Sunday, February 1, 2015

OK....Bunch of assumptions and SWAG, I just trying to lay down some groundwork here

So, my man-crush JMG sez we ought to go back to a 1950's technology level:

Imagine, for a moment, that an industrial nation were to downshift its technological infrastructure to roughly what it was in 1950. That would involve a drastic decrease in energy consumption per capita, both directly—people used a lot less energy of all kinds in 1950—and indirectly—goods and services took much less energy to produce then, too.

The idea has merit, but the numbers I come up with show a different picture

So here is the way that I am thinking about looking at things.

It isn't so much the total amount of oil produced/imported that matters, it is the quantity of oil per capita that matters.

Then, take a peek at this graph:

Data taken from EIA 

So gentle readers, lets make some assumptions for the sake of argument.

First, the assumption that wells will keep pumping. But I post that the import fraction of our consumption will begin to dry up and the fracking will come back on line.  I make some ball park guesses below about the imports available to the US.

Second, the fracking, when it comes back on line will dry up in around 10 years from restart, the phase "squeezing blood from a turnip" is the principle that will drive this.

So I am asking you to go back one page and take a look at how I come up with my S.W.A.G. (scientific wild-ass guess) for US production of oil in 2023.

So, really, what we are looking at is a steady decrease in overall oil supply and a lower oil consumption per capita and a correspondingly lower technology base.

I could run a new spreadsheet to add things together to give you a false impression of precision and accuracy, but when one is throwing together SWAG, that is considered bad form.

SO take the year 2023 (eight years from now) and add the oil production sans fracking and the imports that we will be able to access and you get this

Estimated US Oil Production:  1.5 Billion Barrels
Estimated US Oil Imports:  2.2 Billion Barrels
Total available US Oil:  3.7 Billion Barrels
Estimated US Population:  346 million
Estimated US Oil per capita:  10.69 Barrels

So, going back to JMG.

He posits a 1950's level lifestyle/technology base.  Well in 1955 the US oil consumption per-capita was 16.8 barrels.  In 2013, the oil consumption per capita was 17.5 barrels.

So, if we follow JMG's thoughts, we are looking at a per capita consumption roughly equivalent to 1941 in eight years.

Now, truth be told, there was not a lot of difference in technology between '41 and '55.  So maybe he os on to something.  But the downward slope of the oil curve will continue to be negative.

I am thinking that we maybe ought to be looking at the 1920's instead.


russell1200 said...

JWG is very well read, but he strikes me as only be very deeply read in a few areas. A lot of the rest of his expertise seems to come from being a one-book type of expert. He reads one book on a subject and then he is an export. He once told me that his (ludicrous) idea on the WW2 Eastern Front was O.k. because he was reading Manstein's memoirs.

I have done a lot of electrical work recent work in industrial settings: high tech stuff.

The factories are large, but the actual number of people is small. Yes there are people around but a lot less than you would think for the size of the building. A lot of time your in these huge rooms working and absolutely no one else is around. Some days only the parking lot and the break room confirm that your not their by yourself.

So if you try to take us back to a 1950s industrial economy. What else is everyone else going to do?

Part of the problem is that in addition to our per capita energy usage, we also do an amazing amount of work per capita, and per amount of energy used.

Are you going to go back to huge office buildings filled with secretaries working on manual type writers and adding machines?

It doesn't even make sense.

Degringolade said...


All I was thinking about is the energy use.

What will we do with limited energy is the issue. The factories you speak of may not be possible with a low energy input.

What I am saying is that things will radically change. We will have energy inputs close to what was available in the 1920's.

What will we be doing with high population and low energy inputs?

russell1200 said...

The factory uses less energy directly than a 1950s enterprise. It is the indirect items, hard to peg down, that would make up the difference.

A lot depends on the energy constraints. With enough time, people can move closer to the city center and take mass transportation. Factories would again move back into the city center. That would relieve much of the per capita difference in transportation, which is a major culprit.

I doubt the transition will be that smooth though.