Sunday, November 24, 2013

Is "antifragile" better than "resilient"?

"Antifragile" is a word you can't find in the dictionary. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author and student of probability and risk, coined the word because, after looking at languages across the world, he could not find a word which describes the ability to improve with stress rather than merely resist it as the word "resilient" implies. Antifragile has now become the title of Taleb's latest book. Much of what I am about to say in based on this book.

An obvious example of something that improves with stress is the human body which gets stronger, more fit, and less prone to disease with exercise. Stress, but not too much stress--a cement truck running over you is too much stress--actually improves the performance of the body.

The same is true of the mind. Lying around watching television programs of the innocuous kind that don't challenge anything you believe is unlikely to make you more mentally acute. Difficult problems in life or in mathematics that require careful and prolonged problem-solving can sharpen the mind. Problems in life that cause a mental breakdown may not be good for you unless you come out of the breakdown a new person better prepared for the reality you must cope with--what Taleb informs us is called "post-traumatic growth" in the psychiatric profession.

The word "resilient" is easy to find in the dictionary. And, we should focus carefully on the second definition: "returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched." This seems like a good thing, and to a certain extent it is. Resilient systems, people and societies are good at maintaining their current operation or returning to their previous condition if disturbed.

Now, here's why antifragility rather than resilience might be a better goal for the sustainability movement. Resilience depends, in part, on knowing what kinds of stresses you will be subject to and building up defenses against those stresses. Antifragility does not require that you know what the stresses will be in advance since you expect to be strengthened by them. Again, too much stress will wipe out an antifragile system. But, it will also wipe out a resilient system. So, the added advantage of working toward a state of antifragility is twofold: You will not have to predict all the the stresses you will encounter to prepare for them; and, you will likely benefit from those stresses and so need not be afraid at their approach.

What does this mean in practice? Natural evolutionary strategies are antifragile. Nature tries many, many experiments--many species and subspecies and newly arising species--which increase the chances that some experiments will succeed. Survivability is increased by diversity among plants and animals because as conditions change, some versions will better adapt than others. Here, nature does not know in advance what conditions will prevail, but puts out enough diversity so that some plants and animals will likely survive. So, the antifragility of a system actually depends on some of the parts being fragile.

In business this model is most aptly illustrated by the venture capitalist (VC) who accepts that he or she cannot know in advance which ideas will succeed. So, the VC invests in a great number of fledgling companies knowing that most will fail, but that a few will succeed and flourish so much so that the reward will far outweigh the losses incurred in unsuccessful ventures. Mirroring the process, there are many VCs with varying approaches, philosophies and resources. Some go bust while others thrive. It's the diversity that is important to society.

This is how entrepreneurs perform an important service for the economy. The diversity of startups means many strategies and practices will be tested against the conditions prevailing in the economy and in society. Many will fail, but the few that survive can be a benefit to society.

Now, the specialist knows and does only one thing and can be a company or person. And, the specialist is typically made obsolete or severely impaired in income when conditions change drastically. I worked in the advertising industry just as the changeover from physical artwork to electronic artwork was taking place. Almost overnight designers could now simply type a few commands or perform a few mouse clicks to change the typography in their pieces. Previously, the industry had supported an entire infrastructure of typesetters. Within a short period, the typesetting business was gone.

It's not wrong for people to specialize. In the complex world we live in, most people must do so in order to find employment. And, those employed in typesetting have long since gone on to work at other things. But, we have built huge institutions upon which our society depends for its stability in banking, shipping and manufacturing that are exceedingly fragile. They do not stand up to outsized stresses.

We saw that in 2008 when the banking system, hit by contagion and fear, nearly collapsed which then nearly took out the worldwide logistics system. Sellers feared they might not be paid for goods they were shipping and halted deliveries because bank letters of credit (which were payment guarantees) were not trusted. Alternatively, many small failures in the banking system would have been much less consequential. But, a few large failures, because of the interlocking nature of worldwide finance, nearly brought the whole system down.

So, society can benefit from many small failures as they are the path to adaptation telling us what does not work. The successes, of course, give us information about what works, but not necessarily why those strategies worked.

Now, here is the crucial point about making society as a whole antifragile: THE WEAK MUST BE PROTECTED. If the weak are not protected, few people will take the risks necessary to find successful adaptations to the constantly changing social and natural conditions on planet Earth. Instead, most people will become risk averse, fearing that they will become weak and unprotected if they fail. Protecting the weak is entirely the opposite of what reactionary idealogues tells us to do to encourage highly innovative societies.

Another way the weak are protected is when failure does NOT carry with it any stigma. In this respect the United States has a culture that far outpaces most others on the planet. The United States is a place where starting over is not only acceptable, but encouraged, where failure is imagined as a possible gateway to future success--i.e., we believe people learn a lot from failure and recognize that many factors including just plain bad luck can be the cause.

So, the United States gets mixed marks--it does not protect the weak well, but does not stigmatize failure in most cases. Think about where your country rates on these two measures, and it will give you a rough idea if it has the necessary social conditions for antifragility.

Now, you might guess from the previous discussion that size in an important determinate in making a society antifragile. Here is where those advocating for what it often called "relocalization" have a point. Moving the logistics of everyday living from an interlocking worldwide affair to one that is regional or, in some cases, local will have the effect of creating many diverse logistical systems around the globe, each better adapted to the local or regional conditions, and none entirely dependent on a rigid, hyperefficient (and thus fragile) worldwide system that cannot withstand heavy stresses รก la 2008.

The other characteristic of an antifragile system is that it will contain buffers, or to put it into logistical terms, it will have inventories--substantial inventories--in case shipments don't always get through in time. In our current system, we believe inventories are bad and try to eliminate them with dangerously fragile just-in-time delivery systems.

In the decentralized system, inventories are a source of strength. Just ask someone who has an ample inventory desperately needed by a region or town. That person will profit from such an inventory while his competitors shut down. And, the people who need the goods will be thankful to get them in a time of instability.

(I confess that the implications here are not entirely savory. The person having the inventory is antifragile in that he or she makes a killing financially when the system breaks down. But, at least the town or region is not left without essential goods and might decide to insure greater antifragility in the future by insisting on greater inventories which then give the whole town or region a competitive advantage. This also might be interpreted as resilience and certainly resilience and antifragility can and do coexist in any economy or society.)

The antifragile idea has so many other implications--for example, a bias toward city-states rather than nation-states--that I cannot catalogue them here. For that you should start with Taleb's Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder and see where your imagination takes you.

Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular contributor to the Energy Voices section of The Christian Science Monitor and author of the peak-oil-themed novel Prelude. In addition, he has written columns for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen, and his work has been featured on Energy Bulletin (now Resilience.org), The Oil Drum, OilPrice.com, Econ Matters, Peak Oil Review, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights and can be contacted at kurtcobb2001@yahoo.com.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Will the real International Energy Agency please stand up?

It was as if the International Energy Agency were appearing on the old American television game show To Tell the Truth last week as it offered a third contradictory forecast in the space of a year.

You may recall that on To Tell the Truth the host would begin by reading a statement from a person with an unusual story or profession. Then, a celebrity panel would question three contestants who claimed to be that person. Afterwards, the panelists would vote on whom they believed was the real person. Finally, the host would say, "Will the real [name of person] please stand up?" (Some episodes are still available here on YouTube.)

The difference is that the contestants on To Tell the Truth would try to tell similar, plausible stories so as to stump the panel. In the non-game-show world of energy forecasting, the IEA--a consortium of 28 countries, all net oil importers except for Canada and Norway--plays all three contestants and does not even attempt to be consistent. So, it's possible that the agency is just a collective mental case with multiple personality disorder.

However, one has to allow for the fact that the IEA is not just one person or one voice. Still, if the agency were a single person, what it has released over the last year as official pronouncements would likely have a psychiatrist reaching for the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition).

Last November in its 2012 World Energy Outlook (WEO), the agency noted rising U.S. oil production and even predicted that the United States would become energy self-sufficient by 2035 (a doubtful call, in my view). It also noted that growing oil demand in the Asia has more than outweighed declines in European and U.S. consumption, keeping upward pressure on prices. It said that growth in Iraq's oil exports was not a sure thing. While the 2012 WEO is really a rather optimistic document on supply, it did not paint an especially rosy picture, indicating that obtaining the supplies of oil necessary to meet projected demand was not a foregone conclusion.

Then, only six months later came the agency's so-called Medium-Term Oil Market Report which read like an ad for the North American oil and gas industry. The agency touted a "supply shock" in oil from American tight oil fields unleashed by a new kind of hydraulic fracturing--a shock that would send "ripples throughout the world." Unlike six months earlier, worldwide supply was supposed to take flight on the wings of fracking.

This enthusiasm didn't last long. In its latest report, the just-issued 2013 World Energy Outlook, the agency sounded like a group of Gloomy Guses noting that "Brent crude oil has averaged $110 per barrel in real terms since 2011, a sustained period of high oil prices that is without parallel in oil market history."

The report goes on to say, "The capacity of technologies to unlock new types of resources, such as light tight oil (LTO) and ultra-deepwater fields, and to improve recovery rates in existing fields is pushing up estimates of the amount of oil that remains to be produced. But this does not mean that the world is on the cusp of a new era of oil abundance." The most recent forecast calls for rising oil prices in real terms through 2035. This is in part because the agency expects that "no country replicates the level of success with LTO" that we are seeing in the United States today.

What's really happening here? Is the IEA getting better at seeing the future? Not really. What's happening is that the IEA is being asked to do something which it cannot possibly do: accurately predict oil supplies 22 years into the future. So, given this impossible task, the agency responds by following current trends (and industry hype) and then extrapolating them.

Now that the IEA has had a chance to re-examine the industry's claims in light of more experience with tight oil development, it is backing off its previous assessment in its Medium-Term Oil Market Report from May. Fatih Birol, chief economist for the IEA, told the Financial Times that he would now characterize rising oil production in the United States as "a surge, rather than a revolution." He expects OPEC to become dominant once again in oil markets early in the next decade. The Financial Times characterized the report as predicting an oil supply crunch.

But, will the IEA have a change of heart once again? It might, depending on what it hears from industry sources and what it chooses to believe. But, the takeaway from the last year of IEA projections is not that the agency is suffering some sort of breakdown, but that it has been given an impossible task that in the volatile world of oil supplies has it casting about for a coherent story. In short, it is trying to tell the truth without knowing the truth for the simple reason that in this case the truth cannot known. That has made it a poor contestant in its own real-life episode of To Tell the Truth stretched out over the past year.

It is a fool's errand to try to predict the future of world energy supplies. But, it is even more foolish to base our public policy, business and personal decisions on such predictions.

P. S. There is a minor acknowledgement that such forecasts are exercises in futility in a disclaimer at the end of the 2013 World Energy Outlook summary. The disclaimer reads: "The IEA makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, in respect of the publication’s contents (including its completeness or accuracy) and shall not be responsible for any use of, or reliance on, the publication." This is standard boilerplate, I know. But, it is not the kind of language that inspires confidence.

Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular contributor to the Energy Voices section of The Christian Science Monitor and author of the peak-oil-themed novel Prelude. In addition, he has written columns for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen, and his work has been featured on Energy Bulletin (now Resilience.org), The Oil Drum, OilPrice.com, Econ Matters, Peak Oil Review, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights and can be contacted at kurtcobb2001@yahoo.com.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dueling forecasts: Why our energy future is actually a risk management problem

Optimistic, but unwarranted, energy supply forecasts permeate the media (courtesy of the oil and gas industry) even as the occasional dire scenario gets coverage. But, it is well to remember that none of the people making forecasts can know the one thing they all desperately want to know: the future.

The most important thing you need to understand about forecasts--any forecast--is that their accuracy deteriorates rapidly, the further they go into the future. Surprisingly, almost no one who makes public energy supply forecasts acknowledges this; otherwise, we would see what statisticians call error bars--very large ones--in all these forecasts. In layman's terms, the further out a forecast goes, the wider the range of possible outcomes--so much so that for long-term forecasts the range of outcomes is far more important than the middle estimate.

But, this kind of waffling doesn't get headlines. Humans are evolutionarily disposed to listen to those who sound the most confident in their pronouncements, not those who are hesitant and full of equivocation. There is reason to believe that overconfidence is an evolutionary advantage, and that this explains its persistence in human society. In addition, research has shown that those projecting confidence engender loyalty even if their forecasts are wrong more often than those who couch their predictions in the language of uncertainty. You can get some of the advantages of being right without actually being right. People like to feel that they are certain even though that feeling often turns out to be false.

So, the lay public is treated daily to an orgy of often contradictory soothsaying and tends to respond as follows: "Come back to me when you know for certain." But, that's just the problem. We can't know anything about the future for certain, and yet we must plan for it. So, how do we go about doing that?

One answer is simply to hope that the prognostications we favor will turn out to be true. It's a hazardous route and requires a good deal of luck. But, a better approach for serious and important matters is to employ risk management. It doesn't tend to generate headlines. But, it can help us better deal with the risks we face on every level.

No one knows whether his or her house will burn down in the next year. It's unlikely, but the damage to life, limb and finances could be very large if it happens. People don't generally go to a forecaster to ask whether their houses will burn down in the next year. Instead, they manage the risk by buying insurance.

So, it turns out that most of us actually do have an intimate acquaintance with risk management in our daily lives through the purchase of insurance. Why don't we take this approach when trying to manage society's large uncertainties such as our energy future?

The answer may lie in the fact that we do not have direct control over such a huge issue, and so we tend to delegate it to others that we regard as experts. Unfortunately, when it comes to energy, the loudest, most confident, and most well-funded voices are those paid for by the oil and gas industry. The practiced confidence of industry executives, captive Wall Street analysts and fake think tank academics has convinced the public that there is nothing to worry about. Just leave the future of energy in the hands of the oil and gas industry, and all will be well.

But, the realities of our energy situation suggest that we should have little confidence in such pronouncements, especially given their self-interested nature. The issue is NOT whether those pronouncements ultimately turn out to be correct, something we won't know until it's too late. The issue is whether the uncertainties we face in energy supply deserve at least the same kind of attention that we give to home and automobile insurance policies.

Here's what risk management in energy policy implies:

  1. We must accept that we cannot know the future with any certainty and that the record of past forecasts demonstrate that we've been too optimistic about supplies for some time.
  2. The risks to energy supply cannot be quantified because there are too many variables that determine the future availability of energy including underground geology, changes in technology, availability of trained personnel, investment and interest rates, energy prices, energy demand, government policy including land use restrictions, wars, social unrest, and environmental regulations including climate change policies. There is simply no way to put all of these into an equation and get a calculable range of supply outcomes.
  3. We must therefore rely on an analysis of the types of risk we face and whether those risks warrant taking out some form of insurance against possible downsides.
  4. The type of risk we face is asymmetrical risk. The downside risk of inadequate fossil fuel supplies needed to run our society could be catastrophic. On the other hand, the cost of transitioning quickly to renewable energy and drastically reducing our energy needs at the same time (which is the safest course) is low compared to the frighteningly high costs of a persistent and unexpected decline in fossil fuel availability.
  5. The trouble with optimistic forecasts of fossil fuel availability is that we can't fix the situation easily if those forecasts turn out wrong to the downside and we have made absolutely no provision for this possibility, that is, we've done nothing to enable us to replace those fuels or to live with less and less of them over time. If we base our policies and actions on such forecasts, they must be right or we are in deep, deep trouble. We should strive instead to create a forecast-proof society.
  6. Therefore, the most prudent course given the stakes is to begin a deliberate, but expedited program of deep energy reductions (through efficiency and conservation), dramatically ramp up the rate of renewable energy production and work furiously to solve the problem of electricity storage since most renewable energy comes in this form.

The complaint is that this will cost a lot of money. But, the oil and gas industry is spending close to $1 trillion a year to maintain a system which is known to have a limited life and the future output of which cannot confidently be predicted. The second complaint is that such a transition will create economic turmoil, throwing into doubt the future of the fossil fuel industry and creating a huge shift in the kinds of skills needed among workers. The real question is whether it would be wise to wait and see just how much chaos fossil fuel decline and climate change cause BEFORE making a commitment to a renewables-based, low-energy economy.

If the optimists are wrong (and they have been on oil since 2000) and if we follow their advice, how will we fix things when we are cascading off an energy cliff? Now is the time to act while there is enough stability to make the indisputably necessary transition. The only question then is timing. So, in the interest of managing risk we should err on the side of being too early (although in my own opinion we are actually already very late).

There is another problem embedded in the forecasting culture (other than the fact that it is dominated by the fossil fuel industry and its minions). Few making the bad calls suffer for them. They have no "skin in the game." ("Skin in the game" here means you participate in a commensurate downside if you are wrong.) Indeed, bad calls may even be rewarded. Oil companies are enjoying large profits even though they predicted low, steady oil prices and ample supply for decades to come at the beginning of the millennium. Far from suffering from their bad calls, they've been prospering. (That will ultimately come to an end as they experience more and more difficulty finding new oil to replace what they're taking out of the ground.)

In fact, the problem of having no skin in the game goes beyond the world of resources. Those who predicted an easy victory in Iraq got to pursue their dream of world domination without any danger to themselves. All the costs were borne by soldiers and civilians in harm's way and taxpayers who financed the fiasco.

What happened to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz who assured Americans that they would be greeted as liberators in Iraq? He was subsequently appointed president of the World Bank. In 2006 ThinkProgress compiled a list of those in the Bush Administration who made optimistic statements and incorrect assessments about Iraq and the invasion. Subsequently, nearly all of those people were rewarded. None in the list ended up unemployable.

The same can be said for Ben Bernanke, U.S. Federal Reserve Board chairman, who opined in a 2007 speech, "[W]e believe the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will likely be limited, and we do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy or to the financial system."

He continues to be the chairman to this day and is even hailed as a hero for saving the world economy from a depression during the 2008 crash. There was not even a hint of irony in this pronouncement even though it was Bernanke's and Alan Greenspan's expansionary monetary policy (while Bernanke served on the Federal Reserve board) which helped to create the mortgage bubble that ended up bursting and severely damaging the world economy--and even though Bernanke assumed the subprime crisis would not affect the broad economy and guided monetary policy accordingly.

It's no wonder then that we get such bad public policy and such reckless financial and political behavior. You should not try to manage risk based on the pronouncements of those who have no skin in the game. They won't be careful. Just the opposite. They will often be reckless in pursuit of their own interests as long as someone else has to pay the bill when things go wrong. And, you can't manage risk based on the idea that you can know anything for certain about the future. If you knew things for certain, there wouldn't be any risk.

Too many people believe that public policy is made on the basis of certainty. Hence, my generic member of the public quoted above as saying, "Get back to me when you know for certain." The better course is to create systems that don't require forecasting, that are stable enough to withstand those events which we cannot predict and which might even grow more stable from such perturbations. But, that's a topic for another piece.

Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular contributor to the Energy Voices section of The Christian Science Monitor and author of the peak-oil-themed novel Prelude. In addition, he has written columns for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen, and his work has been featured on Energy Bulletin (now Resilience.org), The Oil Drum, OilPrice.com, Econ Matters, Peak Oil Review, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights and can be contacted at kurtcobb2001@yahoo.com.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Does the Earth need saving?

Hardly a day goes by without someone writing or saying that we need to save the Earth. My geologist friends scoff at such language for semantic reasons. The coolish, rocky planet that we call Earth will be fine when humans are long gone, they say.

Yes, climate change and human depredations of the biosphere have already brought many species to extinction and will likely extinguish many more. And, the radioactive wastes we leave behind might very well get spread about the Earth in ways that are destructive to life. But give the Earth a few hundred million years, and all of this will be essentially forgotten, gone without a trace.

As for life, it is doubtful that the consequences of human actions, however extensive, could wipe out every trace of life on the globe. Some form of life is likely to survive anything we as a species ultimately throw at it and then begin the cycle of evolution all over again.

So, if the planet doesn't need saving, what does? Well, two things depending on your goals. Many people believe that humans are moving quickly toward premature extinction, and, as I mentioned above, that we are taking many species with us. So, if your goal is to maintain the continuity of the human species, you presumably have your work cut out for you--or maybe not depending on the result you'd like to see.

We humans are almost certainly in overshoot, a term from population biology that means we've exceeded the long-term carrying capacity of the Earth for humans given our current technology and consumption habits. So, here's the solution. Bring the per-capita consumption of humans down drastically or drastically reduce the number of humans consuming at our current rate. The first seems nearly impossible given our system of governance and technology and the fact that there are so many poor people who aspire to higher levels of consumption. The second seems impossible even though we have highly effective and cheap contraceptive technology that would over the course of the next century enable us to reduce our numbers down to one billion. (This assumes that average fertility is no more than one child per couple.)

There is a third solution. And, that is simply to let nature take its course and thin human numbers through plagues, food and resource shortages, climate-related catastrophes and the collapse of our complex global economic network that might ensue. Even with all of this, humans are extremely resilient, and enough of us would likely survive to create a new system of living based on the available resources under the new climate conditions on Earth.

It seems that human continuity is relatively assured no matter what. So, what we are really talking about saving is not the species, but the way of life we currently enjoy and the number of humans who currently enjoy it (using the term in its broadest sense since the world's vast sea of poor people must enjoy it without the material benefits of citizens in wealthy countries).

There is certainly an interest in protecting one's children and grandchildren who may face an increasingly perilous climate and shrinking resources including food. And, there is a broader concern that the world's poor will bear the brunt of these problems resulting in skyrocketing death rates.

But, some people have an even more wide-ranging concern for all the other creatures and plants which inhabit the Earth. In general, they form a web of life that provides us with services not accounted for by our money-driven economy, so-called ecoservices which according to the Encyclopedia of Earth do the following:

  • Moderate weather extremes and their impacts
  • Disperse seeds
  • Mitigate drought and floods
  • Protect people from harmful ultraviolet rays in sunlight
  • Cycle and move nutrients
  • Protect stream and river channels and coastal shores from erosion
  • Detoxify and decompose wastes
  • Control agricultural pests
  • Maintain biodiversity
  • Generate and preserve soils and renew their fertility
  • Contribute to climate stability
  • Purify the air and water
  • Regulate disease carrying organisms
  • Pollinate crops and natural vegetation

We could not survive without these ecoservices and would be bankrupted if we had to provide them completely artificially. Their scope and complexity are something on which our entire global society depends and gets essentially free of charge.

So, a concern for the well-being of all the other creatures and plants which inhabit the Earth is partly an act of self-interest in survival. Beyond this, there are aesthetic, cultural and moral reasons for preserving these other living things. For instance, it is sad to imagine a world without the beauty of the tiger. But we may someday inhabit such a world.

We inherited a rich diversity of edible plants, but have been narrowing the ones we continue to raise based on our ability to grow vast quantities with modern farm machinery and methods--and our ability to store, ship and market crops across long distances. A part of our cultural as well as our genetic heritage is being lost.

Then, there is the moral argument. Deep ecologists suggest that all life has intrinsic worth and that therefore to exploit and destroy other life except to satisfy basic needs is a moral failing. For deep ecologists, then, preserving life on Earth means much more than simply preserving human life.

So, next time someone tells you he or she wants to save the Earth, you might inquire, "Which part? And for what or whom?" It's a vital clarification. If you only wish to save the human species consuming at its current level, then humans will surely continue to impoverish the plant and animal kingdoms. And, we humans might ultimately see our numbers diminished considerably by forces beyond our control if we insist that consumption go up or stay the same, rather than go down.

However, if your goals are broader, those goals may require far-reaching changes in human society as it is currently configured. So, yes, go out and save the Earth. But, you would do well to understand which part you want to save and for what or whom you want to save it.

Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular contributor to the Energy Voices section of The Christian Science Monitor and author of the peak-oil-themed novel Prelude. In addition, he has written columns for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen, and his work has been featured on Energy Bulletin (now Resilience.org), The Oil Drum, OilPrice.com, Econ Matters, Peak Oil Review, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights and can be contacted at kurtcobb2001@yahoo.com.