An Economic Theory of Limited Oil Supply

We seem to hear two versions of the story of limited oil supply:

1. The economists’ view, saying that the issue is a simple problem of supply and demand. Substitution, higher prices, demand destruction, greater efficiency, and increased production of oil at higher prices will save the day.

2. A version of Hubbert’s peak oil theory, saying that world oil production will rise and at some point reach a plateau and begin to decline, because of geological depletion. The common belief is that the rate of decline will be determined by geological considerations, and will roughly match the rate at which production increased.

In my view, neither of these views is correct. My view is a third view:

3. An adequate supply of cheap ($20 or $30 barrel) oil is no longer available, because most of the “easy to extract” oil is gone. The cost of extracting oil keeps rising, but the ability of oil-importing economies to pay for this oil does not. There are no good low-cost substitutes for oil, so substitution is very limited and will continue to be very limited. The big oil-importing economies are already finding themselves in poor financial condition, as higher oil prices lead to cutbacks in discretionary spending and layoffs in discretionary industries.

The government is caught up in this, as layoffs lead to more need for stimulus funds and for payments to unemployed workers, at the same time that tax revenue is reduced. There can be a temporary drop in oil prices (as there was in late 2008), as recession worsens, but eventually demand rises again, oil prices rise again, and the pattern of layoffs and increased governments financial problems occurs again.

Without substitutes at a price that the economy can afford, economies will adapt to lower amounts of oil they can afford by worsening recession, debt defaults, and reduced international trade. There may be tendency for international alliances (such as the Euro) to fall apart, and for countries to break into smaller units (Catalonia secede from Spain, or countries break up the way the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia did).

At some point, probably not too many years in the future, the amount of oil extracted from the ground will drop, reflecting a combination of geological and economic factors. The fall may very well be quite steep. While we can’t expect to extract more than geology will allow, there is nothing to say that political and economic factors will allow extraction of this amount. If civil war breaks out in an oil producer, production may drop quickly. Or if oil prices drop because of severe recession, drilling of new fields and wells may drop off quickly, leading to lower production as existing wells deplete, and not enough new supply as added. There may also be disruption in international sales of oil.

What the Economists’ View Misses

The economists’ view misses the fact that it is external energy that makes the economy operate the way it does. (See my earlier posts, here, here and here.) If energy products are higher priced, energy importers can afford less of them, and there is a tendency of their economies to shrink back to what their economies can afford—fewer employed workers and fewer government programs. I talk about the connection between employed workers and energy consumption in The Close Tie Between Energy Consumption, Employment and Recession.

Figure 1. World GDP, oil consumption and energy consumption growth rates, based on data of USDA, Angus Maddison, and BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy data.

As the growth rate in energy supplies decreases (oil by itself, or in total), the economy tends to shrink back.  Initially (in the 1970s and 1980s), the economy shrinking back looked like it was slowing down – no longer undertaking big new initiatives like interstate highway systems and major electrical grid expansions, and adding new initiatives for taking care of the poor. Then the economy shrinking back morphed into a bigger emphasis on debt financing; less concern about keeping up infrastructure the way it had in the past; and switching from manufacturing of goods to production of services, to keep energy needs lower.

Another way of keeping down energy use was by keeping wages down. Since wages translate to purchase of things that energy can make, lower wages allow an economy to “get by” with less energy consumption. In the US, the quest for lower wages has manifested itself in many ways—the failure of men’s median wages to rise after the mid 1970s, the increasing use of women (at lower average wages) in the workforce, and later outsourcing of jobs to countries overseas with lower wages (and thus less energy consumption by workers).

Figure 2. Per capita oil consumption in countries with recent bank bailouts, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Eventually, the economy shrinking back has become more disruptive. It looks more like recession, with job layoffs, debt defaults, and serious government funding problems. Governments find themselves going deeper and deeper into debt, as tax revenue lags, and there is more need for stimulus funding and benefits for unemployed workers. In such an atmosphere, government stability is at risk. This seems to be where quite a few of the European countries are right now. The United States is not far away either, with many of its problems hidden by deficit spending, “quantitative easing,” ultra low interest rates, and the fiscal cliff.

The Myth of Substitution

A big part of the economists’ problem in figuring out the problem with limited cheap oil supply is their assumption that energy is not very important. It doesn’t cost very much, so why worry about it? Certainly, there should be substitutes. For example, if we can’t afford to make goods, we should be able to switch to the production of services, since these don’t require as much energy to produce. This might be a method of substitution.

But think about this. In our own life, our own energy comes from food. If someone told you that we were having a problem with food supply, but the economists said not to worry, we would find a substitute, how convinced would you be that economists really knew what they were talking about? Do you feel less hungry after a haircut, or a trip to get a loan at a bank (two standard types of services)? Perhaps they were underestimating the importance of food.

Something like that happens with other forms of energy as well. It is virtually impossible to substitute away. There is a little substitution over time of one form of energy for another, just as there is substitution of wheat for corn. But in general, each type of energy has its own uses, and it is hard to substitute one type for another. A car runs on gasoline. It is possible to substitute up to 10% or 15% corn ethanol in the gasoline, but unless significant changes are made, it is not possible to run the car on natural gas or on coal.

A big part of economists’ problem with overestimating the role of substitution is their missing the adverse impact of high oil prices (or other high energy prices) on the economy. As I have explained previously, when oil prices rise, both the cost of food and cost of commuting tend to rise. Workers cut back on discretionary spending, so as to have enough money for commuting and food expenses, leading to layoffs in discretionary industries. Housing prices stagnate or drop, as people cut back their expectations of moving to a higher priced home. Governments find themselves in increasingly poor financial condition, trying to fix these problems, with lagging tax revenue. All of this creates substantial economic problems, which cannot be overlooked.

The comment a person often hears is, “As soon as the price of oil rises high enough, _______ will substitute for it.” This doesn’t work for a couple of reasons: (1) By the time the price rises that high, the economy will be “in the tank” anyhow; a high-priced substitute doesn’t fix the problem. (See my post High-Priced Fuel Syndrome) (2) Substitutes generally use oil in their production, either directly or indirectly, so when the price of oil rises, the price of the substitutes tends to rise as well, although probably not as much as the oil price rise.

Substitution to date is not taking place very quickly. On a worldwide basis, 87% of current energy use comes from fossil fuels, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy Data. The remainder is divided as follows, in the year 2011:

▪               Nuclear amounted to 5% of the total;

▪               Hydroelectric amounted to 6% of the total, and

▪               Renewables (including wind, solar, biofuels, wood, waste, geothermal, and others) come to a total of 2% of world energy supply.

There has been some substitution away from oil for a long time, because oil is high priced. Often, this occurs through electrification of various processes. The electricity used in this process is today mostly from natural gas and coal, with lesser amounts from nuclear, hydroelectric, and other renewables.

The speed with which substitution of electricity for oil is taking place varies, with stationary applications working best, and transportation being slow to change. According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2011, only 0.3% of US transportation fuel was electricity. The rest of transportation was divided as follows: Oil, 92.7%; Biofuels, 4.3%; Natural Gas, 2.7%.

Another application which is a significant user of oil, but for which little substitution toward electricity is readily available, is in food production. Oil is used in operating farm machinery, in making herbicides and insecticides, and in transporting food to market. This is a reason why many people are interested in local food production, using techniques that use less oil.

What the Peak Oilers Missed

If a person goes back and looks at M. King Hubbert’s 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, they will discover that Hubbert talks about a very optimistic scenario: the use of nuclear energy rising, before the use of oil and other fossil fuels begins to decline. See my post, Will the decline in world oil supply be fast or slow?

Figure 3. Figure from Hubbert’s 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.

Elaborating further on this idea, Hubbert, in his 1962 paper, Energy Resources – A Report to the Committee on Natural Resources, writes about the possibility of having so much cheap energy that it would be possible to essentially reverse combustion–combine lots of energy, plus carbon dioxide and water, to produce new types of fuel plus water. If we could do this, we could solve many of the world’s problems–fix our high CO2 levels, produce lots of fuel for our current vehicles, and even desalinate water, without fossil fuels.

The problem that arises if we don’t have such a substitute for fossil fuels is a severe one. How do we keep our current economy operating, if oil prices, or fossil fuels in general, become high priced, and start interfering with the economy? At some point, the interference will become so great that recession will set in, in many major oil importing nations. Oil prices will drop, and oil producers will not be able to extract oil at those prices. There may be major financial impacts as well—governments dropping out of the Euro, the US government facing a financial cliff, and other countries (Japan, Britain, and China, for example) facing difficulties as well.

In my view, the shape of down slope in oil production is likely to be steeper than the pattern by which oil supply increases. Geology determines the maximum amount of extraction, but it doesn’t determine how much will actually be extracted.  Economic conditions need to be right for the extractions to take place. Low oil prices by themselves could cause political upheaval in some oil exporting nations. If there are huge international trade problems, this could reduce demand as well.

Why International Trade Can Be Expected to Contract

Huge economic growth since World War II has been enabled by increased international cooperation and increased globalization. It is now possible to make many high-tech goods using trained specialists who travel around the world and raw materials imported from countries that will put up with high levels of pollution. These high-tech goods can be very cheap, if they are assembled in a country such as China with cheap labor.

Once countries start operating in a mode of “not enough energy to go around,” the model of global cooperation starts disintegrating. If unemployment becomes an increasing problem, then countries are no longer be willing to let in cheap labor from lesser-developed countries. We can see this happening in the United States, with respect to workers from Mexico.

If oil is becoming a problem, we will see more spats, of the type recently occurring between Japan and China, leading to lower trade. There may even be more resource wars. Large countries encountering financial problems will see individual units wanting to go their own way, with the parts that are doing better economically wanting to disassociate themselves from the have-nots.

Figure 4. Oil as a percent of total 2006 energy consumption for European countries, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy

High oil prices are likely to lead to more defaults on loans. In fact, Figure 4 shows that the countries most at risk of defaulting tend to be the ones that imported the largest percent of their energy from oil in 2006, before the recent crisis begin. As the world encounters more and more loan defaults, this too can be expected to erode interest in foreign trade. Such trade will likely not disappear, but may be carried on to a greater degree between trusted partners, or on more of a barter basis. For example, a certain quantity of oil may be traded for goods that the oil-producing country can use.

Businesses, Governments and Consumers form a Networked System

The way the world operates today, each business is added to the existing web of governments, businesses and consumers that exists today. Some businesses succeed, while others fail. Success or failure depends the laws that are in effect, the resources that are available, what competition there is, and the purchasing power of customers.

If energy is in short supply, more and more governments and businesses will fail, and increasing numbers of consumers will find themselves without jobs in the traditional economy. Banks may be overwhelmed by debt defaults. At some point, supply chains will become so disrupted that it will be hard for anything other than small local businesses to succeed.

This will correspond to what Joseph Tainter talks about as moving to a state of lower complexity. We don’t know exactly when or how this will happen, but it appears that we are already moving in this direction. The next years seem likely to be challenging ones!

This entry was posted in Financial Implications, Oil and Its Future and tagged , , , , by Gail Tverberg. Bookmark the permalink.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.

156 thoughts on “An Economic Theory of Limited Oil Supply

  1. Gail
    In your role as an actuary, do you have any timely thoughts about Peak Disaster Insurance?

    Thanks…Don Stewart

    • There are really three kinds of disaster insurance:
      1. Insurance sold by companies.
      2. Insurance sold by governments.
      3. Insurance given away “free” by governments, in the way of programs after a disaster hits.

      Insurance sold by companies has not done too badly so far. It will run into problems if there are securities on insurance company balance sheets that default, but otherwise, I think it is pretty much OK.

      The ones that are hitting problems worst are the give-away programs by governments, and the programs that governments supposedly charge for (like flood insurance), that are still a form of give-aways, because they are set up to please tax payers, and tend to be inadequately funded. These seem like the ones that have to get cut way back or end, just because the government can’t keep printing money to pay for everything that comes along. (Or can it??)

      At some point, we reach the point where it is not possible to fund all of the breaks in the system because of natural disasters. For example, suppose that it becomes impossible to put major parts of the New York subway system back into service, without billions of dollars of payments. I am willing to bet that there is virtually no private insurance coverage for such a loss. At some point, the City of New York, the State of New York, and the Federal Government are going to have to say, “Sorry, we can’t fix this right now, or maybe ever.”

      I expect that that situation will come after some natural disaster. It may not be as soon as Hurricane Sandy, but it could very well be something similar, especially with the fiscal cliff around the corner.

  2. When contemplating our future problems with energy availability, we should perhaps consider the words of those who advise our leaders, and on whose advice future energy policies are thought out. Peter Huber, the author of ‘Hard green, saving the environment from the environmentalists’, holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from MIT, and was associate professor there for six years. He is currently a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. In an article entitled The energy spiral (2002) he claims that the more energy we use, the more we will be able to produce. He offers the theory that millions of years of evolutionary biology demonstrate that nature finds new sources of energy to sustain its processes (of which we are a part obviously). Huber’s theory is that humanity functions in the same way because over millennia we have also always adapted our survival strategies to use new energy sources in ever increasing amounts. Huber calls this a ‘chain reaction process’, and worse, a ‘perpetual motion machine’ – that phrase should set alarm bells ringing. He states that we can never run out of energy, because the ‘more we capture and burn, the better we get at capturing still more’. (You read that right folks–a perpetual motion machine–from an MIT PhD). It reads like the sort of thing the loonytooners of the US Republican party would come up with, but Huber is a man of undoubted intellect.
    In other words, we can not only have our cake and eat it, but we will have more cake than when we started. This is the economics of a flat earth, where a species (ourselves that is) can go on absorbing more and more available energy into infinity. Huber is not alone; many learned thinkers of his intellectual stature eagerly offer their conclusions to those who base world economics and delusions of growth on the physics of ‘perpetual motion machines’.
    This sort of nonsense influences political thinking, and at the very least gives an excuse for inertia.

    • MedievalFuture, in one sense, Huber is relating the tendency for the process of evolution to transfer energy from low- to high-entropy flows at increasing density and complexity towards the top of a hierarchy of flows, if you will.

      Regarding never “running out of energy”, of course, this is true in that the amount of energy in the universe (multi-verse) is well beyond anything we wee human apes will ever be capable of consuming (give us time, however); but the issue is the form, cost, rate of transfer of low-entropy fossil fuel (ancient solar), scale of net energy per capita, and at what sustainable exergetic equilibrium on our finite planet. It is currently a mathematical and biophysical/thermodynamic impossibility for even a small plurality of the 7 billion human apes on the planet to consume net fossil fuel energy per capita at anywhere remotely close to that of the West.

      When faced with this fact, it is no wonder why the vast majority of economists, CEOs, Wall Streeters, politicians, and mass-media influentials can’t entertain such a notion, at least not publicly.

      Coming clean about the implications of Peak Oil and peak oil exports, population overshoot, and falling net energy and real GDP per capita is akin to the POTUS going on network TV worldwide and proclaiming to the world that extraterrestrials have been visiting for millennia, and they have no plans to save us from ourselves; that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Judeo-Christian-Muslim tribal desert sky gods do not exist; Jesus done left Chicago, but he ain’t bound for New Orleans; that 9/11 was an inside job; and Elvis and Jim Morrison are still alive.

      • If 9/11 was not an inside job, Sir Isaac Newton got his third law of motion wrong. Have look at Verinage demolition on Youtube, which relies on Newton’s third law of motion for it to work, and compare it floor by floor with the collapse of the North tower. Unless a different physics is going on in the two situations, the North tower collapse should have run out of steam before it got to about the 80th floor. (The official line for the South tower’s collapse is even more problematic.) That can only mean that some other source of energy demolished the remaining 80 odd floors. (And boy did it demolish them; sending multi-ton structural steel members out sideways at over 60 odd mph for over 100 meters, blasting human bodies into fragments and depositing them on the roofs of nearby buildings and apparently causing debris to (gravitationally!) explode in mid-air and alter direction of flight by ‘equal and opposite reaction’ to the explosive ‘action’, again thanks to good old Newton and other debris to visibly descend at a significantly higher rate than that of gravity – albeit in a supposedly gravity driven collapse!))

        I don’t wish to take the discussion off topic, but it is a policy of mine to highlight the questions surrounding 9/11 whenever and wherever they crop up. It was an evil act and the truth has to come out eventually. The sooner the better is my view. As for the other items on your list, I think you are spot on!

        Of course, if you believe that the economics of limited oil supply is going to lead to unrest, and there is no reason why those that perpetrated the event should not have has such a view long before 9/11, then it is not off topic at all. In fact it can be seen as a means to an end by creating legal instruments (e.g. Patriot Act) and organisational bodies (e.g. Department of Homeland Security) in preparation for that unrest. As for FEMA camps, well, they are only for cheap holidays (for the 99%?) and couldn’t possibly be part of the same plan, could they?

        • “the North tower collapse should have run out of steam before it got to about the 80th floor”.

          Where are your physical calculations for this assertion? Do you have a PhD or at least a BSc (Hons) in physics? Have you done the complex calculations yourself or have you run the collapse in a structural collapse simulator of some kind on a (very) large computer?

          How can a pancake collapse which has already commenced and has already collapsed several floors “run out of steam” as each collapsed floor adds its weight and gathering momentum and kintetic energy to the impact on the next floor below? Is this not an accelerating and accumlating process with increasing impact and stress forces inflicted on each subsequent floor as the collapse progresses? You are aware that falling masses on earth continually accelerate except for the effects of air resistance or other resisting forces? Notwithstanding subsequent floors being resisting forces, you are aware that if a floor cannot withstand the six floors above collapsing on it then the next floor, if of comparable strength, will not be able to withstand seven floors collapsing on it?

          You are aware that as brittle structural members break they can break explosively and initially accelerate some fragments faster than already falling debris? You are aware of the enormous kinetic energy that would have been accumulated by the time the major debris fall hit gound level and that this energy will dissipate in both deforming the foundations and in explosive shattering and ricochets propelling debris in all possible clear directions?

          My questions are rhetorical. Clearly, you are not aware of these facts.

          • So many questions, Ikonoclast, yet no common sense in any of them. Go and look at Verinage demolition on Youtube and see the demolition process that you theorise about in actual, real life operation and then simply apply it to the North tower collapse. You will see exactly how the North tower must have run out of steam by the time it reached the 80th floor. To lend some detail to this, look on Youtube to Jonathan H Cole’s experiment s.

            No, I have not done the actual calculations on the collapse, and quite obviously, neither have you. However, I don’t need to. After 26 years in the motor industry as an engineer, many of which in vehicle research, I do know something about what happens when two bodies collide without needing to get my calculator out.(it is rather important with passenger carrying vehicles, believe it or not). It is called nous, Ikonclast, and it comes with experience. When two bodies collide, the action of the one hitting the other is met by an equal and opposite reaction, or Newton is wrong. I can tell you from crash test experience that it matters not one jot whether they are both doing the same speed in opposite directions, one is stationary and one is moving or some combination of the two cases. Most importantly, it matter not which one you base your frame on, if both vehicles are identical, the damage will be identical, or, again, Newton is wrong, period.

            So, taking a frame of reference focused on the 12 intact floors of the North tower above the impact zone, we can imagine the lower 93 intact floors below the impact zone to be moving upwards into them. (It would be just as valid to take Alpha Centauri as the focus for our frame of reference and then we would have two bodies colliding at a closing speed of a few tens of mph while each doing many thousands of miles per hour in damn nearly the same direction as they travel around the galaxy relative to our neighbouring star. That is basic science and I do not need a PhD in physics to know that, even a basic secondary science education is good enough.) Given that frame of reference, you seem to believe that the 12 floors will remain intact all the while the 93 floors crash into them, demolishing themselves in the process. Then somehow, the upper 12 floors demolish themselves, too! That is plain daft and I don’t need a PhD in psychiatry either to know so.

            Being expected to believe the official line on the collapse of the North tower is the same as being expected to believe that an 8 person people carrier can crash into an inter-continental coach and fully demolish it. It is small wonder that so many qualified architects and engineers got together to register their disbelief of the official line on 911. The South tower’s collapse is even more problematic. Within a couple of seconds of the onset of collapse the intact 25 or so floor above the impact zone had rotated through 22 degrees in the vertical plane. There is no known mechanism that could have halted that rotation that relies on gravity alone. If you take the trouble to watch a video of it, you will see that it just disintegrates as it falls, in contravention of the law of the conservation of angular momentum. If you look closely at videos of the collapse (the David Chandler videos ‘South tower smoking guns’ are best for this purpose) you will see debris exploding. For something to explode, there has to be an explosive and believe it or not I don’t need a PhD in pyrotechnics to work that out either.

            Not only does the official line contradict Newton’s third law of motion and the law of conservation of angular momentum, the presence of molten iron pouring out of the South tower just before collapse contravenes the Second Law of Thermodynamics, seeing as office fires, even one fuelled by jet fuel cannot get even close to the melting point of iron/steel. Suspicion is strengthened by the fact that the fires took three months to extinguish themselves and all through the post event site demolition, the crews kept extracting red hot and dripping molten steel members from the rubble. And I haven’t mentioned the nano-thermite and their associated microspheres of iron that prove initiation.

            Open your eyes Ikonclast, you have been conned. Go and look at Architects and engineers for 911 truth web site before you reply to this and get the opinion of the experts. See what they have to say, and don’t miss the discussion on WTC7, which many see as the smoking gun. After you have done that, go and look at Pilots for 911 Truth website. See how a very experienced captain with actual hours on the aircraft used on 911 says about the credibility of the official line on the matter. (In particular, look at the flight 77 video that shows the NTSB’s FDR analysis. It shows that it could not possibly have knocked over the lamppoles/lampposts on its way into the Pentagon (so what did?) Also, look at the photos of the Pentagon’s facade taken after the impact but before the collapse. Ask yourself just how two 5 tonne compact jet engines managed to hit the outer wall at about 400 mph and not leave a mark! Ask how a massive 757 managed to squeeze into a 16 ft square hole. Ask why survivors, many with frontline experience, smelled cordite just after the impact. Ask why Cheney did nothing to evacuate the building. Ask why there were no intercepts when the most secure airspace on the face of the planet was breached. Ask why, while in that airspace, flight 77 did a massive descending turn through 330 degrees, leaving it vulnerable to intercept for an unnecessary further 2 minutes with military airfields only a few miles away, seemingly to hit the only spot in the Pentagon that had just been reinforced and was still only partially occupied. Ask yourself why that self same spot had the accounts that would have revealed what happened to a 2 trillion dollar hole in the defence budget and of course destroyed.

            Being retired now, I have had the time to explore 911 in a great deal of depth and am fully convinced that a new investigation is needed. This time one that is completely independent of government and one that the co-chairs are satisfied was not set up to fail as the co-chairs of the old 911 Commission believe there’s was. And why would anyone want it to fail? One reason just might be that death row would await the perpetrators if the investigation concluded that it was an inside job.

            There are too many questions that still need to be answered, and too many knowledgeable people asking them, to let the matter drop. British people were killed on 911 and I consider it an obligation to keep the matter prominent in the public’s mind for their sake. It would be nice to think that people from other nationalities that had victims on 911 felt the same and did not simply swallow the official storey, hook, line and sinker.

          • The incident at Concord was said to have been the “shot heard ’round the world” that was just cause for the beginning of the American Revolutionary War; it wasn’t.

            The Mexican War was said to have been precipitated by the invasion by Mexico; it didn’t happen.

            The beginning of the Spanish-American War and Philippine-American War was said to have been the result of Spain blowing of the USS Maine; not likely.

            FDR knew about the plans by the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor, but he allowed it to happen to justify US entrance into WW II to defend Great Britain after Wall St. and the City of London assisted Hitler to come to power, including grandpa Bush.

            9/11? Please. US, British, Israeli, and German intelligence created Saddam Hussein, the Mujahideen/Taliban/Al Qaeda, and infiltrated and co-opted the Muslim Brotherhood decades ago. Anglo-American empire needed a Pearl Harbor-like event to persuade the American public to support the larger strategic plan to invade Central Asia and Iraq in order to establish a military presence as a forward front to contain Iran, China, and Russia and to secure the oil supplies and shipping lanes of the Middle East. The Pentagon planners, State Dept., CIA, Wall St., and US, British, and Dutch oil and petrochemical companies have anticipated Peak Oil and the long-term structural economic and geopolitical implications for decades.

            The American public would not have supported an imperial invasion and never-ending war for oil without 9/11, which was just collateral damage as part of realpolitik and never-ending war for Anglo-American oil empire.

            The US is the successor to British Empire and is carrying on with where the British left off during the Afghan Wars of the Victorian era, the Boer Wars to WW I, and post-WW I occupation of Palestine following the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The never-ending war plan will extend to Iran, containment of nuclear Pakistan when it becomes a failed state, parts of Africa to secure oil supplies, and eventually war with China, or at a minimum blockades and embargoes of Chinese ships and interests in Africa and the western hemisphere.

            What will be required to justify war with Iran and China? Time will tell.

          • Having re-read my reply to Ikonclast, I realise that I perhaps should have provided some specific response to his pancake collapse theory. Initially I simply dismissed it because it has already been dismissed by the experts and also by its proposer. Facts which Ikonclast is apparently unaware and which shows a marked lack of investigation on his or her part. However, for the sake of completeness let us, too, dismiss it here.

            If the North tower had collapsed in pancake fashion, then careful analysis of the video evidence would show a jolt of reduced downward acceleration each time the falling stack of pancakes hit the next floor, sorry, pancake. The video evidence shows a smooth fall all the way down (even past the turtle and the elephants). Let us ignore that for the moment and accept that pancaking was taking place despite the evidence. In that case we would have the lowest floor of the falling stack not hitting each subsequent lower floor with sufficient strength to demolish it because had it done so, it too would have been demolished in the process according to Newton’s third law of motion. There is no way that the falling 12 floors could demolish any more than 12 of the lower floors, that is again thanks to good old Newton. So, assuming that the floors remain intact, where was the stack of 110 floors at ground level on 9/12?

            The pancake theory nonsense does not stop there. The vertical strength of the twin towers resided in small part to the exterior tube of structural members. The main strength, however, was provided by the central columns which contained the service shafts and passenger lifts. These columns were progressively stronger the nearer to ground level they were due to the fact that they had to bear more load above them with each extra floor added. They also had to be strong enough to resist side loads due to hurricanes (Sandy was not the first one to hit NY) and also resist impact from a fully laden Boeing 707, a four engine air craft that was the largest one at the time they were designed and about the same size as the 767s that did hit them on 9/11. In short, the interlinked central columns were massive in the twin towers were massive and immensely strong and can be regarded as one integrated unit in each tower

            So, we have a massive inner support column and an outer tube with the floors connected to them by the use of pins. Ignoring the nonsense that these pin connections are supposed to have failed, despite being designed to be stronger than the members to which they were connected and also that they had to have failed in unison, we will allow the pancake collapse to continue on its merry way, ignorant of the fact it is destroying a scientific law that has stood the test of over 300 years. What do we have left? A pile of pancaked floors 110 floors high AND one massive central column standing forlornly in the midst of the death and destruction, a monument to the evilness of man. But, as anyone reading this, other than perhaps Ikonoclast, will know, there was no central support column left standing, no pile of pancakes of any description and the evilness of man in search of a monument.

            More importantly, careful analysis of the video evidence of the TV mast on the roof of the North tower, located directly above the central column, shows it falling about three meters immediately prior to the explosive onset of the main collapse, entirely in line with controlled demolition practice. Continued careful analysis of the collapse shows the upper 12 floors disintegrating before they hit the lower 93 intact floors to the point where there is nothing left to actually fall onto those lower floors. And continuing with our careful examination of the video evidence we see waves of explosive ejections preceding the main collapse front as it descends the building, together with what controlled demolition experts describe as squibs, which are mistimed detonations.

            Ikonoclast, you are obviously free to believe exactly what you wish to believe. For my part, I will do what I have always done, namely listen to the experts, especially those whose pay and indeed their very career is not dependent on following a particular government line. For a fine example of what I am referring to, follow the video evidence of NIST’s behaviour regarding the collapse of WTC7, the building that was not hit by any aircraft – though one of those grounded by the stop order issued by the FAA on 9/11had box cutter knives stuffed down the seats, so one can perhaps infer that it was planned to be attacked. There you see two senior engineers desperately trying to defend the indefensible. Today, the situation with WTC7 is that NIST say it collapsed in a unique fashion, yet refuse to release the computer modelling that tells them this on the grounds of national safety, even though the architects are demanding it so that it can inform their designs! Why do I listen to the experts? Because in engineering you can end up on a manslaughter charge if you don’t, especially if, like me, your work involves components whose failure could cause loss of life, which my field of passenger carrying motor vehicles, a.k.a. ‘cars’, tended to be capable of.

            9/11 was a very clever scheme devised by devious, perhaps even evil, minds. It failed in its detail execution as a massive amount of evidence shows to those open-minded enough to see it. Osama and his merry men were patsies who must have been very disappointed when they were not each greeted in the afterlife by 70 virgins. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I prefer women with experience, but perhaps that is an ‘age’ thing.

  3. The Telegraph had an article a few days ago about the local councils in the UK starting to shut off or dim street lights to cut carbon emissions and save money.
    I wonder when the airline industry will collapse? I’ll guess, sometime during the first half of the next decade.
    Remember that nearly all cars we drive today are VASTLY overpowered for the purpose of moving our body between two places. After we peak out, you will see a whole class of tiny little electric, and natural gas powered personal transport vehicles become very popular. They will be made from aluminum, or plastic, or maybe even wood pulp glued together with waterproof resin. Trust me, walking will be a last resort. Tires might be a problem. Can they be made without oil? Probably.
    You are right about trade. Everything that can be, will be made close to large population centers. I wonder if railroads will use towed LNG cars to power their locomotives, or go with overhead electric lines. Overhead would cost a fortune to construct, and a lot of existing routes would probably be abandoned.
    I wonder if coal powered ships will return? They work. Or will ocean trade be so small that expensive oil will still be used to transport high value items? Most trains and ships ran on coal until the 1930’s. Since I’m a mile from the Norfolk Southern track into New Orleans, I doubt the smoke will be too bad. Steam locomotives used to run at nearly 90 miles an hour in places.
    The 18 wheelers left will be running on LNG until the roads can no longer be maintained.
    It will be interesting to see when the rationing will start and how they will implement it. Farming will get first cut. Rubber and chemicals will be up there. You can’t do much without tires. You need oil to make roofing shingles too.

    • Good reflections, Bill, but I don’t agree with: “Trust me, walking will be a last resort.”

      With our lack of fitness and access to cheap fuel a significant part of motoring is short trips of less than 5 kilometres. Many people jump into their vehicles to travel just 400 metres. This component of travel will change dramatically.

      For longer trips we are already seeing statistics that people are choosing to travel less. In both the USA and Britain statistics show that, per capita, kilometres driven per year is decreasing. Some of this trend is no doubt caused by planetary concern though I suspect the rising cost of fuel is the major factor. But this is just early days.

      That said, our marriage with the motor car is a very strong one and we will do almost anything than to foresake that luxury, we will just travel much less and move heaven and earth to maintain our motoring independence for when we really think we need it.

    • Another reflection on our transport future, US energy analyst Robert Hirsch gave food for thought recently with his calculation that there is by now 100 trillion dollars (that’s $100,000,000,000,000) worth of infrastructure installed on the planet that runs on oil… and the number of decades it would take to change that infrastructure investment, just in available dollar terms, even with the best will in the world.

      Time is an essential ingredient and we don’t have a lot of flexibility there.

      Financial liquidity to make that conversion is a bigger question mark. As Gail has been surmising in these columns, the global economy is not cashed up enough to make any such conversion… though it won’t stop us from desperately trying to do so.

    • Roads are one part of the system that I see as a problem, even fairly early on. In cold parts of the world, they need to be repaired pretty much every year, with or without traffic. I am afraid they will ultimately be the weak link in keeping automotive/truck travel going.

      It seems to me that in order to make small electric and natural gas personal transport vehicles, one would need supply chains from around the world. It would be necessary to make new metals, and to make batteries. I am not sure how much of this could be done. Animal transport would be much easier–but would require sufficient space for needed food production.

      Perhaps coal operated devices could be made with shorter supply chains–I am not certain. A train of the type we had one hundred years ago would likely be easier to maintain than one with high-tech doors, windows, and other parts. If people could be persuaded not to include all of the “bells and whistles”, it seems like it would be easier to be able to keep making devices which could be repaired for quite some time.

      • Gail, some 35 years ago Ivan Illich (now deceased) wrote a treatise on transport including his notion that small, slow three-wheeled vehicles were the best transport solution for poor nations that had little infrastructure. Consider that it is nearly impossible to make a four legged table sit steady on a surface that is not flat whereas a three legged table will sit steady on any undulating surface and then we can understand the wisdom of his thought process.

        The long and the short of it is that Illich had the foresight to realize that imposing fast transport requiring sealed roads on poor nations would not serve them well, and would cost more money than they could ever hope to have or ever up keep.

        Well, I think he was correct. The vehicles of the future that can move us and freight around with minimal energy will be those that travel at little more than walking speed and will work effectively on very basic ‘roads’ that require low energy and effort to keep serviceable.

        That will be the end point of all our striving, no matter how much we may dream of slick gas or electric powered replacements for our future mobility.

        • You have a good point there. Outside of Mumbai, the roads of India are said to be terrible, and the few roads I saw weren’t very good. It is going to be difficult for any country to keep up its roads, as asphalt and cement become less available for that purpose.

          I hadn’t thought about three wheeled vehicles being better on non-flat roads. Not only were many of the cars I saw three-wheeled, but there were a lot of small three-wheeled trucks as well.

          I was under the impression that to prevent sinking into muddy roads, large wheels that would keep the car far off the ground would be better. THis was the type used on the early Model A Ford. But perhaps if muddiness in not generally a problem, the smaller wheels of an auto-rickshow would work better. This is a photo of an auto-rckshaw that I took, outside of Mumbai. As the photo shows, they weren’t necessarily in A-1 condition.

          Photo of auto-rickshaw in city near Mumbai.

      • How very true, Gail. I currently live in Poland, which can be quite cold in winter, and that’s an understatement. The local government has teams of road repairers, each equipped with a tank of hot tarmac on the back of a lorry, which they use to repair holes in the roads as soon as they appear (a stitch in time … etc.), which happens all too frequently. The result is a patchwork of repairs to repairs of repairs of repairs – you get the picture. You get used to it, but even that low level technology will eventually cease as society slowly heads south.

        Your point on mechanical complexity is also very valid. In the U.K. there is something called the A.A., which members can summon for assistance in the event of a breakdown. They will even tow your car to a garage for repairs and take you and your passengers home. In the old days, if you suffered a mechanical breakdown and were reasonably competent with your hands, you could usually effect a roadside repair and get home, so most of the time membership of the A.A. was not essential. Today, the modern car is a mystery, even to mechanics. If the engine stops working, all they do is lift the bonnet, plug in some diagnostic apparatus and then swap some black box or other for a new one, depending on the diagnosis. As society slowly crumbles and mechanics will be in short supply, and their diagnostic machines in even shorter supply, it will be a risk to travel further than walking distance from home in a vehichle that one could not attempt to repair, especially in winter in a cold climate, even in the knowledge that modern cars are orders of magnitude more reliable than their older bretheren, they are not completely so, Sod’s Law is bound to make it fail at the most inconvenient time. It is not simply a matter of economics that makes me drive an old car that I can hopefully do something with if it breaks down. (I live in the sticks and Poland does not have an A.A. type of repair service!)

        • Thanks for your insights on road repair. I took this photo of Indians working on the road. Hopefully, there would be a truck coming by later to put some more hot tarmac on. Without it, it doesn’t seem like those doing repairs would get very far.

          Men repairing road in India

  4. Pingback: An Economic Theory of Limited Oil Supply | Doomstead Diner

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  6. Skimming through the reactions to the concept of ‘limited fuel supply. It seems that most commenters have missed the point.
    Think of what we have used hydrocarbon energy for, down the millennia. (Forget our current problems for a moment). We use it to stave off the forces of chaos. Our use of fire scared away big animals that would have reduced our bodies to chaos. (by eating us). Fire gave us sharp tools to chop down trees (hydrocarbons) with which to build shelters and clear spaces in which to grow food (energy). They became ever more sophisticated dwellings but the ultimate purpose remained the same—to keep out the chaos of weather and unpleasant people inclined to do us harm.
    We were using energy to hold off chaos.
    Our buildings and infrastructure may have become more sophisticated, but their function remains the same, we must burn fuel to keep the rain out and starvation at bay.
    Any ‘theories’ about the economics of oil depletion has to take that into account. Post hurricane Sandy, it’s going to take $50bn to fix things. That means $50bn in energy-spending. You can’t rebuild without colossal amounts of gasoline and its attendant machinery.
    I’ve even seen really crackpot ideas that it will boost the construction jobs market….so why not move people out, burn down entire neighborhoods and start over? But I digress.
    This time the nation can afford it. But next time? Or the time after that? We are faced with the economics of diminishing oil supply/rising cost, while nature has no such constraints. Her powers are literally unlimited while we try to find more and more fuel to fight the results of chaos. As the sea levels rise and the storms get stronger it is inevitable that whatever nature knocks down is going to stay down.

    • Very good, Medieval. I have a theory that the abolition of slavery actually had more to do with the fact that fossil fuels became available to do work than any altruistic motive of wishing our fellow human beings equality. The altruistic motive was there too, of course, but I would argue that slavery would be still be flourishing in the near absence of hydrocarbon energy. In places in the world where energy is unaffordable or scarce slavery and child labour and sweat shops are the order of the day. This may become a really big problem everywhere after the oil crash.

      • I reached that conclusion too, the first commercial oilwells came on stream just as slavery was ending, which was also the period when the steam engine was beginning to make its power available across the developed world, particularly the USA.
        In areas of the world when machines are less available, or not at all, as you say slavery never really went away.
        After the oil crash, people without food must inevitably find themselves working for those with food in order to stay alive. This will be the reality of the ‘downsizing’ nonsense.

        • I think you guys are missing the choice we face. I will refer to Joe Romm’s recent book Language Intelligence and Peter Bane’s book Garden Farming for Town and Country.

          First to Romm’s story about Lincoln. Lincoln ran for the Senate representing Illinois on the basis of ending slavery because it was immoral. He lost. Then he reformulated his arguments against slavery and presented them for the first time a few years later in a speech at the Cooper Union in NYC. He showed in a meticulous piece of research that the founding fathers never intended that the federal government NOT be able to control the spread of slavery to the West. Why was this important? Because the Supreme Court, then as now, was in thrall to the moneyed interests. The Southern Aristocracy believed that its survival was dependent on expansion to the West (the staple crops grown on plantations rapidly exhausted the soil). The Supreme Court had held, in the Dred Scott case, that slaves were not humans…just property. And did not the Constitution guarantee the rights of property to be taken with one when one moved West?

          From the standpoint of the free small farmer, competition from slave based plantations was a threat to survival. The free small farmers wanted the West to be reserved for free small farmers. When Lincoln made this connection at Cooper Union, he won the Presidency. And in 1863, freed of the influence of the Southern Aristocracy, Congress passed the Homestead Act making free land available to small farmers in the West.

          Moving to the 21st century,. Peter Bane’s book is a detailed description of how one can become ‘self reliant’ with a small acreage in town and in country. A similar book just published is Bioshelter Market Garden by Darrell Frey. Bane shows that a family can rely mostly upon themselves for food, fuel, water, and shelter. I would add to that list that a family can become essentially free of chronic disease if they follow the prescription in Super Immunity by Joel Fuhrman, MD. So it’s not about becoming a ‘self-sufficient island’, its about not being reliant on corporations or a Landed Aristocracy for one’s basic needs. Reliance on family and neighbors is built into our genes and is essential to survival.

          The US CAN go the route of wage serfdom and a Landed Aristocracy–but it doesn’t need to. We DO need another Lincoln to get people to connect the dots.

          Don Stewart

          • the driving forces behind slavery have always been the opportunity to turn energy (from human muscle output) into wealth (by selling the output of that energy as sugar, tobacco, cotton and so on).
            The Afro-American slave system ran on a triangle. British industry put energy into metal working, basically weapons; these were then sold to Africans who used them to capture and sell fellow Africans who were then shipped to America, using muscle energy to produce stuff to ship back to Britain. That made people extremely rich and any threat to end slavery was therefore seen as a threat to prosperity. Nevertheless the Brits stopped it in 1837, but trade with slave using nations carried on.
            Fast forward to today, and although we have machines to do our work for us, cheap human muscle is still needed to perform basic tasks. Which is why people get paid the absolute minimum and are unable to climb out of poverty. It is a form of slavery with wages that we are all locked into.
            As for the ‘self reliance’ bit, it is almost too ludicrous for any kind of response. First, the average adult would starve to death before he acquired sufficient knowledge to keep himself alive by domestic agriculture. Second, Finding a ‘small acreage’ in towns is laughable (no tower farms please!!!!) Third: much of our good health is derived from a safe environment, Clean water, sewage systems etc. In a post energy environment, these will be the first to stop. (check high rise apartments after hurricane Sandy if you don’t get the picture, imagine that after the first month without power). If you get a raging infection from a scratch from a dirty garden tool, and no antibiotics are available—let me know how you get on with ‘super immunity’.
            As energy goes into depletion, it is inevitable that those wishing to eat will have to work for food, by any other name that is serfdom.

            • Dear Medieval Future
              I have no doubt that the stubborn and the delusional will starve to death. Likewise, those who fail to heed the Super Immunity message will die of infectious disease long before they die of chronic disease. Both will be personal tragedies for those involved, and both are avoidable.

              In terms of humanity, those who take care now have a reasonable chance of making it into whatever comes next and living a pretty good life.

              Don Stewart

          • I’d still like to know where ‘small acreage in towns’ is likely to come from.
            and you cannot have ‘super immunity’
            if you were to drink the water of say, a medieval Londoner, you would probably be dead in a week. whereas he would have immunity to the pathogens in it passed down through generations of survival of his forebears. Not that that would be complete of course..
            When cholera arrived in UK in the 1830s, it wiped out thousands, survival was down to chance, not immunity. Same with the black death in 1348, chance again.
            Yet with the flu pandemic of 1917, some immunity was given to people over 30 who had been exposed to a previous epidemic in the 1880s. thats why the flu killed younger people.
            Immunity is not a conscious decision.
            I have made a conscious decision not to have accident in my car, unfortunately I am not immune to other idiots on the road. I have no doubt they think the same.
            As to the future, I have taken such precautions as are feasible, but I have little doubt of their ultimate futility.

            • Dear Medieval Future
              You will have to read Peter Bane’s book or look for his YouTube appearances to find out where he found his small acreage in town.

              And as for the power of the immune system when it is properly fed, you will have to read Dr. Fuhrman’s book. I will only note that if you look in Wikipedia for glutathione s transferase, you might get a clue.
              Don Stewart

      • I would agree with you that abolition of slavery had a lot to do with availability of fossil fuels. As little as we like to think about it, there would seem to be a real possibility of very long working hours coming back, and even some things we would today call slavery.

    • Yes its rather interesting to see people just think of this hurricane as just “another case of bad weather”, while its rather clear that our civilisation has not been formed to these “special cases” as being the norm. There are currently many settlements close to the sea. That wouldn’t be the case if both tsunamis and hurricanes would rip these to shreds every 10 years or so. It takes at least a couple hundred years between these events for people to “forget” – especially with the regard to natural disasters like earthquakes and their tsunamis.

      But the human created disasters from the heating of the planet from CO2 is something we have no “short term memory” about – since they are only surfacing now. Mother nature will indeed remind us that we are just trying to shelter ourselves from the chaos forces, and I believe we as a species has done quite a bit to anger it. Many settlements which normally only got wiped out from natural disasters out of our control will be ripped to pieces from natural disasters that is under our control to some regard. Until people in the public understands that their house was torn down by something that could have been under their control, noone is going to change any of their behaviour or take action into changing our ways. This continues as long as the majority of people still don’t believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and neither believe that our contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere (and sea) is changing weather patterns and the state of the biosphere possibly to unrecoverable states. I mean, who can look at CO2 level measurements, seeing its 100 ppm higher than it has been for hundred of thousands of years (as long back as we are able to measure previous concentration), and not think its affecting our biosphere? Its clear that the majority of people really don’t understand the consequences this have on the planet.

      Most people I show charts of CO2 levels generally say that I am a doomer and that I have watched too much “an inconvenient truth” – and besides wasnt that dude debunked after all? Its unfortunate that the primary message is again lost to people – that the scientific measurements of the state of the planet really should be brought to our attention all over the planet. Really hoping someone is able to do this within my lifetime, although it really should happen the next 5 years or so for it to have any effect.

    • I agree. At some point we are not going to be able to pick up what nature knocks down. We have a number of institutions that are supposed to help in this regard (government, insurance companies, utility companies, and churches and other charitable relief agencies), but at some point they become overwhelmed as well. People end up having to move to less damaged areas, or “make do” with a lower level of housing. In this country we use FEMA trailers, but in many countries, homes are built very simply out of local biomass or mud. We may have to move that way as well.

  7. Apparently Mel Tisdale knows more than most of the University Physics and Engineering Departments of the world. Here is one basic description of the collapse.

    Mel’s frame of reference “refutation” is misapplied notwithstanding the fact that his car examples were valid and correct in terms of Newtonian mechanics. The horizontal and vertical frames of reference are not equateable in the pancake collapse scenario and more especially the “falling up” reference frame is not equateable with the “falling down” frame of reference. The reason is gravity or more particularly the acceleration caused by gravity. Misapplying the frame of reference in this way removes the accelarative force of gravity from the model (but not from reality of course).

    Of course, Mel won’t believe empirical facts. He would rather believe a crank conspiracy theory. A conspiracy did occur but it occured post 9/11 when the US and UK combined to falsify WMD evidence against Iraq. Now that was a real conspiracy.

    • I am more than happy to concede Ikonclast’s point regarding the particular science concerning frames of reference. It is true that I did not mention that even if we took Alpha Centauri as the focus of our frame of reference so that all velocities would be relative to that body, the earth would still be in the frame of reference and have a gravitational attraction on the WTC. I did not mention that the Moon and the Sun would also provide some gravitational influence either. Neither in my reference to cars colliding did I mention that for the damage of the collision to be the same, the closing speed of that collision also needs to be the same. In engineering it is called stating the blindingly obvious, or words to that effect depending on just how blindingly obvious it is. I only took the frame of reference route in order to point out that some events and their outcomes can be counterintuitive. Perhaps I should have used the fact that if all of Greenland’s ice were to suddenly melt, sea level around Greenland would drop by 100 meters as an example of counterintuitive outcomes, but that would not have involved bodies colliding.

      What is noticeable, however, is that Ikonclast completely fails to address the main thrust of my argument that the official line regarding the collapses of the north and south towers contravenes Newton’s third law of motion. He or she completely fails to address the fact that the official line on the south tower’s collapse contravenes the law of the conservation of angular moment and he or she also fails to address the fact that the presence of molten steel pouring from the south tower immediately prior to its collapse, and subsequently found solidified in the rubble, contravenes the second law of thermodynamics, unless some other source of energy was present. (An office fire, even a jet fuel assisted one, is physically incapable of melting iron/steel.)

      Ikonoclast replied to my initial comment on the matter by demanding that I have a Phd in physics with the implication that if I didn’t, then anything that I said on the matter was null and void. That, of course, is nonsense. However, if he won’t listen to me, then I must repeat my recommendation that he go to Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth website and watch the video ‘Experts Speak Out’. There he will find a whole body of opinion, from fully qualified people within the construction industry, including demolition experts, CEOs and lead architects and engineers, who, having looked at the 9/11 event, are convinced that the official line just does not add up and a new investigation is needed. These are not Alex Jones types!

      If Ikonclast will not listen to expert opinion, even though he demands it of others, then there is not a lot more that can be said on the WTC collapses. One must assume that he is in the category ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.’

      I will however challenge Ikonoclast, and any others who also believe that I “would rather believe a crank conspiracy theory” to counter the logic in the following argument:
      The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has analysed the flight data recorder (FDR) from flight 77 (Pentagon aircraft) and it shows the aircraft to be accelerating and descending rapidly as it approached the Pentagon. It also shows it to be passing the Navy Annex with it on its starboard side. (See Pilots for 911 truth website.)

      The video( released by the FBI, I think) of flight 77 supposedly approaching the Pentagon shows it flying straight and level. (It is important to note that the video includes the impact and resulting explosion. I.e. it did not suddenly climb and fly over the building.)

      The fight path of whatever knocked over the lampposts (lamppoles AmE) shows that it had to have passed the Navy Annex with it on its port side or it would have missed them completely.

      It follows that because flight 77 was known from the FDR to be descending and the other aircraft in the video was flying straight and level that either two aircraft hit the Pentagon or flight 77 did not hit it. This point is reinforced by the evidence, again from the FDR and from the location of the lampposts, that were knocked over that two aircraft were involved and that they were on very different flight paths, though not necessarily in the actual impact on the Pentagon. This latter point is supported by the analysis carried out by Pilots for 911 Truth of the FDR Excel file provided by the NTSB which casts doubt on the altitude of flight 77. (There are grounds to believe it was too high to hit the Pentagon – again, this is on their website. The absense of any photographic evidence of the impact a 757 would create taken after the impact and before the roof collapse also corroborates such a view. A five tonne jet engine travelling at over 400 mph would leave more than a scratch on any wall it hit, including the walls of the Pentagon, and there were two of them.)

      Seeing as no other aircraft was hi-jacked that day and that no other aircraft within range of the Pentagon were reported missing or stolen, it has to follow that the only aircraft (of any type – cruise missile, drone, UAV) that could have been involved with incident in addition to flight 77 would have to have been a military one (or one owned by some other government department –black ops?).

      In conclusion, seeing as it would have been impossible for Osama bin Laden to have arranged for that aircraft to have flown into the Pentagon, the only other conclusion is that 9/11 was an inside job.

      In view of the number killed on 9/11 and the loss of freedoms that have resulted, perhaps Ikonclast might like to treat the debate with the seriousness it deserves. As for “crank” conspiracy theories, what could possibly be more “crank” than to believe that a bunch of terrorists, led by someone operating out of a cave in some dim and distant land, managed to breach the defences of the most heavily defended nation on the planet? I have no doubt that Osama bin Laden and his merry men were involved, but as only as patsies. I imagine most (and possibly all) of them did not know that they were going to die. There exists a group of people that masterminded what has come to be known simply as 911 and were in control on the day. They still walk free and will will evermore do so while the likes of Ikonoclast can be so easily duped. Crank conspiracy theory indeed!

    • Having replied specifically, I feel that Ikonoclast’s comment also demands a broader, shorter reply:

      It is wrong to accuse me of not believing empirical facts when it is I who have directed you, Ikonoclast, to video evidence of real life examples of building demolition that supports my case (in the form of Verinage demolition videos on Youtube). Just how empirical do you need to get? Of course, for you to actually comment on the empirical evidence itself is too much to hope for.

      As for the sarcastic remark “Mel Tisdale knows more than most of the University Physics and Engineering Departments of the world” all I can say is that so effective has been the spin put on conspiracy theories that no university department is going to willingly admit to seeing merit in any notion that contradicts the official line on 911 and also hope to retain a sizeable portion of its funding. And no individual within any of those same university departments is going to step out of line without taking a risk with their career. One has only to look at the case of Professor Steven E. Jones, of Brigham Young University. He published a paper on the nano-thermite (an explosive/incendiary material) found throughout the dust at the site of the WTC and suddenly he becomes Professor Emeritus, without the option. At least they had the decency to give him the Emeritus part.

      Come on Ikonoclast, you can clearly see through the fossil fuel industry’s spin on climate change. Why not on 911?

  8. Gail,
    your posts are always worth reading.
    Nonetheless I can not agree on your skepticism over Nat Gas as a far-reaching substitution fuel for car transportation. Therefore I provide some figures I guess you’ll mumble over.

    Italy’s cash-strapped plunging car market has seen again soar the slice of cars fueled either with methane or LPG in OCtober:
    -14,786 LPG-fueled cars were sold in October i.e. 190.43pc more YoY
    5,068 methane-fueled cars were sold i.e. 48.71pc more YoY
    -Jan-Oct 106,596 LPG cars were sold, +131.66pc YoY
    -Jan-Oct 45,063 Methane cars sold, +42,63 YoY

    You can compare this to 36,405 gasoline-fueled cars sold in October minus 29.11pc YoY, the Jan-Oct percentage drop is similar

    Source for all data is UNRAE, Italy’s trade association of car importers


    • I agree that that natural gas does work in vehicles. If I had to rank it next to battery operated cars, and hydrogen powered cars, I would definitely put natural gas first. But I am not convinced that it will do enough to make a difference with respect to our world-wide oil problem.

      We probably will also build some gas-to-liquid plants. These would have the advantage of using our current vehicles and refueling infrastructure.

  9. First of all a fervent hope that all those based on the US East Coast are still there, if in some cases unable to comment here presently.

    Every cloud, however has a silver lining, and when the dust – or the water – has settled on Sandy, it will be instructive to revisit the effects on a modern city, of widespread loss of power and loss of fuel.

    And indicate to those who feel that they, personally could do without both, just how dependent the majority (urban) population is dependent on the RELIABLE delivery of fuel and electricity in order to maintain their existence, let alone cope with any random extreme event.

    Common decency compels me to not press the point at this time, but I hope it will not be lost in the general confusion of the aftermath of a storm and a Presidential election.

    • a point well put Leo
      I’ve been banging on about this for a long time, particularly to the ‘downsizers’ who seem to live in the Alice in Wonderland world of naivety that offers the self assurance that our post-industrial wind down will be easy gentle and slow.We have to imagine the aftermath of hurricane Sandy with no outside backup to fix things.
      Cities hang on a thread of hydrocarbon energy input, without it they die. Sandy showed just how fast that death will be when the power goes off. Even without the damage, the shutoff was instantaneous, and millions were left scuttling around in the dark.
      This time the power is coming back on, but these incidents are set to hit again and again in the coming decades. Each hit burns up fuel resources to put right, eventually there will be nothing left to burn.

    • I was thinking that I should write a post on a similar subject–not sure that I will though.

      People don’t understand how dependent we are on reliable delivery of gasoline and electricity.

      One thing that struck me in visiting India is how people reorganize their lives to live with only intermittent electricity. Light sometimes comes from holes in the ceiling, or from panes of glass in the ceiling, or from windows. Cooking fuel comes from sources other than electricity (wood, dung, kerosene, or LPG). People tend not to have refrigerators, which require electricity all of the time, and people have learned to get along without. Businesses use hand-written logs, rather than (or in addition to) computerized systems that might go down. Schools and businesses use blackboards to display information that will change over time.

      One appliance people with intermittent electricity have is a television set, since this is something a person can turn on and off. Portable phones are also popular.

      • I think the difference between places like India and the developed cities of the west is that they have never had our sophisticated gizmos, so developed their culture along parallel. but different, lines.
        We are several generations removed from what I call the ‘naked flame’ society, so just would not know what to do without instant power.

        • I think you are right.

          Until I saw a hole in the ceiling to light a recycling plant, it would never have occurred to me that this would be an approach. I saw glass panels in the roof (unsophisticated sky lights) used in a school for lighting. A home I visited and several businesses just used windows (without glass) for light. In some cases, they had shutters to shut out rain, if needed.

          I understand the tea Indians drink consists of boiled milk, with tea and spices added. In a country with little pasteurization and refrigeration, this would be a reasonable way of seeing that the milk was sterilized.

          In some cases, workers just slept on the floor where they worked. This would certainly cut down on commuting time and energy costs.

          I understand younger children went to school in the morning, and older ones in the afternoon. A country would need only half as many school buildings with this arrangement. If teachers could be talked into working both shifts, there would only need to be half as many teachers as well.

          We probably would never think of these approaches.

          • You pretty much described London in a 18th/19th century
            workers often slept where they could, cellars, cupboards etc, commuting was impossible
            London had what were known as rookeries–tenements crammed with people– because it took too long to get to and from places of work
            only commuter trains changed all that (cheap energy again)

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