[Marxism] Re Peak Oil

Rod Holt rholt at planeteria.net
Sat Oct 15 00:53:28 MDT 2005

I do not advocate developing any source of CO2 producing fuels except 
those that are integrated with a sequestering process for CO2 (and there 
are only a few experiments existing). Even there, I advocate the massive 
employment of thorium-based nuclear power under social control 
(excluding the US government, the oil companies, etc.). I made two posts 
on parts of this theses on October 2, 2005.

Heinberg is not a reliable source. People grinding their own axes have 
to be watched, and, if you check his numbers, you'll find problems all 
over the place. For example, check page 121 of "Powerdown" and you'll 
see that the energy cost of extracting syncrude from the tar sands is 
16% if you convert his own numbers to these terms. I.e., convert his 
cubic feet of gas to BTUs and compare to the BTU equivalent of the oil 
produced, you'll quickly see that the process is very attractive--if you 
discount the cost of capital.  His conclusion is that "... the energy 
profit ratio will inevitably be dismal, and the cost of the resulting 
crude will be unattractive. This will remain true regardless of 
increases in the market price of oil." Can his numbers support that? No. 
Capitalists are sensitive to the Profit-to-Capital ratio, and doesn't 
that have something to do with the price of oil? The pilot Alberta 
project was (marginally) profitable when oil was $20/bbl. I don't know 
how much additional investment will be needed to recycle the water and 
for catalytic splitters to produce the light hydocarbons needed. I 
suspect it's a lot. Of course, they'll try to screw the landscape, and 
everything and everybody they can. It takes a social movement to tackle 

Heinberg is unreliable because he reaches conclusions that suit his 
theses even though it contradicts his own numbers.

He lies about Cuba too. I suppose it's alright for a capitalist acedemic 
to do that?
I quote:

    In the late 1980s, farmers in Cuba were highly reliant on cheap
    fuels and petrochemicals imported from the Soviet Union, using more
    agrochemicals per acre than their American counterparts. In 1990, as
    the Soviet empire collapsed, Cuba lost those imports and faced an
    agricultural crisis. The population lost 20 pounds on average and
    malnutrition was nearly universal, especially among young children.
    The Cuban GDP fell by 85 percent ....
    Cuban authorities responded by breaking up large state-owned farms,
    offering land to farming families, and encouraging the formation of
    small agricultural co-ops.
    As a result of these efforts, Cuba was able to avoid what might
    otherwise have been a severe famine. Today the nation is changing
    from an industrial to an agrarian society.

The facts are quite different. In 1990, the social product fell by 3.1%, 
in 1991, by 25%, by 1992, by 14%. Cuba got 95% of its promised petroleum 
products in 1990, and later years were similar. The state farms were NOT 
broken up. If the average Cuban lost 20 lbs, (Where this number came 
from and why Heinberg thinks this is a sign of virtual famine is a 
mystery to me!) the health of all would be improved--except for 
children. The crisis for Cuba was not predominately agricultural or 
energy-related alone. The fact was that Cuba had 85% of its trade with 
the COMICON states. When they lost that trade, they ran out of hard 
currencies. It's a short trip from there to a total breakdown. Revising 
agricultural techniques reduced the need for oil and oil-based products, 
which conserved hard currency. Anyhow, Heinberg is just pulling stuff 
out of the air. If he does it here, when it is so obvious to us that 
it's a lie, then don't we have to watch him elsewhere?

The source, by the way is the same as quoted by Louis and by me before. 
Heinberg used the same speech/paper several times. It's all over the 

Jon Flanders wrote:

>On Fri, 2005-10-14 at 20:19 -0700, Rod Holt wrote:
>>I simply stated that Richard Heinberg was 
>>the source of Louis's quote and I thought Heinberg was not a reliable 
>>source. Most of what he says about agriculture is correct.
>Heinberg is not a marxist. Agreed. Therefore his solutions do not
>include proletarian revolution.
>But as a source of facts about the energy problem, he is quite good,[snip]
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