Friday, January 30, 2009

Peak Oil solutions?

It's easy to be negative isn't it?

You know. The glass half-empty thing.

We get tired, we get cranky, we don't get enough sleep.......modern life.

Peak Oil Awareness is not about being negative. Please don't misunderstand the topic.

It is about being realistic.

Living an illusion is negative. And un-patriotic too. No matter where you live in world.

And the world, especially the United States, has been living an illusion for a long time.

So, what are the solutions?

How can we change things to get the monkey off our back?

Nobody has all the answers. I certainly don't.

But a vague notion of "energy independence" is not going to cut it.

We need some very specific plans.

And those plans have to be based upon realistic assumptions and in understanding the scope and limitations of various technologies that can offer parts of the solution. We can't depend upon fantasies like dilithium crystals, can we?

So, let's be positive for a moment and think about things we can do that can be implemented without delay.

Transportation is one of the biggest areas that is being impacted by Peak Oil.

Personal mobility is a concern for everybody. Transportation to support trade and industry is another important aspect.

The challenge in the transportation space is mostly about the fact that we have built a giant global machine dependent upon non-renewable oil to provide liquid fuels.

Yeah, there are a few busses that run on natural gas, but most of the fleet of commercial trucks and other machines don't. My neighbor's Mercedes-Benz 600 doesn't.

And, even though things like corn ethanol sound good, the reality is that the conceptualization is flawed. Remember, people get hungry. And corn for fuel takes away food for hungry people.

An analysis of corn ethanol needs to also consider the EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested). How good is your physics? Can you explain the concept of an "energy sink?" Its not tough. If the amount of useable energy you get out of a technology is less than the energy you put in to get it out, that technology is an energy sink and is not sustainable. That pretty much explains corn ethanol.

I have a lot of hope for algal biofuels.

I think this area offers a lot of the solution potential for decreasing the burden of having to come up with so many millions of barrels of go-go juice everyday.

It's simple. Throw some algae in a photobioreactor and make sure there is enough carbon dioxide nearby (like from a coal-burning power plant) to bubble through the mix to feed those little blue-green guys, make sure you get some radiation from the sun or grow lamps, keep the kettle stirring, and, you've got a potentially sustainable source of liquid fuels.

Then, you run the blue-green muck through a press or whatever and get the oil out and then transesterify the stuff or throw it in an adequately designed engine that can run it straight.

The strange thing about algal biofuels is that many voices claim that they are "too expensive." Well that is just silly. Continuing to run on non-renewable rock oil is way more expensive. We are heading for a disaster. It would be cheaper to subsidize algal biofuels than face the bill we will have to pay when global oil production crashes.

I already lived through the gas rationing in 1973 and 1979. It wasn't fun.

What is strange is that we just fell asleep for 36 years or so.

We don't even have an emergency plan for gasoline rationing. That would be a good solution. Get a gas rationing plan, just to have in case of an emergency, which we could have again any day.

Some of these solutions seem so simple it is amazing that they are not deployed.

The big problem is scaling them up. Making enough biofuel from algae to make a significant difference. Or making enough batteries for deploying at least some electric cars.

The other basic problem in the transportation space, especially personal transportation is the ridiculous inefficiency of most vehicles.

On average, less than one percent of the energy used to move a vehicle moves the weight of the operator! That is just stupidly inefficient.

Remember the "Africar?"

That was a cool idea!

It was all about building vehicles out of wood that could be harvested from sustainable forests and constructed with simple wood and resin technology that anybody could fix, even out in the bush in deepest Africa.

Apparently, the company was financially unsound. I would guess they didn't have a good business plan and ProForma financial statements like lots of people I try to help. Wish I could have had the chance to help them.

There are lots of other Peak Oil solutions to discuss in subsequent posts but the transportation issues are the ones that are most challenging because of the scale of the problem and huge bridge needed to span the gap between dependence on non-renewable rock oil and fuels of the future.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Analysis of Simmons January 14, 2009 Brief

You'd better sit down.

Things are really bad. Worse than anybody ever imagined.

Allow me to strongly suggest you visit Matthew Simmons' January 14, 2009 briefing on Peak Oil.

My summary analysis is as follows:

1) The 2008 oil price "spike" was not really a spike but just the culmination of a multi-year rise in oil prices due to fundamental changes in the oil industry.

2) 2008 high price was NOT due to speculators!

3) Recent new oil discoveries were unfortunately small and deep. (inadequate to compensate for crashing production from existing fields).

4) IEA's November 2008 WEO (World Energy Outlook) "yanked the covers" off the naked truth of some very ugly facts about the world's 800 largest oilfields and revealed (confirmed) the fact that most of them are in irreversible decline.

5) Cheap oil/energy is OVER!

6) "Hard data" now confirm that Global Oil Production PEAKED IN 2005!

7) Oil prices are way too low!

8) Oil should be at least $150.00 per barrel with a permanent pricing "floor"

9) The world is facing the reality of the "twin cancers" of the oil biz, people and rust.

The "People" problem is due to the upcoming retirement of the bulk of the oil biz

The "Rust" problem is due to the fact that the world's oil infrastructure is built out of steel and is way too old and must be replaced immediately

10) Even at just an 80% replacement rate the rust problem is bigger and more complex than World War 2!

11) Obama does not know what is going on.

12) The world cannot adjust given the current "blueprint" of oil dependency

There obviously is a lot to discuss here.

If it turns out to be true that Global Oil Production has already peaked in 2005......we don't have enough time to fix the problems.

I want to make it clear that I am not attacking President Obama just for the sake of attacking somebody. I have always had great respect for the commander in chief.

But on a daily basis I talk to people who seem to think that Obama's concept of "change" is the magic potion that will wipe away the current inconvenience and bring back the heady days of cheap energy. It won't.

And, most importantly, many experts are warning us that Obama does not have a PLAN!

Look, don't be pissed at me as if I am calling your favorite football team names. We mean that Obama does not have a plan that is SCALED UP big enough to deal with the huge energy gap!

Obama's recent speech, as analyzed professionally here on The Oil Drum might sound good to a layperson. It sounds good to "double" the alternative energy in three years. But that is nowhere near enough to avoid massive problems. It is too little, too late.

Please don't confuse realism with pessimism. I'm not particularly pessimistic. But the reality of the Peak of Oil production is very, very real.

It is very important for as many people as possible to instantly develop an AWARENESS of the SCALE of the problem.

That is the most important concept. The scale.

This is very difficult for most people. Thinking about really big numbers doesn't mean that much to people on a day to day basis. A million here, a billion there. What does it matter to somebody working for an hourly wage at Wal-Mart?

I think the thing that scares me the most is that Obama doesn't even use the term Peak Oil in every paragraph. I'm talking about "mindshare." Not enough mindshare.

Forget about the "terrorists" and everything else. Peak Oil is the enemy within. We are killing ourselves.

How much of the new Obama "Stimulus Package" is dedicated to the estimate 100 TRILLION dollars we need for oil infrastructure replacement?

Doesn't anybody understand that all the stuff we built back around World War 2 has now rusted away? It's so simple.

Just take a walk near any refinery or pipeline or oil field or port and you can see for yourself that everything is in really bad shape.

Making just a "down payment" on fixing the economic crisis is not going to solve the CAUSE of the economic crisis, Peak Oil.

I don't even have the courage to try to discuss the last point. "The world can't adjust" is too negative, too extreme. Even for an old hang glider pilot like me :-(

Monday, January 26, 2009

The United States of Nationalization

The New York Times reported yesterday that Obama is heading towards nationalization of the banking system in the USA.

Isn't that interesting?

I don't remember hearing that as a campaign promise. ;-)

Didn't somebody tell the Obama "team" last summer that nationalization was the only solution?

I'm guessing they knew it all along.

I wonder what happened to the idea of letting the banks fail, like Summers and Geithner told the asians in 1997?

We seem to be breaking our own rules.

Its interesting that you don't hear much discussion about the Gold Standard and Bretton Woods or Bretton Woods 2, and nobody, I mean nobody is talking about the banking crisis, the gold standard and peak oil all in the same sentence.

For some reason, the best and brightest continue to "see" (or not see, according to your point of view) the "economy" as an abstract floating in space completely independent of the energy it is floating upon.

Energy in formal economics is treated as a type of collateral co-factor or something to be plugged into supply and demand formulas or whatever.

It's real simple guys. Oil runs everything! 

Oil is captured sunshine. It took millions of years for sun energy to get stored in chemical form.

Sunshine gets stored in oil similar to a capacitor gaining a charge.

The problem is that now we are discharging the capacitor and we are going to use up millions of years of energy storage in a short time.

Oil is our God. In a very literal sense.

It may seem warm and fuzzy to talk about tax breaks and credits for "alternative energy" but the fact is that we slept through the last 38 years since oil production peaked in 1971!

38 years!

Electric cars sound like a good idea, but it won't solve the energy crisis and threat of Peak Oil because we can't replace enough of the fleet of 230 million gas guzzling cars and light trucks fast enough to make a difference.

This is the problem with laypersons who didn't bother to pay attention in science class. It is impossible for the public at large to grasp the fact that the scale of the problem is too large for  band-aid solutions and wimpy nonsense like the latest push to let the individual states set stricter gas mileage standards.

It is way too late for making a difference with state gas mileage standards. And, if state standards should be raised, why not get the whole country standardized and raise the Federal standards to equal the highest state levels? That is why the auto companies should be left to fail. We need new solutions.

Peak Oil is an emergency right now!

Oh well. Stay tuned to watch the show over the next few weeks and see how long it takes Obama and company to admit that we have to nationalize the banks.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oil Hits $336.00 a barrel in USA!

Wake up America!

Peak Oil is here

The Los Angeles Times reports on January 25th 2009 that oil prices have reached $336.00 dollars per barrel in the USA!

That is the price of heating oil this month in fishing villages in Alaska. ($8 a gallon times 42 gallons in a barrel).

People are having to decide between heat or food!

Even Sarah Palin's new celebrity status hasn't seemed to prevent this crisis.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

HyperChange, or Change Hype?

Time will tell.

So far, it doesn't seem that President Barack Obama is in Hyperchange mode.

But it will take some time to figure out if all the talk about change is just hype.

As the New York times reported today on Inauguration Day, Obama doesn't have a plan, at least not one for a quick fix, not for the banking "crisis," or a plan for Peak Oil.

Obama has talked plenty about Energy. But it doesn't seem that the Peak Oil concept is part of the literacy.

And, don't forget Obama's foolish campaign trail suggestion to drawdown the Strategic Petroleum Reserve just to save money at the gas pump for summer driving vacations!

Hopefully, once you become President, you get a better briefing on the oil and gas infrastructure of the country and the proper use of the SPR.

I didn't hear any inauguration day call for changing our fatal dependency on oil.

No "New Manhattan Project" for energy.

No nationwide conservation measures.

No plan for gas rationing.

No "what you can do for your country" stuff.

What I am doing for my country is developing AWARENESS of the problem of Peak Oil.

What would I tell Mr. President?

Number 1) The USA is the weakest country in the world because of our dysfunctional dependence on oil. Admit it. Admit the problem and then we can fix it.

Number 2) It is not reasonable for the USA to use 25% of the world's oil every day. The rest of the world hates us. For good reason. Instead, get a plan to change our greedy monopolization of oil and spread the new technology to help everybody else!

Number 3) The US needs a State of Emergency declared! Maybe if the President himself got serious, everybody else would too? The New Manhattan Project should be a program of URGENCY but not one of blind dependence on "blue ribbon" panels made up of the same people who got us into this mess. Would a "Wiki" type model work?

Number 4) We need to immediately re-work the petroleum inventory infrastructure in the US and apply up to date technology to make the inventory data publicly available. This is a jobs generator for sure.

Number 5) The USA needs a crash-implementation of "Alternative Energy" Congress needs to get serious and lose all the stupid corn industry subsidies and create major incentives to kill gas guzzler vehicles and deploy large scale solar and wind and develop algal biofuels. Don't forget about tidal power too.

Number 6) Establish a Federal system for gas rationing to prepare and protect the country. Didn't we learn anything from the 1973 crisis?

Number 7) Drill the ANWR and drill everywhere else, including the continental shelves. The tree huggers and whale savers are totally wrong, drilling is ridiculously safe and should be ramped up to maximum capacity within 6 months.

Number 8) Create a new model for oil and gas price stabilization that creates a "floor" for prices to promote large scale investment in oil and alternative energy production.

We are living through an emergency. It is time to admit it. Bailing out the banks won't work, it already didn't.

"Experimenting" with the economy, like Bob Rubin and Timmy Geithner are thinking about doing is a recipe for disaster.

Oil is everything. Peak Oil is the dragon that threatens everybody and everything.

Time to deal with it.

Fix the oil dependency problem and then we can fix the rest.

Don't fix the oil problem, and we can't do anything.

Not only that, but the rest of the world is depending on us.

My suggestion- develop your awareness of Peak Oil, and tell the President to make the changes he has promised, at

Join the revolution, be a real patriot and get the courage to change our oil dependency!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fuel back in the fuel truck? How about gas flaring?

One of the first things I teach my flying students is that fuel that you leave back in the fuel truck won't do you much good.

Flying requires a completely different level of AWARENESS when compared to other human activities, like driving a car.

It may seem like flying is just driving in the sky. I can assure you it is not.

Last time I checked, they still didn't have any gas stations in the sky.

You can't just buzz around town doing errands and then push the OnStar Button when you run out of fuel in the sky.

Not paying attention to your fuel status is not just stupid, it is unacceptable.

It is not reasonable to go flying if you don't understand that running out of fuel can kill you.

Peak Oil is routinely misunderstood to mean "running out."

Running out is not the concept.

Insufficient production is the issue. The world needs more oil and gas than the amount we can produce everyday.

So, given the fact that Peak Oil is happening right now, today, you have to wonder how we could be so stupid to continue flaring gas?

Russia and Nigeria flare lots of gas. So does the USA. Click here to read the latest.

Flaring means burning off excess gas from a well.

See, when you drill an oil well, it sometimes doesn't turn out to be an oil well. It might be a gas well. There might be mostly gas that comes up. Or brine.

The engineers make some calcs and decide what horizons to produce from and then let er rip.

Sometimes an oil well will produce mostly oil, but it will also produce a lot of what used to be called "casing head gas." Sometimes called "associated gas."

This means that not only does oil come up the well, but a lot of natural gas does too.

But it takes money to build pipelines. A lot of money. So if you are already spending money to pipe the oil to market, you sometimes don't want to spend the money to also pipe the gas to market.

Now, you have to ask yourself. If about 93% of the oil and gas in the world is controlled by governments, and not the oil companies, why is it not a condition of a government granting an oil and gas lease that the lessee must collect and pipe the gas out of the field and off to market in addition to the oil? Long answer....................

So, here we are in January 2009 and my friends in Ukraine are wearing their snowboarding suits indoors tonight because the natural gas from Gazprom in Russia got shut off in another political squabble. 

At least they have some nice new snowboarding suits to wear. A lot of Babushkas are sitting under 5  layers of blankets tonight instead.

Is this necessary? Why is Russia flaring so much gas every day and there is no gas getting to Ukraine, Slovakia or Greece? Politics.

Met any cloud huggers lately? You know, a cloud hugger is somebody who used to be a tree hugger but now they smoked the Al Gore Inconvenient Truth bong and they spend all day thinking about hugging clouds and global warming conspiracy theories. ;-)

Why don't the cloud huggers head over the the scenic Niger delta and spend some of their trust fund money negotiating between the oil companies, the government and all the residents who were promised schools and jobs?

Maybe they could figure out a way to stop flaring all the gas and cranking up the carbon credit machine?

20 years from now when Peak Oil is absolutely crushing human civilization, all that gas we are flaring is going to be about as useful as fuel back in the fuel truck.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Peak Oil Risk

Initially, the risk of Peak Oil was ridiculed.

Currently, the risk is being ignored.

Soon, the risk of Peak Oil will be considered self-evident.

Historically, when people look back on the history of energy, they will wonder how so many people could have been so stupid and failed to take action.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Peak Oil will be the Blacker, Black Swan

The World has fundamentally changed in the recent past.

Just to give yourself some perspective, I suggest you read this article in Forbes, an interview with Bill Gross, one of my neighbors here in Newport Beach and one of the world's most respected investment managers, known as "The Bond King."

To paraphrase and oversimplify a bit, Gross basically explains that since the US Government has now elected to "rescue" major parts of the financial system, instead of letting them die according to the principle of "creative destruction," the financial environment will be much more regulated in the future and we will not be able to "go back to the prior stasis."

This sounds to me like the very definition of what I would call a fundamental change.

In fact, Bill Gross estimates that it will take "15 to 20 years to escape this new regulatory environment and the lack of risk taking."

15 to 20 years!

That's an entire financial lifetime! The bulk of many people's productive working years before retirement. I would argue that is very fundamental.

But, if you think the so-called "global economic crisis" is bad, get ready for something worse.

Peak Oil. You can think of it as the "blacker" Black Swan.

The basic problem is that we are completely failing to manage the risk of Peak Oil impacting human civilization.

For one thing, everybody is too myopically focused on the current media darling, global warming.

If you are really interested in understanding how the financial crisis got so out of control, I suggest you read this article in the New York Times by Joe Nocera about Risk Mismanagement.

Even if you don't have a strong background in statistical modeling, Nocera does a great job of explaining the concept of VALUE AT RISK, or VaR and it's relationship to the derivatives that have melted down and driven the world into crisis.

The important concept is the idea of what Nassim Taleb calls the "Black Swan."

A Black Swan is an unforseen event that comes along and causes a disaster even though a fancy, shmancy risk model estimates that the chance of such a thing happening is down around 1% or less. And guess what? The world has seen this Black Swan thing before, and recently, in 1997-1998.

And guess what else? The people who caused it were the "best and the brightest." In fact, the two guys who set the whole thing up were winners of the Nobel Prize in economics.

But they still blew it.

I'm talking about the financial collapse of Long Term Capital Management and the US Government bailout.

See, the basic problem here is that we don't seem to have learned that these really big catastrophic events that seem really unlikely actually can and do happen. And when they do, they trash everything and make everybody look like an idiot. Black Swans bite!

I enjoyed the analogy I heard that it is like a pilot who is flyin' along, flyin' along, and doesn't understand that there is a thing called a THUNDERSTORM!

Well, Peak Oil is an even bigger and badder and blacker Black Swan.

Except Peak Oil is not unforseen.

That is the strange thing.

It is happening right in front of your eyes.

You can have a conversation with anybody anywhere in the USA about gasoline prices and everybody, I mean everybody understands perfectly well that we are paying a high price for gasoline because we have to IMPORT so much.


That by definition means that the US production has peaked and we don't have enough domestic oil to go around.

There is just some kind of mental disconnect and people have become sort of numb and blindly charge ahead complaining about Arabs and high gas prices while they jam their foot on the pedal of their SUV to go 85 miles an hour down a residential street towards a red light. Well, at least that's how they drive in Newport Beach, but you get the point.

There is a giant lack of awareness of Peak Oil.

I'm trying to change that. Will you help me?

The best military plan the US could have would be to start a "Manhattan Project" style effort to re-leverage the entire country towards energy sustainability like Matt Simmons has suggested for years. However, the style of such a  "Energy Manhattan Project" should only be similar in urgency to the original Manhattan Project. The last thing we need is blind reliance on a panel of government and industry "experts" of the same kind that got us into this mess!

Despite my respect for highly successful guys like Bill Gross, it is still amazing to me that I never, and I mean never hear any discussion at all on "Wall Street" about the relationship between Peak Oil and the economy.

And the interesting thing is that now we know that all the smartest, best educated, best paid people in the financial world were dead wrong.

Are we going to sit around and wait for the Peak Oil Black Swan to bite us too?

It certainly seems like it. Global oil production seems to be peaking right now in 2008-2009.

Dozens of countries, especially the US (1971) have already peaked.

The first part of the solution is developing an AWARENESS of the problem.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Risk is Relative

Have you ever heard somebody say, "Well, Einstein said 'it's all relative,' right?"


That's not what Einstein said.

This is a common misconception of laypersons who don't bother to do their homework.

Mr. Einstein helped us to understand that there is no such thing (existent) as "space," or "time".

The way the universe actually works is by a concept called SpaceTime.

Both together at the same time.

There is no such thing as space. There is no such thing as time.

Space and Time are merely elements of SpaceTime.

The Relativity that Mr. Einstein was talking about is limited to the relativity of space to time. Nothing else.

So, no, it is NOT all relative.

This is just one simple example of a LACK OF AWARENESS OF REALITY.

Most people I talk to about SpaceTime lack the awareness that their "belief" about space and time is an incorrect mental picture of reality.

Peak Oil is real. 

But Peak Oil is misunderstood by most people also.

They lack an AWARENESS of Peak Oil. That is what this blog is all about. Raising awareness. So we can work together to find a solution to our energy emergency.

How serious is Peak Oil?

What are the risks?

Well, let's explore the risks of Peak Oil RELATIVE to other serious threats.

I will attempt to put Peak Oil in perspective and raise our awareness by constructing a list of threats. These are realities that pose a serious risk to both human civilization and life on Planet Ocean (Planet Earth is an ignorant term I refuse to use).

I'm pretty well qualified to judge risk based on my lifetime of experience as an extreme sports athlete, an investor and also my experience as an Airline Captain. My ability to rationally evaluate risk might be explained by comparing the difference between flying my hangglider close to a thunderstorm (an acceptable personal risk, given adequate flying skill) and operating a transport category airliner with a whole load of passengers onboard who depend on my judgment for their lives.

Let me put it to you another way.

Answer this question: What is Safety?

Tick, tock, tick tock. Did you instantly spit out your answer?

Most people I ask this question have a very difficult time coming up with anything coherent and organized.

Their egos tell them that they are their own "expert" and they say things like, "I know what safety is. I just KNOW."

This is the mark of a layperson, or as we call them in the world of hanggliding, a "Pear Person" or "Whuffo." This is a person who does not have a clue how to rationally evaluate risk and achieve safety. And, they probably shouldn't be interfacing with dangerous machines like lawnmowers or hanggliders or helicopters.

The answer is: Safety, is the optimal minimization of risk.

Optimal. This is the most important concept. Not all risk can be systematically, operationally or economically eliminated. The goal of safety in any activity with risk is to optimize the minimization of risk.

The basic questions in evaluating the risk associated with a particular event are 1) What is the worst it could get? 2) How likely is the event to occur? Check out this analysis that puts Peak Oil into perspective with other extreme risks that humans face today.

I would argue that the risks of Peak Oil are extreme and humans are definitely not doing enough to optimize the minimization of risks associated with Peak Oil.

Very simply: This means we are NOT SAFE from the risks of Peak Oil.

1) GRB (Gamma Ray Burst). A GRB is an exotic cosmological event that could destroy our entire planet and everything on it. Astronomers and Physicists are just beginning to study this phenomenon but we do know that the risk of a GRB is extreme because of the vast amounts of destructive energy that would be released. It is probably not worth staying awake at night worrying about a GRB event but the risk is there nonetheless. Everybody dies.

2) Asteroid Collision with Planet Ocean. You don't have to be a genius to understand that there is an extreme risk of destruction from an Asteroid. The only question is whether the impact would be a "PK" (planet killer; killing off most of the macroscopic life but leaving at least some microscopic life) or an ELE (Extinction Level Event; driving many species to extinction). Again, this one might not be worth staying up at night, but the risk is extreme and ignoring the possibility of an asteroid impact is just fooling yourself by failing to construct a correct mental picture of reality. Just look up at the moon on any night and you can get a good sense of the reality of an asteroid impact. I've been to the meteor crater in Arizona and picked up meteor fragments and held them in my hand, so you can't tell me the risk is not real. I've been to Russia and seen trees knocked over and looked at meteor fragments there too. An asteroid impact could happen at any time, and if it does, it will likely be severe. The severity varies from a few hundred or few thousand to Everybody dies.

3) Skynet. No, just kidding. Even though the Terminator movies were great, there is a zero likelihood that "machines" are going to take over the world and hunt down the humans. I just throw this one in there to give perspective to those who don't "believe" in Peak Oil. If they are wrong about Peak Oil, which they are, it is about as stupid as letting the machines take over the world. If Skynet were real, it would fit into the list about here.

4) Volcanic Winter. I put this one on the list because we (geologists) know for sure the risk is real and could threaten life on the planet at any time. Tambora stratovolcano erupted in 1815 and caused the "year without a summer" in 1816. This is no joke. There is nothing keeping another similar eruption from causing another year without a summer or a couple of years without a summer due to the volcanic ash. The difference between now and then is that now there are about 6.7 Billion people on the planet that are far more susceptible to the impact from a volcanic winter and the destruction of food production. Hundreds of millions of people could die from a volcanic winter. Maybe a billion.

5) Nuclear Winter. This would be similar to Volcanic Winter but with the added fun of radiation poisoning and large-scale permanent impact to life. I only rate nuclear winter below Volcanic Winter because current politics appear to be stable enough to decrease the likelihood of a full-scale Russia-USA conflict even if India and Pakistan or Israel and Iran decide to light em up. Volcanic winter is just a lot more likely.

6) Peak Oil. This is the first event in the list that we can control to any degree at all. The far side extreme of Peak Oil is that the collapse of oil production could cause a global die off. Some estimates are that the globe can only naturally support about 1.5 Billion people. So there is a risk that in about a 10 or 20 year period about 5 billion people could die off. Others have made suggestions that the globe could support as much as 8 billion people. I consider both scenarios unlikely. The actual consequences of Peak Oil will be somewhere in between. But we could easily see several hundred million people die off. Maybe on the scale of 5 to 8 World War IIs (50m), which would mean about 250 million deaths at a minimum.

Deaths attributable to Peak Oil are hard to measure at this point in time even though they are already occurring. Global famine and poverty are already widespread and even though the best understanding involves accounting for the effects of politics, Peak Oil is already hugely impacting the development of human civilization. China, for example has been hamstrung and could have grown at a much higher rate and so could most of Africa if adequate cheap energy had been available in the last several decades.

Peak Oil exposes the world to the risk of a catastrophic collapse in oil production that would fuel war, famine, poverty, disease and economic collapse. The scale of the number of deaths could easily be in the hundreds of millions of people. That is why it is critical to develop an AWARENESS of the risks associated with Peak Oil.

7) Death of the Ocean. We live on a water planet. Nothing really matters as much as the ocean. The problem is that we may have killed the ocean already. Nobody knows. Nobody can say with any degree of certainty whether we have already caused a critical impact with pollution and overfishing. Dr. Sylvia Earle is trying to help us figure out how bad it is. The ocean contains thousands of interlocking networks of non-linear dynamic systems that may be pushed into permanent collapse by unintended effects and unseen consequences. We are playing with a dangerous toy that we do not understand. The problem is that the vast majority of people live largely unconnected to the ocean in their consciousness. But the impact of humans is already known to be extreme. Not just bad, but catastrophic. There are large "dead zones" all over the ocean and recent evidence shows extreme impact from humans in about 95 to 98% of the ocean. The "death" of the ocean could easily kill off all the humans and make the planet uninhabitable for most macroscopic life. Hundreds of millions to billions of people could die. The big problem is that we need energy to fix our human-generated ocean-killing activities. Peak Oil impacts our ability to fix the ocean.

8) Global Warming. We know from the geologic record that the planet has gone through many large swings in chemical conditions including changes in the amount of carbon dioxide and temperature variations. The first question is whether there is any existent as a "climate." There may not be. Weather is understood to be the natural day to day and hour to hour variations. Climate is understood to be the long term trends. But the problem is that humans live such a short time and have a very brief record of competent analysis to work with. Despite the apparent correlation between man-made "greenhouse gases" and warming of the globe or "climate change," the fact remains that nobody "knows" for sure. In fact, it is not just possible but likely that the "trends" we see on the short term as a "climate" may actually be just periods of stability in an otherwise continuously naturally fluctuating non-linear dynamic system of instability at every point in time. Global Warming is serious because the risk is potentially large. Things like large changes in sea level could cause the displacement of hundreds of millions of people and a huge impact to food production and economic pressures. This is the same situation as playing with the ocean. We don't know what we are doing. But it is apparent that man made activities have the potential to have a huge impact and so they must be carefully considered.

The problem is that Peak Oil trumps global warming. The reason is that we are not going to have enough cheap energy to rebuild vast areas of many countries to change our lifestyles to decrease the impact of humans on climate change. But global warming is a media darling and people are stupid enough to continue to drive SUVs down to Wal-Mart to buy plasma TVs so they can watch programs about drowning polar bears.

So, even if global warming is "true," meaning that man's activities are causing it, Peak Oil means that we won't have enough energy to change the ridiculous machine that we built that is causing all the greenhouse gas emissions.

9) Global Economic Collapse. I actually wrote up this list about 2 years ago when I saw the real estate bubble blowing up around the world. Now that the bubble has popped and  the economic collapse is actually happening. And nobody knows how big and deep it will get. Peak Oil will probably cause an even more extreme Global Economic Crisis that what we are seeing in 2008-2009. Just wait until people figure out that all those companies selling stocks to uninformed investors have not accounted for the future lack of cheap energy. Oil is ridiculously cheap right now and could easily go up to $300 per barrel or higher. When it gets really expensive, the world's miltary organizations will just take it away from private use and save it for oppression and control.

10) Rise of a Dictator. Adolph Hitler? Joseph Stalin? The appearance of some new character that could turbo-charge himself with the world wide web and go global is a scary thought but a real risk.

11) Global Pandemic. The H5N1 virus is constantly mutating and drifting. Avian influenza may mutate and become capable of crossing into human populations. The 1918 event killed about 50 million. Many experts have written that they think a similar event today could kill 100 Million or more. It's a good thing that Larry Brilliant and Google are working on an "early warning system" for us.

12) Bio-Terror Event/ Dirty Bomb. Humans are amazingly destructive. Just look at how good we are getting at killing the ocean. Religious ignorance of all kinds is fueling a whole spectrum of dangerous world-views that could lead to a significant event where hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. There might be a suitcase bomb driving down the freeway next to you today for all we know.

13) 8.5 or 9.0 Metropolitan Earthquake. The big one. We haven't really had an extreme event since the human population got so big and so concentrated. Even though China had a large event in 2008, a much bigger one could easily happen any day. Several hundred thousand to perhaps a million could die.

14) Tsunami. The Indonesia event killed about 230 thousand people a few years ago. We could see a bigger one any day. Maybe a million?

15) Food-Water Wars. These type of events are getting more and more likely. For the most part these will probably remain regional and isolated and small in scale.

16) Magnetic Pole Reversal. Here's a potential disaster you don't think about every day. I'm amazed that Hollywood hasn't come up with a disaster flick based on this concept. The rock record seems to indicate that we are overdue for a pole-reversal event. Nobody really knows what would happen and what the consequences would be for life and technology.

So, there you go. Peak Oil is really serious. Right up there with other big risks. We need to start working together to prevent the collapse of oil production from hurting lots of people.

Ever wonder who the most dangerous person in the world is? The answer is, the one who kills you. This usually means the person who you were not AWARE  would kill you, or you probably would have done something about it.

Peak Oil is the dragon that is sneaking up on us. Hopefully awareness of the risk will grow.

Then maybe we can work on minimizing the risks and achieving a more rational degree of safety from the risks of Peak Oil.