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« What do we mean by leadership in an academic institution? | Main | Energy and Value »

April 29, 2010


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Excellent review, George. Thanks so much for joining us this past weekend! I really enjoyed having a chance to talk with you about the future of energy and I look forward to more opportunities.

I too am amazed at the level of receptivity and reality presented by so many major interests. Some of the comments from stakeholders were profound realizations of the paradox that big business is in right now, admitting that their business models are based on consumption yet their authenticity is increasingly moving towards understanding that they actually need to educate their customers to consume less! All in all, a fine reminder that all corporations are ultimately comprised of individuals will very real concerns.


Great that you found them so ready to listen! I'm wondering, did anyone bring up how both familiar human managed and natural growth systems change directions of development and stabilize at the peak of their vitality by maturing? That's not the usually discussed option, and distinctly available it seems, maybe even a necessary precedent to the more commonly discussed objectives. The economic version was first raised in one of JM Keynes's 'off beat' proposals. There are some conceptual hurdles that my having extensively studied the theory and examples of might be of help to others for understanding it.


Oh, yea, the other question. Was there any talk of the societal ROI + and - equation, and the energy balance between energy producing and energy consuming sectors?? To keep energy at a reasonable price we BOTH to maintain a HIGH enough EROI for energy producing and a LOW enough SROI for the energy consuming overhead costs for running the form of society we adopt.

Those two seem to be on diverging tracks, for example, with endemically growing energy consuming sectors like healthcare... and a list of other things. So, I guess the question is, is anyone else trying to formalize the whole energy budget model Charlie roughed out rudimentarily in his EROI sustainability paper, taking into account the issues I raised in "Profiting from scarcity" and other writings?


This is the best news I've heard in a long time.
Were there any representatives of government there?
Do some of these managers talk with 'hard' power managers?
You're doing great things, and I thank you most sincerely.

Molly Radke

Fascinating post, and even an encouraging one, in the sense that"they" are starting to "get it." Really appreciate your thoughtful posts, as those of us, out here among the "great unwashed," need a little access to the "upper worlds" of thought and decision making. Thanks.

Robin Datta

Thank you for the work you are doing for humanity. Voices of wisdom have cried out in the past. Those included Malthus, Hubbert, Meadows and even those with authority (Jimmy Carter, in the "Moral Equivalent of War" speech). They had been ignored. The time to pay the Piper is perilously close.

The opening that you have gained is to be commended.


How nice to be asked to be challenging! If they were getting the difference between real and paper wealth than I can only say, Great job. "Still not completely absorbed"... sure, that's one good way to say it.

Hey, did you see that William Irwin Thompson is advocating a third governmental chamber composed purely of intellectuals, scientists, artists and philosophers? (Or something like that) -- "Catastrophist Governance and the Need for a Tricameral Legislature", see

George Mobus


I was very impressed with the whole event. I think you and Kathi's whole team are to be congratulated for putting together a pretty comprehensive layout of scenario generation in a way that could be thought provoking and yet graspable in the short time we had.

I am still working on internalizing some of the other information that I got.

Started reading Raj Patel's book, "The Value of Nothing". Extremely stimulating.

George Mobus

Shouldaknown (Phil),

...did anyone bring up how both familiar human managed and natural growth systems change directions of development and stabilize at the peak of their vitality by maturing?

There was scattered talk of that nature. In one short breakout session we discussed some aspects of how the human economic system might come to more closely resemble living organisms in the sense that they stop growing an settle into a maintenance mode.

Also, one of the scenarios presented was called "constraint", dealing with how to achieve some form of prosperity while living within our means with respect to the issues of carbon (energy), water, etc. The very fact that collapse and constraint scenarios were on the table indicates a growing awareness that these may be legitimate paradigms for the economy of the not-too-distant future.

Was there any talk of the societal ROI + and - equation, and the energy balance between energy producing and energy consuming sectors??

Not exactly. I did mention EROI and David Murphy's paper on net Hubbert was in the information package provided by IFTF. Readers who may want to follow up should check out Phil's blog, Explorations (Synapse9) linked in the blog roll on the left.


George Mobus


There were government-aligned people from other countries for certain. I did not meet anyone from the US. But as you well know most of the governing types in this country are much less concerned about the future and more about the next election cycle. Pity.

As for the "soft" power people talking to the "hard", my impression was that several of them (the ones I talked with) do have the ears of the decision makers. My sense is that just about everyone in the business world is realizing that there is something very fundamental that has changed and they are not falling back on the typical blame-it-on-the-business-cycle excuse. They are sensing that there is something else amiss.

It is possible, if there is time for these things to work out, that once businesses grasp what is happening they will compel government to take notice.

But as I say, if we have time.



George Mobus

Hi Molly.

Thank you for the kind words.

I rather strongly suspect that, in the end, it will be the local organizing at the grass roots that will do most to help us transition to whatever the future will bring with lesser pain. Help wash those "great unwashed"!

The big international companies will soon be faced with very difficult decisions about how to proceed into the future. As always they will start with seeing what their customers are doing. If they see localization starting to take hold (while fuel prices continue to rise) I suspect they will follow suit in some appropriate way. These people are smart. Their only misguidance has been because they, like everyone else, have been embedded in a cultural milieu of expanding energy supplies making growth possible. As the growth paradigm dissolves in a contracting energy milieu I think, now, some of them, perhaps many of them, will work to adapt. My biggest fear is that the "unwashed", but spoiled masses will respond with anger rather than adaptation. If they fail to recognize that the old economy is not coming back and that there is nothing any government can do to stimulate it back permanently, then how will they react? It is so easy to try to find someone to blame and take out our anger on them (e.g. bankers). I think neuropsychology will become one of the most important areas to focus on to understand how we humans will behave in a permanent energy contraction scenario.


George Mobus

Hi Robin.

Thanks for juxtaposing me with that pantheon of seers! But I think all of us who are starting from having read and grasped their works are, hopefully, advancing understanding at least incrementally. Thanks for your continuing contributions in comments here. They are much appreciated.


George Mobus

Hi Jason,

I've pulled up the link and bookmarked it. Looks interesting. Thanks.


knowledge is power

Raj Patel is being used as a mouthpiece for maitreya. Don't be fooled by any of these smooth talking liars.

George Mobus



Even if he is representing a religious belief in a savior, I'm not sure what that has to do with anything. Does it bias his observations of our poor intuitions about value? You might want to expand your assertion before I will take it seriously.


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