Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Forever Planting (for Peak Oil & Climate Change)

We depend utterly on fossil fuels, especially to grow our food. From natural gas comes the millions of tons of fertilizers. Oil provides herbicides and pesticides. All is planted and harvested with oil power, driven, shipped or flown to your table.

For now. Until fossil fuels become too expensive, too rare, too polluting to use. We only have a short time to find other ways.

Wes Jackson offers some answers, for our food supply during peak oil and climate change. Raised on a Kansas farm, Jackson is a biologist, a geneticist, and botanist. In 1976 he left university life to found "The Land Institute", which he still heads. He's going to explain "natural systems agriculture", in a powerful speech given to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil USA. Recorded in Washington D.C. November 4, 2011 by Gerri Williams for Radio Ecoshock.

Then we'll hear a different assessment of the potential for sequestering carbon in the soil, and biochar, from carbon cycle expert Dr. Michael Raupach of the Australian national science agency, CSIRO.

This Radio Ecoshock program is part of our "Big Picture" solutions series.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oil to Occupy: The Restless West Coast

Two weeks ago on Radio Ecoshock we heard from Australia and the distant past. Last week a top British scientist warned us of super-dangerous climate change.

Now we head for the restless West Coast of North America.

In Canada, trillion-dollar corporations and countries are desperately searching for a way to ship dirty Tar Sands crude, after the Obama administration said "No" to the Keystone XL pipeline. They want to build a new pipeline across the Rocky Mountains, across countless rivers and wilderness, across native lands.

And two Texas billionaires are plotting to turn the once green city of Vancouver into a major oil shipping port.

They want to make more billions polluting the atmosphere and changing the climate forever.

You will hear three speakers in a packed public meeting promise neither plot will succeed.

Then we'll take to the streets of San Francisco, with as-it-happens audio during the Occupy Wall Street West protests. Our Bay Area correspondent Karen Nyhus interviews environmentalist Ananda Tan as he waits with locked arms to be arrested. Then the risky radio the mainstream won't dare: you are there as the crowd microphone chants the words of Ted Nace, on the Court House steps, demanding justice. That's in our second half hour.

From tanker mania to Wall Street greed, I'm Alex Smith, and this is Radio Ecoshock.


On Sunday January 22nd I recorded "Oil Free Coast, Tankers and Pipelines" at the Roundhouse Community Centre in downtown Vancouver, Canada. The event began with the voice of an amazing ten-year-old singer and song-writer, little Ta' Kaiya Blaney, the First Nations wonder. I'll play you a minute of her anti-tanker song "Shallow Water" - then we'll go to our speakers Art Sterritt, Rex Weyler and Nathan Cullen.

Listen to the whole song. Here are links to the You tube video of "Shallow Waters" and the Ta' Kaiya Blaney web site.

More details on the song and recording from You tube:

"10 year old Ta'Kaiya Blaney is Sliammon First Nation from B.C., Canada. Along with singing, songwriting, and acting, she is concerned about the environment, especially the preservation of marine and coastal wildlife. Shallow Waters was a semi-finalist in the 2010 David Suzuki Songwriting Contest, Playlist for the Planet. The song was recorded in studio by Audio Producer Joe Cruz. Footage from Vancouver, BC was filmed by Colter Ripley. Footage of the traditional ocean-going canoe from the Squamish Nation (Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver, BC) ; Ta'Kaiya in traditional cedar bark regalia (Tofino, BC); the Oil Refinery in Burrard Inlet; and the Vancouver Aquarium was filmed by Tina House. Additional footage contributed from Canada Greenpeace and Living Oceans Society. Lyrics on Drychum channel."

Ta' Kaiya belted it out live at the Roundhouse, surprising us with such a strong adult voice from a small young singer. She will wow delegates at the Rio 2012 Conference. Also look for her song "Earth Revolution".


Let's start with the northern pipeline, proposed by the Enbridge Corporation, crossing thousands of miles of mountains and wilderness, reaching from the climate-killing Tar Sands to the delicate fjords of Canada's West Coast. Our host is Linda Kemp, a sustainable living expert from Langara College.

[Art Sterritt presentation]

That was Coastal First Nations leader Art Sterritt, recorded January 22nd, in Vancouver, Canada by Alex Smith. The event "Oil Free Coast, Tankers and Pipelines" was at the Roundhouse Community Centre in downtown Vancouver. It was presented by Coastal First Nations, and by Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen.

Sterritt gave a very moving speech, saying British Columbia was an organism where all its "arteries" are rivers that flow West from the Rockies to the sea. Everything about the First Nations life and rights is at stake, should one of these pipelines leak into the headwaters of the two most productive salmon runs in the world: the Fraser River run, and the Skeena River run.

The whole richness of coastal life, plus the food supply for First Nations people, would be wrecked by a single big tanker accident. Sterritt says the 10 major coastal First Nations have united, along with environmentalists, municipal governments and unions to oppose the construction of the Enbridge pipeline to Kitimat, on the North-Central coast of British Columbia.

That represents a huge sacrifice by some of the poorest people in Canada. Many First Nations people still live below the poverty line, with unclean water, and improper housing. The billions of dollars in bribes likely on offer by Enbridge, and the pro-oil Canadian government, still haven’t brought the aboriginal people to accept the dangers of oil.

Sterritt says he and his people went to Louisiana to talk to fisher people there, after the BP oil spill. They learned from what happened when another Enbridge pipeline broke in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They investigated ship wrecks in Australia.

But really, Sterritt and the Git-Gat people didn't have to leave home to know what oil damage is about. A British Columbia ferry called "The Queen of the North" hit an island just across from their home, Hartley Bay. Oil leaked out for more than a month, wrecking local clam beaches and more. That was despite having the most modern navigation equipment. The wreck was more or less on the same route super-tankers are expected to travel, in some of the stormiest waters on Earth.

This is Radio Ecoshock, the "restless West Coast" edition. You are listening to three speakers at a packed public rally to stop pipelines and tankers from wrecking the pristine wilderness of British Columbia, and the beautiful city of Vancouver.


[Rex Weyler]

Rex Weyler is a co-founder and historian of Greenpeace. He is now working with the group Tanker Free BC to stop the threat of mega tankers to the west coast, the fragile Georgia Strait, and the port of Vancouver. Find out more at tankerfreebc.org.

Rex and other friends started noticing more and more tankers were coming into the part of Vancouver harbor known as Burrard Inlet. They were heading to B.C.'s only oil refinery, deep down this narrow passageway.

Then the more right-wing B.C. government decided to sell off publicly owned assets to private investors. They sold the gas distribution company, "B.C. Gas". Two Texas
billionaires, named Kinder and Morgan, bought the pipeline rights. Kinder was a lawyer and lead council for Enron, the company that went bankrupt, among a wave of criminal charges for fraud.

These two foreign billionaires decided, without any public consultation, and in many cases without even notifying local governments, to start shipping Tar Sands crude from Alberta to Vancouver through their pipelines. They have been increasing capacity, and hope to reach from 500,000 to 700,000 barrels a day. That would mean one super-tanker a day going out of Vancouver harbor.

It would only take one accident to wreck "the green city" with its famous Stanley Park, its beaches, and multi-million dollar ocean-front real estate.

The Sierra Club has set up an app for cell phones which will notify anyone every time a tanker leaves the Burrard refinery docks. Tankerfreebc is gearing up to stop Vancouver from becoming the Tar Sands outlet to China. Nobody living here wants Vancouver to become a major oil port, especially now that we are being hit with climate change.


Now the politics of promoting Tar Sands oil - and the voices for sanity. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper just claimed all Canadians who oppose the Tar Sands are just puppets for big American foundations. He questions the national loyalty of any critics, and threatens the environmental review required by law.

Harper calls all concerned citizens of British Columbia as "radical environmentalists" (and maybe "an enemy of the state").

Check out this video of the "Ethical Oil" tar sands lobby calling environmentalists mere agents for American foundations. They don't mention the two Texan billionaires pushing oil tankers through Vancouver, and the $20 billion dollars investment by China into the Tar sands. Who are the foreign influencers the Prime Minister hears?

Here is another story, where the Environment Minister, who is supposed to represent all Canadians, not just oil companies, says "radical groups" are trying to sabotage the Canadian economy. His remarks are extraordinary and never before heard from any government Minister. How much can we trust the Enbridge Pipeline environmental review process now - now that the Minister has called it a waste of time!

According to CBC News... these "radical environmentalists" ..."threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda," stack the hearings with people to delay or kill "good projects," attract "jet-setting" celebrities and use funding from "foreign special interest groups."

Our next speaker is from the leading opposition New Democratic Party, or the NDP. Nathan Cullen is a Member of the National Parliament, and a candidate for the leadership of the NDP, currently Canada's largest opposition party. He lives in Smithers British Columbia, in the North, right where the pipeline will impact all of his constituents. And his constituents are very vocal - they don't want this pipeline!

[Cullen speech]

Cullen's description of the route these giant tankers must take to get out of Kitimat, which is at the head of a very long fjord. It includes "two 90 degree hair-pin turns". And during the lifetime of the pipeline and port, about 50,000 tanker trips would have to be made flawlessly, with no drunken captains, no show-of captains, no mechanical failure, no great storm (that
"nobody could have foreseen that").

When they make it out of the storied "inside passage" (where a multi-billion dollar cruise ship industry is threatened by a spill) - then these tankers head into Dixon Straight. That is where some of the strongest winds and highest waves in the world have been recorded.

What could go wrong?

Stay tuned for our on-the-streets radical radio from the San Francisco Wall Street West protest, January 20th.

Welcome back to the Radio Ecoshock restless West Coast edition. Now we're going to break the rules of radio. When people take to the streets in protest, your mainstream media gives you a glimpse, with maybe a chant in the background, while a reporter in a suit or dress tells you what it means.

Not here. We're going to start with an interview of environmentalist Ananda Tan as he sits, with his arms locked with other protesters, waiting for arrest outside the Bank of America in San Francisco. Risking her own person and equipment, is Radio Ecoshock Bay Area correspondent Karen Nyhus.

Amid the chaos of waiting for arrest, with folks dropping in, Karen keeps Ananda talking, about the risk these "too big to fail" corporations pose to us all. He is a member of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, of Rising Tide (which is going to open an office in Vancouver), and of the group "Mobilization for Climate Justice".

Here is a print report on the protests, from "The Progressive".

Now I'm going to make it hard and fun for you.

We'll take to the streets of San Francisco with Karen Nyhus to hear green American author Ted Nace. Except in the soggy crowd of a rainy day, you can't hear him. There is no microphone on the Court House steps. Just a crowd microphone. I think it works, involving the people, not as passive listeners, but as participants in the speech. Let me know what you think.

Just before we hear Ted, the first speaker is Abraham Entin from Move To Amend.

Hear it as it happened.

That was a distant Ted Nace, author and environmentalist, passed on by the crowds at the San Francisco Occupy Wall Street West protest January 20th. It was a skunky rainy day. So Ted Nace began this parable, about the people with wet feet, and the corporations who can never know that experience.

My thanks to Radio Ecoshock Bay area correspondent Karen Nyhus for braving the elements and the police to get those on-the-street recordings from the Occupy Wall Street Protests.

If you violate copyright, you go to jail. If you violate people's home ownership, their pension plans, and their economy - no problem. Take a hundred million on your way out the door, and head out for the next scam. Until the people demand so loudly, so often, with such determination, that justice will be done.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. Thank you for joining us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kevin Anderson: The Brutal Logic of Climate Change

Welcome. I'm Alex. Are you ready for the bad news about climate change? Really?

I'm going to play you a speech too awful to run during the holidays. People with clinical depression and very young children may want to avoid this program.

It's also going to be a challenge for our many North American listeners, because our speaker is Kevin Anderson. From his recent post as Director of the Tyndall Centre, the UK's top academic institute researching climate change, Anderson speaks quickly, says a lot, and holds nothing back.

This lecture is part of the London School of Economics Department of International Development Friday Lecture Series. The title is "Beyond 'dangerous' climate change: emission scenarios for a new world" Anderson calls it "the brutal logic of climate change."

This talk set up a blaze of urgency, and a stiff warning to people and governments: we are failing to address the greatest challenge ever faced by humanity. Something unimaginable is happening.

Following this edited-for-radio speech, I'll chat again with Professor William Calvin from the University of Washington. He sees the bleakness, but offers a grain of hope.

I'm going to throw you into the deep end with this one. I suggest you download the program from our web site at ecoshock.org, or find links in the blog at ecoshock.info. Things are not what they seem.

This speech courtesy of the London School of Economics Lecture Series was recorded October 21st, 2011.

The subtitle for this talk is "Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope".

Dave Roberts of Grist wrote two articles about the implications of this talk, which he called "The Brutal Logic of Climate Change". Try this one, and this one.

Find a .pdf of Kevin Anderson's pivotal paper on our near hopeless situation of unfolding climate change here.

A recording of the original speech, running 1 hour 28 minutes with a Q and A is here.

And you can find the slides for that here.

To get a written summary, I can't do better than the Dave Roberts Grist articles linked above. Dave even throws in some helpful graphs.

My own conclusions from this speech could be:

1. The 2 degree target (keeping below 2 degrees of global mean temperature rise to prevent dangerous climate change) is quite arbitrary, and likely too high. As Dr. James Hansen of NASA points out, we should be at 350 parts per million CO2 to keep the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets which moderate our climate. In previous history, levels higher than that triggered melting of the ice sheets, and eventually a much hotter greenhouse world. We are currently at 390 ppm and rising fast.

2. That 2 degree target is no guarantee of a "safe" climate, but just a 50% chance of staying within merely "dangerous" climate change, and "extremely dangerous climate change".

3. As we are almost 1 degree above pre-industrial times already, with at least 1 degree hidden by aerosol pollution (including sulfates from world coal plants) - it may already be too late to stay at 2 degrees.

4. The RATE of increase of our emissions is steadily going up, meaning the dangerous impacts of climate change keep getting closer and closer to us in time. Not 2050, but sooner. Yet government reports keep assuming 1 or 2% increase in emissions, when we are generally increasing at 3% over the past few years, and hit almost 6% in 2010. That is a 6 % increase over the increasingly high emissions during all the past years.

5. Kevin Anderson is particularly critical of all the government assessments which low-ball the emissions and the impacts. He says some climate scientists try to tell politicians, but those warnings are polished up as they rise through the ranks. Top ministers don't want to hear we may have to accept grave austerity, and a halt to growth, since they are promising growth as a way out of economic recession. But more growth means higher emissions. Period.

6. There are also a crew of scientists who make the situation sound more rosy or hopeful, when they will admit later, over a pint of beer, that they don't believe it themselves. They know we are headed into deep trouble.


All this is dissected as Professor Anderson, now at Manchester University, goes through the brutal logic, the physics of how climate change and atmospheric pollution really work. No mater what your politics are, or what politicians promise, if we keep emitting more carbon, our civilization if not our species is at risk.

I've said this repeatedly on Radio Ecoshock. My scientist guests have said it. In this chilling program you hear one of the top climate experts in Britain telling it like it is.

I know our cities are entirely dependent on fossil fuel burning. Most of Canada would have to be abandoned, or the population decimated just to heat the people, using the forests as wood heat. I know we are using cars to get around, and again, in a Northern winter, there aren't a lot of options yet, if you live outside the narrow web of mass transit (like New York subways).

It seems we are committed, just by being alive, to polluting the sky. Yet I play with my grandson, and inwardly fear for his future. In fact, if Kevin Anderson is correct, I and my children will also suffer. We won't have to wait a generation or two.

How can we face this contradiction?

Yet we know, when World War Two came to the United States, a simple act of government, at the federal level, ended all car production, and switched over to tanks and ship-building overnight. Make that wind machines and solar panels and you get the possibility. All it would take is (a) the recognition we are going over a cliff (with no return) and (b) the will among us all to make the change.


I also talk that over with Professor William (Bill) Calvin from the University of Washington. He's specialized in the development of the human brain, and lately, how our journey through the ice ages and climate change helped us develop.

We know the human brain was big enough for things like agriculture and advanced tools at least 100,000 years ago. Yet, for some reason, human intellect didn't seem to take off until 50,000 years ago. Bill Calvin compares it to a software upgrade to available hardware.

I express my fear we will see million dying on High Definition television, before the climate and food impacts hit us in the developed countries (although diseases can spread in a day in these times of air travel). Calvin agrees, but then we realize: our own time is another burst of human creativity. We have experienced a kind of
software upgrade in our own times.

What if that mental evolution is not finished? What if we can make the moral leap it would take to protect the future, and all future generations?

There is some hope. And Calvin also feels more optimistic because we could use ocean algae to capture more carbon out of the atmosphere. We might be able to reverse this process.

James Lovelock also talked about the scheme to put in whole fields of pipes into the ocean. The surface algae are missing essential elements like phosphates, which are found in deeper water below them. If we pump that up, cause an algae bloom (which sucks carbon dioxide out of the air) - and then pump the dying alge back down to the deep, we might sequester some carbon.

It would take a giant project, covering about 1% of the Earth's oceans, to remove enough carbon, but perhaps a war-like project could do it. We haven't even bothered to build one such experimental station so far.

Is it possible? Is the future possible? Radio Ecoshock asks you that question.

Our web site is ecoshock.org. Thank you for listening.

Alex Smith

Monday, January 9, 2012


What caused 5 previous mass extinctions of species? Scientists say we are in the 6th one now.

Dr. Andrew Glikson of Australian National University studied the rocks and the timelines. He's also an expert on asteroid hits.

A deep 44 minute interview with a world-class climate scientist and geologist - on what the past says about our future under climate change.

Dr. William Calvin of the University of Washington is author of over a dozen books, including "Global Fever, How to Treat Climate Change" and "A Brain for All Seasons, Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change". We have a short chat, about how the ice ages shaped our brains, and recent signs of climate shift.

Followed by Calvin's introduction in a speech at the University of Victoria, by Dr. Colin Campbell of the Sierra Club. Insightful on the way climate shapes our species, and all species.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Oil Shock - The No Growth World

http://bit.ly/zVEXwh Radio Ecoshock 120104 Oil Shock the Post-Growth World with Jeff Rubin, Charles Maxwell from ASPO 2011 and interview with Italy's Ugo Bardi on climate change vs. peak oil.

The price of oil hits you at the pump, in your food bill, and everything you buy. What if you can't afford it?

For years, I've covered Peak Oil as the story of a limited resource. Meanwhile, the oil industry, glutted with billions in profits, keeps drilling deeper offshore, finds more dirty oil in the Tar Sands. They have a mountain of goo in the "heavy oil" of Venezuela - the industry just needs to build more refineries capable of handling it. And we can always make more oil by liquefying coal!

All these options drop from using about one barrel of oil to get 100 barrels, like the pressurized oil wells we grew up, to using one barrel of equivalent energy to get three (like the Tar Sands.) That means many, many times more emissions for every mile or kilometer we drive, house we heat, or factory we run. Oil costs soar and it's a recipe for climate disaster.

Meanwhile, big oil companies, aided and abetted by polluting countries like Canada and Russia, are already plotting to drill in the extreme conditions under the Arctic ice. One leak there, stays for centuries. Nobody can clean it up, and the oil-eating bacteria are few in the cold environment. We can't let that happen. Oil companies must not take advantage of the ice they helped melt.

What about Peak Oil?

Economist Jeff Rubin says we've hit a new kind of peak oil: the peak price our civilization can pay and still grow. We've passed that point now, Rubin says. If China and India grow,

Western countries must shrink. And "shrinking" isn't pretty. Expect unemployment, disappointed dreams, and governments drowning in debt they cannot repay.

Who is Rubin? He was the Chief Economist at CIBC World Markets, a global-scale bank trading operation. As a forward thinker on energy issues Jeff Rubin gets a lot of press and TV appearances. His 2009 book "Why Your World Is About To Get a Whole Lot Smaller" (8 minute You tube here) shook up the financial world. He predicts an end to globalization, and a return to regional production, due to ever-rising oil prices.

In this week's Radio Ecoshock show you hear Jeff Rubin's presentation at ASPO 2011. That was the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas USA, in Washington D.C. at the beginning of November 2011.

Then you'll get the main clips from a talk by Charles T. Maxwell. He is the senior Energy Analyst for Weeden Co. Charley's been a top ranked energy authority for years. Charlie outlines who has more oil (very few countries, like Norway and Columbia) and who is running out fast (like Mexico and maybe Saudi Arabia).

Rubin and Maxwell were recorded by Radio Ecoshock Washington correspondent Gerri Williams, and presented courtesy of ASP USA. As far as I know, Radio Ecoshock is the only place to find these recordings online.

But neither of these gurus include the challenge and damage of climate change in their forecasts. They don't mention it. Why not? To wrap up that angle, we'll finish off the show with a Radio Ecoshock interview with Ugo Bardi. He's a cross-breed, as founder of ASPO Italy, and an editor at the Oildrum.com blog - but also part of the Italian climatologist scene. I'll ask

Ugo why these two camps, don't talk much to each other.


Wiki on Jeff Rubin here.

Jeff Rubin is a Canadian with a Masters in Economics from McGill University. But he sounds like a Texan, with almost a drawl. Maybe he spent so much time with Texan oil men?

Jeff was chief economist from 1992 to 2009 for CIBC World Markets, a huge Canadian global trading and investment company, part of the equally huge Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). By correctly predicting many trends, Rubin made a lot of people a lot of money. In 2009, Rubin decided to resign from CIBC to pursue his career of writing and public speaking.

In particular, Rubin warned of the increasing price of oil, and it's impact on business and society at large. For this, he was adopted as a popular speaker at Peak Oil events like the annual ASPO USA gathering. His 2009 book "Why Your World Is About to Get A Whole Lot Smaller" sold a lot of copies, and brought him international TV coverage. Rubin was already a weekly financial columnist for Canada's national newspaper.

In this stimulating talk recorded November 4th, Jeff Rubin offers his own definition of peak oil. Instead of basing it on the geological limits of oil on Earth, Rubin says the peak is the price a global economy can afford to pay, before it slows down, or crashes. Rubin doesn't say the price of oil will always increase. He says it will go up until it becomes unaffordable.

The economy goes into a recession (or worse), oil falls, then things pick up a little. We keep hitting the ceiling of "too high", doing damage to our economic system all along the way (like creating unsolvable debt levels).

Every major recession, Rubin says, has the "fingerprints of oil all over it."

As national debts pile up, every politician says they will "grow" their way out of it. Creating growth is the only way to pay off all that debt, which only grows with interest. But with oil limitations, whether geological limits, limits caused by lack of needed refineries, or limits imposed by price - the days of growth for everybody are over, Rubin says.

We have hit a plateau of "no growth".

That means if one country grows, another must shrink. For example, the China's economy is growing rapidly. But the economies of Greece, Italy and others are shrinking. Perhaps with real accounting, and taking out the currency factor, America's economy is shrinking also. If more consumers use more oil on one side of the world, people have to consume less and use less oil somewhere else. Nothing in our political system, nor our classic capitalist economics, is ready for a no-growth world. That means a rocky road ahead.

National debt might as well be denominated in barrels of oil, Rubin says. We depend upon it so much. The higher the price of oil, the higher the amount of our true debt.

And this is no "oil shock" like the oil embaro of the 1970's. Right now, there is no limit to producton other than people's ability to pay, and the industry's ability to go get it. But it's too expensive to support more growth, and only going to get more expensive. The end of growth is not a temporary thing. It's the new reality that nobody is ready for.

Unlike our next guest speaker, Charles Maxwell, Rubin says a no-growth economy is going to make a lot of people unhappy. There will be high unemployment. Many dreams will be shattered. There could be civil unrest, possibly for decades.

And as he describes in his book, triple digit oil prices will kill off globalization. It becomes just too expensive to ship things all over the world. Some industries will return to the United States and Canada, for example, despite the low cost of labor overseas, Rubin says. Some environmentalists will cheer the end of globalization, and the oil age, but Rubin says the process isn't going to be pretty.

It's an interesting take, and I think he's right. Check out Jeff Rubin's complete talk in this week's Radio Ecoshock show. (Click the title above to download)

Find Jeff Rubin's blog here.


We move on to one of the heavy-weights of the energy investment business, Charles Maxwell, the senior Energy Analyst for Weeden Co. Charlie is a legend in peak oil circles. Due to time limitations, I've selected two key parts of his presentation. Following talk of when Peak Oil might strike, Maxwell explains where our future oil might come from. Then I'll deliver his conclusion of "austerity and joy".

Unlike Jeff Rubin, Charlie Maxwell thinks we might adjust to a reasonable life consuming much less oil. He suggests we envision life in the 1950's, with that level of consumption.

Plus, people might enjoy things like gardening, even though they are forced into it just to have enough affordable food.

Happiness is not necessarily linked to consumption Maxwell says. In fact, he cites a study from Denmark, where people were healthiest during the last years of World War Two. They had little access to alcohol, tobacco, sugary foods, and over-eating. That "deprivation" led to better health, which is a fundamental for happiness.

First Maxwell treats us to an overview of who is producing more oil, and who will produce less. His goal, as an energy investment analyst, is to figure out what the maximum level of oil production is. Maxwell thinks we can go from our current ceiling of about 88 million barrels per day to about 95 mbpd. But that's it. No more.

His analysis of barriers to Russian expansion are interesting. The limits there are less geologic than social, and their approach to business, Maxwell says. On the other hand, if Columbia has really ended their civil war, that South American country may be able to increase production, like its neighbor Venezuela.

Mexico on the other hand, is in deep trouble, as oil production crashes at the main field at Cantarell. Maxwell treats us to an insight into the role of the asteroid which hit the Earth about 65 million years ago (causing a mass extinction) - and how that made a great oil field for Mexico (for a while).

It's rare we get a kind of private sitting with an oil insider like Charles Maxwell.


Here is the one hour talk by both men, including the Q and A, recorded by Gerri Williams, and presented by ASPO USA on November 4th, 2011 in Washington. You can choose from the CD Quality version (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB).


You'll notice neither Rubin or Maxwell mentioned climate change at all. They speak as though extreme weather damages and rising seas are not also major impacts on our economic prospects. As though the world will never limit fossil fuel production because we are wrecking the climate for all foresable time. Jeff Rubin, I know, does acknowledge climate change.

But it is absent here.

I've been following Peak Oil for years, interviewing people like Richard Heinberg and James Howard Kunstler. Both of them have added climate change as a serious threat in recent years.

Of course I speak with climate scientists. But it's very seldom I find anyone to talk about both. Why is this?

Plus, we often wonder, which comes first, and which is worst: climate change or Peak Oil?

To help sort this out, we go to Italy, to talk with Ugo Bardi. He is a professor of Chemistry at the University of Firenze, - that is Florence.

Ugo is a rare bridge in two worlds. He is the Founder of ASPO Italy, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. Ugo is a contributor and member of the editorial board of the Oil Drum blog, and has published two books in Italian on oil depletion.

But Bardi is also a member of an association of Italian climatologists.

His latest book in English is "The Limits to Growth Revisited" published in 2011 by Springer.

In March 2009, Bardi wrote an important article in the Oil Drum blog called "Fire or Ice? The role of peak fossil fuels in climate change scenarios".

I highly recommend this article. Bardi goes through the very few scientific papers and articles which consider both Peak Oil and climate change together, up to 2009.

I'm going to quote just the first three paragraphs from that key article from the oildrum.com

"Until recently, most simulations of future climate have been run without taking into account "peaking" of the major fossil fuels. Concepts such as 'peak oil' are not discussed, and not even mentioned, in the reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, with peak oil coming, or already arrived, the subject is starting to appear in scientific journals, blogs, and conferences. In a previous post , I reported about the 'Mission Earth' seminar held in Zurich in 2009 where climatologists and depletion experts gathered to exchange views. Here, I present a short review of the status of the field. There is a very small number of papers published in scientific journals on this subject and I think this summary includes them all. I also tried to include a number of less formal studies published on the web or presented at conferences.

Some early papers raised the question of the discrepancy of the standard IPCC scenarions and the peak oil projections. The first one was probably Jean Laherrere with a paper published in 2001. Later on Anders Sivertsson , Kjell Aleklett and Colin Campbell wrote in 2003 in 'The New Scientist' a paper titled 'Not enough oil for climate change'. They criticized the IPCC scenarios for being overoptimistic in terms of oil and gas reserves. These early papers didn't attempt to calculate the future concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Perhaps the earliest attempt to quantify the effects of CO2 on climate while taking depletion into account was the work by Pushker Kharecha and Jim Hansen who produced a paper titled 'Implications of "peak oil" for atmospheric CO2 and climate'. This study was published in 2008 but became available on line as a working paper in April 2007. In the first version of the paper, Kharecha and Hansen start from the premise that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere should not be allowed to exceed 450 ppm; later on they arrived to the conclusion that the dangerous limit is more likely to be around 350 ppm. So, they examine several scenarios that involve policy measures to force the reduction of emissions. They find that, if no such measures are taken, CO2 concentrations might rise to near 600 ppm by the end of the century, mainly as the result of coal combustion. Oil and gas would peak before 2030 in most of the scenarios considered and would give only a minor contribution to the total of the emissions."

Ugo Bardi began his Oil Drum article with an important point: climatologists, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, assume we will fill the sky infinitely with carbon, as though the supplies will not run out. However, as we learned from Jeff Rubin's talk, and all the development of alternative ways to get oil, plus gas fracking - there seems to be more than enough carbon to wreck the atmosphere before supplies run out.

And the implications of climate damage are so severe, in our interview Ugo Bardi concludes climate change is the most pressing challenge of this century. Humans have lived for most centuries without fossil fuels he points out. We could do so again, perhaps with a much smaller population. But humans might not survive a radical shift in the climate very well.

It's a thoughtful interview from a thoughtful man and scholar. You may also want to check out his "Limits to Growth Revisited" book, the first update to that 1970's report written for The Club of Rome.

Find Ugo Bardi's blog "Cassandra's Legacy" here.


I would like to thank Radio Ecoshock listener Barath Raghavan for suggesting this topic, and sending his helpful links. Find Barath's article on "Climate Change Vs. Peak Oil" here.

If you have suggestions for guests or topics, you can always write me, Alex Smith, at this address:

radio //at// ecoshock.org