90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Imagining $20 Per Gallon
A gas station attendant pumps gas in Portland, Oregon, July 2009. (AP)

A gas station attendant pumps gas in Portland, Oregon, July 2009. (AP)

The planet has a lot of people, more cars every day, and only so much oil.

Chris Steiner reckons that means the price of gas is going up. Maybe way up. He’s written a book called “$20 Per Gallon,” with a chapter for the impact of every tick up along the way.

At $8 a gallon, the airlines close down. At $10 a gallon, Disney World goes dark. At $14 a gallon, Wal-Mart is done. It can’t afford to ship products.

He calls it a thought exercise. He may be dead wrong. Or not.

This hour, On Point: $20 a gallon. Chris Steiner says we’ll like our world better.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us from Chicago is Christopher Steiner, author of “$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives For the Better.” He’s also a staff writer for Forbes magazine and a civil engineer.

And from Bald Head Island, N.C., we’re joined by Mark Mills, co-author (with Peter Huber) of “The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy.” His recent column in Forbes is “Don’t Bet on $800-a-Barrel Oil.” He’s a physicist, a former staff consultant to the White House Science Office under President Ronald Reagan, and co-founding partner of Digital Power Capital, an energy tech venture fund.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Cory

    The end of American civilization, period. No nation in the world is more ill-equipped to handle something like this than we are. As it is now, individuals are brandishing firearms at town hall meetings in opposition to health care reform. How do you think these types will respond to real, paradigm changing challenges?

  • Lilya Lopekha

    Don’t worry Cory

    Everything will be fine. Instead of begging Chinese, we will be begging to borrow money from Arabs to finance our Department of Offense in its actions to attack other Arabs.

    I am sure, they will be happy to finance our illegal occupations. The amount of wealth in the streets of Riyad and Abu Dhabi were beyond imagination when oil was $100 /barrel. See how it will be when it is $200.

    Karma time for USA, I guess. So we better find out why we occupied Iraq, asap.

  • David

    To what degree is gasoline at the pump, taxpayer subsidized? A few examples include tanker transit protection by our military in the Persian Gulf, incentives for drilling etc.

  • Louise

    Well America, this is what you wanted when you voted Barack Obama into office in November. The Democrats Cap and Trade will cause the price of energy to shoot through the roof and as a result, millions of Americans will be out of work. 3 million Americans have already lost their jobs since Obama became president. Thanks Democrats.

  • brianna g

    Simple logic. If you want to keep oil prices lower, you have to be careful about overall global consumption.

    When Oil prices go up and and up and up…. there is only one sector who does not care about the energy price factor. U.S. Military.

    Think of Military Vehicles. They are designed to be as heavy as possible – nobody cares about the mpg. And then we take these monsters and fly them accross the oceans – 40000 of these beasts. This is happening due to poor planning and illegal occupations which have to be supported and supplied only from the air.

    Our Military uses more petroleum based products than the entire continent of Africa or South America, 800 million and 600 million, respectively.

  • Nick

    What worries me more than the price of gasoline at the pump is that EVERYTHING is made from petroleum from medicines to plastics. When that goes up……?

    We have too many people (a subject no one wants to discuss) to go back to wood and flax.


  • Alex

    “Well America, this is what you wanted when you voted Barack Obama into office in November.”

    Yeah, right. During Bush’s years the oil price went from $20s to $140s and back to $40s with the man being absolutely powerless to do anything about it. His friends, Sultans, told to go *****.

  • Drew

    There is no greater way to push the human race forward than $20/gallon. The paradigm that the ignorant can’t grasp will be forced upon them.

  • Rudolf Boentgen

    An increase in the price of oil would be quickly reflected in increases in coal and natural gas. Carbon dioxide emissions will quickly go up. It would be better if we started a building program of advanced nuclear power stations now and emulate the French system. If we generated all electric power from nuclear sources we could create hydrogen as a by product from the waste heat and fuel our vehicles from that source. In other words we could wean ourselves entirely from fossil fuels and stop global warming as a side effect. And this needs to be done sooner rather than later.

  • Mark S.

    Not just American civilization, Cory, but global, technological civilization. If you want to read something that will keep you awake nights, read The Hirsch Report commissioned by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and published, and roundly ignored by the Bushies and others, in February 2005. The consequences of peak oil range far beyond the transportation sector. Indeed, the production of most of the energy alternatives being pioneered today, including the fabrication of solar panels, windmill construction, nuclear plant construction, coal mining, you name it, are themselves heavily dependent on petroleum-based technologies.

    We may be on a trajectory back to a 19th Century standard of living. One problem, though. There is no way that a 19th Century paradigm can support the six billion people already here.

    Here’s a link to The Hirsch Report. Hopefully, Tom will bring this up. It’s been out there for four years.


  • Joe

    One of the first steps to prepare for even $6 a gallon gas, is to dig up any sunny parts of your lawn and plant as big of a vegetable garden as you have room for. We all need to eat, even if we can’t afford to go to our rapidly disappearing jobs.

  • Drew

    “An increase in the price of oil would be quickly reflected in increases in coal and natural gas. Carbon dioxide emissions will quickly go up.”

    huh? an increase in price will drive down demand = LESS emissions.

    …and it’s not about nuke energy. It’s about harvesting what mother nature has going on all around us.

    It’s gonna be a tough change and in the short term (next 25 years) it’s gonna hurt a bit, the long view is so very positive.

  • Elizabeth

    What bothers me about a lot of Americans is that they seem to feel that cheap petroleum is their god-given right. Nevermind about its environmental impact. Nevermind the conflict it generates or the fact that irresponsible consumption of it empowers regimes we don’t necessarilly like. But don’t even mention conservation or using less of this limited resource. People laughed at Jimmy Carter when he made the common sense proposal to just turn down your thermostats a little and put on a cardigan.

    I find Americans to be careless consumers a lot of the time. It bothers me that a lot of people don’t think to turn off the television when they leave the room or they leave lights on, or live in enormous new houses in developments in the middle of nowhere (with no sidewalks!), which they don’t even need because their families are small, or don’t even consider public transportation. I could go on and on. People can do this because fuel- petroleum- is relatively cheap in their eyes.

    They are not factoring in its real costs, of course and what this means to our health, to the environment, to political stability.

    Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for the cost of fuel to go up a bit, then people would be forced to use less of it, and make different choices. Maybe we should just raise prices now. Tax the stuff. We’ll be glad we did in the end.

  • Felipe

    Not that quick WBUR.

    Why Christopher Steiner??? Why, why, why….

    So that he can promote his book? So that he may be pushing an agenda….ie. our lives will be hell when the prices at the pump goes up, therefore we should spend more attention to the Middle East.

    Translation: If we are the buyers, who will be on the other side of the transaction? Therefore, we should be scared and show more muscle in the Middle East. On a side issue, this will benefit a little country over there.

    Remember, one of the selling points of Iraq invasion. Oil related Jobs + Cheaper Oil.

    WBUR, What are you doing here? Who is picking the topics? Who decides who should get free advertising and the best “book selling” promotion without spending a penny on the tour.

    How about Richard Gage + Van Jones as guests!!!!!

  • Beth

    Dear Louise,

    I take your point, but I hardly think you can blame Obama for the oil running out. The simple fact that fossil fuels are non-renewable, finite resource transcends partisan politics, and assuming that it’s an endless resource for the sake of mud-slinging is profoundly counterproductive.

  • Danyel Brisk

    Yes! This is important for the betterment of our world.

    Europe and other places had prices way above ours a long time ago. We have been so buffered from the reality of how much things REALLY cost in America and that has contributed to / created a Lot of the problems we have today!

    Paying the real price of things will help. Thank you for this topic.

  • Jonathan Gordon

    Gas prices are already close to these levels in Europe. Even taking account of the smaller US gallon (compared to the UK gallon) the price of gas in the UK is about $6.60 per (US)gallon today. It certainly approached $9.00 per gallon last year. Europe has some of the lowest airfares in the world. Consequently the disaster scenario seems a little far fetched.

  • Wilhamina

    I agree with brother Felipe.

    Oil prices goes up, and down, and up and up…. so what?

    It is just another commodity. Use less and you will be fine.

    We should spend our time and energy, in this public radion station, for topics that are too touch for the private media to talk about.

    Example: Glen Beck and Progressives are total opposite of each other. But, when it comes to Van Jones (9/11), the cheerleader for the Progressives is Glen Beck. Listen to Rachel Maddows. She nearly said, Van Jones is a looney, even though Van Jones is faaaaaaaaar more knowlegable about the events of 9/11 than Rachel. Isn’t this way too strange????

  • Christine

    This is happening NOW. People are gardening, cutting back on travel, consolidating errands, walking more, etc. It’s all good!!

  • John Sanborn

    I can only begin to imagine the gallons of fuel oil used by our military, even when we’re not fighting two wars far from the U.S.

    What will be the impact on our and other armies in a future with much less oil?

  • Thomas A. Krause

    Generally, I would welcome the changes Mr. Steiner believes would happen with $20/barrel oil. My main concern is for the poor who, as is so often the case, have fewer alternatives.

  • Tyler

    I was surprised to hear the author promote nuclear… I think all too often people forget that this too is a fossil fuel and limited to decades of service. Furthermore, it only provides practically electric power, and finally nobody can emphasize enough about how it is subsidized greatly – consider the Price-Anderson Act.

  • http://transitionus.org Gail Brill

    The future scenarios are varied. Jim Kunstler’s vision is not improbable, but for many of us, the future looks better. The Transition Town movement that has taken hold in the UK and in other countries is now spreading across the US. This is a positive vision for the future. Born from Permaculture, this movement seeks to empower people and communities to face the twin challenges of climate change and energy depletion. We are brainstorming and imaginging a powered down future. Close your eyes. It’s 2030, what does your world look like? Mine is good, a closer knit community, more bikes, more gardens, more rich! My husband is starting a bike repair business, I have my Permaculture Design certification to help people build a self sufficient homestead, and our sons are learning how bake bread, install solar panels and grow perennial vegetable. I know folks will be knocking on our door at some point asking for advice. We’ll be ready

  • http://? Steve Mangion

    What are the implications of $20/gallon on the cost on mass transit?

    Won’t we see the cost of riding the trolleys/buses/trains – even in inner cities – go up, way up?
    And should they not go up?

    Steve on Plum Island

  • Dee

    It is about time someone started having this discussion in public – our so-called leaders have their heads so deeply buried in partisan sniping about non-important power considerations (like who’s on top, the Dems or the GOP?) that this important topic is not on the current policy radar screen. No one believed in $140 until it happen last summer. Stay tuned!

  • http://onpointradio.org Janet Moran

    I live in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and public transport is next to nil here. I’d like to see us go back to living in our communities, i.e. buying vegetables or the wool from a neighbor. We definitely need to learn to be more self-sufficient and let’s not wait until another crisis hits to do that.

  • davidk

    Our commentators stated that European governments are driving gas prices at the pump through taxes ($7-10 a gallon). If so, how is it possible that Exxon Mobil continues to post ~40 billion dollar annual profits?

  • David Marine

    Great idea. It’s good to anticipate this kind of change. We have the technology to exist in a world with diminished oil supply but the question is how much change people are willing to make within their own lives. The reaction of people here in asheville when gas hit $4+ a gallon was just short of chaos. Stabbings in the gas lines ect… This economic downturn is a good wake up call to humanity. No institution is infallible and it is important to not place all of your trust in things that really have no value. It is a push to excel within humankind and not merely for ones self. I welcome $20 a gallon. Perhaps we can place our emphasis on truly improving the common good of all instead of continuously propping up an unsustainable cabal of those in the upper echelons of energy, finance and industry.

  • Julie

    Thanks for the discussion.

    The only point that is missing for me so far is a lack of consideration for rural areas. When we need to drive 15 miles to get groceries or farmers need fuel for their equipment the solutions are much more complex.

  • David Tait

    This is certainly not a partisan issue, at least it should not be. Technology, tax rates, fuel efficiency standards etc. all have a role to play in the price of oil. But so does speculative trading in oil futures. Until and unless these commodities are traded on a regulated exchange with gov’t oversight, we will continue to see the wild price fluctuation that victimizes all of us.

  • Gerald Fnord

    Beth, you’re talking nonsense: Obama IS responsible for _everything_ bad because he’s a Black Communist Nazi Muslim born simultaneously in Kenya and Hawaii-when-it-didn’t-count. Everything good?—that comes from God via His own Free Market, that is mostly the amortal State-created persons who own most of everything.

    In terms of implications: don’t invest in Las Vegas real estate—sure, they get their electricity from hydro, but everything there has to be shipped in, flown in mostly in the case of the suckers that support the place….

    Other implication: drugs, plastics, and other chemicals’ prices goes through the roof—petroleum is such useful stuff that it’s a pity to burn any of it.

  • Ben

    Mark Mills’ argument has been proved wrong by history: consider the innumerable civilizations of the past that failed when their energy was depleted. Technology increases our range of exploitable resources, but fundamentally, it comes down to bleeding a stone. Am I wrong?

  • Lauren Breunig

    Many callers are talking about gas prices and the changes we would need to make in terms of transportation, but I would like to hear the panelists address the huge hidden use of oil in our daily lives–namely in the production of food, especially on factory farms. Even if we could implement nation-wide infrastructure that allowed people rural and urban to get to work using less fuel, would we be able to afford food?

  • oliver read in DC

    If gas prices rise to levels where it becomes unaffordable across the board, how will companies operate the factories that create goods like bikes and computers even function, let alone ship them across the world to the consumers??

  • http://n/a Melody Reed

    Thank goodness localvore movements are already bringing this awareness to the people. At least in my neck of the woods (Vermont) some groups are not waiting for a government fix, they are beginning to put systems in place to make locally grown food available in preparation for the inevitable. Apples from New Zealand? It’s ridiculous.

  • Sharon

    Sorry. This person is wrong. Higher prices will simply accelerate alternative energy research.

  • Chris

    Enjoying the broadcast, but would like to hear Chris Steiner discuss the greatest problem facing all life on planet Earth: overpopulation. Anyone remember Paul R. Ehrlich’s 1968 elephant-in-the-room, “The Population Bomb?”

  • Robert Houllahan

    I think the end of big petroleum will be a good thing.

    Look at the Tesla motors cars, Elon Musk will sell you a car that runs on batteries and a set of PV Solar for your house.

    So the possible future could be driving on solar with no gas needed.

  • Peter

    Probably, more the 30% of Americans could easily work from their homes. Even yourself, Tom!
    This would eliminate traffic, polution, the need for big centers, and drastically reduce gas consumption….You need to start talking about a new work-place model….away from the 1930′s roberbarron paranoid about his “workers”……

  • Diana Kornet

    I have heard no one mention TIDAL POWER…it is coming: “silent, invisible, predictable, renewable energy” and the strongest tidal currents are located all over the globe, often near densely populated areas. Check out for one of the most promising young companies; one of their turbines will be deployed in the Bay of Fundy this fall. (NB: I have no financial connection or business relationship with the company.)

  • Mark

    No cars at all? That will never happen. I have been telling my kids for years that some time in the future each family will have two cars–a gas model for the highway, not used much, and an electric car for use in town. We aren’t there yet, but it will still come. By the way, I drive an electric around town and it is just as good as a gas model but avoids the noise and excess pollution.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I agree that global population growth needs a new look, given limitations on what the planet can sustain.
    Julie asked about rural accommodations. Where I live, the supermarket chain has an online service where you can order what you need, and they deliver, however often it is. They function like the post office: One truck goes around and stops everyplace, rather than 100 people make car trips there and back. Of course you have to go to the market and make careful notes about exactly which brands you want. We have pharmacies and smaller markets that provide the same service. The charge for the delivery might be similar to a taxi ride, but for those of us working hard at home, we can’t afford the time for the journey, especially if we’re going by bike.
    By the way, I agree with the woman who bikes four miles to work, if biking, you’re “in the world.” Yesterday I saw a client who wanted to confirm a bunch of business he wants to do with me, and I had a couple of crucial questions that I would never call to ask him but he alone has the wherewithal to answer. So we both backtracked to a crosswalk and met up for a chat. He bikes too, quite a distance, to work. But at the time he was on foot. Had we both been in cars, the insulation would prevent that encounter.
    That kind of encounter happens every trip. People I haven’t seen for decades; for instance, one hanging out 100 yeards into the bike path, helmet on her 70-year-old head, pausing there to talk on her cell phone, waving to me, ahoy there.

  • Todd

    “…the greatest problem facing all life on planet Earth: overpopulation.” Posted by Chris

    Ah, the overpopulation myth; the core argument of every “good” eugenicist! Overpopulation isn’t the problem; the problem is a geopolitically-caused imbalance in the distribution of land and resources (i.e., greed). The Earth can easily sustain the current population level. However, if you truly believe that overpopulation is “the greatest problem” we face, then why do you continue to be part of the problem? Why haven’t you committed suicide yet? Be the change you want to see, right? But, be sure you base your actions on the facts, and not merely the elite eugenicist propaganda you’ve been spoon-fed all your life.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Overpopulation. One poster postulates it’s a huge problem. One postulates that naturally correcting imbalances takes the problem away. Suicide only removes one person, who would be removed in any case at time of death.
    Who is suggesting a way to have this conversation? Scientists, economists, ethicists, politicians.
    It seems to be an important question inhabited by all white elephants — or elephants in the room.

  • enderle peace

    Good topic. But can we hear more about the (taboo) subjects that the commercial media does not talk about.

    When it comes to energy/ethanol/algea… the only people who make money are people who write books. Freeman got $120,000 for a 75 min speech to the Oil Execs about renewable envergy.

    what happened to the anti-war/peace movement? Why are the “totally” excluded.

    Osama [with the s](doubt that he is alive) said that Obama [with the b] have too much Bush appointees? Why?
    He is Damn Right!!! How were the appointments (Czars) were made in Obama Administration?

    Al-Jazera, The Myth. Why it is good for America? Let’s get it, then.

    9/11 What Really Happened.

    Let’s Support Van Jones.

  • Mickey Foster

    What America needs is more innovative thinkers like Mark Mills who will promote economic growth and prosperity, rather than neo-marxist thinkers like Chris Steiner and Van Jones who would make us all absolutely dependent on the incompetent and wasteful federal goverment for everything. No thanks President Obama.

  • Mickey Foster

    “enderle peace” is that a new alias for you Lilya Lopekha? Because only you could blog something so anti-American as your posted blog above and hope anybody would take it seriously.

  • Todd

    ‘“enderle peace” is that a new alias for you Lilya Lopekha? Because only you could blog something so anti-American as your posted blog above and hope anybody would take it seriously.’ Posted by Mickey Foster

    Depends on how one defines “anti-American.” Generally speaking, I usually find the perspective reflected by Lilya’s comments to be well-informed and quite relevant.

  • millard-fillmore

    “Al-Jazera, The Myth. Why it is good for America? Let’s get it, then.”


    You can watch it online and on youtube, if you are so inclined.

  • millard-fillmore

    …the greatest problem facing all life on planet Earth: overpopulation.”


    Yeah, only if one considers as the norm, the extremely wasteful lives we live in the US and Europe, and defines all our comforts (like multiple cars/family) as needs. If someone is really interested in feeding the “overpopulation” then one needs to take a closer look at the highly wasteful meat-centric diet in countries, and other wasteful ways of living that have become the norm.

  • enderle peace

    Yes Al-Jazera is online. Is is possible that we are sort of educated/informed enough. But there is a boycott/ban of Al-Jazera by some fringe groups.

    Believe it or not, you get Al-Jazera only in two small progressive cities in America with total population of 12,000. The rest of the country just cannot get it.

    I remember, Condi Rice was going to pressure Egypt to “ban” Al-Jazera if they want to get the full US Aid.

    This program had guests (ie. a journalist) have repeatedly said that they were getting the best global/conflict news from Al-Jazera TV.

    Don’t forget, the way you behave at the airport as a citizen is in a weird way guieded by tapes that are dropped off to Al-Jazera, not CNN studios.

  • Cory

    I’ve always been uncomfortable with the notion of “growing” our way out of our problems. Isn’t endless growth in a finite world the antithesis of sustainability?

  • Putney Swope

    Why is the issue of watching Al-Jazera in the US something to complain about on this forum?

    What’s the point of post’s like this?

    Getting back to oil, it seems we a a country need to make some huge choices in the very near future.

    Smaller close nit communities and city dwelling with good public transportation and lots of bike paths.

    Maybe people who live in rural areas need to car pool or go back to using horses or mules. Not sure if this an answer as horses are expensive to keep.

    I use to live in Scotland and in the Highlands a lot of people don’t own cars. If need to get into town there are buses and the postman/woman will pick people up if you flag them down. I traveled all over the Highlands on buses when I lived there. I Never owned a car for the whole 8 years I was over there.

  • Mark S.

    The folks who are gleeful and anticipatory of a world without petroleum make me chuckle. Biking to and from work every day, growing turnips in the backyard and telecommuting from corner offices in their homes, and living an otherwise pleasant, post-peak life only works if the entire fabric of civilization is not grinding to a halt and collapsing all around you.

    Population, once again, is the key here. The only way the Earth can carry six billion people, albeit some of them in desperate poverty but still scrabbling by, is due to the wonders of a high-energy, petroleum-based infrastructure for food and energy production and the manufacture of more products from petroleum than you can possibly imagine, from your living room rug to your artificial heart valve. If we hit peak and go into terminal decline, and if the fall off of available petroleum is precipitous, we’ve got a Malthusian crisis. How many of those people are going to calmly sit back and volunteer to become Soylent Green so that the rest of us can adjust to a bucolic, more localized, sustainable, high-tech/low-tech, associate professor lifestyle post-oil? Or will they fight over the remaining resources as humans always have?

    As The Hirsch Report projects, if we wait until the peak is upon is to get serious about mitigating its effects, we are pretty well stuffed.

    I submit that we aren’t ready for peak oil, nor will we ever be. If you want to get a taste of the future, google “transient industrial pulse theory.” For a speculative view of that future, try “World Made By Hand” by James Kunstler.

  • Jamie

    Great post Mark S.

    My one key word of the day: Conservation (as a few other posters have mentioned).

    Conservation may be the only chance we have at maintaining the type of lifestyle that we enjoy in developed nations. Conserve oil, conserve natural gas, conserve coal, conserve water, etc. Our undeveloped friends? We should seriously focus our attention on helping less developed nations develop in a more sustainable manner – and adopting many of these practices as we go.

    Peak-anything doesn’t mean that once you’ve reached that peak, tomorrow it goes away. But it does mean that the clock is ticking. For all intents and purposes, we have probably already reached a global peak in premium, liquid fuels. We’ve been on a production plateau for the past 4-5 years. What does that mean?

    Well, if our economy does in fact recover and we begin to travel more, ship more goods, etc. we’ll quickly face a run up in prices – the price of oil, steel, coal, natural gas, pork bellies, wheat…you name it. This has NOTHING to do with politics my friends. It’s called geology. We have a finite allotment of natural resources. Once you use them, they’re gone. It’s important for all of us to wrap our heads around that.

    Back to conversation…before I ramble too much. If we put policy into place that helps us conserve more, we will in effect buy ourselves some time to make adjustements in the way we’re using natural resources.

    The problem is…here’s the second word of the day: Inertia. We’ve got a lot of inertia in all of our systems. It will be very hard for us to change the way we’re living today – taking the necessary steps to conserve and buy ourselves that time we need to live sustainably.

    Good luck us!

    Jamie from Cambridge

  • Mickey Foster

    Al Jezeera regularly posts the fervently anti-American rants of Osama Bin Laden. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone when “enderle peace” (Lilya Lopekha) is advocating the airing of that Islamo-fascist network in this country.

  • enderle peace

    If you were to watch Al Jezeera, you will see that people who have to oil, are people just like us.

    They have the same feelings, same family and business aspirations; perhaps much higher personal and societal morality.

    We have to give us this Them vs. Us fear; and work on controlling the insane increase on World Population.

    Nigeria has 10% more people than Russia.

    Top 15 countries in the Highest Fertility Rates charts are in state of never-ending war.

  • Lilya Lopekha

    Did anybody commit suicide just because cigarette prices went up?

  • Mickey Foster

    enderle peace and Lilya Lopekha are two seperate characters in the same mind as I had earlier blogged. Neither should be taken seriously.

  • Henry Beitz

    See Dr. Albert Bartlett: “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” He points out that our rate of consumption is going up exponentially and that there is no way that we will be able to satisfy the world’s oil needs in the very near future. He has made a very good video discussing ‘exponential growth’ and how little it is understood. It is available on Youtube at:


  • millard-fillmore

    “If you were to watch Al Jezeera, you will see that people who have to oil, are people just like us.”

    Don’t forget, they eat like us and sh*t like us too. Ergo, they also have the same viewpoint when it comes to secularism, rights of gays, rights of non-Muslim minorities and multiculturalism/pluralism in their societies. I like your logic.

    “They have the same feelings, same family and business aspirations; perhaps much higher personal and societal morality.”
    Yes, the higher personal morality results in being sympathetic to terrorists like Bin Laden, and also blowing themselves up along with their Muslim brothers just because they happen to be of a different sect (Shia vs. Sunni), and both of these joining hands to persecute Ahmaddiyas. I’m sure the Republicans and Democrats could learn a thing or two on how to interact with each other from such high morality.

    “We have to give us this Them vs. Us fear; and work on controlling the insane increase on World Population.”

    Yup. Marrying upto four women because god/prophet said so, and having 10-15 kids is definitely the way to go these days. Family planning is for idiots – let’s expand our family and let Allah take care of the fallout.

  • millard-fillmore

    …are people just like us.

    …They have the same feelings, same family and business aspirations…

    …We have to give us this Them vs. Us fear…


    All of the above apply to Republicans and Democrats too. Maybe members of these two political parties could start by realizing that members of the other party are also “people like us” with “..same feelings, same family…”.

    So how many are willing to give up this us vs. them mentality when it comes to Democrats vs. Republicans? What better way to start seeing the humanity of others than starting right at home? You know, think globally, act locally? What? No likey my little idea to drop this “us vs. them” mentality, enderle peace/Lilya? Then why ask others to walk your talk?

  • Gray Kinnie

    These folks should get in better informed. I saw a diesel engine running on canola oil last thurday. Biodiesel from algae is selling for $10 now and there are over 100 companies truing to bring prices down for biofuels. Compressed natural gas is much cheaper than that. Pickens, the windmill guy, says if we converted all 18 wheelers to compressed natural gas, we could cut our oil imports in half.
    You will see major power generation from nuclear with no greenhouse gasses in less than ten years. We are building a prototype hydrogen fuel cell now. It’s not cost effective yet, but…

  • http://www.postlets.com/res/2229390 Suzanne McDonald

    Fascinating discussion! It’s possible to have it all and reduce your footprint.

    Example: I live in a 623 sq ft condo in Hingham (http://www.postlets.com/res/2229390).

    Sound too small?

    It’s just me, and it’s quite open, renovated for that effect. This unit is in a Colonial built in 1768: the walls are nearly a foot thick! It costs less than $50/month to heat and never needed air conditioning.

    I do have a car but rarely use it: can walk to shops, groceries, cafes, cinema, a great pub, farmer’s market.

    It’s 30 minutes to Boston via the Greenbush Commuter Rail, can walk to the West Hingham stop. I enjoy being in an actual town with a main street and gorgeous open space!

    It is possible *and* liberating to reject the typical overhead that’s so strongly pushed in the mainstream.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Am I seeing someone stereotyping 2 billion Muslims, pigeonholing them from polygamy and suicide bombers? How about pigeonholing Christians from some point in the past, or say the state of Utah in 1900, or from the upstarts who got in so much trouble before the Roman emperor had a vision featuring a cross, went into battle with that on his shield, and decided all Romans would convert. Something like that.
    I attended an iftar (end of day, end of fast – Ramadan) with a Turkish association on Sunday. The women sat separately and did not speak English; their spouses were the grad students. I asked about this a few times, and it seems the group is working on getting female Turkish grad students to join the group. But people from many churches in the area were invited, and we talked for hours, about the common roots of the religions, about the odd parts of Christianity they’ll be encountering, about the prospects for employment here and there. Mainly, about continuing the conversation.

  • millard-fillmore

    “Am I seeing someone stereotyping 2 billion Muslims, pigeonholing them from polygamy and suicide bombers?”


    Am I seeing someone stereotyping 2 billion Muslims, pigeonholing them as following higher personal and societal morality (whatever that means), when facts to the contrary are present?

    Besides, we have Republicans to stereotype, right? ;)

  • millard-fillmore

    “How about pigeonholing Christians from some point in the past, or say the state of Utah in 1900, or from the upstarts who got in so much trouble before the Roman emperor had a vision featuring a cross, went into battle with that on his shield, and decided all Romans would convert. Something like that.”

    Ellen, I couldn’t care less. Besides, all this you mentioned above is regarding the past, not the present.

  • Putney Swope

    Suzanne McDonald I have to say I think it’s in poor taste to use this forum to advertise your real estate business.

  • Flo Keyes

    While I do not look forward to higher gas prices, it seems that the American car manufacturers will not make the change to alternative-energy vehicles and highly fuel-efficient vehicles until American car buyers stop buying gas-guzzlers, which they won’t do until the price of gas forces the issue.
    There is a bright side, however. Anything that forces Wal-Mart out of business and revives small local businesses is a plus in my book.

  • Frank the Underemployed Professional

    Steiner is a moron.

    He’s a moron for claiming that humanity will be happier and better off without the fuel source that provides the best energy-return on investment.

    $20/gallon gasoline will make humanity impoverished, hungry, and very unhappy, and billions of people could perish in what some people in the Peak Oil community refer to as a MASS DIE-OFF.

    The burning of fossil fuels is the engine that powers our agricultural systems and it provides the best energy-return-on-investment of any currently available means of propulsion. Alternative energy sources may be possible, but they will increase the prices of food and just about everything else since they will not provide the energy return on investment that the burning of fossil fuels currently provides.

    Ironically, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Steiner supported mass immigration and illegal immigration. (Immigration increases the population, which increases the costs of resources and the strain on the environment.) If Steiner were logically consistent he would support nuclear power and call for a moratorium on immigration.

    I also totally disagree that people will be happy living like impoverished sardines, piled on top of one another in filthy cities. The reason why people want to live in the suburbs is for quality of life reasons and to avoid quality-of-life destroying high population density.

  • Frank the Underemployed Professional

    How many of you people who are cheering over the prospect of a world with less oil and higher oil prices are also advocating population reduction? How many of you also support mass immigration–both legal and illegal?

    I ask because so often, I find that people advocate for things without fully understanding all of the ramifications of what they are supporting. If you support having higher prices for oil, are you also in favor of population reduction or at least population stabilization here in the U.S.? Will you be consistent and also advocate for the immediate cessation of all immigration into the United States?

  • Frank the Underemployed Professional

    TODD — would you agree with me that the amount of resources in the world is limited and that having a higher population means having fewer resources per capita, which means higher prices for those resources? Perhaps wealth could be distributed more equitably amongst people, but the point is that with a smaller population, there would be more wealth to distribute equitably per capita.

    What exactly does eugenics have to do with advocacy of zero or negative population growth?

    Would you support a government policy designed, not to enforce eugenics, but rather to discourage dysgenics, such as crack addicts having litters of low-IQ crack babies? Would trying to reduce the number of pregnancies that result in the births of retarded children be so bad?

    For folks who are intersted in this subject, consider reading the short story The Marching Morons:


    The B-movie and possible future cult movie Idiocracy might also be of interest:


    Can you say Clevon?

  • somebody

    Besides that aircrafts, commercial ships, trucks, tractors and almost all cars don’t run on nuclear power:

    Wind power costs $1,400 per kW and nuclear costs $8,000 per kW.

    The decommissioning of this nuclear plant has reached $1,400 per kW (after completing the decommission):

    The ultimate repository at Yucca mountain has already reached costs close to $1000 per kW and nuclear power plant:

    Wind power has also lower maintenance costs and homegrown wind is free and imported uranium is not.

    The US imports over 80% of its uranium and only 2/3 of all uranium sources are mined.

    Wind power is not only limitless and cheaper it is also built in less time than new nuclear.

    And wind power can be utilized to generate fuel.

    Nuclear power has dominated government spending on energy research and development, accounting for over US$159 billion between 1974 and 1998. Although its share has fallen, it still accounts for 51% of the OECD energy R&D budget:

    After 60 years of massive public funding it is about time for nuclear to learn to walk on its own feet.

  • somebody

    Wind power not only provides baseload:

    Wind power also saves gas from gas power plants and water reservoirs from hydro power plants.
    (The US has 449 GW of flexible gas power capacity and 77 GW of hydro power capacity installed while the average US power consumption is only 430 GW. There’s already lots of excess capacity already installed.)

    Transporting electricity over wide distances is inexpensive and very efficient.
    In the example of a HVDC line with a bulk power transmission need of 6 gigawatts (GW), about 5 percent of the electricity will be lost over a distance of 1,500 kilometers when using an 800 kilovolt (kV) DC line.
    (The distance between Chigaco and New York is 1200 km).

    Solar PV reduces the load on the grid when AC runs at full power. Firstsolar has already reached costs of $870 per kW (which is less than the decommissioning costs of the nuclear power plant shown in the example above). firstsolar.com/company_overview.php?langid=en

    In 2006, China installed almost 200 times more solar hot water capacity than the US.
    (Heating water on the roof saves gas as well).

  • Ann-Marie

    Are we forgetting why people moved out of big
    cities in the first place: over-crowding, high
    disease transmission, less space for kids to play,
    etc. Imagine the next global pandemic with everyone
    living in such close quarters. Yikes!

    This man’s idea of the world under $20 gallon gas
    is a nightmare, especially for the poor and middle-
    class who would would be the first groups to die in
    such unhealthy conditions. He is as naive in his
    beliefs as are those conservatives who believe that
    society would be better off if we turn the clocks and
    went back to living in the fifties. Proving again
    that the far left have much more in common with the
    far right than with the average person in the middle.

  • Adam

    Tracking all the lies in this editorial takes quite an effort too. Obama did not fault Palin for decrying rationing. Never mind that private insurance companies ration health care all the time for pre-existing conditions (even retroactively!), Obama was answering the false “Death panels” claim. The original bill called for paying doctors for end-of-life counseling — a concept introduced by Republicans — and that lie, perptuated by Palin, is what Obama was answering.

    And government can’t run anything..? Must we drive only 20 MPH on those government-built freeways, or boil that government-treated water?

    The Canadians spend far less on health care (and prisons!) than the U.S. Period. Google it for yourselves.

    The concept is simple. Imagine how many private swimming pools you’d have to build to equal the utility of a single public one. The public pool is both cheaper and more fun to play in.

    But imagine some pool contractors spreading the lie that all public pool managers are crooks — I bet they could even find that exceptional manager who *was* a crook, too — then generalizing from that experience to say public pools lead to corruption. And don’t forget “You wouldn’t want to share that pool with those smelly ol’ coloreds, would you?” — The Dixiecrats stopped Medicare when Truman proposed it because they feared they’d have to integrate their hospitals.

    Now imagine the neo-con crusade to oppose any public role in health care. Imagine spreading the lie that Canadians come to the U.S. for their operations. There’s probably a tiny minority that does that, but it ignores the far larger number of U.S. citizens who patronize Canadian pharmacies because drugs are so much cheaper there.

    Imagine the lie that we should be grateful to pay so much because big PHrMA must have big profits to do its research, when they spend 55% of their gross profits on marketing, but only 15% on R&D, and the bulk of the Research & Development is to extend the life of already profitable patented drugs (e.g. time-release Viagra) rather than searching for new medications.

    The editorial’s authors can claim that “the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured” are answered by a poll, but bankruptcies in the U.S. count as a hardship too, and 70% of those are medically-related.

    As for whether health care costs are related to bad lifestyle choices — that’s pretty uncontroversial. In the European Union, however, even household chemicals must be proven safe before they’re put on the market (in the U.S. such chemicals are “innocent until proven guilty,” and even the lead paint the U.S. knows is toxic since the 1920s was manufactured until 1978). Single payer makes people cognizant of the costs of their environment far more effectively than a “You’re on your own” private insurance environment.

    Making up “facts” won’t make the neo-con paradise where no one shares anything arrive any sooner either.

    David asks “To what degree is gasoline at the pump, taxpayer subsidized?” In 1989, the World Resources Institute estimated U.S. petroleum subsidies at $300 billion annually. This included $50 billion to provide security for overseas oilfields and sea lanes, petroleum-related infrastructure un-funded by the gas tax, and tax breaks like the depletion allowance.

    Louise believes “The Democrats Cap and Trade will cause the price of energy to shoot through the roof and as a result, millions of Americans will be out of work. 3 million Americans have already lost their jobs since Obama became president. Thanks Democrats.”

    Louise has clearly been drinking the neo-con Koolaid. First of all, there were plenty of signs of the meltdown before Obama came into office. Democrats may bear some responsibility, but only peripherally.

    As for the energy situation, climate change may have some manufactured controversy, but there’s absolutely no dispute — even from the oil lobby — that U.S. domestic petroleum production peaked in 1971 (30% imports then, at $1.75/bbl). We currently import 70% of domestic production at $40 – $140/bbl. Not an encouraging trend. And no amount of “drill here, drill now” — not even in Alaska — will return us to that 1971 peak of production. (ANWR oil would arrive in a decade and make 5¢ difference in a gallon of gasoline).

    Louise somehow believes that subsidizing (as we have) petroleum consumption is something we should continue. Cap and trade is a relatively modest attempt to make the market conserve, rather than over-consume petroleum.

    The real culprit, however, was Reagan. His administration dismantled all of the previous administration’s energy conservation measures, down to removing the solar panels from the White House. He got lucky because production from Alaska’s North Slope (now past peak) arrived in the middle of a recession that quelled demand for oil, so prices went from $42/bbl in 1982 (the previous peak price) to around $10. Incidentally, this price whipsaw is widely thought to be far more important in the breakup of the Soviet Union than any foreign policy decisions from Mr. Iran-Contra.

    Incidentally, in case Louise is still reading: We do not have to live in yurts and tend sheep if we cut our energy consumption. Europe and Japan have first world lifestyles, but consume roughly half the energy the U.S. does per dollar of GDP.

  • Adam

    Sorry for the “tracking all the lies” portion of the above post. That was in response to a right-wing editorial about health care… inadvertently pasted from where I composed the oil stuff.

    BTW, one interesting note about oil accounting (thanks to Herman Daly): Conventional accounting counts oil production as “income” rather than the far more accurate “natural capital.”

    To appreciate the difference, imagine applying for a loan that requires you to have $2000 in monthly income, then trying to pass off your savings account’s contents as “income”…. If you did this, the loan officer would call security to have you ejected from the bank as a crazy person. Yet that “crazy person” accounting is precisely how we talk about oil production.

    I couldn’t make it up.

  • Erin Howarth

    I just want to say that there is no direct link between population and consumption. A larger population should consume more, but they don’t. The United States has “enjoyed” a negative population growth rate for several years now, but our consumption rates continue to increase.

Aug 22, 2014
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

The National Guard and Eric Holder in Ferguson. ISIS beheads an American journalist. Texas Governor Rick Perry gets a mug shot. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Aug 22, 2014
In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP)

The Ice Bucket Challenge: ALS, viral fundraising and how we give in the age of social media.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Your (Weird? Wonderful? Wacky?) Roommate Stories
Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014

We asked, and you delivered: some of the best roommate stories from across our many listener input channels.

More »
Our Week In The Web: August 15, 2014
Friday, Aug 15, 2014

On Pinterest, Thomas the Tank Engine and surprising population trends from around the country. Also, words on why we respond to your words, tweets and Facebook posts.

More »
Nickel Creek Plays Three Songs LIVE For On Point
Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014

Nickel Creek shares three live (well, mostly) tracks from their interview with On Point Radio.

More »