On the Imminent Depletion of Cheap Fossil-fueled Energy

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On the Imminent Depletion of Cheap Fossil-fueled Energy

A Concise Investigation...

2000 May 11

Perry Arnett

[this exploration is a compilation of conjectures, assertions, and maybe even some 'facts' that I will work to verify, and then act upon as necessary; this exploration can be carried to all kinds of ends, but my purpose here has been only to attempt to clarify the issues for myself so that I can make some decisions based upon my findings] (i.e. - what do I know and how well do I know it?)

corrections, clarifications and comments from others welcomed

[because of the complexity of the subjects involved and the interconnectedness of it all, I have chosen to attempt to break the problem down into its smallest understandable concepts (for me) and then to attempt to conceive correct premises prior to drawing any conclusions - ] (sort of like using Reverse Polish Notation ...)


1) to support its own life, each living entity requires an "ecology store", from which it consumes inputs from various sources i.e. energy, air, water, food, other nutrients, etc.;

a) generally, the more drawn from the store by the entity, the higher its quality of life may be said to be

2) the ability of an ecosystem to sustain life for those living entities that are a part of that system can be loosely defined as its "carrying capacity"

3) when the number of living entities multiplied by the 'ecology store' required for each entity exceeds the carrying capacity of the ecosystem, trouble results;

a) however, that trouble can be resolved by either :

1) a reduction in the number of living entities, or 2) the living entities can reduce their living standards, or 3) the carrying capacity of the ecosystem must be increased

4) if the carrying capacity of the ecosystem cannot be increased, - i.e. if the quantity of inputs is finite, (as they surely are on this earth), then the living entities must either

a) reduce their living standards or b) reduce their numbers - to continue to survive 5) by most measures of finite macro-inputs such as world-available top soil, potable water, energy, etc., the carrying capacity of this earth has already been exceeded - by a combination of the number of the living entities and their living standards

6) for humans living in an Industrial Civilization, energy is one component of an 'ecology store'

7) however, energy is not JUST a component of Industrial Civilizations ecology store, but is the 'prime-mover' of Industrial Civilization - i.e. it is low cost, readily available, highly efficient non-human-labor-energy (fossil-fuel-energy) that allows humankind to have the things we do, to live like we do, etc.;

a) therefore, the less costly the energy, generally, the more things humans can have, and the higher the resultant standard of living

8) since about 1895, fossil-fuel (petroleum) energy has been the most readily available, cheapest, and most efficient source of energy available to do the work of humankind; prior to that time, it was with muscle power of men and animals and very small inputs from other energy sources that powered the civilization

a) thus, it has been largely fossil-fuels that have allowed the rise in standards of living experienced since about 1895

9) it is those unique qualities of fossil-fuels - their ready availability, their relative cheapness, and their high efficiency relative to other energy sources, that have allowed humankind to make and create and do what it has since about 1895

10) the cost of energy, its availability and efficiency impact all other human activities; i.e. whether a manufactured product, or a performed service, energy is an important part of the equation of the production of that product or service, and the cheaper the energy, the more of it that can be infused into the final product or service, and thus, the more impact energy has on this civilizations living standards

11) conversely, the less energy that is available, the higher the cost, or the less efficient it is, the probable lower standard of living of those using it (by Western definition...); which brings us to the present situation:


12) the amount of fossil-fuel on this earth is finite - what there is, is all there is!

13) the state of the art of fossil-fuel discovery is so advanced that all the fossil- fuel sources - oil fields - to be found, (of any value to humankind), have already been found

14) the peak of oil discovery occurred about 1976

15) the peak of oil production is projected to occur between 2001 and 2004

16) based on numerous historical models, after the peak in oil production (2001- 2004) there will be a decline of world-wide oil production that will continue until all the oil left in the ground (that is economically feasible to be extracted) is gone

17) #16 is projected to occur between 2025 - 2100

17.1) the point at which the last 1/3 of the oil on earth remains, is projected to between 2010 - 2025 18) the decline of the availability of cheap oil, i.e. the decline of oil production - will occur far more rapidly than most realize because of the nature of the way most oil fields are formed (geologically), and the way they are tapped (physically), thus, the decline, when it starts, (2001-2004) will be more precipitous than might otherwise be expected by scientific analysis

19) because of the relative cheapness of oil in the past, and the dependance upon cheap energy sources to which most humans have become accustomed, all other energy sources are un-economical compared to oil, thus, there is no other known cheap energy source available to take up the shortfall once petroleum-energy is gone

19.1) there is no known hypothesized or conjectured energy source or imagined new technology on the horizon that can be implemented to take up the shortfall of cheap oil - at an affordable price or in any needed quantity

20) though all the numbers are not yet in (mostly because no one has taken the time to compile, analyze and generate them), as measured by barrels-of-oil- equivalent (BOOE), it appears that no other common or alternative energy source is, or will ever be as cheap as petroleum-energy has been; i.e. the numbers for the various other types of energy sources seem to indicate that it costs more in BOOE to develop/distribute energy from the other sources available, than is able to be generated from those other energy sources

20.1) therefore, #20 suggests that with regard to cost alone, rising oil prices imply diminished lifestyles

21) the world human population is rising

22) the rate at which the world human population is rising, is rising

23) the amount of energy being used by the human population world-wide is rising

23.1) the rate at which energy is being used per capita however, is decreasing - from a peak reached in about 1978

(thus confirming the crossing-point of the increase of cost and decrease of supply of petroleum as related to the amount consumed by humans; i.e. since there is less to be consumed and there are more consuming it, each can only consume less now than they might have previously...so the rate of use per capita has to go down)

23.2) thus the explanation for the decline in living standards for most in even the so-called "advanced" industrial nations since 1978...

24) the rate at which new oil is being discovered is decreasing

25) the cost to discover new oil is increasing

26) the cost to produce/refine/secure/deliver new oil is increasing

27) the rate at which new oil is being produced is decreasing

28) it takes +/-four barrels of oil to find one new barrel of oil

29) it takes +/-four barrels of oil to produce/refine/secure/deliver one barrel of oil

30) we are rapidly approaching a time when the increasing human population, creating an increasing demand for cheap oil-energy, in conjunction with the decreasing supply and increasing cost of oil, will create a circumstance where almost no one will be able to afford to buy petroleum-based-energy at any price

a) this time is projected to occur between 2004 and 2010

31) when #30 occurs the living standards of most will decline and social and economic turmoil will result

32) when #30 occurs, the relative value of human labor and cheap petroleum- energy in the West may reverse, thus restoring the former model in world labor economics

33) when #30 occurs, economic and other forms of 'globalization' will end and local and regionalisms of all types will re-emerge

34) world agriculture uses large amounts of fossil-fuels in cultivation, planting, fertilizer, processing, transportation, etc.; in fact, the primary reason as many humans are able to be fed today as are fed, is because of the infusion of fossil- fuel-energy into the macro-agricultural processes [someone has said that "farming is the process of using land to turn petroleum into food"]

35) thus, a precipitous decline in oil availability will cause a precipitous decline in world food availability

36) the combination of #30 and #35 will cause a precipitous decline in the world population - a "dieoff"

37) #30 and #36 will cause a reversion of human living standards to a former time - i.e. 1950? 1900? 1850? 1200?... in which life will be harder, tougher, more violent, more agrarian, less technical, etc.

38) #37 has been described as being a "descent into the Olduvai Valley"...

39) thus, we have within the life time of most of us, a probable change that will effect most humans in the way in which they provide for their basic necessities, their general welfare, their survival - and their hopes and dreams

*** Sources : www.dieoff.com; www.npg.org; www.redrival.com; www.runningonempty.org; energyresources Forum www.hubbertpeak.com www.oiltheory.com www.clubofrome.org www.simmonsco-intl.com The Next Economy; Paul Hawkin; Holt. Rhinehart... The Prize; Daniel Yergin; Simon & Schuster; Unibombers Manifesto; Theodore Kazcynski; others...

-- Perry Arnett (pjarnett@pdqnet.net), May 28, 2000




Ask "dieoff" what happened to his predictions about Y2k?

Dr. Yergin was predicting this "no more oil" scenario over 20 years ago and was proven to be completely wrong in his evaluation as energy conservation, alternate fuels and new technology kicked in. Energy as a percentage of GDP and Company costs has FALLEN and FALLEN in real dollars even if gas at the pump were to rise to $2.00/gal. and heating oil were to rise to $2.50 next year.

Those who want to see how wrong he was should read "Energy Futures" which was hardly mention in his background while he was making a killing writing a history of the oil industry aka: "The Prize".

Now the same arguments from the late 1970s are being recirculated again as "new" just like mens ties. If you wait long enough "anything" will come back.

Re: Oil, this doesn't even require any "intellectual effort".

This "die off" person and the rest of the sources you quote need to get brain implants to "SUSTAIN" themselves in the future.

-- The Shadow (shadow@knows.org), May 28, 2000.

Ranting will not make total oil supply grow.

Petroleum reservoir engineering was my first career and all I can say is... depletion curves are real. Unless we stumble across massive as of yet unfound reserves we will see declining supply sooner than later.

How humanity handles this will say alot about our future.

You may now return to your cheeseburgers and automobiles.

-- Will (righthere@home.now), May 28, 2000.

TO the sh-a-dow you are an american (no disrespect to any other americans) you live in a cacoon in the states while the rest of the planet is going down the pan.Over population is real. Depleting resources is a fact. the rest of the planet live in a world of finite resources. Who are you to come here and insult people who are expressing concerns about the future of humanity.

Perry has hit the nail smack on the head.

show me a replacment for oil and i will show you a pile of rocking horse shit.


-- bob (Bob@ghoward-oxley.demon.uk.), May 29, 2000.

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