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John D

Excellent post Dave. This issue has not shown up on many people's radar. I urge all readers to take the time to watch the bonus video. It is quite eye-opening. One issue not addressed is the fact that Ms. Glustrom mentions that Wyoming's Powder River Basin has a deceptively small reserve, yet we are busy trying to build rail and port facilities in Oregon to haul the coal to the far east.

Morocco Bama

2050 is going to be an interesting year, for so many reasons, this among them. Anyone care to venture what the "World? will look like in 2050? I'm feeling great about procreating right about now. Hang on to your hats, Earthlings, the ride hasn't even yet begun.

Bill Hicks

"I should warn you that it is not valid to simply leap to the conclusion that Patzek & Croft's analysis is correct, and simply assume that the death of human civilizations (in their current form) is imminent. I know that many of you will do just that regardless of what I say."

How about if we just refer to it as Peak Civilization? Because it is pretty clear that the Post World War II global economic model has reched its zenith and is heading into decline. In fact, I would argue that the Peak was in 2008 and we're already on the downslope if still very near the high point.

Dave Cohen

Actually, why don't we just wait a few years and see what the coal data is telling us?

Now if only people could learn to delay gratification... ;-)



I know this link I'm sending you is off today's topic, but I didn't know how else to reach you. I'd love to get your take on this . . .


Alexander Ač

After the oil production of oil peaked in Russia in 1988, also coal production went down... who knows why? :-)

Peak coal is the only way to save climate for future generations... but who cares anyway?

Morocco Bama

That was an excellent video, Dave. Well, without all the lights, we'll be able to see the stars again. We have to look on the bright side.

Was it just me, or did the speaker sound like she was gasping for air as though she just ran the Boston Marathon?

Dave Kimble

You can compare the results of Patzek and Croft with other scientific papers and articles listed at http://www.peakoil.org.au/peakcoal.htm

To reduce a whole lot of information into a single figure, most of these papers see Peak Coal around 2026, which is still much earlier than any of the IPCC scenarios, bound as they are to use "official" figures from USGS, EIA, IEA, etc.


These sorts of projections have been wrong before... the peak must come eventually, that is a geological fact. Nobody in their right mind would argue that. Nobody in their right mind would argue either that it can keep expanding exponentially. But it is a good idea to be suspicious of claims that put the peak NOW or in the extremely immediate future.

Morocco Bama

Why suspicious of such claims? Explain? I'm suspicious of the Ostrich In The Sand retort that says "yeah, yeah, everything has its Peak, but not yet....there's still time....let your children and grandchildren worry about that....in the mean time, keep consuming as though there were no tomorrow, because it's what keeps this prosperous lifestyle afloat."

You know what has no Peak, apparently? Stupidity and Hubris.....the Siamese Twins that are the Hallmark of Civilization. No Peak there. It's a one way graph straight into the Abyss.


Oh it's gonna peak before too long, and everything is decidedly not fine, and the way our civilization works in terms of energy is fundamentally insane. But I'm suspicious of predictions of neat, symmetrical, immediate peaks because the world is just never that SIMPLE. In my experience, people predicting immediate, predictable patterns like this often are ignoring variables that make the reality decidedly messier and more complicated. Nothing more or less; I just don't entirely trust prognostications that clam to be able to pin things down so accurately.

Morocco Bama

I'm with you on that, Tony. That's why I studied that graph intensively. The steep decline was unnerving, until I realized the assumptions that come into play, and those assumptions can, and certainly should, be challenged....but not by those, the industry insiders, who want to pretend it's still not here, and it can wait for another day.

I believe I mentioned this before, but I don't see the downside, or the right side of that graph, or any Peak graph other than water & air, playing out all the way to zero production. Something will "give" before then that will put a halt to the production of any further otherwise economically recoverable reserves, and along the way down to that point, there will, more than likely, be significant/substantial dips and inclines....meaning the right side of the Peak curve will be anything but smooth.

Considering that, though, it doesn't change the general outcome, and in that sense, it's not worth wasting time debating over it. To debate the technicalities of when and how only distracts from the 20,000 lb. elephant in the room. And that elephant is what Kuntsler said so well:

*******So we've invested all of our social wealth, all of our capital, in this way of life, and it has no future, and so, you can then define this behaviour as a tremendous misallocation of resources. Perhaps the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world, just in sheer volume of wealth, and sheer volume of stuff that has been constructed that is not going to have a future.

So, having done that, we are now faced with an additional problem, which is the problem that can be stated as 'sunk costs,' or, 'the psychology of previous investment.' And the psychology of previous investment is a fancy way of saying that you put so much of your wealth and your spirit into something, that you can't imagine reforming it, or changing it, or letting go of it. And that's sort of the predicament that we're in.*******

Tony Weddle

As we've never had to deal with this sort of peak before, in this sort of global consumer society, I'm guessing that the downslopes of all energy sources will be much steeper due to the impact that a peak will have (or is having) on that global society.

I haven't bought it yet but interested readers might consider Richard Heinberg's recent (2009) book on this subject, "Blackout - Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis".

Tony Weddle

Dave's post just appeared on Energy Bulletin (or, at least, I just saw it there). It prompted me to check on energy from US coal over the last couple of decades. The Annual Energy Review came out recently on the the EIA website, so that made it easier than it might otherwise have been. I haven't delved into the data in detail but it seems that the US has been on an undulating plateau in terms of energy from coal for the last 12-15 years. Even in raw tonnage, that seems to be true. That doesn't mean that coal has already peaked but I had thought that the US had been slowly ramping up its coal use. I wonder why it doesn't appear to have actually done so.

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