A joint study between the University of Maryland and a Barcelona University digs deep into our energy future. From Berlin, guest Christian Kerschner. Janaia Donaldson of Peak Moment TV interviews Alex Smith. Radio Ecoshock 131106 1 hour.

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Peak oil. It isn’t what you think, and it hasn’t gone away. From Berlin, I interview Christian Kerschner about a new European-American energy depletion study.

But what is Radio Ecoshock all about? Find out as Janaia Donaldson of Peak Moment TV interviews me – and of course I’ll take my turn, asking Janaia why we are all living in the “peak moment” of human history.

In this interview I summarize the historic threats posed by climate change and Fukushima – all based on the scientists and experts I’ve interviewed.

I’m Alex Smith. Welcome to Radio Ecoshock.


Dr. Christian Kerschner, University of Barcelona

Has Peak Oil been blown away by shale, tar sands and fracking? What industries are already in trouble with today’s high oil prices? A joint study between the University of Maryland and a Barcelona University digs deep into our energy future.

Our guest is Christian Kerschner. He’s with the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia
Ambientals, from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. We reached him in Berlin.

Download or listen to this 18 minute interview with Christian Kerschner in CD Quality only.


The project called is “Economic Vulnerability to Peak Oil.”

A key graphic accompanies this paper in the journal Global Environmental Change. It is the “vulnerability map” – demonstrating which sectors are most vulnerable to high energy prices or shortage, and even more important, their role in the overall economy.

For example, the actual plastics plants do not rank high in their contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any country. But think about it. Almost everything uses plastic somewhere in its construction. If plastic becomes more and more expensive, the cost of everything you buy goes up. If shortages of plastic develop, even for short periods, there could be giant impacts on the economy and our lives.

I expect some investment firms will look closely at these findings. For example, a pension fund may not want to buy thirty-year bonds in airlines or chemical plants. But guest Christian Kerschner disagrees. He thinks a much-needed function, like chemical production, may simply draw more resources from the overall budget, causing the collapse of other industries, not the chemical plants.

Think of giving up luxury products to buy the necessities. Makers of luxury products fail, not the chemical industry itself. This is just one example from many examined in the study.

Christian Kerschner has a lot to offer. Unlike many peak oil pundits, he’s studied and graduated looking at alternative economics. In addition to Peak Oil and resource scarcity, Kerschner also studied and published about steady-state economics.

I think an economy which survives its own carbon use will have to be much smaller. In our interview Christian agrees.

In this paper, I was intrigued by the concept that energy flows may be limited simply by available technology. That imply that no matter how much money we throw at developing fossil fuels, we still hit a ceiling, a point where the return on investment is too low to continue. That’s different than saying there is no further oil or gas out there.

Christian Kerschner is an ecological economist from the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Co-authors of this paper include Christina Prellb, Kuishuang Fengc, and Klaus Hubacekc, from the University of Maryland.

I think this joint-university work, bridging the Atlantic, is a milestone for the study
of Peak Oil, and resources generally. Here is a link to the informative press release, plus the paper abstract complete with the all-important graphics in an easier to see format are further down on that abstract page.


Janaia Donaldson, host of Peak Moment TV

Peak Moment TV has been going since 2006. Host Janaia Donaldson and producer Robin Mallgren travel around the West Coast of North America, looking for issues and solutions. Find out more here.

The program was inspired by the problems of Peak Oil – but expanded into a range of issues, including energy, resource shortages, and the environment. This program looks intently for people who offer solutions.

Judging by their backlog of worthwhile programs on the Net, this dynamic duo found the people you want to hear from most. Shows cover things like local currency, small-scale food production, alternative energy for the rest of us, and much more.

It was an honor to be invited. Janaia offered me the challenge to outline the dual mega-problems of climate change and the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima, Japan.

That’s a big menu. I did my best to summarize what my guests have taught me – and our Radio Ecoshock listeners. We looked at the sudden arrival of climate symptoms, like the melting Arctic and super-storms – decades before they were expected by mainstream scientists. I explained the vanguard of climate scientists as I’ve found them.

We also discuss the impact of climate change on the economy, especially our total dependence on the flow of money from fossil fuel exploration and production. If we are to survive, we need to escape that addiction.

Then it’s on to Fukushima, where nuclear experts like Arnie Gunderson, and activists like Helen Caldicott, have schooled me well. I’ve also studied English-language blogs from Japan, Japanese media, and American activists.

Adding it up: Fukushima is out of control. If you think my fears for threats there are too extreme, watch this short video clip of esteemed Canadian geneticist and broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki, recorded from a panel discussion at the University of Alberta on October 30th.

Going even further with my concerns of a building Four collapse at Fukushima, Suzuki says such an event means Japan is “toast”. And – the West Coast of North America might have to be evacuated, due to an unprecedented release of radiation.

In this Peak Moment interview, I explain why.

For what it’s worth, last month I moved out of Vancouver, two mountain ranges to the East and inland. Fear of Fukushima was not our primary motivation to leave, but it was on my mind. Frankly, we just don’t know how this nuclear mega-threat will turn out, do we?

For more, listen to the interview, and our past Radio Ecoshock shows on Fukushima. I’ve never stopped covering it. The accident will not be “over” in our lifetimes.


Following our lengthy TV interview, I ask Janaia Donaldson about her program. She suggests we are at an essential moment in human history, and the history of the planet. I would interpret this to mean our direction now could determine success or human extinction. This is a critical time.

It turns out that Peak Moment TV is still broadcast on community access television in the United States and other countries – but the larger and developing audience is on the Internet. Programs from 7 years ago, like “Suburban Renewal – One Backyard at a Time” have over 35,000 views. And there are over 250 shows available – all free!

I totally recommend this program. Like me, in these show I think you’ll find ideas for your future, for a sustainable and enjoyable future. You will meet and explore with inspiring folks who looked for answers, and found solutions.

Here is the Peak Moment TV channel on You tube. This is the Peak Moment TV web site.

You can download or listen to my appearance on Peak Moment TV, as an audio file, here in CD Quality or Lo-Fi. The audio is courtesy of Robin Mallgren. I’m hoping you can use this interview to educate others coming into these issues. Please spread these links far and wide.

Find Janaia Donaldson as a Radio Ecoshock guest (8 minutes) here in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

The Alex Smith interview will be released as a video later this month.

Alex Smith with Janaia Donaldson

Thank you Janaia and Robin for everything you do!


Next week we’ll visit the best of the Chicago Great Lakes Bioneers conference. You think only the Russian persecute green activists who speak out? Stay tuned, as America goes after it’s own conscience – just as we head into the insanity of another “holiday” season of senseless mass consumption and planetary destruction.

Support Radio Ecoshock if you can, at the web site, ecoshock.org. And grab free mp3s of all our past programs. If you search “Radio Ecoshock” on You tube, you will find a few of my own videos.

I’m Alex. Thank you for listening – and caring about your world.