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22 Nov 2007

Why I Won’t Be Buying Vernon Coleman’s ‘Oil Apocalypse’.

colemanThe other day in the Independent, a full page ad drew my attention to the latest book by Vernon Coleman, ‘Oil Apocalypse’ (note this is not a link). Vernon Coleman has previously produced countless books, mostly based on fear-mongering and reactionary politics, and now he has hopped onto the peak oil bandwagon. The way Coleman’s books work is simple; here is a problem, it is far bigger and worse than you thought, be afraid, this is whose fault it is. I once read (rather I once *started* to read) his book ‘England, Our England’, an appalling load of rubbish which tried to argue that everything bad that ever happened to anyone can be traced back to the European Union, and that poor, noble England has been enslaved by this evil monster. Another book, which I picked up mistaking it for William Blum’s rather good ‘Rogue State’, was Vernon’s ‘Rogue Nation’, which described itself thus, “America is responsible for worldwide economic and political chaos. This book contains everything you need to know – and must know – about America”. It was possibly the worst written book I have ever read.

1. Rather than a flowing narrative it was arranged in numbered points, with no connection to each other (I will write the rest of this post in that style so you can see how truly irritating it is). They ranged from the sensible and insightful to the absurd. For example you might have number 35 (I don’t have the book to refer to, I threw it into my compost heap on completion) being the fact that the US has deposed x number of democratically elected governments (fair point), and then fact 36 being that Americans are fat.

2. The childish level of many of the points in the book was stunning. It didn’t build a case, make an argument, rather it was just a list of why America is rubbish, much of it puerile tongue-poking “nyah nyah” stuff. This is how Vernon’s books work. He identifies an issue that concerns people, and whips up fear around it and then picks his facts to back up his argument, presenting himself as the voice of reason and common sense. Everything is America’s fault, the EU’s fault, Gordon Brown’s fault (Vernon recently wrote a book called ‘Gordon is a Moron’), the New World Order’s fault. Now, apparently, it is all peak oil’s fault.

3. The advert for ‘Oil Apocalypse’ is classic fearmongering nonsense. “Within a generation, five out of six people on the planet will be dead. I’ll repeat that. Within a generation, five out of six people on the planet will be dead”, the ad screams.

4. Vernon Coleman wears a bow tie and used to be a doctor.

5. Vernon nails his true Daily-Mail-on-steroids colours to the mast when he writes “it is a sad fact but true – we cannot and should not rely on others to help us in the future… we really have to rely on ourselves in order to survive in the future”. Regular readers of Transition Culture will recognise the absurdity of this statement, but Vernon has the answers.

6. The final two sections of the book describes “precisely how Vernon Coleman is planning to survive the coming years of crisis – including the investment programme he has devised for himself”. You can bet your right arm that Vernon’s investment programme does not include local community supported agriculture projects, perhaps a community owned ESCO, or a local Credit Union.

7. He cranks up the fear levels unashamedly. Now, we know that peak oil and climate change are huge problems, the gravest ones humanity faces at this point. However, their outcome is not inevitable, nor is it cast in stone. However, Coleman’s book includes the following illuminating sections;
“Which towns will survive in the future – Page 92”
“Why Britain is going to be one of the countries that will suffer the most – Page 103”
“How your car number-plate could soon affect your freedom to travel – Page 122”
and my favourite “What thieves will be stealing in the future – Page 96”.

8. Coleman has written over 100 books. Imagine, somewhere there must be someone who has all 100 titles lined up neatly on their bookshelves. And you thought peak oil was scary.

9. Presumably the bit about number plates relates to some kind of scheme, as has been used in other countries in times of energy scarcity, to ration road space. This is not about “affect[ing] your freedom to travel”. Coleman seems not to have grasped that the idea of “freedom to travel”, in a post peak world, is really rather outdated. You can’t lurch into a lower energy world, clinging to your carefully constructed, Coleman-endorsed investment portfolio, and believing it is your right to drive wherever you like, but that ‘they’ are trying to stop you. And how does Coleman know what people will be stealing in the future? Presumably this part of the book is based on extensive quantitative questionnaire-based research with 300 randomly sampled burglars.

10. Not content with having spent years peddling the idea that everything that affects your life is someone else’s fault, and that you should be scared of the EU, the Government, the US, any organisation Coleman decides are the new antichrist, now, with peak oil looming, it turns out you can trust no-one at all! Not your neighbours. Certainly not your community. You should probably also doubt the motives of family members, after all “it is a sad fact but true – we cannot and should not rely on others to help us in the future…”. You’re on your own kids, just you, Vernon and your investment portfolios.

11. It is inevitable that as the peak looms we will find more and more such books emerging. Of course peak oil is scary and its potential impacts are severe. But whether we choose to see it as a crisis or an opportunity is key. I see it as the potential for the greatest economic, social and cultural renaissance the world has ever seen, not for retreating into our bunkers, trusting no-one, safe with our baked beans and our investment portfolios. Our way through it will rely on our ability to rebuild connections with those around us. Coleman does us all a huge disservice by peddling such nonsense. As with most of his books, he has taken about 30% reasonable argument and weaved 70% fear-based, reactionary, ill-researched, self-above-others nonsense around it. It was inevitable that he would eventually turn his beady eye to peak oil, yet if the publicity achieves such levels of hysteria and fear-mongering, you can be rest assured, like the rest of Coleman’s titles, that the book itself is just more of the same.

12. Avoid.

13. The end.

14. Presumably England being knocked out of Euro 2008 last night was due to Gordon Brown, the EU or the New World Order, not that they were just rubbish.

15. And finally, apparently on page 74, we can learn “the shocking truth what the Government might do to our currency”. Aside from being a grammatical nightmare, this sentence, like much of Coleman’s writing, is about giving away our power. For someone who claims to be about giving power back to the people, Coleman’s writings sow such seeds of powerlessness, everything always being someone else’s fault, that what we will actually need to get through peak oil, i.e. dynamic, empowered communities coming together and building resilience as well as cutting carbon emissions, has no hope. As such, ‘Oil Apocalypse’ is, at least as far as one can tell from this appalling advert, a deeply irresponsible publication.

Categories: General

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[…] an interesting post today on Why I Wonâ

Barry Adams
22 Nov 12:23pm

Havn’t you got anything more constructive to do than criticise others?

Philip Webb
22 Nov 5:16pm

As one in the early stages of establishing Transition Town Tonbridge, I totally agree with Rob’s ideal of dynamic empowered communities coming together & building resilience as well as cutting carbon emissions. I also agree with Vernon Coleman’s view that”we cannot and should not rely on others to help us in the future . . . we really have to rely on ourselves in order to survive.” Am I being schizophrenic? Surely most of us have come to rely too much on Government, the NHS or some body out there to pull us out of (often self-imposed) difficulties. Surely TTTs are about empowering individuals as well as communities? Community-based self-help must be the future in the face of ever-increasing Government cock-ups.

22 Nov 5:28pm

Hi Philip,
It’s not schizophrenic… of course we need to rely on ourselves, but what I am arguing is that we cannot follow a path which is based exclusively on relying just on ourselves, trusting no-one else, and viewing those around us with suspicion.

Clearly we cannot expect Gordon Brown to leap to a programme of Powerdown, it is up to us, but not on our own, rather building relationships with those around us. We can create a wave of momentum that will make it easier for government to make these difficult (and, at present, unelectable) decisions. What I find so irresponsible about Coleman’s stuff is that he sends people running behind locked doors, rather than venturing out to build connections with those around them. Hope Transition Town Tonbridge is going well!

pete rout
22 Nov 7:11pm

I think that we must rely on ourselves and the local community. The government will not help as there is no money to be made and they are only interested in taking taxes off us.

Robin Faichney
25 Nov 11:53am

Thanks very much for this. I found a flyer for this book in my Prospect magazine mailing and googled for more info. Your post tells me all I need to know about Vernon Coleman. But browsing the rest of the site has also reminded me of the optimism and ideals of my younger self, inspired me to look beyond my current narrow philosophical interests, to seek cooperation on a much wider stage. Thanks again.

26 Nov 11:51pm

Hi Rob,

You post is somewhat contradictory. You say that Vernon Coleman says: “it is a sad fact but true – we cannot and should not rely on others to help us in the future”.

Then you claim (at the end of your post) that “much of Coleman’s writing, is about giving away our power.” He is emphatically saying NOT to give away your power by relying on others. The message in all his books is to NOT rely on governments, state authorities (or the “authority” even of doctors) but rely ultimatley on YOURSELF. This is the clear message of his books such as “Bodypower”, “Mindpower” and especially “Spiritpower”. The one factor all these books share is precisely that YOU are the real source of your OWN physical, mental and spiritual (psychological) power. The power of self-healing and of all accomplishment comes from your own body, your own mind, your own spirit. How is that about giving your power away??

Also Dr Coleman has stated in “Spiritpower” in a chapter called “Are you making too many excuses?” advising people to stop blaming outside influence and others for their own failings. In all his self-help books, he advocates people take responsibility for themselves: sort their diets out, get into shape, start a business, become financially independent and generally empower themselves.
I have found his books to be LIFE-CHANGING.
THrough reading his books and followong his advice I stopped smaoking, improved my diet and my health, got rid of depression and started my own business after years of unemployment. He has state categorically in the same book that if many state benefoits were done away with, then COMMUNITIES would work better together- so he is not against community spirit at all, as you seem to think – far from it!

The world is in a mess. I only read today how Brown’s labour is now involved in a new scandal involving some surreptitious underhand taking of some 200, 000 behind the scenes (by the Labour party). When is this kind of shit going to end? We NEED people like Dr Coleman to waken us all up. For the most part, the masses are comatised.
Thank the gods someone with writing skills and publishing power has the BALLS to stand up and tell the truth. (your criticism of the grammar of one line of one of his very well-written books is trivial and petty). It is people like YOU whose natural human rights he is arguing in favour of and defending.

One final point – his books are not (as you argue) gimmicks for making money. He has already made his fortune. He says on his website to get his books out of libraries or return them for a full refund if you read them and disagree. His paason is for tyhe truth not for money.

In my opinion, more people should be reading Vernon Colman’s books.

Lisa Lewelyn (Manchester)

Jason Cole
27 Nov 1:16am


When I submit “oil apocalypse” in Amazon’s search engine, the first three responses are:

1) “Oral Sex: Bad Taste and Hard to Swallow?”
2) “How to Stop Your Doctor Killing You”
3) “Living in a Fascist Country: Conspiracies, Peakoil, Greedy Politicians, Endless Wars and Your Disappearing Freedom and Privacy”

Says enough, really.

Why not obtain a copy of the book and rip it to bits on an Amazon review?

Vernon Coleman – what a card. What’s needed is rational discussion of so-called apocalyptic scenarios, not doom-mongering for the sake of a few bob in the bank.

28 Nov 11:13am

Oh man, I could not stop laughing…

Considering the potential impact of peak oil, a good bit of the informed, or at least partially informed community seems to come from the general pool of fetish doomsday conspiracy theorists that more likely then not have severe emotional problems and actually pray for such a horrific scenario to unfold.

Good job on pointing this one out.

the flying dutchman
18 Dec 11:54am

While Rob makes a vey good point about the questionable nature of Coleman’s motives, it was his book that shook me out of my stuperous state of believing everything I read, not to take what I see on the news or in the papers as literal fact. His assumption that you you have of his undying conviction is disproved in my eyes, in England, our England, or posibly Living in a Fascist Country, can’t remember, he quite emphatically states that he seeks your questions and disbelief, I think he uses some of the unsupportable statements to encourage you to not belief eveything you read without thought.

5 Jan 3:04pm

I hold the torch of free thought but when you shine it to the public, the natural response from most people is fear. why do people fear free thought? If scare mondering “Oil Apocalypse” causes you to wet pants, and you do prefer to rely on your governments, then suffer what happens. As for those who welcome free thought, we also acknowledge that with it comes idiotic thought – and only some of us seem prepared to step into argument and try and make some sense of it, even we end up looking little nutcases.. Ahhh where’s my revolver…

A UK Citizen
27 Jan 11:59pm

What a bunch of idiots writing on this forum. Vernon Coleman is speaking the truth, and people who attack him are not bright enough to see that. He makes various predictions. Time will prove him right. Gordon Brown is a moron, and we will all suffer greatly as a result. The future is very bleak indeed. My advice is emigrate, before the shit hits the fan.

Martin Doyle
28 Jan 1:25pm

UK Citizen says “My advice is emigrate, before the shit hits the fan.”

OK, so what happens when peak hits the country you emigrated to? Move again? To where? Realistically, no one can survive alone, we have to work together (ie Transition Towns) by planning now. Surely it is better to have local people around you with a diverse range of skills?

Dr Coleman does speak some truths, but unfortunately, he alienates himself from many by sensationising the content of his books beyond realism. Why does he do this? We’ll I guess the ‘stir’ they create gets people talking about them, which means more sales!

29 Jan 1:45pm

Well Martin, please write a non-sensational book that tells the truth… so this way people won’t talk about it and you won’t make many sales. Well done, you proved its point.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, you’re either sensational or you’re noone.

I haven’t read its book (yet?) but I strongly believe the world is going to go through major changes (climate, food, oil, water, etc…) well before our expectations (look at the Artic for example).

Martin Doyle
29 Jan 3:38pm

Surely is better to tell the truth without lying or distorting facts? The problem I have with Dr Coleman is his interpretation of the facts and projections for the future (a common issue with his books).

If you look at George Monbiot’s ‘Heat’ – he was able to give his opinions whilst backing them up reputable sources of information. It was a ‘sensational’ book without being ‘senationalist’.

Dr Coleman is coming from a position of truth (ie Peak Oil) but if, after reading it, reader thinks that they have to leave the country for salvation, it seems a little short on solutions.

I agree that the world is going through some major changes, and yes, probably before our (government & industies) expectations, but to cut and run won’t help.

9 Feb 1:21pm

anybody ever heard of hope for the best prepare for the worst

4 Mar 4:30pm

after reading feb’s issue of the Ecologist i am considering reading this book. we should try not to be sheep so that we may develop our own RESEARCHED views.

5 Mar 4:24pm

Wish I’d read all this stuff an hour ago – I just ordered a copy of “Oil Apocalypse”! Ah well, I’ll prepare to be terrified out of my wits – at least my little village second house in France has a garden – but how will we get there? It takes 11 hours driving via Eurotunnel which of course will have shut down – walking? rowing? walking?

5 Mar 8:31pm

Anyone telling the truth shall be ridiculed or crucified, always has been, always will.
Truth is shocking, thankfully.
So you don’t like Vernon, and the fact that he is succesful and making money out of sales pisses you off, no need to worry, jealousy is very common and we all suffer from it.
I would recomend for those who can’t suffer Vernon to check out John Jay Harper’s book “Tranceformers”, for an explanation of the same message from a very different perspective, of how and why mankind is on its way out, of how we have focused on economy instead of ecology to the point of self-destruction, simple obvious quantum physics.
Don’t kill the messenger, it’s not about Vernon, it’s about paying atention to what is really happening.
All the best to everybody

Graham Burnett
6 Mar 12:54am

Well thats you told then Rob!

Patriot John
10 Mar 4:23pm

Peak gas – now that’s a bandwagon to jump on! Peak oil – that’s so last year. Oh, and climate change – what a great money-spinner. Is it time yet to make bets against? (Snow cover in northern hemisphere is a record this winter).

Jason Cole
10 Mar 10:32pm


What do you suppose “Snow cover in northern hemisphere is a record this winter” is an indication of? Climate Change, perhaps?

12 Mar 1:11pm

This reminds me of being a new Mum at the age of 19 (back in 1975) who suddenly became afraid of the “imminent” breakdown of the systems which delivered our food to the shops and supermarkets, that was being forewarned by doom merchants. Determined to ensure the survival of my new son, I stole the only thing I have ever stolen – a copy of a book called Self Sufficiency by John & Sally Seymour. I dug up my garden and planted potatos, carrots, onions, gooseberries and raspberries. I learned to make bread etc etc. We lived for a while on vegetable soup, fruit pies and bread rolls. Naively secure in the belief that I was “self sufficient” I thought that I could withstand the collapse of civilisation. Then I grew up and realised that if I had really had to live purely on my little patch of ground we would have starved to death by about February the following year. Also, I realised that anything that I had grown and more powerful neighbours wanted would be forcibly removed from our mouths and transfered to theirs! The only solution would be some kind of paranoid survivalist fortress in the middle of nowhere, as some Americans have taken to. I laugh now at my ernest and naive attempts to make sure the future would be secure for my son as I watch him worrying about his new daughter and wondering how to make her future secure…I was going to show him the Coleman advert (just for a laugh).. but I didn’t want to worry him!

10 Apr 9:27pm

There are some very interesting posts here!

A problem, though … many do not address whether Cole is correct or incorrect — many, especially your lead contributor, are (self-)satisfied with p***ing on his style or on his political or moral image from the perspective of their own academic, literary or moral narcissism.

Now: how about we look at what Dr James Gordon Brown has actually DONE (and failed to do), what he has SAID (and when he has said it) and how that relates to FACT, look at where we are, look at what Cole SAYS, and take it from there?

When we have played that lot out, there will be time enough to tilt at the personalities.

14 Apr 11:16am

Hi,,,I enjoyed Rob’s critique and agreed with all of his arguments; the tone of some of the earlier contributions to this forum makes Rob’s sober ratinalism even more valuable. The greatest threat to liberal democracy is the rise of anti-ratinalism,as the content of many of the previous comments makes all too clear. Once we lose our belief in rational empiricism…the foundation of science…we enter an wilderness of mysticism and superstition where we be lost for ever.

And yet….. I an left a little uncomfortable by a critique bases not on the full text of Coleman’s book but on a self-serving ad. I will get a copy to see if I agree with Rob and post my opinions on this forum in a few weeks.

Anthony, Cheshire

mike muse
21 Apr 11:04am

I’ve just ordered a copy of Oil Apocalypse and I intend to read it (as I do all such texts), with a critical eye. When I’ve finished and checked out a representative sample of statements and allegations, I’ll get back to you. I know nothing of Coleman, but I DO know that a lot of what passes for news in the UK media is somewhat parsimonious with the actualite. A brief look at sites such as Information clearinghouse, or even some of the German papers, makes this fairly clear.

Mike M

Little Richardjohn
21 Apr 3:36pm

I couldn’t help noticing the full page ad in yesterday’s Observer.
But at first I assumed it was for that Occidental mystic with a beard and turban which sometimes appears – also asking for money.
It is almost the same layout style. Same column alignments, typefaces and image placement – or something very similar.

Is this merely publishers ‘Publishing House’ of Barnstaple cutting costs by buying off-the-peg layouts? Or is this the appropriate design for apocalyptic prophecies of The Way?
Any designers out there?

22 Apr 7:52am

God morning folks! That’s definitely woken me up a bit. I think reading about possible apocalyptic scenarios is a great way of energising in the morning.. 🙂 What would they call it in Zen? Invoking death energy! – a sudden and powerful awareness of the inevitability of death and destruction (in some form).. and the resulting ‘surge’ in vital energy or life power.
Seriously though, there are some great points on this forum. Good to see alot of differing views and thoughts. I also saw Vernon Coleman’s full page ad in the Observer on Sunday, and whilst I thought that that he had a point to what he was basically saying, it did seem to me to be rather sensationalised and over dramatic. I also couldn’t help thinking that Dr Coleman looked rather smug in his photo.. and the advertisement often mentions ‘Vernon Coleman’s Oil Apocalypse’ as though he is some sort of star who needs top billing and needs to be constantly mentioned (otherwise he might throw a tantrum!) I haven’t read any of Vernon Coleman’s books, but after reading the posts on this forum I’ll probably opt out and read John Gray’s book instead. Probably better written, better informed, and more balanced.. and he at least keeps himself and any ‘guru complexes’ out of the picture. I had a quick look at Dr Coleman’s website and I couldn’t help thinking ‘this chap likes to scaremonger and self promote a little too much’ But maybe I am being a bit harsh on ol’ Vernon. Perhaps we need people like him – even if he is gleefully surfing along the lunatic fringe, twiddling his bow tie and smiling a smug smile

Little Richardjohn
23 Apr 10:26am

He is a card.
I mean, when the mob, say, is hammering at the front door, and none of Professor Coleman’s strategies have worked, do we get our £12.99 back?

I suppose we could throw the book at them. So when it appears for £2.99 it might be a viable strategy to buy them all up to use as missiles for the forthcoming seige. Or to use as fuel…

The possible uses of this book are indeed many in a post-carbon dystopia where toilet paper is a thing of the past.

mike muse
28 Apr 3:37pm

Well I’ve just finished “Oil Apocalypse” and I have to say at the outset that I am at some pains to understand the venom and invective levelled at it on this site.

Such facts as Coleman provides in his book are difficult to contest; his conclusions are another matter. I’m now 66, so that if there was anything seriously frightening about what he has to say, I might be feeling vulnerable. I would agree with his observations on nuclear power, and like him I’ve never been a fan of the stuff. However, Colemans claims notwithstanding, one of the future “get out of jail free cards” , as far as transport is concerned, has to be the hydrogen economy – and I’m not talking about fuel cells. The construction of large scale elctrolysis plants for the production of hydrogen from water would need the muscle of large scale nuclear power provision. Hydrogen is tricky stuff to handle (tho’ probably no more dangerous than petrol)and the R & D and associated engineering would open up some interesting possibilities. It also represents a new and major industrial opportunity, a largely environmentally friendly one at that.

Oil? The large scale synthesis of tailored silicones would take care of a lot of industrial needs. I’m thinking principally of plastics and lubricants. Once one stops thinking about burning hydrocarbons, the problems abate considerably. Currently expensive to manufacture, economies of scale and cost reduction via nuclear power generated electricity could render silicones a viable option in a number of areas.

Outside of this, the prospect of a “new” energy paradigm based on Tesla’s “Wardenclyffe Tower” project being revived would address the projected electrical energy crisis Coleman claims to foresee.We all know I think, that politicians are mediocrities and that virtually none of them has even an elementary grasp of science and technology, being mostly accountants and lawyers, e.e. passengers. Coleman is correct to draw attention to the elephant in the room: burgeoning population.

Agriculture? It’s just possible 5 billion of us may die in the projected shortages. If it were just a question of life reverting to that of a medieval serf, we might be able to get by, but like Coleman, I think it may be rather more brutish than that.

Anyone who wants a flavour of what the USA is all about and how things got to be the way they are should read Pynchons “Against the Day”: a novel about the kind of American history one doesn’t learn at school. Pynchon has all the sophistication that Coleman lacks, but then Colemans account is concerned not with style, but content. Suffice to say that both Coleman and Pynchon would find little to disagree about re the USA and Pynchon is both a polymath and a WASP from East Coast old money, i.e. he knows where the bones are buried.

If Colemans book gets a few people to actually start thinking about some of the very real concerns he presents, he will have done us all a favour.

Mike M

1 May 3:40pm

I agree with the author. I’ve read 3 books by V.Coleman and I must say they all of very poor quality. They are quite badly written with no sense of humour and contain no facts, or the facts that are not linked to each other or do not stipulate the conclusions that the author make. In his book Why animal experiments should stop Coleman argues that animal experiments have no value for science but never brings any facts or arguments, only repeats it on every page like a pray. His book “Living in a fascist state” is an example of depressive paranoya when the author probably thinks that the fact that american schoolchildren have to give their fingers scanned to get their lunch is an example of a fascist state. His thesis about shoot and kill policy is too hazy and you never know whether this is his own understanding of an accident with Brazilian electrician or he is actually quoting some law.
His books are very superficial, all facts are twisted and taken out of context. You may ask me “Why have you read all 3 books? It was probably obvious after the first one?”
Don’t worry I picked them up on a car boot sale for symbolic price. They definitly not worth the prce they are sold for in book shops.

24 Jun 9:48am

An interesting comment, Andriy – but on the evidence please forgive me for doubting your own ability as a judge of the quality of anyone’s writing.

26 Jun 11:12am

Just giving this a bump because I also recently got a flyer about this book in the current Propsect (If I was Coleman I would have a word with my media buyers for a start since his brand of panic-mongering is unlikely to faze the bien-pensants who subscribe to Prospect. But anyway….)

Just because Coleman is an arse doesn’t mean he is all wrong. James Lovelock, the Gaia guy, who has gone from total maverick to pretty respectable scientist over the last 25 years, thinks that planet earth can comfortably sustain around 1bn people in the long run, so Coleman’s 5bn casualties is not so weird as all that. (I reckon diseas will get a lot of us before starvation, just as spanish flu killed more people in 1919 than the whole the first world war put together). Its pretty clear that some of our behaviour will have to change but there are reasons to think that it will anyway. It has been fascinating to see car usage drop dramatically in the face of the recent rapid rise in petrol prices, for example. Remember back at the beginning of the 20th cenutry, experts were predicting that London would be knee-deep in horse droppings in 20 years unless “something was done”. The something was the motor car. Funny how things turn out.

7 Jul 8:47am

Hi, it’s been very interesting reading all these comments. I have just read the book and was suitably scared witless. So I looked on the tinternet for just such a discussion. It seems to me that no one disagrees that we don’t have enough oil to see us through the next 50 years. And I feel very uneasy about it and feel silly that I never realy thought about it until reading this book. I would assume the worlds Governments know about this and quite sensibly keep it underwraps because of the chaos that would begin much earlier than is necessary. Also I expect that these Goverments are all trying to grab what oil they can now even more than in the past. What worries me is that the in the long term there doesn’t appear to many answers. This I hope will change. I would like Britain to start making noises about planning for a future without oil in a positive way. To bury our heads in the sand would cause much suffering to our generation but I fear especialy for our children. The children are our future and our responsibilty are they not?

Please keep this debate going it can only be a good thing that more and more views are heard and fears put out in the open. More importantly positive constructive views expressed would give inspiration to us all. Forget the book or how it was written the point is that this is a real issue and its coming our way sooner or later.

7 Jul 12:09pm

No disrespect, but I’m surprised anyone is still finding out for the first time that oil is a finite resource. I remember being shown a diagram at school in the 1970s which predicted we would run out of oil about now, based on existing reserves, growth predictions etc. Of course we haven’t, because more reserves have come on stream. One of the effects of the recent price hike is that reserves of oil in Canada, for example – in particular, the so-called oil-sand deposits under Alberta – which are much more costly to extract, are now economically viable. The same thing happened in the wake of the price hike in the 70s which made deep-water offshore oil production (as in the North Sea but also elsewhere) a less marginal bet. Oil companies don’t bother to predict seriously beyond a 20 year window.

Of course, it still remains a finite resource as does just about everything else. As Mark Twain said, 150 years ago, “Buy land, son, they’re not making it any more.” Only things like energy from the sun are, for pratical purposes anyway, limitless. But the wokrings of the market-place, whatever you think of it, meant that it will never actually “run-out”. It will just become too expensive to burn in inefficient units like car engines which only convert a surprisingly small amount of the energy into actual locomotion.

I’m not a great believer in the so-called “technological fix” for the world’s ills; we definitely need to make some changes in our lifestyles and I agree with you that governments the world over are being spectacularly pusillanimous and short termist about doing anything about it. But new hydrogen based (for heat and power)and silicon technologies (for lubrication) are not far away. And nuclear power is a reality which, once you strip away the eco-dogma (much of it well intentioned, but wrong – how many people really died at Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear disaster? The answer is 48, less than a third of those killed in the Piper Alpha oil rig explosion whose 20th anniversary is being marked this week) can actually get us over the short-term hump.

7 Jul 12:12pm

Mr Islander is doubting…OK, let”s assume that I am not trying to sell my writings as Mr Coleman does, and I also have no time for polishing my style.
But Mr Coleman is a classic example of a man with no agenda that could be even remotely called “positive”.
And writing negative is easy-peasy – any regular reader of a Daily Mail can do it as good as Mr Coleman.
I was only wondering how he can survive his own writing without being taken to the mental institution right in a middle of his next bestseller?

7 Jul 12:37pm

“how many people really died at Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear disaster? The answer is 48”

48 died directly, but the legacy in terms of cancer and massive birth defects continues to this day. Nuclear leaves a terrible legacy – some of the radiation from Chernobyl was carried in the wind and deposited across europe. For me at least, Nuclear has no place in the world.

Little Richardjohn
7 Jul 3:01pm

The other thing to get straight about nuclear power is that the technology is inherently political. If it is stolen it is dangerous. It therefore demands an increase in state security, often to a pernicious extent, and is used as an excuse for repressive legislation and practices.

Unless the much promised ‘safe’ slef-contained backyard generators do materialise, there is no guarantee that in an oil-less future, nuclear power will not be used as an excuse for a permanent dictatorship.

Eric Leach
11 Jul 2:15pm

Forget the Vernon Coleman style, there’s enough decent content in his book to make us all sit up and think.

With the price of oil today at $143/barrel and never going down again, oil running out is a massively scarey thought. The price of food is going up.

Car and truck drivers have had their petrol/diesel stolen. Friends of mine with allotments are becoming concerned that someone may hop over the fence at night and steal their vegetables. It doesn’t take much for the fabric of society to break down as we saw in the New Orleans floods.

We are all in a quandary about what to do about oil running out – and I’m convinced that the problems will be upon us sooner rather than later.

Marcus Eoin
11 Jul 8:47pm

Rob while I normally agree with your viewpoint there is something I would take issue with:

You state:
[quote]Clearly we cannot expect Gordon Brown to leap to a programme of Powerdown, it is up to us, but not on our own, rather building relationships with those around us. We can create a wave of momentum that will make it easier for government to make these difficult (and, at present, unelectable) decisions.[/quote]

What are individuals or communities engaged in ‘powerdown’ or transition to do when faced with Gordon Brown or his government acting as the primary obstacle – actively denying their attempts to prepare for change?

The UK is at great risk from the post-oil era because of the population density. Currently we do not feed ourselves, so we are presumably assuming that in a post-oil world either a good number of us are going to starve to death or vast tracts of land in the UK currently given over to horse racing, out of town shopping malls, shooting estates, sprawling Barratt new towns, half empty science parks, acres of biofuel crops, acres of pasture for livestock, motorways and service stations and so on will be turned around with wartime urgency into producing cereals to feed the 60 million residents.

Before any of that happens, just try getting the local community together to buy a parcel of land for local permaculture, or (as in Scotland) attempt to use the Land Reform Act to make a community land purchase – You rapidly discover that the planning departments, landowners (banks usually), local authorities and central executive branches of government are the primary obstacle to transition. In an overpopulated island, with an overheated property market, and a legislature heavily biased towards corporate interests (those with the deepest pockets), 99 times out of 100 a community’s attempt to wrestle the most miniscule atom of power over their own geography and destiny will always come second fiddle to the Tescos, Asdas, Business Parks, the out of town shopping centres, the cement works, open cast mines, vast incinerators….. and it’s no coincidence that these are the very ‘stakeholders’ funding Gordon Brown’s political party.

I’m sorry I can’t be more optimistic but we have a clash of civilizations coming, and it’s not the one everyone expects – that between the developed world and the developing world. It’s going to be between those of us trying to salvage a future out of an apparent endgame, faced off with those who will throw their arms in the air and say “Hey, the world is ending, I’m gonna get mines” grinning, dribbling as they shop for the latest fucking iPhone while the sky falls down.

Our biggest challenge will not be inventing vaporware like the fantasy Hydrogen economy, it will be figuring out how to herd the other 59 million sheeple away from the edge of the abyss as our government drives, quite literally, over the edge.

Vernon Wade-Brown
9 Sep 7:31pm

For heaven’s sake you guys lighten up and get a life while you still have the chance! You know; sex, drugs, Rock ‘n Roll and whatever! Quit worrying about what you can do f*** all about and beieve me as an activist from the 50’s you never will. Above all enjoy life it’s not a rehearsal. Read the Billbury books to calm you down not, as you might expect, extolling the virtues of capitalist pigs!

26 Sep 7:41am

I have only read a limited amount of Vernon Coleman’s work, but enough to get the gist. The house style is quite consistent.

I don’t read such books for fun, the topics under discussion are too serious for that.

I apply two tests to such books. Whether the revelations within are believable or not, are these revelations backed up by facts and research? If authors don’t provide the proof of what they write, then it is always possible that what they write is not accurate and true.

I reckon Vernon Coleman clearly fails this test.

The other test is – as applies in the ‘Gordon Brown Is A Moron’ publication – that when subjected to public office, politicians sometimes have to act in dubious ways in order to reconcile conflicts of interest between persons and groups.
So how do we know whether other power brokers in the same role would have behaved any better?


keith hendricks
23 Oct 8:41pm


unknown anarchist
4 Feb 9:49pm

Many interesting points here. But to Mr Vernon Wade-Brown (old 50s’ activist) (BULLSHIT). With an attitude like that nothing will change. Dr. Coleman’s books are enlightening and refreshing though like he admits himself it is written with bias and read by others with prejudice. The key is to keep an open mind and make your own informed decisions. I would however like to see Dr. Coleman using academic referencing and crediting the research of others. Only then can we see the evidence in whole and come to our own conclusions.

27 Mar 11:48pm