quasi hydroponic systems.

  98. Patrick Davis says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:03 am

    Ethiopia is not the dust bowl many poeple think it is

    Indeed. Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile and contains some of the most fertile land on the planet.

    And despite the doomsayers claiming that the Ethiopian forest ( yes, forest, not desert) could be gone by 2020
    (BBC 2000) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/1766717.stm
    The forest cover today is in fact very healthy and 3 times what it was when those comments were made.

    http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0721-hance_ethiopia_trees.html

    It’s not a lack of arable land that halts the progress of the poor. It’s the governments who deny them use of, and access to it.

  99. “Jere Krischel says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:50 am

    Fat, *real* fat (not the trans fats in “I can’t believe it’s not butter”), is good for you, in any quantity. The killer is the carbohydrate we eat.”

    This post is so accurate it’s almost unreal to see on a webpage! *THUMBS UP*

  100. the oil situation is gonna put a big dent in people’s idea that we are going to just keep breeding like rabbits

    the “green revolution” wasn’t green at all, we simply convert petroleum into food

  101. Phillip Bratby says: September 9, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Philip, thanks for the article ref. Glad to see the aboitic oil issues gradually surfacing. However the article’s still making too many assertions I don’t trust. For instance, I think there is a time issue involved in abiotic oil… it seems to recover but pretty slowly… and this affects its economic power directly.

    Could you do your own article perhaps?? Would WUWT be able to handle it?

    Jimbo says: September 9, 2010 at 2:27 am

    [Add] the vast tracts of un-cultivated land that is suitable for food production. There is also the IRRI recently released flood tolerant rice… [etc etc + refs]

    Jimbo, it would be nice to see you do a whole article on this.

    E.M.Smith says: September 9, 2010 at 4:26 am

    Thanks a million EMS, just the key info on “no shortage” I wanted. Now can we have this as a thread at WUWT?

    Pascvaks says: September 9, 2010 at 4:53 am …Unfortunately, nothing we say here will change anything outside of WUWT…

    I beg to disagree. I see pioneers here, opening up a new way of doing Science, and sure, it will take time to catch on. See the above for evidence.

  102. “Craig says:
    September 9, 2010 at 6:07 am

    It’s not a lack of arable land that halts the progress of the poor. It’s the governments who deny them use of, and access to it.”

    Totally agree with your entire post. I snip this bit out, and agree with you. However, what you see in rural areas, like the source of the Blue Nile, feeding the Nile in Egypt, the Whispering Falls, which 75% of flow is diverted to hydro power generation, is brand new, shiny galvanised steel mobile network radio towers amoung mud hutts. I agree with this, in terms of communication. In recent times, since about 2005, the “Govn’t” blocked text messages, recently that block has been removed. People can communicate at great distances.

  103. I am so tired of [snip] who criticize Malthus with statistics about how much food we are producing right now, rather than how much food we will be able to produce in the future and how overconsumption contributes to the degradation of the commons. I suggest you read my book Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change for real insight into this issue.

  104. To anyone who pays attention to recent trends in global fertility rates know that over-population will not be a problem. Quite to the contrary, de-population is and will continue to be a problem through-out most of the world. According to figures posted by both Wiki and the CIA Factbook, almost all of the G20 nations (including China, but excluding India) have TFRs (Total Fertility Rate) below replacement levels. As a matter of fact, nations like Japan, Russia, Italy, Greece, and Spain have had TFRs below 1.5/female for a decade or more. Even in the more fecund East Asia, nations like Turkey and Iran have seen decreasing fertility rates in recent decades. Yes, Yeman and Afghanistan have TFRs in excess of 4/female. But they are the exceptions. In Africa, war, famine, and AIDs are devestating populations. And even in Central and South America, the rate of population growth is slowing.

    And for the first time in world history, large segments of global populations will age to levels not dreamnt of even 50 years ago. This means that in the short term our populations will continue to grow, as fewer eldery will die at younger ages. That is, the median age will go up. But, all of these grand parents and great grand parents will have a much smaller legacy. And thier grand children and great grand children will have even less offspring.

    The UN has global populations peaking sometime around 2050. I cannot remember the exact numbers; but, like the IPCC the UN tends to over-estimate things.

  105. @ Baa Humbug. Your point about the Pacific Islands is interesting. Sure, they’re not paradise (cf Thor Heyerdahl on Fatu Hiva), but they’re not so bad either. The best indicator is people movements. When we were being told that East Germany was all hunky dory, they had to build barbed wire fences to keep the people in. Today we look at countries whose nationals hide inside shipping containers to get into the US or UK. The Pacific Islands are not in that category. As far as I know, the Pacific countries on the list are poor, but the people aren’t escaping in desperation. From what I’ve heard, they just enjoy life. It’s different to your choice and my choice, but it’s still their free choice. Hooray for diversity, and I’m sure they’re not bothered by some accountant in Washington who says that they live an awful life.

  106. I planted 75 vines of Cabernet Franc this spring, just doing my part. Its growing but has been struggling against the cold. Oh well, waiting and counting on some warming.

  107. Under Malthus’s Theory would it be likely that plants would consume so much of the CO2 in the atmosphere that it would reach historic lows unless there was another intervention to restore CO2 to optimal levels?

  108. the oil situation is gonna put a big dent in people’s idea that we are going to just keep breeding like rabbits

    No, the “oil situation” is going to put a big dent in environmentalist’s idea that we are going to just shut off all oil exploration and development, and shrink as a people and economy.

    We have over a century worth of oil in the Green River shale formation. We have centuries worth of energy that can be converted into oil and auto fuels sitting in our coal deposits. When living standards start to seriously decline because of the artificial restraints placed on oil extraction and use, people in the U.S. are going to become an angry mob. They are going to learn about the readily available and easily extracted alternatives we have. When they do, any environmentalist or politician in their way is going to be removed from power if not physically harmed.

    We need nuclear power and we need to continue to research ways to use electricity to power our vehicles. While we work on that, we must have oil. Not having it is simply not an option. I’m guessing we’re a good 40-50 years away from an electrically powered auto fleet. Until then, we must have and we will have oil.

    Right now we have a green bubble, no different from the housing or education bubbles, a malinvestment of resources and political power into a given area, group, or ideology. Environmentalist policies have dragged on the U.S. economy, but there hasn’t been a shock to the system that causes the average apathetic voter to clearly link green policies and lower living standards. When that shock comes and the bubble bursts, watch out. Right now it’s popular to say you’re green. After the bubble bursts telling someone you’re green will likely endanger your well being. No politician will touch the phrase or the policies. It’s like anything else in American politics. A good idea is converted to a rigid ideology that then goes too far and is pulled back by the voter. It happens every election cycle.

    Keep dreaming that government can place restriction upon restriction on fossil fuel use to “save the Earth.” You think Americans are mad at their government now? Wait until gasoline hits $6 a gallon, THEN you will see mad. And you will see every politician who doesn’t promise shale and coal fuel development sent packing to the unemployment line.

  109. I was just reflecting on the fact that Malthusians have hundreds of years of failure without any decline in popularity. Can we expect a hundred years of failed prediction by climate doomsayers?

    Misanthropy is to be wiped out.

  110. Keith Battye says:
    September 8, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    The real threat to people is poor governance.

    I would modify that a bit – the real threat to people is OVER-governance. Less government = more freedom, more prosperity, less wastage, less laws, less tax. Less politicians. Less BS.

  111. People often say that we’re addicted to oil. It’s rather silly. Like saying we’re addicted to water… in the sense that were physiologically incapable of surviving without it yes, in a way, we’re addicted. But it’s not an “addiction” we can give up. Oil is civilisational water. It’s not a teenage angsty “cannot survive” issue, where you scream “I’ll die if I don’t get my sugar-laden snacks!”; we literally cannot survive without it.

  112. Exactly the same doom and gloom statments have been made for the last thousand years.
    Here in Britain they pay farmers not to produce food.

  113. I think the best metric is number of acres per person required to feed that person. A figure that has been going down with a vengeance for the last 200 years.

    Mr. Catton people like you have been so wrong for so long that its hard to take anything the likes of you or Holdren or Ehrlich say with any sort of seriousness. Ehrlich and Holdren made fun of some poor guy for suggesting that societies transform their birth rates voluntarily and naturally. They were of course wrong and this guy was right. Ehrlich has been wrong so much that he has stopped putting dates on his dire predictions. Didn’t he lose a bet with, was it Julian Flood, about the future cost of minerals. Just give it a rest or make an accurate prediction.

  114. Why don’t all these people that can predict the future, do something really useful…

    ….tell me which lotto numbers to pick

  115. William R. Catton, Jr. says:
    I suggest you read my book Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change for real insight into this issue.

    Ah yes, because only you have “real insight”, anything else is just fake insight.

    With our agricultural capabilities still underutilized, huge piles of food going to waste every year, and a declining first-world population, I suggest your book is most likely nothing more than another excuse to cut down trees.

  116. It’s strange that so many people think having more people on Earth is a bad thing. The good news is that most of the leaps forward mankind makes is down to geniuses who, often working alone, come up with world changing ideas.

    Only about 2% of the population meet Mensa’s standards and can be defined as real geniuses. Based on today’s population there are about 120 million people worldwide who would qualify for Mensa membership. As world population grows, the extra geniuses will improve the chance of further major leaps forward, in areas no one can envisage now.

    Mankind’s future is bright provided world population continues to grow.

  117. Jaye Bass said:
    September 9, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Mr. Catton people like you have been so wrong for so long that its hard to take anything the likes of you or Holdren or Ehrlich say with any sort of seriousness.

    CodeTech said
    September 9, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Ah yes, because only you have “real insight”, anything else is just fake insight.

    With our agricultural capabilities still underutilized, huge piles of food going to waste every year, and a declining first-world population, I suggest your book is most likely nothing more than another excuse to cut down trees.

    While I am not 100% sure it is the real Catton who posted, you should indeed read his book and fix the deficiencies in your education. (snip)

    People like Catton have hundreds of years of research in ecology plus thousands of years of human history to back up their predictions. The exact timing of collapse after overshoot will be hard to predict, of course, there are so many unknowns, but it is 100% certain that it will happen. To deny that, you have to deny one or all of the following:

    1. Such things as the laws of thermodynamics and physics
    2. Basic principles of ecology and population dynamics such as the already mentioned ecological overshoot-population collapse sequence of events. Things that have been observed hundreds and thousands of times in the wild and in the lab and are absolutely indisputable
    3. That 1) and 2) apply to humans. This is the essence of the “technology will save us” mantra that gets repeated so often by economists and which the majority here have completely bought into. Yet it all really boils down to denial of 1) and 2) (usually caused by total lack of understanding of those fields, which in turn is caused by the complete failure of our educational system but let’s not go into that)

  118. Willis, how do you spell “peak oil”. IIASA assumes no limits to fossil fuels. Oil exports peaked in 2005, and total world oil supply is set to go into decline by 2013 at the latest. Before people start jumping on me about Venezuelan bitumen, Athabasca tarsands and shale oil think “stocks and flows”. It doesn’t matter what the stock is if the flow is low, and decades and billions of dollars have not solved the flow problem. If we really succeed in developing shale gas (and that is likely unless polluted water supply becomes a major issue) we can substitute some oil for a few years, bu then NG will peak before 2040. If we double or triple coal production as an offset, coal will peak before 2050. Before I get jumped on about the vast coal deposits in the USA think flows again, ie depth of deposits and thickness of seams. The gains in food supply are from cheap abundant energy, and those days are numbered. Murray

  119. Very interesting. All the Malthusians who have answered don’t understand the concept of technological development. They share this with 80% of the population.

    A market ripe for the taking (again… and again…).

  120. Tenuc said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 8:08 am

    It’s strange that so many people think having more people on Earth is a bad thing. The good news is that most of the leaps forward mankind makes is down to geniuses who, often working alone, come up with world changing ideas.

    Only about 2% of the population meet Mensa’s standards and can be defined as real geniuses. Based on today’s population there are about 120 million people worldwide who would qualify for Mensa membership. As world population grows, the extra geniuses will improve the chance of further major leaps forward, in areas no one can envisage now.

    Mankind’s future is bright provided world population continues to grow.

    Ah, I was waiting for that canard to come up.

    First, your 2% is in all likelihood only true for developed countries. In the Third world (and probably in the US too) where the majority of population growth occurs, it is much lower.

    Second, by the way you worded your post, I take it that you definitely don’t belong to those 2% and you have never taken one of those tests. So let me enlighten you – the vast majority of those 2% are neither capable of nor will they ever contribute anything to the advancement of humanity (by becoming scientists or engineers which is what you imply), they will go on to such not just unproductive but totally counterproductive activities such as becoming bankers, lawyers, etc. There isn’t much correlation between MENSA scores and scientific productivity, it is more like a necessary but far from sufficient conditions. Those 2% tests are a joke anyway so it is laughable to call the people who pass them geniuses.

    Third, what proportion of he population right now is involved in productive R&D activity that will help (in your pipe dreams, not in reality) raise the carrying capacity of the planet? 2%? Or much much lower than that. And what proportion is useless eaters? Wouldn’t it be wiser to aim for a smaller population with a much larger proportion of people involved in productive activity? Say, instead of having 10 million out of 7 billion involved in R&D, having 50 million out of 100 million?

    Because, and this is fourth, no amount of technology can beat the combination of exponential growth against very finite carrying capacity, much less in the time frames we are speaking of right now (for those who haven’t woken up to reality yet, we basically need a miracle in the next decade or two, and miracles only happen in works of fiction like the Bible and the Quran). So you either face reality and shrink or you overshoot and collapse.

  121. “I think it’s seriously possible that the alarmists’ picture of Peak Oil is badly exaggerated. But I remain unconvinced that there is no problem here at all. ”

    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/GOF_decline_Article.pdf

    http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf

    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/PeakOilAge.pdf

    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/IPCC_article.pdf

    http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/tiki-index.php?page=Global+Oil+Depletion

    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/50234

    https://www.msu.edu/~ralsto11/PeakOil.pdf

    New report by the German Military who are taking it very seriously:

    http://energybulletin.net/stories/2010-09-01/german-military-study-warns-potentially-drastic-oil-crisis

    The fact is for every calorie of food we eat there is 7-10 calories of oil energy in it.

  122. A priori reasoning gives birth to Malthus and his clones. It is the kind of reasoning that teenagers with no experience give their parents. Their theses are always “obvious”. In Malthus’s case, he saw cities spreading so wide that horse-drawn carts could’nt deliver the goods necessary. In his a priori (linear) he thinking didn’t perceive buildings rising above a few stories, he couldn’t anticipate more efficient, speedier transport, not only for goods but for people too. They keep dusting off this old preacher’s idea because they can’t escape his kind of thinking. They don’t believe we will taper off in pop growth, which demographers give us sensible reasons for this development. I haven’t read much about the man himself, but from his clones, I would surmise he hated people, too, like Erhlich.

  123. E. M. Smith, I love your certainty, even though it is clearly based on “a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing.” I repeat “stocks and flows”. when we go back in to recover oil from old fields the flows are from 2% to (rarely) 10% of peak flow. Oil wells used to decline in a bell shaped curve. for 2 decades wer have been using “maximum reservoir contact” wells, especially in Saudi Arabia. When they “water out”, and they will, they will “drop off a cliff”. Abiotic oil is a myth, as explained several times by Jean Laherrere. the decline rate of existing oil production is now quite well established (until MRCs start to go down), and new projects have just kept pace within plus or minus 3% for the last 5+ years. It takes 6 years or so to bring a new project on line, and the new projects under way are well known (see the Megaprojects wiki). the coming decline is baked in the cake. Argue as you will. You also overestimate both coal reserves and their recoverability. time to do your homework. Murray

  124. GM – well said! I just barely qualify for Mensa, and I feel really stupid compared to the much much smaller number of very bright people, and of that much smaller number how many get the education needed to innovate in today’s state of technical advancement. 2%??? ROFL.

  125. Marvin the Robot on Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “What’s the Use?”.
    Marvin was depressed because he had no hope. Marvin was a machine, a computer with attachments.
    Beware the Malthusians, who ersatz mankind’s dreams all day long with dread & fear.

  126. pedex says:
    September 9, 2010 at 6:10 am

    the oil situation is gonna put a big dent in people’s idea that we are going to just keep breeding like rabbits

    Do you know what happens in the bottom of the seas with all the organic residues, under such pressures and in some places (thermal vents) with temperatures up to 400 C (water does not boil up at those pressures)?
    This is a well kept secret..an oily secret…

  127. Keith Battye says:
    September 8, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    I don’t see Zimbabwe on the LDC list. Are we on a LLDC list *grin*

    I believe that the term that you’re looking for is TPLAC :-)

  128. The problem with nearly all of these predictions is that future technology, inventions, processes, discoveries, improvements, and energy sources are never accounted for. You cannot take a population trend and extrapolate that out to infinity while using current technology to infinity. The creativeness of humans is infinite, and with population growth we will have more humans around to think of new inventions. Add to that the fact that necessity is the mother of invention and there is no foreseeable limit to human population on earth. We can live and grow plants underground, underwater, and in space. There is no limit.

  129. @ DT says:
    September 9, 2010 at 6:51 am

    I’d like your sources on the estimates you provide for the amount of oil in the green river shale. And what does that mean when you say, “We have over a century worth of oil in the Green River shale formation”? Does that mean, oil to fuel all of the US for 100 years? or we will be able to extract oil, even if it is only a half-barrel a day for 100 years?

    @ anna v says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:16 am

    “I tend to go with the Russian school who think that oil is endogenous to the earth mantle and is created/rises continuously. The finding of a Titan, I think, satellite with methane speaks to that.”

    Really? Just because? That idea is total nonsense.

  130. I don’t often look into the overpopulation issue, but from what I gather it’s that the population in the future (9 billion by 2050, the UN projects) that may cause problems. Or maybe not, I don’t know.

    “We have doubled the population and more, and yet we are better fed than ever.” I think you’re making an implicit assumption that because we doubled the population in the past and nothing bad happened, we can increase it by a third again in the future and nothing bad will still happen. I don’t have any data with me but I have to wonder, is that a valid assumption?

  131. @ Enneagram says:
    September 9, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Please expand with what you are saying. I can’t wait to hear your oily secret!

  132. @ Phillip Bratby says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Nice article. Too bad it’s junk science. The sources for the article you cite come from Kudryavtsev N.A work in the 50s, all of which has been shown false.

    You folks just believe anything you read if it fits your narrative?

  133. >>Espen:
    >>when a country reaches a certain level of development (and thus,
    >>of food supply and energy consumption), it reaches the “fourth
    >>phase of demographic transition” and fertility plummets.

    That has been true of the Western world, but it has not been tried and tested in the Islamic world. Islam promotes reproductive incontinence, as a method of dominating a region, through demographic saturation.

    There is no reason for Islam to stop their irresponsible behaviour, however rich they become. Bin Laden, for instance, was one of about 120 children in his family.

    .

  134. Andrew W says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:52 am
    This is a very light weight post, all you’ve done Willis is extrapolate a trend.
    Whether or not the planet can feed 8 billion or 10 billion people hasn’t been addressed in any sensible way. The planet feeds more people now because we consume more resources, those resources are finite, technology gives us the ability to use what’s there, not the ability to create resources that aren’t there.

    WRONG! Technology opens up whole new resources which did not even exist before (i.e. things that were not resources prior to the appropriate technology existing). A thing is only a “resource” because it can be used by humans. For example, oil was not a “resource” 200 years ago (discounting oil lamps and cooking oil). The motor engine had not been invented, and so oil was of no use and no one talked about “peak oil.” As we contiue to come up with other technologies, so new resources are opened up for use. Nuclear material only became a “resource” after the nuclear reactor was invented.

    Apart from all that, it’s utterly naive to think we’re anywhere near peak oil now. Of course we’re not. There are myriad untapped oil fields in the world, which will be exploited as soon as it is economically feasible to do so (i.e. when current sources run dry). If oil was in any danger of running out soon, the Green idiots wouldn’t be screaming so loud about limiting its use.

    And please stop your bed wetting, it became boring a long, long, long time ago.

  135. >>>Berenyi
    >>>Food supply is adequate and growing.

    This is not a simple calculation of food production, based upon farming techniques. This is the total interconnectedness of civilisation, that is dependent on each of its many spokes operating, to maintain everything in motion.

    If one spoke breaks, like the political spoke, the whole thing collapses. And the more people there are in the world, the quicker it can collapse.

    Take the Holodomor, for instance. Stalin destablilises the economic/political system that organises agriculture in the USSR, and up to 10 million people starve in the Ukraine.

    Yes, up to 10,000,000 people starved, in just one small region.

    Think it cannot happen again? Take a look at Rhodesia. Breadbasket of Africa in the 1950s. Change the political system, and the place is now starving. The problem being, the greater the world population, the more will starve to death.

    .

  136. >>Tenuc:
    >>Nuclear power stations currently produce around 15%
    >>of the worlds demand for electricity

    Yes, but electricity only accounts for 8% of total energy demand. So nuclear power is still a very small percentage of our power – I make that 1.2% of total energy supply.

    Mike was right, there has been little change in our energy supply materials for two or more centuries.

    And if the oil/coal prices rises, due to shortages in supply, then the price of food will rise alongside it. You may find that much of the expanding world population could not afford to eat, even if the food was able to be grown.

    And don’t talk to me, please, about pulping our precious food and turning it into petrol (or diesel). That, is the most barmy idea ever contemplated.

    .

  137. GM,

    Your idea that the laws of thermodynamics impose an imminent cap on growth is an intriguing one, but is a little short on detail. Could you flesh it out a bit for those of us less intellectually endowed?

  138. Sorry, Willis, but I think Malthus had a good (if incomplete) point — with limited land and natural resources and generally diminishing marginal products, the marginal product of labor has to diminish as population increases unless capital (produced factors of production neglected by Malthus) and/or technology increase at a sufficiently rapid rate. Remarkably, they have, but we can’t count on this to continue.

    In any event, clearly the biological reproduction rate is untenable. My own Scotch-Irish ancesors bred like bunnies (about 8 children surviving to marriage per marriage) until their ministers read Rev. Malthus in the early 19th c, and suddenly the rate dropped to 2 kids per generation. If it hadn’t, they would still be on the brink of starvation, just as their ancestors were in Ireland and Scotland, and with nowhere left to emigrate to.

    The solution is not Chinese-style quotas on babies, but merely to require both biological parents to support their offspring. President Obama admirably preached “responsibility” during his campaign, but I haven’t heard much about it since his election…

    I purchased a copy of Malthus’s Essay on Population a few years ago to see what he actually said, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. :-)

    In the long run (say over 10,000 yrs), the survival rate has to be between 2.0 and 2.1 per generation, or else we would be up to our ears in babies: 1.05^(10,000/20) = 3.9E10. Historically, (over the past 100,000 years say), this has been enforced by famine, epidemics, infanticide, monasticism, and/or genocidal warfare. Fortunately now we have birth control.

  139. @ David, UK says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:02 am

    “Apart from all that, it’s utterly naive to think we’re anywhere near peak oil now. Of course we’re not. There are myriad untapped oil fields in the world, which will be exploited as soon as it is economically feasible to do so (i.e. when current sources run dry).”

    Oh yeah? What are some examples of those myriad of untapped oil fields? Now keep in mind, these will have to be pretty big to keep pace with current demand, and a whole hell of a lot of them.

  140. GM likes to think of people as “useless eaters”.
    GM and Catton are like a bad disease.
    I would not think of poisoning my mind with such pretentious fluff.
    “Die-offs” “Peak everything” “collapse” of this or that .
    Remember “Peak Whale oil” and Peak Horses” and “Peak buggy Whips” ?
    Give it a break Einstein.
    These nihilistic pronouncements of death upon apparently MOST of humanity are and have been prominently disproven over and over again.
    The suggestion that we forget about any future progress and hunker down to live like SERFS in the vain and really personally vain , ( based on a paranoia ) effort to continue in perpetuity to live an unambitious life in an unchanging status quo ,
    would make your “Utopia” far more useless than the useless eaters you decry.
    You sicken me, sir.

    Forgive me, I like TV. I notice a distasteful show called “Life after people” and a book of the same name, and I see the the gleeful scientists, proving their dislike for people by predicting the decay of our civilization.
    But there is another show, where the REAL scientists and engineers explain their inspiration
    for many of the developments you are using right now.
    So I ask you, “Haven’t you ever seen Star Trek “?

  141. >>Bryan:
    >>Here in Britain they pay farmers not to produce food.

    That was called the “set-aside” policy, because Europe had a grain surplus.
    But with Europe’s increasing population, that policy was abandoned in 2008.

    If you are looking for unsustainable, exponential Hockey Sticks, there are plenty to be found in population charts.

    .

  142. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 8:19 am

    1. It appears that the unit of food produced for each hectare per human is going up.

    2. The population is self correcting, transformative demographics I believe is the term.

    Predator/prey models not withstanding about the only thing that will sink us as a population is if we give up on less land intensive sources of energy (like coal, oil and nuclear power) and stay away from land intensive renewable energy like biofuels, wind mills (much more land use, material use (concrete and steel) and fewer dead birds than your average nuke plant).

    I suppose people like you were the ones proclaiming that London would be 10 meters deep in horse poop by the early 20th century. Try getting a prediction right, then people will listen. Did you note the bits about Ehrlich/Holdren’s utterly incorrect dismissal of transformative demographics and Ehrlich’s bet about present value of minerals? Have people like Ehrlich ever been right about anything? Not bloody likely.

  143. Everyone recognizes natural varying climate cycles, warming equals prosperity, cooling equals disaster ! WHO is doing the science on what will happen with the earths population is and when we encounter the next LIA, it will happen sooner or later. This is part of the AGW disaster the inability to do any science that runs counter to the AGW dogma.

  144. Hu,

    But they didn’t keep on breeding like that did they? Populations, as they get wealthier, tend to regulate their breeding rate. No worries on that I’m afraid.

  145. Benjamin P. says:
    September 9, 2010 at 9:09 am
    “@ anna v says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:16 am

    “I tend to go with the Russian school who think that oil is endogenous to the earth mantle and is created/rises continuously. The finding of a Titan, I think, satellite with methane speaks to that.”

    Really? Just because? That idea is total nonsense.

    Really ?
    Methane is classified as a “fossil fuel”.
    Finding not just abundant but omnipresent Methane on Titan where there are , arguably NO Fossils, kind of blunts your resistance.

  146. Benjamin P. says:
    September 9, 2010 at 9:16 am

    @ Phillip Bratby says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Nice article. Too bad it’s junk science. The sources for the article you cite come from Kudryavtsev N.A work in the 50s, all of which has been shown false.
    =========================
    The article refers to thousands of papers, not just those of Kudryavtsev. It has already been shown that oil can be manufactured in laboratories using enormous temperatures and pressures, and the chemical reactions are well understood. Of course, none of this proves oil is abiogenic – it merely shows it is chemically possible.

  147. Seamus Molloy says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:35 am

    What interests me is the amount of arable produce (wheat, rice, barley, potatoes, sugar beet etc.) that is used to make alcohol. The figure I have been told is about a quarter of the worlds production. Can anyone confirm this?
    I also understand that 80% of grapes grown are used for making alcohol and as we can see from the Muslim world alcohol is not needed to sustain a healthy life, so an awful lot of good food is grown not to feed people but just to make them drunk!

    I am taking strong exemption with above statement

    http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/AlcoholAndHealth.html

    Alcohol And Health

    Moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers. In addition to having fewer heart attacks and strokes, moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or distilled spirits or liquor) are generally less likely to suffer hypertension or high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease and the common cold.

    Sensible drinking also appears to be beneficial in reducing or preventing diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, bone fractures and osteoporosis, kidney stones, digestive ailments, stress and depression, poor cognition and memory, Parkinson’s disease, hepatitis A, pancreatic cancer, macular degeneration (a major cause of blindness), angina pectoris, duodenal ulcer, erectile dysfunction, hearing loss, gallstones, liver disease and poor physical condition in elderly.

    Moderate drinkers tend to live longer than those who either abstain or drink heavily.

    A Harvard study found the risk of death from all causes to be 21% to 28% lower among men who drank alcohol moderately, compared to abstainers. (Camargo, C. A., et al. Prospective study of moderate alcohol consumption and mortality in US male physicians. Archives of Internal Medicine, 1997, 157, 79-85.)

  148. Benjamin P. says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:26 am
    “Oh yeah? What are some examples of those myriad of untapped oil fields? Now keep in mind, these will have to be pretty big to keep pace with current demand, and a whole hell of a lot of them.”

    OK, here are some examples. Montana has an untapped oilfield amounting to 40 billion barrels. Alaska has an untapped oilfield of about 10 billion barrels. The Bakken is the largest one we currently know of – the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels. Need any more examples, Mr Oh Yeah?

  149. >>Anna:
    >>I tend to go with the Russian school who think that oil is
    >>endogenous to the earth mantle and is created/rises continuously.

    Brilliant !!

    So who puts the Foraminifera into the oil deposits, and the fern leaves into coal deposits eh??

    Oh, yes, I remember – the same guy who put fossils into rocks, to make us think the rocks were much older than they really are……. ;-)

    .

  150. Vince Causey says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:22 am
    GM,

    Your idea that the laws of thermodynamics impose an imminent cap on growth is an intriguing one, but is a little short on detail. Could you flesh it out a bit for those of us less intellectually endowed?

    Simple. Entropy always increases in a closed system, human bodies are a very low-entropy system, human civilization as a whole is at even lower entropy. So you need an external source of energy/negative entropy to keep things from falling apart. The size of the external flows of negentropy puts a hard limit to the growth of any human civilization

  151. David, UK said
    September 9, 2010 at 10:43 am

    OK, here are some examples. Montana has an untapped oilfield amounting to 40 billion barrels. Alaska has an untapped oilfield of about 10 billion barrels. The Bakken is the largest one we currently know of – the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels.

    1. OOIP = Original Oil In Place
    2. URR = Ultimately Recoverable Reserves

    URR < OOIP.

    URR <<<< OOIP if rock porosity is very low. So it happens that the Bakken shale has an extremely low porosoity (which is why it is shale and you can't just poke a pole in the ground and collect the resulting gusher as people were doing in Texas and the Middle East back in the days). Which makes you 530 billion barrels more like 1 or 2, and at a very meager flow rate on top of that

  152. Ralph says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Historically, only particular kinds of political transformations have caused famine. Movements away from free trade to central planning and despotism are usually the culprits. Occasionally, the absence of government has resulted in a flourishing society. Italian trading cities in the early Renaissance being a prime example.

  153. Some nice viewpoints on the reality of population size vs the size of the available land. (Texas, Ireland) When in doubt, I always find it comforting and enlightening to estimate that the entire world population could merge into one organism probably less than half a cubic kilometer in size. While that would be a formidable creature, it would be barely a speck of dust on the surface of the earth. Now exactly how unsustainable can that be? I don’t claim to know, but I do find it a reality check.. Earth really is huge, and man filled with hubris as to his own importance….

  154. Benjamin P. says:
    September 9, 2010 at 9:13 am
    Easy, its first product is Methane C (Carbon) plus 2H2 (hydrogen from water)=CH4.
    During WWII Germans synthesized fuel from mineral carbon and water.
    July 2009 worldwide commercial synthetic fuels production capacity is over 240,000 barrels per day (38,000 m3/d), with numerous new projects in construction or development.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic_fuel

  155. Jaye Bass said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 10:31 am

    1. It appears that the unit of food produced for each hectare per human is going up.

    It can not go higher than the theoretical limit of conversion of sun light into chemical energy by photosynthesis. and sun light is very limited. So much for your “we can grow as much food as we want” fantasies.

  156. >>>Patrick:
    >>>You were aware that Afican’s had no concept of borders,
    >>>until the “whiteman”

    Pffff !!! What utopia world do you live in?

    There were tribal borders in Africa thousands of years ago, and they were and are every bit a real as any national border today. And if you went into the wrong tribal area, there was every possibility that the machete or its equivalent would get an outing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_Genocide

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gukurahundi

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Darfur

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007–2008_Kenyan_crisis

    etc: etc:

    (At their heart these are all tribal wars, a continuation of millennias of tribal conflict.)

    .

  157. Mister Mr says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:53 am

    Excellent post. As someone who has spent time as a relief worker in some of the worst refugee camps on earth, I can relate from first hand experience…
    ________________
    Reading your post reminds me of Stalin’s starvation of Ukrainian farmers, where millions died as the food they produced was stolen and exported. The worst horror was the way Westerners, eating that food, consistently denied that the atrocity was taking place. http://www.ukemonde.com/news/rferl.html

    WHEN SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL visited Stalin at the Kremlin in August, 1942 he asked: ” … Have the stresses of the war been as bad to you personally as carrying through the policy of the Collective Farms?”

    “Oh, no” he (Stalin) said, “the Collective Farm policy was a terrible srtuggle … Ten millions,” he said, holding up his hands. “It was fearful. Four years it lasted. It was absolutely necessary …” http://www.infoukes.com/history/famine/gregorovich/

    I agree crap/evil politicians are the real problem.

  158. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 8:31 am
    “Ah, I was waiting for that canard to come up.

    First, your 2% is in all likelihood only true for developed countries.”

    What a load of nonsense. People in the third world are no different as to innate metal ability, but they don’t get the same educational opportunities. However, history shows that geniuses are good at self learning and a western style education is not necessarily good for promoting new thought – too much rote learning and scientific dogma. Perhaps geniuses are not as easily recognised amongst them, but the are most certainly there. It is vital to development of mankind that the world population continues to grow as quickly as possible.

    Every single new genius is incredibly important, as he/she could be the one to make a paradigm shift in our understanding of science. Without these inspirational people mankind would still be back in the caves!

  159. David, UK says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Oh yeah? Give me the sources.

    And lets see, 503 Billion barrels at 30 Billion Barrels per year (and increasing) yields 16.8 years. Awesome.

    And, maybe I did not look hard enough but I see the EIA giving the number of 198 Billion Barrels.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/pages/sec4_2.pdf

    Please help me understand better.

  160. “Simple. Entropy always increases in a closed system, human bodies are a very low-entropy system, human civilization as a whole is at even lower entropy. So you need an external source of energy/negative entropy to keep things from falling apart. The size of the external flows of negentropy puts a hard limit to the growth of any human civilization”

    [snip] and doubletalk.
    { re-organizing desk} “I refute it thus”.

    [watch the language ~jove Mod]

  161. @Jimash says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Yeah, okay I will give you methane. We’ve observed that process on earth. But liquid petroleum, I don’t think so. Sorry for my ambiguity using the term “fossil fuel” when I meant oil.

  162. It is a logical fallacy to think that, because things are the way they are currently (i.e. because we more than doubled caloric production in the past that we will be able to again), that they will continue to remain this way. It is a logical fallacy to think that, simply because Malthus has not be right up to this point, that he will always be wrong.

    Famines have never been caused by a lack of food production but by a breakdown in mechanisms to deliver those foods.

    We may be on the cusp of such a breakdown currently, as peak oil begins to take hold. That top-secret German army intelligence report had some pretty ominous predictions regarding this.

    The Oil Drum’s article on the German military’s assessment of the geopolitical impact of peak oil: not for the squeamish

  163. @ David UK

    it is quite obvious you do not understand peak oil

    It is obvious because showing untapped oil reserves does not in fact dispute how peak oil works, matter of fact as oil production worldwide declines there will always be untapped reserves, some economically viable and some not, nor will the oil ever run out as much of it can’t even be extracted.

    about the best you could do argument wise here given present knowledge about the world’s endowment of oil which can be extracted would be to show that the world hasn’t reached the 50-60% mark of what can ultimately be extracted in an economically viable fashion

    many people of course have already done this and their conclusions do not jive with yours

    At present as mentioned earlier in this thread several govt’s have already published papers and outlooks laying all this out and what the potential fall out will be, unlimited never ending population growth of course isn’t among those conclusions. Malthus was right, he was just a bit premature. Basic physics places some hard limits on what can and cannot be done.

  164. On the issue of population expansion in Africa where the birth rate is high.

    “…However, until the late 1980s there was little evidence of any change in fertility. Since then, many changes have occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Although population growth rates remain high, signs of reductions in fertility are appearing in several populations once regarded as having little or no prospect of lower levels of reproduction in the short term…

    Barney Cohen reviews levels, differentials, and trends in fertility for more than 30 countries from 1960 to 1992. He finds evidence of fertility decline in Botswana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe, confirming the basic results of the DHS. What is new here though is his finding that the fertility decline appears to have occurred across cohorts of women at all parities, rather than just among women at middle and higher parities, as might have been expected on the basis of experience in other parts of the world. He also presents evidence that fertility may have begun to fall in parts of Nigeria and possibly in Senegal…”

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=2207&page=3

    And as I have mentioned before there allegedly has been work done on sterilization with or without consent of those sterilized.

    Epicyte’s Spermicidal corn: http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/56608

    Covert Sterilization programs: http://www.whale.to/m/sterile.html

  165. GM,

    “Simple. Entropy always increases in a closed system, human bodies are a very low-entropy system, human civilization as a whole is at even lower entropy. So you need an external source of energy/negative entropy to keep things from falling apart. The size of the external flows of negentropy puts a hard limit to the growth of any human civilization.”

    I understand that energy always increases in a closed system, but the Earth is an open system, one that is fed by energy from the sun. This has allowed entropy to remain low on earth for a billion years of evolution. However, in your earlier post, you implied that the laws of thermodynamics would cause a collapse of civilization by 2030. Surely, the entropy problem you are talking about is only what will happen when the sun dies.

  166. The following was written originally in 2001, and updated a bit in 2004. If I updated it today I would simply emphasize that rather than a clear peak we are on a bumpy plateau since late 2004, and will start the terminal decline about 2012/2013, and would discuss Ghwar and MRC wells in some detail.
    “There is a phenomenon, well known in the oil industry but little publicized, that when an oil field has been about 50% depleted, production begins an irreversible decline. In the mid 1950s, a petroleum geologist named M. King Hubbert applied this concept to an analysis of the lower 48 states, and predicted a decline of production starting about 1970. He was derided at the time, but lower 48 USA oil production has been in decline since 1970. The phenomenon has been named the Hubbert Peak, and the production growth and decline curve is often referred to as a Hubbert Curve.

    In 1998, using the best petroleum industry database available, two petroleum engineers (Campbell and Laherrere) applied a Hubbert analysis to the entire world, and predicted a peak between 2000 and 2010. Refined analyses since then focus on 2005 to 2010. In fact, due to economic and political factors, there is more likely to be an irregular plateau, with possibly several small peaks before the decline, but a decline by 2010 seems inevitable. There is a great deal of real data to support such a view and little but untenable optimism to support alternative views. “In God we trust, others please bring data!”

    Almost all known world oil provinces are now in or very near decline. The major exceptions are the Middle East and the Caspian region. The Middle East can still increase output, but not enough to fully offset rest-of-world decline beyond 2010. The Middle East will also be in decline before 2020. The Caspian reserves are only a little more than one year’s world oil consumption, so will not long delay a peak.

    The petroleum industry employs a complex, inconsistently-applied terminology referring to resources, reserves, oil in place, estimated ultimately recoverable, etc., and there are no standardized and regulated reporting rules or controlled reporting agency. Therefore only careful analyses of database trends over time, by industry experts (geologists, not corporate heads) can produce a reasonably reliable picture. Such analyses tell us that the world’s original endowment of recoverable petroleum liquids (conventional petroleum plus natural gas liquids), is between 1800 and 2,300 Gb. About 900 Gb have already been used, leaving (optimistically) 250 to the Hubbert Peak. At present consumption rates, that is less than 10 years, and consumption is growing. (It could be quite less!)

    We know that Middle East reported reserves grew by about 280Gb between 1987 and 1990, with little additional exploration, and remained constant during the 1990s in spite of continuous production. It is more likely that reserves are overstated than understated. Middle East reported reserves seem to have been influenced by OPEC quotas.

    Recoverable oil is relatively rare in the earth’s crust and lies in now well-understood geologic formations. The entire world has been mapped by satellite and promising areas have been surveyed. Hopeful areas have been seismically explored and the best have been drilled. Oil is distributed fractally along a curve of declining field size versus increasing field occurrence. There are very few super giants, (and only one Ghawar, the most super giant) a few more giants, more majors, etc. down to many, many insignificant fields. Because they are the easiest to detect, the big ones are found first, and they have been found. There are about 41,000 known oil fields worldwide, of which about 21,000 are termed very small to insignificant. The probability that we have found so many small fields, and overlooked any more big ones is near zero.

    Oil discovery peaked about 1963. During the decade from 1958 to 1968, discovery averaged about 42 Gb per year, mainly due to the Middle East. More than 70% of the world’s oil was discovered more than 30 years ago. Discovery averaged about 6 Gb per year during the 1990s, (about ¼ of consumption) and discovery per exploration dollar has been in decline for decades. Reserves growth peaked in the late 1980s with the development of new tools like 3D imaging, digital analysis, and horizontal drilling, as well as political issues like OPEC quotas. In the 1990s discovery averaged about 25% of production, and discovery plus real reserve growth may have been 35% of production.

    World discovery has been in decline for nearly 40 years, and discovery plus reserve growth for at least 10 years. Now total reserves are also in decline. At some point, production must also begin to decline, and that point is soon.

    The USA consumes about 25% of world oil production and imports about 55% of consumption. With growing demand from developing countries and exploding populations in OPEC countries, we will not be able to maintain our present share of world oil, short of occupying the Middle East. When world availability begins to decline, our availability will decline faster. What happens when, about six years from now, a 1%-2% annual increase in demand encounters a 3%-4% annual decrease in supply?”

  167. I have a very easy solution to yer problem right. It’s not considered a kind of heart solution but alas that’s a more philosophical problem.

    Any person or persons that think the world is getting overpopulated or that the world otherwise can’t sustain the world population or that the world otherwise that the mass of population is creating a less sustainable environment than the world can handle, well they are all, hopefully, free to off ‘em self to help support their own claim and be part of their own solutions.

    I’m not sorry if that sounds crude for a person who want to dictate for others first need to live up to his own solution to his dictated problem.

  168. Ralph,

    “So who puts the Foraminifera into the oil deposits, and the fern leaves into coal deposits eh??”

    From what I’ve read, proponents of abiogenic oil believe the foraminifera enter the oil as it moves through fossil deposits. As far as I’m aware, this hypothesis has not been falsified, but it is by no means certain to be true either.

  169. Ralph,

    “So who puts the Foraminifera into the oil deposits, and the fern leaves into coal deposits eh??

    I should have pointed out as well, it is universally accepted that coal is a fossil fuel. It is only oil that has the alternative theory.

  170. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:52 am
    “URR <<<< OOIP if rock porosity is very low. So it happens that the Bakken shale has an extremely low porosoity (which is why it is shale and you can't just poke a pole in the ground and collect the resulting gusher as people were doing in Texas and the Middle East back in the days). Which makes you 530 billion barrels more like 1 or 2, and at a very meager flow rate on top of that”

    More rubbish – your cup must always be half empty, GM. The development of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology changes the game and this, along with the continuing high price of crude, will make the Bakken shale the target of the next ‘black gold’ rush.

    No-one knows how much oil and natural gas the large areas of shale can produce and the experts estimates vary widely. The late Lee Price, who spent most of his career researching the Bakken shale, estimated the yield could be as high as 50% of reserves, while values presented in ND Industrial Commission Oil and Gas Hearings have ranged from a low of 3 to 10%.

    Useful paper on the topic here:-

    https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndgs/bakken/newpostings/07272006_BakkenReserveEstimates.pdf

    I have full confidence that as technology advances our current estimates of what can be recovered from oils shale across the globe will look ridiculously low by 2040.

  171. Bakken recoverable is estimated at about 2% of OOIP, and d on’t expect technology to change that much. The technology is very mature. 10 Gb recoverable – 1/3rd of world annual consumption.

  172. Lets get a measure of the population to help us understand what we are dealing with.

    Lake Superior could hold 90 billion people, 15 times the present pop of earth, each with one square meter to tread water in. The only problem is the transportation to get them there, and of course assuming they want to go there.

  173. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Iron ore, crude oil, natural gas are all resources by any definition I’ve ever heard of, what’s made as a result of processing these things and turning them into useful items are called products.

  174. anna v says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Abiotic oil is nonsense, if oil were produced in the Earths mantel we’d find it in volcanically active areas.

  175. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:48 am
    “[…]So you need an external source of energy/negative entropy to keep things from falling apart. ”

    Bugger. Exactly quantified as usual. But i wanted to say a different thing. I found out who GM is.

    The Ghost of Malthus.

  176. One big problem with food supply has historically been plagues that used to destroy up to 80% of food production. A fast example was the Irish starvation in the mid 1800 when the blight affected potato crops. Today it is unthinkable another event like that due to advances in fungicides and other pesticides.

    But crops are subject to rot and decomposing during storage and transport that can spoil up 60% of production. The only fumigant effective and cheap enough to prevent this has been bromide dimethyl that gets rid of pests. But it has been targeted as an ozone depletion substance and will be banned from use worldwide. We know that the world population reduction lobby was behind the ozone scare (and scam), as it is behind the banning of most useful products, processes and techniques related to agriculture, as pesticides and herbicides, GMO, irrigation, construction of new dams, etc.

    As for soil fertility loss, Argentina and Brazil have been using the tilling method of “surface seeding”, abandoning the traditional deep tilling that involves lots of work, lots of fuel use and double pass of machinery. We are presently planting the seed in just one pass with a very shallow removal of the soil (about 2 inches). This prevents wind and water erosion by a big deal.

    The use of nitrogen fertilizers is not very much extended because of its cost in grain crops, but there are people who use it for expensive crops, especially in “greenhouse farms” producing vegetables. Another great improvement in yields has been the introduction of satellite technologies, where machinery equipped with GPS and computer programs takes the job from human operators and do the job automatically.

    That way, Argentina and Brazil have increased their grain yield and production almost 3X while reducing costs. Actually, the Horse Power input to agriculture has been steadily reduced since the early 70s. But Argentina could produce even more grains, meat, and other foods –only if we had a government that stopped fighting and looting farmers and cattle ranchers. We are the only country that taxes exports up to 50% of the gross crop value while the EU subsidizes agriculture and meat production!

  177. RW says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:33 am

    So far, all eminently sensible. Malthus’ basic principle – as I understand it – was that sustained population growth cannot exceed sustained growth in food supply. One could restate this to say that the population will rise to meet the food supply available, as many examples in the Third World demonstrate.

    Malthus actually looked at it the other way around. He held that population would always increase faster than our ability to feed ourselves. He saw it as a clear mathematical proposition, viz:

    Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio.

    What Malthus never seemed to be able to grasp was that humans create the food we eat. As a result, there is no mathematical reason that food can not increase to match the population increase.

  178. As I’ve said elsewhere, not only was Malthus emphatically wrong, he was also a deeply unpleasant human being. He blamed the poor for their own poverty and opposed any kind of welfare or mass relief since it would only make them even more idle.
    As for the Irish, ‘a great part of the population should be swept from the soil.’

  179. Ian Wilson says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:05 am


    Malthus is much maligned – his theory is sound even if mechanised farming, which he could hardly have foreseen, delayed its reality.

    Malthus’s theory was that human population growth is geometric, while agricultural production growth is arithmetic. Since geometric growth is much, much faster than arithmetic growth, his theory says that population will outstrip the food.

    There has never been evidence to support either of his propositions. For example, geometric growth has a constant doubling time. We doubled our global population in about forty years, from 1960-2000. If growth were in fact geometric, we would expect to double it again, to 12 billion, by 2040 … but no one expects that, or anything near that.

    And since food growth around the planet (mechanized or not) has kept up with population growth, I fear that Malthus’s theory is entirely and completely wrong. Population growth is not geometric, nor is food production growth arithmetic. Not sure how much wronger someone could be, but Malthus based his theory on two points, and both were wrong.

  180. “Benjamin P. says:
    September 9, 2010 at 11:20 am
    @Jimash says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Yeah, okay I will give you methane. We’ve observed that process on earth. But liquid petroleum, I don’t think so. ”

    Thanks. Certainly the classification of methane as a fossil fuel is not unreasonable, as a biological source is easily identified.
    Yet it exists without the biology.
    Whether the same can be said for liquid petroleum could still be a question.

  181. DirkH said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:48 am
    “[…]So you need an external source of energy/negative entropy to keep things from falling apart. ”

    Bugger. Exactly quantified as usual. But i wanted to say a different thing. I found out who GM is.

    Sid I just see some cretin reject the Second law? I never thought I will live to see this day, they never go that far, but there’s always someone….

    The Ghost of Malthus.

  182. Yarmy says:

    “As for the Irish, ‘a great part of the population should be swept from the soil.’”

    So are we back to Jonathan Swift and “A Modest Proposal”?

  183. Willis,
    Population growth and food production do not have to be geometric or arithmetic but they will be roughly the same. They are closely linked because people grow food for their own consumption – directly or indirectly (by feeding cattle for example). More people, more food. The link between population growth and food production is similar to the link between temperature rise and CO2 increase, although the time lag of the former is much shorter :) (couldn’t resist).
    Great work Willis. Enjoy reading your thoughts.
    Malthus did not know that mechanized farming would change food production. He was just another unfortunate soul whose theory was wrecked by the future.

  184. Vince Causey says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:36 am

    The article refers to thousands of papers, not just those of Kudryavtsev. It has already been shown that oil can be manufactured in laboratories using enormous temperatures and pressures, and the chemical reactions are well understood. Of course, none of this proves oil is abiogenic – it merely shows it is chemically possible.

    —————-

    Get and read the book Oil 101, it explain why oil must be biogeneic.

  185. Let me guess .. that upturn in LDC calories in the past 12-15 years is due the the proliferation of McDonalds restaurants into LDC countries.

  186. “It’s people. Soylent Green is made out of people. They’re making our food out of people” – Detective Thorn, Soylent Green

    Sorry, I could not help it after reading the article.

  187. Ralph says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Take the Holodomor, for instance. Stalin destablilises the economic/political system that organises agriculture in the USSR, and up to 10 million people starve in the Ukraine.

    Yes, up to 10,000,000 people starved, in just one small region.

    It was a bit more than simply destabilizing the economic/political system that organized agriculture in the USSR. The famine was most certainly pre-designed, the last scraps collected by armed militia, hiding food was punished by imprisonment and forced labor, people were prevented fleeing by barbed wire fences and the food collected this way was sold on the international market. That’s what happened, a fine act of social engineering.

    It has nothing to do with Malthus, as neither the Bengal famine of 1943 or the post-war German famine, when infant mortality went up to a horrible 60%.

    It is the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-51 that comes closest to a Malthusian catastrophe. Population of the Irish isle even now is smaller than it used to be in 1840, at the same time there are about seventy million people worldwide claiming Irish origin.

  188. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:33 pm
    And since food growth around the planet (mechanized or not) has kept up with population growth, I fear that Malthus’s theory is entirely and completely wrong. Population growth is not geometric, nor is food production growth arithmetic. Not sure how much wronger someone could be, but Malthus based his theory on two points, and both were wrong.

    ———-

    That food growth was possible only because of the growth in oil production, something Malthus couldn’t possibly known about.

    It is interesting that food production in China is getting so far behind that they are buying land in African countries to grow food for them.

  189. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Apparently the authors has zero awareness of basic principles of ecology. You will never do better than the moment when you are in maximum overshoot just before the crash begins. And then, of course, the crash begins, but you’re so deep in overshoot that it’s too late to do anything about it.

    Oh, please. What does “overshoot” mean on a farm? Does it mean that we are eating next year’s crops? And how does that work?

    And why on Earth would things be best at the moment of “maximum overshoot”? My experience on a ranch is that as soon as you start to overload the production of your land, you start to lose yield. Things don’t get better and better until “maximum overshoot”, whatever that might be. That’s a fantasy from an armchair warrior. Things get worse immediately, as soon as you put in too many cattle or plant corn too densely.

    So while you may be an expert on “ecology”, you desperately need practical experience. You seem to be simply parroting what you have read about Malthus. Which is no surprise. You are amply demonstrating what I said above, “He’s like your basic horror film villain, incapable of being killed even with a stake through the heart at a crossroads at midnight.”

    However, if you’d like to defend your claims, please define for us what “overshoot” means in terms of food. Next, let us know how you are measuring overshoot, so that you are able to determine that we are currently in “maximum overshoot”. Then provide some evidence, not further claims but evidence, that things improve during overshoot and are therefore best at the point of “maximum overshoot”.

    Once you have that evidence in hand, you will have a viable hypothesis. Until then, you are just repeating meaningless Malthusian claims in the finest Ehrlichian tradition.

  190. Pascvaks says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:53 am

    (Mea Culpa for the last ‘toooooo tooooo’ near the edge)

    “I Am So Tired of Malthus”
    Everything you said is so true. Unfortunately, nothing we say here will change anything outside of WUWT

    I disagree entirely. A whole host of folks read WUWT, from all sides of every idea and ideal. For every poster there is a hundred lurkers. We’re getting the word out, and to me, that is always an agent of change.

  191. Tenuc says:
    September 9, 2010 at 11:57 am
    No-one knows how much oil and natural gas the large areas of shale can produce and the experts estimates vary widely. The late Lee Price, who spent most of his career researching the Bakken shale, estimated the yield could be as high as 50% of reserves, while values presented in ND Industrial Commission Oil and Gas Hearings have ranged from a low of 3 to 10%.

    ————-

    50% is not possible for Bakken. Even light sweet crude deposits give up only 40-60% with high porosity. The official USGS figure for Bakken is about 1% of the deposit over it’s life span.

    You need to understand, all who question peak oil, it’s not about what’s in the ground. It’s about flow rate and ERoEI. Soon as a deposit costs more energy than you get out of the deposit, it’s game over for that deposit. In the 1960’s EroEI was about 100:1. Today it’s 20:1. The Alberta tar sands is 6:1 (their number) for extraction and production at site, not including local infrastructure and down stream refining and transport. 4:1 is the break even for society.

    Flow rate is also very important. If the decline rate of older fields is greater than the extraction rate of new fields, then we are in an over all terminal decline. No matter how much is in Bakken, or the Arctic or in the “oil” shales of Colorado (It’s not oil, it’s kerogen).

    Soon as net available oil is smaller than demand, then countries will out bid others for that oil.

  192. Enneagram says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:53 am

    During WWII Germans synthesized fuel from mineral carbon and water.
    July 2009 worldwide commercial synthetic fuels production capacity is over 240,000 barrels per day (38,000 m3/d), with numerous new projects in construction or development.

    ————–

    That process is a negative ERoEI. It costs more energy to make that fuel than you get out of it. Society runs on NET energy, not gross energy.

  193. @ Patrick Davis.

    Many Toyota Land Cruisers as well. Hard to gain a feel for an entire country in only one month, I agree. I was very surprised by the amount of food present (given the recent famine in Ethiopia back then) and the high relative number of expensive cars. Mercedes in Addis, Land Rovers and Land Cruisers in the country. Fiats, yes of course.

    I guess the point was there was a lot of money in Ethiopia even during the famine. Food could easily have made its way to the poor and starving, in a Mercedes or a Fiat. But what drives famine is not a lack of food but a lack of money by the poor who are suddenly left with nothing. There will always be more food than compassion to share it.

  194. If widespread starvation does happen it is not due to a lack of food. Just do a 10% reduction in the arms race like was done in the 1990s and you have lots of money to do lots of cool projects like provide clean water, sanitation etc. One thing that the Malthus types always seem to “forget” is that if population is a real problem just raise the standard of living and the population growth rate drops or actually goes negative. Raising the standard of living doesn’t mean up to our level and certainly not with our resource consumption level. Just enough clean water, sanitation, food and shelter would be enough in most places.

  195. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    However, if you’d like to defend your claims, please define for us what “overshoot” means in terms of food. Next, let us know how you are measuring overshoot, so that you are able to determine that we are currently in “maximum overshoot”. Then provide some evidence, not further claims but evidence, that things improve during overshoot and are therefore best at the point of “maximum overshoot”.

    Once you have that evidence in hand, you will have a viable hypothesis. Until then, you are just repeating meaningless Malthusian claims in the finest Ehrlichian tradition.

    This is what I wrote before in this same thread, worth repeating:

    People like Catton have hundreds of years of research in ecology plus thousands of years of human history to back up their predictions. The exact timing of collapse after overshoot will be hard to predict, of course, there are so many unknowns, but it is 100% certain that it will happen. To deny that, you have to deny one or all of the following:

    1. Such things as the laws of thermodynamics and physics
    2. Basic principles of ecology and population dynamics such as the already mentioned ecological overshoot-population collapse sequence of events. Things that have been observed hundreds and thousands of times in the wild and in the lab and are absolutely indisputable
    3. That 1) and 2) apply to humans. This is the essence of the “technology will save us” mantra that gets repeated so often by economists and which the majority here have completely bought into. Yet it all really boils down to denial of 1) and 2) (usually caused by total lack of understanding of those fields, which in turn is caused by the complete failure of our educational system but let’s not go into that)

  196. Ralph says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Think it cannot happen again? Take a look at Rhodesia. Breadbasket of Africa in the 1950s. Change the political system, and the place is now starving. The problem being, the greater the world population, the more will starve to death.

    Place (Zimbabwe ex South Rhodesia) is not starving. It had big potential for starvation but thanks to UN, US, EU et al. help did not starve.

  197. Richard Wakefield,

    “That food growth was possible only because of the growth in oil production, something Malthus couldn’t possibly known about.”

    Eureka! Something happened that an expert couldn’t possibly have foreseen. Do you see a pattern emerging here?

  198. Richard Wakefield,

    “Get and read the book Oil 101, it explain why oil must be biogeneic.”

    I don’t want to buy the book. Can you summarise in 2 sentences why oil must be biogenic?

  199. Richard Lakefield says ” …food production in China is getting so far behind that they are buying land in African countries to grow food for them”.

    Is this because China is facing a shortage of food, or an excess of capital that now allows them the luxury of having other countries grow their food more cheaply than China could grow it themselves?

    This seems to be the way of the world. Work hard, get rich, get everyone else to work for you. Get fat and complacent. The people you hired are one day richer than you. They start the next cycle.

    A fat and complacent China. Now that could lead to a food crisis…

  200. Ralph That has been true of the Western world, but it has not been tried and tested in the Islamic world. Islam promotes reproductive incontinence, as a method of dominating a region, through demographic saturation.

    It’s true that some islamic leaders have made such statements, but facts are that it has indeed been “tried and tested” in the Islamic world, and with great success: The fertility rate in several of the largest islamic countries is plummeting. Most notably, it’s down to 1.7 in Iran, due to very efficient government-initiated family planning. Perhaps even more remarkable: The fertility rate in the vast islamic country Indonesia is now at 2.28 and will presumably drop below the 2.1 level in a few years.

    I suggest that you inform yourself better before you spread BS the next time.

  201. The problem can be summed up in a few graphs:

    Crop yields: http://blog.sustainablog.org/wp-content/files/2009/08/cornwheat1.jpg You can see the start of the green revolution. You can also see that the improvement in yields is still linear even after that.

    You can plainly see, that population growth is exponential.

    Now this is a big old world, and linear production can continue to be higher than exponential demand for a long time – but I will GUARANTEE that over time exponential will always triumph over linear. Always.

    Now there are people who say that population has an S shaped curve, but don’t say why it has an S shaped curve. Under animal populations, it is because they run short of some resource or other (like food or water or breeding sites).

    Some humans may choose not to be fertile. Over the long-run their numbers will reduce (even if just proportionatly), and that section of humanity that chooses to be fertile will overrun them. You can see this in action is many contended areas around the world such as the Balkans, Northern Ireland, South Africa etc etc.

    Peak Oil is also another problem mentioned. If you mention “Peak Oil” and “Reserves” in the same breath, you simply don’t understand the issue. It’s a production issue, not a reserve issue. Imagine I found out an infinitely renewable resource that could be used to power my car – would I be happy? Of course! Now let’s imagine that infinitely renewable resource is actually your saliva. I have somewhere to go – tomorrow – it’ll take 15 gallons – of your saliva – fill ‘er up!

    Oh…and one final graph…

  202. @ vince causey

    4:1 is about as low as we can go and still have enough leverage to enjoy all the power oil allows us to have or any energy source for that matter

    it all boils down to leverage, using 1 barrel of oil to get 4 back provides enough extra energy or leverage to transport, process, distribute, and consume all the products oil is used for and still have enough margin to make it all work

    The higher the leverage the better and we have for a long time now enjoyed some high levels of energy return on energy invested. This is what makes any energy source valuable. This is why oil became so prominent over coal or wood, not just its handling properties but its return on energy used to be quite high.

  203. even if the abiotic oil theory is bunk, there’s an awful lot we don’t know about porosity, and paths to recoverability. Campbell once told me, if it (abiotic theory) is right, then all of geology is wrong. Interesting idea. Geologys only been around for a couple of hundred years, why shouldn’t it be wrong? Geology certainly has shifted its ground (ha ha) When I was at school Geology was quite clear that oil only came out of on end of a syncline, found in Saudi, Texas, one or two other places. Obviously a lot more synclines around these days. AGW has been around for over 100 years, and its wrong.

  204. Vince Causey said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I don’t want to buy the book. Can you summarise in 2 sentences why oil must be biogenic?

    He will do it and then you are going to say “Ugh, I wanna see evidence, not mere assertions, give me peer-reviewed articles”. It has happened to me before here.

  205. “But the notion that ‘vast areas’ are built on is just broken. The entire world population could fit in Texas and Oklahoma in standard suburban homes with large yards leaving the rest of the world empty. If done at the population density of London, it would clearly be far less land. “

    hmmm …

    World Population = 6 billion people
    Land Area of TX & OK = 331,000 mi^2 (US Census Bureau)

    Density = 6 x 10^9 people/ 3.3 x 10^5 mi^2 = 18,000 people / mi^2

    or about 7,100 people km^2

    The current population density of London = 4,800 people / km^2 ( from Wikipedia). So putting one giant “London” over all of TX and OK would STILL provide only 2/3 of the space needed for the world population. We would need considerably MORE room, not considerably LESS room.

    **************************************
    “everyone can have an ocean view condo, with no building higher than about 4 stories (IIRC) and with only ONE building thickness between ocean and backyard. (That is, one end of your condo looks at the ocean, the other end looks at ‘big empty’ inland. No other buildings). The math is rather interesting. ”

    hmmmm …

    World Coastline: 356,000 km (CIA World Factbook)

    6 x 10^9 people / 356,000 km = 17,000 people per km of shore line.
    Stacked 4 floors tall = 4,000 people/km = 4 people/m.

    But the fractal nature would come into play. If the CIA estimate is on a broad scale, the smaller bays and peninsulas could boost this a bit. So perhaps each person would get a meter or two of ocean view to call their own. (Although a lot of people would end up with views of the polar ice cap or inhospitable deserts.)

    ************************************
    Part of the problem with any discussion like this is that people throw around “facts” without any particular backing. If a reference was given or calculations shown, then it would be much easier to accept claims.

    I’ll go back to my own corner of the internet for a while and leave the rest of you to discuss … :-)

  206. For those who are interested, I would say the best book on peakoil is Campbells ‘Coming Oil Crisis’. Its a 1997 book, but the analysis holds good even if thedetail is out of date. His later one, Oil Crisis, while interesting, IMHO, not so good/useful.

  207. I don’t want to buy the book. Can you summarise in 2 sentences why oil must be biogenic?

    ———

    One is the geology. One can usually find the source rock that the oil came from, it will always be biological. See the source rock for Tupi, the “big” find off Brazil. The second reason is many of the molecules in early formed oil, like kerogen, are the same as biological lipids.

    The main argument, in that first link I posted, is that oil at great depth cannot survive the heat.

    Also, oil cannot move into tight formations like Bakken. Bakken is an example of the oil being in the source rock.

    Again, this is an excellent summery of why abiotic is not viable:

    http://static.scribd.com/docs/j79lhbgbjbqrb.pdf

  208. Eureka! Something happened that an expert couldn’t possibly have foreseen. Do you see a pattern emerging here?

    ———-

    No expert can defy the laws of physics.

    Fact 1: Oil is finite because the planet is finite
    Fact 2: Oil is extremely rare in geological terms
    Fact 3: easily extracted oil will aways be consumed first
    Fact 4: less easy oil will be of lower quality requiring more energy to extract and refine than easy oil, and will have a lower flow rate
    Fact 5: the world’s largest fields are all in terminal decline
    Fact 6: new “giant” fields are small. Even Bakken at some 450bb, is only 13 years of world consumption (33bb/year)

    No technology, no “expert” can change any of these.

  209. Ralph says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:13 am
    >>Tenuc:
    >>Nuclear power stations currently produce around 15%
    >>of the worlds demand for electricity
    “Yes, but electricity only accounts for 8% of total energy demand. So nuclear power is still a very small percentage of our power – I make that 1.2% of total energy supply.

    Mike was right, there has been little change in our energy supply materials for two or more centuries.

    Ever more rubbish – looks like you glass is always half full too, Ralph!

    In 2005 nuclear power accounted for 6.3% of world’s total primary energy supply. The technology is proven, is scalable – with enough fissionable material to last for thousands of years. Just need the price of fossil fuels to rise a little bit more and the growth of nuclear power will mushroom!

  210. AGW has been around for over 100 years, and its wrong.

    —————

    AGW has been around for about 30 years.

    There is big difference in the two. First Peak Oil is not promoted by a UN body equivelent to the IPCC. There isn’t billions being spend on peak oil studies like AGW. And there isn’t the political motivation behind Peak Oil as their is AGW.

    Just because AGW is a myth does not mean Peak Oil is. They have to be judged on their own merits. Peak Oil is being written about from a number of independant studies.

    Peak Oil is also far easier to understand than the complex climate system.

  211. William R. Catton, Jr. says:
    September 9, 2010 at 6:25 am

    I am so tired of [snip] who criticize Malthus with statistics about how much food we are producing right now, rather than how much food we will be able to produce in the future and how overconsumption contributes to the degradation of the commons. I suggest you read my book Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change for real insight into this issue.

    I, on the other hand, am tired of Malthusians who ignore centuries of contrary evidence that clearly has disproven, over and over, Malthus’s theory.

    Finally, I started to read your book, and I couldn’t get past the definitions. Here’s one:

    OVERSHOOT: (v.) to increase in numbers so much that the habitat’s carrying capacity is exceeded by the ecological load, which much in time decrease accordingly; (n.) the condition of having exceeded for the time being the permanent carrying capacity of the habitat.

    Now, any farmer can tell you when they have exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. How? The yield starts to drop immediately. Not next week. Not “in time”. Immediately.

    And since we see no sign of said decrease in yield, I say your claim that we are in “overshoot” is nonsense.

  212. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 8:19 am

    People like Catton have hundreds of years of research in ecology plus thousands of years of human history to back up their predictions. The exact timing of collapse after overshoot will be hard to predict, of course, there are so many unknowns, but it is 100% certain that it will happen. To deny that, you have to deny one or all of the following:

    That has to qualify as one of the most inane statements of the thread. People like Paul Ehrlich also have “hundreds of years of research in ecology plus thousands of years of human history to back up their predictions” and guess what?

    HIS PREDICTIONS HAVE BEEN WRONG EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    So I’d say have having research available means absolutely nothing about the validity of predictions. You keep talking about “overshoot”, but no one yet has demonstrated that “overshoot” even exists, much less that it has the properties that you claim it has. More facts and less theory would go a long way here. You may be “100% certain” as you claim, but surely you must know that means less than nothing without hard evidence to back it up.

  213. I always enjoy your posts, Willis.
    When you bring overwhelming facts to bear on a single issue, there’s never any wiggle room for escape.

  214. Ref – Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm
    Pascvaks says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:53 am

    Willis:
    Ok! True enough! When we lose hope, we’ve lost everything. Sometimes I feel like a pauper. But I do think that population and not global warming is what they’re actually so upset about. AGW is a major campaign, not the whole nine yards.

    PS: I too hope and (you know) that the silent multitude who read WUWT are taking away all this and passing it on.

  215. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Now, any farmer can tell you when they have exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. How? The yield starts to drop immediately. Not next week. Not “in time”. Immediately.

    And since we see no sign of said decrease in yield, I say your claim that we are in “overshoot” is nonsense.

    1. Imagine that you remove all the non-renewable resources that you use in order to get these yields – oil to drive the large mechanized equipment, fertilizers (phosphorus and natural gas), pesticides (oil), irrigation (fossil fresh water in most cases), and see what yield will be. So much for not being in overshoot

    2. On top of that, you have completely failed to understand the ecological basics of overshoot and the very simple concept of a time lag between entering overshoot and the onset of collapse.

  216. Willis Eschenbach says:

    So I’d say have having research available means absolutely nothing about the validity of predictions. You keep talking about “overshoot”, but no one yet has demonstrated that “overshoot” even exists, much less that it has the properties that you claim it has. More facts and less theory would go a long way here. You may be “100% certain” as you claim, but surely you must know that means less than nothing without hard evidence to back it up.

    Let’s do the following experiment – I am at the balcony of the 10th floor of a building, you are on the street. I will drop a brick on from the 10th floor aiming straight for your head. How much evidence will it take for you to stop denying the laws of gravity and move out of its way?

  217. Murray Duffin says:
    September 9, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Willis, how do you spell “peak oil”. IIASA assumes no limits to fossil fuels. Oil exports peaked in 2005, and total world oil supply is set to go into decline by 2013 at the latest.

    I spell “peak oil” as “technology plus price”. How much oil is out there? Depends on price. If oil is at $10 per barrel, there is very, very little. At $110 per barrel, on the other hand, there is lots.

    And we are currently burning oil that we could not even access two decades ago, because of the lack of technology. Or for another example, at $100 per barrel, cost-effective technology exists to convert coal to oil. How much oil is there in that case? The “peak” is a function of price and technology.

    Then you say that “exports peaked in 2005″. Nonsense. Here are the numbers:

    As you can see, no peak. Nor have proved reserves fallen. In fact, despite all the oil we pump and use, proved reserves have increased steadily since 1980. From the same source:

    Again, no peak. As much as we have been burning, we have been finding more than we have burned. And bear in mind that these proved reserves are normal oil, and do not include oilsands or shale oil or oil from coal or the like.

    Which is why facts are much more useful than the types of unsubstantiated claims that you are making …

  218. Tom says:
    September 9, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I don’t often look into the overpopulation issue, but from what I gather it’s that the population in the future (9 billion by 2050, the UN projects) that may cause problems. Or maybe not, I don’t know.

    “We have doubled the population and more, and yet we are better fed than ever.” I think you’re making an implicit assumption that because we doubled the population in the past and nothing bad happened, we can increase it by a third again in the future and nothing bad will still happen. I don’t have any data with me but I have to wonder, is that a valid assumption?

    I do not assume that because food kept up with population increase in the past, it will also do so in the future. However, I do say that we have no a priori reason and no historical evidence to claim that there will undoubtedly be problems in the future, as Malthus, you, and many on this thread claim.

    Note that the increase in food per capita is not limited to just the rich countries, nor just to those utilizing modern farming methods. It has been extremely broad, from the rich countries down to the poor countries. So we have not one, but literally hundreds of examples of countries where food is keeping up with population growth.

    So if you want to claim the opposite, that food will inevitably fall behind population growth, you’ll need to explain why it has not happened in the past in hundreds of countries. You are the one swimming against the historical tide, not I.

  219. Willis Eschenbach said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I spell “peak oil” as “technology plus price”. How much oil is out there? Depends on price. If oil is at $10 per barrel, there is very, very little. At $110 per barrel, on the other hand, there is lots.

    Ever heard of net energy? Apparently not. There is a reason why oil at $110 is at $110. Not to mention the flow problem. In other words, call me when you find a way to produce the 1 billion barrels of heavy oil in Orinoco at a rate of 20 million barrels a day. And you conveniently forget that 30 years later it will be all gone…

    And we are currently burning oil that we could not even access two decades ago, because of the lack of technology.

    Yet the majority of our oil still comes from the super giant fields found in the 1950s.

    Or for another example, at $100 per barrel, cost-effective technology exists to convert coal to oil. How much oil is there in that case? The “peak” is a function of price and technology.

    Again, what is the EROEI in this case and how much could you produce in this case. And even if, in a totally unrealistic scenario, you could replace capacity lost due to depletion with coal-to-liquids, what happens to the climate in such a case and how does this help solve the problems with fossil aquifer depletion, topsoil loss, general ecosystem collapse, depletion of various high grade ores, the list goes on. It doesn’t and Liebig’s law (another thing you are probably in complete denial of or haven’t even heard of but which will continue to be as true as it ever was no matter whether you want to deny it or not) will still do us

    Then you say that “exports peaked in 2005″. Nonsense. Here are the numbers:

    Where did you get these plots from? They make absolutely no sense.

    As you can see, no peak. Nor have proved reserves fallen. In fact, despite all the oil we pump and use, proved reserves have increased steadily since 1980. From the same source:

    Again, what is the source? I wouldn’t ask in general, but given that it is a very well known fact that global oil discovery peaked in the 60s, and we are consuming 5 times what we’re finding right now, I have all the reasons to think that you, or your source are simply lying

  220. Berényi Péter says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Ralph says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Take the Holodomor, for instance. Stalin destablilises the economic/political system that organises agriculture in the USSR, and up to 10 million people starve in the Ukraine.

    Yes, up to 10,000,000 people starved, in just one small region.
    _________________________________________________

    The comment, at least by me, was as an example of politicians being the main source of the food distribution problem in answer to:

    Mister Mr says: September 9, 2010 at 12:53 am

    ” Excellent post. As someone who has spent time as a relief worker in some of the worst refugee camps on earth, I can relate from first hand experience that, short of temporary natural disasters, the problem is not that there isn’t enough food… what stands in the way most often is men with guns who call themselves “the government” in these regions…”

  221. I even go so far as to question the groupthink that the world population peak will occur 40 years from now or even later. I cannot rule out the possibility we are at it NOW.

  222. Hu McCulloch says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Sorry, Willis, but I think Malthus had a good (if incomplete) point — with limited land and natural resources and generally diminishing marginal products, the marginal product of labor has to diminish as population increases unless capital (produced factors of production neglected by Malthus) and/or technology increase at a sufficiently rapid rate. Remarkably, they have, but we can’t count on this to continue.

    Hu, thanks for your comment. While that may be your point, Hu, Malthus never said anything even remotely resembling your claim. He said that population goes up geometrically, and food supply goes up arithmetically. Since neither of those is even remotely true, what is left of Malthus’s claim? Nothing. So how can it be a “good (if incomplete) point” when it rests on two incorrect claims?

    Is it “remarkable” that as the numbers of people increase, the amount of food produced also increases? Not at all. What neither you nor Malthus seem to have noted is that, even with absolutely no change in technology, people can manage to grow enough to feed the increased population. Food production is not an independent variable. Food production is a function of population. Given equal technology, two people cannot grow as much food as two hundred people.

    The issue is not technology. The issue is that when people get hungry they do whatever it takes to feed themselves. They plant more acreage. They double crop. They do what they need to do. Which is why even the LDCs, the poorest of the poor, with no big changes in technology, have not obeyed Malthus’s dictum. The population of the LDCs TRIPLED in the last 40 years, but their nutrition did not drop at all, and in the last decade has increased.

    Since according to Malthus’s claim, tripling the population with no loss in nutrition is flat out absolutely impossible, how is his point “good (if incomplete)”. Seems to me like it is both wrong and incomplete.

  223. Willis Eschenbach said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    The issue is not technology. The issue is that when people get hungry they do whatever it takes to feed themselves. They plant more acreage. They double crop. They do what they need to do.

    Only if it is physically possible. If it is not, they die. As has happened countless times historically.

    [snip]

  224. [img]http://www.theoildrum.com/files/Oil%20discoveries.png[/img]

    [img]http://www.theoildrum.com/files/Oil%20production%20plateau.png[/img]

    dunno if those tags worked or not, anyway the IEA disagrees

    so does the basic physics of oil fields:
    regardless of technology they hit the depletion zone at roughly the time where about half the recoverable oil has been extracted, and all oil fields do this, even with tertiary techniques being used from the beginning—that tends to flatten out the production curve but make the crash far sharper when they do deplete

    all the major fields are in decline, the smaller newer ones are no longer keeping up with the decline rates

    and that’s but a small data sample, the IEA has much more, so does theoildrum.com

    another factor in play here is that as the oil export market shrinks the domestic demand of the oil exporters themselves will also climb and since their exports are what is leftover after satisfying their consumption the export market will fall much faster than the world oil production rate………..this is known as the “land export model” credit to jeffrey brown(I think)

  225. GM says:

    “Apparently the authors [sic] has zero awareness of basic principles of ecology.”

    Too funny. GM has it exactly backward. “Ecologists” have zero awareness of the Scientific Method. They’re at about the same level of scientific rigor as astrologists.

  226. On abiogenic oil:

    Later in his life, Tommy Gold promoted another heretical idea, that the oil and natural gas in the ground come up from deep in the mantle of the earth and have nothing to do with biology. Again the experts are sure that he is wrong, and he did not live long enough to change their minds. Just a few weeks before he died, some chemists at the Carnegie Institution in Washington did a beautiful experiment in a diamond anvil cell, [Scott et al., 2004]. They mixed together tiny quantities of three things that we know exist in the mantle of the earth, and observed them at the pressure and temperature appropriate to the mantle about two hundred kilometers down. The three things were calcium carbonate which is sedimentary rock, iron oxide which is a component of igneous rock, and water. These three things are certainly present when a slab of subducted ocean floor descends from a deep ocean trench into the mantle. The experiment showed that they react quickly to produce lots of methane, which is natural gas. Knowing the result of the experiment, we can be sure that big quantities of natural gas exist in the mantle two hundred kilometers down. We do not know how much of this natural gas pushes its way up through cracks and channels in the overlying rock to form the shallow reservoirs of natural gas that we are now burning. If the gas moves up rapidly enough, it will arrive intact in the cooler regions where the reservoirs are found. If it moves too slowly through the hot region, the methane may be reconverted to carbonate rock and water. The Carnegie Institute experiment shows that there is at least a possibility that Tommy Gold was right and the natural gas reservoirs are fed from deep below.
    [source]

    Supporting Dr Gold’s hypothesis are the methane seas on Titan, a moon of Saturn. Did ancient organisms create those hydrocarbons, too?

  227. Willis, I maybe a pessimist (at least in regards to politicians) but I agree with you on this.

    My favorite say for this subject is “LEAD, FOLLOW or get the heck out of the way.”

    Instead we have Donkey’s rears like Paul Ehrlich grabbing the ear of the politicians and preaching “de-development of the USA” or John Dewey messing up the US education system to produce mindless followers for socialism. Despite the obstacles the Malthusians and others have thrown up we have had major increases in our food supply. As a farmer, the only reason I can see for this not to continue is because government and regulations get in the way.

    I noticed a big argument here about oil…
    So how about mini and micro nuclear.

    “Toshiba has developed a new class of micro size Nuclear Reactors that is designed to power individual apartment buildings or city blocks. The new reactor, which is only 20 feet by 6 feet, could change everything for small remote communities, small businesses or even a group of neighbors who are fed up with the power companies and want more control over their energy needs….” http://www.nextenergynews.com/news1/next-energy-news-toshiba-micro-nuclear-12.17b.html

    “In 2007, Toshiba initiated the process for preliminary review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the 4S system, a next-generation, super-small nuclear reactor system, with a view to securing commercialization of the system.

    The targeted date of commercialization of the 4S system is after the mid-2010s. “

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Toshiba%27s_Home_Nuclear_Fusion_Reactor

    Don’t like that one , how about one small enough to power a cargo ship or perhaps a train?
    “John Deal, the Hyperion CEO, says that such micro nuclear reactors should cost about $25 million each. In the U.S., where people spent more energy than in other parts of the world, such a reactor should be able to deliver power to only 10,000 households, for a cost of $2,500 per home. But in developing nations, one HPM could provide enough power for 60,000 homes or more, for a cost of less than $400. This is quite reasonable if you agree with Hyperion, which states that the energy from its HPMs will cost about 10 cents/watt.

    On its home page, Hyperion gives additional details about these reactors and their safety. “Small enough to be transported on a ship, truck or train, Hyperion power modules are about the size of a “hot tub” — approximately 1.5 meters wide…” http://www.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/a-micro-nuclear-reactor-in-your-garden/1089

    Those are just two, ready to run now from a quick look on the internet. The only thing keeping us from progressing is the people who “know what is best for us” and the politicians who believe them.

    “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” — H L Mencken

  228. Smokey says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Supporting Dr Gold’s hypothesis are the methane seas on Titan, a moon of Saturn. Did ancient organisms create those hydrocarbons, too?

    Ancient organisms create oil in the same way as flour creates bread. They are an ingredient, not a manufacturer.

    Organisms are not the only source of carbon and hydrogen, it’s just that on Earth, they are the best concentrators of them. It’s that pesky “oxygen” stuff you see…

  229. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Hu, thanks for your comment. While that may be your point, Hu, Malthus never said anything even remotely resembling your claim. He said that population goes up geometrically, and food supply goes up arithmetically. Since neither of those is even remotely true, what is left of Malthus’s claim?

    Look at the graphs I posted earlier – both are doing very good impressions of being true.

  230. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Jaye Bass said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 10:31 am

    1. It appears that the unit of food produced for each hectare per human is going up.

    It can not go higher than the theoretical limit of conversion of sun light into chemical energy by photosynthesis. and sun light is very limited. So much for your “we can grow as much food as we want” fantasies.

    Once again, GM, you are making claims without numbers.

    Total sunlight hitting the earth’s surface = ~ 170 watts/metre squared

    Energy hitting the earth = 170 W/m2 * 5.1E14 square metres of earth surface = 8.7E16 watts continuous

    8.7E16 watts continuous * 365.25 days/yr * 24 hours/day = 7.6E20 watt-hrs/year

    Humans produce and use about 1.3E17 watt-hrs/year from all sources (renewable, nuclear, fossil, etc).

    This means that our total human energy use, for everything, is less than a five-thousandth of the sun’s energy. So I don’t think we’re near the limit of food production yet …

    Finally, you said:

    So much for your “we can grow as much food as we want” fantasies.

    This is a very bad thing to do. You have invented an imaginary quotation. Jaye did not say that. In fact, Jaye didn’t say anything at all about how much food we can theoretically grow. When someone starts putting words in someone’s mouth, I know that they have lost the argument and are looking for a quick escape …

  231. Jim Smith says:
    September 9, 2010 at 11:23 am

    It is a logical fallacy to think that, because things are the way they are currently (i.e. because we more than doubled caloric production in the past that we will be able to again), that they will continue to remain this way. It is a logical fallacy to think that, simply because Malthus has not be right up to this point, that he will always be wrong.

    I have not said that Malthus will always be wrong. Anything is possible. However, after a theory has been wrong in hundreds of countries over half a century, and after his basic claims (population increases geometrically, food increases arithmetically) have been shown to be incorrect, the odds of his being right get pretty slim …

  232. PAST PEAK OIL PREDICTIONS:

    – 1885, U.S. Geological Survey: “Little or no chance for oil in California.”
    
- 1891, U.S. Geological Survey: “Little or no chance for oil in Kansas and Texas”
    
- 1914, U.S. Bureau of Mines: “Total future production limit of 5.7 billion barrels of oil, at most a 10-year supply remaining.”
    
- 1939, Department of the Interior: “Oil reserves in the United States to be exhausted in 13 years.”
    
- 1951, Department of the Interior, Oil and Gas Division: “Oil reserves in the United States to be exhausted in 13 years.”



    CURRENT RESERVES:

    – 1.3 Trillion barrels of ‘proven’ oil reserves exist worldwide (EIA)
    
- 1.8 to 6 Trillion barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Oil-Shale Reserves (DOE) 

    – 986 Billion barrels of oil are estimated using Coal-to-liquids conversion of U.S. Coal Reserves (DOE) 

    – 173 to 315 Billion (1.7-2.5 Trillion potential) barrels of oil are estimated in the Oil Sands of Alberta, Canada (Alberta Department of Energy)
    
- 100 Billion barrels of heavy oil are estimated in the U.S. (DOE)
    
- 90 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in the Arctic (USGS)
    
- 89 Billion barrels of immobile oil are estimated recoverable using CO2 injection in the U.S. (DOE) 

    – 86 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (MMS)
    
- 60 to 80 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in U.S. Tar Sands (DOE) 

    – 32 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in ANWR, NPRA and the Central North Slope in Alaska (USGS) 

    – 31.4 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in the East Greenland Rift Basins Province (USGS) 

    – 7.3 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in the West Greenland–East Canada Province (USGS) 

    – 4.3 Billion (167 Billion potential) barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and Montana (USGS) 

    – 3.65 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Devonian-Mississippian Bakken Formation (USGS)
    
- 1.6 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Eastern Great Basin Province (USGS) 

    – 1.3 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Permian Basin Province (USGS)
    
- 1.1 Billion barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Powder River Basin Province (USGS)
    
- 990 Million barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Portion of the Michigan Basin (USGS)
    
- 393 Million barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. San Joaquin Basin Province of California (USGS) 

    – 214 Million barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Illinois Basin (USGS)
    
- 172 Million barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Yukon Flats of East-Central Alaska (USGS) 

    – 131 Million barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Southwestern Wyoming Province (USGS)
    
- 109 Million barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Montana Thrust Belt Province (USGS) 

    – 104 Million barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Denver Basin Province (USGS) 

    – 98.5 Million barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Bend Arch-Fort Worth Basin Province (USGS) 

    – 94 Million barrels of oil are estimated in the U.S. Hanna, Laramie, Shirley Basins Province (USGS)
    .

    And the deeper they drill, the more oil they find. The only thing standing in the way of cheap and plentiful oil and gas is the government.

  233. @smokey

    yet US oil production in the US has been declining since the 1970’s as predicted despite heroic and nearly unlimited efforts to stop it

  234. pedex says:
    September 9, 2010 at 11:24 am

    … Malthus was right, he was just a bit premature. Basic physics places some hard limits on what can and cannot be done.

    No, no, no. Malthus was neither right nor premature. He claimed that a) population increases geometrically (wrong) and b) food supply increases arithmetically (wrong), and thus c) population would always and inevitably outstrip food supply (really wrong).

    Where in that is there anything which is either right or premature?

  235. Andrew W says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Iron ore, crude oil, natural gas are all resources by any definition I’ve ever heard of, what’s made as a result of processing these things and turning them into useful items are called products.

    My point is that without technology, no matter what you might call it, iron ore is useless and is not a resource in any sense. It’s just rusty dirt.

  236. If 6 billion could have lived in stone age conditions then they would have so lived. Early death was what prevented it then and we only have the number we have now because use of fossil fuels enabled us to extend average life expectancies.

    With our ingenuity we could support lots more than 6 billion but as it is advances in freedom, wealth and education for individuals means that we are likely to top out at around 9 billion later this century and then start a voluntary managed decline to long term sustainability.

    Acting on Malthus’s ideas then would have caused untold damage. Acting on similar misguided fears now would be truly catastrophic.

    There’s nothing like pessimism and authoritarianism for destroying life and hope.

    We can reach our accommodation with nature in less than 100 years, a mere blink of the eye of history. Sit back and help it happen instead of attempting to destroy all hope and billions of lives along with it.

    So often do the blinkered righteous carry out works of evil.

  237. Z is correct, pressure forms hydrocarbons. But there is still that question about where Titan’s methane sea came from. The anvil experiment is also convincing. Common materials that are found in great abundance in the mantle are compressed to mantle pressures, and ordinary hydrocarbons form.

  238. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Oh, please. What does “overshoot” mean on a farm? Does it mean that we are eating next year’s crops? And how does that work?

    Overshoot on a farm means you’ve used more fertiliser out of that big barn of yours than you’ve bought to replace it. Everything is fine for years until the barn is empty.

    Then things go “not fine” all of a sudden.

  239. out of all his works which are many you are going to cherry pick two and call the entire game and his work bunk?

    please, don’t waste our time

    the basic premises of his work regarding what determines population and carrying capacity are pretty basic and hard to refute, most are pretty self evident actually, even when written in 1798 considering the conditions then

  240. Smokey said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    In response to Willis Eschenbach on September 8, 2010 at 11:30 pm:

    Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach Daily we are deluged with gloom about how we are overwhelming the Earth’s ability to sustain and support our growing numbers. Increasing population is again being hailed as the catastrophe of the century. In addition, floods and droughts are said to be leading to widespread crop loss. The erosion of […]

    PAST PEAK OIL PREDICTIONS:

    – 1885, U.S. Geological Survey: “Little or no chance for oil in California.”
    
- 1891, U.S. Geological Survey: “Little or no chance for oil in Kansas and Texas”
    
- 1914, U.S. Bureau of Mines: “Total future production limit of 5.7 billion barrels of oil, at most a 10-year supply remaining.”
    
- 1939, Department of the Interior: “Oil reserves in the United States to be exhausted in 13 years.”
    
- 1951, Department of the Interior, Oil and Gas Division: “Oil reserves in the United States to be exhausted in 13 years.”



    These aren’t predictions of Peak Oil, Hubbert published his papers later than all these dates except for the last one. Those were estimates of remaining reserves, but they were made at time that discoveries hadn’t peaked. They have peaked globally in the 1960s, which gives you a very good idea, based on past experience in individual oil provinces and countries when the global peak will be. It is not very complicated. And it works, as evident by the fact that Hubbert got the year of the US peak pretty much exactly right.

    [snip]

  241. Willis Eschenbach said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm
    Once again, GM, you are making claims without numbers.

    Total sunlight hitting the earth’s surface = ~ 170 watts/metre squared

    Energy hitting the earth = 170 W/m2 * 5.1E14 square metres of earth surface = 8.7E16 watts continuous

    8.7E16 watts continuous * 365.25 days/yr * 24 hours/day = 7.6E20 watt-hrs/year

    Humans produce and use about 1.3E17 watt-hrs/year from all sources (renewable, nuclear, fossil, etc).

    This means that our total human energy use, for everything, is less than a five-thousandth of the sun’s energy. So I don’t think we’re near the limit of food production yet …

    [snip. Strike two. ~dbs, mod.]

  242. Vince Causey says:
    September 9, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I should have pointed out as well, it is universally accepted that coal is a fossil fuel. It is only oil that has the alternative theory.

    OK, let me get this straight.

    Coal is a fossil fuel – it is produced in the mantle.

    If you heat coal you can get oil from it, as the Germans proved during WWII.

    Oil is not a fossil fuel, because there is something in the mantle preventing the heat from converting the coal there to oil.

    Have I got that right?

  243. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Now, any farmer can tell you when they have exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. How? The yield starts to drop immediately. Not next week. Not “in time”. Immediately.

    And since we see no sign of said decrease in yield, I say your claim that we are in “overshoot” is nonsense.

    1. Imagine that you remove all the non-renewable resources that you use in order to get these yields – oil to drive the large mechanized equipment, fertilizers (phosphorus and natural gas), pesticides (oil), irrigation (fossil fresh water in most cases), and see what yield will be. So much for not being in overshoot

    So now, you are defining overshoot as using irrigation, fertilizer, or oil to produce food? That is the strangest definition of “overshoot” that I have ever seen.

    2. On top of that, you have completely failed to understand the ecological basics of overshoot and the very simple concept of a time lag between entering overshoot and the onset of collapse.

    This is why I asked for a definition of overshoot. Given your bizarre definition of “overshoot” as being exemplified by me using well water to irrigate my backyard garden, you are correct. I have completely failed to understand whatever it might be that you are calling “overshoot”.

    Finally, if using fertilizer shows that we are in “overshoot”, and we have been using fertilizer on our crops for at least two millennia … perhaps you could explain why the “time lag between entering overshoot and the onset of collapse” has been lagging for 2,000 years and counting. Perhaps you could also let us know how we will recognize the “onset of collapse” when it starts to happen …

  244. Stephen Wilde says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    If 6 billion could have lived in stone age conditions then they would have so lived. Early death was what prevented it then and we only have the number we have now because use of fossil fuels enabled us to extend average life expectancies.

    Fossil fuels do not increase average life expectancies. They allow us to feed more people off a given area of land.

    The prize for increasing life expectancy and for breaking the link between increased population density and increased mortality goes to anti-biotics.

    Look at the history around living in ancient Rome for the story of that. Grim is not even close to the word for it.

  245. Smokey, volatiles like H2O, CH4, and NH3 are common in the outer solar system. they’ve been there since dot.

    If abiotic methane was as common as you imagine the CH4 content of volcanic gas, at least in some places, would be significant.

    How do you get from abiotic methane to abiotic crude oil?

  246. pedex says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    @smokey

    yet US oil production in the US has been declining since the 1970′s as predicted despite heroic and nearly unlimited efforts to stop it
    _______________________________
    And the prices have been sky rocketing much to the delight of those selling it.

    pedex, how about looking behind the curtain and figuring out who is pulling the string of government here in the USA and else where???

    As smokey just showed you “peak oil” has been used again and again to scare the public. So how about doing a little reading about Rothchild, Rockefeller, Warburg, Cargill, Maurice Strong, Adnan Khashoggi, the Council on Foreign Relations, Committee for Economic Development, the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council and the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank/IMF SAPs and see how the world is actually run.

    You might want to start with Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

    and World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Structural Adjustment Policies:

    http://www.whirledbank.org/development/sap.html

  247. Smokey says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Z is correct, pressure forms hydrocarbons. But there is still that question about where Titan’s methane sea came from.

    From a star most likely. Everything other than hydrogen and helium are formed by stars. The surface of an expiring star is cold enough not to rip methane apart. A few novae later and you have vast clouds of the stuff wafting across the galaxy.

    There’s a possibility, the large plasma clouds that lay beyond our solar system could also synthesize it – but that’s conjecture at this point.

    Hydrogen is common in the universe, carbon is common and there are a large number of persistantly warm areas in most galaxies. No real surprises there.

  248. Overshoot can be prolonged when significant deletable resources are available, in terms of crude oil we’re undoubtedly in overshoot (and have been since we started using it), oil production will probably be in decine before mid century, the worry is whether or not we’re giving ourselves the time to develop alternative energy sources.

  249. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Finally, if using fertilizer shows that we are in “overshoot”, and we have been using fertilizer on our crops for at least two millennia … perhaps you could explain why the ” time lag between entering overshoot and the onset of collapse” has been lagging for 2,000 years and counting, and you could alsolet us know how we will recognize the “onset of collapse” when it happens …

    Using fertilizer does not mean your are in overshoot. Using more fertilizer (or indeed any resource as it was just an illustration) than you are producing means you are in overshoot.

    Before the 1800’s we used fertilisers from horses, cattle and people. That was sustainable. Looking at the graphs I offered earlier, you will see the very flat line of the population graph. Then we started using guano from the pacific. That was in overshoot as we were using it faster than the birds were producing, and stocks of guano depleted rapidly.

    You should look that up. It’s all about differences between production and consuption.

    You will know about the “onset of collapse” when the resource runs out. In the case of the parable of your fertilizer barn, the “onset of collapse” is when it is empty.

    You weren’t expecting a bell to ring to warn you were you?

  250. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    No, no, no. Malthus was neither right nor premature. He claimed that a) population increases geometrically (wrong) and b) food supply increases arithmetically (wrong), and thus c) population would always and inevitably outstrip food supply (really wrong).

    In this age of statistics, we can demonstrate the first two (as I have done). In this age of mathematics, we can demonstrate the third (expand e^x as a Taylor series and demonstrate that it is greater than C*x as x -> infinity).

    I would never, however, put a time limit on when that would occur.

  251. Gail Combs says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    As smokey just showed you “peak oil” has been used again and again to scare the public. So how about doing a little reading about Rothchild, Rockefeller, Warburg, Cargill, Maurice Strong, Adnan Khashoggi, the Council on Foreign Relations, Committee for Economic Development, the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council and the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank/IMF SAPs and see how the world is actually run.

    You might want to start with Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

    LMAO. We have a person that, on one side, is firmly brainwashed with totally unsupported by evidence conspiracy theories, and on other, uses Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which is about rich countries that have no resources or have exhausted theirs stealing resources from poor countries in order to sustain themselves, to support his claim that those same countries have plenty of resources….

    A truly amazing feat of illogical thinking…

  252. Andrew W says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Overshoot can be prolonged when significant deletable resources are available, in terms of crude oil we’re undoubtedly in overshoot (and have been since we started using it), oil production will probably be in decine before mid century, the worry is whether or not we’re giving ourselves the time to develop alternative energy sources.

    So you say that using oil puts us in “overshoot” … again I have to ask for your definition of overshoot, everyone seems to have a different definition. Iron, like oil, is a non-renewable resource. Does using iron (along with using fertilizer, irrigation and oil as GM says above) put us into overshoot?

    When the natives in Trinidad used the local lakes of tar to patch their canoes thousands of years ago, were they in overshoot?

    Definition of overshoot. Please.

  253. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    So you say that using oil puts us in “overshoot” … again I have to ask for your definition of overshoot, everyone seems to have a different definition. Iron, like oil, is a non-renewable resource. Does using iron (along with using fertilizer, irrigation and oil as GM says above) put us into overshoot?

    Yes, if those are non-renewable resources and you can not sustain the population without them. It’s really very simple.

  254. “Definition of overshoot. Please.”

    Yeah, for clarity we probably should stick to the ecology definition of overshoot which is that overshoot said to have occurred when a population’s consumption exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment.

    So even using the term in the context of human civilisation is dubious unless we can be certain that future innovation to enhance this planets ability to carry humans isn’t possible.

  255. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    So you say that using oil puts us in “overshoot” … again I have to ask for your definition of overshoot, everyone seems to have a different definition. Iron, like oil, is a non-renewable resource. Does using iron (along with using fertilizer, irrigation and oil as GM says above) put us into overshoot?

    When the natives in Trinidad used the local lakes of tar to patch their canoes thousands of years ago, were they in overshoot?

    Definition of overshoot. Please.

    Overshoot is the use of a resource faster than it is being produced. How bad that is depends on its utility and your time-horizon. If you run out of something in 100 years time are you bothered? Some people are – they’re thinking of their children/grandchildren.

    For example: If you have a stock of incandescent bulbs and you’re using them once they’re stop being manufactured, then you are in overshoot with them. If you’re going to run out of your stock of bulbs in 20 years time – then you probably won’t be bothered. Out of stock in two months time, you might be looking around to get a new supply. Either way, it’s not going to kill you – so are you bothered really?

    However, without oil, you don’t make fertilizer, without fertilizer you don’t make (so many) plants, and without plants you don’t make food. Suddenly, that becomes important. Perhaps it will only bite in 60 years time – in which case are you bothered? You might be, you might not be – it’s a personal preference. Hitting in 2 years time – yes you are bothered.

    At the far end of the scale, the sun is in overshoot in terms of the use of its hydrogen stocks – 20 billion years from now it won’t even be a glowing cinder. That’s important, but are you bothered?

    I can’t really see how hard it is to grasp the concept of overshoot. It’s just a drawing down of savings really.

  256. The future isn’t certain, if a decline in oil production is recognised well in advance, and if the decline is slow, there’s every likelihood that civilisation can adapt, develop other energy sources like nuclear (dispensing with the paranoia that exists around that energy source), if the decline in oil production is rapid and it’s total effects not recognised or anticipated, there’s the risk of hikes in the cost of fuel causing economic recession, which itself would cripple our ability to finance the development the necessary energy alternatives.

  257. @ Z says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    “Coal is a fossil fuel – it is produced in the mantle.”

    Doesn’t form in the mantle.

  258. [snip. Strike two. ~dbs, mod.]

    Well, you could have deleted just the offensive words, not the whole post. But that would not have provided enough protection to the person I was replying I guess…

    Still, I will be persistent and will repeat that if to the objection that you can not assume that yields will keep growing indefinitely due to the very real limits of conversion of sunlight to chemical energy stored in carbohydrates by photosynthesis you reply by giving a number for the sun energy falling on a unit of area, then use the whole surface area of the planet (the way things are going we may be able to grow plant on the South Pole, but we won’t be able to pretty much everywhere else I guess), including the oceans (ecosystems, who needs them), 24 hours a day (for photosynthesis, make no mistake) and 100% conversion efficiency (when around 1% in reality and it will never go higher than theoretical maximum of 11%), then you get to be called something not very pleasant

  259. anna v says:
    September 9, 2010 at 1:16 am
    Once fusion is harnessed for production, there will no longer be an energy problem, but an occupation problem.

    I don’t think that will ever happen. To the powers that be, a cheap, clean and plentiful energy source is an abomination. They want to depopulate, and making people’s lives more comfortable isn’t going to achieve that quickly enough for them – remember they are ALL malthusians. That is what they believe anyway. For all we know, they could have the technology already.

  260. “Nor have proved reserves fallen. In fact, despite all the oil we pump and use, proved reserves have increased steadily since 1980.”

    Willis, please read these reports. All your questions and assumptions are answered in these:

    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/GOF_decline_Article.pdf

    http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf

    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/PeakOilAge.pdf

    http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/tiki-index.php?page=Global+Oil+Depletion

    https://www.msu.edu/~ralsto11/PeakOil.pdf

  261. “Coal is a fossil fuel – it is produced in the mantle.”
    No, it is produced from once dence swamp land that has been burried, mostly vegitative in origin.

    “If you heat coal you can get oil from it, as the Germans proved during WWII.”
    It’s not that simple. One of the major additives to coal to make oil is hydrogen, to add to the ends of the carbon chains. Coal to oil is a net negative ERoEI.

    “Oil is not a fossil fuel, because there is something in the mantle preventing the heat from converting the coal there to oil.”
    Oil is not from coal. It’s from marine organisms, completely different origin than coal. The mantle is as much as 75km down. The deepest oil field, Tupi, is only 7km.

    “Have I got that right?”
    You would have if you had done some searching on the net.

  262. Z says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Finally, if using fertilizer shows that we are in “overshoot”, and we have been using fertilizer on our crops for at least two millennia … perhaps you could explain why the ” time lag between entering overshoot and the onset of collapse” has been lagging for 2,000 years and counting, and you could also let us know how we will recognize the “onset of collapse” when it happens …

    Using fertilizer does not mean your are in overshoot. Using more fertilizer (or indeed any resource as it was just an illustration) than you are producing means you are in overshoot.

    You’ll have to explain that to me. How can we possibly use more fertilizer (or as you point out, iron, or oil, or anything else) than we are producing????

    Before the 1800′s we used fertilisers from horses, cattle and people. That was sustainable. Looking at the graphs I offered earlier, you will see the very flat line of the population graph. Then we started using guano from the pacific. That was in overshoot as we were using it faster than the birds were producing, and stocks of guano depleted rapidly.

    You should look that up. It’s all about differences between production and consuption.

    There are two kinds of resources, renewable and non-renewable. Mined fertilizer (e.g. guano) is a renewable resource. Produced fertilizer (usually made from natural gas) is a non-renewable resource.

    From your description of guano, it sounds like you are defining “overshoot” as using a renewable resource faster than it is being produced. Which makes sense, and is definitely possible.

    But if that is the case, it does not apply to oil, or iron, or the like. You say that using oil puts us into “overshoot”, but like iron, oil is (over any reasonable timespan) a non-renewable resource. So are you defining “overshoot” as using any non-renewable resource?

    Definition of overshoot. Please.

    You will know about the “onset of collapse” when the resource runs out. In the case of the parable of your fertilizer barn, the “onset of collapse” is when it is empty.

    You weren’t expecting a bell to ring to warn you were you?

    Nah, doesn’t work like that. The world is a big place. The resource won’t suddenly “run out”. It will become more and more expensive. As it does, alternatives will become more and more cost effective. In addition, advances in technology often allow replacements that were undreamed of prior to the advance. Anyone in 1950 estimating copper usage to wire up the world-wide web would have gotten an answer in megatonnes … who would have guessed that we would be able to replace much of that copper with, of all things, glass? And now much of it is carried by microwave …

  263. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    So here we have a person that, on one side, is firmly brainwashed with totally unsupported by evidence conspiracy theories, and on other, uses Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which is about rich countries that have no resources or have exhausted theirs stealing resources from poor countries in order to sustain themselves, to support his claim that those same rich countries have plenty of resources….
    _____________________________

    And here we have a person who missed the point entirely due to his political blinders. Todays politics is nothing more than people and the money that buys them.

    It is NOT rich countries stealing the resources of poor countries, it is extremely wealthy, influential people exerting lots of control over many countries.

    For example:
    Stan Greenberg’s company, Greenberg Carville Shrum directed Campaigns in 60 countries:

    “As a hired gun strategist, Greenberg—a seasoned pollster and political consultant—has seen it all. In his memoir, he recounts his work with President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, and South African president Nelson Mandela. Through his experiences aiding the leaders in pushing their visions for better and clearer domestic and international policies, Greenberg offers an insightful examination of leadership, democracy, and the bridge between candidate and constituency… http://macmillanspeakers.com/stanleybgreenberg%3Cbr%20/%3E

    Or how about the influence VP of Cargill Dan Amstutz has had? He wrote the WTO Agreement on Agriculture and the “freedom to fail” Act. Most informed farmers around the world hate the mans guts, especially after the food riots in 2008.

    Unsupported by evidence conspiracy theories??? How about several years unraveling the politics behind idiotic food legislation???

  264. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    So you say that using oil puts us in “overshoot” … again I have to ask for your definition of overshoot, everyone seems to have a different definition. Iron, like oil, is a non-renewable resource. Does using iron (along with using fertilizer, irrigation and oil as GM says above) put us into overshoot?

    Yes, if those are non-renewable resources and you can not sustain the population without them. It’s really very simple.

    Yes, it is simple … for example, since we can’t sustain the population without iron (non-renewable), according to you we have been in “overshoot” since the beginning of the Iron Age. And of course, the iron age was preceded by populations sustained using knives and scythes and tools of non-renewable bronze, so according to you, we’ve been in “overshoot” since the beginning of the Bronze Age. And don’t get me started on the Stone Age, I mean, stones are a non-renewable resource too, obsidian doesn’t grow on trees, you know …

    Remind me again why “overshoot” (which by your definition is any use of non-renewable resources) is a bad thing? Because according to you we’ve been in overshoot since the start of the Stone Age, without visible effects, but by gosh the reckoning is going to come very soon, in the year 2030 according to you …

    You know, you have beaten even the Xtians. I mean they’ve only been waiting for two millennia for the second coming of the Big Guy. But you have been waiting for the impending crash due to to “overshoot” since the beginning of the Stone Age …

    In any case, not much longer to wait, for someone like you who has been waiting since the Stone Age, 2030 is just around the corner.

  265. GM says:
    September 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    [snip. Strike two. ~dbs, mod.]

    Well, you could have deleted just the offensive words, not the whole post. But that would not have provided enough protection to the person I was replying I guess…

    Still, I will be persistent and will repeat that if to the objection that you can not assume that yields will keep growing indefinitely due to the very real limits of conversion of sunlight to chemical energy stored in carbohydrates by photosynthesis you reply by giving a number for the sun energy falling on a unit of area, then use the whole surface area of the planet (the way things are going we may be able to grow plant on the South Pole, but we won’t be able to pretty much everywhere else I guess), including the oceans (ecosystems, who needs them), 24 hours a day (for photosynthesis, make no mistake) and 100% conversion efficiency (when around 1% in reality and it will never go higher than theoretical maximum of 11%), then you get to be called something not very pleasant

    You make a claim without showing a single number. I do a back of the envelope calculation to get a sense of it, and you want to call me names for doing so … not polite.

    You sure you understand how this newfangled “science” thingy works? Because so far you’ve put words in people’s mouths, made unsubstantiated claims, pissed off the moderators, and insulted people. That won’t get you any traction here. Even when you are right, when you act like that people won’t believe you. You sure that’s your goal?

    If you think that there is a hard limit to how much food we can raise on the earth, based on the amount of energy coming from the sun, great. Show us your numbers, do your calculations, tell us how much we can ever possibly grow. Don’t forget to include the effect of increased CO2, and the use of greenhouses, and multiple cropping, and reduction of post-harvest losses, improvements in distribution, genetic engineering, and the like … I await your numbers. I don’t think the limiting variable is solar power, but I’ve been wrong before.

    But don’t bother calling me names, that just shows the weakness of your claims.

  266. Z says:
    September 9, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 5:49 pm


    Definition of overshoot. Please.

    Overshoot is the use of a resource faster than it is being produced. How bad that is depends on its utility and your time-horizon. If you run out of something in 100 years time are you bothered? Some people are – they’re thinking of their children/grandchildren.

    Since everyone has always used non-renewable resources, by your definition we have all been in overshoot since the beginning of the Stone Age. Of what possible use is such a concept? It is so broad as to be useless, but it sure sounds impressive.

    Why not just say something like “at present usage, mining, and recovery rates we’ll run out of unobtanium in 2050″? That actually has meaning.

    Saying we are in overshoot has no meaning. Since it applies to everyone all the time you might as well say “we are alive”. It is true, but meaningless.

    The fact that (by your definition) we are all in overshoot adds nothing to our knowledge, since according to you we have been in overshoot since the start of recorded time. It just sounds educated to say “overshoot”, and it has the added advantage of being kinda scary.

    Color me unimpressed. In the 1930s the claim was that we were going to run out of magnesium. People like some in this thread were all on about how little magnesium there was in the mines and the proved reserves back then, and how fast we were using it. (Of course back then they didn’t realize how much smarter they’d sound if they called it “overshoot”.)

    Heard much lately about our “magnesium overshoot”? Ever wonder why not?

  267. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 9, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    “Nor have proved reserves fallen. In fact, despite all the oil we pump and use, proved reserves have increased steadily since 1980.”

    Willis, please read these reports. All your questions and assumptions are answered in these:

    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/GOF_decline_Article.pdf

    http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf

    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/PeakOilAge.pdf

    http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/tiki-index.php?page=Global+Oil+Depletion

    https://www.msu.edu/~ralsto11/PeakOil.pdf

    No thanks, I’ll pass. If you disagree with one of my points, address the point. Waving your hands at a large stack of literature and saying “the answer to all of your questions is in there somewhere” is a useless time-consuming exercise. The fundamentalists do the same thing, come up to my door, wave their hands at the Bible, and say “the answer to all of your questions is in there somewhere”. I tell them “No thanks” in exactly the same manner …

  268. overshoot is using up resources you rely upon to support your population or ecological load if you prefer than what the environment can provide indefinitely

    like any other animal man tends to do the same as any other animal, he grows and out consumes the ability of his environment to support his numbers, overshoot

    It has happened many many times on local scales thru history, now its getting to be global. Should the current supply of needed resources that support our population decline in ways we can’t compensate for then the overshoot is realized. Energy is the number one resource that has allowed man to swell to such numbers. Collectively like other animals man typically does not plan long term or consider the future consequences of actions taken now. We’ve known for almost 40 years now energy was going to be a problem, also known that it would take decades to deal with it. Unfortunately geology and physics don’t bargain or care. Most people refuse to even consider things like this for whatever reason. Maybe its hard to realize we are just a bunch of stupid animals not quite as smart as we think we are. Others fall into the cornucopians that think technology will save the day when it isn’t a technological problem, it is a social problem and behavioral problem. Our own base instincts and behavior are at odds with our own long term future. The oil age has indeed been something special, pity we squandered the way we did.

  269. Depending on renewals is the only way you get a Malthusian crash. When the British started using coal at the start of the Industrial Revolution, Malthus’s theory was reduced to rubbish cause the per land unit food productivity went up…a lot. Now we are seeing population correct itself for some reason. There are several theories why but regardless even high birth rate demographic groups are reducing their birth rate. I think the current estimates are that population will peak in about 20 years.

    Willis is right. Declining resources will first show up as an economic problem. Scarcity will be reflected in price pressures that will cause the scarce resources with alternative uses to be used effectively. If the last 100,000 years is any indication, these pressures will result in new technologies that will keep the train moving. That is how we have survived until now. It is what we are good at. Why suddenly stop a winning strategy and go back to miserable poverty stricken self sustaining life styles? Either we will invent our way out of any coming energy crisis or some few of use will live like hunter gathers…but rather poorly at first since we have forgotten how to do it.

  270. Willis Eschenbach

    Thanks for an excellent article.

    Willis, the problem is the foundation of the ideology of environmentalism is fear and scare mongering, despite contrary facts. What do we have to do to fight this inimical ideology?

  271. Jaye says:

    September 9, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Uranium Reserves

    Outstanding link, Jaye, thanks. There is a particularly fascinating discussion of mineral resources at the end of the paper, a small portion of which I excerpt below (emphasis mine):

    Technology

    It is meaningless to speak of a resource until someone has thought of a way to use any particular material. In this sense, human ingenuity quite literally creates new resources, historically, currently and prospectively. That is the most fundamental level at which technology creates resources, by making particular minerals usable in new ways. Often these then substitute to some degree for others which are becoming scarcer, as indicated by rising prices. Uranium was not a resource in any meaningful sense before 1940.

    More particularly, if a known mineral deposit cannot be mined, processed and marketed economically, it does not constitute a resource in any practical sense. Many factors determine whether a particular mineral deposit can be considered a usable resource – the scale of mining and processing, the technological expertise involved, its location in relation to markets, and so on. The application of human ingenuity, through technology, alters the significance of all these factors and is thus a second means of “creating” resources. In effect, portions of the earth’s crust are reclassified as resources. A further aspect of this is at the manufacturing and consumer level, where technology can make a given amount of resources go further through more efficient use.(aluminium can mass was reduced by 21% 1972-88, and motor cars each use about 30% less steel than 30 years ago)

    An excellent example of this application of technology to create resources is in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Until the 1960s the vast iron ore deposits there were simply geological curiosities, despite their very high grade. Australia had been perceived as short of iron ore. With modern large-scale mining technology and the advent of heavy duty railways and bulk shipping which could economically get the iron ore from the mine (well inland) through the ports of Dampier and Port Hedland to Japan, these became one of the nation’s main mineral resources. For the last 45 years Hamersley Iron (Rio Tinto), Mount Newman (BHP-Billiton) and others have been at the forefront of Australia’s mineral exporters, drawing upon these ‘new’ orebodies.

    Just over a hundred years ago aluminium was a precious metal, not because it was scarce, but because it was almost impossible to reduce the oxide to the metal, which was therefore fantastically expensive. With the discovery of the Hall-Heroult process in 1886, the cost of producing aluminium plummeted to about one twentieth of what it had been and that metal has steadily become more commonplace. It now competes with iron in many applications, and copper in others, as well as having its own widespread uses in every aspect of our lives. Not only was a virtually new material provided for people’s use by this technological breakthrough, but enormous quantities of bauxite world-wide progressively became a valuable resource. Without the technological breakthrough, they would have remained a geological curiosity.

    Incremental improvements in processing technology at all plants are less obvious but nevertheless very significant also. Over many years they are probably as important as the historic technological breakthroughs.

    To achieve sustainability, the combined effects of mineral exploration and the development of technology need to be creating resources at least as fast as they are being used. There is no question that in respect to the minerals industry this is generally so, and with uranium it is also demonstrable. Recycling also helps, though generally its effect is not great.

  272. To a large extent I think we’re talking at cross purposes Willis, you’re saying that technology turns existing material into new valuable resources; I’m saying that any resource is finite – though some more so than others.
    If people assume that ever improving technology will always find solutions to the problem resource depletion they’re relying on a form of faith.

  273. Willis Eschenbach said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    If you think that there is a hard limit to how much food we can raise on the earth, based on the amount of energy coming from the sun, great. Show us your numbers, do your calculations, tell us how much we can ever possibly grow. Don’t forget to include the effect of increased CO2, and the use of greenhouses, and multiple cropping, and reduction of post-harvest losses, improvements in distribution, genetic engineering, and the like … I await your numbers. I don’t think the limiting variable is solar power, but I’ve been wrong before.

    You are getting more and more ridiculous. You were exposed and denying the laws of physics is all you have to say in reply??? Because asking me to show you that there is a finite amount of food that can be grown is exactly the same as denying that the laws of physics exist. No amount of genetic engineering can get you around the fact that food is converted solar energy (for the conversion of which to happen, you need a laundry list of other things, Liebig’s law, you know) and there is a theoretical maximum of 11% conversion efficiency and you can’t go higher.

    The standards of this place must be very very low of people like this are allowed to write posts and my advice is that you carefully consider who you give the tribune to speak and who you don’t if you care about you reputation

  274. Willis Eschenbach said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Yes, it is simple … for example, since we can’t sustain the population without iron (non-renewable), according to you we have been in “overshoot” since the beginning of the Iron Age. And of course, the iron age was preceded by populations sustained using knives and scythes and tools of non-renewable bronze, so according to you, we’ve been in “overshoot” since the beginning of the Bronze Age. And don’t get me started on the Stone Age, I mean, stones are a non-renewable resource too, obsidian doesn’t grow on trees, you know …

    Remind me again why “overshoot” (which by your definition is any use of non-renewable resources) is a bad thing? Because according to you we’ve been in overshoot since the start of the Stone Age, without visible effects, but by gosh the reckoning is going to come very soon, in the year 2030 according to you …

    You have basic reading comprehension problems. Resources can be very abundant and populations sufficiently small for them to continue existing for a long time and not crash due to exhaustion of that resource. However, there is a fundamental principle called the Liebig’s law of the minimum (I know, why do I bother, you are going to deny its existence, if you deny the laws of physics, what else can we expect, but I am still going to try) which states the rather obvious fact that organisms and populations need a long list of things to survive and it is the factor that’s in shortest supply that limits the growth of that organisms/population. For example, you can give a plant all the sunlight, water, nitrogen, minerals etc. it needs, but if it doesn’t have any phosphorus, it isn’t going to grow at all.

    Our problem is that we have greatly expanded the list of factors we critically depend on because the size of our population has grown so much and now when the ones in critically short supply deplete to the point where they can’t sustain our numbers, our numbers will crash. That’s the point of the whole argument.

    P.S. Human populations have been living an inherently unsustainable lifestyle for a very long time, and local overshoots and collapses have happened dozen, perhaps hundreds of times. Easter Island remains the single best example (they had the technology to erect those huge statues, why didn’t technology bail them out of their food crisis?) but history is full of them. Agriculture is totally unsustainable the way it has been practiced by pretty much everyone – if you don’t close the nutrient cycle or don’t provide them from outside (if you happen to live on a river that carries a lot of sediments, it helps a lot), it depletes the soil of nutrients, although sometimes very slowly, or you build up salt due to irrigation and eventually yields crash and the population does too. It has happened time and time again. The difference is that this time it is global

  275. Peak oil !!! Peak anything . . it’s a red herring and utterly meaningless.

    We will use up stuff and find other stuff to use instead because we adapt continually. We adapt faster than any other living thing because of our intelligence , we use that to adapt the Earth to suit us. We grow stuff, we mine stuff, we design stuff and so our developed societies prosper and advance.

    Running in parallel to our technological advance is our social development. Man is constantly upgrading the rules and structures of society and one of the biggest advances has been democracy and the rule of law. Look at all of the underdeveloped countries and they all have deficits in democracy and the rule of law (property rights).

    Right now the developed world continues to underwrite bad governance by ameliorating the effects of bad governance on large parts of Earth by sending food and money. This deprives the very people they purport to be helping by disconnecting the bad politicians from the consequences of their inadequacies and so denies people the ability to replace the crap politicians with ones that will serve them better.

    The CAGW crowd think we should send billions of dollars to bad governments because of perceived damage we have caused. These are the same governments that condemn their own people to poverty and misery not seen in the west since the dark ages. Where on earth is the logic in that?

    Yes everything is finite ultimately as the slide into entropy is unstoppable but to pretend that man , given an enabling environment, is not able to continue to provide a better life for all in the meantime is just silly. The Earths crust is everywhere and between 10km and 100km thick. We haven’t even scratched a tiny scratch of what our bountiful planet can provide and we can do more and more with less and less impact just by using our big brains.

    Don’t forget we are all approaching peak life for we all must die. Let’s not accelerate the process by trying to live in mud huts and eat grass seed in the name of “sustainability” we are much, much better than that.

  276. Keith Battye says:
    September 10, 2010 at 12:41 am
    “Running in parallel to our technological advance is our social development. Man is constantly upgrading the rules and structures of society and one of the biggest advances has been democracy and the rule of law.”

    That “constant upgrading” will be a problem if we do run into peak oil problems, because what it actually represents is a steady growth in the bureaucratic sectors that needs to be supported by the productive sectors, this has been able to happen because cheap energy has multiplied many fold the ability of a few individuals to produce wealth, ie produce food, build houses, roads and cars, allowing a far higher proportion of the population to be involved in making our societies “fair”.

    That “constant upgrading” also represents greater complexity and less flexibility in the way our societies function, so we are now less able to adjust to a rapid decline in the availability of a resource than we would once have been, people now know their “rights” and for many their “rights” probably don’t include having to adjust to unpleasant economic realities.

  277. >>Tenuc:
    >>In 2005 nuclear power accounted for 6.3% of world’s total
    >>primary energy supply.

    You got a link for that?

    In the UK, 92% of our energy supplies are non-electrical. That means nuclear power can only be a very small proportion. That is a fact. (chart 1.2)

    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file11250.pdf

    I am a supporter of nuclear power, but until it begins to power transport and heating requirements, it has a long way to go.

    .

  278. >>Berenyi
    >>(The Ukraine famine) has nothing to do with Malthus, as neither the
    >>Bengal famine of 1943 or the post-war German famine, when infant
    >>mortality went up to a horrible 60%.

    I did not say it did.

    What I said was the greater the population, the easier it is to fall into famine and ruin, when something changes in the system. That change could be political, or climatic, or whatever – but if you have a huge population to feed and the supply is suddenly disrupted, you are in for a mass extinction.

    Huge, dense populations are naturally more unstable and more vulnerable than smaller isolated semi-rural populations. Think about it.

    .

  279. Ralph:
    Less abuse, please.

    Take a look at this league table, and tick off all the Muslim nations.

    http://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?c=ee&v=24

    See what I mean?

    Sigh. Please try to understand the difference between population growth and fertility rate. UAE is on top of the population growth table you link to. Do you know why? Because the UAE has world’s highest net migration rate! The fertility rate in UAE is only 2.42 according to your source (select fertility rate from the drop down menu), and 2.41 according to CIA, i.e. not that much above the 2.1 level required for a stable population.

    When you’ve grasped that crucial difference, I highly recommend reading the following article which discusses the surprisingly fast falling fertility rates in large parts of the Islamic world:

    http://www.wilsonquarterly.com/article.cfm?aid=1408

  280. Espen says:
    September 10, 2010 at 2:09 am
    Ralph:
    Less abuse, please.

    Sigh. Please try to understand the difference between population growth and fertility rate. UAE is on top of the population growth table you link to. Do you know why? Because the UAE has world’s highest net migration rate! The fertility rate in UAE is only 2.42 according to your source (select fertility rate from the drop down menu), and 2.41 according to CIA, i.e. not that much above the 2.1 level required for a stable population.

    Of course, the situation is exactly the same in Yemen and the Gaza strip. People from all around the world are rushing to migrate there….

    Also, it is useful to ask the question why the fertility rate is 2.41 in UAE. Does it have something to do with the migration or not? What is the fertility rate of local muslims vs. the fertility rate of non-muslim migrants?

  281. 2. Basic principles of ecology and population dynamics such as the already mentioned ecological overshoot-population collapse sequence of events. Things that have been observed hundreds and thousands of times in the wild and in the lab and are absolutely indisputable
    3. That 1) and 2) apply to humans. This is the essence of the “technology will save us” mantra that gets repeated so often by economists and which the majority here have completely bought into. Yet it all really boils down to denial of 1) and 2)

    You keep saying this, and it not true.

    Humans no longer obey the rules of biology as they apply to other animals. We practice birth control. We ration resources. We develop new methods. We build new tools. No animal does any of these. Therefore “rules” of ecology do not apply to us – and haven’t since we started to form civil societies. Observations in the wild and lab have no bearing.

    We can learn from observation though – of previous human societies. The rule we learn is that stable governments feed their people. Societies that collapse (Easter Island etc) do so because of war or political collapse. The hunger follows that.

    (We also learn that societies that manufacture constant “threats” in order to force compliance to social norms are extremely dangerous.)

  282. [i]Huge, dense populations are naturally more unstable and more vulnerable than smaller isolated semi-rural populations. Think about it.[/i]

    I’ve thought about it. It’s rot. You might think it’s true. Obviously you want it to be true. But you have no actual proof.

    Famine is almost always a rural phenomenon. More, it’s almost always a subsistence phenomenon.

    Cities imply stored food – since you can never have a city in the first place without it. Stored food means reserves. Cities also means wealth. So you can buy food from somewhere else when local sources run short.

    In order to prove me wrong, give me an example of a heavily industrialised urban society that has suffered famine in peace-time.

  283. Funny, I used to be an avid movie buff, especially sci.fi., Fifth Dimension and all of that, and somehow that one had slipped by… had heard the term many times but just didn’t connect. Well here’s the entire movie for those who might have missed it too.
    Great to see some of the old great actors!

    Soylent Green :

    (… CAUTION…DEFINITELY NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH…)

    Now I get your constant refs to this lately Willis. Wiki’s description just doesn’t hold up to the movie.

  284. I really cannot see any way out of this, except, perhaps, the development of low-cost fusion power — I heard that some are strongly opposed to any such development for precisely that reason — uncontrolled ‘Blade Runner’ style overdevelopment. Of course, there are major unsolved technical problems blocking any such development. Lacking a major break-through, the situation looks bleak. Looking forward, I fully expect that people of the future will regard our time as a golden age of abundance.

    But, I believe, if ever there was a situation ripe for ‘noble cause corruption’ and also regular ignoble corruption, this is it. I think we should be on the lookout for people who might try to use this as an excuse for taking unnecessary action or imposing premature population down-sizing policies.

  285. GM says:
    Of course, the situation is exactly the same in Yemen and the Gaza strip. People from all around the world are rushing to migrate there….

    Of course not, but that’s also the two only places in the Arab world where the fertility rate is still extremely high. Yemen only proves the point about the demographic transitions, it’s a poor and underdeveloped country. Gaza is a real outlier, and I assume the high birth rates (they were even higher just a few years ago) there are really partly a consequence of Palestinian patriotism (i.e. political rather than religious). It’s worth noting, though, that West Bank fertility rate has dropped significantly over the last decade and is now at 3.12.

    The only country which could be considered evidence for Ralph’s theory is Saudi Arabia, where large families have indeed been encouraged, but its fertility rate has dropped from 6.8 15 years ago to 3.83 now.

  286. Spector says:
    September 10, 2010 at 2:51 am (Edit)

    Surely when people look at the effects of previous big ideas . . .

    Removal of South American peoples from existence using disease and violence.

    Selling off your countrymen into slavery.

    Second attempt in the USA and Canada with the same methods.

    Gassing the non us , starting with the Jews and queers, and spastics.

    They haven’t worked out too well have they. The recriminations continue right up to now.

    Any thoughts of a global wide attempt to remove the “non us” must surely in a democracy be stopped quite easily and readily. It just requires credible leaders to tell us to do what we know is right and why it is so.

    We will a life better than the one we grew up in, and we all think our childhood was pretty good . There is no reason why our children won’t be better off than us in time and it will be in a way of their own making. We need to realize that our level of evolved civilization is based on liquid and solid fuels that do us very well. If, perhaps when, there comes a time that our current fuels run out we will either innovate or die back gradually over time following the fuel trendline. Up or down, even sideways , is a choice we are capable of taking without the screaming lies of mad seers.

    Energy got us this far this quickly but we still have some way to go. We still need energy. We need cheap, reliable energy around the world. The one thing that stands out like a dog’s ball is the huge discrepancy in energy used in the first and third world. Instead of choking off energy using the absurd CO2 argument we should be providing widespread cheap energy everywhere. Along with it comes communications and the internet, TV, radio, democracy.

    Coal and gas and oil in say Africa have got logistical issues but small , safe, effective energy units could be distributed easily over a road network that has been kept variably operational since colonialism ended.

    It makes sense in terms of keeping habitat for fauna and flora as it won’t have to be chopped down for fuel, and you can see how it fits together.

    We are all alive today so the food chain is keeping us alive. Time to raise those standard of livings to a level you might recognize. The big brains need to get going on the next big thing, compact distributed energy. The population will come off for all the reasons mentioned above, and we will have a much more stable planet.

  287. Willis,

    “Since everyone has always used non-renewable resources, by your definition we have all been in overshoot since the beginning of the Stone Age.”

    LOL, thanks for that Willis – I don’t think I’ve laughed so much at a post. How pathetic these ‘overshooters’ are. So blinded by their own dogma, they defend their position by appealing to ‘laws of physics.’

    Oil is the most important resource today, and it may run out – leaving aside abiotic theories, we should assume the worst. Oil makes a lot of things – in particular fertilizer – and the thrust of the overshoot argument is that when oil runs out, our ability to manufacture fertilizer goes with it.

    I would argue that it is not oil which is the essential resource, but energy. As long as you have sufficient cheap energy, you can manufacture fertilizer. In essence, fertlizer is a nitrate – no more than the artificial fixing of nitrogen. As the atmosphere is composed of 78% of the stuff, there should be no shortage. With available energy, you build nitrogen fixing plants to make your fertilizers – problem solved. Same with potash – just a chemical compound of potassium. Why all the handwringing and bed wetting?

    Energy will never be a problem, because of the atom. There is enough Thorium to power fission for thousands of years. Fusion is oft derided as a fantasy, but the breakthrough here may come from an unexpected direction – Inertial Electric Containment. The late Dr Bussard spent the last decade of his life on the Polywell fusion project. It is still going forward, and we should know in about another 2 years whether it is viable or not. If it is, the word ‘revolution’ wouldn’t even come close to describing its impact on the world.

  288. Z says,

    “In this age of statistics, we can demonstrate the first two (as I have done). In this age of mathematics, we can demonstrate the third (expand e^x as a Taylor series and demonstrate that it is greater than C*x as x -> infinity).”

    All you have ‘proved’ is that an exponential series increases faster than an arithmetic one. That is tantamount to saying that if Malthus says population grows geometrically and food arithmetically then Malthus must be right because I can prove that an exponential series eventually overtakes a linear series.

    Well, that’s a tautology. Willis has shown numerous times that Malthus was wrong when he said food grows arithmetically. It has actually grown at the same – geometric – rate as population.

  289. Vince Causey says:
    September 10, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Well, that’s a tautology. Willis has shown numerous times that Malthus was wrong when he said food grows arithmetically. It has actually grown at the same – geometric – rate as population.

    The question is whether both can continue growing indefinitely (the answer is not of course). Population has grown at the same rate as food not because food somehow magically materializes out of nothing to feed an ever expanding population but because we have expanded the land we grow food on (at the expense of the ecosystems of the planet), we have used “fossil acreage” in the form of fossil fuels and fertilizers, and we have eaten our ecological capital (overfishing being the best example). Arable land is finite, fossil fuels are finite, reserves of concentrated phosphorus are finite, and if we destroy our ecological capital, it will catch up with us eventually. So there you have some very real limits to growth.

    As I will not get tired of repeating, the above isn’t up for dispute, it follows directly from the laws of physics, and in the case of the impossibility of infinite growth in a finite system, from simple mathematics. If you deny that, you are , and that’s not up for dispute either.

  290. Ralph says:
    September 10, 2010 at 1:19 am

    I am a supporter of nuclear power, but until it begins to power transport and heating requirements, it has a long way to go.
    __________________________________________________
    Nuclear already supplies the energy to run the heat pump I used to heat and A/C my home, so yes nuclear can provide heat. (I can see the nuclear plant out my window as I type)

    We already know nuclear powered subs have been around for years, so how about commercial nuclear plants small enough to power a cargo ship or perhaps a train?

    “John Deal, the Hyperion CEO, says that such micro nuclear reactors should cost about $25 million each. In the U.S., where people spent more energy than in other parts of the world, such a reactor should be able to deliver power to only 10,000 households, for a cost of $2,500 per home. But in developing nations, one HPM could provide enough power for 60,000 homes or more, for a cost of less than $400. This is quite reasonable if you agree with Hyperion, which states that the energy from its HPMs will cost about 10 cents/watt.

    On its home page, Hyperion gives additional details about these reactors and their safety. “Small enough to be transported on a ship, truck or train, Hyperion power modules are about the size of a “hot tub” — approximately 1.5 meters wide…” http://www.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/a-micro-nuclear-reactor-in-your-garden/1089

    Perhaps the plan is to boost the cost of oil and coal so high via tax that the cost of micro nuclear plants becomes economical to train corporations and shipping lines. We are eventually going to go nuclear. Wind, Solar, and biofuel cost more in CO2 (a measure of energy) than they will return in real life applications and the general public will figure out they have been had.

    WIND POWER FRAUD: WHY WIND WON’T WORK by Charles S. Opalek, PE
    (For those who do not know PE means he is a licensed Professional Mechanical Engineer and therefore is open to lawsuits.)

    http://www.windpowerfraud.com/

    Charles Opalek states:
    “Solar pv energy has an EROEI ratio of 0.48 (www.dieoff.org/pv.htm). That is: In the lifetime of a solar pv installaton it will only return 48% of the energy that went into its manufacture, installation and operation. What a colossal waste of my electric bill dollars and taxpayer money.

    Wind power is worse. It’s EROEI by my calculations is 0.29.”

    http://www.smartpowercommunity.com/2010/03/petra-solar-distributed-pv-mounted-on-existing-power-pole/

    “…Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Berkeley, conducted a detailed analysis of the energy input-yield ratios of producing ethanol from corn, switch grass and wood biomass as well as for producing biodiesel from soybean and sunflower plants. Their report is published in Natural Resources Research (Vol. 14:1, 65-76) …. “The United State desperately needs a liquid fuel replacement for oil in the near future,” says Pimentel, “but producing ethanol or biodiesel from plant biomass is going down the wrong road, because you use more energy to produce these fuels than you get out from the combustion of these products….” http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/july05/ethanol.toocostly.ssl.html

    The back to nature – technology is evil types are now going to jump on me refuting this. Of course it is always easy to prove biofuel (or solar or wind) works, you just have to leave out some of the energy input sources.

    You do not like oil/coal? Then push your government representatives toward nuclear. I can guarantee you will not like living a 13th century lifestyle for the rest of your life.

  291. I still opt for uncorrupted and intelligent government by and for the people as the primary driver of a well-ordered, well fed and well cared-for society. Malthus is provably incorrect and I have no idea why ideologues such as the intemperate GM persist in silly revionism. Malthus and his theories are dead – leave them in the past where they bleong.

  292. “No thanks, I’ll pass. If you disagree with one of my points, address the point. ”

    Interesting you are unwilling to look at the evidence, you could at least read the abstracts.

    Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production
    Published in Energy Policy
    Volume 37, Issue 6, June 2009, Pages 2262-2272

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2009.02.020

    Abstract
    The most important contributors to the world’s total oil production are the giant oil fields. Using a comprehensive database of giant oil field production, the average decline rates of the world’s giant oil fields are estimated. Separating subclasses was necessary, since there are large differences between land and offshore fields, as well as between non-OPEC and OPEC fields. The evolution of decline rates over past decades includes the impact of new technologies and production techniques and clearly shows that the average decline rate for individual giant fields is increasing with time. These factors have significant implications for the future, since the most important world oil production base – giant fields – will decline more rapidly in the future, according to our findings. Our conclusion is that the world faces an increasing oil supply challenge, as the decline in existing production is not only high now but will be increasing in the future.

    Joint Opperating Environment
    February 18, 2010
    Government requests for the final approved document must be referred to:
    United States Joint Forces Command
    Pg 24:
    To meet even the conservative growth rates posited in the economics section, global energy production would need to rise by 1.3% per year. By the 2030s, demand is estimated to be nearly 50% greater than today. To meet that demand, even assuming more effective conservation measures, the world would need to add roughly the equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s current energy production every seven years.

    Global Oil Depletion
    An assessment of the evidence for a near-term peak in global oil production
    Executive Summary:
    1. The mechanisms leading to a ‘peaking’ of conventional oil production are well
    understood and provide identifiable constraints on its future supply at both the regional and global level.
    • Oil supply is determined by a complex and interdependent mix of ‘above-ground’ and
    ‘below-ground’ factors and little is to be gained by emphasising one set of variables
    over the other. Nevertheless, fundamental features of the conventional oil resource
    Global Oil Depletion: An assessment of the evidence for a near-term peak in global oil production make it inevitable that production in a region will rise to a peak or plateau and ultimately decline. These features include the production profile of individual fields, the concentration of resources in a small number of large fields and the tendency to discover and produce these fields relatively early. This process can be modelled and the peaking of conventional oil production can be observed in an increasing number of regions around the world.

    The Oil Crunch
    A wake-up call for the UK economy Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security
    Second report of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security (ITPOES)
    February 2010

    Has a nice display of graphs that counter the graphs you posted.

  293. GM,

    “The question is whether both [population and food] can continue growing indefinitely (the answer is not of course). ”

    I don’t think anybody here would disagree with that. But we aren’t arguing that populations can grow indefinately. Let’s stick with the UN estimates of population peaking at about 9bn before declining. That’s a 50% increase from here – less than one more doubling.

    “we have used “fossil acreage” in the form of fossil fuels and fertilizers.”

    This implies that we can’t make fertlizers without fossil fuels. Explain to me why we cannot fix nitrogen from the air into nitrates as long as sufficient nuclear energy is available.

  294. “Saying we are in overshoot has no meaning. Since it applies to everyone all the time you might as well say “we are alive”. It is true, but meaningless. ”

    There are regions that are in overshoot. We send food aid to African countries. Regardless of the reason, if they cannot produce enough of their own food, they are in overshoot. Cuba, the bastion of sustainability, has to import 80% of it’s food or they will starve. They are in overshoot. Temporate regions, like Russia, Canada, the upper US states, have to have food imported from around the world to maintain the food supply. They are in overshoot.

    All of those local areas that are reliant on food importation because it is physically impossible for them to grow their own food locally are being kept from starvation because of oil — transporting food.

    Once oil goes into terminal decline, most of the planet’s population will be beyond the carrying capacity of their region.

  295. “This implies that we can’t make fertlizers without fossil fuels. Explain to me why we cannot fix nitrogen from the air into nitrates as long as sufficient nuclear energy is available.”

    It has to do with net energy. Net energy is everything. Sure it is very likely that we can produce nitrates from the N2 in the air. But at what costs? How much time and process is there to do that? Can it be done in the quantities (volume) required? Potash is the easiest cheapest way to fix nitrogen, which is why countries like China are buying up as much of it around the world as they can, often out bidding the US.

    The other question is, can such process go from experimentation to mass production in a short enough time? How many nuke plants would be needed to make the volume required?

    It’s easy to throw suggestions out, it gets much more difficult to actually put it in place. Example, the USDE wants 20% of power from wind by 2030, just 20 years from now. Sounds reasonable until you discover that they would have produce wind turbines at a rate of 16% per year, which in the last year would mean 550 turbines PER DAY being built for a total of 1.5 MILLION turbines. Then it no longers looks viable. Same with your suggestion. Work out the details of how it would have to be achieved.

  296. Vince Causey said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 10, 2010 at 6:46 am

    This implies that we can’t make fertlizers without fossil fuels. Explain to me why we cannot fix nitrogen from the air into nitrates as long as sufficient nuclear energy is available.

    Because sufficient nuclear energy isn’t available and the projected time of its availability is a few decades after it’s too late (in the best case scenario)

  297. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 6:44 am
    “No thanks, I’ll pass. If you disagree with one of my points, address the point. ”

    Interesting you are unwilling to look at the evidence, you could at least read the abstracts.

    In the next thread you see him in he is going to ask you for peer-reviewed evidence, I am willing to bet on it.

  298. Alexander K says:
    September 10, 2010 at 6:43 am
    I still opt for uncorrupted and intelligent government by and for the people as the primary driver of a well-ordered, well fed and well cared-for society.

    And how exactly you’re going to get that with the current level of general education and awareness of the population? Enlighten us.

    Democracy only works if the people in it have achieved a certain level of intellectual development, education and possess sufficient information to be able to take adequate decisions. Those conditions aren’t met anywhere in the world right now, it’s better in some places, worse in others, but in general it is either sliding into complete chaos or towards idiocracy.

  299. Uranium Reserves – I make that to be 80 years supply at present use rates. Not so good. But we do have more thorium.

    “Nor have proved reserves fallen. In fact, despite all the oil we pump and use, proved reserves have increased steadily since 1980.” Willis, actually proved reserves declined for nearly 2 decades until Canada decided to reclassify tar sands as proved reserves a few years back. For sure the oil is there and it is recoverable, but we are back to “stocks and flows”. Readily and rapidly recoverable reserves are still falling.

    Vince Causey – You are right that energy is the problem, and there is no shortage of energy available. However we will have real and damaging shortage of our most commonly used energy today well before we do the necessary to harness substitutes, and if we wait long enough the shortage will make it more difficult to harness the substitutes. the certainty of so many contributors here that there is no problem is the biggest reason that we will have a problem, because that false certainty ensures that we will not address the problem before it becomes a crisis.

  300. GM is continuously creating straw men, unfortunately since the world of ideas is basically infinite we won’t have the luxury of on “overshoot” wrt to his posts.

    He is mostly arguing a tautology. Yes we all know there are finite resources. However population is set to roll over and start decreasing. Prices will put pressure on certain kinds of activities. I think it is just as reasonable to say that we will adapt smoothly (or at least non-catastrophically) as it is to say that some sort of undefined crash will occur sometime in the future. Dates and sequence of events have not been offered just possibility of dire consequences…very easy things to do, doesn’t take a whole lot of thought or creativity, etc.

  301. By the 2030s, demand is estimated to be nearly 50% greater than today. To meet that demand, even assuming more effective conservation measures, the world would need to add roughly the equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s current energy production every seven years.

    Then by definition demand will not reach those estimates.

  302. Wakefield,

    Your claims about the upper midwest are fantastical. From the Department of Commerce:

    Foods, feeds, and beverages represented $108.4 billion of U.S. exports in 2008, and was the second largest export growth category (end-use) for the U.S., with exports rising $24.2 billion (or 28.7 percent) over 2007. The U.S. trade surplus in foods, feeds, and beverages rose $16.8 billion to reach $19.4 billion in 2008, up from a surplus of $2.6 billion in 2007.

    The top growth categories for foods, feeds, and beverages in 2008 were soybeans (up $5.6 billion), meat and poultry (up $3.7 billion), corn (up $3.4 billion), and wheat (up $3.0 billion).

  303. Ralph says:
    September 9, 2010 at 10:13 am
    [Tenuc: Nuclear power stations currently produce around 15% of the worlds demand for electricity…]

    Ralph: “Yes, but electricity only accounts for 8% of total energy demand. So nuclear power is still a very small percentage of our power – I make that 1.2% of total energy supply.

    Mike was right, there has been little change in our energy supply materials for two or more centuries.

    Tenuc: Ever more rubbish – looks like you glass is always half full too, Ralph! In 2005 nuclear power accounted for 6.3% of world’s total primary energy supply. The technology is proven, is scalable – with enough fissionable material to last for thousands of years. Just need the price of fossil fuels to rise a little bit more and the growth of nuclear power will mushroom!

    Ralph: You got a link for that?

    In the UK, 92% of our energy supplies are non-electrical. That means nuclear power can only be a very small proportion. That is a fact. (chart 1.2)

    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file11250.pdf

    I am a supporter of nuclear power, but until it begins to power transport and heating requirements, it has a long way to go.

    Tenuc: Here you go Ralph, the link to the 6.3% nuclear quote.

    “Key World Energy Statistics 2007″ (PDF). International Energy Agency. 2007.

    http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2007/key_stats_2007.pdf

    Nuclear is already used as a motive power source for shipping – electricity produced is also being used for domestic and industrial heating. Nextgen nuclear micro-power reactors are being designed and tested which are delivered as a fuelled, ready to use sealed containerised package for small scale industrial and group domestic use.

    Nuclear energy is ready to fly once electricity from fossil fuel becomes more expensive per kilowatt hour.

  304. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 6:51 am
    “There are regions that are in overshoot. We send food aid to African countries. Regardless of the reason, if they cannot produce enough of their own food, they are in overshoot.

    The reason is very important and has nothing to do with your mythical ‘overshoot’ conjecture. These countries are in debt to the world bank and part of the deal to pay back the debt is to use agricultural land for cash crops, like tea, coffee, out of season/exotic vegetables and fruit for the appetites of the West. The best and most productive land goes to provide luxuries for the rich – the despots running the countries prosper – the ordinary people starve and have large families to ensure at least a few will carry on their lineage.

    This is a political problem, not a ‘peak’ anything or ‘overshoot’ issue.

  305. Jaye Bass said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 10, 2010 at 7:30 am

    GM is continuously creating straw men, unfortunately since the world of ideas is basically infinite we won’t have the luxury of on “overshoot” wrt to his posts.

    He is mostly arguing a tautology. Yes we all know there are finite resources. However population is set to roll over and start decreasing. Prices will put pressure on certain kinds of activities. I think it is just as reasonable to say that we will adapt smoothly (or at least non-catastrophically) as it is to say that some sort of undefined crash will occur sometime in the future. Dates and sequence of events have not been offered just possibility of dire consequences…very easy things to do, doesn’t take a whole lot of thought or creativity, etc.

    Sigh…

    Let me try to explain it once again. There are three main questions the answers to which filter out the lunatics from the sane people:

    1. Is infinite growth possible? Obviously not. You concede that much. The likes of Julian Simon reject even this though, those are the most deranged type of people in the conversation and based on what I’ve seen in this thread (rejection of the 2nd law for example), plenty of them are here too. However, if we assume that those people weren’t in the conversation, and it wasn’t necessary to deal with them, even though this is not case, a clear implication of the impossibility of infinite growth is that growth has to stop at some point. Which poses the very serious question of how and when do we do that given that our whole socioeconomic system is predicated in infinite growth and will fall apart without growth, even if there is enough for everyone to be fed and clothed. This means that a complete redesign of the socioeconomic system is absolutely necessary at some point in the future, no matter how much resources are available, or the system will collapse, yet such a thing isn’t at all up for discussion right now, and given how quick people are to call you a communist, fascist and other such terms if you dare to point this out, it is unlikely it will be in the future. Which means that overshoot and collapse are virtually certain at some point.

    2. Which leads to the second and third questions – if overshoot and collapse are certain, when are they going to happen? And are we in overshoot now? It is hard to say when the collapse will occur because there is so much nonlinearity and unknown variables in the system. But it is very much possible to say whether we are in overshoot now and based on that to give a ballpark figure for the time of the collapse. When predictions (and a lot of those weren’t predictions, but rather scenarios, which were conveniently labeled as predictions in order to give the appearance of “falsification” to the limits to growth) were made back in the days, such crucial parameters as the size of oil reserves, the Green revolution, etc. weren’t known. Now we have a much better information and we can be pretty certain that Peak Oil is already here and that we have or will soon have peaked with respect to a number of other non renewable resources (uranium for conventional reactors among them), that the oceans are dying, that we’re losing topsoil at disastrous rates and that we’ll be out of fossil aquifers in many of the main agricultural regions of the world in the not so distant future. We also have basically zero breeder and thorium reactors working right now, with decades of research needed to make them commercially operational, and it is much longer for fusion, if fusion is at all possible (which is not at all certain). Of course, I am going to get an avalanche of requests for references for these claims now, I am not going to waste my time doing it because it is not my job to fix the lapses in your reading discipline and general education, and in fact a lot of such references were already posted by the other. Suffice to say that based on the outlook of things right now, it is pretty much certain that whatever technofix is proposed that’s currently in vaporware, will not be available until a few decades after the onset of collapse. At which point it will be way too late – remember that we also have the social expectations for uninterrupted growth and prosperity. What happens to social order when those aren’t met and it becomes clear to everyone that they aren’t ever going to be met?

    If we restricted consumption, made a concerted effort to reduce population and invested all available resources in technology development, we may have been able to come up with a technofix. But because those are precisely the things that no cornucopian ever wants to hear about, we will default to the tried and true method of using up everything as fast as possible until the four horsemen fix it for us.

  306. “Your claims about the upper midwest are fantastical. ”

    All farmed, harvested, processed and shipped to market by oil.

  307. Jaye Bass says:
    September 10, 2010 at 8:06 am
    Now the more I read about Thorium, the more I think that Rich and GM are complete blowhards.

    ——–

    It has potential. But from experimental reactor to mass production of hundreds needed to replace oil is a big gap, and time is running out.

  308. Murray Duffin,

    “the certainty of so many contributors here that there is no problem is the biggest reason that we will have a problem, because that false certainty ensures that we will not address the problem before it becomes a crisis.”

    I agree that when everyone believes something will (or won’t) happen, the opposite usually does. Just like when everyone thinks house prices will go up for ever . . . well you know the rest.

    However, it is not the sentiment of people on this blog that counts, but the aggregate sentiment of all human beings. And that appears to be the opposite. There is no shortage of the neo Malthusian mindset: peak oil, population bombs, ecological overshoots, mineral exhaustion; enviromental NGO’s lobbying governments, Princes touring their country pleading for a return to sustainability. You can’t open a newspaper (especially the Guardian or Independent) or tune in to a National Geographic production to hear more of the same. So your theory of sentiment is correct – its just that the conclusion that we should draw is the opposite.

  309. GM

    “Because sufficient nuclear energy isn’t available and the projected time of its availability is a few decades after it’s too late (in the best case scenario).”

    What date did you have in mind?

  310. Richard Wakefield,

    “Sure it is very likely that we can produce nitrates from the N2 in the air. But at what costs? How much time and process is there to do that? Can it be done in the quantities (volume) required?”

    I never said it would be easy, but the oil is not going to run out overnight. Scarcity will generate price signals that will lead to a switch towards nuclear power. Of course it will be expensive. Can it be done in the quantities required? I don’t know because I don’t know how much time we will have before oil runs out. But some people here seem to be writing us off without a fight, claiming that it is impossible for humans to go on – the writing is already on the wall and the end is nigh. I say that is an even more dogmatic stance.

  311. The demand for fuel and food will determine the amount produced, unless government intereferes.

    It’s a very simple equation.

  312. whole socioeconomic system is predicated in infinite growth and will fall apart without growth, even if there is enough for everyone to be fed and clothed. This means that a complete redesign of the socioeconomic system is absolutely necessary at some point in the future, no matter how much resources are available, or the system will collapse, yet such a thing isn’t at all up for discussion right now, and given how quick people are to call you a communist, fascist and other such terms if you dare to point this out, it is unlikely it will be in the future. Which means that overshoot and collapse are virtually certain at some point.

    No our system is based on price pressures and innovation to get around said price pressure. You are very sure of yourself not willing to account for any possibility of error. Usually a bad sign, a sign of religious fervor. My main hypothesis is that central planning will not result in the kind of effective change that will eventually be required. Only innovation and free trade coupled with price pressures will accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

    The bit about “scenarios” was particularly specious.

  313. Tenuc says:
    September 10, 2010 at 8:37 am

    The reason is very important and has nothing to do with your mythical ‘overshoot’ conjecture. These countries are in debt to the world bank and part of the deal to pay back the debt is to use agricultural land for cash crops…
    _________________________________________________
    Thank you for pointing that out. Despite GM calling me a “conspiracy nut” it is pretty hard to ignore the fact that not only in poor countries but also in first world countries, independent farmers, with malice aforethought, are being driven from productive land.

    Here is the first hand account from Sir Julian Rose who attended a European Union committee meeting.

    “Through the auspices of a senior civil servant in Warsaw, Jadwiga and I were able to address a meeting with the Brussels-based committee responsible for negotiating Poland’s agricultural terms of entry into the EU… the chair-lady said: “I don’t think you understand what EU policy is… To do this it will be necessary to shift around one million farmers off the land.. The remaining farms will be made competitive with their counterparts in western Europe.”

    There in a nutshell you have the whole tragic story of the clinically instigated demise of European farming over the past three decades. We protested that with unemployment running at 20 percent how would one provide jobs for another million farmers dumped on the streets of Warsaw? This was greeted with a stony silence, eventually broken by a lady from Portugal, who rather quietly remarked that since Portugal joined the European Union, 60 percent of small farmers had already left the land. “The European Union is simply not interested in small farms,” she said.

    What these corporations want is to get their hands on Poland’s relatively unspoiled work force and land resources…

    Farmers, however, stand in the way of land acquisitions; so they are best removed. Corporations thus join with the EU in seeing through their common goals and set about intensively lobbying national government to get the right regulatory conditions to make their kill…. The so-called global food economy is in reality the instrument of a relatively small number of very wealthy transnational corporations. http://www.i-sis.org.uk/savePolishCountryside.php

    The World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Agriculture written by a grain trader, Dan Amstutz, VP of Cargill, is the major weapon used against the poor worldwide.

  314. Jaye Bass says:
    September 10, 2010 at 8:06 am
    Now the more I read about Thorium, the more I think that Rich and GM are complete blowhards.

    ——–
    Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 8:50 am
    It has potential. But from experimental reactor to mass production of hundreds needed to replace oil is a big gap, and time is running out.
    _______
    So lobby your politicians and spread the word. Mini and micro reactors are ready to go NOW if the blasted politicians and eco-whiners would just get out of the way.

    France used the exact same nuclear technology the USA abandaned safely for years (yes you can recycle)

    “…The 4S (Super-safe, Small, and Simple), jointly developed by Toshiba and the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI), a Japanese electric power industry R&D institute, is a new-type of highly compact nuclear power generation system with a power output of about 10-megawatt (MWe). Due to its innovative design and concept, the 4S can operate without refueling for as long as 30 years, greatly alleviating operating and maintenance costs and enhancing operational safety. This feature positions 4S as a promising alternative power solution for distributed, relatively small-scale power requirements, in regions with limited or no transmission capacity.

    In 2007, Toshiba initiated the process for preliminary review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the 4S system, a next-generation, super-small nuclear reactor system, with a view to securing commercialization of the system.

    The targeted date of commercialization of the 4S system is after the mid-2010s.

    Thank you very much again for your invitation and understanding.

    Sincerely,
    Hiroko Mochida
    Toshiba CCO

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Toshiba%27s_Home_Nuclear_Fusion_Reactor

    Good information from a commenter here at WUWT – safety type for Nuclear –

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/tips-notes-to-wuwt/#comment-443999

    Nuclear Recycling:

    http://www.usnuclearenergy.org/PDF_Library/_GE_Hitachi%20_advanced_Recycling_Center_GNEP.pdf

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT NUCLEAR ENERGY

    http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/nuclear-faq.html

  315. Vince Causey says:
    September 10, 2010 at 9:23 am
    I never said it would be easy, but the oil is not going to run out overnight. Scarcity will generate price signals that will lead to a switch towards nuclear power. Of course it will be expensive. Can it be done in the quantities required? I don’t know because I don’t know how much time we will have before oil runs out. But some people here seem to be writing us off without a fight, claiming that it is impossible for humans to go on – the writing is already on the wall and the end is nigh. I say that is an even more dogmatic stance.

    ————–

    Oil won’t run out soon. You are correct about the economic consequences hitting first due to high energy costs. The likely scenario isn’t one of a punctuation collapse over night, but a prolonged seesaw drop of recession, a bit of recovery, then deep recession. As both debt and energy depletion take effect.

    It won’t be equal around the world. Once China and India out bid the US for oil, then the US will start to see a supply shortfall even without oil prices going through the roof. Simply because the US won’t have the monitary ability to buy the needed oil.

    This means if there isn’t oil available for economic expansion in the US, that means economic contraction in the US (and the resulting civil unrest) and hence the US’s ability to mitigate the effects of oil shortage will be straight jacketed. It’s very likely this has already started in the US and they will never recover from this recession. We will only know that in retrospect some 10 years from now.

    Right now the US, and Canada for that matter, can’t even find the funds to repair aging infrastructure, inspite of record high taxes.

    So the US will feel the effects of peak oil before the rest of the world, likely the EU countries too. The UK has come very close to running out of natural gas the last three winters due to significant depletion of gas fields in the North Sea. The UK now imports oil for the first time since the North Sea discoveries because those fields are in terminal decline. They may be the ones to watch in the coming years.

    Mexico is another to watch carefully since their super giant field, Cantarell, is in perminant terminal decline. Once the #2 source of US imported oil. Within the next few years Mexico will be forced to import oil. The funds from Cantarell were a huge source of revenue for the Mexican Government.

  316. PhilJourdan says:
    September 10, 2010 at 9:00 am
    Willis – thanks for the response to Wakefield on the links he posted! I will remember that one the next time someone tries the old bible trick on me as well.

    —————-

    I was under the impression that evidence is what counted in WUWT. Is that not the case with peak oil? Suppress evidence are we? Should one not be informed about the “other side” by reading and understanding the evidence presented?

  317. Vince Causey says:
    September 10, 2010 at 9:23 am

    ….I never said it would be easy, but the oil is not going to run out overnight. Scarcity will generate price signals that will lead to a switch towards nuclear power. Of course it will be expensive…..
    ___________________________-
    Actually nuclear is not expensive. It is the government regulations and nuclear protestors causing time delays and legal costs that jack the cost up.

    I lived in Rochester NY with nuclear power and my cost was $10/month on a one bedroom apt. I moved to Fitchburg MA and my cost for electric for a one bedroom apt. was $300. (gas heat) Talk about sticker shock, I have been for nuclear ever since.

  318. Jaye Bass says:
    September 10, 2010 at 10:13 am
    Only innovation and free trade coupled with price pressures will accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

    —————

    Free trade and innovation will not put oil in the ground. Once flow rates drop, once ERoEI gets closer to 4:1, it won’t matter how much free trade and innovation we try to do. You can’t bypass the laws of physics.

  319. Gail Combs says:
    September 10, 2010 at 10:49 am

    So lobby your politicians and spread the word. Mini and micro reactors are ready to go NOW if the blasted politicians and eco-whiners would just get out of the way.

    ———-

    I’m doing exactly that. I belong to an energy policy advisory council, doing my best to promote realistic methods of energy production. But the current Liberal government in Ontario is pushing this Green Energy Act in which wind turbines and solar panels are prouting like weeds with huge goverment subsidies which is driving the cost of power in this province to unaffordable levels. We see winter monthly bills of $600 or more because of these ‘sustainable’ resources of power. Wind in Ontario is pathetic at best. 50% of the time they produce less than 18% name plate. Some wind farms produce less than 9% name plate half the time.

  320. Richard Wakefield,

    “Free trade and innovation will not put oil in the ground. Once flow rates drop, once ERoEI gets closer to 4:1″

    And when, in your opinion, is ERoEI likely to get to 4:1?

  321. Vince Causey said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 10, 2010 at 9:06 am

    However, it is not the sentiment of people on this blog that counts, but the aggregate sentiment of all human beings. And that appears to be the opposite. There is no shortage of the neo Malthusian mindset: peak oil, population bombs, ecological overshoots, mineral exhaustion; enviromental NGO’s lobbying governments, Princes touring their country pleading for a return to sustainability. You can’t open a newspaper (especially the Guardian or Independent) or tune in to a National Geographic production to hear more of the same. So your theory of sentiment is correct – its just that the conclusion that we should draw is the opposite.

    LOL. The vast majority of people has absolutely no clue about what’s coming or what the real situation is. Of the minority that have heard something, the majority are in total denial about it. Even among the so called environmentalists adequate awareness of the ecological overshoot of humanity is extremely rare – there are people concerned about such and such species going extinct, people concerned about deforestation, people concerned about AGW, and so on, but the number of people who have connected all the dots, and by all the dots I mean the connection between the multiple crises we’re facing (peak oil and peak everything, oceans, soils, water, climate, etc.) on one side and human population, human biobehavioral characteristics, current socioeconomical structure, religious beliefs, etc. on the others, is very very small, probably not more than tens of thousands worldwide, if that.

  322. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Free trade and innovation will not put oil in the ground. Once flow rates drop, once ERoEI gets closer to 4:1, it won’t matter how much free trade and innovation we try to do. You can’t bypass the laws of physics.

    But you can deny their existence!

  323. Vince Causey says:
    September 10, 2010 at 9:13 am
    GM

    “Because sufficient nuclear energy isn’t available and the projected time of its availability is a few decades after it’s too late (in the best case scenario).”

    What date did you have in mind?

    You probably also want to know the exact time down to a second…

    You can easily figure it our on your own whatever technology you pick as your choice. If it’s thorium it is a minimum 20 years of intense R&D before we can expect actual working reactors, and that’s if the serious technological challenges that exist today are successfully solved. Some very informative articles were already posted in this thread, I take it that you haven’t read it, something that can hardly surprise me. The same goes for fusion, which is at all practically possible is at least 40-50 years away. Oil production will be down 10million barrels a day in 2020 and 30 million in 2030 compared to now, we will have added a billion in each of those decades.

  324. Metaphors such as overshoot are meaningless.

    The fact remains . . . here we are , and fed well by and large.

    Your panicked concern that stuff will run out is silly in the extreme. Is it that you think it is essential to defer entropy and if we stop burning stuff that will do the trick?

    Why do you think we are much less resourceful than our ancestors? Why do you assume we are not part of the natural order of Earth? Do you think we are aliens and so are unable to make the Earth our home?

  325. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Since everyone has always used non-renewable resources, by your definition we have all been in overshoot since the beginning of the Stone Age. Of what possible use is such a concept? It is so broad as to be useless, but it sure sounds impressive.

    “Overshoot” is as broad a concept as “dead”. Is death a useless concept?

    The follow-up questions are: “When. ” And “Is it going to be me.” Some “overshoots” are not important – to me at least – (It is likely we have reached peak helium for example) and some are.

    Why not just say something like “at present usage, mining, and recovery rates we’ll run out of unobtanium in 2050″? That actually has meaning.

    The more appropriate question will be “As the current price of unobtanium goes up, I will run out of money to buy both it and food in 2050″.

    Saying we are in overshoot has no meaning. Since it applies to everyone all the time you might as well say “we are alive”. It is true, but meaningless.

    The concepts of overshoot are focussed down to various ideas such as “carrying capacity overshoot”. Some are qualified down even more than that. Stripping the qualifiers off that is like stripping CAGW off CAGW and calling it climate change. Yes it’s meaningless. It needs to be focussed down as to what is running out, what it means to whoever is supposed to be bothered about it, and when it will become a problem.

    Any given overshoot doesn’t affect everyone and doesn’t become a problem for everyone at the same time. When the aquifers in Northern Mexico/Southern California exhaust and slow to a trickle – it was still be lush and green where I live.

  326. GM,

    “Even among the so called environmentalists adequate awareness of the ecological overshoot of humanity is extremely rare”

    I like that: Greenpeace, NRDC and Prince Charles are accused of being over complacent.

    “Oil production will be down [by] 10million barrels a day in 2020 and 30 million in 2030 compared to now.”

    And you know this to be true because. . . ?

  327. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 9, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    “Coal is a fossil fuel – it is produced in the mantle.”
    No, it is produced from once dence swamp land that has been burried, mostly vegitative in origin.

    “If you heat coal you can get oil from it, as the Germans proved during WWII.”
    It’s not that simple. One of the major additives to coal to make oil is hydrogen, to add to the ends of the carbon chains. Coal to oil is a net negative ERoEI.

    “Oil is not a fossil fuel, because there is something in the mantle preventing the heat from converting the coal there to oil.”
    Oil is not from coal. It’s from marine organisms, completely different origin than coal. The mantle is as much as 75km down. The deepest oil field, Tupi, is only 7km.

    “Have I got that right?”
    You would have if you had done some searching on the net.

    Sorry, I should have mentioned I was being sarcastic.

  328. Keith Battye says:
    September 10, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Metaphors such as overshoot are meaningless.

    The fact remains . . . here we are , and fed well by and large.

    Your panicked concern that stuff will run out is silly in the extreme. Is it that you think it is essential to defer entropy and if we stop burning stuff that will do the trick?

    Actually I think you’ll find that, by and large, of all the people who have put forward the idea that there is a very definite limit on carrying capacity, no one has actually made any suggestions about what should be done about it. The only suggestion has been that we *recognise* there is a very definite limit on carrying capacity.

    Those that claim there is no limit on carrying capacity however, have suggested various things that *will* be done about it. Such as thorium etc.

    Why do you think we are much less resourceful than our ancestors?

    Well resourceful in this context has two meanings. We are less resourceful than our ancestors because they have used up resources, and so therefore we have less. Perhaps you meant the other meaning? ;)

    Why do you assume we are not part of the natural order of Earth?

    We are. That’s why those that say we will run short on resources and crimp our population just like every other animal (and indeed plant) on this Earth.

    Do you think we are aliens and so are unable to make the Earth our home?

    Well there’s an interesting concept – try living out of your cupboards for a while and see how long you can last without external supplies coming in.

    It should be forever – it is your home after all.

  329. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    From your description of guano, it sounds like you are defining “overshoot” as using a renewable resource faster than it is being produced. Which makes sense, and is definitely possible.

    Not just renewable resources. Any resource. If you consider the replenishment rate of a resource to be R – how does it affect your calculations if R is positive, zero or negative?

    The only time it makes a difference is it R is greater than the rate you’re using it. At which point it is effectively infinite.

    Every other value, it is going to run at. When not only depends on R, but also demand and stocks.

    Nah, doesn’t work like that. The world is a big place. The resource won’t suddenly “run out”. It will become more and more expensive.

    Spoken like a true first-worlder. When a resource becomes more expensive than you can afford – it has run out for you. Those food riots a couple of years back weren’t people over-complaining about a dollar extra for tacos. They were poor people with very limited money – for them, food had effectively run out. Dying is usually the knee-jerk reaction to that event.

    As it does, alternatives will become more and more cost effective. In addition, advances in technology often allow replacements that were undreamed of prior to the advance. Anyone in 1950 estimating copper usage to wire up the world-wide web would have gotten an answer in megatonnes …

    Which would have turned out to be true. Every Cat 5/6 etc cable in the world has copper in it. Gigatons is probably closer to the mark.

    who would have guessed that we would be able to replace much of that copper with, of all things, glass? And now much of it is carried by microwave …

    Not much is carried by microwave. Latency is a bit horrendous on it for satellite use. Submarine fibreoptic cables still have a load of copper in them to power the repeaters.

  330. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 10:52 am
    …It’s very likely this has already started in the US and they will never recover from this recession. We will only know that in retrospect some 10 years from now.

    Right now the US, and Canada for that matter, can’t even find the funds to repair aging infrastructure, inspite of record high taxes….
    ____________________________________________
    Your suggestion about the USA and Canada is dependent on the people not waking up and getting rid of the leaches attached to their jugulars.

    If you look more closely at those record high taxes and their cause, you will find 100% of the taxes in the USA go to the Federal Reserve (Central Bankers) That taxpayer wealth is to pay interest on the nonexistent money (fairy dust) the bankers lent the government. Money that was created at the time it was lent. This is according the January 12, 1984 Report to President Reagan http://www.uhuh.com/taxstuff/gracecom.htm

    Further investigation shows the fractional reserve system implemented by central bankers in most countries has been siphoning off the countries wealth. If people ever wake up and understand they spend 3 or more hours a day slaving for a rich banker in exchange for nothing you might just see a major change, but first they have to figure that out.

    See: A PRIMER ON MONEY: by US House Committee on Banking and Currency

    http://www.devvy.com/pdf/2006-October/Patman_Primer_on_Money.pdf

    Money Is Created by Banks: Evidence Given by Graham Towers, Governor of the Central Bank of Canada (from 1934 to 1955)

    http://www.michaeljournal.org/appenE.htm

    Q. But there is no question about it that banks create the medium of exchange?

    Mr. Towers: That is right. That is what they are for… That is the Banking business, just in the same way that a steel plant makes steel. (p. 287)

    Think I am crazy?
    August 4th, 2010

    http://www.webofdebt.com/articles/commonwealth_bank_aus.php

    “Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, Michigan, just won the Democratic nomination for governor of his state, making a state-owned Bank of Michigan a real possibility. Bernero is one of at least a dozen candidates promoting that solution to the states’ economic woes. It is an innovative idea, with little precedent in the United States. North Dakota, currently the only state owning its own bank, also happens to be the only state sporting a budget surplus, and it has the lowest unemployment rate in the country…”

    This legal decision is even more interesting:
    “Mr. Morgan, the bank’s president, took the stand. To everyone’s surprise, Morgan admitted that the bank routinely created money “out of thin air” for its loans, and that this was standard banking practice. “It sounds like fraud to me,” intoned Presiding Justice Martin Mahoney amid nods from the jurors. In his court memorandum, Justice Mahoney stated:

    Plaintiff admitted that it, in combination with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, . . . did create the entire $14,000.00 in money and credit upon its own books by bookkeeping entry. That this was the consideration used to support the Note dated May 8, 1964 and the Mortgage of the same date. The money and credit first came into existence when they created it. Mr. Morgan admitted that no United States Law or Statute existed which gave him the right to do this. A lawful consideration must exist and be tendered to support the Note.

    The court rejected the bank’s claim for foreclosure, and the defendant kept his house.”

    http://www.webofdebt.com/articles/dollar-deception.php

    Return to economic soundness is possible but getting rid of the economic leeches, bankers and government bureaucrats, is the key.

    From the US Constitution:
    No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

  331. Jaye Bass says:
    September 10, 2010 at 7:30 am

    He is mostly arguing a tautology. Yes we all know there are finite resources. However population is set to roll over and start decreasing.

    Actually GM is not arguing that it won’t. The question is rather what is going to cause this – choice or starvation. Actually, if the choice is “choice or starvation” was it a choice after all? One for the philosophers I feel…

    Prices will put pressure on certain kinds of activities.

    Like living? Food riots will put pressure on prices I would expect from the experience of a couple of years ago.

    I think it is just as reasonable to say that we will adapt smoothly (or at least non-catastrophically) as it is to say that some sort of undefined crash will occur sometime in the future.

    This may well be a 50/50 question, but having faith in people “doing the right thing” is not a commonly shared faith. Especially once the evil-doers and do-gooders get their teeth into it.

    Dates and sequence of events have not been offered just possibility of dire consequences…very easy things to do, doesn’t take a whole lot of thought or creativity, etc.

    It’s rather like having fallen off a tall building in the fog. You know there’s ground down there, you just don’t know when. Some people are preparing for the ground by flapping their arms, and others are not.

    It’s all a matter of personal choice.

  332. Vince Causey says:
    September 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    GM,

    “Oil production will be down [by] 10million barrels a day in 2020 and 30 million in 2030 compared to now.”

    And you know this to be true because. . . ?

    Of the work of M King Hubbert, who demonstrated that as for an individual field, so follows the country. This is just the next level up, as follows the country, so follows the world.

  333. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Free trade and innovation will not put oil in the ground. Once flow rates drop, once ERoEI gets closer to 4:1, it won’t matter how much free trade and innovation we try to do. You can’t bypass the laws of physics.

    Of course it won’t…what is it with you guys and strawmen? Are you part of a Wicker Man culture or something?

    Let’s suppose for a moment that the situation is as dire as you make it out to be…although you have not put a time line on the proposed events. Let’s also suppose that there is a possibility to act in time. What I am proposing is that the typical response to this is that the governments have to impose some sort of “program” to solve the problem…a large dose of central planning. My opinion is that only innovation within a free floating system will produce the kind of efficiencies and new products that will alleviate the problem.

  334. Long ago and far away, futurists of a bygone era were devastated by their calculations of how many horses would be needed for transportation in the year 2000.

    They foresaw that when suddenly the horses ran out – the western world would collapse.
    …mail delivery only by pigeon- until they run out…
    Conestogas permanently parked in ‘trailer camps’…
    Plows rusted in the middle of barren fields…
    Wars conducted on foot…
    children to grow up never knowing a real Ice Man or Milk Man who delivered…
    princes suffering to use a palanquin instead of a carriage…

  335. Jaye Bass said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Free trade and innovation will not put oil in the ground. Once flow rates drop, once ERoEI gets closer to 4:1, it won’t matter how much free trade and innovation we try to do. You can’t bypass the laws of physics.

    Of course it won’t…what is it with you guys and strawmen? Are you part of a Wicker Man culture or something?

    Well, the claim that the only limit to resource availability is how much one is willing to pay for it is in the end exactly the same the claim that free market will somehow put it in the ground. You can’t claim that there is no problem with resource because the market will take care of everything on one side and concede that resources are finite on the other. There is no substitute for things like water, phosphorus, and other, and most importantly, absolutely no substitute for energy/negative entropy

  336. Eduardo Ferreyra says:
    September 9, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    One big problem with food supply has historically been plagues that used to destroy up to 80% of food production. A fast example was the Irish starvation in the mid 1800 when the blight affected potato crops. Today it is unthinkable another event like that due to advances in fungicides and other pesticides.

    Start thinking the unthinkable.

    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/02/ff_ug99_fungus/

  337. GM says:
    September 10, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Willis Eschenbach said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 9, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    If you think that there is a hard limit to how much food we can raise on the earth, based on the amount of energy coming from the sun, great. Show us your numbers, do your calculations, tell us how much we can ever possibly grow. Don’t forget to include the effect of increased CO2, and the use of greenhouses, and multiple cropping, and reduction of post-harvest losses, improvements in distribution, genetic engineering, and the like … I await your numbers. I don’t think the limiting variable is solar power, but I’ve been wrong before.

    You are getting more and more ridiculous. You were exposed and denying the laws of physics is all you have to say in reply??? Because asking me to show you that there is a finite amount of food that can be grown is exactly the same as denying that the laws of physics exist.

    Say what? I agree that there is a sunlight limit, there is a limit to everything. I was asking you to give us your estimate of how large that limit is. How is asking you to show the mathematics to quantify your claim “exactly the same as denying the laws of physics exist”?

    Let’s review the bidding to date.

    1. You said, without any numbers to support it, that regarding food production:

    It can not go higher than the theoretical limit of conversion of sun light into chemical energy by photosynthesis. and sun light is very limited. So much for your “we can grow as much food as we want” fantasies.

    2. Caught by your comment that “sun light is very limited”, I gave a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much sunlight strikes the earth. I compared that to how much energy humans use. My conclusion was that we are far from the sunlight limit. In other words, there’s plenty of sunlight out there, enough to feed many times the current population. Food production is not limited by sunlight.

    3. In response, you called me unpleasant names for having had the unmitigated gall to actually do a calculation, or because you didn’t like my calculations, or thought I’d made a mistake in my calculations, or something.

    4. I said if you were unhappy with my calculations, you should definitely do your own calculations of the sunlight limit on how much food can be grown, and let us know the results. That seemed preferable to a possibly unpleasant discussion of results of the sunlight limit calculations I had done.

    5. And to close out the bidding, now you say that to ask you to do a calculation is denying the basic laws of physics … yeah, that’s the ticket, asking you for calculations = denying basic physics. Riiiight …

    As near as I can tell by your actions so far, you are not here to contribute anything. You are not here to ask questions. You are not here to teach anything. You are not here to learn anything.

    You are here to tell us that you can’t be questioned, that would be questioning the laws of physics. You are here to cause trouble and call people names.

    Unless you are willing to take a very deep breath, start over, and have a collegial discussion, I fear that I must ask you to go away. Please.

    I ask you to hit the RESET button because on your current path, you are simply looking foolish. Making unsupported claims, insulting people, and saying that asking for your calculations is denying basic physics, only makes people point and laugh. Unless your goal is to continue to look like the angry, bitter village idiot, I would invite you to either step back and take a deep breath and restart the conversation in a more congenial manner, or alternately, to go and find another blog where people are in more harmony with your style.

    Please.

  338. Jaye Bass says:
    September 10, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Only innovation and free trade coupled with price pressures will accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

    The North Sea oil field has had falling production for a number of years, such that the UK is a net importer of oil. At which price point will North Sea production increase to its former peak?

  339. Willis Eschenbach said on I Am So Tired of Malthus
    September 10, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    [snip – no need to repost the whole thing]

    You [snip – unnecessary incivility]:

    1. Assumed that sunlight is shining 24 hours a day (it is, half of the year in places where nothing grows, but not in the rest of the world)
    2. Assumed that we can cover the whole surface of the planet with crops, including the 70% of it so inconveniently covered with 2 miles of salt water
    3. Assumed that plant can convert sunlight into carbohydrate at a 100% efficiency

    [snip]

    You want some numbers, [snip – unnecessary] here are some more:

    1. Maximum theoretical efficiency of photosynthesis is 11%. You can’t go higher than that.
    2. The highest efficiency we know of is sugarcane in Brazil, at 7-8%
    3. Most crops barely break 1%
    4. Most plant do about 0.2%

    The only reason sugarcane in Brazil does 7-8% is the optimal conditions you find there – it rains a lot and is very sunny. Needless to say, those conditions aren’t met in many other places in the world, it doesn’t do even a third of that in Louisiana.

    It may be possible to to double yields one more, with a lot of genetic engineering, fertilizers, chemicals, etc. But this will not help us at all if when soils are being destroyed at the rate they are (any agricultural activity destroys soils, but we are doing it at a truly absurd rate), fossil fuel inputs and fertilizers will soon be in very short supply, fresh water is being pumped out aquifers many times the recharge rate, and the list goes on. I.e. a classical overshoot situation.

    [snip]

    [if you can’t debate in a civil way then expect the next post to get snipped in its entirity. I’ve bothered to ‘cool’ this one next time I won’t bother. Tolerance levels vary between moderators (Willis please note) jove~mod]

  340. Richard Wakefield says:

    “There are regions that are in overshoot. We send food aid to African countries. Regardless of the reason, if they cannot produce enough of their own food, they are in overshoot. Cuba, the bastion of sustainability, has to import 80% of it’s food or they will starve. They are in overshoot. “

    No, they have hopeless political systems. Although politically a dirty word, re-colonialisation would solve Africa’s food worries in a stroke. Farmers equipped with modern methods and equipment would feed Africa no problems. Zimbabwe had no food issues when the White farmers ran the place.

    Cuba will be able to feed itself easily the moment the Communists are gone.

    “Temporate regions, like Russia, Canada, the upper US states, have to have food imported from around the world to maintain the food supply. They are in overshoot.”

    You really are an idiot, aren’t you? Even though Canada is not “temperate”, it could feed itself easily. The food would be pretty boring (lots of tubers) and very expensive though. Canadians wisely prefer to buy their food more cheaply from elsewhere, giving them more variety in the process.

    The idea that the US and Russia can’t feed themselves is just ridiculous. They choose to import some products rather than produce them inefficiently themselves. I really think you lack a concept of what a market system is.

    Moreover, you have this idea that the whole world is farmed using the techniques of the most intensive farming seen in Europe and the US. Well most of the world is farmed quite differently. Some is farmed well – South American, Australia, China – without being intensively farmed. Cows run round on grass fields with very little fertiliser and no antibiotics or hormones. Some land is farmed very badly – Africa, India – and produces low returns. That could be changed with a power more of your “overshoot”.

    What few pockets of the world that are farmed in a way that is excessively intensive are almost all animal husbandry. Many European and US dairy farms, for example. But they would double their food production if they shifted to cropping. They don’t because their industries are protected (they would be destroyed if Australian and New Zealand dairy products were admitted at their true price) and they make money behind their protective walls.

    They only real exception I know is Japanese rice production, which is incredibly inefficient and wouldn’t last a moment in an open market.

  341. GM said: Well, the claim that the only limit to resource availability is how much one is willing to pay for it is in the end exactly the same the claim that free market will somehow put it in the ground. You can’t claim that there is no problem with resource because the market will take care of everything on one side and concede that resources are finite on the other.

    [snip – calm down] I said that, imo, innovation through technological solutions, as well as cultural I suppose, are the best ways to solve long term energy problems. Otherwise, we will either have to kill a bunch of people or force billions to not produce. I see two sides regarding solution innovate out or draconian cultural manipulation…if the situation is as bad as you think.

  342. “You really are an idiot, aren’t you? Even though Canada is not “temperate”, it could feed itself easily. The food would be pretty boring (lots of tubers) and very expensive though. Canadians wisely prefer to buy their food more cheaply from elsewhere, giving them more variety in the process.”

    ————

    Is being insulting necessary? Isn’t this supposed to be a rational discussion? If I want to be insulted I’ll go to Desmog.

    Canada can feed itself only with oil. Remove the ability to cheaply transport food and locally the major metropolises cannot be sustained on locally produced food alone. The average distance food travels to our plates here in Canada in the Winter is some 1200km.

    In Canada we need at minimum 1 acre of land per person to grow a years food (9 months of which would have to be preserved food.). I’m near London Ontario, including all the people in the surrounding area just us would need an area of about 30km radius. Which overlaps nearby cities and does not include the Golden Horseshoe’s 4 million plus.

    Cuba is back to private farm ownership, and they can only produce 20% of their food, the rest they import. Google it if you think I’m an idiot.

  343. Jaye Bass says:
    September 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Let’s suppose for a moment that the situation is as dire as you make it out to be…although you have not put a time line on the proposed events. Let’s also suppose that there is a possibility to act in time. What I am proposing is that the typical response to this is that the governments have to impose some sort of “program” to solve the problem…a large dose of central planning. My opinion is that only innovation within a free floating system will produce the kind of efficiencies and new products that will alleviate the problem.

    ——————–

    The time line can only be known after the fact. We could be in terminal decline in oil flow output right now. The Saudi’s have about a 3mb/day excess capacity, which would be used up PDQ once the economy starts its turn around. Everyone else is producing full volume. If that is the case then we have already started on the horizonal apex of production and soon onto the down side of the slope. “soon” could be 5 years, could be ten years, could be next year. It will likely all depend on China who is now #2 in oil consumption behind the US and growing at a rate of some 10% per year . So in seven more years their consumption could be double today’s. They are building cars faster than any other country, 95% of which are domestically bought. New car sales is more than 30% per year.

    There was an Oil Drum article that looked at the drop rate of ERoEI since the 1960s from all oil fields. In the 60’s it was 100:1. Today it’s around 20:1. (The tar sands is 6:1). Their estimate is that ERoEI will hit break even some time between 2020 and 2030. Soon as the world hits break even over all, we have essentually run out of oil.

    Of course it won’t do that evenly, but sparsely in different locations. Expect some deposits, like the tar sands, to produce negative ERoEI over all for some time before it is stopped. One plan, by a CEO of one of the companies there, want’s to build one thousand nuke plants to produce enough steam to mobalize the bitumen to flow up wells. The interviewer had to ask him twice on that number.

  344. And you know this to be true because. . . ?

    Of the work of M King Hubbert, who demonstrated that as for an individual field, so follows the country. This is just the next level up, as follows the country, so follows the world.

    ———-

    And the US is following that path in its own production, on the down side of the slope since 1970.

    The book Oil 101 has some amazing facts about US oil production and its decline.

  345. “but the number of people who have connected all the dots, and by all the dots I mean the connection between the multiple crises we’re facing (peak oil and peak everything, oceans, soils, water, climate, etc.) on one side and human population, human biobehavioral characteristics, current socioeconomical structure, religious beliefs, etc. on the others, is very very small, probably not more than tens of thousands worldwide, if that.”

    Actually I’m amazed at the number of people who have independently connected the dots on their own. I’m often not willing to discuss peak oil with people at a gathering (one they don’t want to know about it, and two you get the same response as those here), but more often than not some topic will come up and someone will make a subtle quip about peak oil. Then the discussion can go into high gear.

    BTW, last winter our Prime Minister in an Xmas interview on CTV made a quick comment about “dwindling petrolium resources”. I have it from a reliable source that he has been completely briefed on peak oil.

    I’ll know for sure because next March I’ll be at an event where our current Environment Minister will be at and I’ll be able to talk with him. He has also hinted in speeches about peak oil. All I’ll need to do is watch his reaction when I mention peak oil.

  346. Peak oil is not a problem at all. The only reason we use oil is that it is easy to carry around, has a rather high energy density – the carbon is not important, what we need is the hydrogen – and is easy to get. As the easy sources are depleted we have to develop new technologies to make harder-to-get sources viable. When this becomes too hard we will simply use algae like E. braunii to synthesize new oil.

    All of this doesn’t even take into account the possibilities of nuclear fission or fusion. So, i see no problem with peak oil.

  347. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm
    “[…]Cuba is back to private farm ownership, and they can only produce 20% of their food, the rest they import. Google it if you think I’m an idiot.”

    I googled it. Looks like Cuba plans to open up its agriculture a little bit to private cooperatives…
    “NO SHIFT TO CAPITALISM

    The provincial governments are now in the process of approving proposals that can include cooperatives and other forms of administration.

    “Raul said to study what to do at the local level. It doesn’t have to be the same in Havana as here in Camaguey,” a Communist Party cadre in the province said by telephone.

    http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-51339220100907

    I don’t know where you get your news from.

  348. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm
    “[…]I’ll know for sure because next March I’ll be at an event where our current Environment Minister will be at and I’ll be able to talk with him.”

    Tell him what you know about Cuba. I’ll happily watch the consequences.

  349. DirkH says:
    September 10, 2010 at 4:37 pm
    Peak oil is not a problem at all. The only reason we use oil is that it is easy to carry around, has a rather high energy density – the carbon is not important, what we need is the hydrogen – and is easy to get. As the easy sources are depleted we have to develop new technologies to make harder-to-get sources viable. When this becomes too hard we will simply use algae like E. braunii to synthesize new oil.

    All of this doesn’t even take into account the possibilities of nuclear fission or fusion. So, i see no problem with peak oil.

    ————

    You need to read up on organic chemisty. Most of the energy in oil comes from carbon to carbon bonds.

    Hydrogen gas, H2, is not a fuel. We don’t mine hydrogen gas. We have to make it. It’s an energy transfer medium with a negative ERoEI. Big time loss of 80%.

    “we will simply use algae like E. braunii to synthesize new oil” Not at 86million barrels per day you won’t.

  350. @Richard Wakefield :

    Well, Richard, do you want to play games? you give me a link to a google search, fine, now, which ARTICLE is it where you read that Cuba runs private farms now? You said: “Cuba is back to private farm ownership”. WHERE do you have that from?

    And for the algae:
    ““we will simply use algae like E. braunii to synthesize new oil” Not at 86million barrels per day you won’t.”

    Yes i will. And you know how? I’m telling you. I’ll develop a plant that produces 1 barrel a day.

    And then i’ll build it 86 million times.

  351. http://www.wfp.org/countries/cuba

    world food program, confirms 80% import rate

    why this is so relevant here is what happened to Cuba post USSR collapse and Cuba is a good example to see what happens when the energy supply gets abruptly cut off

    they have made some huge strides given the circumstances and these things take a long time to adapt to

  352. Negative population growth is preordained. We’re already past the point of no return. For a while there was some hope that the US would buck the trend but now with the Great Recession all hope is lost. Next will come a war unlike any previously. Billions will die. And for the coup de grace, Mother Nature is going to send the ultimate curve ball, at a minimum a Little Ice Age if not the Big Kahuna. A bedraggled remnant of 24th Century cave men will barely number 50 million world wide. And none of this will be a result of “overshoot.”

    Why? Because other than the regional Dark Age in Europe for a few hundred years and the Black Plague for a few hundred, world wide population and economic growth proceeded (slowly at first, faster from 1000 to 2000 AD) for nearly 10K years.

    The Holocene has been a boon to both population growth and economic growth. Past tense. Turn out the lights. The party’s over.

  353. Andrew W says:
    September 10, 2010 at 12:12 am

    To a large extent I think we’re talking at cross purposes Willis, you’re saying that technology turns existing material into new valuable resources; I’m saying that any resource is finite – though some more so than others.

    Andrew, thanks for the comment. I would modify your statement to say that any resource is finite given a specified level of technology,

    Let us imagine we have a mine. It contains an ore body. Suppose it is mined until that ore body is entirely mined out, and nothing remains. Clearly it is a finite resource, we have used it up, we can quantify the size of the resource, let’s say it was a thousand tonnes of ore. We know how many tonnes were there, because we removed and used all of them.

    Let us further suppose that the mine was exhausted and played out in Roman times. There it sat, mined out, for a couple of thousand years. Then a few decades ago, new technology allowed people to go back in and remove another five hundred tonnes of ore, 50% more ore from the exact same mine.

    Now, if the mine is a finite resource, the question then is, how large was the resource? Was it the thousand tonnes the Romans removed, or the total yield of fifteen hundred tonnes? Or (as is likely) will some future technology get even more from the mine?

    Yes, it is a finite resource … but solely and only given a certain level of technology.

    If people assume that ever improving technology will always find solutions to the problem resource depletion they’re relying on a form of faith.

    Not at all. “Faith” implies that there is no evidence to support either side, so you just have to believe. That is hardly the situation here.

    I think that improving technology will find solutions, for a very simple reason. Improving technology has always found solutions in the past, ever since some time around the invention of the atlatl and continuing up to the present. That is the point of my article, which is that we are better fed than ever in history. That has happened because improving technology found solutions to the problems.

    And while an unbroken record of finding technological solutions for millennia doesn’t mean we will find solutions in the future, that certainly has to be the default position. But not based on faith as you say — it is based on the thousands of years of technological solutions to problems that have made our current lives possible. Humans are madly, fanatically, demonically, angelically ingenious. Whenever we have come up against limits, we have used our imagination and ingenuity to overcome them. And the more and the harder we are pressed, the more ingenious we become. We respond to crises by upping our game.

    I see no reason to assume that, having functioned very successfully over many millennia, solving problem after problem as each arose, suddenly we would hit a problem we couldn’t solve.

    Possible? Sure, anything’s possible.

    But unlikely. Definitely unlikely.

  354. GM says:
    September 10, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Vince Causey says:
    September 10, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Well, that’s a tautology. Willis has shown numerous times that Malthus was wrong when he said food grows arithmetically. It has actually grown at the same – geometric – rate as population.

    The question is whether both can continue growing indefinitely (the answer is not of course).

    You often want to make the question whether there is some kind of ultimate, never-to-be-exceeded limit. Such a limit exists for any given level of technology, but it is only temporary. Improved technology at some future date will increase that limit.

    But that’s not the question at hand. That question is whether we will be able to feed the projected population of the earth.

    Now, there is general agreement that the eventual population of the earth will likely be on the order of nine billion. We have seven billion right now. So we only need about a thirty percent increase in food production to feed the expected population at the current nutrition levels.

    Me, I say we can do that no problem. Heck, a quarter of the food currently produced is lost to what are called “post-harvest losses”. These are losses due to rodents and insects and fungus and mold and the like. That’s low-hanging fruit.

    In addition, there’s lots of unused cropland on the planet. The problems that keep people from being fed are generally not technological. We have plenty of land and plenty of sunshine.

    The problems that keep people hungry have to do with politics and tribalism and corruption and land tenure rights and legal and economic structures and greed and power, not technology.

  355. DirkH says:
    September 10, 2010 at 5:20 pm
    Yes i will. And you know how? I’m telling you. I’ll develop a plant that produces 1 barrel a day.

    And then i’ll build it 86 million times.
    **************

    The problem you run into is that it takes vast areas to collect enough sunlight, that area must either be unused at present, or you must reduce the area available for some other use.

    With algae you run into the same problems you have with other biofuels, in someways more so as algae growing requires the construction of vast ponds on flat (valuable) land.

  356. Willis, the ability of todays society to utilize ore deposits that previously weren’t economic comes down to our greater ability to utilize vast amounts of cheap energy (those vast amounts of cheap energy are also what’s allowed agricultural production to rise to levels that were previously considered not possible). If that energy supply is removed and a substitute (and the systems to utilize that substitute) isn’t in place we’re back to mining the higher grades of ore – but as you point out, they’ve already been used.

  357. You guys snip “freaking”…well enough to say that the “we are all going to die crowd” is the most outlandish group I’ve run across on the web.

  358. Let us further suppose that the mine was exhausted and played out in Roman times. There it sat, mined out, for a couple of thousand years. Then a few decades ago, new technology allowed people to go back in and remove another five hundred tonnes of ore, 50% more ore from the exact same mine.

    ———-

    I think that is an unfair analogy. The romans did’n’t have 3D siesmic and radar imaging. Are you saying that in the future there will be better technology that will find what our current technology missed at ore grade levels?

    You do realize that that technology has allowed us to mine and process at grades so small that tonnes of rock for a gram of metal is processed. Are you implying that in the future, grades much lower than that will be minable with better technlogy at infinitem?

    Here are the facts of mining lower grade ores that technology has allowed us to do. Strip mining in huge swaths of land, clearing entire areas. Energy per tonne of ore goes up exponentially. Other resources, like water, also increases exponentially as ore grade drops.

    As in all things there is no free lunch and at some point you reach a physical limit that no technology can surpass. Are we there yet? Only time will tell.

    Have a look at the ore grade levels for copper over time.

  359. Yes i will. And you know how? I’m telling you. I’ll develop a plant that produces 1 barrel a day.

    And then i’ll build it 86 million times.

    ———

    Publish your business plan on how you intend to do that and I’ll mortgage my house and invest in your company because you will make a shit load of money. You would be come the next oil barron of the world. I want in on that on the ground floor.

  360. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 10, 2010 at 5:38 pm “I think that improving technology will find solutions, for a very simple reason. Improving technology has always found solutions in the past,”

    Not always, some civilisations have collapsed, and others have dramatically retrenched when solutions weren’t found.

    I see little difference between your sentiments and those of a Christian, adamant that the Christian God has protected his flock for 2000 years and so is sure to continue to do so. Also you’re again using extrapolation; what has been must be (or at least is probably) what will be.

    I’m not arguing that the end of cheap oil will see a collapse, only that it’s possible and what happens will depend on factors in the near future, how we act and physics.

    If you’ve got time my views draw on those of Joseph Tainter, present day observed diminishing marginal returns being a central theme.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Tainter

  361. Interesting that someone way above in the comments alluded to this: Oil is not a fossil fuel, just ask the Russians.

  362. “just ask the Russians.”

    So I went and asked some Russians I know, they fell off their chairs in fits of laughter.
    What does it mean?

  363. Richard Wakefield,

    You have returned to the ERoEI scenario several times – that when this reaches breakeven, this will mark the end of that resource.

    Here’s the problem I have with that line of reasoning. Suppose for sake of argument oil is absolutely essential to civilization – we need it for transporation fuel, fertlizers and other chemicals. Say at some point we are down to the dregs – low density oil sands and scattered, tiny oil reservoirs – ERoEI has fallen below break even. To my simple mind, we would build (or would have built previously, because this would not happen overnight) nuclear reactors to power the extraction of this low grade oil. We will be putting in more energy than we get out for sure, but we wouls have obtained the oil and leveraged another energy source in order to do so.

    Please tell me why I am wrong.

  364. Z,

    “Of the work of M King Hubbert, who demonstrated that as for an individual field, so follows the country. This is just the next level up, as follows the country, so follows the world.”

    Let me see if I understand. I asked how GM can be sure that oil production will decline by 10m bpd by 2020, and you reply by saying that “as for an individual field, so follows the country.” Riight.

  365. Andrew W,

    “If you’ve got time my views draw on those of Joseph Tainter, present day observed diminishing marginal returns being a central theme.”

    Wiki: However, Tainter is not entirely apocalyptic: “When some new input to an economic system is brought on line, whether a technical innovation or an energy subsidy, it will often have the potential at least temporarily to raise marginal productivity” (p. 124). Thus, barring continual conquest of your neighbors (which is always subject to diminishing returns), innovation that increases productivity is – in the long run – the only way out of the dismal science dilemma of declining marginal returns. . .

    Inovation that increases productivity – isn’t that what Willis is talking about?

  366. Richard Wakefield,

    I have finally gotten around to reading your oildrum link from earlier, which gives reasons why controlled fusion will never happen. Unfortunately, it addresses only the ITER project and has drawn the inevitable conclusion. As you are probably aware, there is research being done in Inertial Electric Containment (IEC) fusion, the most well know being the Polywell fusion. When addressing an audience of Google execs, Dr Bussard quipped “We know fusion works – you only have to look into the sky at night to see millions of examples – and not one of them is toroidal.”

    Oildrum is quite right, toroidal will never work, but by focussing on the mainstream they have not presented the complete picture. So far, Polywell fusion is progressing and ‘Wiffleball 8′ is being built. The outcome should be clear in a few years.

  367. “Inovation that increases productivity – isn’t that what Willis is talking about?”

    Can I refer back to one of my earlier comments:
    Andrew W says:
    September 9, 2010 at 6:13 pm
    The future isn’t certain, if a decline in oil production is recognised well in advance, and if the decline is slow, there’s every likelihood that civilisation can adapt, develop other energy sources like nuclear (dispensing with the paranoia that exists around that energy source), if the decline in oil production is rapid and it’s total effects not recognised or anticipated, there’s the risk of hikes in the cost of fuel causing economic recession, which itself would cripple our ability to finance the development the necessary energy alternatives.

    People with Willis’s perspective seem convinced that if that declining oil production gives us some trouble, well, no problem, we’ll tackle it at the time. I think realising you’ve just driven off the cliff as being a little late.

  368. Andrew W,

    “if the decline in oil production is rapid and it’s total effects not recognised or anticipated, there’s the risk of hikes in the cost of fuel causing economic recession, which itself would cripple our ability to finance the development the necessary energy alternatives.”

    Of course – no argument there.

    “People with Willis’s perspective seem convinced that if that declining oil production gives us some trouble, well, no problem, we’ll tackle it at the time. I think realising you’ve just driven off the cliff as being a little late.”

    I cannot speak for Willis, but some of the arguments against Willis thesis that have been put forward are important and worthy of discussion. But you have the situation where some individuals will come forward and stridently declare that this or that will happen – no amount of discussions about alternative outcomes matters to them. It’s all down to the laws of physics and overshoot apparantly. We have been told – commanded to believe, actually – that oil production will decline by 10m bpd by 2020 and 20m bpd by 2030. But instead of evidence we were given some cryptic comment that ‘As goes a countries oil, so goes that country.’

    Well, these arguments are just as one sided as those of the unbounded optimists and they contain implicit assumptions within them. IMO, there are real problems that need solving; certainly the law of thermodynamics will ensure that all mineral resources ever mined will end up as drifting atoms – but this has nothing to do with the time scales that face us today – centuries rather than millions of years. And while some of these dire predictions are indeed possible, they are far from inevitable. The future has not yet been written.

  369. >>Tenuc:
    >>Here you go Ralph, the link to the 6.3% nuclear quote.
    >>“Key World Energy Statistics 2007″ (PDF). International Energy
    >>Agency. 2007.
    >> http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2007/key_stats_2007.pdf

    Sorry Tenuc, there has to be something wrong with that report.

    On page 24 is says Nuclear is 15% of electricity. On page 28, it says electricity is 16% of total energy. That means that nuclear power represents just 2.4% of total energy supply. (Much as I said.)

    And there is precious little nuclear power outside electrical generation.

    That pie-chart on page 6 giving total energy supply must be wrong. Perhaps the error lies in the asterisk saying ‘not including heat trade;.

    .

  370. @ Vince Causey

    economics and scale is what stops you from using more energy like nuke plants to extract less energy from oil

    Money and energy are basically one in the same economically which is also why the commonly used fallacy that rising prices make some hard to get sources of energy economical to extract, it doesn’t work that way. You can get away with it for a short time until the prices ripple thru the rest of an economy but eventually the energy return on energy invested ratio catches up and forces the prices in the rest of the economy to overwhelm the leverage making it once again untenable.

    To answer another question, how do we know when and roughly by how much oil production is going to fall off? Once again this has already been answered above. Look up “oil megaprojects” @ wikipedia or read the link to the swedish paper mentioned many posts above. It all boils down to basic oil field physics. The very nature of how mined resources are extracted and the physics involved forces them to have a distinctive production curve, and it forces production to taper off once roughly half of the recoverable resource has been extracted. We have more than 200 years of oil field history to look at and work with, it is a very mature process. Oil fields deplete, period. There is no bargaining with them or technological tricks to be played. The hubbert linearization method along with some basic oil fields stats allows us to predict the ultimately recoverable amount of oil from a field and its pretty accurate. When applied to all known projects and those coming up plus using all the known data it isn’t too hard to predict within a few years what the world peak production point will be, confirmation of such however comes after the fact, years after the fact.

    As far as a gentle decline rate, not likely. As I pointed out earlier the world export market is what matters. Oil exporters satisfy their own domestic demand first, what is left gets exported. This means as their own production tapers off the amount of exports they have available falls off even faster. Thus they may have a decline rate of say 3% or so which is what the US has had for more than 30 years now while their own consumption climbs at say 3% per year, the net loss to the export market from them would be over 6%. Ultimately the world export market is likely looking at a decline rate north of 10% per year, that is damn steep, catastrophic in fact.

    The side effects of cheap energy becoming uber expensive also has nasty side effects, like making converting to some other source much harder to do. When your primary sources of energy are declining it is so deflationary in some aspects while inflationary in others it makes it very very hard to ramp up investment because the payoff later becomes dubious at best. Our society and systems require a certain amount of leverage to run, net EROI’s under 4 or so and most of them basically cease to function.

  371. “Oildrum is quite right, toroidal will never work, but by focussing on the mainstream they have not presented the complete picture. So far, Polywell fusion is progressing and ‘Wiffleball 8′ is being built. The outcome should be clear in a few years.”

    I hope you are right, and they may it work soon (I’d like a nice peaceful long retirement for myself and a stable modern future for my grandchildren). Humanity’s future is in those researcher’s hands, the entire future of this modern society rests on their shoulders. Would it not be more logical for governments to fund that instead of the billions on AGW? Typically government’s priorities are all screwed up and bassackwards.

  372. “We have been told – commanded to believe, actually – that oil production will decline by 10m bpd by 2020 and 20m bpd by 2030. But instead of evidence we were given some cryptic comment that ‘As goes a countries oil, so goes that country.’ ”

    Example, Cantarell. At the peak just over 7 years ago was producing 2.1 million barrels per day. All possible technology has been applied. Today it’s just 450,000 per day and falling at a rate of more than 15% per year, which is accelerating.

    see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantarell_Field

  373. Vince Causey says:
    September 11, 2010 at 1:40 am
    Richard Wakefield,

    You have returned to the ERoEI scenario several times – that when this reaches breakeven, this will mark the end of that resource.

    Here’s the problem I have with that line of reasoning. Suppose for sake of argument oil is absolutely essential to civilization – we need it for transporation fuel, fertlizers and other chemicals. Say at some point we are down to the dregs – low density oil sands and scattered, tiny oil reservoirs – ERoEI has fallen below break even. To my simple mind, we would build (or would have built previously, because this would not happen overnight) nuclear reactors to power the extraction of this low grade oil. We will be putting in more energy than we get out for sure, but we wouls have obtained the oil and leveraged another energy source in order to do so.

    Please tell me why I am wrong.

    ——————-

    You are not wrong, and in fact that scenario I expect will be followed. People do irrational desparate things when cornered. WWII Germany is a good model for this very point. Consume even more energy to get the vital energy we need. Which became for them a vicious negative feed back cycle into collapse. Such illogical actions will very likely happen (and have even been proposed, such as a 1000 nuke reactors to steam out the bitumen. How an utterly stupid consideration). Would it not be more logical to retool society to run on the actual nuke output than to waste it on trying to squeeze every last erg of oil energy in the ground? Of course. But as we now see with government policies, such logic doesn’t exist. They live in a fantasy world. And we will suffer because of that.

  374. yep Cantarell is a good example as any

    but what seems to be lacking here is those that have these questions also have ignored the history of the various oil fields and countries they are located in

    many nations have tapped into oil fields and at first proclaimed they were endless and won’t ever run out only to be burned badly later, the US did that, Mexico did it, UK did it, Russia did it and so forth

    a few however did not, Norway is a good example, they recognized what was going on and acted accordingly

    Then there’s OPEC, especially the mid east OPEC nations………willful govt misrepresentation to themselves and the world about the nature of their oil production situations. After OPEC was formed they all shortly thereafter doubled their reserves at the stroke of a pen, no actual real data to back it up. They did this because OPEC quotas are reserve based. Saudi Arabia for example has claimed about 265Gb of oil reserves for more than 20 years despite pumping many billions of barrels, they likely in reality have less than 100Gb left !! BP’s initial estimates before Aramco took over all operations were probably pretty close.

    Having said that, given the scale of world production and what would be needed to meet future projected demand should infinite growth continue the world is going to have to find several Saudi Arabia’s and do so very frequently. Unfortunately they do not exist. Talk about overshoot, gawd, wait till the world publicly realizes and finds out what the implications of Saudi Arabia going into like a 20% per year decline rate which is quite likely, they have used salt water injection extensively, when Ghawar crashes it is going to be huge. Before the economy and demand tanked they were pumping in excess of 12 million barrels per day of seawater to get like 3-4 million barrel per day or whatever they get out of Ghawar these days, anyone that knows how this works should be pretty alarmed. That is a huge watercut that belies what they actually say. There literally is no replacement for Saudi Arabia. Russia may be tied with them production wise for the moment but they too are looking at a terminal decline.

  375. pedex,

    “As far as a gentle decline rate, not likely. As I pointed out earlier the world export market is what matters. Oil exporters satisfy their own domestic demand first, what is left gets exported. This means as their own production tapers off the amount of exports they have available falls off even faster.”

    This sounds reasonable in principle, but is it not the case that the only thing preventing the US from exploiting its own oil is politics and not geology? And if what you say will happen, happens, then the US will be forced to drill.

    “When your primary sources of energy are declining it is so deflationary in some aspects while inflationary in others it makes it very very hard to ramp up investment because the payoff later becomes dubious at best.”

    I will concede on that point.

    “Before the economy and demand tanked they were pumping in excess of 12 million barrels per day of seawater to get like 3-4 million barrel per day or whatever they get out of Ghawar these days, anyone that knows how this works should be pretty alarmed. ”

    Sounds bad.

    Richard Wakefield,

    “I hope you are right, and they may it work soon (I’d like a nice peaceful long retirement for myself and a stable modern future for my grandchildren). ”

    Amen to that.

    “Would it not be more logical for governments to fund that instead of the billions on AGW? Typically government’s priorities are all screwed up and bassackwards.”

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Well, I guess this is the end of this thread. You’ve all given me plenty to think about. Have a good weekend.

  376. @ Vince

    the US has been drilling, been drilling like mad for a hundred years plus

    The US peak production of oil was reached back in the 70’s and it has nothing to do with politics, most of our oil is onshore. What is left offshore can’t offset the depletion rate. The US has been in irreversible terminal decline of oil since the 70’s. We already tapped the easy high quality high volume stuff long ago.

    It gets more disturbing, coal is facing the same situation. We peaked as far as actual btu’s produced from coal back the late 90’s and reserves have been massively overstated. This where the politics has been so dangerous, not from stopping extraction of resources but from recognizing the situation and acted accordingly. Typical overshoot behavior.

  377. I think pedex is right, the restrictions on the exploitation of some oil resources in the US has led to an unrealistic belief in how large they are. US production did peak in the 70’s, and the decline has been irreversible, despite subsequent development of fields in Alaska and the Gulf.

    If you go to wiki you can find a graph of oil production forecasts by many players in the industry, the all see a decline in the not too distant future. It’s not if peak oil but when peak oil. One of the big differences between early peakers and late peakers is that the former are sceptical about the claimed reserves of many big OPEC produced, pedex covered this above, reserves growth is normal as a field is investigated, but much of the OPEC reserves growth had politics rather than geology stamped all over it.

    The free market is the best we’ve got in terms of developing technology and allocating resources, but the players still rely on imperfect informations and can still fall victim to human irrationality, often when this happens the political response is to regulate the market, this is exactly Tainters concern (my link above), our response to a crises is too often to shackle the best economic system we have, in a situation of rapidly declining energy availability this could be disasterous.
    One of the favourite political responses to peak oil would be protectionist strategies, restricting food or energy exports, (we saw moves against food exports during the food crises a couple of years ago) it is a fact that protectionism caused the Great Depression to be far worse that it would otherwise have been, with protectionism playing a big role international trade was cut to less than a third.

  378. “This sounds reasonable in principle, but is it not the case that the only thing preventing the US from exploiting its own oil is politics and not geology? And if what you say will happen, happens, then the US will be forced to drill. ”

    The US may have in ground yet to be proven some 30-50 billion barrels, most off shore. Assume a generous extraction of 30% one gets at best 15billion maybe 20billion barrels. The US consumes 7Billion per year. Do the math. Their Strategic Reserves is about 15billion barrels in old salt mines.

    Of course all that won’t be sucked up in 2 years, because geology and ERoEI will restrict the flow rates. Thus the rate of extraction will be slow, likely less than the decline rate from other fields in th US, not include the inability of the US to out bid others for imports.

  379. “Before the economy and demand tanked they were pumping in excess of 12 million barrels per day of seawater to get like 3-4 million barrel per day or whatever they get out of Ghawar these days, anyone that knows how this works should be pretty alarmed. ”

    Sounds bad.

    —————

    Some Russian wells pull up more than 90% water.

    An excellent book on understanding flow rates, geological restrictions, and specific flows from specific wells in Saudi Arabia is Twilight in the Desert. It openned my eyes to peak oil.

  380. “The free market is the best we’ve got in terms of developing technology and allocating resources, ”

    Problem is 80% of the world’s deposits are owned by state governments, explored by those governments, and extracted by those governments, not private corporations. Few of those governments are democracies. So much for a free market.

  381. Andrew W says:
    September 11, 2010 at 2:24 am

    People with Willis’s perspective seem convinced that if that declining oil production gives us some trouble, well, no problem, we’ll tackle it at the time. I think realising you’ve just driven off the cliff as being a little late.

    You misunderstand me, and you seem to think that oil is the first resource that we’ve run short of. In fact, there have been a number of these. We didn’t “realize we’d just driven off the cliff” with a single of those that I know of. The world, as I said, is a big place, and a decline in oil (or any other mineral resource) will be represented by higher and higher prices.

    Unfortunately, you seem to think that somehow we can deal with this situation in advance. But UNTIL OIL PRICES GO UP, ALTERNATIVES ARE NOT COST EFFECTIVE, and thus it is useless to push them.

    So the lovely dreamy fantasy that somehow we can move in advance of the market to fix the situation simply won’t work. Oh, you can kinda fake it with subsidies, but that hasn’t worked at all in the past. Until oil prices rise, we won’t see the alternatives gain market share.

    In other words, I do believe that when “declining oil production gives us some trouble, well, … , we’ll tackle it at the time.” However, I don’t say that by preference. I’d rather deal with it now. And I don’t say “no problem”, that’s your addition.

    But we can’t fix it now, oil prices are still too low.

    Because until the oil price rises, you’re just pissing upwind to try to replace oil, and I’ve spent far too much time as a sailor to think that will work.

  382. Willis Eschenbach says:
    September 11, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Unfortunately, you seem to think that somehow we can deal with this situation in advance. But UNTIL OIL PRICES GO UP, ALTERNATIVES ARE NOT COST EFFECTIVE, and thus it is useless to push them.

    So your lovely dreamy fantasy that somehow we can move in advance of the market to fix the situation simply won’t work. Oh, you can kinda fake it with subsidies, but that hasn’t worked for beans in the past. Until oil prices rise, we won’t see the alternatives gain market share.

    It has been explained so many times, why do we have to go over it again?

    The problem here is that it takes many decades and a lot of resources to develop new energy sources and rebuild the infrastructure (not to mention the small problem of the impossibility of powering the current civilization on renewables and the far less than 100% certain success of breeder reactors, fusion, and other exotics proposals) while the market only gives you prices signals on a time scale of months to a few years, i.e. far far too late. That’s exactly driving off the cliff and realizing you’ve done it in mid-air.

    What this means is that the market isn’t working and we have to abandon the market as a guide for anything, not that we should just wait until it’s too late. Something fairly obvious to anyone whose religion isn’t free market capitalism.

  383. Richard Wakefield says:
    September 10, 2010 at 10:04 pm
    “Yes i will. And you know how? I’m telling you. I’ll develop a plant that produces 1 barrel a day.

    And then i’ll build it 86 million times.

    ———

    Publish your business plan on how you intend to do that and I’ll mortgage my house and invest in your company because you will make a shit load of money. You would be come the next oil barron of the world. I want in on that on the ground floor.”

    So you’re not even trying to argue anymore.

    “Richard Wakefield says:
    September 11, 2010 at 10:08 am
    […]very point. Consume even more energy to get the vital energy we need. Which became for them a vicious negative feed back cycle into collapse.

    I think you don’t understand what a negative feedback is; maybe the typical warmist scientist shares the same misconception. A negative feedback is not a runaway positive feedback in the opposite direction.

    If you want to learn more about it, don’t read this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_feedback

    It’s **** – it talks about non-linearity and governors which are NOT your typical linear negative feedback.
    But this one looks acceptable:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_feedback_amplifier

    HTH.

    [Please watch the vulgarity. I have edited it out. .. bl57~mod]

  384. DirkH says:
    September 11, 2010 at 4:45 pm
    [Please watch the vulgarity. I have edited it out. .. bl57~mod]

    Thanks. No offense intended ;-)

  385. “Something fairly obvious to anyone whose religion isn’t free market capitalism.”

    This is where GM and I disagree.
    I see political interference and state control over parts of the economic system as having retarded the progress private industry would otherwise have made in areas of moving past our reliance on oil.
    1. We don’t know with certainty how much OPEC governments have exaggerated reserves.
    2. Progress in developing nuclear technology has been hampered by political considerations.
    3. Nuclear cargo ships? Not politically acceptable.
    4. Most of the road transport system is state or local government owned, and it’s the electrification of the road system (reticulation of highways rather than exclusive reliance on batteries is perhaps a better option given battery storage limitations) that could make a huge difference to oil consumption, but such a revolutionary change would need guts and an entrepreneurial spirit, not something you’ll find in government departments.

  386. Andrew W says:
    September 11, 2010 at 6:37 pm
    “Something fairly obvious to anyone whose religion isn’t free market capitalism.”

    This is where GM and I disagree.

    You forget about growth. The reason free markets are an ecological death sentence is that if you do not regulate things, growth is inevitable and with growth, overshoot and collapse become inevitable too. The desire to procreate and to consume as much as possible are deeply rooted in our most primal instincts; you can overcome it either with a lot (and I mean really a lot and from a very early age) of education, or with a very strong regulation from on top. In the situation we’re in right now educating the masses is impossible due to their sheer number and the influence that religion and decades and centuries of promises fro brighter future have on their thinking. Obviously, we should put a very heavy emphasis on that, but we need to first take care of the very urgent need to bring our numbers and consumption within the carrying capacity of the planet before we have collapsed, and this can only happen with very strong action from on top, simply because the ignorance momentum of the masses is so strong that it can not be overcome. Unfortunately, there seems to be no power in the world strong enough to do the job, and the people on top aren’t getting it either, so we’re pretty much doomed at this point.

    But any viable program for the long term survival of the species will have the following as vital components:

    1. Every human being on the planet will have to beecologically literate (as well as literate, numerate and well educated in general in the classical sense)
    2. The above will allow us to exercise strict but voluntary population control.
    3. It will also allow us to invest the resources and human capital we are so tragically misallocating now into the R&D we need to be doing
    4. Religion will have to be eradicated completely (it is absolutely amazing how much of our destructive behavior is rooted in or enabled and justified by it).
    5. Free markets and capitalism as we know them today will have to go and if we decide to keep it as a token for energy, money will have to be very tightly coupled to energy so that the cost of things actually reflects the real net energy and entropic cost of things.

    Of course, none of those things is likely to happen, but it is useful to remind people how far off the conversion is from reality most of the time (that’s for those who may be scared by those suggestions and for those who like to call environmentalists “watermelons” – the distance between the left and the right is negligibly small compared to the distance between either of those and reality).

  387. GM says:
    September 10, 2010 at 7:15 am
    Democracy only works if the people in it have achieved a certain level of intellectual development, education and possess sufficient information to be able to take adequate decisions. Those conditions aren’t met anywhere in the world right now, it’s better in some places, worse in others, but in general it is either sliding into complete chaos or towards idiocracy.

    And I wonder why people are getting dumber? There has been a deliberate effort by the social engineers to make/keep the vast majority of the population stupid. It is the education system that churns out these idiots, moronic television and media keeps them stupid. Democracy has been undermined on purpose. It’s not cool to read books, it’s not cool to question everything we’re told, and it’s definitely not cool to be concerned with politics and exactly what it is the politicians are doing.

  388. @ TWE:

    Conspiracy theory is not needed when mere incompetence suffices. That’s the case with the media and the idiocracy that seems to be the social system in this country (and the world in general) right now.

    I am not saying that there has been no deliberate attempts to swing things in certain directions, but if you let things develop on their own, this is what you are going to get anyway. The masses have never been educated and have never really understood what happens around them, it is only very recently that widespread access to knowledge have become available to them. What has changed for the worse is the respect for knowledge and expertise (ironically, this blog is a prime example of the nature of that change) – anti-intellectualism has always been around, but it has never been as bad as it has become in the US, where it is almost impossible to be elected to any position if you do not carefully disguise how smart you are (which is quite hard to do so more and more people who don’t have to disguise anything are in positions of power).

    It would be nice (for the sake of the species) if there was some secret group of very powerful people with an escape plan at hand who pulls the strings, but I highly doubt it

  389. “The world, as I said, is a big place, and a decline in oil (or any other mineral resource) will be represented by higher and higher prices.”

    Not neccessarily. Price of energy is in everything. As that price increases, the proportion of the energy component of all items increases, which increases inflation. But that just makes some items unafordable, and a recession hits, demand drops and oil prices on the open market drop (as just happened).

    So as the depletion starts, prices increase, and a recession drops demand below that lower production rate, which continues to drop regardless of the lower demand. Then prices start to rise again while in recession, triggering a deeper recession, and demand drops below that level. But the depletion continues to occur and prices start to rise again, throwing in more recessionary effects. And so on down the depletion slop.

    The price never rises above a threashold level that triggers monitary recession, killing demand, and so on for 30 to 50 years. Subsequent recessions just kill demand through demand distruction due to depletion. Demand never recovers because ever more sectors of the economy disappear. During which depletion continues to occur. So there is never enough money to build those expensive alternatives.

    But that is just in the Western World. China sits back and continues its expansion for a while because it physically owns oil fields it’s currently buying, so no need to worry about market pricing. But eventually they will hit the depletion curve too at some point.

    (as a side note, I read a recent USDE report wanting 20% power from wind, 230GW, by 2030. That would mean the contruction of 7.7 MILLION 1.5mW turbines and cost $23 TRILLION to build. It would require a construction growth rate of 16% per year, which means in the last year the daily constuction would have to be 3000 turbines up and running PER DAY!)

  390. Consume even more energy to get the vital energy we need. Which became for them a vicious negative feed back cycle into collapse.

    I think you don’t understand what a negative feedback is; maybe the typical warmist scientist shares the same misconception. A negative feedback is not a runaway positive feedback in the opposite direction.

    ———–

    Ok, how about an accelerating catch 22 feedback loop? You need more energy to get energy, but you need more energy to get that more energy, but you need even more energy to get that…

  391. Andrew W says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm
    GM, I think your ideal world wouldn’t work, for any social system for humans to work it must first accommodate the realities of human nature, you idealist world fails to do this on so many levels.

    I think I stated it very clearly that I have very little (none in fact) hope that we will get our act together and fix the mess, precisely because our biobehavioral characteristics will not allow is to do so.

  392. @ willis

    first of all oil is already subsidized and heavily which of course distorts and pricing signal in the market

    second of all it’s already about 20-30 years too late

    Thirdly, yes we have had scarcity before but not in your primary source of energy with a huge amount of overshoot already present. As has been pointed out already the world couldn’t build alternatives fast enough even if it wanted to in order to mitigate the losses in oil production which are coming. Evidence of this on local scales is already available.

  393. GM seems to believe that the only salvation for humankind lies in some kind of global command economy, where our innate urges to “procreate and to consume as much as possible” would be thwarted; a global system involving “very strong action from on top” because the ignorance of the masses is so strong that “it cannot be overcome.” In order to do the job we are told that all human beings on the planet will need to be ecologically literate, and this “very strong action from the top” will ensure resources are invested into R&D, free market capitalism will be abolished. Oh yeah, and religion eradicated.

    Earth to GM! It’s called communism; been there, done it, doesn’t work. Life in the Soviet Union involved waiting endlessly in queues for the most basic commodities – before it collapsed under its own weight.

    But how could this be, with all those wise Soviet technocrats and bureaucrats micro managing investment in every section of the econonomy? Hmm.

    Governments are currently directing precious resources into building more and more useless windfarms and solar farms. Is that an example of what we can expect from this new government business model?

    But of course, GM has it backwards. Businesses exist to make a profit. Ownership of the land and mineral rights of what we call raw materials has the wonderful economic side effect of leading firms to husband their resources as efficiently as possible – far more so than any government could achieve. So basic and well understood is this economic theory, that it is in all standard textbooks on micro economics. The problem occurs when there is no private ownership. The state of the ocean fishing industry is the best known example – non ownership of the resources directs profit maximising firms to take out the maximum harvests that their vessels are able to achieve. Even environmentalists recognise this fact, which is why there is much talk about giving certain African tribes a financial stake in their native wildlife.

    And it makes little difference whether individuals are ecologically literate or not – whatever that is supposed to mean; all the resource harvesting decisions are made by profit maximising firms. Individuals just respond to price signals in order to maximise their utility of any good or service available to them. If market signals a scarcity and certain goods have been removed from the market, then they won’t be able to purchase them, ecological literacy or not. If market signals that aluminium cans are in need, a price will attached to them, commercial recycling centres will spring up, and individuals will be rewarded with cash, or bonus points (at supermarkets).

    If the dire fate that some have suggested lies in wait for us (and I don’t dispute that it may), then the only chance lies with the free market.

  394. @ Vince Causey:

    1. You have learned absolutely nothing from the last 350+ posts in this thread
    2. You reject centuries of accumulated knowledge and some very fundamental science simply because your brainwashed mind can’t accept its implications
    3. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about
    4. You’re an absolutely hopeless case

    And even though you are a hopeless case, I will repeat once again (you didn’t read it when I said it before so I have to repeat it as frustrating as it is) that the difference between right and left and even between capitalism and communism is trivial compared to the difference between either of those and what a reality-based society would look like. Communists were anthropocentrics too, the ecosystem was last on their mind.

    Any person who thinks that ecology doesn’t matter while markets do has lost his mind though….

  395. Ralph says:
    September 11, 2010 at 7:56 am
    “Sorry Tenuc, there has to be something wrong with that report.

    On page 24 is says Nuclear is 15% of electricity. On page 28, it says electricity is 16% of total energy. That means that nuclear power represents just 2.4% of total energy supply. (Much as I said.)

    And there is precious little nuclear power outside electrical generation.

    That pie-chart on page 6 giving total energy supply must be wrong. Perhaps the error lies in the asterisk saying ‘not including heat trade;.”

    The correct figure for 2005 is that nuclear power accounted for 6.3% of world’s total primary energy supply. Here’s a link to another quote, if you found the report from the International Energy Agency too confusing:-

    “In 2005 nuclear power accounted for 6.3% of world’s total primary energy supply. The nuclear power production in 2006 accounted 2,658 TWh (23.3 EJ), which was 16% of world’s total electricity production.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_resources_and_consumption

  396. Vince Causey says:
    September 12, 2010 at 5:54 am
    “If the dire fate that some have suggested lies in wait for us (and I don’t dispute that it may), then the only chance lies with the free market.”

    Your 100% correct Vince. History shows that only a market free of interference from government can ensure mankind’s future progress. All left wing, liberal governments end up as bureaucracies with red tape and jobs for the boys replacing the freedom to take risks and get rich. Without freedom of action, mankind would only make the same progress as a bunch of sheep!

  397. GM,

    You have not even addressed any of the points I made and you retaliate by calling me names. The USSR was ineffecient and wastefull because it lacked the price signals that only a market economy can provide. It has absolutely nothing to do with being anthropocentric or not. It would have made no difference if they were controlled by enviromentalists. You throw around terms like “reality-based society,” but you have no idea what you are talking about.

    I explained that private ownership of resources preserves their viability into the future much more than any other system. I explained that non ownership leads to overuse. These are basic economic facts. Yet instead of dealing with the points on their own merit you respond by calling me names, just have you have responded to other posts on this thread when you cannot refute their arguments. Your diatribes (I would hesitate from dignifiying them with the word ‘arguments’) are full of hot air, meaningless platitudes, appeals to authority, and the infantile name calling of an individual who has clearly lost the argument.

  398. @ vince

    except the US is hardly a free market economy, all you have to do is take into account all the various subsidies and policies in place which cause massive market distortions

    these include: petroleum, farming, housing, automobiles, natural gas, coal, corn based ethanol, roads, banking etc etc etc……….our entire system is every bit as distorted as many of the other systems of govt that have failed

    these distortions among other side effects help keep alternatives from happening as well as seriously masking the actual reality of the situation and issues we face

    furthermore a free market if it actually existed does not in any way stop or prevent an overshoot condition from occurring or forming, human nature is human nature regardless

  399. pedex,

    “except the US is hardly a free market economy, all you have to do is take into account all the various subsidies and policies in place which cause massive market distortions.”

    You are absolutely right in that respect. The point I was trying to make was more to do with price signals that supply vs demand generate, and how these lead to the efficient allocation of resources. We have at the moment Government distortion of the energy market by a) direct subsidies of favoured sources of energy, b) taxation of fossil fuels in Europe via various mechanisms c) penalisation of nuclear by requiring decommisioning costs to be paid up front. You have mentioned several others – ethanol is a good example. Government distortions are causing profit maximising firms to divert food into a fuel for which no market demand exists. That is why I despair of Government solutions and reject GM’s hypothesis that we need a global communist (albeit Green) government.

  400. “furthermore a free market if it actually existed does not in any way stop or prevent an overshoot condition from occurring or forming, human nature is human nature regardless”

    Quite correct. If anything communist systems are less efficient, more wasteful of resources, and far less concerned for the environment. Much of Russia is a garbage strewn wreck.

    Oil depletion is a numbers game only. More people requires more energy, and at some point the two will not be compatible.

    And there is nothing we can do about it.

  401. Reading over GM’s posts gives one the impression that he/she loathes humanity. That self hatred is a very dangerous way to think, for evolution placed us here. Peak oil is a vehicle to achieve the destruction of civilization in the same way Co2 is being used to achieve the same end. It is part and parcel of fear manipulation. No hard evidence as the future is unforeseeable. GM must be a LOT of fun at social gatherings. Let us move forward and not backward.

  402. It a common meme but every ‘green’ you ask will pretend otherwise. Like a ‘Jo@Abess’ they will say, we don’t belief in involuntary culling just you have to wish to end the species yourself. But which species, one asks? It’s the white, western, ‘patriarchal’ man that must go. O don’t worry, were ‘disappearing’ but lets see how you get on without us. No innovation, no engineering, no thinking.

  403. I believe that Malthus’ principles require a state of static resource usage equilibrium, a condition that has, as yet, never been achieved in the modern world. Up to now, we have always been able to find new, untapped sources of energy. However, there is a body of disquieting evidence and logic indicating that this may not always continue to be possible. The end of abundance may not happen tomorrow, but it does appear to be on the horizon.

    If one created a closed habitat for rats and provided only enough food to properly feed, say, 100 healthy rats, I believe Malthus would expect the population to increase until it reached a limit above 100 defined by the maximum number of sickly and malnourished animals that could possibly survive and reproduce while sharing their limited food resource.

    Of course adding a few cats to the experiment would probably force a lower population of the more healthy rats required to escape the predators. That predator population would also be limited by the number rats they could catch.

  404. Spector says:
    September 13, 2010 at 2:12 am

    I believe that Malthus’ principles require a state of static resource usage equilibrium, a condition that has, as yet, never been achieved in the modern world. Up to now, we have always been able to find new, untapped sources of energy. However, there is a body of disquieting evidence and logic indicating that this may not always continue to be possible. The end of abundance may not happen tomorrow, but it does appear to be on the horizon.

    If one created a closed habitat for rats and provided only enough food to properly feed, say, 100 healthy rats, I believe Malthus would expect the population to increase until it reached a limit above 100 defined by the maximum number of sickly and malnourished animals that could possibly survive and reproduce while sharing their limited food resource.

    Of course adding a few cats to the experiment would probably force a lower population of the more healthy rats required to escape the predators. That predator population would also be limited by the number rats they could catch.

    You neglect the difference between rats and humans. If you put too many rats into a small space, their population peaks at some limit. If you put too many Dutchmen into a small space, they put up dikes and make themselves more space … and this same ability to transcend limits that animals cannot overcome is true in all aspects of life, not just space. You put too many cows into a field with their little water, and their population is limited by the water supply. You put a bunch of Israelis into a land with too little water, and they build desalination plants and produce their own water …

    And that’s the flaw in Malthus’s logic, and yours. Humans are not like other animals, as you both seem to assume. Animals are limited by their abilities, where humans are only limited by their imagination.

  405. I have a National Geographic magazine that talks about the potential of a new crop from Japan and China that could perhaps become a major crop. That new crop barely known out side Asia was Soy. The magazine dates from the 1960’s. We are domesticating one new species every two weeks. Any one of them could be as valuable as soy.
    We have a salt water irrigated grain that yields 2 tons a hectare.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distichlis_palmeri

    we have a salt tolerant sugar crop being domesticated. The only salt water palm. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nypa_fruticans
    We have the seedling of the Boab tree, a drought tolerant tree from Australia. At 4 weeks the seedling is edible like a carrot with leaves that can be used as a salad green. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adansonia_gregorii Africa, Madagascar and India have related species that are being checked soon. This domestication occurred 2001.

    http://www.ausbushfoods.com/oldmag/news/Boab.htm

    The blue fin tuna has been domesticated with captive spawning and abundant egg production, so much the had to bury most of the spawn. Tank cultivation is developing worldwide. http://www.cleanseas.com.au/main/home.html

    I could go on and on but its unnecessary. Domestication and large scale farming of many species is now routine and organised.
    Maybe that should be a post not just a comment. Can someone tell me how to do that?

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