I Cannot Tell a Lie

A talk to be given at Schreiner University on February 22d, 2006

Peak Oil

June 21st, which should be the national day of pessimism as every suceeding day is shorter, is generally thought of as a happy day; and, December 21st, which should be the national day of optimism as the days begin to lengthen then, is the national day of depression if not suicide.  Thus, at the peak of our energy consumption, things will be about as good as they can get despite the cause for pessimism, which probably accounts for the inability of many to get serious about the coming crisis.


The following passage from Dwellers in the Land by Kirkpatrick Sale was copied from http://dieoff.org/page14.htm by permission:

Overshoot is the inevitable and irreversible consequence of continued drawdown, when the use of resources in an ecosystem exceeds its carrying capacity and there is no way to recover or replace what was lost.  It takes many forms, depending on the system, but perhaps the clearest and in some ways the most touching is exemplified by Easter Island.  When it was first settled a thousand years ago, the island was a rich and forested land covered with palms and a small native tree called the sophora, and on its sixty-four square miles a prosperous and literate culture developed organizational and engineering skills that enabled it to erect the famous massive stone statues all along the coastline.  For reasons lost in time, the population of the island over the years increased to something like 4,000 people, apparently necessitating a steady drawdown of vegetation that eventually deforested the entire island and exhausted its fertile soils.  Somewhere along the line came overshoot, unstoppable and final, and then presumably conflict over scarce food acreage, and ultimately warfare and chaos.  By the time of Captain Cook's voyage to the island in the 1775 there were barely 630 people left, eking out a marginal existence; a hundred years later, only 155 islanders remained.

Materialism Causes Overshoot

January 14, 2006.  Materialism Causes Overshoot

Materialism is the cause of over-population and over-consumption, therefore it is the cause of Overshoot.  For all practical purposes, in Twenty-First Century America, it is the sole cause of Overshoot because, in a non-materialistic economy, if it is not possible to prevent excessive over-consumption and over-population, which are inconsistent with a social contract that is the basis for a non-materialistic society, then it will be because society has degenerated to the point where under-population and under-consumption are the problem.  If materialism is restored, over-consumption and over-population will proceed.  If, on the other hand, society is informed by a Rational Social Contract, people will understand that excessive procreation and excessive consumption impose upon the guaranteed freedom of other people and their posterity as shown in Chapter 3 of On the Preservation of Species.  See “On Materialism” for an analysis of how materialism causes Overshoot.  The entire case for the thesis that materialism is the cause of all of society’s problems is made in Chapter 9 of On the Preservation of Species.  Don’t expect to see a complete case presented without some symbolic logic.

Conservation-within-Capitalism to a Natural Economy (from “On the Demise of Business as Usual”)


It is impossible to replace fossil fuels with non-nuclear renewable energy within a market economy.  Capitalism can be saved for a few years but only with a large investment in nuclear power, which must overcome market forces that continue to favor fossil-fuel technology even in the immediate aftermath of Peak Oil.  Eventually, capitalism, which depends upon materialistic growth, must fail in a finite world.  A natural (non-materialistic) economy is the best hope for a sustainable future in which humans might live in harmony with Nature and with each other.

Synopsis of Computations

The spreadsheet calculations for this study are described in detail in the computational section of “On the Conservation-within-Capitalism Scenario” [2] where the assumptions determining the energy supply are discussed.  After verifying the limits on wind and solar power, we assume that the bound of 45.7 quads per year from renewables computed by Pimentel et al. [20] is reached quickly with an Apollo-like effort.  But, because the ingenuity of man is boundless, the energy from renewables is increased slightly each year thereafter.

The rate at which energy and other imports are repatriated is established by the growth in GDP of 1.4 trillion US dollars promised by AA.  The effect upon the energy budget is predicted by the methodology described above.  The number of NPIs is calculated from the energy budget and from technical data in the nuclear literature.  [10, 13, 14]  The land area required for NPIs is estimated from field data.  The computational section ends with the determination of capital costs and their associated energy.

Note on Repatriating Imports

Currently, the United States imports a large portion of its energy needs – principally in the form of crude oil.  A stated goal of the Apollo Alliance and others is to eliminate US dependence on foreign energy.  This is not a particularly neighborly way of stating the case.  The reader knows that true wealth is energy (corrected for conservation and intelligent use – or, more properly, corrected for wasteful and frivolous use).  That is, if we assume equally efficient and intelligent use of energy by all consumers, a nation’s standard of living can be measured by the energy consumed per capita.  Therefore, when we purchase energy from a trading partner at an emquad per dollar ratio in excess of our domestic energy to GDP ratio, we more or less impoverish that trading partner, which is hardly neighborly.  If we abandon this practice in an orderly manner, we are complying with the Fundamental  Principle of Neighborliness to the extent that wealth no longer flows away from our neighbor and toward ourselves.  When wealth flows always from those whose per capita energy consumption is greater toward those whose per capita energy consumption is less, we are in complete compliance.  Let us make this definite by supplying a few numbers.  In 2003, per capita energy consumption for the United States was 11.326 kW per capita while E/GDP was 9.46 emquads/TUSD (Table 3d).  The comparable figures for Saudi Arabia were about 6.218 kW per capita and 17.08 emquads/TUSD.  When we purchase oil for $50 per barrel, this amounts to a flow of 115.435 emquads/TUSD.  For each emquad they sell us, they can purchase only 0.082 emquads worth of American goods.  Moreover, if they had consumed their entire energy production, their standard of living would have been 26.143 kW/cap, which is 231% of our standard of living, instead of 6.218 kW/cap, which is about 55% of ours.  Is it any wonder that some people are angry with us?


The five cases are: (i) the Reference Case with robust growth predicted by AA, (ii) the One-Percent Growth Case, (iii) the No-Growth Case, (iv) the No-Growth and No-Sales Case, and, finally, (v) the case of the Natural Economy.  All five scenarios begin with a concerted effort toward conservation and renewable energy worthy of an Apollo Project and end with the results shown in Table 4 of “On the Conservation-within-Capitalism Scenario” [2].

The Reference Case [21]

During the first ten years of the Apollo Alliance program, Americans would enjoy an increase in the average standard of living, as measured by energy consumed per capita corrected for conservation of about 3.09% per annumThe Reference Case [21] shows that, if the AA promise of such growth were kept, the United States would need, by the year 2100, over 78,000 new nuclear power installations with an average capacity of 1000 megawatts electrical equivalence.  The average rate of energy use per person would be an orgiastic 296 kilowatts, i.e., 21,623 kilowatt-hours/month measured as heat equivalents – approximately thirty times the current American lavish usage.  Imagine the amount of motion, noise, and environmental destruction that would be generated by a person consuming energy at this rate.  Most of this energy would be consumed by working people operating unimaginably expensive equipment – not the least of which would be the nuclear power installations themselves.  But, this won’t happen.  Such a rate of increase of energy consumption per person is unsupportable.

One-Percent Growth [22]

In the One-Percent-Growth Scenario, Apollo-like efforts toward change are abandoned after thirteen years.  Presumably, people who recoil at the thought of more than 78,000 new NPIs will not be especially comforted by the assurance that, by allowing growth to return to Twentieth-Century norms, only 12,000 need be built.  [22]

The No-Growth Scenario [23]

Just as in the One-Percent Growth Scenario (above), Apollo-like changes occur from 2005 to 2018, by which time trade imports have been brought to zero.  From 2018 to 2025, the exports are brought to zero, after which no further change in GDP occurs.  The population is stabilized at 328,541,308—presumably because immigration is prohibited or is no longer attractive.  Although from time to time money may be won or stolen by poor people from people who are richer than themselves, the typical flow of money is expected to be from poorer toward richer, especially if no political changes are made to prevent this from happening or to equilibrate wealth by other means.  With population and energy fixed at the 2018 figure, the additional nuclear required to balance the energy budget due the loss of other resources is much less—but not zero.  The No-Growth Scenario [23] without fundamental political change amounts to a reversion to Feudalism.  This is not a stable situation.

The No-Growth and No-Sales Scenario [24]

First, Americans must understand that all economic activity results in the flow of embodied energy (emergy) and/or primary energy (exergy); next they should be asking themselves which economic activities are truly useful and which are harmful.  One of the principal absurdities of American life is the amount of effort (energy) that goes into convincing people that they need something that, if it were not for this effort, they wouldn’t have missed.  Sales and marketing is the third largest category of employment behind office work and government work.

In the No-Growth, No-Sales Scenario, we begin by furloughing everyone employed in sales and related fields, banking and related fields, and half of all managers, office workers, food service workers, and deliverers of personal care, which can be done because of repudiation of the profit motive and elimination of the (lethal) necessity for the economy to expand.  Naturally, such people, who may not be suited for useful endeavor, have to live, therefore they must be paid to do whatever they find interesting to do provided they do not consume the energy that they would have consumed as active participants in the commercial sector of our economy.

Many conventional economies have discovered that, when public policy or some cataclysmic economic event eliminates a large number of jobs suddenly, many other jobs become superfluous through a sort of domino effect.  With economic shrinkage, further need for construction and extraction (mostly of oil) disappears.  Since property is nine-tenths of the law, nine-tenths of the lawyers will not be needed; and since the poor no longer need to prey upon the rich at the margins of society, we shall not need the other tenth.  Similarly, healthcare support workers are concerned principally with collecting money; and may henceforth devote themselves to whatever interests them.  Clearly, working hours can be very much shortened in a world of highly-valued and, for all we know, very useful leisure.  Thus, in the No-Growth and No-Sales Scenario [24], energy demand can be reduced by at least 25%.  The virtues of the Leisure Society are discussed in On the Work Ethic [7] and On a New Theory of Classes [25], which leads to the next section:

Energy in a Natural Economy [26]

Materialism [27] is the belief, or any system based on the belief, that people should compete for material wealth or power or fame and that material wealth or power or fame may be used as a reward for achievement or good behavior or as a measure of success.  Any system or belief that permits people to influence the amount of material wealth they themselves may consume or possess privately or power that they may wield because of who they are or what they do or because of any aspect of their beings – any social, political, or other circumstance that can result in a relation between (i) what people think, say, or do; or who they are, or who their parents were and (ii) their wealth or power – is classified as materialism even if competition is not involved.  Materialism is Pandora’s Box.  Dematerialism [28] is any process for unwinding materialism.

The energy consumed by an American-type, Capitalist-style, quasi-market economy in simply dividing up the pie is wasted and is not affordable in the shadow of Peak Oil.  Whereas capitalism enriches a small fraction of the population, it more or less impoverishes most of the population relative to the mean.  Nevertheless, many people favor capitalism—presumably because they keep hoping that they will be one of the lucky ones who become rich even though their chances of doing so are negligible.  As the circumstances attendant upon Peak Oil obtrude upon such people, they will be hard pressed to retain their propaganda-induced faith in a failed system.  (Please see “Psychology as a Tool of Political Repression”.  [29])

The poor in a rich imperialist country like the United States consume more real wealth than the poor in a Third World country, therefore their exploiters can keep them quiet with constant reminders as to how much better off they are than people elsewhere.  Incidentally, the lavish lifestyle of all Americans, even the poor, excites the righteous indignation of people, even rich people, in poor nations whose sole recourse is what journalists refer to as terrorism.  Perhaps the War on Terror is not intended to address this problem, but rather to control tightly people in the rich nation who might notice this deception and conceivably wish to attempt a remedy of their own.

Great savings were achieved in the No-Growth and No-Sales Scenario by eliminating the profit motive and permitting the economy to shrink while retaining central planning.  In a Natural Economy, as described in my book [4], we can do even better.  On Sheet 2 of [26], the population is reduced to one-half of its present value by 2089.  On Sheet 3 of [26], I have accounted for savings of nearly 50% of the energy demand by 2025.  In the earlier paper, “Energy in a Natural Economy” [5], I justified the elimination of 75% of the energy demand.  Therefore, the present result is conservative.

Many things that are manufactured and maintained nowadays will not be needed in a world without sales; marketing; parasitic management; authoritarian propaganda; mass-market media; wasteful, cruel, and unnecessary war machines; and vast, authoritarian governments.  Just think of all the energy (and labor) that can be saved in a world with no monetary system.  Finally, with the US using half as much energy or less, the infrastructure to provide energy can be reduced proportionately.

An energy budget in 2025 of 69.7 emquads or 2.34 TWyears/year would be greater than the current world average; but, less than our current consumption of five times the world average.  The United States would be an example to be followed—as opposed to a predatory, imperialist, world adventurer.  This would constitute a show of good faith such that we would be safe forever from terrorism.  Moreover, we would be able to produce most of the 2.34 TW from renewable technologies and supply the rest with domestic gas for as long as it took to decentralize, de-urbanize, convert to small sustainable technologies, and progress further along the path to a safe, sustainable, natural society—in short, a family of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children living in harmony with Nature and with each other.  Scientists who believe that our love of natural beauty has evolved because of the ecological importance of leaving Nature undisturbed should favor the Natural Economy.  In another paper, I will show that nothing from our evolutionary past or our genetic present precludes it.

Political Change, Human Behavior, and Religion

Can Human Behavior Be Changed?

My journal entry for February 5th describes a new essay on human nature that has already sparked a good deal of criticism.  My critics believe that evolutionary psychology provides irrefragable evidence that, regardless of any moral consideration, our propensity to acquire resources in as great excess as possible - which is a hard-wired adaptation that arose during the Pleistocene, our Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness, due to its usefulness for survival - cannot be suppressed in any manner whatever.  I believe that it can be transcended through persuasion, education, indoctrination, diversion, and/or coercion.  It would not be important except that the fate of the human race (extinction or not) depends upon who is right.

February 5, 2006.  Dematerialism Is NOT Inconsistent with Human Nature

Opponents of dematerialism should argue that, without materialism, society must degenerate to a state that cannot provide the driving force necessary to prevent further degeneration to unacceptable levels of infant mortality and early death for all but the most dominant individuals and their slaves.  The argument then shifts to whether or not this is inevitable and whether or not a Natural Economy with a Rational Social Contract can be established.  In "Why Dematerialism Is NOT Inconsistent with Human Nature", the first draft of which can be viewed for editing at http://dematerialism.net/onhumannature.htm, I have argued that the rational mind can overcome the mal-adaptive propensities of human nature by means of political and cultural change.  This would not have been possible without language.  Language distinguishes us from other animals.

December 21, 2005.  Rational Speech Contra Pleistocene Adaptations

If I know that my Stone-Age mind, which evolved during the Pleistocene Era, comes equipped with an innate “loss-avoidance mechanism” that might be maladaptive in the extreme in a commodity trading context, I will consciously defeat such maladaptive tendencies through rational thought.  In fact, the very name “loss avoidance” is the key to the solution.  Similarly, if I were driven to accumulate wealth and to dominate other men or to pursue fame in the hope of profiting thereby, I would not make the mistake of striving for a succedaneum for reproductive advantages when I can obtain what I really want directly without destroying the planet and trivializing my own life.  Evolutionary psychology has given me a name for maladaptive status seeking; and, in this case, to know the name of the ‘demon’ is to defeat it.

Why Christians Should Embrace This Theory

Like some religions, the social-economic-political system proposed in this essay is based on morals.  Unlike most religions, it makes no absolute claims for itself.  It encourages doubt in human institutions and faith in human nature, but it does not insist upon the existence of a deity.  If, as Shaw may have believed, religion is necessary to create community, one can only hope that religion can be built on reasonableness, aesthetics, and utility.  Curiously, the early doctrine of Jesus, according to Shaw [13], was comprised of the following tenets:

1.       The kingdom of heaven is within you.  You are the son of God; and God is the son of man.  God is a spirit, to be worshipped in spirit and truth, and not an elderly gentleman to be bribed and begged from.  We are members one of another; so that you cannot injure or help your neighbor without injuring or helping yourself.  God is your father: you are here to do God’s work; and you and your father are one.

2.       Get rid of property by throwing it into the common stock.  Dissociate your work entirely from money payments.  If you let a child starve you are letting God starve.  Get rid of all anxiety about tomorrow’s dinner and clothes, because you cannot serve two masters: God and Mammon.

3.        Get rid of judges and punishment and revenge.  Love your neighbor as yourself, he being a part of yourself.  And love your enemies: they are your neighbors.

4.       Get rid of your family entanglements.  Every mother you meet is as much your mother as the woman who bore you.  Every man you meet is as much your brother as the man she bore after you.  Dont waste your time at family funerals grieving for your relatives: attend to life, not to death: there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it, and better.  In the kingdom of heaven, which, as aforesaid, is within you, there is no marriage or giving in marriage, because you cannot devote your life to two divinities: God and the person you are married to.

Although it might offend my atheist friends, I must admit that I use the word 'God' when I talk to myself.  As far as atheists are concerned, I wonder what it is that doesn’t exist.  Also, I believe Jesus favored a give-away economy, in fact, abandoning money altogether.  I believe this is superior to throwing one’s property into the common pool as it solves the problem of who will manage the common pool.

Tom Wayburn

Houston, Texas

February 19, 2006