Jul 082012
 July 8, 2012  Posted by at 8:22 pm Energy

George Monbiot recently made a major about-face on his peak oil stance, on the grounds that unconventional oil represents a new reality. The basis of his u-turn is a recent report on unconventional oil by Leonardo Maugeri, (former) oil executive at Italy's Eni, published at Harvard University, where Maugeri's a Senior Fellow at the John Kennedy School, Belfer Center, which we discussed here at TAE in Unconventional Oil is NOT a Game Changer.

George Monbiot:

We were wrong on peak oil. There's enough to fry us all

Peak oil hasn't happened, and it's unlikely to happen for a very long time.

A report by the oil executive Leonardo Maugeri, published by Harvard University, provides compelling evidence that a new oil boom has begun. The constraints on oil supply over the past 10 years appear to have had more to do with money than geology. The low prices before 2003 had discouraged investors from developing difficult fields. The high prices of the past few years have changed that.

Maugeri's analysis of projects in 23 countries suggests that global oil supplies are likely to rise by a net 17m barrels per day (to 110m) by 2020. This, he says, is "the largest potential addition to the world's oil supply capacity since the 1980s". The investments required to make this boom happen depend on a long-term price of $70 a barrel – the current cost of Brent crude is $95. Money is now flooding into new oil: a trillion dollars has been spent in the past two years; a record $600bn is lined up for 2012.

I sent George a short response to his article, by way of opening a dialogue:

What we are facing is a demand and price collapse that will render unconventional supplies uneconomic. Natural gas is leading the way over the next few years. The high cost and low EROEI are fatal flaws.

And received this reply:

If there's a collapse in demand, peak oil is not an issue, right? If there's a resurgence of demand, unconventionals become economic again. As for EROEI being a constraint, try telling that to the tar sands producers in Alberta.

With best wishes,


The debate continues. Here is my next installment:


A demand collapse will certainly put peak oil on the backburner for a number of years. The next few years will be remembered for financial crisis as we move into what will be at least as bad as the Great Depression (and very likely worse, since the bubble was much larger this time). Peak oil will not have gone away, however.

We have used the cheap and accessible oil (and other fossil fuels) and what remains will be exceptionally, and increasingly, expensive in both financial and energy terms. Predictable consequences will follow from this, but in a complex interaction with many other factors, notably the context of the huge credit bubble bursting. This amounts to crashing the operating system. For a while, resource constraints will be relieved due to economic seizure (i.e. the collapse of both the money supply and the velocity of money).

During the period of financial crisis, deflation and deleveraging, weak demand will buy us some time, but at the cost of setting us up for a supply crunch later. The period of sharply falling prices will kill investment in the energy sector, because the cost of production will fall less quickly than prices, meaning margins will be squeezed. Both physical and financial risks will be much higher. A lack of economic visibility will be anathema to what are inherently long term projects.

In addition, trade collapses during periods of economic depression, as for instance letters of credit become impossible to obtain, and the lack of funds for maintenance compromises the integrity of distribution infrastructure. Infrastructure may also be deliberately targeted during the inevitable upheaval. All of these factors act to reduce supply, and would be difficult, or impossible, to reverse quickly if demand were to rise.

When supply and demand become tight, what transpires is not a simple price spike, but an exaggerated boom and bust dynamic. This has been underway since 2005/06. The first full cycle unfolded from 2005/06 to 2008. The second began in 2008/09 and will probably end with a price bottom relatively early in this depression with a resurgence of military demand, given that oil is liquid hegemonic power.

That should feed into the third cycle, which should send prices sharply higher in real terms, if not to a new high in nominal terms. This price volatility, against a backdrop of severe economic contraction, upheaval and fear is leading towards a profound societal change, most likely a significant period of involuntary loss of socioeconomic complexity.

You mention the tar sands, and they are indeed an interesting case – an arbitrage between cheap natural gas and expensive syncrude that can continue while the price disparity is maintained. They are able to make money, even though they are not producing much net energy. Unfortunately for the tar sands producers, the price disparity is set to reverse.

The hype surrounding shale gas has crashed the price to the point where it is on the verge of putting producers out of business. Natural gas in North America appears to have bottomed, while the perception of glut in unconventional oil, combined with weak demand and a lack of appropriate infrastructure for internal North American sources, is set to undermine oil prices considerably.

Tar sands projects will be under acute threat under those circumstances – not imminently, but over the next five years or so. Once one cannot make money from some combination of artificial input/output price disparity, public subsidy and the ability to socialize externalities, then EROEI becomes the defining factor, and the EROEI for tar sands is pathetic.

While I agree that oil men do not base decisions on EROEI, ultimately EROEI will determine their ability to make money, and that is their driving motivation. Finance can only temporarily allow people to ignore thermodynamics.

EROEI effectively determines what is and is not an energy source for a given society (ie to maintain a given level of socioeconomic complexity). Unconventional fossil fuels are caught in a paradox – that their EROEI is too low for them to sustain a society complex enough to produced them.

They can only be produced for the relatively short period of time that the complex society built on conventional sources continues to maintain its current capacities, but as the conventional sources disappear, and that society can no longer support itself, the ability to undertake all the activities required for unconventional production will be lost. The hype has no foundation.

We have been living in a major departure from reality in many ways, as always occurs during bubble times, but those times are coming to an end. Instead of overshoot, we are headed for undershoot, and we are not going to like it.

Note the critical paradox of unconventional supplies. That is where the cornucopian view of energy, where Monbiot now seems to have landed, breaks down.

The same argument applies to renewable power as it is currently practiced. Without affordable conventional fossil fuels, the increasingly complex alternatives cannot be developed and exploited.

We find ourselves in a world of receding horizons.

Unconventional supplies are always priced at conventional energy plus a premium, thanks to their crucial dependency on conventional supplies.

What high Energy Return On Energy Investment makes possible, low EROEI will eventually take away, following a brief boom that constitutes the last gasp of our modern energy bubble era.

Image: Raúl Ilargi Meijer: Data source: David Murphy



Home Forums Peak Oil: A Dialogue with George Monbiot

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    Nicole Foss

    George Monbiot recently made a major about-face on his peak oil stance, on the grounds that unconventional oil represents a new reality. The basis of
    [See the full post at: Peak Oil: A Dialogue with George Monbiot]


    So was there any further reply from Mr. Monbiot?

    Great to see more posts from you, Stoneleigh!


    As usual, Nicole, I agree with what you say, virtually across the board. In terms of where we will find ourselves, in 10 years though- I’m coming to the belief that the largest factor will not really be any of the commonly cited problems; from climate change to peak oil; but rather the increasing global inability to make decisions of any kind, or take action; of any kind.

    We are at near total societal paralysis. Globally. Which, I would point out, you pointed out quite a while ago as the “increasing crisis in confidence”, if I remember your wording. We don’t trust each other anymore- and it’s only getting worse. In the US, and I think increasingly in Europe, we spend one election cycle repealing the legislation of the previous cycle- and passing nothing new. We still spend a lot of effort identifying problems; and arguing about which is most urgent- but- action? We take none, regardless.

    I find that even scarier than the 103°F heat a couple days ago, and the fact that my neighbors’ corn will reach total failure, if it doesn’t rain in the next few days (and there’s none in the forecast).


    Let’s think about this. We’re worried about not employing enough human beings. We’re worried about employing too much fossil fuel. And nobody – NOBODY!! – is connecting the dots!

    How can we be this stupid?


    The most pressing scarcity we face in the United States today is not a scarcity of things – energy, food, natural resources, or manufactured items. It is, rather, a shortage of will: of willingness to allocate a sufficient portion of our discretionary spending to labor inputs into the production and delivery of goods, services, and infrastructure. This lack of will is manifest in a shortage of employment opportunities for those among those of us who require employment income to purchase the necessities of life.



    HZB – hey, sounds good. So- have you tried to hire some one to actually operate a hoe, or shovel all day? Good luck! The scarcity of will is not all on the hiring side.



    I deleted your obviously far too lengthy comment from this thread. Left it on the other thread for now. I thought I had been clear before. Apparently not. Any additional comments like this will be deleted. This is a forum for everyone, and it’s not to be bogarted.


    HZB “And nobody – NOBODY!! – is connecting the dots!”

    Oh, I assure you, I connected all those dots years ago. Decades. But you see; the problem is not connecting the dots. It’s getting the picture colored correctly, cut out, on all the correct lines, and then folded into the right shape- so that something HAPPENS. That- is a different problem.


    Ilargi: thanks for the deletion there. Aglebert – have you ever heard of “preaching to the choir”? And this here is an old, old choir- and you are the newest boy soprano. Keep your sermons really short. 🙂 Not that we don’t appreciate passion.

    Golden Oxen

    Postpone the Apocalypse again!
    Thank goodness. I should have known from the performance of my oil and gas stocks. Ouch,but I would rather lose some dough than my freedom and mobility.
    Let’s get working to try and solve this energy problem, seems we have a bit more precious time.


    I have just been looking at a website of a company called desertech which is developing solar power in Tunisia, after seeing a guy called Kevin Sara interviewed on today’s Max Keiser it looks great, and I though hooray we are all saved, But…..then again! Have any auto earthers heard of this or can Nicole address this alternative energy idea. Thanks


    @Greenpa, I grant that there is a possible shortage of Americans who will operate a hoe or shovel all day in the sun for a reasonable rate.

    I’ll take that seriously when the folks who want that hoeing done are willing to outbid WalMart’s much easier jobs by at least 20%.

    I leased a farm this week. The landlord and I discussed work on his farm for rent credit. He mentioned that he has plenty of kids, but needs someone to whom he can say “It’s a good day for mowing” and come home to find the hay mowed, the mower unbroken and the tractor untipped.

    Missing was the part about outbidding the local home center for someone who can also say “You’re on the cold side of town. Go with rhodies not azaleas if you can. If you need the azalea size, these three are your best bets to survive.” That’s actually not easier than driving a tractor, but Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday is a better work schedule than “Looks like good weather, mow today, ted in two days, bale the day after that.”

    I just flat out don’t believe those farmers down in Alabama who claimed they offered $15/hr and couldn’t replace their wetbacks.


    Hi Nicole,

    This is a very interesting argument and ties in with a debate you have probably been following between Ugo Bardi and John Michael Greer on the steepness of the downslope of Hubbert’s Curve. Bardi has argued (at: https://cassandralegacy.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/seneca-effect-origins-of-collapse.html ) that the downslope will be much steeper – in terms of gross, never mind net energy – than the upslope which ended most of a decade ago. Greer has stated that he finds the argument unconvincing, without explaining in much detail why. The graphic at the top of the article suggests you are siding with Bardi on this. Does that convey your stance accurately, that there will be a huge reduction in net energy from oil in 10 years or so and almost none in 20 years?

    If I understand correctly, you are basically proposing two stages in this process:
    Stage 1 (maybe 2012-end of decade; financial crisis and deleveraging) – we will see fall in oil demand and price that will match or outpace depletion, even of conventional oil and destroy investment in the (few) new conventional oil fields and unconventional oil.
    Stage 2 (military demand and economic stabilization; 2020s) – demand outstrips supply reduced by lack of investment, low EROEI and infrastructure damage. Prices soar in real terms, unconventional oil cannot make up the gap due to lack of past investment and inability of enough high-EROEI conventional oil to subsidise low-EROEI energy, both unconventional oil and some renewables.

    What I don’t quite see is why complexity would be compromised enough by the end of stage 1 to prevent reinvestment in unconventional oil once demand – and hence prices – rose again. I only see this happening later in the game where unconventionals make up too big a slice of the energy cake in comparison with high-EROEI conventionals and the mean EROEI falls below the critical 8:1 or so that enables societal complexity to continue. Am I missing something here?

    I can envisage in stage 1 that people lucky enough to keep most of their income will think that plunging energy prices are great news and will be ill-prepared for the shock of stage 2, where most people will see a desperate shortage of affordable energy.


    I like reading stuff by Monbiot, he is a very good writer and quite entertaining. However, he has a flimsy scientific background – certainly as regards thermodynamics and global warming. He went to Stowe, like me, but many years later.

    Here is an article from 2 years ago explaining why the UK’s unusually cold winters were a sign of global warming:


    Of course, the winter after that was not so cold. 🙂


    I mean, how can one take seriously someone who is trying to explain such a long-term phenomenon one year at a time?

    BTW, I don’t want to initiate a climate-change discussion. I am merely pointing out that this guy is not a heavyweight. He is a journalist, not a scientist. Stoneleigh is right to point out his short-comings, but regrettably that makes him more credible than would otherwise be the case. He flip-flopped on peak oil. Big deal.


    Monbiot is absolutely a heavyweight. He has been the outstanding UK commentator on environmental issues for many years and is unique among journalists in adopting a scientific approach and always providing full references for his sources.

    However, I was surprised by his recent article in that he seemed to take a fairly uncritical approach to the Maugeri report. I’m very much looking forward to his response to Nicole’s piece.

    Nicole Foss


    I am generally with Ugo Bardi on this debate, in that I see decline unfolding much more quickly that expansion did, although I don’t see us falling all the way to the bottom in one episode. My view is that we will see various stages of collapse, like going over a series of cliffs, with intervening periods of partial recovery (with considerable variation between places depending on local circumstances).

    The socioeconomic complexity that has developed during the bubble era, largely as a result of high EROEI conventional fossil fuels, cannot be maintained once those are no longer available. Although they are not going to disappear overnight, access to them could be compromised quickly given that access relies on a functioning economy. When bubbles burst, finance become the key driver to the downside, since changes in the financial sphere unfold so much more quickly than changes in supply and demand in the real world.

    We are on an accelerating treadmill with regard to energy and would have to run faster and faster just to avoid being flung off the back. If EROEI falls by a factor of ten, production would have to rise by a factor of ten just to keep supplying the same demand (ie to stand still). This would require our ponzi financial system to go on expanding in order to keep the necessary liquidity flowing, and this is not going to be possible. Of course the complicating factor is that demand will change as well. Supply and demand for energy in the real world will interact in complex, non-linear ways with the dynamics of the financial world and collective human psychology (ie herding behaviour). The psychology of contraction is a very powerful force leading to self-fulfilling prophecies to the downside. Trust evaporates and people pull away from each other, disabling larger scale endeavours.

    Financial collapse (cascading system failure as our JIT systems unravel) will drive simplification, depriving us of the ability to get back on the treadmill at a later date. That’s not to say we wouldn’t be able to achieve anything, but that we will not be able to achieve anything like what we were used to. What energy we do have access to will be considered much more valuable than it is today (when it is taken for granted).

    As you say, for the relatively few people lucky enough to maintain access to liquidity, the falling prices deflation will bring about will mean things will become more affordable. (Of course if the lucky people do nothing to prepare for the next stage they are going to be in for a shock down the line.) For the majority, who will lose access to liquidity, things will become less affordable even as prices fall, because their purchasing power will be falling faster than prices. This is why I tell people to hold liquidity if at all possible. Even a small amount could make a very big difference in a future where the money supply has collapsed. Liquidity represents freedom of action.

    In the future we are going to realize how truly exceptional our period of history has been. Everything we thought was normal was the result of a huge energy subsidy amplified by the largest financial bubble in human history. We are going to have to adjust to a radically different new normal in the relatively near future, and we are not going to like it. There’s nothing so addictive as freedom, and the loss of access to money and energy is going to deprive us of much of that.


    Frank: “I just flat out don’t believe those farmers down in Alabama who claimed they offered $15/hr and couldn’t replace their wetbacks.”

    Well. I used to be with you there. Now I’m not so sure. The problem is; there is no longer a pool of local workers who know HOW to work out in the sun all day. They never have, and don’t know anyone who has, and few of their parents did.

    It’s quite a long set of skills and knowledge that you need; starting with “the fact that your stomach is grumbling does not mean you’re about to keel over from hunger”; which goes with “if you ignore your stomach for 15 minutes, it will shut up.” They have never ignored their stomach for 15 minutes in their entire life. Literally. And they truly believe they will start to die if they don’t stop and get a snack, a carbonated soft drink, and a rest in the shade, right now.

    Only a few years ago teenagers around here made their money by de-tasseling hybrid seed corn. No longer; it’s done by machine, genetics, or in Mexico. Kids simply no longer work in the fields, ever, and have no older sibling who bought their jalopy (now there’s an ancient word) with money they earned with sweat. You sweat at the gym; yes, but never otherwise. And it’s become culturally embedded.

    So. I can believe it, these days.

    I greatly appreciated your: “come home to find the hay mowed, the mower unbroken and the tractor untipped”…

    You obviously know whereof you speak. : – ) My own experience there; some 10 years ago, the last time we tried interns here; we had 3 at the same time; all brilliant scholars from top schools. They worked hard enough. Stuck to it. And literally broke every machine we own, besides killing thousands of crop plants.

    I blame it on Nader. They’d grown up swaddled in cotton; and never had any chance to discover that fire is hot, ice is slippery, and steel will break. Not, actually, a good direction for Homo. And here we are.


    Endfarm- yes, the idea of big solar farms in North Africa is pretty old, well discussed. You’d need to be running big underwater transmission cables up to Europe- transmission is always the bugaboo; but they think they can make it work. Technically; maybe. Economically? maybe.

    But. One aspect to photovoltaic power generation that is NEVER discussed is: it is desperately vulnerable to terrorist or vandal attack. All you need to do is break a few panels- and major disruption of service can follow, as the system gets unbalanced. Can you buy or build a weapon that will break windows over a fence and 200 yards away? Oh, yeah, easy.

    Wind is less vulnerable – but- we had a local crank take a shotgun (12 gauge slug) to a commercial turbine this spring, and knock it out.

    And I think it’s clear the future will have more cranks than now. Tunisia? I’d prefer to invest elsewhere.


    An unusually lucid glimpse into China’s internal economy:


    Fascinating that I would trust Chinese business statistics far more than those generated in the US at this point- less corrupt and/or politically slanted there, I think.

    What?! you say? China less corrupt!?? What nonsense!!

    Oh, really? Three words; Barclays; LIBOR; systemic.


    Ok, really scary. Following my comments above about the key problem being a lack of ability to make decisions and take actions-

    This morning, over at WaPo, the big sidebar ad is from Dow Chemical – and they have trademarked the word “Solutionism.”

    And have a website to go with it. https://www.dow.com/solutionism/

    So- the big corporations are already working to move into the place of societal decision making. And they’ll likely succeed- because it’s a vacuum, as I pointed out. Your government can’t act? Hey, come to Dow. We can.


    I like the blue curve in the chart.

    Its a positive message for the 0.01%.
    It says that the wealthy will have access to oil for at less 100 year.

    That a lot longer than an election cycle.

    I’m going to change my definition of of wealthy to someone who does not need to personally expend any energy/cash to keep food on the table.
    Now …. even those on welfare can be considered wealthy.


    I found that comment from Monbiot to be curt, condescending and obtuse. He must be catching it from all sides. He should probably think more about the data, before he makes his pronouncements. It’s like, because his conclusion is right, he thinks it doesn’t really matter how he arrived there. It’s like the story of Authority these days, unveiling itself all over the place to be just not that astute.



    EROEI is always overlooked by the Solid Earth Oil Corers.


    “Monbiot to be curt, condescending and obtuse”

    very concise. As far as I can tell, these days Monibiot is condescending to everyone. I rarely deign to read him.


    This is a most interesting topic to read. If i try to discuss any of it with others, I get the blank stare and disbelief. Most people cannot comprehend that air conditioning will not be around forever. People take it for granted during these hot summer heat waves. I have never heard such grumbling recently as when the electric power was taken down by trees in the storms, and people have to go elsewhere to stay cool.

    So Greenpa, I can believe that workers find it very difficult to work long hours in the heat and sun. We have been softies during this age of cheap energy.

    Hard times are a-coming.


    Oh, goody! Fresh doom from Stoneleigh on a Monday when I have a fresh cup of coffee! 😉

    Really, thanks very much for this article and the one on Unconventional oil not a game changer, nicole. I read Monbiots article and was puzzled by what he said.. these articles you wrote help answer the questions I had about his article.

    As always, Safe Travels to the TAE group,


    A dialogue with George? For an insight into the journo/hack politics of the various schools (public or otherwise) of UK hacksterism check out what Mr James Delingpole of the Telegraph has to say:

    Some of the comments are especially telling…



    stoneleigh post=4189 wrote: Everything we thought was normal was the result of a huge energy subsidy amplified by the largest financial bubble in human history. We are going to have to adjust to a radically different new normal in the relatively near future, and we are not going to like it. There’s nothing so addictive as freedom, and the loss of access to money and energy is going to deprive us of much of that.

    Wow. That bit nicely cuts through all the BS and right to the quick. I think I’m going to write that down and pull it out anytime people say “yeah, but…”


    I find this attitude of “Oh well, everything’s fine!” very confusing. I know that here Monbiot is speaking solely on that viability of non conventional oil, but even if you assume that the premise about it is correct it seems like such a linear response to an incredibly complex set of causal relationships. So the questions that pop into my mind are… what about energy return on water invested? What about the effects of development on local communities? I have a lot of friends who are out in eastern Montana and North Dakota who are watching local communities just getting shattered. What happens if we see increased resistance from them? What are the ecological effects, the Boreal Forest is being decimated in Alberta. What about broader ecological effects from these forms of production. Geopolitically what are the effects for example of supplanting Middle Eastern production with non-conventional’s. Could it collapse the political economy of those regions? And of course what about the law of diminishing returns when applied to non conventional production? These are just the immediate questions that pop into my head. There are so many unknown variables that again even if you accept the premise of the argument, it is way to simplistic and arrogant of a response to say problem solved.


    ah, thank goodness, Georgia has found THE answer for the shortage of farm labor-



    Prisoners – our next slaves 🙁

    While this does offer an opportunity for the prisoners for work, it opens it up for all kinds of abuses, especially when prisons are sold to the private sector. How would private owners treat these people? Scary thoughts.


    Here is what Monbiot recently wrote about nuclear power:


    He never once mentioned the words “cost”, “radiation” or “risk” – quite an achievement, I would have thought.

    However, he did mention “carbon” nine times. I guess his priorities and mine are different. 🙂


    Greenpa post=4193 wrote: Ok, really scary. Following my comments above about the key problem being a lack of ability to make decisions and take actions-

    This morning, over at WaPo, the big sidebar ad is from Dow Chemical – and they have trademarked the word “Solutionism.”

    And have a website to go with it. https://www.dow.com/solutionism/

    So- the big corporations are already working to move into the place of societal decision making. And they’ll likely succeed- because it’s a vacuum, as I pointed out. Your government can’t act? Hey, come to Dow. We can.

    Hi Greenpa,

    A paradigm to consider is that the money power (Wizard of Oz) behind Dow (curtain) is also the money power (Wizard of Oz) behind your elected officials.

    Hence the incentive to remove power (decision making) from governments and roll them up under their more directly controlled corporations so that said political puppets can spend more time insider trading off of Federal Reserve tips so long as they vote in the interests of the money power (Wizard of Oz again) behind the Federal Reserve (more curtain).

    Anyway, hopefully that makes some sense when you consider the how the money flows and the interests of the people behind the money.

    Noel bodie

    A smart hoe boy doesn’t work in the heat of the day rather he gets up early to work in the cool morning and by 1 pm is sitting in the shade. Takes a nap in the afternoon and returns to his work in the evening. I had “Big Bertha” a 1940’s model with a tapered handle and filed edge going after pig weed in the pumpkins.


    That is the best response I have seen to this labor discussion,Noel.I follow the same practice when working in my garden here in Oregon{the sun finally came out last week,its been working overtime in the rest of the nation but here….not so much.}

    I am sorry to here about your neighbor,Greenpa.Farming is tough,and I have seen my own work take a serious hit with the bees when I ran into the effects of systemic poison from almond growers who wanted that last 2-3%of the crop…and didn’t give a jolly god-damn about the bee-keepers,whose bees were destroyed by their efforts.

    Monbiot’s flip on nukes is telling…as was pointed out,little mention of risk,ect., seemed to enter his mind when he called to muzzle Friends of the Earths objections to expansion of that industry.Interesting…will he be willing to live next to one?

    Nicole,as always,I find your analysis concise, relevant,and directly to the point.Were all the imputs into our civilization not so mind-disturbingly complex and intertwined,were we actually rational animals,rather than rationalizing animals,after the first few collapses we would have figured out how to quit the boom and bust cycle.As our collective behavior seems to be closer to yeast in a pertri dish,I see a rocky conclusion to this financial/energy-dense party we have been on.

    The costs of this last bit of “the party” seems all out of proportion to the benefit.A trashed political system, Obscene amounts of wealth for a very few…and a generation promised the world..and given ashes.

    Payback will be hell…for many.Guilty,and innocent alike.

    Bee good,or
    Bee careful



    Monbiet’s book ‘No Man’s Land’ about the plight of the Barabaig tribe in the Hanang/Lake Basuto area of Arusha Region (now Manyara) in Tanzania was an eyeopening read back in the mid-late 90’s. I was teaching sustainable agriculture at a rural training centre a couple hours drive away near Dareda. Good book showing the foolishness of the Canadian wheat project that resulted in the Tanz Govt snatching 100,000 acres of prime grazing land and turning into a dozen wheat growing farms replete with huge modern farming technology in the 80’s. A few years later, in a different job, I went there for 6wks to manage the harvest of one of the farms for my dutch export seed company boss. He’d had to lease the farm for free as the only way to get back money owed him by the Govt project for inputs they’d got on credit. Once the Canadians handed over the project (after 10yrs training locals etc) it soon collapsed due to corruption.

    Anyway, GM’s story was right but having worked in Tanzania and got to know the tribes and a little of their ways there was also another side to it that he never covered (the ongoing and fairly recent historical injustices of the Barabaig towards their immediate neighbours due to their culture meaning they had zero allies to speak for them).
    Anyway the Canadians have eventually made things right, as far as possible, for the Barabaig and some credit must go to GM’s book for revealing the injustice done there. Bravo.

    Since then I look out for his writing but, while insightful at times, overall he seemed to jump onto bandwagons far too quickly and enthusiastically e.g. the whole global warming fiasco. He deals more in symptoms rather than the deep underlying causes unlike Stoneleigh & Ilargi and certainly has scant idea of the interplay between ponzi finance and (lack of) future energy resource availability etc. Which is why I’ve been (mostly) lurking here for just on 2yrs now.

    Otto Matic

    @ Green”..
    Endfarm- yes, the idea of big solar farms in North Africa is pretty old, well discussed…”

    Not this project. Please listen to the Max K interview.

    Kevin Sara of the TuNur solar export project


    This N African solar project is Thermal, with arrays of simple focused mirrors screwed into the ground with earth anchors, not concrete pads.

    It is NOT PV.

    It is Solar Thermal

    The whole point is to generate electricity 24/7 by storing daytime focused heat in saline pond/tanks for generation at night.

    Solar mirror arrays and their aiming is also very old hat, I would hesitate even calling it ‘high tech’, you could probably focus the whole mirror array with an iPad App.

    Underwater electric transmission cables again, is very old hat, figured out decades ago actually.

    Storing thermal energy in salt solutions, also very, very old hat. Yawn

    Solar Thermal is not revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination. In fact the back end of the process, taking high pressure stream and making electricity, is Ancient by modern technology standards.

    It’s just no one every put the financial funding together in a package this big.

    All the parts of generation in ST are well understood and quite boring, they only need refinement, not re-invention.

    I haven’t checked it out yet but Kevin Sara stated that Germany, sometime in the last month or so, generated over the 50% mark it’s total country wide electric load. Very impressive if true.

    The Germans are quite focused on solar (and ST) and wind after deciding to ‘nuke’ their nukes and are following the Tunisia project quite closely.


    HZB, the lack of will is related to our societal use of money. If and when we realize that ending its use is in our overall best interest, our will will follow.


    Otto – ah, sorry I missed the fact that this one is solar thermal, not PV. Yes, ST is a good deal more terrorist resistant than PV; quite a lot more damage must be done before a serious impact is made.

    The long transmission lines are still a substantial terrorist target, however, and militarily, essentially unprotectable. The experiences with pipelines in Iraq, the USSR fragments, and Nigeria are relevant.

    If the cost estimates are not including the maintenance of a modest private army for security- it’s a scam.

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