Monday, July 02, 2007


This summer has been unusually busy for me, but my work issues certainly haven't slowed the flow of oil-driven geopolitics. For just one recent example, see my recent article at The Oil Drum on the strike in Nigeria. Bottom line: news of a strike makes headlines, but the real news is still the inequality-driven infrastructure disruption. The fact that the Nigerian government caved to the unions (modest) demands has had no effect on this underlying problem.

One other situation that I'm following closely, and that I hope to post on shortly, is Mexico. I made the (I thought) bold prediction that Mexico may collapse into a failed state in 2007 at the beginning of this year. Lots of interesting events related to Mexico lately: classic "export-land" declines in their oil sector; mass desertions in their military to the point that the Federal Government can't honestly claim to control several states; constitutional end-runs to try to get foreign investment to prop-up their oil sector; and the failure of any serious immigration legislation in the US. I was probably a year premature in my prediction for Mexico, but the signs are certainly popping up.

Also an article in the works on EROEI, specifically the criticality of aggregate societal EROEI, and a discussion of the difference between "economic collapse" (where reversion to a lower level of societal complexity is actually an economizing process) and "uneconomic collapse" (where EROEI driven reduction in complexity reduce the overall size of the pie, without reducing the burden of complexity within that pie). More to come...


JK said...

Thanks for the update. I appreciate your work and will be looking forward to your posts (especially the aggregate societal EROEI piece).


Big Gav said...

Good to see you back (though your Mexican update is tantalizingly devoid of links...)

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff,

Sounds like you're having a hectic summer... but the upcoming stuff will be good :-)

BTW, I'm in Denver these days.... perhaps coffee, sometime?


Jeff Vail said...


A dedicated Mexico post tantalizingly full of links is forthcoming, I hope.


I'm in LoDo during the week... email me at jeff [at] jeffvail [dot] net...

Jeff Vail said...

Update to the update:

An extensive post on Mexico will be published at in the next week. I'll post a link and some additional thoughts when it's up.

I will also be publishing an article on metal theft and the degredation of our infrastructure network within the next two weeks (also at I'm not sure yet whether I will include an analysis of the connection between this and Tainter's notion of diminishing marginal returns on investments in complexity/Duncan's theory of grid collapse in a supplement here, or whether that will be in the TOD article...

Tom Konrad said...

When thinking about ERoEI, I find it helps to include time in the equation... I still have to do my own post on this, but ERoEI is a very simplistic measure, only slightly better than Energy Payback.

Here's a little rant of mine about it:

It may inform your societal ERoEI post.

Tom Konrad said...

On further thought, I take that back... for a society, ERoEI is a good measure.... as opposed to individual decision-making. A society's discount rate should be considerably lower than an individual's, because societies survive longer (we hope), and in the limiting case of a zero discount rate, my preferred measure of energy net present value becomes ERoEI.

However, if you have serious doubts about your society's survival, applying a discount rate becomes appropriate.

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