Dermot O’Connor: There’s No Tomorrow

* Incubate Pictures: Dermot O’Connor There’s No Tomorrow.

There’s No Tomorrow

Incubate Pictures | 11 Feb 2012



‘There’s No Tomorrow’ is an animated film dealing with resource depletion, energy, growth and collapse. It is a primer on the energy dilemmas facing the world of the 21st century.

It should be noted that most people missed the point of the movie, which was not about peak oil or energy per se, but an attack on exponential economic Growth; also, the title scared people, who assumed it means ‘we’re doomed’. This is not the message of the film; reality is challenging enough without people imagining it to be even worse.

TNT is primarily the work of one person, and was created over ~3 years.

Foreign language versions: French / Russian / Spanish / Cantonese / Hindi
There are also many subtitle options embedded in the Youtube clip above.

For more information about the film, the entire script, with citations.

The inspiration for the film.

In November 2004, on the night of the final Bush/Kerry debate, Professor David Goodstein, Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Caltech, gave a public lecture on the subject of Peak Oil and Energy.

Goodstein, who at the time was Provost of Caltech, explained the essentials of the issue, and the problems with the numerous alternatives to fossil fuels. By the end of the hour it was clear that the next few decades were likely to be difficult. Goodstein concluded the lecture with the following prediction:

“Human civilization as we know it will end, sometime in the 21st century.”

He added that he hoped that making the prediction might alter the outcome of the prediction – in other words, the outcome is not set in stone, and there may still be time to prevent the collapse. Or as the proverb says:

“Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are heading”.

Even after Goodstein’s lecture, doubts remained. What if his figures were incorrect, and the supply of oil was much larger than expected? What if decades or centuries of oil reserves remained, as some claimed? This question was resolved a few months later on viewing Professor Al Bartlett‘s video lecture: “Arithmetic, Population and Energy”

Professor Bartlett’s mathematical explanation of the consequences of exponential expansion is relentless. Regardless of where humans stand on the graph of resource use, it was now clear that there were hard limits to growth – and that those limits would be reached, sooner or later – whether or not in our lifetimes.

Fast forward a few months, to early 2005: watching friends in a local Los Angeles Peak Oil group try to work a crowd of passers-by at an anti-war event. Handing out pamphlets as political actions might have been effective in previous decades, but in 2005 it seemed futile. Hence, the idea to animate a short introduction to Peak Oil – to condense the information for those who didn’t have the time or desire to sift through dozens of websites and books.

Research and Development.

There followed many months of research, of websites, documentaries and books. Books, many written not by cranks, but by oil industry insiders, geophysicists and knowledgeable generalists. “Out of Gas” by David Goodstein; “Beyond Oil” by Kenneth Deffeyes; “The Party’s Over” by Richard Heinberg and “The Long Emergency” by James Howard Kunstler, to name a few. In addition, sites such as and provided valuable ongoing analysis.

The original idea for the film was to be a funny pastiche of the pro-capitalist propaganda cartoons of the 1940s and 50s. These works are all in the public domain, making them an invaluable resource: “Going Places” (1948), “Meet King Joe” (1949), “Why Play Leapfrog” (1949), “What Makes Us Tick” (1952), “It’s Everybodys Business” (1954) and “Destination Earth” (1956).

Those cartoons explained to the working and middle classes of post-WW2 America why capitalism and growth were good, and how oil provided the energy to make them possible. It seemed a natural idea in 2005 to reverse the story: what happens to this growth-based economy when the oil supply starts to decline? The plan to make a parody of the propaganda films was quickly abandoned, in favour of making a “sequel” – using the same storytelling style, imagery and animation, but with a very different message.

Each of the films was downloaded from the website, where they are freely available. Screenshots were taken of every scene, and a large visual library was assembled. Many of these would become the basis for the style and look of the film…in effect, they were used as “keys” to establish the visual style of the new work. Often, the original backgrounds were reconstructed, the characters erased from them, to allow them to be reused in a fresh scene. This was a time-consuming process, and took many weeks.



This is the earth, as it looked 90 million years ago. Geologists call this period the ‘Late Cretaceous’. [1] It was a time of extreme global warming,[2] When dinosaurs still ruled the planet. [3] They went about their lives, secure in their place at the top of the food chain, oblivious of the changes taking place around them.

The continents were drifting apart, opening huge rifts in the Earth’s crust. They flooded, becoming seas. Algae thrived in the extreme heat, poisoning the water. They died, and fell, in their trillions, to the bottom of the rifts. Rivers washed sediment into the seas, until the organic remains of the algae were buried. As the pressure grew, so did the heat, until a chemical reaction transformed the organics into hydrocarbon fossil fuels: Oil and Natural Gas. A similar process occurred on land, which produced coal. [4] It took nature about 5 million years to create the fossil fuels that the world consumes in 1 year. [5] The modern way of life is dependent on this fossilised sunlight, although a surprising number of people take it for granted.

Since 1860, geologists have discovered over 2 trillion barrels of oil. Since then, the world has used approximately half. [6]

Before you can pump oil, you have to discover it. At first it was easy to find, and cheap to extract. [7] The first great American oilfield was Spindletop, discovered in 1900. Many more followed. [8] Geologists scoured America. They found enormous deposits of oil, natural gas and coal. [9]America produced more oil than any other country, [10] enabling it to become an industrial super-power. [11]

Once an oil well starts producing oil, it’s only a matter of time before it enters a decline. [12] Individual wells have different production rates. [13]When many wells are averaged together, the combined graph looks like a bell curve. Typically it takes 40 years after the peak of discovery for a country to reach its peak of production, after which it enters a permanent fall.

In the 1950s, Shell geophysicist M. King Hubbert predicted that America’s oil production would peak in 1970, 40 years after the peak of U.S. oil discovery. Few believed him. However, in 1970, American oil production peaked, and entered a permanent decline. Hubbert was vindicated. [14]From this point on, America would depend increasingly on imported oil. This made her vulnerable to supply disruptions, and contributed to the economic mayhem of the 1973 and 1979 oil shocks. [15]

The 1930s saw the highest rate of oil discoveries in U.S. history. In spite of advanced technology, the decline in the discovery of new american oilfields has been relentless. [16] More recent finds, such as ANWAR, would at best provide enough oil for 17 months. [17] Even the new “Jack 2” field in the gulf of Mexico would only supply a few months of domestic demand. [18]Though large, neither field comes close to satisfying America’s energy requirements. [19]

Evidence is now mounting that world oil production is peaking, or is close to it. [20] Globally, the rate of discovery of new oilfields peaked in the 1960s. Over 40 years later, the decline in the discovery of new fields seems unstoppable. [21] 54 of the 65 major oil producing nations have already peaked in production. Many of the others are expected to follow in the near future. [22]

The world will need to bring the equivalent of a new Saudi Arabia into production every three years to make up for declining output in existing oilfields. [23] In the nineteen sixties, six barrels of oil were found for every one that was used. [24] Four decades later, the world consumes between three and six barrels of oil for every one that it finds. [25] Once the peak of world oil production is reached, demand for oil will outstrip supply, and the price of gasoline will fluctuate wildly, affecting far more than the cost of filling a car. [26]

Modern cities are fossil fuel dependent. Even roads are made from asphalt, a petroleum product, as are the roofs of many homes. Large areas would be uninhabitable without heating in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. Suburban sprawl encourages people to drive many miles to work, school and stores. [27] Major cities have been zoned with residential and commercial areas placed far apart, forcing people to drive. [28] Suburbia, and many communities were designed on the assumption of plentiful oil and energy. [29]

Chemicals derived from fossil fuels, or Petro-chemicals, are essential in the manufacture of countless products. [30] The modern system of agriculture is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, [31] as are hospitals, [32] aviation, [33]water distribution systems, [34] and the U.S. military, which alone uses about 140 million barrels of oil a year. [35] Fossil fuels are also essential for the creation of plastics and polymers, key ingredients in computers, entertainment devices and clothing. [36]

The global economy currently depends on endless growth, demanding an increasing supply of cheap energy. [37] We are so dependant on oil and other fossil fuels, that even a small disruption in supply may have far-reaching effects on every aspect of our lives.


[1] Late Cretaceous:
late cretaceous timeline
cretaceous maps of USA
late cretaceous global map…

[2] Late Cretaceous warming:…………

[3] Late Cretaceous dinosaurs:

[4] Fossil fuel formation:……………

[5] 400 years of fossilised sunlight:
nature: calculations illustrate fossil-fuel crisis

[6] Oil discovery:…
hirsch report
hirsch report [PDF]

[7] EROEI:
net energy (EROEI)
flow rates

[8] Spindletop:……

[9] U.S. discovery peak:,peakoil…

[10] Early 20th century oil production:
wiki article on the petroleum_industry
“In the first quarter of the 20th century, the United States overtook Russia as the world’s largest oil producer.”

[11] Oil and coal; 19th and 20th century American industrial expansion:……

[12] Peak Oil:
hubbert peak oil theory
stuart staniford (an interpretation of peak oil as a “slow squeeze”)

[13] Average 40 year lag from discovery to production peak:,outlook.html

[14] M. King Hubbert:

[15] 1973 oil embargo:…

[16] U.S. discovery:

[17] Anwar:
USGS anwar reserve estimates
anwar production estimates

[18] Jack 2:…

[19] Annual oil consumption/production statistics:

[20] World oil production forecast 2009:

[21] Peak Oil primer (and discovery graph):

[22] List of countries past peak:
david strahan interactive map

[23] Future Oil Requirements:
IEA: 6 new saudi-arabias required
IEA economist warns of oil shortfalls

[24] Oil used vs. oil found (1960s):…ppt

[25] Oil used vs. oil found (present):…

[26] Peak oil and financial crisis:
oil caused recession in 2008, not wall st.

[27] Suburban Sprawl, Driving, Health Effects:
suburban sprawl linked to chronic health ailments

[28] Zoning:
wiki article on zoning
kunstler: home from nowhere

[29] Suburbia and Car Dependency:
ruinous debt to create futureless suburbia
extreme commuting

[30] Petrochemicals:
petrochemical definition
petrochemical products

[31] Fossil Fuels in Agriculture:….food.miles/

[32] Healthcare and fossil fuel decline:

[33] Aviation and fossil fuels:

[34] U.S. military use of oil:

[35] Water:
water distribution (19% of California’s electricity is used to move water).

[36] Plastics:

[37] Growth/debt based economy:



Energy is the ability to do work. [1]

The average American today has available the energy equivalent of 150 slaves, working 24 hours a day. [2] Materials that store this energy for work are called fuels, [3] Some fuels contain more energy than others. This is called energy density. [4]

Of these fuels, oil is the most critical. The world consumes 30 billion barrels a year, [5] equal to 1 cubic mile of oil, which contains as much energy as would be generated from 52 nuclear power plants working for the next 50 years. [6]

Although oil only generates 1.6% of U.S. electricity, it powers 96% of all transportation. [7]

In 2008, two thirds of America’s oil was imported. Most was from Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Iraq and Angola. [8]

Several factors make oil unique: it is energy dense. One barrel of oil contains the energy equivalent of almost three years of human labour. [9] It is liquid at room temperature, easy to transport and usable in small engines.

To acquire energy, you have to use energy. The trick is to use smaller amounts to find and extract larger amounts. This is called EROEI: Energy Return on Energy Invested. [10]

Conventional oil is a good example. The easy to extract, high-quality crude was pumped first. Oilmen spent the energy equivalent of 1 barrel of oil to find and extract 100. The EROEI of oil was 100. [11] As the easy to find oil was pumped first, exploration moved into deep waters, or distant countries, using increasing amounts of energy to do so. [12] Often, the oil we find now is heavy or sour crude, and is expensive to refine. [13] The EROEI for oil today is as low as 10. [14] If you use more energy to get the fuel than is contained in the fuel, it’s not worth the effort to get it. [15]

It is possible to convert one fuel source into another. Every time you do so, some of the energy contained in the original fuel is lost. [16] For instance, there is unconventional oil: Tar Sands and Shale. Tar Sands are found mainly in Canada. [17] Two thirds of the world’s shale is in the US. [18] Both of these fuels can be converted to synthetic crude oil. However, this requires large amounts of heat and fresh water,[19] reducing their EROEI, which varies from five, to as low as one and a half. [20] Shale is an exceptionally poor fuel, pound for pound containing about one third the energy of a box of breakfast cereal. [21]

Coal exists in vast quantities, and generates almost half of the planet’s electricity. [22] The world uses almost 2 cubic miles of coal a year. However, Global coal production may peak before 2040.The claim that America has centuries worth of coal is deceptive, as it fails to account for growing demand, and decreasing quality. [23] Much of the high quality anthracite coal is gone, leaving lower quality coal that is less energy dense. [24] Production issues arise, as surface coal is depleted, and miners have to dig deeper and in less accessible areas. Many use destructive mountaintop removal to reach coal deposits, causing environmental mayhem. [25]

Natural gas is often found alongside oil and coal. [26] North American discovery of conventional gas peaked in the 1950s, and production peaked in the early 70s. [27] If the discovery graph is moved forward by 23 years, the possible future of North American conventional natural gas production is revealed. [28] Recent breakthroughs have allowed the extraction of unconventional natural gas, such as shale gas, which might help offset decline in the years ahead. [29] Unconventional natural gas is controversial, as it needs high energy prices to be profitable. Even with Unconventional gas, we may see a peak in global natural gas production by 2030.

Large uranium reserves for nuclear fission still exist. [30] To replace the 10 terawatts the world currently generates from fossil fuels, would require 10,000 nuclear power plants. At that rate, the known reserves of uranium would last for only 10 to 20 years. [31]

Experiments with plutonium based fast-breeder reactors in France and Japan have been expensive failures. [32]

Nuclear fusion faces massive technical obstacles. [33]

Then there are the renewables. Windpower has a high EROEI, but is intermittent. [34]

Hydro power is reliable, but most rivers in the developed world are already dammed. [35]

Conventional geothermal power plants use existing hotspots near the Earth’s surface. They are limited to those areas. [36] In the experimental EGS system, two shafts would be drilled 6 miles deep. Water is pumped down one shaft, to be heated in fissures, then rise up the other, generating power. [37] According to a recent MIT report, this technology might supply 10% of US electricity by 2050. [38]

Wave power is restricted to coastal areas. The energy density of waves varies from region to region. [39] Transporting wave-generated electricity inland would be challenging. Also, the salty ocean environment is corrosive to turbines.

Biofuels are fuels that are grown. [40] Wood has a low energy density, and grows slowly. The world uses 3.7 cubic miles of wood a year. [41] Biodiesel and ethanol are made from crops grown by petroleum powered agriculture.[42] The energy profit from these fuels is very low. [43] Some politicians want to turn corn into ethanol. Using Ethanol to supply one tenth of projected US oil use in 2020, would require 3% of America’s Land. To supply one third would require 3 times the area now used to grow food. To supply all US petroleum consumption in 2020 would take twice as much land as is used to grow food. [44]

Hydrogen has to be extracted from Natural Gas, coal or water, [45] which uses more energy than we get from the Hydrogen. [46] This makes a Hydrogen economy unlikely.

All the world’s photovoltaic solar panels generate as much electricity as two coal power plants. [47] The equivalent of between 1 and 4 tons of coal are used in the manufacture of a single solar panel. We’d have to cover as many as 140,000 square miles with panels to meet current world demand. As of 2007, there are only about 4 square miles. [48]

Concentrated Solar Power, or Solar Thermal has great potential, though at the moment there are only a small number of plants operating. [49] They are also limited to sunny climates, requiring large amounts of electricity to be transmitted over long distances. [50]

All of the alternatives to oil depend on oil-powered machinery, or require materials such as plastics that are produced from oil.

When considering future claims of amazing new fuels or inventions, ask: Does the advocate have a working, commercial model of the invention? What is its energy density? Can it be stored or easily distributed? Is it reliable or intermittent? Can it be scaled to a national level?Are there hidden engineering challenges? What is the EROEI? What are the environmental impacts? Remember that large numbers can be deceptive. For example: 1 billion barrels of oil will satisfy global demand for only 12 days.

A transition from fossil fuels would be a monumental challenge. As of 2007, coal generates 48.5% of U.S. electricity. 21.6% is from natural gas, 1.6% is from petroleum, 19.4% is from nuclear, 5.8% is from hydro. Other renewables only generate 2.5%.[51]

Is it possible to replace a system based on fossil fuels with a patchwork of alternatives? Major technological advances are needed, as well as political will and co-operation, massive investment, international consensus, the retrofitting of the $45 trillion global economy, including transportation, manufacturing industries, and agricultural systems, as well as officials competent to manage the transition.

If all these are achieved, could the current way of life continue?


[1] Energy:
what is energy?

[2] Energy Slaves:
renewable energy: potential and implementation (100 slave estimate) (200 slave estimate)

[3] Fuel:
merriam-webster fuel definition
energy usage statistics

[4] Energy Density:
wikipedia entry on energy density
energy transitions past and future

[5] Oil use statistics:
Oil use by country
World crude oil consumption by year, 1980-2006

[6] Cubic mile of oil:
getting a grasp on oil production volumes
A different analysis of the cubic mile of oil (lower than the above)

[7] Oil usage in transportation:
transportation by the numbers.
the future of oil

[8] U.S. oil imports sources:…

[9] Human energy in one barrel of oil:

[10] EROEI:
what is EROEI?
an EROEI review

[11] EROEI of oil and other fuels:
net energy list (EROEI) comparing different energy processes
the net hubbert curve: what does It mean?
EROI on the web part 2 of 6

[12] Offshore EROEI:
the EROI of u.s. offshore energy extraction
EIA projection of offshore drilling

[13] Difficulty of refining heavy/sour crude:
crude lessons about oil
graphs of heavy/sour crudes
production of different grades of oil (light sweet vs. heavy, data from 2004)

[14]Expensive Oil:
easy oil production means cheap oil, difficult production means expensive oil
david strahan: can unconventional oil fill the gap?

[15] “Never burn a penny candle looking for a halfpenny.” Irish proverb.

[16] Entropy and Thermodynamics:
a simple defintion of the laws of thermodynamics
laws of thermodynamics
entropy: primer and historical notes

[17] Tar Sands:
about tar sands

[18] Shale:
what is oil shale?

[19] Tar Sands to crude oil conversion:
tar sands
mobilizing to save civilization

[20] Tar Sands EROEI
tar sands and shale oil
2006 boston ASPO: the canadian tar sands
tar sands flow rates

[21] Energy density of Shale:
the illusive bonanza: oil shale in colorado
oil shale may be fool’s gold

[22] Coal:
eia: coal reserves
coal vs. wind

[23] Coal reserves:
federal research needed to determine size of U.S. coal reserves

[24] Peak Coal:
peak coal: sooner than you think
peak coal by 2025 say researchers peak coal – coming soon?
david strahan: peak coal

[25] Mountaintop removal:
EPA reviews 79 mountaintop removal coal permits
james hansen urges obama to ban mountaintop removal coal mining
mountaintop removal mining
ohio campaign against mountaintop removal
mountaintop-removal mining is devastating appalachia
quality and declining energy density of coal

[26] Natural gas formation:
eia: natural gas basics (for kids)
what is natural gas?

[27] Peak Natural Gas:
wiki article on peak gas
future of natural gas supply
natural gas overview

[28] Conventional Natural Gas cliff:
natural gas: how big is the problem?

[29] Unconventional Natural Gas:
can US natural gas production be ramped up? (good comment thread)
rediscovering natural gas by hitting rock bottom
will unconventional natural gas save us?
north american natural gas production and EROI decline (good comment thread).
a bearish analysis of unconventional natural gas

[30] Global Uranium Reserves:
uranium reserves (european nuclear society)
uranium reserves (red book)

[31] Uranium vs. Oil:
will the rate-of-conversion problem derail alternative energy?
an interview with david goodstein
professor goodstein discusses lowering oil reserves
nuclear energy vs. oil

[32] Fast breeders:
overview of fast breeder reactors
rokkasho plant too dangerous, costly: expert
energy options shrink with end of “fast breeder” nuclear research

[33] Nuclear Fusion:
nuclear fusion power
nuclear fusion introduction
fusion falters under soaring costs

[34] Windpower:
energy from wind: a discussion of the EROI research
why wind power works in denmark

[35] Hydro:
hydropower basics (for kids)
global hydropower generation capacity to reach 945.8 gw by 2015
hydroelectric power’s dirty secret revealed

[36] Geothermal:
wiki article about geothermal_power
geothermal basics (for kids)

[37] EGS Geothermal:
wiki article about enhanced geothermal systems…

[38] MIT report on EGS Geothermal [PDF]:
future of_geothermal_energy.pdf

[39] Wave power EROEI, with pros and cons:
wave/geothermal – energy return on investment
wiki article on wave power difficulties

[40] Biofuels definition:
biomass basics (for kids)
wiki article on biofuels

[41] Wood:
wood energy economics
old sunlight vs ancient sunlight -an analysis of home heating and wood
use of USA forests for home heating – can this sensibly be expanded?
How much fuel do we use in a year?

[42] Biodiesel and Ethanol:
implications of biofuel production for united states water supplies
ethanol from brazil and the USA

[43] Net energy of Ethanol:
why cellulosic ethanol, biofuels are unsustainable and a threat to america
biofuels or biofools?
corn ethanol and biodiesel net energy losers
ethanol production consumes six units of energy to produce just one
biodiesel misconceptions
ethics of biofuels

[44] Land requirements for ethanol:
grains being being grown to feed cars

[45] Hydrogen economy:
hydrogen economy looks out of reach
the hydrogen economy and peak platinum

[46] Hydrogen EROEI:
the hydrogen hoax

[47] Solar PV = 2 coal plants:
Paul Roberts, “The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World(2004) p. 191

[48] Amount of land to be covered by Solar PV to meet energy demand:
total surface area required to fuel the world with solar
how many solar panels would it take to power the world
The 200×200 miles

[49] Solar Thermal (CSP):
wiki article on concentrated solar power
clean energy intro: solar thermal
amount of solar thermal to power the EU, and the world
photos of a solar thermal plant in andalusia, spain

[50] Solar Thermal needed:
arizona solar power project calculations

[51] 2007 electricity production:
U.S. electric power industry net generation



These bacteria live in a bottle. Their population doubles every minute. At 11AM there is one bacterium. At 12 noon the bottle is full. It is half-full at 11.59 – leaving only enough space for one more doubling. The bacteria see the danger. They search for new bottles, and find 3. They assume that their problem is solved. By 12 noon, the first bottle is full. By 12.01, the second bottle is full. By 12.02, all the bottles are full. This is the problem that we face, due to the doubling caused by Exponential Growth. [1]

When humanity began to use coal and oil as fuel sources, it experienced unprecedented growth. [2]

Even low growth rates produce large increases over time. At a 1% growth rate, an economy will double in 70 years. A 2% rate doubles in 35 years. At a 10% growth rate, an economy will double in only 7 years. If an economy grows at the current average of 3%, it doubles every 23 years. [3] With each doubling, demand for energy and resources will exceed all the previous doublings combined.

The financial system is built on the assumption of growth – which requires an increasing supply of energy to support it. [4] Banks lend money they don’t have, in effect creating it. [5] The borrowers use the newly created loan money to grow their businesses, and pay back the debt, with an interest payment which requires more growth. Due to this creation of debt formed money, most of the world’s money represents a debt with interest to be paid. [6] Without continual new and ever larger generations of borrowers to produce growth, and thus pay off these debts, the world economy will collapse. Like a Ponzi Scheme, the system must expand or die. [7]

Partly through this debt system, the effects of economic growth have been spectacular: in GDP, damming of rivers, water use, fertiliser consumption, urban population, paper consumption, motor vehicles, communications and tourism. World population has grown to 7 billion, and is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050.[8] On a flat, infinite earth, this would not be a problem. However, as the Earth is round and finite, we will eventually face limits to growth. [9]

Economic expansion has resulted in increases in atmospheric nitrous oxide and methane, ozone depletion, increases in great floods, damage to ocean ecosystems, including nitrogen runoff, loss of rainforest and woodland, increases in domesticated land, and species exinctions. [10]

If we place a single grain of rice on the first square of a chessboard, double this and place 2 grains on the second, double again and place 4 on the third, double again and place 8 on the fourth, and continue this way, putting on each square twice the number of grains than were on the previous one, by the time we reach the final square, we need an astronomical number of grains: 9 quintillion, 223 quadrillion, 372 trillion, 36 billion, 854 million, 776 thousand grains: more grain than the human race has grown in the last 10,000 years. Modern economies, like the grains on the chess board, doubles every few decades. On which square of the chessboard are we?

Besides energy, civilisation demands numerous essential resources: fresh water, topsoil, food, forests, and many kinds of minerals and metals. [11]Growth is limited by the essential resource in scarcest supply. [12] A barrel is made of staves, and like water filling a barrel, growth can go no further than the lowest stave, or the most limited essential resource.

Humans currently utilise 40% of all photosynthesis activity on Earth. [13]Though it might be possible to use 80%, we are unlikely to ever use 160%.


[1] Exponential Growth in a Finite Environment
al bartlett: forgotten_fundamentals

[2] Population Graphs:
wiki article on world_population…
energy grades and historic economic growth

[3] Graphs of GDP:
graph of GDP increases from 1990-present
graph of world economic growth, 1950-present

[4] Fossil Fuels and Economic Growth:…

[5] The Debt-Based Financial System:…
animation (30 mins): “money as debt”
chris martenson – money creation. text and video (4.20)

[6] Chris Martenson – Debt. text and video (12.33).

[7] Ponzi Scheme Definition:
is the financial system a ponzi scheme?…ponzi_scheme

[8] Eating Fossil Fuels:……
dale alan pfeiffer: on eating_fossil fuels

[9] Neoclassical Economics is Flawed. the economist has no clothes
albert bartlett “arithmetic, population and energy” transcript

[10] Resource Depletions:
earth’s natural wealth audit
peak phosphorous
expected depletions
peak minerals

[11] Liebig’s Law of the Minimum:
wiki article about liebig’s_law_of_the_minimum

[12] Articles by Professor Albert Bartlett on Growth:
the population delusion

[13]Human appropriation of the biosphere:
Human appropriation of the products of photosynthesis
Global human appropriation of net primary production
Human Appropriation of Photosynthesis Products



The global economy grows exponentially, at about 3% a year, [1]consuming increasing amounts of non-renewable fuels, minerals and metals, [2] as well as renewable resources like water, forests, soils and fish faster than they can be replenished. [3]

Even at a growth rate of 1%, an economy will double in 70 years. [4]

The problem is intensified by other factors: Globalisation allows people on one continent to buy goods and food made by those on another. [5] The lines of supply are long, placing strains on a limited oil resource. [6] We now rely on distant countries for basic necessities. [7]

Modern cities are fossil fuel dependent.

Most Banking Systems are based on debt, forcing people into a spiral of loans or repayments – producing growth.

What can be done in the face of these problems?

Many believe that the crisis can be prevented through conservation, [8]technology, smart growth, [9] recycling, [10] electric cars and hybrids, [11]substitution, [12] or voting. [13]

Conservation will save you money, but it alone won’t save the planet. If some people cut back on oil use, the reduced demand will drive down the price, allowing others to buy it for less. In the same fashion, a more efficient engine that uses less energy will, paradoxically, lead to greater energy use. In the 19th century, English economist William Stanley Jevons realised that Better steam engines made coal a more cost effective fuel source, which led to the use of more steam engines, which increased total coal consumption. [14] Growth of use will consume any energy or resources saved through conservation.

Many believe that scientists will solve these problems with new technology. However, technology is not energy. Technology can channel energy into work, but it can’t replace it. [15] It also consumes resources: for instance; computers are made with one tenth of the energy needed to make a car.[16] More advanced technologies may make the situation worse, as many require rare minerals, which are also approaching limits. [17]

For example, 97% of the world’s Rare Earths are produced by China, most from a single mine in inner Mongolia. These minerals are used in catalytic converters, aircraft engines, high efficiency magnets and hard drives, hybrid car batteries, lasers, portable X-Rays, shielding for nuclear reactors, compact discs, hybrid vehicle motors, low energy light-bulbs, fibre optics and flat-screen displays. China has begun to consider restricting the export of these minerals, as demand soars.

So called sustainable growth or smart growth won’t help, as it also uses non renewable metals and minerals in ever increasing quantities, including Rare Earths. [18]

Recycling will not solve the problem, as it requires energy, and the process is not 100% efficient. It is only possible to reclaim a fraction of the material being recycled; a large portion is lost forever as waste. [19]

Electric cars run on electricity. As most power is generated from fossil fuels, this is not a solution. [20] Also, cars of all types consume oil in their production. Each tire alone requires about 7 gallons of Petroleum. There are around 800 million cars in the world, as of 2010. At current growth rates, this number would reach 2 billion by 2025. It is unlikely that the planet can support this many vehicles for long, regardless of their power source.

Many economists believe that the free market will substitute one energy source with another through technological innovation. [21] However, the main substitutes to oil face their own decline rates. [22] Substitution also fails to account for the time needed to prepare for a transition. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Hirsch report estimates that at least 2 decades would be needed to prepare for the effects of Peak Oil. [23]

The issues of energy shortages, resource depletion, topsoil loss, and pollution are all symptoms of a single, larger problem: Growth. [24] As long as our financial system demands endless growth, reform is unlikely to succeed.

What then, will the future look like? Optimists believe that growth will continue forever, without limits. [25] Pessimists think that we’re heading towards a new Stone Age, or extinction. [26] The truth may lie between these extremes. It is possible that society might fall back to a simpler state, one in which energy use is a lot less. [27] This would mean a harder life for most. More manual labour, more farm work, and local production of goods, food and services. [28]

What should a person do to prepare for such a possible future? Expect a decrease in supplies of food and goods from far away places. [29] Start walking or cycling. [30] Get used to using less electricity. [31] Get out of debt.[32] Try to avoid banks. [33] Instead of shopping at big box stores, support local businesses. [34] Buy food grown locally, at Farmers’ Markets. [35]Instead of a lawn, consider gardening to grow your own food. [36] Learn how to preserve it. [37] Consider the use of local currencies should the larger economy cease to function,[38] and develop greater self sufficiency.[39]

None of these steps will prevent Collapse, but they might improve your chances in a low energy future, one in which we will have to be more self reliant, as our ancestors once were.


[1] Economic Growth:
world economic growth, 1970-2007
global economic growth rates, developed and developing nations

[2] Consumption of non-renewable minerals and metals:
new scientist: earth’s natural wealth – an audit

[3] Ogallala Aquifer:
ogallala aquifer map and information
the ogallala aquifer depletion
Forest Destruction:
net forest depletion by country
rainforest deforestation
palm oil leads to deforestation
roads are ruining the rainforests
biofuels boom could fuel rainforest destruction
photo gallery of rainforest destruction
Topsoil & Soil Erosion:
humans causing erosion comparable to world’s largest rivers and glaciers
the relative efficacy of fluvial and glacial erosion over modern to orogenic timescales
land degradation maps of senegal
global assessment of human-induced soil degradation
global soil degradation
Fish Collapse:
estimated global fish landings 1950–1999
nature cover story – only 10% of all large fish are left in global ocean
the sixth extinction

[4] Exponential Doubling:
video: chris martenson on exponential economic growth

[5] Globalization:
defining globalization (a pro-globalization website)

[6] International Trade Oil Dependency:
will shipping fuel price hikes scuttle globalization?
shipping costs start to crimp globalization

[7] Manufacturing of Goods:
china poised to pass u.s. in manufactured goods exports
china to be top exporter of manufactured goods

[8] Conservation:
how to conserve energy at home

[9] Smart Growth / Sustainable Growth:
al bartlett: reflections on sustainability, population growth, and the environment
lindsey grant: on the edge of an oxymoron
gpf: earth on the market: beyond the limits of sustainable growth
richard heinberg: 5 axioms of sustainability

[10] Recycling:
recycling facts

[11] Electric Cars and Hybrids:
the peak oil crisis: the electric car: part II

[12] Substitution:
biophysical constraints to economic growth

[13] Voting:
carroll quigley, tragedy and hope

[14] Jevons’ Parandox:
description of jevons’ paradox
jevons’ paradox and the myth of resource efficiency improvements
jevons’ paradox and the “shadow” rebound effect

[15] Technology and Energy:
simmons-kunstler interview
making other arrangements

[16] Computer Manufacturing:
computer chip life cycle

[17] Rare Minerals:
new scientist: earth’s natural wealth – an audit
john michael greer: the dawn of scarcity industrialism
marketwatch: rare earths are vital, and china owns them all

[18] Sustainable Growth and Resources:
al bartlett: reflections on sustainability, population growth, and the environment
lindsey grant: on the edge of an oxymoron
gpf: earth on the market: beyond the limits of sustainable growth
richard heinberg: 5 axioms of sustainability

[19]Recycling Efficiency:
wiki article on recycling

[20] Electric Cars:
eia – electric power industry 2007 year in review
electric cars and peak lithium
peak oil/electric+PHEVs/batteries

[21] Substitution Timelag:
richard heinberg: bridging peak oil and climate change activism
will the rate-of-conversion problem derail alternative energy?

[22] Alternative Fuels Decline Rates:
Coal reserves:
Quality and declining energy density of coal:
Peak Natural Gas:
Conventional Natural Gas cliff:…
Global Uranium Reserves:
Uranium reserves (RED BOOK):

[23] Hirsch Report:
hirsch report back on the DOE website
hirsch report (PDF)

[24] Growth:
video: “arithmetic population & energy” by Al Bartlett (1 hour).
transcript: “arithmetic, population & energy”

[25] Singularity and Unlimited Growth:

[26] Die-off and the Coming Stone Age:

[27] Collapse Theories:
dmitri orlov: post-soviet lessons for a post american century
dmitri orlov: thriving in the age of collapse
jason godesky: 30 theses of civilisation
jason godesky: collapse is inevitable
jason godesky: the slow crash
john michael greer: how civilisations fall: a theory of catabolic collapse
joseph tainter: complexity/conservation/collapse
matt savinar interview on collapse(from 2005)
richard heinberg interviewed on collapse (from 2004)
richard heinberg: timing and the post carbon manifesto
james howard kunstler: the yeast people (bad language alert)
udo bardi writes about the slow crash of ancient rome.

[28] Localization:
transition towns
vital links to localization resources, permaculture, etc.

[29] Discontinuity of International Trade:
are we entering an age of reverse-globalization?
jeff rubin: why your world Is about to get a whole lot smaller
salon: the peak oil vs. globalization smackdown (from 2006)

[30] Pedestrianism:
new urbanism and the design of walkable towns and cities
the finest bicycle ever made
Car Ownership:
costs of car ownership

[31] Saving Electricity:
michael bluejay – saving electricity

[32] Tackling Debt:
wiki article on simple living
simple living network
choosing voluntary simplicity

[33] Alternatives to Banking:
bankstrike – find alternatives to banks in your area
your financial future: bye-bye, megabank?

[34] Alternatives to Big Box Chain Stores:
big-box toolkit – how to resist big box chain stores

[35] Farmers’ Markets:
find a farmers’ market near you

[36] Alternatives to Lawns:
path to freedom: moving towards self sufficiency on 1/5th of an acre in los angeles
food, not lawns
book link: food, not lawns – convert your lawn into a food garden

[37] Food Preservation:
university of minnesota food preservation guide

[38] Local Currencies:…/printing.own.currency/index.html…/communities-print-own-cur_n_183497.html

[39] Self Sufficiency:
path to freedom (living self sufficiently on 1/5th of an acre in LA).
book: john seymour: the self sufficient life and how to live it
book: where there is no doctor
book: where there is no doctor (free download)
book: where there is no dentist (free download, more up to date than printed version)
book: in the wake – aric mcbay on survival skills and health issues




Some of the major peak oil books, in no particular order. Most of these titles are listed on the site’s store. ( has no commercial connection with these titles or authors):

Dmitri Orlov: Reinventing Collapse
Richard Heinberg: The Party’s Over and Powerdown
James Howard Kunstler: The Long Emergency
John Michael Greer: The Long Descent
Matt Simmons: Twilight in the Desert
Kenneth Deffeyes: When Oil Peaked
David Goodstein: Out of Gas
Robert Hirsch: The Impending World Energy Mess
A larger list of reading material, including lifestyle/survival titles.


Archdruid Report: John Michael Greer, author of “The Long Descent”.
Club Orlov: Dmitri Orlov, auther of “Reinventing Collapse”.
Culture Change: Jan Lundberg, a former oil industry professional.
Richard Heinberg: Richard’s Museletter blog.
Ugo Bardi: teacher of physical chemistry at the University of Florence.

Automatic Earth: Financial news from two collapse-writers.
Chris Martenson: Economy, Energy & the Environment.

Al Bartlett: The ultimate growth lecture.
Selected Articles: More articles by Professor Bartlett.
Dennis Meadows: – Economics and Limits to Growth.
Isaac Asimov: The Last Question.

David Strahan: Another peak oil analyst.
Radio Ecoshock: Alex Smith’s site has a hard-hitting weekly podcast.
Energy Bulletin: Another fine source of peak oil/energy information.
The Oil Drum: A top source for energy news/analysis, now an archive.
Stuart Staniford: Formerly of theoildrum, an excellent source of analysis.

Albert Bates: author of “The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook”.
Ran Prieur: An unconventional and fresh thinker.
Sharon Astyck: A self-sufficient woman, who blogs.
Transition Towns: Local planning for collapse.