Saturday, April 6, 2013

Post Peak Oil Economic and Population Scenarios: Part 6 a Mid-Stage Global Export Mitigation strategy

Last time, in Part 5 of this series, I looked at the consequences of what I characterized as “late-stage” global export mitigation.  Late-stage global export mitigation is defined as the time when the different global regions considered in this series start cutting back on their exports as they reach a critical level of 1 barrel of petroleum per person per year (1 b/py). 
As already explained I estimate that 1 b/py is what is would be needed to sustain a petroleum-driven food production/distribution system, and, drop below this level is assumed here to cause a proportional drop in population. 
Mitigating exports from one region in this fashion has a corresponding effect of reducing imports to one or more of the other eight regions, depending on the export trend existing between the mitigating exporting region and the importing region.  In turn, a reduction in imports causes the petroleum consumption rate of the importing region to be reduced, and, if the reduction is large enough to cause that region to drop below 1 b/py, then that importing region will start to cut, or mitigate, its exports to help stay at the critical 1 b/py level for as long as possible. 
In other words, the export/import interaction between each of the regions has to be considered when the same global export mitigation scenario is assumed to be applied by each region.
As shown in Part 5, late stage export mitigation strategy mainly affected four regions:  FS, AF, rAP and JP.  Export mitigation did help AF and FS delay, by several years, the year when their per capita consumption dropped below the critical level.  However, at least for AF, there were also negative consequences, because AF gets some small amount of petroleum imports from rAP, and so, when rAP started to mitigate its exports in 2033 this caused AF’s per capita consumption rate to drop more steeply than if rAP was not mitigating exports.  Similarly, JP’s and rAP’s per capita consumption rates drop more steeply when a globally applied late stage export mitigation strategy is considered.  Even EU’s per capita consumption and population was slightly affected by late stage mitigation.  Starting in 2039, EU per capita petroleum consumption rate dipped below 1 b/py, which in turn, is predicted to cause a population decline in the 2040s.
As I also mentioned at the end Part 5, I considered late stage mitigation a realistic scenario because I don’t expect that the various regions would start to mitigate exports until being on the brink of starvation.  That’s just the way humans are. 

However, I have to acknowledge that it is plausible for some form of earlier, global “mid-stage” mitigation strategy to be employed.  This post describes my analysis of such a strategy. 

Analysis Considerations
In this analysis mid-stage global export mitigation is defined as each region engaging in export mitigation as that region drops to a per capita petroleum consumption rate of 2 b/py. 
Why 2 b/py? 
Well, the world’s present per capita petroleum consumption rate is slightly higher than 4 b/py (i.e., about 31 bby consumed by about 7 billion people), so 2 b/py represents globally about the half-way point down from the present consumption rate.  The limit of 2 b/py also corresponds to double my estimated critical per capita consumption level, so this give us a good opportunity to see what might happen if these regions were to wake up and act in their own self-interest seemly well before being on the brink of starvation.
The analysis steps performed here are the same as done in part 5, except that now the mitigation point starts at 2 b/py, instead of 1 b/py.  As done throughout this series (and the PIE analysis series before it) consumption rate is calculated as the sum of domestic production rate plus import rate minus export rate. 
If a region’s per capita consumption rate drops to 2 b/py, that region is assumed to reduce its export rate for as long as possible to keep the per capita consumption rate at 2 b/py.  When 2 b/py can no longer be sustained due to export mitigation, it means that the region has stopped exporting entirely.  At this point, the region’s consumption rate is equal to the sum of its domestic production plus any remaining imports.  When a region drops below the critical level of 1 b/py I assume that the population will start to decline proportionally (i.e., so as to keep per capita consumption at 1 b/py for the remaining population).
As done in Part 5, when a region starts to mitigate its exports, I calculated the region’s exports to each of the other regions assuming a proportional reduction in exports to all of the other regions as compared to that predicted export from my PIE analysis in the previous series (starting here at Part 1). 
Additionally, as also done in Part 5, I performed this analysis so as to account for the export/import interactions between each of the regions. 
However, accounting for these interactions was much harder to do for the present mid-stage export mitigation scenario than it was for the late-stage export mitigation scenario considered in Part 5.  For instance, for the late-stage scenario, five of the nine regions never reached 1 b/py within the study period, and the four that did, had relatively small export/import interactions with each other and the other regions, although as explained above there was an effect on EU.
For the present mid-stage export mitigation scenario, the interactions between the regions are much more extensive and complicated than for the late-stage export mitigation scenario.  For instance now six of the nine regions drop to 2 b/py, and two of these, EU and CH, rely heavily on exports from, but also export to, the other regions.  Even two of the nine regions that don’t drop to 2 b/py, NA and SA, are affected because these regions also at least partly rely on petroleum imports for their consumption. 
Consequently, it was necessary to perform multiple iterations to get a reasonable estimate of the export/import interaction between the nine regions. 
If you are only interested in the results of this analysis, I would just skip the next paragraph, which is more of my note-to-self, describing how I did this iterative analysis.
Since AF’s per capita consumption rate is already well below 1 b/py, I assumed that this region would not fully cut its exports in an effort to drive per capita consumption up towards 2 b/py.  Therefore as a seed value, I used the per capita consumption rates for each of the regions considered in the global late-stage mitigation scenario, so that the export mitigation for AF would be considered from the beginning.    In the first iteration round, for the other eight regions, using the late stage consumption rate as the starting value, I calculated the per capita consumption rate and to determine the year where 2 b/py was reach, if ever, during the study period.  When a region reached 2 b/py, the first iteration total export rate mitigation, if needed, to keep per capita consumption equal to 2 was calculated.  Based on this mitigated total export rate, if applicable, the first iteration proportionally reduced export rate to each of the other eight regions was calculated.  After determining the first iteration proportional reduced export rate for all 9 regions, the first iteration mitigation import rates was applied to all of the regions as appropriate.  That is, the proportionally mitigated export rate calculated for each region was applied as a mitigated import value to the other regions.  This included mitigated import rates to AF assuming late stage mitigation.  Next, the second iteration consumption rate for each region was calculated as the sum of the domestic production rate minus the first iteration mitigated export rate plus the first iteration mitigated import rate.  Next, the second iteration consumption rate was used to calculate the second iteration per capita consumption rate, this value was used to re-estimate the year when export mitigation would occur in the study period.  For regions dropping to 2 b/py, second iteration total export rate mitigation, if needed, to keep per capita consumption equal to 2 b/py was then calculated.  Next the second iteration proportionally reduced export rate to each of the other eight regions was calculated for all 9 regions.  Then the second iteration mitigation import rate for each of the nine regions was applied to all of the regions.  The third iteration consumption rate for each region was calculated as the sum of the domestic production rate minus the second iteration mitigated export rate plus the second iteration mitigated import rate.  I stopped at this iteration because the per capita consumption rate, using the third iteration consumption rate, was generally less than 5% percent different than the per capita consumption rate, using the second iteration consumption rate, for all regions and all years in the study period to 2065.
As there are multiple export/import interactions going on in this scenario, it was not obvious, to me anyways, how the mid-stage mitigation scenario would affect the per capita consumption rate and population change for the nine regions. 
By way of review and comparison, I have shown the per capita consumption rate and population data for all nine regions even if they not affected by mid-stage export mitigation.
In the summary to follow, while I talk about export mitigation, I just show the resulting per capita consumption rate, and the population reduction consequences, if any.  The solid purple and blue lines show these results for the present study
The per capita consumption rate and population rates scenarios based upon my original analysis assuming no mitigation (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), and upon the late stage global mitigation analysis (Part 5) are shown as dashed lines. 
Assessing a Mid-Stage Global Export Mitigation Strategy
Middle East (ME)
Figure 36 shows the ME’s per capita petroleum consumption and population trends with the global mid-stage petroleum export mitigation strategy in effect.  
If this looks familiar to you, it is because it is the same as Figure 27 from part 5. 
Just as in  the late-stage mitigation scenario, mid-stage mitigation has no effect on ME, because ME does not get any substantial petroleum imports from any region. 
ME’s per capita consumption rate is governed by its predicted production and export rates, and the population growth rate predicted by the US census bureau.  It is only in the final year of my study period, 2065 (red circle), that ME’s per capita consumption drops below 2 b/py.  In principle this could cause ME to start mitigating its exports.  But, as already discussed in Part 2 (Figure 3) of my past PIE analysis series, ME is already on a declining export trend, which if continued, then all exports from ME will end anyways in the mid 2050s.   Consequently, dropping below the 2 b/py mid-stage limit in 2065 is a moot point for ME as far as exports are concerned.
Former Soviet Union (FS)
Figure 37 shows the FS’s per capita petroleum consumption and population trends with the global mid-stage petroleum export mitigation strategy in effect.  
As illustrated, FS drops below 2 b/py in 2020, and from this point on until 2037, FS engages in export mitigation to keep the domestic per capita consumption at 2 b/py until the export rate drop to zero.  After 2037, the per capita consumption rate decline to below 1 b/py in 2042, resulting in a population crash down to the year 1900 population level of 121 million by 2048. 
At first it may seem surprising  that, despite engaging in mid-stage export mitigation as early as 2020, FS still has a population crash in 2042, the same year as predicted under the late stage mitigation strategy discussed in Part 5. 
This is because FS get substantially no imports from other regions, and therefore, it’s per capita consumption rate is governed by its domestic production rate minus the export rate, if any with mitigation in place.  Consequently, above the critical level of 1 b/py, it doesn’t really matter whether FS’s petroleum is consumed domestically or shipped abroad, and, when the production rate drops below 1 b/py, the predicted population decline begins. 
But, from the standpoint of domestic standard-of-living, it would matter greatly to the people of FS whether they are consuming at a per capita rate of 2 b/py from 2020 to 2037 as predicted here for mid-stage mitigation, versus, 1 b/py starting in 2023, as  predicted in Part 5 for late-stage mitigation.
Africa (AF)
Figure 38 shows AF’s per capita petroleum consumption and population trends with the global mid-stage petroleum export mitigation strategy in effect.  
As already discussed in this analysis, since AF is already at about 1 b/py, I have assumed that AF just engages in late-stage mitigation, starting 2011, and continues export mitigation as long as possible to stay as 1 b/py.
However, global mid-stage mitigation still has an affect on AF, because AF does import about 0.4 bby from other regions.  A substantial portion of those imports come from EU (0.14 bby in 2011) and from rAP (0.037 bby in 2011).  The bulk of the remaining imports are from ME, with small amounts of imports from CN and FS. 
Consequently, when rAP and EU start their mid-stage mitigation in 2011 and 2028, respectively, and then totally end their exports a few years later, in 2015 and 2030, respectively, AF’s imports are detrimentally affected.  This, in turn, is predicted to cause AF to cut its exports more steeply to keep per capita consumption at 1 b/py.   This also causes AF’s per capita consumption to drop more steeply and deeply once AF’s export mitigation strategy is exhausted in 2020 and AF stops exporting altogether.
The consequence of this is that AF’s predicted population decline is steeper than predicted assuming the global late-stage mitigation.  For instance, with global mid-stage mitigation AF population in projected to crash down from 1.26 billion in 2020 to its pre-petroleum era population of 141 million in 2032, instead of in 2033 with global late stage mitigation, or instead of 2037 with the “solo” late stage export mitigation.  But still this is much better than the population crash predicted to start about now under the no mitigation scenario in Part 1.
South America (SA)
Figure 39 shows SA’s per capita petroleum consumption and population trends with the global mid-stage petroleum export mitigation strategy in effect.  
As illustrated SA drops very close to 2 b/py in about 2055, but then, based on the prediction of continuing increasing imports from NA, SA’s per capita consumption rate starts to rise again.  
Of course because the per capita consumption rate is well above 1 b/py, SA is not predicted to suffer any form of population crash, but instead, just follow the US census bureau’s predicted population increase until reaching a plateau of 632 million in 2060 and declining thereafter.
Like AF, SA is a presently a net exporter of petroleum, but, it still receives a significant amount of imports from the other regions.  For instance in 2011, SA received about 0.6 bb of petroleum imports, with slightly half coming from NA.  However there are still substantial imports coming from AF, CN, EU.  FS was already projected to end all exports to SA in about 2010 even without mid or late stage mitigation.  According to my PIE analysis, the trend is for SA’s imports to increase, mainly from NA and CN. 
The steeper decline in SA’s per capita consumption from 2012 to the early 2020s in Figure 37 mainly reflects rAP’s engaging in mid-stage export mitigation in 2011 and AF’s steeper export mitigation from 2011 and onwards, due to its receiving less imports from the other regions.  Likewise, reduced exports causes CN to engage in mid-stage export mitigation starting in 2034, and this in turn cause CN to export less petroleum to SA (as well as several other regions include rAP).
Now perhaps you start to see how this global mid-stage mitigation strategy causes feed-back loops that can cause some regions to experience additional declines in per capita consumption compared to late stage mitigation or the no mitigation strategies.
For instance, for SA, with global mid-stage mitigation, by 2020 per capita consumption is predicted to drop to 3.56 b/py, whereas with global late-stage mitigation the predicted per capita consumption rate was 3.69 b/py, and, with no mitigation, 3.77 b/py. 
Continuing into the 2030s and 40s, with global mid-stage mitigation, SA’s per capita consumption drops even more steeply, mainly due to declining imports of petroleum from CN and EU under this scenario.  For instance, instead of steadily increasing imports for CN, under this scenario CN’s imports peak and start to go down after 2033, and, imports from EU end entirely in 2030.
Subsequently, by 2050, SA’s per capita consumption is down to 2.21 b/py.  In comparison, at this point with late-late mitigation, per capita consumption was predicted to be 2.48 b/py, and, with no mitigation, 2.53 b/py.  In other words, roughly 9 to 14% steeper declines in per capita consumption with mid stage mitigation for this net exporter region, with the assumption of correspondingly more negative economic effects on the region.
Of course, the countries of SA could decide to compensate that by mitigating their own exports, but, that is not part of the present scenario’s assumption (i.e., no mitigating until reaching 2 b/py).   
North America (NA)
Figure 40 shows NA’s per capita petroleum consumption and population trends with the global mid-stage petroleum export mitigation strategy in effect.  
Once again, similar to the late-stage mitigation strategy explored in Part 5,  mid-stage global export mitigation strategy doesn’t have much effect on per capita consumption, and the population trend is unaffected as per capita consumption stays well above 1 b/py.
The main difference from late-stage or no mitigation is that NA’s per capita declines more steeply from 2011 to 2021.  This is mainly reflecting the steeper export mitigation by AF and FS as they start to mitigate more steeply in 2011 and 2020, respectively.  There are also small losses in imports from rAP, EP and JP as these regions start to mitigate in 2011, 2028 and 2030, respectively. 
For instance, with mid-stage mitigation per capita consumption in 2020 and 2030 are 12.05 and 8.63 b/py, respectively.  This compares to 12.72 and 8.97 b/py, respectively, with no mitigation, and, 12.17 and 8.81 b/py, respectively, with late-stage mitigation.  That is, at most there is a 4 to 5% steeper decline in per capita consumption, with corresponding more negative economic effects as compared to the late-stage, or the no-mitigation scenarios.
Under this scenario because the existing export trends is for ME and SA to stop exporting to NA by 2027 and 2045, respectively and because all of the other regions, including AF, rAP, EU and JP, stop exporting before the end of the 2030s, all imports to NA are predicted to end by 2045.
European Region (EU)
Figure 41 shows EU’s per capita petroleum consumption and population trends with the global mid-stage petroleum export mitigation strategy in effect.  
AF’s steeper export mitigation through the 2010s and FS’s export mitigation starting in 2020 with no exports by 2037 is the main cause of the steeper per capita consumption, although export mitigation by rAP in the 2010s also has a small negative effect. 
EU starts its own export mitigation in 2028.  As noted above, this is part of the feedback that causes AF’s population to drop more steeply in the late 2020s.  EU’s export mitigation also contributes to the steep per capita consumption rate declines in NA and SA, as discussed above, as well as rAP’s and CN’s as discussed below.
However, even EU’s own export mitigation in 2028 with complete cessation of exports in 2030, is not enough to counter-act the global effects of mid-stage export mitigation.  Consequently, EU drops below the 1 b/py critical level in 2036. 
The subsequent predicted population decline is longer and steeper then predicted under the late-stage mitigation scenario.  EU’s population drops from a predicted level of about 595 million in 2035 down to 503 million in 2055, before slightly recovering, on the promise of the long slow increasing export trend from NA to EU.  Under this scenario by 2050, about 80% of EU’s petroleum consumption is due to imports from NA with another 19% from SA and 1 % from CH, with substantially no domestic production. 
In comparison, under the late stage mitigation scenario, EU’s population was not predicted to crash until 2039, but then after 2042, its population slowly came back on the strength of continuing increasing imports from NA, SA and CH.  However with global mid-stage mitigation CH starts to cut its exports in 2034.
Japan (JP)
Figure 42 shows JP’s per capita petroleum consumption and population trends with the global mid-stage petroleum export mitigation strategy in effect.  
Similar to past scenarios, the effect of the global mid-stage mitigation scenario on JP is not dramatic because JP gets most of its petroleum from ME, and the lesser export suppliers, NA and SA, are not mitigating their exports under this scenario. 
However, AF’s steep export mitigation and rAP’s and FA mitigation starting in 2011 and 2020 and cessation of exports in 2014 and 2037 do cause JP per capita consumption to decline more steeply in the 2010s and 2020s.  Adding to the decline are EU’s mitigation in 2028.  CN’s mid-stage mitigation starting in 2034 has no effect on JP because CN’s current export trend indicates that exports from CN to JP substantially ended in 2011. 
JP starts its own mid-stage export mitigation in 2030 and stops exporting altogether by 2033, mainly to the determent of rAP and CN with much smaller effects on NA, EU and SA. 
JP’s population crash starts in 2038, one year earlier than predicted under the late-stage mitigation strategy, and two years earlier than under the no-mitigation strategy.   The population drop from 107 million in 2037 to 72 million 2042 is slightly steeper than under the late-stage mitigation strategy, and, once again it is mainly the prediction of imports from NA that prevents a steeper decline. 
The remaining Asia-Pacific region (rAP)
Figure 43 shows rAP’s per capita petroleum consumption and population trends with the global mid-stage petroleum export mitigation strategy in effect.  
As with JP, rAP presently gets the bulk of its petroleum imports from ME, and therefore, we might not expect dramatic effects, although Figure 42 suggests that, over the longer term, under this scenario there are even more prominent effects than seen for JP and EU. 
Per capita consumption is already at 2 b/py and so mid-stage mitigation starts immediately.  But with its large population and relatively smaller domestic production, export mitigation is exhausted by 2015 when rAP stops exporting altogether. 
Mid-stage export mitigation by EU (2028), JP (2030) and CN (2034) all tend to drive rAP’s per capita consumption rate down, and by 2033, rAP drops below the critical level of 1 b/py.  That’s one year earlier than with late-stage mitigation, but still better than 2030, with the no-mitigation strategy.   But the cessation of exports from EU and JP, and especially the mid-stage mitigated exports from CN, causes rAP’s per capita consumption rate to drop further than for these other two scenarios. 
In 2056 when ME stops exporting altogether, 3/4 of rAP’s petroleum consumption is provided by NA (34%), SA (25%) and CN (16%), with the remainder from domestic production.
Of course this greater drop in per capita consumption caused a larger predicted population drop. 
Under a global mid-stage mitigation strategy from 2032, the year before dropping below the critical 1 b/py level, rAP’s population is predicted drops from 2.96 billion to 0.8 billion by 2055.  A loss of 2.2 billion people in 23 years.  This is even worse than the population declines predicted for rAP under the late-stage (1.3 billion by 2055) or no-mitigation (1.2 billion by 2055) strategies.  
China (CH)
Finally, Figure 44 shows CH’s per capita petroleum consumption and population trends with the global mid-stage petroleum export mitigation strategy in effect.  
 As you can see, AF’s steeper export mitigation and rAP’s mitigation starting in 2011, FS’s mitigation in 2020, and JP’s mitigation in 2030 all combine to halt any further increases in per capita consumption, and with this, likely any expectation of further economic growth. 
CN is forced to start its own mid-stage mitigation by 2034.  Even with mid-stage mitigation, CN is able to export some of its petroleum.  In fact after 2055 there is a slight increasing export trend due to the prediction of a long slow increase in domestic production.  Consequently, CN can keep its per capita consumption at 2 b/py for at least the remainder of the study period.  CN’s population is therefore expected to follow the trend predicted by the US census bureau.
CN mid-stage export mitigation has its largest effect on SA, rAP and EU.  For instance, under the late-stage mitigation or no-mitigation scenarios, by 2050 CN would be exporting 0.542, 0.213 and 0.042  bby to rAP, SA and EU, respectively, and by 2065 these numbers are up to 0.689,  0.282 and 0.0.056, respectively.  In contrast, under the mid-stage export mitigation scenario exports to rAP, SA and EU are 0.124, 0.049 and 0.010 bby, respectively, in 2050, and up to 0.187, 0.076 and 0.015 bby in 2065, respectively.
It is hard to say who are the relative “winners” and “losers” under this global mid-stage export mitigation strategy.
On one hand, FS, rAP, EU, JP and CN all are able to stablize their consumption rate decline to 2 b/py by mitigating their exports.  At least the people living in these regions would count this as “win.” 
Of these five regions, CN and FS fair the best, with the per capita consumption rate being extended for at least 36 years for CN (i.e., from 2034 to at least the end of the study period in 2065) and for 17 years for FS (i.e., from 2020 to 2037).  For rAP, EU and JP, however, export mitigation only extends the per capita consumption rate of 2 b/py for two to four years.
On the other hand, I see several “losing” situations.  
The biggest absolute loser, literally, seems to be rAP which is predicted to have a population crash starting one year earlier, and declining by about 700 million more people, than under late-stage mitigation, and overall a loss of 2.2 billion people.
AF is loser because export mitigation by other regions causes AF’s per capita consumption to drop even more steeply than under late-stage mitigation, and therefore, the population crash is even steeper.  There is still a predicted population decline of 1.1 billion people but the decline is over an even shorter period.
EU is also a loser with its predicted ocuring population crash about three years early and being a sustained population decline of about 90 million people, than under late-stage mitigation. 
JP is also a loser in that its population crash of about 35 million occurs 1 year earlier and the decline is slightly steep and more sustained, as compared to late-stage mitigation. 
While having no effect on population, at least economically, CN, SA and NA are losers, in that they all have steeper declines in per capita consumption, as compared to late-stage mitigation. 
The mid-stage mitigation strategy has no detrimental effect on ME because it per capita consumption rate stays above 2 b/py until the last year of the study period and substantially doesn’t import any petroleum. 
Although, to me, it seems like an eternity since I last post in this blog, it has been less than two months. 
Is there still anyone out there? 
As my life returns more to something that passes for normal, I should be able to pick up the posting pace somewhat.
I still have one more mitigation scenario that I want to investigate as part of this series.
At the end of part 5, I called it “full on” mitigation. 

I think “full on” has an even remoter chance of occurring than “mid-stage” mitigation, but, it will be a useful exercise for better illustrating the relative vulnerabilities of the various regions towards export mitigation.


  1. Present.


    Reposting @

    Great Work.

  2. Very interesting article.

    This seems the most realistic mitigation scenario in my opinion. I don't think governments will wait until their people are on the brink of starvation to close down their exports but will see the writing on the wall and adapt.

  3. I think that the fall of the crude oil supply will be very similar to the post-Soviet era and its impact on the post-communist countries that were dependent on the Soviet crude oil. But the fall into starvation in the arid and overpopulated countries will be much steeper. They need food for their crude oil. The countries importing crude oil are usually less dependent on the crude oil. When the food production will be going down, the impact on the food producing countries will not be as harsh as the impact on the food importing countries. We see that already happening in the countries situated in the desert areas or in the areas where food production is largely dependent on transport. First there will be the problem with the food transport and only after that the problem with the food production. Diminishing food production will stop the food export. The diminishing crude oil production will not stop the crude oil exports when food is needed to be imported. The Soviets had crude oil, but when their crude oil production was declining and they were losing their food production capacity, they started to import food, i.e. they cut their own consumption of the crude oil to get the food from the countries where the food production is not so much dependent on crude oil inputs in the form of irrigation and similar additional agricultural inputs typical for the countries with the harsher climate.

  4. CW

    Saw this interview with D Meadows. "Oil production will be reduced approximately by half in the next 20 years, even with the exploitation of oil sands or shale oil."

    see Stuart Sanifords comments:



  5. Anonymous 1, good to know someone is out there!

    Thanks Anonymous 2, some net exporter regions might start to mitigate early especially if this wouldn’t cause severe economic problems; FS and SA comes to mind since they have other things they could still export. For other net exporter regions like ME and AF this might be more difficult since government revenues can be highly dependent on export income.

    Anonymous 3, generally I agree with the premise that net-oil exporters that are also net-food importers, could be in a very tough bind, and, that the need to import food would tend to motivate an oil-for-food type of exchange. The problem comes if/when a net-food exporter that could potentially live within its own means of domestic oil production (e.g., NA) stops exporting food.

    Anyways, regardless of which region we are considering, I think that all regions are presently heavily dependent on petroleum for their domestic food production and distribution system, and, that domestic food production still provides the bulk of the food that gets consumed domestically. As the floor of per capita petroleum consumption (my estimate: 1 b/py) is reached, this is when I expected to see the remaining resources being funneled into domestic food production.

    Walter, based on the results of my PIE analysis predicting regional petroleum consumption and then adding up all the regions, global consumption is predicted to peak around 2008 and then drop to 50 percent of the peak value 35 years later in 2035 (or 22 years from 2013; I’ll show the results in Part 8 of this series). So, I guess I am roughly in agreement with Meadows’ statement.

    For the reasons I explained a few years ago on this blog, based on modeling with synthetic data, I prefer a NLLS best fit analysis of the logistic equation over an analysis of a linear form of the logistic equation.

  6. (I am Anonymous 3.)

    The interesting thing is what is the real price of the food? Because the food we buy is subsidized, the real price of it is hidden (and still on rise that we do not see in the prices of food, but in the rise of the debt...). We can see this in the regions of the Europe, where there are worse agricultural conditions (e.g. less fertile soil): the agriculture is slowly on decline already now. The problem is that the petroleum driven food production is not replaced by anything else, so the population decline has already started (based on the very low birth rates, below the reproduction rate). This process has started in the Eastern Europe already after the fall of the Soviet Union. The regions of Europe with higher subsidies and better agricultural conditions export the food to the regions with worse agricultural conditions. My idea is that in the absence of horses and cows the only way for new agriculture is new plant varieties that require less work and chemical inputs and self-production of the food. Or there must also be a rise in the livestock numbers to stop the population decline. But the country is partly destroyed by excessive building, mining activity etc. so the numbers after the population decline will be lower than around the year 1900. Based on my assesment the population decline will end even with lower numbers. Some areas are already depopulating now. There is not a "new kind of man" who could resume the abandoned ways of food production from the past. There must be a totally new way of food production, less dependent on energy inputs. The climate change brings higher temperatures, so probably in many regions agricultural conditions will be different than in the past. All this contributes to a fact that a kind of new repopulation will be needed, with new people. This is the fall of the civilization that grew on petroleum and fossil fuels, not just a fall of the petroleum or coal production. Many of us are experiencing the decline already since our births, because we live in the regions that are constantly losing their food production/raw materials/energy resources production capacities. Electronics is just the final stage of this collapse, because electronics can not prevent us from running of the resources. Electronics helped us to achieve savings, but now we are reaching the end, with the petroleum price making the electronics futile in various aspects.

    Now, what is the real price of the food? If 10 joules of energy from petroleum produces 1 joule of food.,-work,-and-heat/barrels-of-oil-equivalent-to-joules

    1 barrel = 6120000000 joules

    6120000000 joules / 10 joules = 612000000 joules

    Amount: 1 kilogram (kg - kilo) of bread flour
    Equals: 15,104.24 kilojoules (kJ) in bread flour

    612000 kilojoules / 15,104.24 kilojoules = 40,5 kg, i.e. 1 kg of bread flour at 100 USD per barrel of petroleum costs 2,46 USD.

    These are just raw estimates. But we can see that without subsidizing agriculture our societies are collapsing even faster. Subsidizing the agriculture preserves the petroleum driven food production and prevents from seeing the naked truth...

    E.g. Common Agricultural Policy of the EU accounts for 40% of European budget.

    It means, that based on these reasons the food production is not evenly preserved in all areas, but it is already declining/stopping in some of them. That is why the population decline has already started in some areas of Europe. And we can surely find such areas also on other continents. Based on this some areas are in fact under the 1 b/py already now, because cheaper, subsidized food from other regions destroys the food production in the food production areas with worse conditions.

  7. Hello Anonymous 3, thanks for your interesting comments!

    I agree that petroleum inputs (and also N fertilizer with natural gas inputs) are helping to maintain or slow the decline in agricultural productivity, and, that when this goes away, there will be a large fall-off in food production. I don’t expect that an alternative food production system (if any) can be employed fast enough to prevent a short-fall. I expect that food production a century from now will have to be much less petroleum dependent than it is today, but the transition from here to then will be painful.

    Not many people are more pessimistic than I am about the population dropping to year 1900 levels, but, this would not surprise me; perhaps more for some regions than others, but that is another story.

    The idea of new plant varieties, perhaps those able to tolerate hotter, drier conditions, is an interesting one; no doubt this is an idea that the giant agriculture companies would like to have the patent rights to (maybe they do already!).

    I am less optimistic about livestock; my understanding is that the energy input to produce a joule’s worth of meat food energy is about an order-of-magnitude higher than the energy input to produce a joule’s worth of plant food energy.

    I agree that that the cost of food is not properly valued, just like the cost of petroleum is not properly valued, especially if considered in terms of human energy equivalents. In my opinion, that is one reason why the human population has exploded over the past two centuries.

    p.s., You might be interested to read about a series I did about a year and a half ago, trying quantify world food energy production (starting here; unfortunately, I never got around to doing Europe.

    I thought that I could do an analysis similar to what I have done here for petroleum. But I set the study aside until I could think of a more automated way to process the data and until FAOSTAT updated their published data (cir. 2008 at the time).

  8. Anonymous 3 writes:

    Yes, you are right. When petroleum driven agricultural production declines, first comes livestock, then plants. The livestock is not a solution. The plants will overcome humans. Livestock can be understood as machines against plants - e. g. sheep, cows, horses. In this way, when there is enough plants to be grazed by these "machines", the agriculture is restarted. On rocks from ruins of the buildings only tress can grow. I.e. no large farms are possible, but scattered settlements in the country. The cities and towns are doomed to be absorbed by plants, forests.

    I would prohibit any new building activity on agricultural land. The projects similar to demolishon of concrete buildings done in East Germany sould be financed by the state instead of the new agricultural land being destroyed by building activity.

    But the various building, oil etc. lobbies will fight until the end, so the countries will be full of these ruins, no one will have energy to demolish them and recultivate the land.


Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcome! However, comments with cursing or ad hominem attacks will be removed.