Oakland Depletion Protocol

Oakland, California:  Local Depletion Protocol

By Alice Friedemann

Latest revision February 21, 2006

Note: I’ve been adding to this as time permits since April 2005, as I read about the history of agriculture, transportation, etc.  This was first posted July 22, 2005 in yahoo group energyresources.   Clearly engineers, organic farmers, and others with detailed knowledge in infrastructure and farming need to be brought in to the discussion as soon as possible.

We’re at or near the peak of global oil production. Fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal make everything we depend on possible – growing and distributing food, clean water, electricity, transportation, manufacturing, and so on.  From now on, the cost of energy will inexorably rise.  It’s not clear how an economic system based on endless growth the past two centuries will handle a shrinking economy, where debts can’t be counted on to be repaid.

There are no substitutes for fossil fuels ready to step in.  Even if Robert Hirsch’s stopgap measures were constructed, it would take decades to implement.[1]   Long-term, the only possible energy source that could replace fossil fuels is fusion, and that is not ready now and probably never will be.[2]

The time to prepare is now, while times are good, while there is still cheap energy available, and we still have highly-educated engineers who can design the infrastructure we’ll need as we descend from oil, natural gas, and coal back to the age of wood.

A protocol for fossil fuel depletion has been written at a global level.[3]  This protocol asks each country to reduce its imports of fossil fuels to match the current World Depletion Rate.  The stakes are very high — if every nation follows these guidelines, we may be able to avoid a world war over the remaining oil fields.

But such a protocol must actually be implemented at local levels.  Oakland needs to consider how it might be done here.

The basic needs that need to be met are food, clean water, shelter, garbage and sewage disposal, and a heat source to cook with (and purify water).


One possibility is to have Oakland residents grow their own food, because it will become very expensive as the costs of growing and transporting it continue to rise.  Plus it will be unavailable in grocery stores at times when shelves are emptied when events like oil shocks, pandemics, or earthquakes strike.

Oakland has 425,000 people in 60.25 square miles, or 38,560 acres, giving each person 3,950 square feet of land if every road, building, driveway, parking lot, and sidewalk were scraped off the land.   The flatlands of Oakland used to consist of farms, but as you can see below, the average residential area is very built up and has little land available.

OaklandDepletionProtocol too much concrete




The land that’s still open may have one or more of these additional problems:

1)      Industrial land is often polluted with heavy metals and chemicals.  This makes it difficult and even impossible for plants to grow, and potentially toxic.  Homeowners use even more chemicals on their gardens and lawns than industrial agriculture.

2)      Land that’s too steep, because such land has thin topsoil which is quickly eroded.

3)      Land too forested or rocky to grow anything.

4)      Land near a freeway may have dangerous levels of lead.

5)      A large percentage of Oakland residents live in apartments with no yards.  Land that could be turned into community gardens and orchards often isn’t within walking distance.

6)      There’s no summer rain, and potential winter droughts.

7)      Crops need sunshine, much of the land available is shaded by buildings or trees.

8)      There’s not enough public or private water storage, and pumping can’t be counted on since this is very energy intensive.  Nor would it make sense to deliver the enormous amounts of water agriculture requires here rather than the fertile Central Valley.

9)      The cemeteries in Oakland take up about 400 acres of land, but much of it is not level, and embalming chemicals might make it an unsafe place to grow food.

10)  Although some people may have roofs strong enough for roof top gardens, most are too steep or weak to support heavy soils.  Use of vermiculite and peat moss would lighten the soil load, but these are both expensive and energy intensive.

The largest areas appropriate areas available are golf courses, the land around Lake Merritt, and school yards.  Over time, perhaps some of the brown fields could be reclaimed by heaping green waste on top, and letting it break down into compost, but it would take many years.  It would be best to remediate these areas now.

The method of farming requiring the least amount of land is John Jeavons “Bio-intensive Mini-farming”,[4] which requires an average of 4,000 square feet per person (more if the soil quality is poor or there is less than 20 inches of rainfall).  It takes ten years to learn how to farm this way, because it requires a variety of skills: detailed planning to always have a wide variety of crops in the ground (to prevent erosion and organic pest control); composting, seed harvesting, knowing what grows well in the local micro-climate, and so on.  Also, it takes years to double-dig the soil two feet deep, add organic matter, and to build up proper soil structure.

Around 90% of the land in Oakland is not available to grow food, leaving an average of 500 square feet per resident, and it’s likely only a very small percent of this land consists of deep level soils with the nutrients and structure for growing crops.

What can be done

The best hope for Oakland is planting as many fruit and nut trees as possible, which would provide more high-quality calories per square foot than any other crop.  There are many groups in the Bay Area that can help choose which kinds would work best in this climate, such as the California Rare Fruit Growers, the University of California, the Merritt Landscaping department, Master Gardeners, Permaculturists, etc. These experts might also be able to estimate what percent of Oakland’s food needs could be met, how to prevent droughts from killing orchard trees, how to use integrated pest management to minimize bugs and disease, the best ways to keep squirrels and birds from taking most of the crop, provide cuttings to graft multiple varieties onto trees to spread fruit crops out over time, calculate how much water would be required, etc.

Community, school, and home gardens should be encouraged.  High quality soil can be brought in now, and continually enriched with compost.   The compost can come from yard trimmings, leaves, kitchen scraps, and so on, which is currently taken over sixty miles to be composted.  Garbage collection has always been a huge problem for cities to solve, so as energy declines, it will become critical to find ways to recycle waste locally as much as possible, and at least the “green waste” can be used to build up existing soil.  Parking lots should be depaved as soon as possible to give the soil time to recover from compaction and enriched with green waste and compost to improve soil structure and nutrition.

Hills residents will be eager to own goats, not only for their milk, but to keep the fire hazard down.  Anyone who can afford to feed chickens and ducks should be encouraged to do so.

Food from the Central Valley

The central valley provides over a third of the food for the United States.

Ten calories of fossil fuels are used to grow one calorie of food now, so as energy declines, growing and distributing food will cost more.  Part of this energy is due to nitrogen-based fertilizers, which use natural gas as a feedstock and energy source to make.  Natural gas has peaked in North America and is a more immediate challenge than the depletion of oil.

Nitrogen fertilizers do tremendous damage to the environment – they poison drinking ground water and have made bodies of water, like the Gulf of Mexico “dead via eutrophication — areas become so deprived of oxygen that fish can’t survive.  But these fertilizers have also allowed us to grow up to five times as much food, and not have to grow food on marginal land that would quickly erode if used for agriculture.

The food that can be produced in the Central Valley is going to further decline because all of the models for global warming show less water being available to grow crops in the future.   This will result in a shorter growing season, and the increased heat will make crops transpire more, requiring even more water.

One of the reasons there will be less water is due to early snow melt in the Sierras.  Now the snow melts over a long period, continually releasing water to reservoirs that feed agriculture so crops can be grown in some places year round, and everywhere there is a longer growing season.  But if the snow all melts suddenly in January and February, we don’t have, and can’t build, the reservoirs to contain this water, so it will have to be released.

But even if water is released during the winter as snow melts months earlier than usual, there will be years of extreme rainfall and snow melt which could cause massive flooding beyond anything we’ve ever experienced, and take out some of the levee system in the San Joaquin delta.  This would harm the drinking water for 18 million Californians.[5]   It would also take away four percent of the crops grown in the state.   The levees will be taken out one way or another, if not by winter flooding, then by rising sea levels.

When the levees go, this will be devastating for Oakland, because historically farmers in the delta region floated produce to Bay Area cities[6].  This region grows more variety of crops than any other region in California, and has the richest soils.  More food can be floated out on the tides and currents than could be done with trains and trucks.

California has a Mediterranean climate – rain does not fall in the summer when crops need water most.  So irrigation water is used, which requires pumping water.  That is a very energy intensive process, so as energy declines, there will be areas that won’t be able to be farmed anymore.

Irrigation also salinizes the soil.  There are already areas in the central valley that can’t be farmed because they’ve become too salty.

Recently, ice cores drilled in Greenland, the Himalayas, and other glaciers have revealed that the past ten thousand years have had the most stable weather in the past 150,000  years.   This is what may have even allowed us to develop agriculture and civilization.   Before then, what prevailed was extreme weather – droughts, flooding, early and late frosts, violent storms – problems that made reliable harvests impossible.  As food production becomes increasingly local, and the effects of global warming induce more extreme weather, bad harvests will have greater impacts.

Oakland is a city with a port, so it’s possible for food to be imported, because ships, especially sailing vessels, will continue to be able to ply the sea.  But the current infrastructure is built for container ships.  As we stair-step downward, there will be a need for engineers to anticipate the next leg down, and to have built two-mile long piers jutting out into the bay to receive thousands of sailing vessels, sloops, barges, and smaller, non-containerized ships.  At some point it will be a good idea to take an acetylene torch to container ships and recycle them into smaller boats.

There was a time when California’s rivers were navigable by steamboats far into the central valley, for example, as far as Redding on the Sacramento river.  But during the gold mining era, sediment clogged the rivers and to this day they remain non-navigable by larger ships.  And even in the 19th century, there were times when the rivers ran too low for steamship travel.

The first steamships to ply the delta to Sacramento and Stockton burned wood cut down by farmers to grow crops, typically 40 cords of wood per day.  When the wood ran out, coal imported from Australia was burned.  Although California has some coal deposits, it is of such poor quality that it can’t be used to power steamships and trains.   And we certainly don’t have enough wood to ever power steamships or trains again.

As we lurch backward through time, it behooves engineers now to be thinking about how ships and trains could burn coal without emitting greenhouse gases, and how to even get coal here in the first place.  Australia is still probably the best bet, because 40% of trains are currently hauling coal to power plants and are not able to keep up with the demand.  These trains never climb more than a 2% grade, so getting coal to California overland is probably more expensive than shipping it from Australia.  If there’s any coal to ship – China may decide that they want Australian coal all to themselves, and we’ve provided China with enough scrap metal to build warships for them to enforce that edict.

Because coal is also a finite fossil fuel, which will deplete within fifty years of less if turned to as an alternative to oil, planners need to be preparing for the next step down the energy ladder way ahead of time.

Clearly at some point horses, oxen, and other large animals will be required, not only to haul freight but for the nitrogen in their manure.  Since they each require an average of six acres of land to be fed, and it takes a team of ten horses or mules to haul up to 9 tons of cargo five miles a day on level ground (ref 6), a great deal of land and beasts will be required if we resort to animal power.  A truck can haul 30 tons of cargo 500 miles a day.   If the 6 million residents of the Bay area eat three pounds of food a day, that’s 18 million pounds of food, or 9,000 tons that needs to be delivered.  Which would take 10,000 horses (1,000 teams of ten horses) for each five mile segment required to haul farm produce to the nearest train or port.  And at each five mile stop, there needs to be food and water for the animals and drivers.

The alternative of course, is that humans become the beasts of burden, quite likely since there isn’t enough land to feed both animals and people.  The website www.bikesatwork.com has a calculator for how much cargo a bicyclist can haul.  When I plugged some numbers in, I found that a 200 lb person with no grade and steady output could haul 437 lbs at 5 mph (for how far in a day I don’t know).  If they can haul 437 pounds to a train or port in a day, you’d need 41,000 bicyclists.

Even in the past when there were a lot fewer people, mile-long horse jams would occur at ports and other loading places, so someone needs to consider how that could be prevented with our need to haul orders of magnitude more food to more people.

Continuing to use our road systems requires rubber wheels, iron wheels would quickly rip up the roadways.[7]  Roads require a great deal of energy to construct and often are constructed with oil as a feedstock (the bitumen in asphalt).

If we bring the people to the food, do we build skyscrapers so as to minimize the land taken up?  How high could you build them given that people would be going up stairs and not using elevators?

There are several problems that could interfere with such a food delivery system in the future:

1)      Problem: Failure of the San Joaquin levee system from many causes: earthquake, massive floods from early snow pack melting, sea level rise, act of terrorism, or even beavers (e.g. Jones Tract Levee in 2004), which would not only destroy some of the best farmland in the nation.

Solution(s): diversify food supply by getting produce from farms along the coast and imported food (container ships are as fuel-efficient as trains).  The city of Oakland should own a mix of sail and shallow draft boats that can navigate the Delta water ways regardless of whether the levees are standing to be in a position of delivering food to its citizens.   Strengthen the infrastructure delivering water from the Mokelumne watershed so that levee failure doesn’t impact our drinking water.

2)      Problem: There are millions of people living in the Central valley who are much closer to farms than Oakland is, so much of the produce might be sold before getting here.

Solution(s): trade seafood and internationally imported products for food from the central valley.

3)      Problem: As automated harvesting equipment lies idle during energy shortages, an even larger agricultural workforce will need to come in to harvest the crops, and they will need to eat, which will cut back the amount of food that can be shipped out. Since transportation will be a large problem in the future, these workers will tend to live locally and be far less mobile than today’s farm workers.

Solution(s): Oakland owned farms that Oakland residents can seasonally reside at during planting and harvesting seasons.  Which would help solve the massive unemployment and bread line problems.

4)      From two to five times as much food is grown with fossil fuel based fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides as could otherwise be grown otherwise, so as fossil fuels decline, so too will food production decline.

Solution(s): start training and requiring central valley farmers to use organic bio-intensive methods, which can produce as much food as industrial agriculture does now for most crops. These special methods will allow the soil to last for thousands of years, instead of the hundreds or less of the current destructive methods.   This style of farming is very labor intensive, but since there will be so many hungry, unemployed people, this could be seen as a blessing rather than a problem.

5)      California provides nearly all of America’s almonds and enormous percentages of other fruit and nut crops.[8]  Fruit and nut trees are particularly vulnerable to pests because there are so many species that prey on them, brought in from all over the world.[9]  Therefore, fruit will be difficult to grow organically.  Also, fruit crops tend to ripen all at once, depend on refrigeration, and need to be extremely well-coordinated in their shipping and distribution to arrive before rotting. In a world with less energy, fruit will no longer be able to be shipped across the United States as it is now, and as energy declines, it will be difficult to deliver it even to California cities in time.

Solution(s):    The university system needs to receive more grant money to study Integrated Pest Management, how to create healthy soils, and so on to fight off pests naturally.  More grain, and less produce, will need to be grown in the  future.

6)      If an adequate amount of produce does make it to Oakland, more people will move here from regions of the United States with little food or extremely hot and cold weather, which at some point will make it difficult to buy food again here.

Solution(s):  extremely high taxes on anyone with more than one child, no more development, lowered immigration numbers into the United States, limit the population of Oakland to 400,000 people, and as people leave or die, try to bring the population down to a more sustainable one of 100,000 or less.[10] [11]

7)      To the extent that thieves, pirates, and other brigands attempt to steal produce before it reaches Oakland, supplies will even be further diminished.  This sort of crime will discourage farmers from even trying to market their produce this far away.

Solution(s): Make food distribution as fair as possible to minimize the need for extra security forces.  Try to get some regional planning going by giving more power to the regional agencies to enforce civil order throughout the state.

8)      The rest of the United States and the world will be offering more money for California food than many Oakland residents will be able to pay.  There may be a policy of the federal government to sell food for oil and natural gas, and China has enough of a surplus trade with the USA at this point that they could afford to buy all of our grain.

Solution(s): What’s the point of having a government if it doesn’t protect its citizens?  Try to enact laws that only surplus produce can be sold.

Farmers should be at the pinnacle of society and rewarded far more than they are now.   There also need to be more farms and more farmers.  The history of California has been one of very large farms worked by armies of poorly housed and fed temporary laborers, the opposite of the Jeffersonian ideal.   Anything that could be done to break large farms into smaller acreages where people could grow their own food would greatly lessen the suffering in the future.

The vast majority of money spent on food finds its way to middlemen who sell unhealthy, life-shortening products to us at ten times the cost of the natural ingredients.  For example, most products with flour are not whole grain, but flour that’s had the vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, and fiber stripped out.

By having consumers trade with farmers as directly as possible, we will all be healthier, and the inflationary pressures that rising energy costs will bring can be lowered, because now all the excessive processing, packaging, advertising, and distribution costs can be eliminated or minimized.

There are huge issues with making the transition from growing food with industrial methods to sustainable organic practices.  There won’t be natural gas based fertilizer at some point.  Since agriculture is a closed cycle, the manure from the cities needs to be returned to the land in the country.  California grows food in monoculture, but needs to grow as many crops as possible locally in the future, not only because food needs to be grown locally.  Crop diversity is also one of the ways that farmers can wean themselves from oil-based pesticides since this will make Integrated Pest management far easier. Farmers also depend on hybrid seeds and varieties of genetically engineered plants that can handle the herbicides dumped on them to destroy weeds, but they need to switch ASAP to non-hybrid seeds of as many varieties as possible.

Then there is the bigger picture – California provides one-third of the nations food.   California needs to encourage other states to pass tax laws that encourage small family farms as soon as possible.  If that is impossible in many places due to acid rain having acidified the soil too much to grow crops, then amending the soil to raise the pH is a top  priority.  Since we are likely to turn to coal in desperation, it becomes critical that only “clean coal” plants with CO2 sequestration and pollution control are built and existing plants retrofitted, whatever the energy and monetary cost.

Water and Sewage

A great deal of the water used in Oakland flows by gravity from the Sierras. But EBMUD will still need energy to:

  • Pump water and sewage
  • Purify water
  • Maintain pipes, storage systems, and other water delivery infrastructure
  • Maintain sewer pipes and sewage treatment plant
  • Treat wastewater

All of the global warming predictions for California show higher temperatures and less water availability due to early snowmelt and possibly less rainfall, so water harvesting and storage at a state, city, and homeowner level is essential.

Currently, water distribution and sewage use 7% of our energy.


Oakland has much higher than the average national rates of murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, Burglary, larceny, and car theft.  There are a large number of violent gangs.

If there is great hardship at some point, even ordinary people will find themselves getting unreasonably cranky, angry and hot-tempered as they become afraid, hungry, tired, or cold.  There will be a great need for arbitrators and for people to learn these skills themselves.

Unfortunately, maintaining civil order will probably consume a large amount of the dwindling energy resources.

Wood and Coal

People will need to cook their food, and the wealthy will burn wood and coal to keep warm in the winter.

What can be done

1)      Allowance of gray water systems at residences.

2)      Some sewage treatment via wetlands as is done in Arcata.

3)      Add more rail lines in the central valley to transport food and people.

4)      Set up city granaries and water storage.    As fuel becomes scarce and intermittently available, being able to move large quantities of grain into local storage when possible would smooth distribution bumps.

5)      The city of Oakland could contract to buy food directly from farmers.

6)      If it’s legal, the city could even buy farms.  There will be a great deal of unemployment as businesses collapse from high fuel prices and shortages.[12] [13] [14] This would provide a valuable jobs program for Oakland.

7)      The city should have a fleet of sailboats and other water craft to navigate the delta and coast to bring food back to the city.  This will also provide jobs.

8)      Residents should be encouraged to store their own food and water.  The city should provide, at cost, water and food-safe containers and manual grain grinders.

9)      The city of Oakland should also provide solar ovens at cost.  Not only can food be cooked in these over the course of a day, water can also be pasteurized.  For days when the sun isn’t shining, and the natural gas isn’t flowing, there are cooking devices that need mere twigs to cook food, and passive highly-insulated boxes that continue to cook heated food without additional heat.

10)  California has one of the most extensive irrigation systems in the world.  There are hundreds of miles of irrigation canals.  Water transportation is the most energy efficient form of transport — we need to investigate whether the major canals can be made navigable.  “Gondoliers” could pole produce down the larger canals and rivers.

11)  We should also do research to see if it would be feasible to cover the irrigation canals to limit evaporation and sedimentation.  This would also limit the growth of weeds, algae, and invasive water plants, which clog canals and provide habitat for mosquitoes, snails and other pests.  Or allow invasive water plants to grow, but harvest them to make compost.  We won’t have the energy to fight invasive species anymore, so we need to come up with low-energy strategies.

12)  Bicyclists and horses could deliver the produce to the canal network.  The cargo in the gondolas would be trans-loaded to sailboats and larger barges in the delta, where river craft would take advantage of the tides, wind, and currents to make their way to the Bay Area.

13)  We should restore the Bay Area estuary and wetlands to bring back the fisheries and waterfowl that once made this one of the most productive estuaries on earth.  That way the sailboats returning to the central valley can take back seafood from the Bay Area (and other products too: tools, medicine, books, etc).

14)  Oakland could start punching holes in parking lots now to let the soil begin recovering, eventually de-paving as cars disappear.  Over time, the soils can be restored and turned into community gardens and orchards.

15)  There should be a moratorium on all development, except along train lines and major transportation corridors.

16)  The city should create tax incentives for tearing down buildings and converting land that’s already open space into community gardens.  It’s been seven years since Berkeley gave permission to a neighborhood to start a community orchard, and it is only now finally happening.  These projects take time, because there are many issues to resolve.  Time is running out, this needs to be done now.

17)  Food should be delivered to neighborhood centers within walking distance of homes rather than the current system, where everyone drives to stores.   This will mean redistricting to more mixed business and residential, perhaps even tearing down homes and replacing them with businesses.

18)  The hills are well suited to goats that could provide dairy products to sell.  Goats will also be essential for fire protection.

19)  Encourage people to have chickens, eggs are a very good source of protein.

If nothing is done, we’re headed for a much scarier sequel of “Grapes of Wrath, as millions migrate from the cities and the rest of the nation into the central valley to find farm worker jobs.  A new class of large landowners will rule – we’ll have feudalism instead of a Jeffersonian nation of small farmers.

Since at least three out of ten people must go back to the land (until the coal-driven industrial revolution, it was nine out of ten), it would be better for everyone if the government or groups of individuals bought farm land and built energy efficient housing there as soon as possible.  Each family would own a section of the surrounding land.

Oakland staff and city council members should set up meetings with all of the neighborhood associations to educate the local people on the challenges ahead.  Our neighborhood has pooled our resources to buy several sets of firefighting hoses, a similar approach could be taken to buy water purification, water and food storage containers, and so on, that neighbors could pool their money to buy at cost from the city as compost bins are now.   Car sharing and other programs can be set up to be implemented as needed ahead of time.

Given the average American’s lack of ecological and scientific literacy, magical thinking, and a retreat from reality caused by watching television several hours a day, this will be quite a challenge.

Bay Area Carrying Capacity

The residents of San Francisco Bay Area cities rely on an area nearly the size of California and Oregon combined so sustain themselves (146 million acres), about 21 acres per person.  If everyone on earth lived at the same standard of living, we’d need more than 4.5 earths.[15]  Localization and living a simpler lifestyle needs to start now.


You could look at Peak Oil as a logistical battle looming ahead: how to ship goods, water, and so on, with less energy, from agricultural areas that are often far from cities.  And how to grow the same amount of food organically, how to pump water from depleted water tables with minimal energy use (windmills can only bring water up from 20 feet or less), how to get “armies” of people from cities to farms to harvest crops in a short window of time, etc.   Many of the cities in Calfornia are built on top of the best farm land, so stopping further development is an important step to take as soon as possible.

Basically it’s a retreat – how do we fall back in time?  Clearly we are falling back to the Age of Wood, kicking and screaming all the way.   If we planned for this transition now, we could build more rugged non-rusting aluminum sailboats and wagons than we will be able to build later, especially with wood being so scarce now that we’ve cut down so many of our trees.  What we don’t cut will likely burn as the climate warms and forest fires become more frequent.

The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be, because now we have the material and energy to prepare. Once energy declines, the ability to adapt will be much harder, even impossible at times, because what energy remains will be totally devoted to keeping as much running as possible.

Since there are no energy replacements for oil except for fusion, which isn’t available now or possible ever, the only rational thing to do is to figure out how to re-architect society to cause the least harm possible.

History textbooks are famous for talking about how horse carriage makers went out of business when Henry Ford started making cars, now it’s time to talk about how to get autoworkers to make horse carriages again.

We need to stop building on farmland now.  As it is, many major cities are sitting on top of what used to be the best prime farm land.

We need to move more people back to more farms (there are 1.9 million farms now, in 1935 there were 7 million farms).   Do we start breeding mules and horses like mad for transport, or would they require too much land for hay?  Do we try to move people back to the land, and get 50 million small farms going (using Jeavons or other biointensive methods)?

This sounds awfully wacky, I know we won’t go from the 21st century to 13th overnight, but it will be awfully fast because of factors beyond oil depletion (i.e. politics, economics, acts of terrorism, the possibility of WW III over the remaining resources, pandemics, extreme weather, lower standards of living driving the crime rate up, etc), and most of all, not having prepared for what we knew was coming ahead of time.

To prevent chaos and suffering, we need to look at the impact Peak Oil will have on the basics: food and water.  Food production is heavily dependent on oil and natural gas, so the amount of food that can be produced and distributed will decline at the rate of fossil fuel depletion.[16] [17]

People will travel far less often as rationing, shortages, and the prices of oil increases.

Agriculture and water agencies will be given the lions’ share of energy.[18]  As infrastructure breaks down and costs more to repair over time, delivery of food to the Bay Area will become less reliable.

Many think that ethanol and bio-fuels will propel vehicles in the future, but there is a great deal of evidence to show that these products require more fossil fuel energy to make than is delivered in the final product.[19] [20]  Topsoil is our greatest possession.  Land used to grow ethanol and bio-fuels would also decrease the amount of land available for food, deplete the fertility of the soil, and increase soil erosion.

Population must go down in step with the depletion of fossil fuels. It can be done by limiting immigration, making abortion and birth control free and easily accessible, taxing families with more than one child, etc.  And there is a huge incentive.  If we don’t do it, Mother Nature will, and with a Malthusian vengeance through starvation, disease, violence and chaos.

Government is going to have to reinvent itself to make decisions based on ecology.   The “endless growth on a finite planet” point of view was born from the discovery of the Americas, “empty” continents with unexploited resources, and then the discovery of oil, which has given us the delusion we could increase productivity and grow forever.


[1] Robert L. Hirsch 2005 Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management.    http://www.hilltoplancers.org/stories/hirsch0502.pdf

[2] M. Hoffert, et al. November 1, 2002. Advanced Technology Paths to Global  Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet. Science, 298: 981-987.

[4] John Jeavons  2002. How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine   Ten Speed Press

[5] Bettina Boxall. September 19, 2005. California’s Levees Are in Sorry Shape.  Los Angeles Times.


[6] Richard Street. 2004. Beasts of the Field: A History of California Farm Workers, 1769-1913. Stanford University Press.

[7] Brian Hayes. 2005. Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape. W. W. Norton.

[8] California Department of Food and Agriculture

[9] Steven Stoll. 1998. The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Countryside in California. University of California Press.

[10] Garrett Hardin. 1995. Living Within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos. Oxford University Press.

[11] Roy Beck & Leon Kolankiewicz. The Environmental Movement’s Retreat From Advocating U.S. Population Stabilization (1970-1998). www.population.org.au/pressrm/pub/RetreatfromStabilization.pdf

[12] Jul 02, 2004  Oil prices raising costs of offshoots By Associated Press


[13] May 24, 2004 Soaring energy prices dog rosy U.S. farm economy


[14] March 17, 2004 Chemical Industry in Crisis: Natural Gas Prices Are Up, Factories

Are Closing, And Jobs Are Vanishing


[15] Regionalprogress.org, an organization that studies the ecological footprint and
        regional sustainability of regions in the United States.
        For more on ecological footprint and carrying capacity from a global perspective,
        see Global Footprint Network, created by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees at
       http://www.footprintnetwork.org/   Other first-rate scientists associated with this
   organization are: E. O. Wilson, David T. Suzuki, Lester Brown, Herman E. Daly, etc

[16] John Gever.  1991  Beyond Oil: The Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decade.    University Press of Colorado

[17] David & Marshall Fisher April 2001.  The Nitrogen Bomb.  Discover magazine

[18] Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan.  1980. U.S. Department of Energy Economic Regulatory Administration    http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/12000/12200/12291/12291.pdf

[19] Tad Patzek, David Pimentel . 2005.  Thermodynamics of Energy Production from Biomass. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences

[20] Pimentel, D and Patzek, T. March 2005. Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower. Natural Resources Research, Vol. 14, No. 1

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