re Jose's remarks

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Sun Jun 11 21:09:29 MDT 2000


    Probably most top climatologists would say they suspect the
frequency/intensity of el niño is tied into CO2 forced global climate change
but will readily admit they do not know how.

    Your discussion of the oil "peaking" is very interesting, and makes
sense. I have, of course, some doubts about your timetable, but that we're
at or close to the peak potential daily production makes sense. Two things
will I think ameliorate this somewhat, one being that certain political,
social and economic factors "artificially" so to speak limit production in
some places (or viewed another way, given the right price, there's a 5 or 10
percent increase in output to be had from the wells: less downtime for
maintenance, and so on); second, there are new discoveries that apparently
are fairly significant out in the Caspian Sea or something and, depending on
the size, its rising curve would tend to counteract some of the downward
pressure, as will the sudden rediscovery of all the good aspects of the
Iraqi and other oil producing regimes that are currently on the "outs".

    But on crude oil, as opposed to fossil fuels as a whole, I think the
*tendency*  you point to is undoubtedly correct.

    That is why, I believe, the big auto manufacturers have their
hyper-efficient (by today's standards) hybrid vehicles pretty much ready to
go, if I understand correctly. I do believe the capitalists have the
capacity to adapt (to a certain degree), and I have now doubt about their
capacity to make Suburban Assault Vehicles or whatever they're called
extremely UNattractice overnight to the American population. The "need" for
speed, size, armor plating, etc. etc. etc. has been quite deliberately and
systematically MANUFACTURED. It will be all the easier because, for once,
what the adverts are saying will make some kind of sense.

    So I think the capitalists can, probably not without significant
disruption, adapt to the new circumstances. I *suspect* you believe this
also insofar as crude itself is concerned; which is why you insist on
arguing that you can't simply substitute coal for oil. That part of your
argument I don't follow at all.

    Obviously, things like turning coal into a liquid fuel are non-starters,
but it seems to me in a LOT of applications coal and oil can easily trade
places over time, basically in electricity generating and heating
applications. (I'm kind of including natural gas in the "oil" here since I
do believe that in a good number of transport applications, especially fleet
operations, oil and gas could be made to be interchangeable. So gas would
replace gasoline & diesel; coal would replace a number of gas applications.
Prices would rise but, at least in the U.S., this impact would be greatly
ameliorated over time by doubling, tripling or quadrupling the "energy
efficiency" of vehicles, heating and cooling, and so on. Builders today in
the U.S., for example, no longer place great stress on the energy efficiency
of a home. But it can make a TREMENDOUS difference in energy consumption.

    Heatpump and heatpump/baseboard systems which are completely electrical
(and thus easily converted to being coal-driven) are quite sufficient along
much of the eastern seaboard and thoughout the south, provided dwellings are
built right.

    So I was intrigued by your comment that as oil prices rise, coal becomes
non-competitive, and at $100/barrel, you might as well leave it in the
ground. This is so utterly counter-intuitive that I assume you have some
sort of explanation for it, which I'm dying to hear.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark Jones" <jones118 at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Saturday, June 10, 2000 5:58 AM
Subject: RE: re Jose's remarks

Jose G. Perez wrote:
>     You asserted quite flatly that el Niño was a "global-warming event."

Don't forget we've gone round the course a few times before on this list; I
think must of us know by now that El Nino is a very old phenomenon, known to
generations of fishermen as its name implies (the Christ-child; it comes
around Xmas time). It's what's happened to it that's a GW event, but I guess
you don't accept even that. The evidence about the intensification of El
Nino events and the increasing frequency of them is as clear as anything can
be in the world of climatology - try to find me a serious and/or well-known,
authoritative scientist who is prepared to flatly state that GW has nothing
to do with enhanced El Ninos and I'll find you 20 who say the opposite. But
you won't find even one, except perhaps Fred Singer.

>     Then you quote the statement about how a rise of 2-7 degrees
> centigrade
> in temperature would be bigger change than anything scientists are able to
> document following the end of the last ice age, a statement to which, for
> reasons I can't fathom, you attach tremendous importance. I suggest you
> re-read it. It does not say such a change WILL happen; it says IF it does
> happen it would be a big change.

Well, that statement was from the NOAA, and the point about it, as they make
abundantly clear and as everyone does who comments, such extremely large
AVERAGE temperature swings indicate extreme climate volatility. You seem to
think that this is a game of chance where a specific outcome like say
rolling a six may happen or may not; but the whole point is that the
probability of such unprecedented average temp increases is so high it
borders on certainty. Repeating , 'yeah but iy may not happen' like a matra
doesn't help. Sunday may not happen but I'm guessing it will.

>     As for priesthoods and so forth and so on, you are quite wide of the
> mark. The scientists involved in these research projects, as far as I've
> been able to determine, are not ideologues but people devoted to
> dispassionate scientific investigation as best they understand
> it.

Look, I've taken the trouble to make contact with some of these scientists
and even met them, both here and in the states, and all of them without
exception that I've met are MUCH more worried than they are able to say in
their published materials (sometimes it's not worry, it's plain fear), about
what's happening to the climate. They simply are not able to say what they
think in peer-reviewed articles and reports. Make the same effort yourself,
meet some or email some and you'll see what I mean. They mostly work for big
government institutions and big govt does have a quite different agenda: to
minimise or even deny the immediacy of the threat posed by GW. The conflict
is between the powerful people in govt behind outfits like the NOAA or the
Planck Institute or Hadley Centre, and the scientists on the front line of
research. I'd say this is a class divide, and one where scientists are
increasingly not prepared to water down or dilute their message; but at the
same time they are bound by their own methods and the peer-review process
and by their positon as career-scientists  to make no statements which are
not strictly within the limits of their findings.

>    It is a mistake to view this material as some sort of  politicized
> "report" by the NOAA or NASA or anything else like that.

Of course it's all politicised: Nasa in particular has been doing
contortions about it's remarkable remote sensing work for years now, because
on the one hand it gives them something to shout about (the satellite
techology is amazing)  when many people think they should be shut down, but
on the other hand they can't sound too strong about the dangers of GW
either, because they are a part of the Pentagon, the military-industrial
complex which has created the problem.

Jose, you go onto comment about the alleged 95% fossil fuel still 'in the
ground'. Our discussion about oil reserves and what reserves in general mean
is obviously at a preliminary stage. Believe me, it won't only be your
friend who is unable to shed much light. Nevertheless there is much light
which can be shed, and I suggest you for example read as much of Colin
Campbell as you can find, there's lots at, or,
there is a Laherrere paper archived at the Crashlist site (go to
and look in the Files) and there are plenty of others who disagree and are
more optimistic like industry guru Daniel Yergin who just reported at length
to the Congress his more upbeat assessment of prices/reserves (see, I try to
be objective). Check out the Simmons url I gave you:

This is a 5-minute read, but worth reading to the end, by a really well
respected Houston oil man.

But the long and short of the history of Big Oil is this: there was around
2000 gb of conventional recoverable oil in the ground when the oil industry
began. We've about used half. The oil is found in many reservoirs, some big,
some small, but they all deplete in the same way: production rises until the
halfway point (ie half the oil in situ has been pumped out) and then
production declines in line with reserves. This means you can't keep
increasing the output regardless of the state of remaining reserves. There
are geological resons why production for any given field looks like a curve
which rises to a peak and then declines. At the begiining, there is no
production and all the producable reserves are intact; at the end there is
also no production, and no more producable reserves left. Now it i's
possible  (and all the oil corps and govts do this) to model the entire
global reserve as if it were one big oil field, and to model the whole
history of Big Oil as a rising curve, which at some point will peak and
beyond that point, depletion will go hand in hand  with falling production.
Thus, at the mid-point half the recoverable oil will still be left in the
ground -- but production will stall to fall, this is irreversible,
unavoidable and is to do with the physics of oil reservoirs. Campbell and
others argue that world oil production will peak before the year 2005 and
may already have peaked. Thus, from now on world production will begin a
decline; therre may be small spikes up and down within it, there may be
plateaus followed by accelerated declines, but in the end the actual spikes
and troughs will all map onto a curve.

Given the facts about energy and world dependency on oil, this means that
(a) any hope of material development and industrialisation happening in
non-metropolitan countries - ie pretty much everywhere outside EuroAmerica
and Japan, is pure illusion. Economies will decline (as many already are).
Development is a myth. (b) nothing can prevent future oil shocks and they
will be much more severe than 1973. (c) unless some new technology can be
found to replace oil, capitalism cannot avoid the worst slump and general
crisis in its entire history. There are plenty of alternatives, fission and
fusion nuclear, hydrogen, methanol, photovoltaics, windpower, geothermals,
hydropower - but all have crippling drawbacks, or are just never gonna
happen anyhow. None of the alternatives have oil's specific
characteristics -ease of use, high caloric content, high net energy (it
costs a barrel of oil to produce just over a barrel of ethanol form biomass,
but a barrel of oil invested in oil production will produce 20 more barrels
of oil - this is a hugey critical equation for capitalism as a whole). Oil
has fungibility, is good for transport, good feedstock for agriculture,
industry etc etc.

Coal is a separate and a very interesting issue. But the bottom line of coal
is this (you ain't gonna like it, I know): if oil prices reach $100 a barrel
plus, then it will not be efficient to extract coal, and a ton of coal will
contain almost no net energy. You won't agree with this, I'm sure, but we'll
talk more, I hope. The US coal industry will never become the basis for
capitalist production again, and will probably decline within 40 years. By
that time there will hardly be a tree left standing anywhere, of course.

>     As for their being a more specific crude oil shortage, it seems to me
> you miss the main point, which is that the "shortage" in the 70's and the
> situation today is a function of a fight by third world countries
> to obtain
> better terms of trade, not of some lack of crude in the ground or
> a huge gap
> in the installed capacity to extract and refine it.

They like to tell us this, but it is not so. Of course, the physical
production of oil occurs withion a geopolitical conjuncture and that can
'dramatise' an underlying reality the way the Opec actions dramatised oil
shortages in the early 70s. But the underlying reality was that US oil
production reached its Hubbert peak in the early 1970s and has been
declining rapidly ever since; what saved capitalism then was the lucky
chance of finding large new non-Opec reserves, in the N Sea and elsewhere.
These gigantic reserves have been depeleted by 80% in less than 30 years -
one adult lifetime. And that is why it's become an issue again.


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