People Talkin’ #9

Because the commenter known as “bill” is too lazy to dig up the last open thread, here’s a new one. There’s plenty to talk about (but there’s a post on extreme weather on its way, so hold fire on that) — including an interesting and developing stoush between George Monbiot, who thinks that growing extraction of unconventional oil and gas mean that peak oil’s no longer a threat, and others, who remain concerned. Why it’s complicated? Google EROEI.

13 thoughts on “People Talkin’ #9”

  1. Know as ‘bill’ and also is ‘Bill’ – both lazy AND unimaginative…

    Monbiot has gone off somewhat half-cocked before – in response to the climategate e-mails (he’s since retracted his early rather credulous mis-statements, and good on him for that) and then, more recently, entering the shadowy world of what I call ‘Chernobyl Denial’.

    However if he’s right, he’s also right that we have an even more terrible problem confronting us than we’d hitherto believed. With the anti-Multilateral Stupid hordes on the march, an impending Stupid Depression weakening collective strategies still further (which is rather the point of it, really), and all of this augmenting the pre-existing fatal bind of the blind, selfish monomania of the Free Market™ in its weird dance with the blind, selfish monomania of nation-states, ‘deep deep trouble’ is right.

    If Leggett’s right we’re only about as stuffed as we thought we were already!

    The problem is that nobody who is in a position to actually know the scale of new or existing resources at a national or coprorate level is likely to give us a direct and honest description of them, because they can only be expected to give the answer that best serves their interests.

    May we live in interesting times!

    (We certainly do, but I’m beginning to want to ask to be let off…)

    1. Anything that relaxes our resolve to reach the “promised land” beyond the fossil fuel stop gap is bad. Any news like this (false or worse, correct) is indeed bad.

      It is bad because we must reach an island of sustainability beyond the wet patch of fossil fuel dependency on humanities fit-to-exist graph and soon so! We will run out of fossil fuel extraction potential or out of CO2 dumping grounds or both (the later most likely) within a very short time frame in comparison with anything that bares the label “historical” let alone “geological”, independent of minor adjustments to the argument by a few more Saudi-Arabia’s found or lost.

      We are already f***ed most likely as the transition will be difficult and the road to that promised land of a survivable and sustainable future may very likely be too narrow for the bus of humanity at our current headcount to squeeze through before the gates close…. and not a day to soon should we put what we can of our ingenuity and available resources towards reaching that other side of the narrows.

      But by golly, we have hardly started the journey in earnest, yet all the while we are piling on in the bus at 70 million additional heads a year while deepening our fossil fuel dependency and reneging on what little attempts we have made to improve matters by international treaties. In other words we treading water at best, paddling backwards most likely….

      Now where again was the ‘game reset’ button on that sim-something game… perhaps Nick Bostrom knows…?

    1. Great find George. Tallies pretty much with what I have been thinking too. Solar PV is where the current action certainly is hot and the benefit is that everybody with a roof in a sunny spot facing sun-wards now can become a player from as little as 2KW grid tie systems and up at <$10K NZ installed.

  2. My ten bytes worth on the George Monbiot and Jeremy Leggett viewpoints. Its not “climate change vs peak oil ; pick only one”. The real issue is what are the relative merits of climate change and peak oil risks. IMO both are risks but the greater focus should be on climate change.

    We also need to note that climate change and peak oil have a small number of very conflicting mitigation strategies. James Hansen in the ‘Coal phase-out paper’ said:
    * stretch out consumption of crude oil
    * maximise renewables
    * phase out coal
    * no unconventional fossil fuels, and
    * no coal to liquids

    Robert Hirsch said in the Hirsch Report that mitigation of peak oil should involve;
    * stretch out consumption of crude oil
    * maximise renewables
    * maximise coal
    * maximise unconventional fossil fuels, and
    * maximise coal to liquids

    Note the clashes?

    So I am more sympathetic to George Monbiot’s view, but with the benefit of hindsight I would have said:

    “There is/are enough (oil) hydro-carbons in the ground to deep-fry the lot of us, and no obvious means to prevail upon governments and industry to leave it in the ground.”

    1. Gee, does His Honour have solar panels? Eh? Doesn’t he have a daughter who was seen at a Greenpeace benefit gig? Isn’t his aunt a regular donor to the WWF? Are you with us? You know what we’re talking about here…

      What an extraordinary document. ‘It’s in everybody’s interest for us to undertake these Quixotic challenges to actual expertise through the courts rather than just bloody publish and so the public should pay for it’?

      One hopes they get exactly what’s coming to them.

  3. Ohh, I found another goodie over at CCG:

    Jan 9 opens with this quote from Dr Vincent Gray:

    “The climate is a heat engine. The energy comes in from the sun. The exhaust goes out to space.

    The exhaust must be less than the input because in between some work must be done. This would include maintenance of all living creatures plus erosion and other changes in the surface.”

    See whole thread at

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