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  • in reply to: Peak Oil: A Dialogue with George Monbiot #4527


    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.

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