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Update Note:

This paper has been updated to include research on the impact oil shale and tar sands may have on the World oil supply and it begins to explore the environmental implications as well. It was last updated on 2/18/12

Original Post:

As oil and gas resources diminish we will need to make adjustments and seek other energy sources to help make up the difference between what we need and what oil and gas can supply. We examine our options, as a first step toward making decisions today and in the future that will affect ourselves, our Community and our Nation. This document may be shared to inform public education and advocacy about energy decisions.. 

Here is a brief Abstract of the paper; download the complete paper from RESOURCES below.

Since oil will be depleted over the next few decades, it is essential to develop new vehicle fuels and electricity resources. Research and development into new technologies will determine how we replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources, focusing on the development of electricity storage, smart grids, long distance power transmission, cheaper solar PV, synfuels, and possibly thorium, and hot rock geothermal. The use of solar and wind is limited without solving the problem of intermittent availability. Nuclear power is a continuous energy source and a known technology, and it has lower start-up and operating costs than solar PV or wind. Offshore wind, solar thermal, hydro, tidal, wave, fusion, and hydrogen fuel energy will not meet US energy needs.

Send suggestions with scientific citations to update and improve this document to

George Possin, PhD, is a retired physicist from General Electric and a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Carol Possin, PhD, is a researcher and writer on policy issues.


PDF Document:   Beyond Oil 2-2012 Update


  1. OEIC default avatar David Hauber December 26, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    This is a well written overview of the problem. However, it overstates the Peak Oil problem.  We will not “run out of” oil and natural gas, it will just become prohibitively expensive to extract. The authors correclty point out that we will need to depend more on coal if we don’t want to build many more nuclear plants. The wise choice, as the authors point out is to CONSERVE. We need to act now if we hope to save our economy.

  2. OEIC default avatar cdecesare December 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    This is a great paper - Thank you. It sounds like Thorium is more abundant than Uranium - why didn’t we design around this fuel source from the beginning?  Please let me / us know - Thank you, Carl

  3. OEIC default avatar David Hauber December 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I am not an expert at reactor design but I believe it is a positive feedback effect.  We use QWERTY keyboards not because they are the most efficient but because they were well understood when the computer revolution took hold. This article describe Thorium reactors well:
    The big question is if any reactor will pass the test of public opinion after Fukushima.

  4. OEIC default avatar Carol Possin December 30, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    The article states that oil will be depleted (reduced markedly in quantity), not that we will run out. The first paragraph agrees that the remaining oil is becoming more and more hazardous and expensive to obtain. This is reality.

    Nuclear with U235 was developed to produce bombs during WWII. Thorium cannot be used to produce bombs.

    C&G Possin

  5. OEIC default avatar PWesling February 28, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    You’ll be pleased to note that this week a Silicon Valley company is announcing a battery with 2X the power density (400 watt-hours per kilogram) and 1/4th the cost of the Li-ion ones used in current cars (so, may be competitive with lead-acid). It’s a new cathode design.  The Naval Labs have already done some validation on the technology. It might be 5 or 6 years before it is ready for full-scale production, and cost-effective, but new technologies will assist with some of the conservation!  See if Laughlin will factor these and other improvements (at this conference) into his projections—extrapolate it for your table.  The electricity still needs to be produced/bought, but it should be a lot less weight to drive around.
    Company is Arpia, and this is being disclosed at the ARPA-E conference this week. Ref:
    By the way, us engineers are used to thinking in Quads ...

  6. OEIC default avatar PWesling February 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    How about attending a SF Bay Area IEEE meeting on March 13th: “So - What About Nuclear Energy?” - fission, carbon free, new orders, status, potential ...  Speaker is Bill Halsey, Associate Program Leader for Advanced Nuclear Energy, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. link is
    Woops!  You’re in the OTHER Saratoga!
    wink  Paul

  7. OEIC default avatar David Hauber February 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Actually, this is the REAL Saratoga.  Washington won our Independence in the REAL Saratoga.  Will wee ever see independence from the tyranny of foreign oil?

    Quadrillion BTUs?  What is a quadrillion?  If we were clever we would use a system that makes sense like maybe metric.  Meanwhile in Saratoga we speak of furlongs and Troy ounces.

  8. OEIC default avatar PWesling February 29, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    David—Yes, I was on the battlefield there on the 4th of July two years ago—impressive. We drove along at a moderate speed (furlongs per fortnight, as I recall). But I thought it was YOUR responsibility (some years ago) to free us from the British.  So ... what’s with these BTUs?  wink

  9. OEIC default avatar David Hauber March 20, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    I can’t comprehend why we still use BTUs.  I think the US and Somalia are the only two countries left that use it.  The English abandoned the English system years ago.  They are just smarter than we are. They are also smarter than we are at energy conservation. Sometimes I get distraught over our ignorance of simple concepts like simple,universal units of measure and supply & demand.  Demand for energy increases while supply decreases (as this article correclty points out). An intelligent person would conclude that prices will increase (say for example that you were a conservative).  Prices are increasing and the general population thinks it is a conspiracy. When will we wake up?

  10. OEIC default avatar PWesling March 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    David—Yes, the BTU is really a bit archaic—raising a pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit just isn’t that useful as a measurement.  Quads (quadrillion BTUs) are also deprecated (but they are a huge number—10^15th—so convenient for measuring a country’s usage).  Engineers think in metric, using mks units, so we’d tend to use mega-joules or exa-joules.

  11. OEIC default avatar David Hauber March 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    It would sure be nice if there was a standard.  I think exa-joules is the standard for the rest of the world. It makes it difficult to compare the US to the rest of the world.  With some unit conversions it is apparent that we consume 25% of the world’s energy with 5% of the population.

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