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Here is what David Attenborough, the most trusted person in the U.K. and a great naturalist, told the space aliens that descended in 1500 private jets on Davos:

"I am quite literally from another age, I was born during the Holocene - the 12,000 [year] period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm, and create civilisations. That led to trade in ideas and goods, and made us the globally connected species we are today.

In the space of my lifetime, all that has changed. The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans."
He added:
"[The economic] growth is going to come to an end, either suddenly or in a controlled way. Anyone who thinks you can have infinite growth in finite circumstances is either a madman or an economist." (The Guardian, 01/21/2019)

This is precisely what I have been saying, writing and teaching for the last 15 years, so - perhaps - more people will start listening to me as well?  On second thought, maybe not.  Here I am reminded of my favorite quote from a late British historian:

"In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go in mad pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first."
(Charles MacKay, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, 1841, Volume I, page 1.)

A Satire of Tulip Mania (1636-37) by Jan Brueghel the Younger (ca. 1640) depicts speculators as brainless monkeys in contemporary upper-class costumes. In a commentary on the economic folly, one monkey (in the lower right corner) urinates on the previously valuable plants, others appear in debtor's court and one is carried to the grave.  (Source: Wikipedia.) Fast forward 400 years, and we now have the lunatic fossil fuel amoeba monkeys depicted in my blog, "A brief story of the human future."

Since there is seven times more of us than when Charles MacKay lived, and we are thoroughly interconnected, we have the luxury of creating and following a multitude of delusions of various scales, from the international mega-delusions all the way down to the personal micro-delusions.  For those schooled in the units of measurement, my ad-hoc empirical scale covers twelve orders of magnitude of human delusions.

Ten days ago, I gave a lecture entitled "The geologic and human time scales: How can we salvage our global civilization?"  This Winter Enrichment  Program (WEP) lecture was intended for a general audience, from school children to Ph.Ds. I rescaled to one year the geologic time from the Silurian epoch, 440 million years ago, until present, and showed how humans progressed slowly in the last 3 minutes of that imaginary year from the Australopithecus hominids to the Homo Sapiens Sapiens (Wise Wise Man). I also showed how the human population and parallel exploitation of all Earth resources exploded in the last 20 seconds of this year, marking the ascent of the Anthropocene, the age of humans ravaging the whole planet without a nuclear war, yet.

The logarithmic spiral clock on the left represents the unimaginable depth of geologic time, and my endocrinologist daughter, Dr. Sophie, M.D., with her little son represent the humanity's time and future. 

During my lecture, I saw a guy in the front row following closely my words. A week later, the same guy sat by me in the same auditorium.  We both came to listen to the story of the Greenwich Royal Observatory that was created to find a way of measuring longitude on the spherical rotating Earth, so that ships would know where they were on the high seas, and would find their faraway destinations in, say, South America.  This was also the story of John Harrison, a carpenter and genius clockmaker, who after 30 years of hard work constructed the precise, sturdy chronometers that allowed for the comparison of time in London and the local time where the ship was.  From these two time values, a ship's longitude could be pinpointed in addition to its latitude and, voilà, the ship's captain would determine his position anywhere on the Earth's ocean.  The speaker held an inflatable spherical globus to show how the meridians run from the South to the North pole.

So I asked the guy what he thought about my lecture.  He answered that my lecture was interesting, but he could not agree with the notion of the spherical Earth, because he believed that the planet was flat.  He then continued that the idea of humans descending from apes was ridiculous, because in his mind we had nothing in common with the monkeys.  He said all of this while the speaker was rotating her spherical Earth model and discussing the difficulties of measuring longitude.  The conversation ceased and the guy left early.

John Harrison, 1693-1776, was a self-educated English carpenter and clockmaker who invented the marine chronometer, a long-sought-after device for solving the problem of calculating longitude while at sea. Harrison's solution revolutionized navigation and greatly increased the safety of long-distance sea travel, Wikipedia.

Listening to the story of John Harrison and the petty professors, who rejected his epochal achievements because he was not one of them, gave me ample time to reflect on the people that inhabit today our planet from Detroit to Baltimore, New Orleans and St. Louis, and from Warsaw to Gdansk, Berlin, Prague, Buenos Aires and Johannesburg.  I was crushed. The US vice-president, Mike Pence, is a dominionist, who believes that people should exploit their dominion fast, because when all hell breaks loose on the resulting global Easter Island, there will be a rupture and the good Christians will be saved by Christ visiting their Earth again.

How can we ever solve the humanity's pressing problems when so many crazies roam the world?  Instead of calling ourselves Homo Sapiens Sapiens, shouldn't we change our name to Homo Amens Amens (Crazy Crazy Man)?  In Latin, amens means mad, frantic, foolish, out of one's senses.  Suppose naively that we were once wise men and we stopped multiplying like the Fibonacci rabbits, see the chart below.
Starting in 1650, the agricultural revolution and invasion of the Americas accelerated the rate of growth of human population to a level that lasted into the early 1920s, when the Haber-Bosch process and nitrogen fertilizer came to multiply human numbers to the current crazy 7.6 billion people. Please have a look at the population clock.  Suppose that humanity woke up by the early 1800s, at the dawn of the modern industrial revolution, and limited its ultimate numbers to 2.5 billion people that would ever inhabit the Earth.  But what if we lived longer and consumed more?

In this fairy tale, we were smart and limited population growth, so that we ended up with only 2.5 billion humans (the magenta line) today. Now let’s account for other factors of human existence: 2.5 billion people might live on the Earth, but. . .
  • They would require the 1800s life expectancy, lifestyle, slavery, and conflicts.
  • Average life expectancy in the 1800s was 32 years, and in 2015 it was 71 years, or 2.5 × 32/71 = 1.1 billion people could live on the Earth at today’s life expectancy. Please realize that with a constant total population, the longer life spans shrink the perspectives of younger people to have a child.
  • World GDP per capita increased from 605 PPP 1990 USD in 1800, to 7,890 USD in 2010, or by a factor of 13.  The global per capita power consumption has increased by a factor of roughly 10.
  • Discounting the silly "wealth" economics in favor of the lost environmental services, assume that the real standard of living only doubled; now we are down to 500 million people. 
  • With the more efficient modern organic agriculture, we could feed 4 times more people, or 2 billions.
  •  But we want to neither over-exploit the planet nor have wars and strife, so the final stable population might be as few as 1 billion people. 
  • In 2019, the actual human population overshot this estimate by a factor of 7, by using fossil fuel subsidies.
Cautiously speaking, in 2019, we needed 7 planets Earth to live happily and in peace forever.

If all people on the planet ended up gobbling up resources like Americans, we would need 28 Earths.

Nothing else but human population matters in the current planetary disaster called the Anthropocene. We need to stop growing in numbers and then quickly and controllably shrink. 

What do you think the chances are of us empowering the UN to introduce a strong global one child policy with severe economic disincentives for the families that want more babies?  Who will put up the money and effort to educate and empower women worldwide?  The narcissistic Davos-like creatures?  Xi Jinping? Modi? Khan? Hasina? Buhari? Al Sisi? Bolsonaro? Maduro? Trump? Erdogan? Kaczynski? Orban? May? Macron? Putin? Their financiers? Are you kidding me?! 

It is much easier to build and distribute ever more weapons, and erect those beautiful walls of division, racism and xenophobia around the world, from Israel to Hungary, Poland and the US.  Can humans still change for the better or am I crazy to think that we can?


  1. Unfortunately, there's no sign of our culture voluntarily transforming to a sane and sustainable way of living, either led by politicians and governments, or as a grassroots uprising. The environmental movement has been pushing on both ends of that string for decades, to little real effect.

    Most people won't change until they have to. All the information for sustainable living is readily accessible, but people aren't interested. Yet. At some point, a combination of economic, energy, and environmental collapse will force people into the necessary changes, at which time those who've proactively experimented with voluntary simplicity will become important resources for sharing their knowledge.

    The only question is: how much of the living world will be left, to support humans and non-humans? Every day industrialism continues, it deforests, removes other beings from the web of life, destroys topsoil, toxifies air and water and soil, and loads the atmosphere with more carbon. Given that we aren't going to have a magical mass awakening and shift to sustainability, the sooner the industrial systems fails, the less harsh will be the transition for those living through and after the inevitable collapse.

    The necessary twin strategy now is for those so motivated to proactively transition, and for others to stop fossil fuels. A surprisingly small number of people could have a huge overall beneficial impact with the right strategy and tactics aimed towards stopping the flows. As they succeed in disrupting the system, more and more people will embrace the necessary transition.

    1. Dear Norris,
      Your comments on the destructive role of too many humans who consume too much are correct. Every Homo sapiens will agree with them. However, your radical prescription of moving forward by disrupting flow of fossil fuels is equivalent to launching a war of extermination. Someone with an itchy finger on the red button may still launch that war, but this decision is above my pay grade.

      Let me give you an example that is pertinent to the United States. Suppose that the major crude oil and petroleum product pipelines were blown up, the refineries disabled, and the oil/gas terminals were blocked in the U.S. This is your total fossil fuel disruption scenario. Here is what would happen:

      1. The electrical power stations would shut down, and with them the entire infrastructure. So no telephony to call for help, no refrigeration to save the rotting food at home and in the looted stores, no cash registers working and gasoline pumps down, so no fuel for your car. No internet for good, as this luxury is very power-hungry. Amazon would be dead, and with it a good chunk of the consumer supply chain.

      2. The global supply chain that consists of ships, planes, trains and trucks would freeze and no food would be coming to the store near you. You and your family would probably be dead in a month or so, if you had some canned food at home.

      3. Water would stop flowing and when the local water tanks would empty, there would be no water to drink.

      4. In winter, electric, gas or oil heating of your house would be out, and you might freeze if you had not already died of thirst, hunger or disease, and do not have a stable supply of firewood.

      5. Hospital facilities would be down and the sick patients dead or dying. Thus, no medical help.

      6. The federal and local governments would disappear. You had a little taste of it last month. This would mean total lawlessness and shooting everywhere.

      7. Your no doubt favorite renewable clean power sources would not be produced, transported and deployed. Each element in their supply chain requires heavy use of fossil fuels, coal (carbon), natural gas, and transportation fuels.

      8. For a few months, the mad Max society would carry on with murder and robbery for survival of the most armed. After that brief period, we all would be dead.

      So please think twice when you espouse your extreme position. I could be wrong, perhaps you want to commit suicide and kill your family too, but I find it unlikely.

    2. I forgot to add that the banks and ATMs would be out of service too. Thus, no cash, just barter and gold you'd have in your house, if you could protected it from robbers.

      Also, people would drain by hand the gas station tanks and grab any resource they'd find in their path.

      Under the much milder circumstances of a partial shut off of fossil fuels, the financial system would freeze once there was a 20-30% decline of the GDP.

      The collapse I described represents best city dwellers. Those farmers who grow food, not industrial commodities like corn for ethanol or soybeans, would be better off for a while. At least for as long as the city gangs would not catch up with them.

    3. Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Tad. Yeah, a forced halt to fossil fuel use is not a good path. Unfortunately, it's the best option out of many very bad choices. I would love it if the world collectively commited to a voluntary full-scale power down. But as I think we both agree, that's clearly not happening. :( Perhaps you still hold some hope for that to begin soon, though.

      Since I don't hold that hope, and I see collapse as inevitable, the best path I can see is to force the power down sooner rather than later. As I wrote earlier, the planet's carrying capacity is eroded each day industrialism continues. And each day, a net new 225,000 humans are added, which guarantees that much more human misery when we're forced to return to living within that carrying capacity.

      On the plus side, your worst case scenario is unlikely; fossil fuels resistance probably can't, and needn't necessarily shut down all flows overnight. The best case scenario for humans living now (though perhaps not the best case for those of future generations, who might be better off with an overnight collapse maximally preserving life supporting ecosystems), would be a series of disruptions phasing out fossil fuels within perhaps 10 years. It would be critical for those thinking long-term to help convince people that these are not just temporary glitches in the system, and that everyone needs to shift full-speed to local provision of all their needs.

      The other important consideration is that even an overnight collapse would immediately improve conditions for the hundreds of millions of indigenous, peasant, and recently urbanized people who are on the front lines of industrialism's theft of land and resources. Although those of us benefiting from this arrangement of power would, as you point out, suffer, those who've been forced into the global economy would be able to return to subsistence farming. Of course, land degradation and global warming will make this more precarious than in the past, but that's just another reason industrialism needs to be stopped sooner rather than later...

      Finally, personally, I don't *want* to die, but nor do I think my life is more important than those of the extra humans and non-humans who will unnecessarily die every day industrialism continues. I can't justify sacrificing the habitability and diversity of the earth for millions of years to come for the benefit of myself and those I love.

    4. Your logic is impeccable Norris, but we are the illogical species, full of incongruities. I tend to think about humanity as a terminal patient, who needs palliative care. However, what am I to do, when that patient claims that she/he/it is perfectly healthy, will be saved by technology, and plans another vacation on Mars or the outer planets.

      I risked a comment to an NYT piece by yet another delusional economist. The textbook comments to my remark came from the infinity-bound fossil amoeba monkeys I described in this blog.

      So how can we help the patient that is dying, but thinks that she will live and thrive forever in the biological, not spiritual sense? Go figure, but I have the sweetest grandson, whom I need to protect as much as I can.

      Incongruities, anyone?

    5. Yeah, it's frustrating when there *do* exist sane actions our society could take en masse to, even at this late point, ameliorate the worst of the crises....but almost no one cares, let alone is willing to make any sacrifices. :(

      And yes, human psychology, which evolved to well serve us and the larger community of life in which we're embedded, is a serious impediment to otherwise rational ways forward. :/ It's totally understandable that even some of those who see the logic of proactively stopping fossil fuels won't be able to bring themselves to actively participate. I've chosen not to have children, so I can only imagine how that influences one's personal moral calculus, but it makes sense that abstract philosophical long-term reasoning could be subsumed to a fierce impulse for short-term protection of the innocent and defenseless. (I think for me, this protective impulse is applied to non-humans and humans already being sacrificed ho industrialism world-wide, making it easier for me to stomach systemic disruption for the greater good.)

      As I briefly mentioned in my first post, the other half of the twin strategy moving forward is what peak oil/transition/permaculture/preppers have been advocating for years: learning transition skills, building sustainable and resilient infrastructure, and encouraging & helping receptive others to do so. That includes working within local communities to lay foundations for the changes to come, even if most people don't understand why it's necessary.

      I wish you success in preparing and protecting your grandson, others you love, and your community.

    6. Thank you for this comment, dear Norris. It evoked deep emotions in the guilty little me, who is perfectly capable of thinking clearly and logically, only to be carried away by feelings for the fellow humans.

      On a happier note, here is a young economist (sic!) speaking truth to power in Davos. I hope that his video goes viral.

  2. Bah! I just informed my friend with a surname Pacek about your blog.

    I may tell you that here in the land of Poles the interest in sustainability and potential threats to it is ....almost nill/ zero....
    I deal mostly with alternative circles (permaculturist, naturalist), but the mainstream is all about consumption and even those a bit better informed environmental circles consider the population decrease path "gloom and doom" and extremistic :-(
    for most of ppl the cure to "too much" induced affairs is "more" of the "too much" :-(
    ... so.. IMHO No hope.

    1. You made me smile. I am all too well acquainted with the sour taste of the Polish arrogance and cluelessness tinged with religiosity and rabid xenophobia. Seldom there is a nation that thinks oh so very highly about itself, but objectively is quite low on the civilization totem pole. I know, I am a Pole by birth and education.

  3. You made me smile, too...
    I finally know how to describe myself :)
    "I am a Pole by birth and education.".
    Believe me or not I'm the same.
    But.. the education I provided myself with after having obtained a degree turns me into just a "Pole by birth".
    as I have not allowed it to mince my mind :T

    Just a pity I decided to come back to the motherland in 2000 and now feel too old to be replanted. (well.. I'd do it to New Zealand, Uruguay or Costa Rica once being admitted UBI.

    I suspected you were of polish roots (due to Tadeusz) but thought rather second generation.

    I'm really wondering what was you way to your current outlook on reality.
    If I'm too inquisitive, just ignore my drilling

  4. Łiiii! Sir!
    I peeped into your profile and...
    We have even got education in the same field.
    Petroleum and Chemical Engineering.
    Hat tips!

    1. Dear Rafał,

      The story of my life is quite simple.

      1. In 1978, I was a Ph.D. student of chemical process engineering, who was just finishing his thesis. I apIied and won a Fulbright Fellowship in the US as one of four people in my class of Ph.D. students in sciences and engineering. Years later, from the documents I received, I learned that I was ranked by the Americans as the number one prospect for Fulbright in my class. I chose the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Minnesota, because it was the best in the world. I wanted to work on catalysis and reactor design with Prof. Rutherford Aris, but he was on a sabbatical, so I ended up with a famous fluid mechanics – and so much more – professor, Skip Scriven.

      2. In Poland, I could not defend my Ph.D. thesis prior to going to the US, because they wanted to make sure that I was coming back. They also would not let my then fiancé and future wide, Joanna, out of Poland to make doubly sure that I was coming back.

      3. In Minnesota, I took all the required Ph.D. courses in ChemE + two, and did well enough to receive a standing offer of a postdoc position with Scriven.

      4. I arrived in Minnesota almost on the day Karol Wojtyła became Pope John Paul II. I came back to Poland in the summer of 1979, a week after the historic visit by the Pope. There was change in the air.

      5. I defended my Ph.D. thesis in June of 1980. As a young leader of the Teacher’s Union at the Chemical Engineering Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), where I worked, I was asked in late August 1980 to meet with the Center workers and perhaps organize a very illegal then Solidarity Chapter, at the time when Wałęsa was still in the Gdańsk Shipyard.

      6. Almost everyone came and subsequently joined in the watershed surprise of my life. Thus, my Solidarity activities started and continued until January 10, 1981, when I took a leave of absence from PAN and went to Minnesota as a postdoc.

      7. My wife, Joanna, became a Solidarity leader at the Military Hospital in Gliwice, where she worked, and faced a few adversities. Again, she did not get her passport, Solidarity or no Solidarity. She continued organizing sit-in strikes and otherwise endanger herself until April 17, 1981, when I finally got her out in a strange twist of circumstances worthy of a thriller. I was going nuts in Minnesota receiving all the credible news of an imminent Soviet invasion of Poland.

      8. Joanna got her passport valid for three months and was told in brutal terms to report back in three weeks. She did not.

      9. In October 1981, I received a letter from PAN asking me to go back to Poland immediately, or else I would be fired. Since my postdoc stay at Minnesota was good until January 11, 1982, with an automatic renewal for two more years, I did not go back to Poland.

      This text is too long and is continued in next reply

    2. 10. On December 13, 1981, a Sunday, Martial Law was imposed in Poland, and a month later I got a letter stating that I was fired from PAN on disciplinary grounds on the same Sunday.

      11. We asked for political asylum and got it with no hiccups in late 1981 or early 1982.

      12. In January 1983, I joined the venerable Bellaire Research Lab of Shell Development in Houston and began my life-long love affair with earth sciences and reservoir engineering. Prior to 1983, I was schooled in computational fluid mechanics in reactor optimization. Back in Gliwice, I had studied in parallel applied physics, as a part of a unique experiment that also involved two other ChemE students.

      13. We became US citizens on October 29, 1991.

      14. Some years later, we learned from the visiting brother of a friend, the man who was Joanna’s boss at the hospital in Gliwice and her nemesis at the time, that in 1981 they came to search for us and arrest us, because they did know we were already in America. Apparently, the hit list was prepared in the old Soviet Union, and their knowledge of facts was limited.

      15. We never had longings to go back to Poland, and my recurrent immigrant nightmares stopped in August of 1989, when the cursed communists gave up power. Every second night or so, I would dream that I am in Warsaw, they took away my American passport, put me in prison and told me that I would never see my wife and children. I would wake up drowning in cold sweat. In 1988, my father died from a massive heart attack, but my mother was so afraid I would travel to Poland on the green card and UN “passport” that she did not send me the notification. I never said good-bye to my father, and never forgave the communist swines for that. They would make my mother report regularly to the secret police office, trash her, and insist that she would beg me to come back. She did not.

      This is it.

  5. Professor Patzek,

    The days of people knowing only the price of everything and the value of nothing will probably soon end. Scientifically, politically, economically, and sociologically and not necessarily in that order.

    I started following you in about 2012 after I heard you speak at the ASPO conference in Austin, Tx. That conference was way over my head but it opened my mind to many different priorities. Now, I check your blog frequently because what you have to say is important, and I learn from you and your commentators even though I am a non-technical/non-scientific person and despite my many shortcomings.

    Dr. Eugene Nelson, a real estate law professor at the UT School of Business during the 1970s posted a note on his office door that said; "Alas, had I but studied in my youth." I wish now that I knew then what is the real purpose of a university education. I regret wasting those days.

    Nonetheless, I read your essays and your papers when I find them and reading your work leaves me with hope for a better tomorrow. Painfulthough those days will be, I still have hope for my children and grandchildren.

    I eagerly await your next post, particularly on the subject of the Barnett and Bakken unconventional plays. And someday, I too would love to sit down and have a beer or two with you.


    1. Dear John,

      I am very glad that the fair and balanced 2012 ASPO meeting at UT Austin I helped to organize and fund was an eye opener to you and others. ASPO is now practically defunct. This is a pity, because no voice of reason is left to balance the cacophony of noisy propaganda. There is no organization that would comment on the current insanity of the US shale oil and gas "forecasts" by the DOE EIA that, sadly, has become a political extension of the current clique in Washington.

    2. How are the EIA forecasts insanity? Too conservative? It is easy to look back at previous EIA STEO and AEOs. Shale has been growing faster than predicted, not slower.

      How many people in ASPO predicted the US would do 12 MM bopd now?

  6. Patience, Besselfunctionlvr. The Ghawar oilfield has been producing 4-5 million barrels of oil per day for 50 years and will continue to produce at a similarly high level for decades to come. This is what I call a stable supply of oil to the world.

    The shale miracle will crater in a few years at an incredibly high cost to the industry and society. I already know this from the work we have done and will continue to publish. Shales are a useful auxiliary source of power, but cannot become the main one for decades.

    1. EIA has been too conservative, previously, in their forecasts for US oil production.

      prediction MMbopd(2018)
      AEO2010 5.9
      AEO2011 6.1
      AEO2012 6.5
      AEO2013 7.5
      AEO2014 9.6
      AEO2015 10.4
      AEO2016 9.0
      AEO2017 9.3
      AEO2018 9.9
      actual 10.7

      Of course it is possible now that EIA is too optimistic. But the history suggests otherwise.

    2. Dear Beesselfunctionlvr,

      These AEOs are in my comparisons. You refuse to recognize that a shitty non-reservoir rock with the 5-9% porosity and 45-75% oil saturation is not in the same league as the 25-35% porosity rock with 75-95% oil saturation. Then there are the respective permeabilities of 100-500 nanodarcy for the former and up to 1,000,000,000 nanodarcy for the latter.

      Today, we can inject into each horizontal shale well two one hundred railroad car trains, each car carrying 100 tons of water, and another such train of proppant sand. But this technical and mostly uneconomic ability does not make shales equivalent to sandstones and carbonates. Period.

    3. Actually I never made a comment about which rock was better. You shifted to discussion of that.

      But if it makes you happy of course Ghawar is better than the Spraberry. Of COURSE.

      The initial point of conversation was the flaws of the EIA. And as I've shown, with numbers, the issue was overconservatism, not overoptimism. At least as far as we can tell so far based on actual hard number results versus predictions.

    4. The hydrocarbons come from the reservoir rock, not from the EIA forecasts. The EIA economists and statisticians, who come up with their pearls of wisdom about future are absolutely clueless of this fact. I know, because I dealt with some of them in person.

      We may as well talk about the following facts: (1) milk comes from the bottles at Safeway, (2) gasoline from gas stations, and (3) electricity from the wall outlets.

      Cheers, Tad

  7. Lifetime of fossil oil and gas undergoing an exponentially increasing rate of consumption obeys the function T=[ln 1+(kR/r)]/k in which k is the increasing rate of consumption, R is the amount of resource and r is the current rate of consumption (100 million barrels per day i.e. 36.5 Bboe per year. According to BP Technology Outlook 2018, R is about 55 trillion barrels of oil and gas. Of these, they estimate that around one-tenth, or 4.9 Tboe, could be recovered using today’s technology, and that by applying future technology these recoverable volumes could be increased to around 7.3 Tboe. Airbus anticipates that air traffic will grow at 4.4% annually, so k=4.4%. Hence T=44 or 52 years and we have zero oil and gas by 2070. Then we die. Is this correct?

    1. Your formula is integration of the exponential growth function r(t) =r*exp(kt) between 0 and T, the time needed to reach the resource endowment, R, in your notation. This integration yields


      If k=4.4%/year, T = 51 years, and end comes by 2070, starting from today. If this rate were only 1.5%/year, T=92 years, and end would come by 2110.

      Thus, a drastic reduction of the rate of growth of consumption, k, does not buy us much of a stay of execution. We would need to eliminate exponential growth of consumption altogether to survive. We would need to consume at a constant rate that were commensurate with the rate of replacement of renewable resources.

      Of course, this is impossible and we will not survive. But we will die off much richer.

    2. "But we will die off much richer." So everyone anywhere near the top elite will get a big mausoleum! Sounds acceptable. What exactly is the likely timeline, could you please elaborate your future visions decade by decade? Are we going to simply run out of fossil resources and return to cannibalism or will a global eco-catastrophe do everyone in before that?

    3. I do not have a crystal ball, Cupid Stunt, and have already delineated the most pessimistic power-down scenario in the exchange with Norris, see above. It is never a zero-one switch. Things will deteriorate gradually and there will be wars for control of natural resources. Some of these wars may become nuclear. Wars or no wars think of the US gradually becoming a Nigeria or Venezuela, while these two countries implode in bloodshed and disappear altogether, just like Somalia today.

      We have not spoken much of the brutal climate change, but it will define largely how quickly the crazy arrogant humans will decline. Depending how badly we screw up, there can be a giant and rapid release of methane from the permafrost, and that release will do us in, in addition to drowning all coastal areas around the world.

      Also, please observe that instead of doing something meaningful, we have to contend with an uneducated lunatic at the helm of the US. Thirty millions of crazy people in the US support this maniac. They have decided to perish rather than relinquish their mostly imaginary privileges. Thus, madness comes first, then a precipitous decline. An overwhelming madness is sweeping the US and the world.

      Finally, if you live in a village in Afghanistan, and dodge the bullets successfully, you will be quite resilient to the collapse of America and Europe. But, if you live in San Francisco or Amsterdam, you will not be.

      And so it goes...

    4. Tad, I love your posts and perhaps I'll buy your upcoming book although I don't have any money. You see, I'm a freak of nature, a chemical engineer (MSc) without a job. Long ago I successfully studied Levenspiel's book on reaction engineering (perhaps you know that one?) How time flies. You say that intermediate distillates (naphtha) are disappearing from the refinery feedstock crudes worldwide. Why would naphtha disappear after 200 billion-year-old stocks? Surely this must be an illusion caused by increasing demand? In that case the demand of naphtha is just increasing worldwide (we buy more, eat more, fly more etc,) and all we have to do is drop all thought and just produce ever more crude oil.

  8. Perhaps the doom is baked into the cake?

    1. A great post. Here is a short excerpt:

      "In evolutionary biology, when a native population adopts an [Evolutionary Stable Strategy] ESS, it becomes invulnerable to invasion by an outside population. Reciprocal altruism, coupled with mechanisms to identify and punish cheaters is an ESS that is found in types of guppies, baboons, bats, and other organisms. This is the Evolutionary Stable Strategy at work and it seems to describe the situation that we in the Western democracies find ourselves in now. ..."

      “There is nothing we can do” – Meadows
      Are we on the cusp of global collapse?

      Prof. Tad, are you in club of Rome? Club of Rome never discuss about oil production issue, but they predict overall resources depletion in their world model.

  9. Good article here on some dangers in oil prediction:

    Two key insights:

    1. People love narratives and simple ones.

    2. Forecasters give their results with too much surety.

  10. Nice graphic showing the consistent underestimation by EIA of US oil growth, even within the Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO).

    While EIA was pilloried for being too crazy optimistic, calling for 1 MM bopd/year growth, it was actually the opposite. Oil grew 2MM bopd/year.

    Even as they looked to update their forecasts, they ended up being too low almost month after month. So when you bash the EIA, please bash them in the proper direction. Tell them to raise their estimates. ;-)

    P.s. I don't think we will do 2MM bopd this year given the price drop from 75 to 55 WTI. But I bet we still exceed the EIA guidance (~0.8 MM bopd growth exit to exit) unless price drops into the 40s.

  11. Unless man is above the Laws of Nature, the sequel to population Overshoot from a one-time, temporary energy subsidy (fossil fuels) is always a precipitous decline in the species population, taking with it much of the remaining carrying capacity.

    As Richard Heinberg noted in his book, The Party's Over: "We like to think that our intelligence and moral code sets us apart from other creatures. When other creatures gain an energy subsidy, they instinctively react by proliferating: their population goes through the well-studied stages of bloom, overshoot, and die-off. If we humans are more than mere animals, we should be expected to behave differently. Yet so far we have reacted to the energy subsidy of fossil fuels exactly the way rats, fruit flies, or bacteria respond to an abundant new food source. A hard look at the evidence tends to make one skeptical of (such) human claims to uniqueness…”

    Thus, there is no technofix for the coming bottleneck, only an ecological one by choice or by Mother Nature. Mother Nature bats last and she is in the warm-up circle. As you advocate, the only mitigation measures we can undertake seems to be both population and consumption reduction. However, population demographics and population momentum tell us that it would take 50 to 75 years to reach ZPG with 2 children per couple, 30 years if one child. In the meantime, the population would continue to grow. The only effective way to stop population growth would be to reverse the factors that caused it to explode, which for the most part was by reducing the death rate via germ theory and sanitation. Connect the dots. I wonder what we will actually do.


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