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PaulS's picture

Collapse and other reports

John Robb: Had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Dmitry Orlov (author of the excellent book Reinventing Collapse) last night, with my friend Steve Wardell. Dmitry makes a compelling case that the US empire will suffer the same fate as its most hated rival, the Soviet empire, for many of the same reasons:

Extreme dependence on the price of oil. The Soviet's over reliance on oil was as a source of income (which collapsed in the early 80's due to a confluence of factors, hence the bankruptcy). The US depends on it due our profligacy in its use. As oil availability dries up (export land model, peak oil production, etc.) the US will suffer disproportionately.

Extreme levels of spending on national security. The paranoia that led the Soviets to overspend on national security was legendary. The same is true with the US. The US now spends more than the rest of the world combined on national security. In a hyper competitive global economy it isn't absolute or historical levels of spending that matter - it's relative spending levels.
A runaway foreign trade deficit and ballooning debt.
Extreme levels of corruption and a gross misallocation of economic resources. The Soviets had insular bureaucrats and the US has bankers and financiers.
A ballooning welfare state that it can't support (in the US's case, it's mostly ballooning health care costs -- the US's crony capitalist health care system costs 2-4x per unit of health care as compared to the rest of the developed world, while delivering health stats only rivaled by the developing world).
While Dmitry's top level analysis is great, it's the details (from his experience with how people dealt with the economic/political/social collapse of the Soviet Union) on how Americans will cope with daily life after a collapse, that are the most entertaining/sobering. In a nutshell, life in a US Banana Republic means: we're going to grow lots of our own food, make our own energy, and buy most our products at flea markets.
(18 November 2010)
Author John Robb is "an author, an entrepreneur, and a former USAF pilot in special operations."

Peak Energy, Climate Change, and the Collapse of Global Civilization: The Current Peak Oil Crisis
Tariel Mórrígan; Global Climate Change, Human Security & Democracy, UCSB,
A new report was released in October entitled, "Peak Energy, Climate Change, and the Collapse of Global Civilization: The Current Peak Oil Crisis", by the Global Climate Change, Human Security & Democracy (GCCHSD) research group at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The report is a synthesis of the current state of knowledge on energy resources and global climate and environmental change. The findings clearly indicate that the convergence of peak energy resources and dangerous anthropogenic climate and environmental change will likely have a disastrous impact in the near- and long-term on the quantity and quality of human life on the planet (see synopsis below). Topics include: peak oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, and phosphorus; climate change; environmental degradation; population; food and agriculture; water resources; and the limits of biofuels (including algae-based biofuels).

GCCHSD published this report to both inform the public and policy-makers about the threats and challenges of peak energy and climate change, and to provide its Global Advisory Council of policy-makers and statesmen with timely and detailed science-based information on these impending crises.

This report is currently released as an eBook (pdf file). Hard copies are not available yet from the GCCHSD, but the eBook may be printed out and distributed. This report and other GCCHSD publications may be found at the following url:

Interested persons are encouraged to contact the author of the publication with any comments or questions regarding this publication.


Peak oil and the events associated with it will be an unprecedented discontinuity in human and geologic history. Peak oil crises will soon confront societies with the opportunity to recreate themselves based on their respective needs, culture, resources, and governance responses. Peak oil will require a change of economic and social systems, and will result in a new world order. The sooner people prepare for peak oil and a post-peak oil life, the more they will be able to influence the direction of their opportunities. Nevertheless, there are probably no solutions that do not involve at the very least some major changes in lifestyles. Consequently, peak oil will probably result in some catastrophic upheavals. Peak oil will also present opportunities to address many underlying societal, economic, and environmental problems.

Humanity has already passed the threshold for dangerous anthropogenic interference with the natural climate system. Peak energy resources and economic decline may make it more challenging for societies and their economies to adapt to future climate and environmental changes.

This report considers energy resources, climate change, ecological balance, and the Earth’s capacity to supply food and water to support human life from the perspective of governance and human security

Some key messages from the report include:

Peak oil is happening now.
The era of cheap and abundant oil is over.
Global conventional oil production likely peaked around 2005 – 2008 or will peak by 2011.
Global oil reserve discoveries peaked in the 1960's.
New oil discoveries have been declining since then, and the new discoveries have been smaller and in harder to access areas (e.g., smaller deepwater reserves).

(well, just what I have been saying since 2005 in my blogs and elsewhere. Paul)

Huge investments are required to explore for and develop more reserves, mainly to offset decline at existing fields.
An additional 64 mbpd of gross capacity – the equivalent of six times that of Saudi Arabia today – needs to be brought on stream between 2007 – 2030 to supply projected business as usual demand.
Since mid-2004, the global oil production plateau has remained within a 4% fluctuation band, which indicates that new production has only been able to offset the decline in existing production.
The global oil production rate will likely decline by 4 – 10.5% or more per year.
Substantial shortfalls in the global oil supply will likely occur sometime between 2010 – 2015.

Furthermore, the peak global production of coal, natural gas, and uranium resources may occur by 2020 – 2030, if not sooner.
Global peak coal production will likely occur between 2011 – 2025.
Global natural gas production will likely peak sometime between 2019 – 2030.
Global peak uranium will likely occur by 2015 to sometime in the 2020's.

Oil shortages will lead to a collapse of the global economy, and the decline of globalized industrial civilization.
Systemic collapse will evolve as a systemic crisis as the integrated infrastructure and economy of our global civilization breaks down.
Most governments and societies – especially those that are developed and industrialized – will be unable to manage multiple simultaneous systemic crises. Consequently, systemic collapse will likely result in widespread confusion, fear, human security risks, and social break down.
This current transition of rapid economic decline was triggered by the oil price shock starting in 2007 and culminating in the summer of 2008. This transition will likely accelerate and become more volatile once oil prices exceed $80 – $90 per barrel for an extended time. Demand destruction for oil may be somewhere above $80 per barrel and below $141 per barrel.
Economic recovery (i.e., business as usual) will likely exacerbate the global recession by driving up oil prices.

A managed “de-growth” is impossible, because effective mitigation of peak oil will be dependent on the implementation of mega-projects and mega-changes at the maximum possible rate with at least 20 years lead time and trillions of dollars in investments.
Peak oil and the events associated with it will be an unprecedented discontinuity in human and geologic history.
Adaptation is the only strategy in response to peak oil.
Mitigation and adaptation are the only strategies for climate change.
Peak oil crises will soon confront societies with the opportunity to recreate themselves based on their respective needs, culture, resources, and governance responses.

The impacts of peak oil and post-peak decline will not be the same equally for everyone everywhere at any given time.
There are probably no solutions that do not involve at the very least some major changes in lifestyles.
The localization of economies will likely occur on a massive scale, particularly the localization of the production of food, goods, and services.
Existential crises will soon confront societies with the opportunity to recreate themselves based on their respective needs, culture, resources, and governance responses.
If the international community does not make a transcendent effort to cooperate to manage the transition to a non-oil based economy, it may risk a volatile, chaotic, and dangerous collapse of the global economy and world population.

Since the advent of the Green Revolution, the global human population has increased from 2.5 billion in 1950 to nearly 7 billion today.
Global demand for natural resources exceeded planet’s capacity to provide sustainably for the combined demands of the global population between 1970 – 1980.
The global population is projected to grow to around 9.2 billion by 2050.
Current trends in land, soil, water, and biodiversity loss and degradation, combined with potential climate change impacts, ocean acidification, a mass extinction event, and energy scarcity will significantly limit the human carrying capacity of the Earth.
Based on these estimates, the global population may have nearly reached or already exceeded the planet's human carrying capacity in terms of food production.
(October 2010)
A massive report (252 pages) that covers many of the issues we have been working on at Energy Bulletin and Post Carbon Institute. Good job, Tariel and the Global Climate Change, Human Security & Democracy (GCCHSD) research group! Direct link to the PDF (14 MB). -BA

The Economy Is Not Coming Back
Gilles d'Aymery, Swans Commentary
Part III: The Reasons it Shouldn't

The first part of this long essay presented an abridged history of the road to the current deep socioeconomic crisis that some observers had predicted, even though no one could pinpoint the exact timing of the implosion. The second part submitted that there are objective factors that explain why the economy is not going "to come back" any time soon. But, more importantly, profound and intensifying environmental and ecological crises militate in favor of not having the economy revert to the shape and form it had. Some of these crises are the object of this third part. In short, to return to business as usual will lead to collective suicide, which Mother Nature will trigger in the not so distant future.

... Fossil fuels have been feeding the materialistic economic paradigm, whether under capitalism or socialism, since the early 1800s. Their use increased moderately between 1850 and 1950, thereafter shooting up like a rocket. (5)

... With these few facts in mind, where does the world stand in regard to fossil fuels?

Since the beginning of the current latent depression, as oil consumption has flattened or slightly decreased, the topic of peak oil has by and large disappeared in the mainstream media. Were it not for the Blogosphere (7) that keeps bringing facts of oil depletion to the fore, one would believe that everything is fine and dandy -- and, anyway, the alarmists are deemed radicals (right or left) and as such are discounted. However, what to make of Charles Maxwell, a senior energy analyst at Weeden & Co. -- certainly not a "radical" -- who has written and talked extensively about The Gathering Storm? (8)

Or what about Robert Hirsch? Swans readers may recall Hirsch's 2005 report "Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management" that was highlighted on January 29, 2007, in the dossier, "Energy Resources And Our Future," by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. In that report, Hirsch, an oilman par excellence, showed the dire challenges the world faces and how to possibly mitigate them.
(15 November 2010)