Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel

Rising Diesel Prices Fuel Higher Electric Rates

Posted on April 15, 2011. Filed under: Coal, Economic development, Generation Plants, Jobs, Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel, Renewable energy - generally |

For immediate release
April 15, 2011

More information
RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman

We Energies Customers Will Pay the Higher Cost of Hauling Coal

We Energies’ electricity customers can look forward to coughing up an additional $25 million in 2011 due to the Public Service Commission’s approval yesterday [April14] of a rate increase to cover the escalating cost of transporting coal to Wisconsin power plants.

Milwaukee-based We Energies, Wisconsin’s largest electric utility, imports coal from such distant locations as Wyoming and Pennsylvania to generate electricity. Transportation now accounts for two-thirds of the delivered cost of coal to Wisconsin.

Diesel fuel costs have jumped to approximately $4.00 a gallon this year, propelled by political unrest in the Middle East, declining petroleum output from Mexico, a weakening dollar, and other factors. We Energies’ request predated the ongoing civil war in Libya.

“While we cannot control any of those price drivers, we can more effectively cushion their effects by diversifying our energy generation mix with locally produced wind, solar, small hydro, and biogas electricity,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide organization advocating for public policies and private initiatives that advance renewable energy.

“The coal mines aren’t getting any closer to Wisconsin. Therefore we have to be serious about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels that are tied to the global oil supply picture. Now is not the time to skimp on investments in conservation and renewable energy that will help stabilize the utility bills of businesses and residents,” Vickerman said.

“Do we have the will to pursue energy policies that take us off of the fossil fuel price escalator? Doing nothing will bake these rate increases into our future without any corresponding boost to Wisconsin’s job market and sustainable energy economy.”

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300 years of fossil fuel addiction explained in just FIVE MINUTES!

Posted on December 6, 2010. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

A short humurous video narrated by peak oil guru Richard Heinberg.

Sorry to send you to another site, but WordPress doesn’t allow anyone to post videos unless they pay an annual fee.

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International peak oil speaker in Madison, Sept. 22

Posted on September 21, 2010. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

Building Local Resilience in an Era of Economic Turmoil & Resource Depletion

Wednesday, September 22nd, 7:00 PM
Room 180 Science Hall, 550 N. Park St., Madison

Peak Oil and the implosion of high-leverage finance schemes around the world are converging into a “perfect storm” that may threaten prosperity and social cohesion. The consequences are frightening: “hallucinated wealth” is vanishing, real unemployment is rising, and social unrest is growing amid global tensions over energy resources, water and land. Families and communities should prepare for the challenging times ahead.

A Presentation By
Nicole M. Foss
(a.k.a. “Stoneleigh”)
Energy Industry Consultant and Financial Analyst at

Free and open to the public. Donations welcome.

Sponsored by: Energy Hub, UW Madison WISPIRG/Big Red Go Green,
Madison Peak Oil Group, and Transition Madison Area

Info: or contact Hans Noeldner, 608-444-6190,

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Study: Fossil fuel subsidies are 12 times support for renewables

Posted on August 2, 2010. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel, Renewable energy - generally |

From an article by Alex Morales on

Global subsidies for fossil fuels dwarf support given to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and biofuels, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

Governments last year gave $43 billion to $46 billion of support to renewable energy through tax credits, guaranteed electricity prices known as feed-in tariffs and alternative energy credits, the London-based research group said today in a statement. That compares with the $557 billion that the International Energy Agency last month said was spent to subsidize fossil fuels in 2008.

“One of the reasons the clean energy sector is starved of funding is because mainstream investors worry that renewable energy only works with direct government support,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of New Energy Finance. “This analysis shows that the global direct subsidy for fossil fuels is around ten times the subsidy for renewables.”

Countries from the U.S. and Germany to Brazil and China are trying to boost power derived from crops, the wind and the sun in order to lower emissions of greenhouse gases while increasing the security of energy supplies. The Group of 20 nations a month ago renewed a commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies “over the medium term.” No target date was set.

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The Oil Spill and You

Posted on July 12, 2010. Filed under: Energy Efficiency, Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman:

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
July 12, 2010

About 100 people gathered in downtown Madison in early July to take part in “Hands Across the Sands,” an internationally organized protest against continued oil drilling in and along the world’s coastal waters. Against the backdrop of the weed-choked waters of Lake Monona, they joined hands for 15 minutes to express their fervent desire to see a cleaner, less destructive energy future emerge from the liquid melanoma spreading across the Gulf of Mexico.

No doubt the protestors would like to do more, much more, than simply engage in ritualized protest in front of a few camera crews. But we live in a society that is organized around the expectation of a limitless supply of nonrenewable hydrocarbons feeding concentrated energy into our economic bloodstream. Most of us have not bothered to comprehend the yawning gulf that lies between our best intentions and our abject dependence on the wealth-producing properties of petroleum. Nor how this addiction fills us with delusions of godlike mastery over our environment while blinding us to the reality that we humans have grossly overshot our planet’s carrying capacity.

For those who read and still remember the science fiction classic Dune, the “spice” on Arrakis remains the quintessential literary analogy to the reality of Earth’s oil. Like our oil, the spice held a special place in that world as the ultimate prize worth waging wars and plundering hostile environments for. . . .

Need I mention that once you begin to appreciate the finitude of the Earth’s endowment of petroleum, there’s nothing to stop you from taking immediate steps to curb your personal consumption of this irreplaceable fuel. Whatever you do to lessen your dependence on petroleum will turn out to be a much more satisfying and meaningful response to our energy predicament than any canned protest promoted through Facebook.

As for myself, I made two resolutions since the Macondo well erupted. The first is to go through this summer without activating the household air-conditioner. So far, so good, I can report. (Luckily, we were spared the triple-digit temperature swelterfest that gripped the East Coast last week). It wasn’t that long ago that life without air-conditioning was the norm rather than the exception. If we all resolved not to turn on air-conditioners, we could force the retirement of two to three coal-fired plants in this state.

The other change was to ratchet up my reliance on my bicycle and make it the default vehicle for all my local travels, irrespective of weather conditions. I have been a fair-weather bicycle commuter for many years, but after watching everyone on TV blame someone else for the catastrophe, I felt the need to push myself a little harder. My objective here is to regard my car as a luxury that one day I might do without.

Though the extra perspiration and the occasional dodging of raindrops may take some getting used to, you are going to sleep better at night. Trust me on this.

If the oil spill has prompted a similar response from you, feel free to describe them and send them to the moderator of our Peak Oil blog or post them in a response.

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We have reached a limit to growth, and its name is Peak Oil.

Posted on October 23, 2009. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

From an address by Richard Heinburg to the ASPO International Conference 2009:

As we all know, the global economy began contracting last year—though that’s just a nice, abstract way to put it. Industrial production fell. Corporations downsized or disappeared. Fifty trillion dollars in global capital vaporized in stock market crashes, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and defaults. Millions of people lost employment and housing. Globalization went into reverse.

Also, in 2008 the oil price spiked 50 percent higher, in inflation-adjusted terms, than at any point in previous history. It would be an enormous oversimplification to say that the oil price spike “caused” the world recession, but the fact that the price spike and the economic crisis occurred at the same time is hardly meaningless coincidence.

In effect, we are seeing a vindication of what many of us have been predicting for a long time. Even if it is still technically possible in the next few years for the oil industry to exceed its July 2008 production levels, the world economy has entered a trap from which there is no exit. The oil price that the petroleum industry needs in order to justify developing a new marginal barrel’s worth of production capacity is now nearly as high as the price that is known, on the basis of recent history, to trigger further economic contraction. We have reached a fundamental limit to growth, and its name is Peak Oil.

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U.S. tax breaks subsidize foreign oil production

Posted on October 5, 2009. Filed under: General, Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

From a news release issued by the Environmental Law Institute:

A soon-to-be released study of federal energy subsidies by the Environmental Law Institute, a nonpartisan research and policy organization, shows that the federal government has provided substantially larger subsidies to fossil fuels than to renewables. Subsidies to fossil fuels totaled approximately $72 billion over the seven-year study period, while subsidies for renewable fuels totaled $29 billion over the same period.

The vast majority of subsidies support energy sources that emit high levels of greenhouse gases when used as fuel. Moreover, just a handful of tax breaks make up the largest portion of subsidies for fossil fuels, with the most significant of these, the Foreign Tax Credit, supporting the overseas production of oil. More than half of the subsidies for renewables are attributable to corn-based ethanol, the use of which, while decreasing American reliance on foreign oil, has generated concern about climate effects.

These figures raise the question of whether scarce government funds might be better allocated to move the United States towards a low-carbon economy.

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Revitalizing Ourselves Through Renewable Energy

Posted on June 23, 2009. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

MV speakingFrom a presentation by RENEW’s Michael Vickerman at the Energy Fair of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association:

Energy Policy Must Recognize Energy Realities
+ Supplies of liquid fuels peaked in 2008
+ Capital is disappearing before our very eyes
+ Energy and food are the original currencies
+ The shift from stores to flows is inevitable
+ Current economy is highly energy-intensive
+ Energy return on energy invested (EROEI) must inform decision-making
+ We can’t afford to prop up existing energy sinks or engage in wealth-draining military adventures

Three paths to choose
+ Business as usual
+ Clean green technology
+ Curtailment and community

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World oil production is likely past its peak

Posted on December 4, 2008. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

Oil prices still trending lower, may sink below $50. But as is obvious, what we’re seeing is a blip, not a trend, even if it persists through 2009.

An article by The Oil Drum’s Gail the Actuary is a must-read. No subsector within the energy industry is doing well at the moment.

Here’s the takeaway paragraph:

The net impact of all these issues is that oil production has already started to decline. Plans for future investment have been cut back, so it is likely that oil production will stay low for quite some time. Even if prices should rebound, lack of credit will limit the ability of the oil supply chain to increase production. For these reasons, world oil production is likely past its peak.

Michael Vickerman

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Reducing dependency beyond driving less

Posted on November 20, 2008. Filed under: Peak Oil & the End of Cheap Fossil Fuel |

From blog reader Jayme H. Simões:

Many Americans are wondering what they can do to help the United States to reduce its dependency on foreign oil. The obvious first step is to drive less and turn the thermostat down. But, there are other simple ways that every American can make painless choices that reduce our nation’s dependency on Middle Eastern petroleum.

According to the Chlorophiles Group, plastic manufacturing accounts for more than 4% of world crude oil use. That does not include the energy involved in transporting making plastic from crude-based raw materials.

Here are four simple choices we can make everyday to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and build a stronger America:

1. Pick Paper, not Plastic. We have a choice at the grocery store: a paper bag made from pulp produced in North American, or a plastic bag, possibly based on foreign petroleum. Not only is the paper bag better for the environment, but it helps keep jobs and resources in or country. So, the next time you go shopping, ask for paper.

2. Bottle it! Buy your juices, soft drinks, and beer in cans, glass bottles, or paper cartons, but not plastic. Everybody knows that beer, juice and even milk tastes better in glass. Why support foreign oil producers by buying beverages in a plastic container? Aluminum cans, paper cartons, and glass bottles are made with resources found right here at home. They’re easy to recycle, and help support American industry and jobs. Just say no to plastic bottles.

3. Put a Cork in it! Many Americans are wondering about the plastic corks that they are pulling out of some wines. Their effect on wine over the long term is unknown. And, with no program to recycle them, environmentalists can only imagine the effect of millions of plastic corks in America’s landfills each year. Natural oak corks, meanwhile, breakdown quickly and harmlessly. So, look for a natural cork, and reject any wine or champagne sealed with plastic.

4. Get Together. Next time, you are headed out shopping, going on errand, or heading into town, call a friend, neighbor or co-worker and offer them a ride. The more we share rides, the fewer cars on the road, and the less oil burned. And by spending more time with people and not alone in cars, the stronger our communities will become. At a time of national crisis we need to refocus ourselves on our communities, for there is power in unity.

There are many other things we can all do, but by simply making a choice to use less of petroleum–based products and burning less fuels we can do our part to help our nation find success on the road ahead.

Thanks for the thoughts, Jayme!

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