Lets Get Real

There has been ALOT of buzz about the Peak Oil Guardian Article today.  And with good reason.  For years we, on the “lunatic fringe” have been crying from the roof tops that the sky is falling.  And now, the US Joint Forces, is saying the exact same things we have been.  HA!  We were right!  Now who’s the lunatic sucka! But then, within seconds – IT hits.  OMG – I’m right.  THEY’RE right.  Oh.My.God.  …2011 oil surplus is gone.  Um, that is 8 months from now! 2015 the world is 10 million barrels short.  A DAY.  In 2008 the US used 19.5 million brls/day.  Aw, shit.

Oh, but it gets so much better.  I hate reading reports of reports, so I spent 5 minutes tracking down the original Joint Forces Report to learn more.  The data they are basing their predictions on is the IEA World Outlook.  So lets look at that for a minute:

Right.  See the light blue – that is our current oil production.  It drops like a rock.  Not good for Business as Usual.  So if I am reading this right, the IEA says, well what if we put like a bajillion more drills into the current reserves?  That gets you the dark blue block- pulling the oil faster, not adding more oil.   This is wicked expensive, and won’t really happen any time soon.  Why not?  Because it didn’t happen at $150/brl oil so there is no way in hell its going to happen at $87/brl oil.   But the beauty thing?  The billions of infrastucture in drilling only gets us flat for a year, and then 10 million barrels –per day– short by 2015.  4.5 years.   Ah but what about the red, gold and green splotches?  Notice the lines through them?  I translate that as IEA speak for “good fucking luck” or “Cheney made us put that in to stop world panic”.

But back to that JOE report I linked to.  The JOE report is the Joint Operating Environment report and sets out to paint a backdrop for strategic planning for the next 25 years.  Its the military so they spend the first half dozen pages talking about honor and history and manifest destiny with the obligatory quotes from Ancient Greece.  But then they get into a sober frank telling of the Big Issues of the coming decades.  Their conclusions should scare the shit out of each one of us.  5 of the Top 1o will sound very familiar to readers of this blog:

  • The Economy
  • Oil Scarity
  • Climate Change
  • Water Scarcity
  • Food supplies.

Are Rob Hopkins, Richard Heinberg, and David Holmgren working for the Joint Chiefs?  Remember that this is based on the largest and best funded intelligence gathering entity on the planet.   Let me state this again – at the highest levels our military views oil, water, climate change and food as strategic issues. Let that sink in for a good long minute.

But as I read through this I was struck by the same thing I almost always am (except when I read the 3 authors above).  While the JOE report talks about Oil scarcity by 2015, and 40% of the world being thirsty by 2030 and millions of people under water by 2030 they don’t connect the dots.  What they don’t get is that we will be out of oil, thirsty, under water, hungry AND broke.  At the same time.

4 years ago I started this blog to document our attempts to be more sustainable.  Buying organic.  Installing CFL’s.  Driving a hybrid.   I read and read and my concern deepened so I started growing more food.  And working on energy projects.  I began to question if these were problems to be solved or if, as John Michael Greer stresses in The Long Descent that these issues were now predicaments to be reacted to.   I guess I have answered that question for myself.  We saw the effects of $4 gasoline.  Ironically, the recession bought us “time” by reducing oil consumption.  We are now seeing the economy resurge.  But it will smack into the energy reality before the end of the year  or so and we will see economic growth sputter again.  But this time we will have less capacity – no more stimulous and unemployment will still be 10%+ so we will likely fall farther and take longer to rebound.

Problem or Predicament, we have our design criteria.  Water, energy, “money”, and food will all be scarcer in the future, and likely the near future.  Our solutions and preparations will be as diverse as we are – and rightly so.  But they must focus on being 3 things:

  • Local
  • Resilient
  • Regenerative

I am scared shitless about how fast we have crossed the tipping points and how even those of us who have been working so hard aren’t ready.   Greer nailed it – this will be a LONG emergency sparked with respites, like the one we are in now, where things feel good and we can get our feet under us.  But we will get thrown again, and all the uncertainty and fear that we all felt last year will return only to recover again, but to a lower level of “prosperity”.

There is much to do.

Be the Change.



19 Responses

  1. I so don’t want to hear this… we live on less than a quarter acre, with a family of four (expecting a fifth). We’re in debt up to our eyeballs, and just can’t afford to be self-sufficient. Everything is walkable, we grow more than 800 sq ft, but self-sufficient food production acreage just isn’t possible at these densities, and we can’t afford a second plot somewhere bikeable.

    If TSHTF, I’m SOL. I’m thinking about getting a wood burning stove from the StoveCamp people for outside cooking, and making a solar food dehydrator. I’ve got my quickhoops for winter greens for as long as the plastic lasts. I know what to do with big bags of oats and wheat, but that’s all short term.

    Post Oil self sufficiency seems too far out of reach for me. I’d need a glass greenhouse, a big growing area for green manure and crops, animals (food and work), and clean water. That’s just not going to happen in 5 years, or even 15.


    • Edgewise, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Is there an older couple nearby with more land, who would be happy to have a healthy young family grow food they could share in?

      I take the coming crises very seriously, but panicking won’t help. Community, reaching out to neighbors, will.

      Wishing you vibrant community possibilities.

  2. One Straw,
    It is indeed unnerving to be proven right. I can remember being blown off by friends and family members and thinking, “You wouldn’t be so dismissive if this info was coming from some official, talking head on tv”. I suppose we should be careful what we wish for. Time to redouble our efforts…

    I feel you. On the one hand, I look at what I’ve accomplished in the past couple years regarding self-sufficiency and I feel like I’m making progress. Then I think about what would happen if my family had to actually live off of that. Not have it as a nice addition to our grocery list, but actually LIVE off of it…in the winter. We’d be fucked. It reinforces the role that community will have to play in the future. Look at the Dervaes family. They live in what is arguably the ideal climate for year-round production and they’re going all in as family urban homesteading. Even still, they can only produce 80-90% of their vegetarian diet during the summer, something like 50% during the winter. Nobody can be an island. If you have a full time job with an awful commute, kids, a reluctant spouse, tons of debt, forget it man. Either you’re going to work with your neighbors and your community or you’re shit outta luck.

    Any realistic analysis of the report that One Straw linked to makes it clear that at some point in the not too distant future, many of us are going to have to make a break with our current lifestyle. I think that at this point, the best people in out situation can do is lay groundwork, so that when that break comes, we’re able to manage. Best of luck to you.

  3. Greer didn’t write The Long Emergency, Kunstler did. Greer wrote The Long Descent.

    All the same, I know how you feel. I can’t make my spouse understand this. And I can’t get out of school fast enough to become a nurse practitioner and get local with my work as well. We’re still fighting about getting a wood stove, two years later, because he’s worried the roof might leak….well, not being able to cook worries me!!!

  4. calm down ….

    It’s unlikely that we’ll see some massive, overnight, step-function change. If we do – EVERYBODY is in trouble, no matter where you’re at. Hopefully, and more likely, we’ll see a slow decline which will enable some time to react to what’s happening. Try not to stress out over things that you have no control (yes, easier said than done) and take systematic, small steps in the areas where you can make progress. Rob’s Grillo-powered potato empire wasn’t built overnight! He’s worked hard, gotten community involved, and published his results online to inspire other folks. The most important thing is not to sit back and do nothing just b/c you can’t do everything that’d you’d like to do.

    Back to the article – don’t get me wrong – I’m 100% on board with peak oil. However, I worry that the military now talking about peak oil is just a primer to justify further military actions across the globe, which will of course exacerbate the problem as they burn up more fuel in the process. It’s doubtful that any positive and meaningful change will result from their acknowledgement of the issue.

    • Rather than a step function or a gradual ramp for all of us at once, I would say that some places (Detroit, Cuba, etc.) have already fallen off cliffs of a sort. This would start to look continuous if you averaged enough places together, but no one really lives in an average place.

      I totally agree that the early events in the process are invaluable in helping us react to it. And Rob’s posts here aren’t just for our inspiration: they open the door to the power of peer review, which helps the entire network of thinkers, Rob included. For example, we now all know that buckets beat towers for backyard potato growing: Rob and Kate did almost all of the work on that, but they both know more from it than either would have learned alone.

  5. This is the most intense, depressing, inspirational, and important thing I’ve ever read.

    • Thanks Kevin. The thing to remember, as Tim pointed out, is that the oil is not GONE in 1-4 years. It just becomes much more subject to supply and demand. Once the surplus capacity is gone, there is no more political or economic way to buffer the supply side – if demand goes up, so does price. And, of course, oil is in everything – so everything gets more expensive. Food is shipped 1200 miles on average and there are essentially no “local” economies left in the US. The 2012 Recession will make this one look like a baby. The push for local ethanol/methane etc is not because the energy will be gone, but that we will need our money for other things because jobs will be hard to find and “store bought things” will become more of a luxury again.

      The next 20 years will be nothing like the last. And that makes planning difficult to say the least.

  6. There is at least oine good news in there in 20 years from now, people will believe in global warming !!!

    • I imagine there will continue to be a fairly large group of people whose job does not allow them to understand that topic.

      Coal will probably become a larger part of our economy, and I expect a huge contingent will notice the floods and droughts, but hold tight to the belief that our actions could never influence such processes.

  7. As a (recent) ex-military officer involved in StratPlanning, I can tell you that the report you cite is based off of publicly available information so I would be careful in basing any conclusions off it as you are creating a ‘feedback loop’. Trust me when I tell you that the clowns that came up with this report are NOT what you want to rely on for projected glide paths for where we are heading as a country. In that regard, you’ve got to do your own DD. The challenge there is amassing clean, objective hard data on reserves, usage, etc… Good luck with the ‘unbiased’ part, the ONE thing I can tell you is that unless YOU are out there in the field reading the gauge then you can’t trust the data you are seeing reported. I’ve seen too many instances where data from the battlefield was ‘massaged’ to better support the ‘party line’. All of this is irrelevant, as oil is a finite resource and as such we all should be doing every damn thing in our power to reduce our reliance on it. Got Bio-Diesel?

  8. I’d bet that the problem from the supply side is worse than the report admits to – based on what I’ve read out there, no independent audit has been performed on any of the OPEC-country fields … ever. Look at what they do, not what they say. Proven reserves keep going up, but they are building desalination plants like mad. When field pressure naturally drops off, they pump water in to artificially maintain the pressure. Increasing this sort of capacity means to me they’re running out – at least, like we’ve been saying, of the cheap-to-get oil. Tha’s the middle east. Tar sand? My understanding is that it’s only really viable b/c of the natural gas reserves that are being used to process ths stuff, not to mention the enourmous amounts of water. Drill baby drill – c’mon. Does anybody out there know what kind of effort it would take to seriously build new platforms and start bigtime drilling efforts. Even if we committed to do this for real today, it would be years before things would be in motion. No new refinery has been built in this country in what – over 3 decades? Some folks think this is b/c the EPA or environmentalists block the construction – since when has big business been thwarted by ANYBODY in this country is there’s money to be made. I think they don’t want to build excess refining capacity for product they themselves don’t think will there to process.

    Everybody keeps look for solutions to keep on living the status quo not getting the fact that yes, we’ll have to come up with alternative energy solutions COUPLED WITH huge changes in lifestyle.

    Plant a garden, get to know your neighbors, learn useful hands-on skills, and in general get ready for a more localized existence.

  9. Rob,
    If 2012 is bad, 2013 is probably worse…good thing that’s when I’m graduating…can’t wait for THAT job market.

    As much as I would like to have faith in all of this data, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s as bad as you say. However, I would think that, if anything, they would OVERSHOOT the data on our reserves…why would they tell us less? So, if anything, the situation is WORSE than what the report currently depicts…

    • >can’t wait for THAT job market.

      Hm…if we expect a jobless recovery, maybe the way forward is to figure out how we might personally recover without a job. I’m trying to think in those terms, but it’s difficult.

      I really like the idea of books like “Where There is No Doctor” and “Where There is No Dentist.” Someone should write “Where There is No Boss.”

    • Kevin,

      I think your “internships” are setting you up well for whatever the future may bring. Learning to DO things – things that are timeless: building/repairing/making things, growing vegetables, fungus, carbs and protein with little to now inputs, entertaining people, being a leader, learning first aid (and how to cure infection naturally), and more than anything – how to reach consensus under stress with a diverse group. Spend the next 1-3 years figuring out the tools and skills that are necessary and get them. All the while be thinking of a “want list”: land, salvage items, trucks, whatever. People throw/give weird stuff away. Know what you want. Read voraciously. 4 years is a life time. 4 years ago I was just starting to garden. Now I am building gasifiers and speaking at Bioneers conventions on Sustainability.

      As far as the job market… my grandfather (and most of his neighbors) only devoted 14% of his land to “cash” crops. The rest was for self sufficiency. And, you know what? He had alot more free time than we do. Read Walden again. Its GREAT for perspective. My house cost $180,000. That is over 3 years salary with a decent job these days. Bet you could build a weather tight structure with your bare hands if you had 3 years. how much of our income goes to inanities? Joel’s point is valid. We have mush to rethink.

  10. Nobody can be an island.

    Enough said.

  11. […]  I see problems, and I take action.  That action *might* be doing research, but in cases like reading the JOE report, the RSCH portion lasts for a day, then my version of fight or flight kicks in and I Get Busy. […]

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