Make your own free website on
David MacClement's interesting articles
« December 2010 »
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
news selected by DM
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
* item Titles (recent: top)
_ No Global Industry Is Profitable If Natural Capital Is Accounted For
_ I've visited-as-a-tourist or lived in 25 separate countries, on 46 occasions
_ Influence: mobile and more - WARC's James Aitchison
_ Message from Drought Crisis: Don't Put All Your Eggs in America's Breadbasket
_Is Sustainable Living Possible, When there are Too Many People for Too Few Jobs?
_ DM's 6 factors considered before any purchase
_ Interview with Tariq Ali, 20 Mar.2011
_ Ban Ki-moon: World's economic model is 'environmental suicide'
_ Do We Have Iran's Ahmadinejad All Wrong?
_ Lerner/Tikkun: an Israel/Palestine Peace Treaty; & State of the Spirit, 2011
_ George Monbiot predicts next 7 years, in Dec.2003; & California Models the World, LA-Times, in Jan.2004
_ Auckland Harbour Bridge Walk-cycle-way, NZ
_ Coal-Mine Rescue is not like Fire-fighting
_ Eyres, FT: Cultivate Growth Industry
_ Brayne: Drop in BBCs climate coverage
_ Renewables provide 73% of NZs total electricity
_ NZs Windflow 500kW Turbine: Success!
_ 150 earthquakes in Canterbury NZ
_ Christchurch NZ Earthquake News: RadioNZ
_ Toxic legacy: US Marines Fallujah assault
_ Suicides outnumber road deaths - NZ
_ Small Modular Nuclear Reactors? TOD
_ D & Bs Life in 32 Tweets, Ds Style
_ Totnes-UKs Energy Descent Action Plan
_ ShapeNZ Mining Survey in May 2010
_ Wake-UpCall: Worlds Bigges tOilJunkie; Nelder
_ Protests against new powers for NZ Govt agencies
_ Links for 14-Apr to 16-Apr 2010
_ URLs: furless animal found in Sichuan; Hominid Species Discovery Shows Transition Between Apes, Humans
_ Carbon-Free Britain planned by Center for Alternative Technology (CAT)
Wednesday, 29 December 2010

George Monbiot predicts next 7 years, in Dec.2003;
                                          & California Models the World, LA-Times, in Jan.2004.
Two from near Christmas 2003; the left (complete) from the UK, the right (excerpts) from California

"Bottom of the barrel"
George Monbiot, The Guardian; December 2, 2003:


The world is running out of oil - so why do
politicians refuse to talk about it?":
- or with footnotes, on Monbiot's own site:

Oil is running out, but no one wants to talk about it.

By George Monbiot.
Published in the Guardian, 2nd December 2003

The oil industry is buzzing. On Thursday, the government approved the development of the biggest deposit discovered in British territory for at least 10 years. Everywhere we are told that this is a “huge” find, which dispels the idea that North Sea oil is in terminal decline.
You begin to recognise how serious the human predicament has become, when you discover that this “huge” new field will supply the world with oil for five and a quarter days.(1)

Every generation has its taboo, and ours is this: that the resource upon which our lives have been built is running out. We don’t talk about it because we cannot imagine it. This is a civilisation in denial.

Oil itself won’t disappear, but extracting what remains is becoming ever more difficult and expensive. The discovery of new reserves peaked in the 1960s.(2)
Every year, we use four times as much oil as we find.(3)
All the big strikes appear to have been made long ago: the 400 million barrels in the new North Sea field would have been considered piffling in the 1970s. Our future supplies depend on the discovery of small new deposits and the better exploitation of big old ones. No one with expertise in the field is in any doubt that the global production of oil will peak before long.

The only question is how long. The most optimistic projections are the ones produced by the US Department of Energy, which claims that this will not take place until 2037.(4) But the US energy information agency has admitted that the government’s figures have been fudged: it has based its projections for oil supply on the projections for oil demand,(5) perhaps in order not to sow panic in the financial markets. Other analysts are less sanguine. The petroleum geologist Colin Campbell calculates that global extraction will peak before 2010.(6) In August the geophysicist Kenneth Deffeyes told New Scientist that he was “99 per cent confident” that the date of maximum global production will be 2004.(7) Even if the optimists are correct, we will be scraping the oil barrel within the lifetimes of most of those who are middle-aged today.

The supply of oil will decline, but global demand will not. Today we will burn 76 million barrels;(8) by 2020 we will be using 112 million barrels a day, after which projected demand accelarates.(9) If supply declines and demand grows, we soon encounter something with which the people of the advanced industrial economies are unfamiliar: shortage. The price of oil will go through the roof.

As the price rises, the sectors which are now almost wholly dependent on crude oil - principally transport and farming - will be forced to contract. Given that climate change caused by burning oil is cooking the planet, this might appear to be a good thing. The problem is that our lives have become hard-wired to the oil economy. Our sprawling suburbs are impossible to service without cars. High oil prices mean high food prices: much of the world’s growing population will go hungry. These problems will be exacerbated by the direct connection between the price of oil and the rate of unemployment.(10) The last five recessions in the US were all preceded by a rise in the oil price.(11)

Oil, of course, is not the only fuel on which vehicles can run. There are plenty of possible substitutes, but none of them is likely to be anywhere near as cheap as crude is today. Petroleum can be extracted from tar sands and oil shale, but in most cases the process uses almost as much energy as it liberates, while creating great mountains and lakes of toxic waste. Natural gas is a better option, but switching from oil to gas propulsion would require a vast and staggeringly expensive new fuel infrastructure. Gas, of course, is subject to the same constraints as oil: at current rates of use, the world has about 50 years’ supply,(12) but if gas were to take the place of oil its life would be much shorter.

Vehicles could be run from fuel cells powered by hydrogen, which is produced by the electrolysis of water. But the electricity which produces the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. To fill all the cars in the US would require four times the current capacity of the national grid.(13) Coal burning is filthy, nuclear energy is expensive and lethal. Running the world’s cars from wind or solar power would require a greater investment than any civilisation has ever made before. New studies suggest that leaking hydrogen could damage the ozone layer and exacerbate global warming.(14)

Turning crops into diesel or methanol is just about viable in terms of recoverable energy, but it means using the land on which food is now grown for fuel. My rough calculations suggest that running the United Kingdom’s cars on rapeseed oil would require an area of arable fields the size of England.(15)

There is one possible solution which no one writing about the impending oil crisis seems to have noticed: a technique with which the British and Australian governments are currently experimenting, called underground coal gasification.(16) This is a fancy term for setting light to coal seams which are too deep or too expensive to mine, and catching the gas which emerges. It’s a hideous prospect, as it means that several trillion tonnes of carbon which was otherwise impossible to exploit becomes available, with the likely result that global warming will eliminate life on earth.

We seem, in other words, to be in trouble. Either we lay hands on every available source of fossil fuel, in which case we fry the planet and civilisation collapses, or we run out, and civilisation collapses.

The only rational response to both the impending end of the Oil Age and the menace of global warming is to redesign our cities, our farming and our lives. But this cannot happen without massive political pressure, and our problem is that no one ever rioted for austerity. People take to the streets because they want to consume more, not less. Given a choice between a new set of matching tableware and the survival of humanity, I suspect that most people would choose the tableware.

In view of all this, the notion that the war with Iraq had nothing to do with oil is simply preposterous. The US attacked Iraq (which appears to have had no weapons of mass destruction and was not threatening other nations), rather than North Korea (which is actively developing a nuclear weapons programme and boasting of its intentions to blow everyone else to kingdom come) because Iraq had something it wanted. In one respect alone, Bush and Blair have been making plans for the day when oil production peaks, by seeking to secure the reserves of other nations.

I refuse to believe that there is not a better means of averting disaster than this. I refuse to believe that human beings are collectively incapable of making rational decisions. But I am beginning to wonder what the basis of my belief might be.


1. The Buzzard field is believed to contain 400 million barrels of recoverable oil. The US Energy Information Administration estimates global daily oil demand at 76 million barrels (see below).

2. Richard Heinberg, 2003. The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, p.36. New Society Publishers, Canada.

3. Bob Holmes and Nicola Jones, 2nd August 2003. Brace yourself for the end of cheap oil. New Scientist, vol 179, issue 2406.

4. ibid.

5. US EIA, 1998. Annual Energy Outlook, cited in Richard Heinberg, ibid, p.115. The extract reads as follows: “these adjustments to the USGS and MMR estimates are based on non-technical considerations that support domestic supply growth to the levels necessary to meet projected demand levels”.

6. Colin J. Campbell, 1997. The Coming Oil Crisis. Multi-Science Publishing Co. Ltd, Brentwood, Essex.

7. Bob Holmes and Nicola Jones, ibid.

8. US Energy Information Administration, 2003. Annual Energy Outlook 2003 With Projections to 2025.

9. ibid.

10. Alan Carruth, Mark Hooker, and Andrew Oswald, 1998. Unemployment Equilibria and Input Prices: Theory and Evidence from the United States. Review of Economics and Statistics 80: 621-28.

11. James C. Cooper and Kathleen Madigan, 10th January 2003. Will the Economy Skid on Oil? Business Week Online. dnflash/jan2003/nf20030110_5883.htm

12. Richard Heinberg, ibid. p. 126.

13. Hugh Williams, 6th September 2003. Hydrogen hype. Letter to New Scientist, vol 179, issue 2411.

14. Cited in Anil Ananthaswamy, 15th November 2003. Reality Bites for the Dream of a Hydrogen Economy. New Scientist, vol 180, issue 2421.

15. This is back-of-the-envelope, and depends on two unchecked assumptions: a. that the average mpg is 30, b. that the average annual mileage is 5000. This gives an annual fuel use of 167 gallons/car/year. One acre of rapeseed yields 115 gallons of biodiesel. There are 22.7m cars in the UK, which means 33m acres, or 13.3m ha. England’s surface area is 13.4m ha.

16. Fred Pearce, 1st June 2002. Fire Down Below. New Scientist, vol 174, issue 2345.

"Infinite Ingress: A human wave is breaking over California" cover story
- Lee Green, LA Times; January 25 2004: - orig.:,1,6957509,full.story

{Towards the end, this has (about water): "The Assn. of California Water Agencies warns that as early as 2010, yearly demand could exceed supply by 4 million acre-feet, an amount equal to what 20 million residents use in a year." -and- "Human proliferation touches everything."}

... the more closely you examine California's plight, the more the heaven part looks iffy. No other state has so many residents (Texas ranks second, but with almost 40% fewer people), and:
*** no other state comes close to matching California's annual net population increase. ***
   In Los Angeles County and five surrounding counties — Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Imperial — the population now stands at more than 17 million.
That's nearly 6% of the U.S. population, one in every 17 Americans, all within a four-hour drive — if you can find four hours when the traffic isn't bad.


the discussion is always about accommodating growth, never about slowing, limiting, or stabilizing it.
Mention the idea of somehow trying to limit the population and politicians react as though you have suggested that our society eat cats and dogs instead of cows and pigs. Curb population growth? The very notion is unthinkable because — well, this is America.

"How do you do it?" [U.S. Sen. Dianne] Feinstein asks. "Are you going to tell people not to have children? I don't think so. I have never had a single county official say, 'We have decided we want to slow growth in our county, and here's how we want to do it, and we need the federal government's help.' "

If, as Feinstein says, growth is California's no. 1 problem, the root of that problem is immigration. It would be better if this were not so, because it sets up an us-versus-them tension that debases everyone within its reach, but the raw numbers leave little room for debate.
Demographic studies after the 2000 census revealed that from 1990 to 2000, immigrants and their children accounted not for just some, or even most, of California's growth. They accounted for virtually all of it.
Of the increase of 4.2 million people during those 10 years, the net gain generated by the native population was just 90,000, fewer than attend each year's Rose Bowl game.

Immigrants — specifically Latinos, who constitute the majority of the state's more than 9 million immigrants — inflate the population not just by coming to California but by having children once they're here.
** While the combined birthrate for California's U.S. citizens and immigrants who are _not_Latino_ has dropped to replacement level,**
- the birthrate for Latino immigrants from Mexico and Central America averages more than three children per mother.


Immigration directly and indirectly accounts for more than two-thirds of population growth nationwide, but Feinstein says that trying to stem the ever-rising count is not a topic of discussion in the U.S. Senate. Though the earth's population doubled to 5 billion in a mere 37 years (1950 to 1987) and will more than double again in this century, many countries, particularly in Europe, now have low fertility rates, relatively low immigration levels and are losing population. In sharp contrast, the U.S., at more than 292 million the world's third-most populous country behind behemoths China and India, will soon glide past 300 million en route to 400 million before mid-century. In this respect, America stands alone in the developed world. United Nations projections show just eight countries accounting for half of the planet's population increase between now and 2050. Seven of them come as no surprise: China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The other country is the United States, largely because of its generous immigration policies."


"By the time Pat Brown's son assumed the governorship 16 years later in 1975, the state had grown by more than 40%. The sociopolitical climate had changed. Jerry Brown was 36, the youngest governor in modern state history. The environmental movement had bloomed, and he identified with it. In McClintock's view, Brown introduced "a radical and retrograde ideology into California public policy" that has left the state ill-equipped for what's to come.

Brown, of course, remembers it differently. "When my father was governor, there were 15 million people," recalls the former governor, now in his second term as Oakland's mayor. "You had a lot more open space. You had a lot more water to move around. It was easier to do things." Instead of building new freeways, Jerry Brown emphasized maintaining the existing ones. He resisted pressure to build nuclear power plants and guided California into what he termed the 'era of limits.'"


"Water? The state should have no trouble keeping its head above it — because there isn't much. For the past three decades, California's population has severely outstripped the state's ability to store water. Maurice Roos, chief hydrologist for the California Department of Water Resources, claimed three years ago that the state lacked sufficient storage capacity to get through two consecutive dry years. Even with continuing conservation efforts and occasional wet Sierra Nevada winters, experts agree that California will face chronic water shortages in the near future unless something changes.

"The electricity crisis [of 2001] should be a wake-up call for all of us with respect to water in California," Feinstein says, implying that water rationing is no less plausible than power shortages. "We will not have enough water unless we begin to build the necessary infrastructure, the desalination, the recycling, the conservation that's really necessary for 45 [million to] 50 million people."

The Assn. of California Water Agencies warns that as early as 2010, yearly demand could exceed supply by 4 million acre-feet, an amount equal to what 20 million residents use in a year. You won't be reduced to drinking from your rain gauge, but your water bill may get your attention, and green lawns, clean cars and full swimming pools could become as rare as a Dodgers appearance in the post-season. And that's in a good year."


"Schools? In addition to his role with the Preparing California for the 21st Century joint legislative committee, Vasconcellos chairs the state Senate Education Committee. "We're so far behind now that if we build something like 100 schools a year for the next 10 years, we wouldn't catch up," he says. (Actually, the state only looks five years ahead. The California Department of Education calculates that meeting anticipated enrollment will necessitate the construction of 19 new classrooms every day, seven days a week, for the next five years. That's about 230 new schools per year. An additional 22 aging classrooms per day will need modernizing.) "We know that we've got a million more students coming to higher ed. We've known that for 10 years, and we've done almost nothing about it. The no-tax crew have had their way, so we're turning away 170,000 community college students this year alone."

Human proliferation touches everything. Air traffic is expected to double in the next 25 years. Los Angeles currently can deal with its garbage, but the county can foresee the day when it will have to ship it elsewhere. Developers convert at least 50,000 acres of California's farmland to home sites and other urban amenities every year, a phenomenon with no end in sight. The state already has lost 90% of its coastal wetlands. "To me the issue most fundamentally tied to population growth is loss of habitat and endangered species," says former CAPS President Ric Oberlink, who still consults for the organization. "You can talk about air quality, and there may be technological solutions for at least part of the problem — and in fact we have improved air quality in most cities over the last several decades. But when it comes to wildlife habitat, there's no turning back."

Ben Zuckerman, a Harvard-educated UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, serves on the board of directors for both CAPS and the Sierra Club. "I have thought quantitatively through my whole career in the sciences, and I just look at the numbers, the extrapolations of the current trends, and they're just horrific both for the United States and for California," he says.


"The Southern California Assn. of Governments' 2003 State of the Region Report found that the region's position "is slipping in nearly every performance category related to socio-economic well-being, including income and educational attainment. Among 17 major metropolitan areas nationwide, the region ranks 16th or worse in ... attainment of high school degrees, per capita income, persons in poverty, and children in poverty."

Researchers at the Rand Corp. think tank spotted these troubling trends in 1997 after studying 30 years of economic and immigration data. Rand's review concluded that "the large-scale of immigration flows, bigger families, and the concentration of low-income, low-tax-paying immigrants making heavy use of public services are straining state and local budgets."

The lifeboat keeps sitting lower, water spilling over the gunwales, provisions stretching thin. Yet we keep taking on more passengers, and nobody's doing much bailing. Is this any way to run paradise?

"All I can tell you," says Jerry Brown, "is that when you try to retard growth, you have an immediate negative economic impact, and the forces of the economy will resist those efforts. In the capitalist system there is no alternative to unceasing growth."

{2004, LA-Times, at: }

David MacClement ZL1ASX I'm in Greenhithe North Shore NZ
^arkiv interesting articles
earth our home:

Posted by davd at 19:34 NZT
Updated: Friday, 31 December 2010 14:55 NZT
Post Comment | Permalink

View Latest Entries