Articles by Vaclav Smil

Peak Performance?

Peter Odell, one of the most astute, life-long observers of global oil scene, calls them "peak-oilers." Some of them were quite unhappy when I pointed out (in Energy at the Crossroads, in these pages, and in Worldwatch in January... Read More

Peak Curiosity

Predicting the end of oil era has been a venerable (albeit fruitless) pseudo-intellectual pursuit for most of the 20th century. This Nostradamian pastime regained new vigor during the late 1990s when (mostly retired geologists) Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrère, L.F. Read More

A Different Perspective on Security: America's Infrastructural Failures

An ancient dam about to collapse in Massachusetts; levees breached in Louisiana; a blackout blanketing millions of people across the countrys most populous Northeastern region; repeated media references to the shrinking number of crude oil refineries; detours force Read More

Bad Bets

By last Tuesday afternoon I suspected that much. By Thursday evening -- after I saw a distraught black woman pleading into a TV camera: "Help us, they are raping children out there!" and after I watched other cameras repeatedly... Read More

Tired of Record High Oil Prices? They're Anything But!

You've heard it and read it for weeks as yet another TV announcer, another expert talking head, another pontificating columnist tell us about "record high" oil prices. The ubiquity and persistence of this pathetic phenomenon shows to what levels... Read More

Omedetō gozaimasu! (Congratulations!)

Good news from Japan has been rare for years but today's anniversary merits both admiration and congratulations: the age of modern high-speed rail travel began 40 years ago. On October 1, 1964 the new trunk line (shinkansen) between Tokyo... Read More

Beyond the Blackout

One of the first things I did after arriving in the U.S. from Europe in 1969 was to study the 1967 report of the Great Blackout that left 30 million people without electricity in November 1965. As I began to... Read More

No Alternative to Reality

The story has been around for decades and its recent recounting has been so frequent that everybody seems to know at least some bits of it. Its main ingredients are easy to list: of all known fuels only the combustion... Read More

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