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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Today's Scariest Graph ever


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This is Nate Hagen's graph of the future of net energy returned to us from oil production. The whole volume is the oil we'll get...but the green part is the stuff we actually get to keep after subtracting the energy we used to get it. Sort of like deciding to stop looking at gross sales as an indicator of how well your business is doing, and instead looking at net profits. And discovering your net profits will fall off a cliff in 10 years, and be zero in 14 years.

But that's not net profits. That's our energy supply. The same energy supply we're planning to use to run almost everything we do and ALSO use to build a new, alternative energy supply. Eventually. Except, 14 years from now (or a bit sooner? a bit later?), we won't have much left to do it with.

Read this post and tell me why this net energy curve isn't the number one topic of discussion for anyone who likes Civilization As We Know It. I can't figure it out.

ADDENDUM: A response from Nate Hagens:

People in [the] science community don't like conclusions or speculation not based on data. These are interpretations, based on firm principles but no data. The fact that we cannot afford the price that natural gas drillers need to procure supply in future and that drilling rigs have dropped more than 50% and counting IS concerning people a great deal, but they are more concerned about their own jobs and own companies' prospects. Electricity/diaper shortages in 2014 are so far in the future [as] to not be on folks' front burner.

And most in [the] energy/policy community look at resource - theoildrum and ASPO and others have at least forced the dialogue to go beyond that to flow rates (resource per unit time), but net vs gross is still an esoteric discussion - primarily because it's complicated and has no swift incorporation into a decision. There is still a (rather large?) camp that believes technology is NOT losing [the] battle with depletion and that EROI could increase again in future (certainly for coal). Current break even prices for main 3 fossil fuels would suggest it a great deal sooner than even I originally thought.

The reality is that nat gas and oil will probably have 'fat tails' meaning there will be a sharp drop in production followed by long period of leveling off - EROI will not be too meaningful in this environment because the majority of costs for this oil will have been spent, just lifting and transport remaining. But on NEW oil and gas is where the problem lies. I could write pages and pages on the issues involved, but in a sentence - yes it's scary. Because these decline curves don't occur in a vacuum - real human reactions will accelerate (or hopefully slow) them.


NOTE: Nate & Charlie Hall are continuing work on this issue. Charlie supplies global EROI figures, which are declining over time. See also Charlie's article on the minimum EROI needed to maintain civilization in the HTBAF Essential Articles section.

BONUS: A reply from Charlie to Nate's inquiry about how it's going on coming up with new global EROI figures:

World EROI for oil and gas is calculated but not yet published. It was (roughly) 36:1 in the 1990s dropping to 19:1 in 2006. We have the first draft of our North American gas paper with Murphy/Friese done. I have papers on these things and things related to it in press in BioScience and American Scientist.

The problem with what you say Nate H for gas is that new wells tail off so enormously in first 1 or 2 years.

God protected us by making oil hard to extract. But not gas. So evidence for existence of God from petroleum sector is mixed.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Free Goodie Release from How to Boil a Frog - Viva La Revolucion edition!

Hi all,

The updates have been sparse lately as we work on the rough cut of the How to Boil a Frog movie, but we’re back with the Big Picture overview! As always, the updates are free, but we’re now debuting our HTBAF Bake Sale for those who would like to support the cause and get some yummy virtual cupcakes in return! Follow that delicious smell to!

This week’s mini-interview is with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ross Gelbspan (“The Heat is On” and “Boiling Point”), who talks about a subject very close to our hearts: what’s gonna happen to our kids. A bit of this will be in the movie, but you can hear Ross’ whole thought on the matter exclusively at

Our Essential Book of the Week comes to us from Friend o’ the Frog Andrea Peloso in Toronto. It’s “All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!” by Mel Bartholomew. The most direct path to remembering that Earth is actually our source of life is to grow a bit of your own food, and it’s not a bad backup skill to have in case of alien invasion, global warming, peak oil, or other theoretical possibilities. And Bartholomew’s system radically reduces the amount of soil, water, space, time, and labor needed. In fact, if you genetically modify the radishes, they’ll water the carrots and bring you your slippers! Find links to both the new and used editions at

In keeping with the exponential rate of change in the news, we’re once again replacing all 5 of our Essential Articles with new ones. And since the news is generally less-than-whimsical, we’re starting out with 10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy by Jen Angel. Read this one first and let a smile be your umbrella as you dive into…

Beyond The Bailout: Agenda for a New Economy by David Korten. Korten has long been focused on accounting for stuff not counted in the GDP figures, like fresh water and happiness. He’s the sort of economist Obama might want to consider if the warranty ever runs out on the Clinton/Bush re-treads currently shoveling trillions down the rathole. Check out this article for a 5 part plan to use the current financial crisis to jump to a new and better kind of sustainable economy. Then move on to…

Parched: Australia Faces Collapse as Climate Change Kicks In by Geoffrey Lean & Kathy Marks. The title says it all. If Australia is the canary in the climate mine, we might end up with some empty continents we could lease out when that alien invasion happens. Heck, everything has to be some kind of economic opportunity, right? Next hop back into the solution with…

A 50-Year Farm Bill by Wes Jackson & Wendell Berry. Thanks to FOF Albert Bates down at The Farm in Tennessee for this one – a little reminder that while it might be a little scary not to be able to get the Blackberry Storm before the guy in the next cubicle, there’s still the little matter of making sure we have enough food. And with droughts like the one in Australia adding up to a possible global food shortage this summer, it’s time to start paying attention to Old MacDonald again. But like all issues, growing food is tied up with energy, so finish up with…

Minimum EROI necessary to maintain civilization by Charles A. Hall and his band of Merry Grad Students. As you dig into the peak oil issue, you realize that it doesn’t really matter whether we’re halfway through the oil, or a third, or a quarter, because we’ve used up all the good stuff first – it’s much like digging in the cupboard for a snack after you’ve eaten the Pringles and finding all you’ve got left is 10 boxes of stale Ritz crackers. Globally we’re down to getting back somewhere around 15 barrels of oil for every barrel we use to dig or drill, on the average – down from 100 when we first struck black gold – and much of the new “oil” we’re finding (tar sands and shale oil being somewhat closer to library paste than actual oil) only gives us 4 barrels or even less than the 1 we’re spending. Problem is, we need a certain number of barrels back to maintain our TV-watchin’, drivin’-to-the-store lifestyle…and it’s more than 4. Find out the real number by reading this future-Nobel-winner of an article, along with the others, at

And now that you’re in fighting trim, you’re ready for our most challenging Essential Movie so far! This is actually a series of short videos called The Crash Course, chronicling a series of presentations by Chris Martenson. This is a Triple E (environment/energy/economics) explanation of the Big Picture in a free course with 20 chapters, totaling 3 hours and 23 minutes, but you can watch it in 10 minute chunks. Suggestions would be to either a) set up a laptop in your bathroom so you can learn something new every time you do your business, and/or b) use it as a focus for your own Boiling Frogs study group, a concept sent in to us by FOF Warren C, who’s starting one in his hometown of Whitby, Ontario. Go Whitby! When I say “study group”, of course, I mean a great potluck with the social lubricant(s) of your choice, combining new and old friends, great conversation, live music, and a Hair o’ the Frog that bit you! Check out Martenson’s series at!

While you’re setting all that up, check out our Essential Funny Web Short: the Alien Invasion Advert – maybe this isn’t just a theory after all! (Then…what about global warming and peak oil…?) Short and sweet and available at

We have not one but 2 Essential Links for you this week. The first is a new blog by FOF Tzeporah Berman (of here, there and everywhere) who’s now at PowerUP Canada. PUC (such a Canadian acronym!) is working on turning Canada from a laggard to a leader on stopping climate change – join Tzep in giving the toad a kiss and seeing if we can turn it into RuPaul!

The second Link is to a summary of Donella Meadows’ “Twelve Leverage Points”. Donella (who died a few years ago) was one of three visionary authors who wrote “The Limits to Growth” back in 1972, warning of a coming era of declining resources, bubbling atmosphere and economic difficulties. Huh. Who knew? Donella, her husband Dennis, and co-author Jorgen Randers were all “systems” thinkers, meaning they were more inclined to think about how the thermostat works than bash it with a hammer, when it stops working. In addition to her many other gifts, Donella left behind this wisdom on how to create change in any complex system. A must-read for all you present and future revolutionaries…and I hope that’s all of you! Check out both links at

Lastly, we have a new Essential Visual that’s in perfect tune with “The Limits to Growth” report, which will be updated by Dennis and Jorgen right at the end of the Mayan calendar. (That has to be a coincidence. Really.) It’s a Peak Everything chart, showing when we’ll be running out of this, than and the other thing. Sooner than you think! Check it out at

That’s it for now. As always, we’d appreciate it if you’d forward this email on to at least one person who hasn’t gotten the HTBAF news, and feel free to post comments on the HTBAF Facebook page!

But the main Action of the Week is to read and watch your way through this update! It may seem like a lot, but it’s time better spent than trying to keep up with the Daily Chaos thrown your way by the news media. You’ve got plenty of data – time now to work on understanding the Big Picture…and taking action.


Jon & all his friends at

PS If you’re jonesing for more frequent HTBAF communiques, you can now follow Howtoboilafrog on Twitter! A few sample twits:

SF court splits hairs over gay marriage on anniversary of Dred Scott decision. Perfect. Separate but unequal. Where is Gay Guevara?

The biggest news story of 2011: China owns most of the world's resources. The Shock Doctrine in reverse:

Droughts in all the places we grow food. 2009 is the year to stock up on Twinkies - catastrophe in the oven?

Poppy growers in slump as heroin demand drops. But where will the drug come from when addiction spikes again?

Climate scientists panicked enough to call an emergency meeting in Copenhagen to sound alarm on global warming -

The world is moving too fast even for blogs! Soon: psychic news implants. Program your neurons to HTBAF!