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May 05, 2006


Dimitar Vesselinov

The Day of the Oslo Warning

See also:

Brad Hutchings

Got here from Guy Kawasaki's blog... I think you could use a primer on oil economics. Arnold Kling's Oil Econ 101 { } is a good place to start. Also, remember that as the price of oil increases and stays above certain ceilings, more expensive oil reserves become profitable to develop. Conversion of vehicles to CNG or nuclear/wind/solar powered electric become economical. The most important thing to understand about Americans is that 85% of us will drive and fly and continue to get around, regardless of cost. We will find a way. If it means developing fuel from the freshly decomposing bodies of teenage Elbonians (note: Elbonia is a fictional country from the Dilbert comic strip), line 'em up.

Finally, Ted Balaker { } is a leading expert on economics of telecommuting, outsourcing, etc. This isn't something for our kids to get comfortable with by playing WoW. It's permeating our lives now, and in a very positive way.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Dimitar and Brad

Welcome to our blogsite and thank you for the comments.

I sense that we're in agreement (definitely Dimitar with you, but I believe also with you Brad, judging by the links you provided?)

Brad - about the American love with the automobile. I hear you, and I am sure they will prolong that love-affair as long as possible (considering petroleum based fuels). Also I am equally confident in the American ingenuity to invent and perfect new technologies to power personal transportation, so that the automobile may live to be powered by other means (other than gasoline). Remember that in 1900 the predominant form of car power was not gasoline - the majority of the first cars were powered by steam. So that kind of transition has already happened once.

Also in the interim there will by various stop-gap measures. Yes, as the price of oil shoots up, many oilfields that are currently too expensive to explore, become economically viable. And also, we will see all kinds of synthetics added as additives - and perhaps some day even replacing fossil fuels.

But these expectations do not diminsh the fundamental point in my posting - that the actual peak for oil production will happen in our (worktime) lifetimes, ie before we retire. After the peak in oil production - meaning that after the point has occurred, after which every subsequent year there will be LESS oil produced than before - then no matter what the alternatives are in the near term - all oil and derivatives based fuel consumption will become incredibly expensive.

The point is that after the point of the peak, the traditional expectation of inflation - that prices are a little bit more expensive every year - will totally be overtaken by the sudden, explosive growth in oil prices. The alternatives will require shipment and storage systems - which do not exist today and thus have to be built and maintained - at a cost - plus even more importantly, the transportation will need to be CONVERTED to consume the new energy sources. If we add alcohol to petroleum - like they do in Brazil - it will require changes to the engine else the engines wear out (I don't know, they "rust" or something?) And so forth.

So my point being - that after the peak in oil production, the cost of oil and its derivatives will suddenly start to shoot up, at a much faster rate than inflation.

Part of the "demands" for petroleum fuels will be from sustaining life - ie transporting food etc - and these will take precedence over regular work activities (commuting) which in term will take precedence over leisure activities (travel) which in turn will take precedence over entertainment (car racing).

The last three of the above can be done in a very large degree with virtual environments, tools and experiences already today - and the youngest among us - the under 20 year olds, regularly already do so. So about the time when the oil peak hits, this young generation will be the biggest money-earners in society, being married, with kids, well-paying jobs, a lot of experiences and desires, and suddenly the oil peak hits. They will still want to enjoy the interests they had, and they will need to work - but many of the assumptions we have today will have changed.

And yes, I am also the eternal optimist - hoping that we'll discover ever-bountiful energy sources - perhaps there is some nuclear fuel in droppings of those rather intelligent pigs over at Elbonia, in Dilbert's cartoons, ha-ha...

Thank you for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Martin Geddes

I had a few musings over at on trying to understand the couplings between travel and information goods, as I wasn't convinced by Andrew Odlyzko's argument that they were alwats complementary goods.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Martin

Thanks for stopping by. I came to your blogsite and read the long thought-provoking posting of yours (and the comments already there) and posted my reply there.

Here for our readers - first, Martin's is a great piece, please go read it. Secondly, its interesting to keep in mind, that while there is likely to be a negative correlation with increased costs of travel and reduced costs of telecoms (creating a cannibalization), there is also a counterbalancing effect of more communication due to proximity. So whenever we have more travel, we also get more communication.

Until these have been well researched, its impossible to predict which will be the dominant force (and there may be other forces also that come to play).

Thanks Martin for visiting and commenting !!

Tomi Ahonen :-)


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