Draft: IPCR Critical Challenges Assessment 2011—Section #3 “The End of the Era of 'Cheap Energy' (Peak Oil)"

Stefan Pasti
Posted September 4, 2011 from United States

In a previous post titled “Draft ‘IPCR Critical Challenges Assessment 2011’—Sharing Table of Contents, Seeking Input (July 6, 2011, at the Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative website, and other sites), I provided some information about my current project (“IPCR Critical Challenges Assessment 2011”). While there is still much work left to do to realize the potential of this project, one section is close enough to completion to share (Section 3 “The End of the Era of ‘Cheap Energy’ (particularly in reference to Peak Oil)"(the “Statistics and Observations” piece). I have included a pdf file (1.56MB) of that section [Section #3 Peak Oil (“Statistics and Observations” piece)] as an attachment to this post. (The current “Table of Contents” for the “Critical Challenges Assessment” is also included in this post (as a postscript, after the close and the additional notes).

The process of compiling excerpts, etc. from various sources (1997--present) to build “Section 3” has resulted in a kind of “highlight reel” of work in the field of peak oil information, discussion, and mitigation. And as a result of seeing such a “highlight reel” (up close and personal, as I have), I am even more convinced than before that there are “many danger signs flashing”, and that there is a need for problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before.

This Section #3 Peak Oil (“Statistics and Observations” piece) is 64 pages long, and contains excerpts from more than 50 different sources [sources which include Colin J. Campbell, Richard Heinberg, Energy Bulletin, Oil Drum (Prof. Goose, Nate Hagens, Gail the Actuary, and others), Roscoe Bartlett, Matt Simmons, Rob Hopkins, Portland Peak Oil Task Force, Albert Bates, Dr. Fatih Birol, Lester R. Brown, Sadad al Husseini, Peak Oil Task Force (Bloomington, Indiana), Gaia Education, Findhorn Foundation, Post Carbon Institute, Wikipedia, Chevron, Global Ecovillage Network, and Transition United States.]

[Note inviting comments, suggestions, etc: The selection process I used might be described as “looking for pieces which added to ‘big picture’ understanding, but which were not too complicated or too technical”. There may be many other pieces which I didn’t know about, which I knew about but simply didn’t include—or which my own “lenses” prevented me from seeing—which would be a good fit for this collection. I invite readers of this post, and of the Section #3 file, to offer any comments, questions, suggestions, and recommendations, so that this piece can be as useful as possible to the work ahead. (In addition, if there are readers who have suggestions, recommendations, etc. which might help the effectiveness of the other pieces of the Table of Contents, I hope they will contact me--Table of Contents is provided at the end of this post)]

This Section #3 piece also includes 10 pages of excerpts from a very educational report made by the Future Analysis branch of the German military (a complete English translation was just recently made accessible courtesy of Rick Munroe and via the Energy Bulletin website—on August 30, 2011). The report is titled “Armed Forces, Capabilities and Technologies in the 21st Century Environmental Dimensions of Security: Sub-study 1 Peak Oil--Security Policy Implications of Scarce Resources” (112 pages). The report was published by the Future Analysis department of the Bundeswehr Transformation Center, a branch of the German military, in November, 2010—but a complete English translation has not been accessible on the Internet until last week.

This German Future Analysis report (on the subject of peak oil) makes accessible thinking about national security issues which many people might have previously considered classified information. That there are such considerations being made available for open discussion suggests that this branch of the German military believes there is more to be gained by being open and honest about the difficulties ahead, and encouraging public discussion, than there is to be gained by maneuvering “behind closed doors”. Since the issues might be considered very sensitive by organizations and governments which prefer maneuvering “behind closed doors”, making such a report accessible to the public seems to be a breakthrough in recognizing the reality of peak oil. Readers of this Section #3 file are especially encouraged to explore the excerpts from that German report, and access the report itself through the Energy Bulletin link (see “Complete English translation of German military analysis of peak oil now available” by Rick Munroe”, at http://energybulletin.net/stories/2011-08-30/complete-english-translatio... ).

If there is any hesitation in bringing this Section #3 “piece” of a current project forward without the other pieces, it is that 1) the other pieces provide additional evidence of a need for problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before and 2) the commentary I have planned to include after the “Statistics and Observations” part of each section would—along with making specific points and highlighting relevant resources—emphasize the benefits (in relation to the specific challenges of that section) of making use of a combination of Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers”, and “sister community” relationships as a most comprehensive and local community specific approach to such problem solving. For now, readers who would like to explore that approach to problem solving further can refer to IPCR documents “A Four Page Summary of the IPCR Initiative” and “The IPCR Journal/Newsletter (Winter 2010-2011 issue) (accessible for free from the homepage of The IPCR Initiative, at www.ipcri.net ).

Currently, there is much concern about what the German report referred to above calls “transformational unemployment”. Here is an excerpt from the report: “…it is not possible to rule out considerable frictions on the labour market. New economic sectors, jobs and market opportunities can indeed develop in the wake of post-fossil transformation. This economic upheaval could, however, initially result in significant transformation unemployment. It is regarded as a special form of structural unemployment that can evolve as a result of profound changes in transformation countries.” (from p. 54, paragraph 1)

From this writer’s point of view, the tragic irony of systemic unemployment (or, really, any unemployment at this point) is that there is so much critical work which urgently needs to be done to make the transition into a post-peak era—and so much critical work which urgently needs to be done to mitigate or minimize the other critical challenges (for example, global warming) focused on in the “IPCR Critical Challenges Assessment 2011” (see Table of Contents pdf file). The idea that so many people in the world could be without a way to earn a living at a time when there is so much critical work to do simply does not speak well of those people and organizations in a position to direct significant financial resources along the lines of solution-oriented activity. To quote Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), who has given more than 50 Special Order Speeches in the House of Representatives (U.S.) on the subject of peak oil,

“What we need, and I will close with this brief statement, what we need is a program that has a total commitment of World War II, the technology focus of putting a man on the Moon, and the urgency of the Manhattan Project. We are the most creative, innovative society in the world. We are up to the challenge. We need leadership. We can do it.” (from a February 28, 2008 Special Order Speech on Peak Oil)

One of the main goals of Community Visioning Initiatives is to maximize citizen participation in identifying challenges and in solution-oriented activity. But these goals are made less achievable when citizens are not asked to do anything by leaders who understand the challenges ahead, know how much needs to be done, and know that all of us need to be involved. “There can be no culture without contact with relevant problems.” There can be much reconciliation and reuniting in common causes if there is widespread recognition of the serious challenges ahead. Confidence will be dimmed by lack of clarity until there is truthful public discourse on the full dimensions of critical challenges ahead. Confidence will be built up when people believe that the efforts of everyone working together is a greater force than the challenges they are facing.

For a Peaceful and Sustainable Future,

Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator The IPCR Initiative

Additional Notes: (from draft for introduction to “IPCR Critical Challenges Assessment 2011”)

“There are many other individuals and organizations who have written about some or many of the challenges listed below; however, the list offered below has its own character. The general idea behind making such a list is that the more people understand about the depth and range of the challenges ahead, the better the chances that the solutions we decide upon will be sufficiently relevant to the task at hand.”….

….“Since (as this writer believes) a significant degree of consensus will be needed to resolve the most complex challenges we—collectively—face; there needs to be ways to maximize citizen participation and solution-oriented activity. The IPCR Initiative has given much attention to this need, and there are three IPCR documents which will be recommended here: “A Four Page Summary of The IPCR Initiative”, “The IPCR Initiative and Community Visioning Initiatives: How to Grow Consensus for a Community Narrative—Organically”, and “The IPCR Journal/Newsletter (Winter 2010-2011 issue)”—all accessible for free from the homepage of The IPCR Initiative. By processes outlined in those papers, and explored in more depth in other IPCR documents, people can—as they did in the United States at the beginning of World War II—decide to deliberately channel the way they “invest” their time, energy, and money so that these “investments” are in many ways supportive of solution-oriented activity. Yes, most of the challenges in this “Ten Point Assessment….” are very complex, and thus it will be best if people making decisions at the local community level sift through some of the evidence. But their motive for sifting through some of the evidence need not be understood as part of studying for a Ph.D on the subject, or as part of deciding how to “vote” for a particular candidate in elections. From this writer’s point of view, it would be best if their motive was so they can make informed decisions regarding how they invest their time, energy, and money in the everyday circumstances of their daily lives.”

IPCR Critical Challenges Assessment 2011 (draft) Table of Contents (seeking input)


  1. Global warming and reducing carbon emissions

  2. “Cultures” of violence, greed, corruption, and overindulgence—which have become so common that many of us accept such as inevitable; which are a significant part of the current crises of confidence in financial markets; and which are in many ways slowing the restructuring of investment priorities needed to respond to an increasing number of other critical challenges

  3. The end of the era of “cheap energy” (particularly in reference to Peak Oil)

  4. The increasing world population and its implications relating to widespread resource depletion (with special focus on the increasing number of people who are consuming material goods and ecological resources indiscriminately)

  5. Current trends indicate that we are creating more and more “urban agglomerations” (cities with a population of more than 1 million people—more than 400), which require more and more complex and energy intensive infrastructures, where it is more and more difficult to trace the consequences of our individuals investments of time, energy, and money—and which are the least appropriate models when it comes to implementing resolutions to many of the other challenges in this ten point assessment

  6. The U.S. and many other countries will enter the next 15 to 20 years burdened by substantial public debt, possibly leading to higher interest rates, higher taxes, and tighter credit

  7. A marginalization of the treasured wisdom associated with religious, spiritual, and moral traditions

  8. Global inequities and the tragic cycles of malnutrition, disease, and death

  9. Community building associated with responding to the above eight challenges may or may not be accompanied by an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings. In such circumstances, shortages of goodwill in times of unprecedented transition could tilt already precarious systems into further disarray, and thus erode established systems in even the most stable communities and regions

  10. Sorting out what are real challenges and what are sound and practical solutions is becoming more and more difficult, as there are now, in most communities of the world, a multitude of ideas of all kinds coming to the fore in personal, family, community, and cultural life—all at the same time

Concluding Comments


PDF icon draft_critical_challenges_section_3_peak_oil.pdf

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