Oil Drum Posts

It can be difficult to find posts by Gail Tverberg at The Oil Drum now. It is possible to look through all of the posts listed under stories by Gail the Actuary, but the list is close to unmanageable. I thought I would put up a list of my more popular posts, so that people can find things more quickly. I have included a few guest posts that I thought were especially interesting as well.

Oil Drum Posts by Gail the Actuary

Peak Oil and Economic Growth – Sept. 21, 2010

Essay I submitted to an actuarial group in a call for essays relating to the financial crisis and systemic risk. The essay points out that the financial system requires economic growth, but oil supply seems to be flat or even declining in the near future. Lack of growth in oil supply is likely to cause lack of economic growth, and with it debt defaults and problems similar to the 2008 financial crisis.

The US Electric Grid: Will it be Our Undoing? – Revisited – August 6, 2010

Post originally written in 2008, with a short update, on why the US electrical transmission system has so many challenges, and the many obstacles to improving it.

What happens when energy resources deplete? - June 19, 2010

What happens when energy resources, such as oil, deplete? Many people believe that oil prices will just go up–but I don’t see that to be the case. A more likely result is a future dominated by recession and debt defaults–similar to what we have been seeing recently, but trending over time to be worse. In the midst of this recession, the view may be that there is plenty of oil, if only the price were higher.

Our Energy Supply: Some Basics – March 13, 2010

If a person were to listen to Energy Secretary Steven Chu or National Geographic’s Aftermath: World Without Oil, one might think that our energy problems are fairly minor and distant. We can easily add sufficiently renewable energy to substitute for fossil fuels in a fairly short time frame. All we need to do is put our minds (and pocketbooks) to it.

But if one looks at the situation more closely, one discovers that the situation is quite different. Our energy problems are close at hand, and solutions using what are optimistically called “renewables” are distant and may very well sink the country further into recession.

Peak Oil: Looking for the Wrong Symptoms? – February 18, 2010

If I were to ask 10 random people what they would expect would be a sign of the arrival of “peak oil,” I would expect that all 10 would say “high oil prices”.

Let me tell you what I think the symptoms of the arrival of peak oil are
1. Higher default rates on loans
2. Recession

Delusions of Finance: Where We are Headed – February 8, 2010

Explanation of why my financial forecasts at the beginning of 2008 turned out to be correct. I gave this explanation at a talk for 2009 Biophysicial Economics Conference. Also on Our Finite World at this link.

What Can We Learn from Gift Economies? – January 28, 2010

Most non-monetary economies function not on barter, but on a very different mechanism, where individuals gain status not by what they have, but by what they give away. Goods and services are given away, without any expectation of return—in many primitive societies, and in some organizations today, such as Wikipedia and The Oil Drum.

Dennis Meadows – Economics and Limits to Growth: What’s Sustainable? January 4, 2010

This post is a summary of a talk made by Dr. Meadows (one of the authors of Limits to Growth) to the Population Institute. The number one take-away for me from this talk is, “The end of growth does not come from depletion, but from rising capital costs.” As energy return goes down, we have less and less available to invest on new energy sources.

Long term agricultural overshoot - December 28, 2009

This is a guest post by Peter Salonius, a Canadian soil microbiologist, that was originally posted in October 2008.

According to Peter, humanity has probably been in overshoot of the Earth’s carrying capacity since it abandoned hunter gathering in favor of crop cultivation (~ 8,000 BCE). The problem is that soil needs tightly woven natural ecosystems to properly recycle nutrients and prevent soil erosion.

There is plenty of oil but . . . – December 19, 2009

There is a huge amount of oil that theoretically can be extracted, but the question is whether the cost will be cheap enough for us to be able to afford to extract it. If the oil is too expensive to extract, the shortage of oil seems to cause a recession, similar to what we are having now. Also on Our Finite World.

Oil Production is Reaching its Limit: The Basics of What This Means – November 16, 2009

Summary of basic issues regarding why people are concerned about whether oil production will decline in the future. Also provides information about oil and the economy, and relationship between recession and oil prices, and the impact of lower growth on debt defaults.

Scientific American’s Path to Sustainability: Let’s Think about the Details – November 9, 2009

Scientific American presents “A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030″ in its November issue. In many ways, it sounds good. But let’s think about the details: What would the end result look like? Would it really be sustainable? What would the costs really be? Is there any way we could afford to do what is proposed?

Wind powered factories: history (and future) of industrial windmills – October 29, 2009

A guest post by Kris De Decker, publisher of Low-tech Magazine. Wind powered factories were used long before fossil fuels, and could be used again. Many pictures.

Canada’s Oil Sands – Part 2 – September 1, 2009

Write up about trip to Canadian oil sands with American Petroleum Institute, telling about analysis of issues such as how much oil will actually be produced, and Canada’s dependence on oil imports, so that it has oil to export.

Canada’s Oil Sands – Part 1 – August 25, 2009

Write up about visit to Canadian oil sands with American Petroleum Institute, telling about visits to Syncrude’s open pit mining site and to a location where in situ production was being done, using Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage.

Some Cautionary Thoughts about Wind – June 1, 2009

Offers ten reasons why wind is not as an attractive an option as many think it is. Includes reasons why EROI calculations for wind are likely overstated.

“Peak Oil” or “Limits to Growth” – May 1, 2009

There is a good deal of evidence that we are now a little past “peak oil”. Many of us find it doesn’t feel quite like we had imagined. Now, when we seem to be at peak oil, we find the current situation feels a lot more like a “box” caused by limits to growth, rather than a liquid fuels crisis. The limits are of many forms–not just geological limits relating to oil–but other resource limits as well, such as fresh water, and concerns about climate change and the environment. The financial system is even behaving strangely.

Where we are headed: Peak oil and the financial crisis – March 25, 2009

Post pulling together some of the pieces showing that the financial crisis is a direct result of peak oil.

What does Sustainability Mean for Energy? – March 12, 2009

Looks are criteria needed for sustainability, and gives each fuel a grade on a “sustainability grid” rating system. The criteria used for rating are (1) Low Carbon, (2) Low Water, (3) Sufficient Fuel, (4) Low tech; low imports, (5) New Capacity Inexpensive. With this grading system, wood comes out best (although the quantity is low).

Where Is Oil Production Headed?: An Adverse Scenario – March 4, 2009

I am concerned that the actual downside of the curve may look very different from the shape envisioned by Hubbert. The problem is that the limiting factor is likely not geology, but the failure of complex networked systems, particularly the financial system.

How Long Before Uranium Shortages? – February 19, 2009

There seems to be some possibility of uranium shortages, because prices aren’t very high, and long lead times are needed for new production.

Impact of the Credit Crisis on the Energy Industry – Where are We Now? – December 1, 2008

A look at what impact the credit crisis had on energy prices of all types, from oil to natural gas to coal to uranium. Interesting from a historical perspective.

An Overlooked Detail – Finite Resources Explain the Financial Crisis – November 21, 2008

A short summary of the reasons behind the financial crash, written for an audience of actuaries. Explains that our resources are finite, but we live in a world with expected unending growth. There is a close tie between energy resources and economic growth, and we are now reaching limits.

“Energy Resources and Our Future” – Speech by Admiral Hyman Rickover in 1957 – August 10, 2008

Republication of speech made by Hyman Rickover in 1957, talking about the fact that fossil fuels are finite, the a peak in production was likely in the early 21st century, and that citizens had a duty to teach their children about this issue.

The Expected Economic Impact of an Energy Downturn – March 26, 2008

This is a talk given for an audience in the health care field, explaining that the lack of growth is likely to cause major debt defaults, causing the world to change greatly in the next 20 or 30 years.

The Disconnect Between Oil Reserves and Production – March 6, 2008

If a person looks at published oil reserves, it is easy to get the idea that there are huge amounts of oil left to be extracted. One would think that there is no way that peak oil should be a concern. Once we look at the situation a more closely, we discover that published oil reserves really aren’t all that helpful in telling us about future production. In fact, the evidence suggests that oil shortages may not be many years away.

Peak Oil and the Financial Markets: A Forecast for 2008 – January 9, 2008

Financial forecast for 2008 based on underlying principles that, in retrospect, has proved very accurate. Forecast that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would need government assistance, monoline bond insurers would have financial difficulty, failures of large banks and insurance companies, recession that deepens as the year wears on, etc.

Another Inconvenient Truth – A presentation you can download – October 30, 2007

The world was once the leader in oil production. No one told the public about the decline. One by one, other locations have begun to decline also.

Economic Impact of Peak Oil Part 3: What’s Ahead? – October 1, 2007

We cannot know exactly what is ahead. In this part, we look at one possible future scenario. When we think of economic impacts, we usually think of the impacts that the squeeze of higher oil prices will bring–such as energy price inflation, food price inflation, and the need for more mass transit.

While these “squeeze” impacts are expected to occur, the real problem may be the discontinuities that occur, because of pressure on monetary systems and pressure on political systems.

Economic Impact of Peak Oil Part 2: Our Current Situation – September 25, 2007

In this segment, we will look at some other changes affecting the economy besides the growth in the use of fossil fuels. We will look particularly at debt and how peak oil is likely to affect a financial system that is tied to debt. We will also look at some the stresses that the economy is currently under. Some of these stresses seem to stem from a failure of the United States to fully adapt to its own decline in oil supply since 1971; some of these stresses come from the fact that the world is finite, and we are reaching the earth’s limits with respect to more than just oil.

Economic Impact of Peak Oil Part 1: A Flashback- September 23, 2007

What happens when peak oil collides with our economic system? It seems to me that there is a high probability of a major discontinuity of some type. What exactly happens after the discontinuity is likely to vary from country to country. It seems to me that the United States is especially vulnerable to a drastic drop in the amount of oil available for import because of the large amount of oil we import and the relatively small amount of goods we export.

Peak Oil Booklet – Chapter 4: What Should We Do Now? – August 18, 2007

Some ideas on what a person can do, with respect to peak oil planning—things like visiting family and friends, and taking up hobbies that you will be able to continue.

Peak Oil Booklet: Chapter 3: What’s Ahead? – July 31, 2007

How imports are likely to fall more quickly than world oil production. (By 2030, US per capita consumption may be similar to that in 1920, or to Mexico today.) Likely impacts on the financial markets and job markets.

Peak Oil Booklet – Chapter 2: Is This a False Alarm? – July 17, 2007

It seems like people thought we were running out of oil in the 1970s, and then all of our problems went away. Why is the situation different now?

Peak Oil Booklet – Introduction and Chapter 1 – What Is Peak Oil? – July 17, 2007

In this chapter, we discuss some of the basic issues relating to peak oil and the expected worldwide decline in oil production.

1. What is peak oil?

“Peak oil” is the term used to describe the situation when the amount of oil that can be extracted from the earth in a given year begins to decline because geological limitations are reached. Extracting oil becomes more and more difficult, so that costs escalate and the amount of oil produced begins to decline.

Corn-Based Ethanol: Is This a Solution? – June 7, 2007

Many people have high hopes for ethanol made from corn–that it will prevent future gasoline shortages, prevent global warming, be a wonderful investment, and improve the income of farmers, among other things. Other observers raise a whole host of concerns including scalability, impact on the environment, and impact on food prices. Why is there such a huge disparity in views? What is the real promise for corn ethanol?

Our World Is Finite: Is This a Problem? – April 30, 2007

Post written before I became an Oil Drum staff member that lays out may of the major issues that I continue to write about. We live in a finite world, and growth in all directions cannot continue. Technology only moves problems from one area to another. If we don’t find solutions, we can expect higher prices for energy and food items, and a major recession. Long term we can expect a decline in economic activity and problems with the financial system.

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