A couple of preliminaries before we plunge into this quagmire together.
First, I’d like to thank Aaron, XX for putting together this Earth Day event and allowing me the opportunity to present here and help each of you to better understand a global phenomenon that will, I’m completely convinced, soon change your life and your nation forever.
Second, I’m particularly grateful for this opportunity because I am not a renowned environmental writer or educator. My credentials for this presentation are decidedly modest. I have done no pure research and have no experience in the oil industry. While I do have an engineering degree from this fine university, please think of me merely as a concerned citizen. I have spent the last several months trying to become as educated about and versed in this topic as I can, but I have much to learn myself. So I’m indebted to many writers who I will quote from liberally but may not mention by name as I go. They are vital to my understanding of this topic. You’ll also pardon me, please, for my extensive use of notes as I’ve not given a presentation on this topic before, and I am, if you’ll pardon the pun, green.
Third, I feel compelled to beg of you to not think of me as a dour or excessively negative person. Most of my life has been marked by optimism. I like a good joke as much as the next guy and am very happy with my life and situation. However, I honestly, truly, and sincerely believe we as citizens of the strongest nation on earth are standing immobilized like a deer standing on the tracks, facing the headlights of an oncoming train, staring at a situation as threatening to our nation and world as the tsunami which struck the Indian Ocean in December. If you’ve come tonight expecting to hear provocation for a nightmare filled evening and perhaps many to follow, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve never been as scared for the future of our nation and world as I am tonight and if I can convey a bit of that concern to you I will feel successful in my effort. Tonight I will shock you, I will horrify you, I will challenge your assumptions about the world we live in, how you think about yourself, your circle of friends, and your nation. We are in for a very rough ride through uncharted territory in the 21st century; buckle your seat belt.
And finally, a disclaimer: I will do my best to stay factual, reporting accurately what I’ve read and learned, but this is a many-disciplined topic involving engineering, agriculture, economics, marketing, architecture, politics and more. If I find that I can’t restrain myself and I stray from the factual into the opinion, I’ll don this colorful fool’s cap as a sign to all of you.
And now, How Peak Oil will change your life and your nation forever
I don’t remember much about thermodynamics 301, taught over in Randolph Hall thirty years ago by Professor F. X. Pierce. Sagaciously, he paced before the blackboard, called the course “thermogodamnics” and told us we’d think of our textbook as a printed sedative. I’ve forgotten definitions of entropy and enthalpy and can’t tell you the difference between a Carnot Cycle and an Otto Cycle. But I do remember this one: Energy is defined as the ability to do work. When you have lots of energy at your disposal, you can do lots of work. Conversely, when you have proportionally less energy, you can do proportionally less work. I can also tell you that energy cannot be manufactured or engineered. It can only be extracted and used. In thermodynamics parlance, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only concentrated or dispersed. The concentrated stuff is what we’re after. Once we “use” it, it is dispersed. No amount of engineering talent or fantastic discoveries will make more energy; we can only consume what nature has given us. We can waste it, use it efficiently, or conserve it. But we can’t make more of it than nature gives us.
Oil is simply the most densely packed, usable, and heretofore abundant energy source on our planet. Today oil provides 50% of the energy we use overall and 90% of what we use for transportation. Since oil’s first commercial extraction 150 years ago, our society has engineered countless systems around us to consume it in a lusty and insatiable, “it’ll never be gone” way. Our per-captia consumption is unrivalled in the world, except by our neighbors to the north in Canada. If that weren’t enough, we have found literally thousands of uses for it other than energy, including fabrics, pharmaceuticals, plastics, synthetic rubber, and household and industrial chemicals.
Even the few Americans who are aware of a gathering predicament typically misunderstand the core argument. Many believe that we have many years left before oil runs out. So here's the first place I’ll challenge your assumptions. Consider, please, that our industrial civilization and its dependent systems will have severe problems much earlier than when we run out, but instead as soon as we pass the all-time production peak and begin a downward arc of depletion. In fact, we will never truly run out; the notion itself is irrelevant.
It’s intuitively obvious to all of us that when you consume a fixed resource at a growing rate, at some point you will not be able to produce more each year than the year before. If extraction is plotted over time, it resembles the famous statistical bell-shaped curve, with accelerating consumption, peak, and then decline. During the decline, every year sees the production worldwide of less than the year before. According to many petro-economists, nature has endowed us with just about 2 trillion barrels of oil. That sounds like a lot of oil, and it is, but believe it or not, we’ve already consumed, well, just about half of it. When you go past half, you start downhill on the curve. That’s Peak Oil.
Here’s the deal: You’re in trouble not when it runs out, but as soon as you produce less than you need; especially when with each coming year widens the gap. The important thing about peak oil is that when we can no longer product as much oil as we are accustomed to having, the economy will stop growing. Period. Look forward to chronic recession or worse. Our entire existence is built on an everlasting, ever growing economy and when oil peaks, that will stop.
Think about it this way. Say you live on an island where the population has grown by one person per year historically. Last year you had 99 people, this year you have 100. Commensurate with that, your farmers have grown enough food to feed 99 last year, 100 this year. But next year, when you have 101 people, your farmers grow enough for 99. You’re in trouble right now, not 100 years from now.
A shortfall of as little as 10% between supply and demand is ought to wholly shatter an oil-dependent nation and devastate its economy. The effects of even a small drop in production can be crippling. For instance, during the 1970’s oil shocks, shortfalls in produciton as small as 5% caused the price of oil to nearly quadruple and send our nation into recession. In California a few years ago, when production of natural gas fell less than 5%, the price skyrocketed by 400%.
The next oil shock will be permanent and will worsen each year. Production will drop (conservatively) by 3-6% each year.
When will this happen? First a little history.
Fifty years ago, America was the Saudi Arabia of the world, the largest energy “producer” on the planet. The peak decade of domestic discovery was the 1930’s. What that means is there was never a decade before or after when more energy was discovered. A petroleum geologist named M. King Hubbert predicted in the late 1950’s that domestic production would peak about 1970. While he was widely derided for it at the time, he proved to be amazingly prescient. 1970 was in fact the year when our country produced more oil than any other, and other than a blip when the Prudhoe Bay fields went on-line, we’ve been in fairly constant decline ever since. Incidentally, the bell-shaped curve we’ve been talking about is now widely known as “Hubbert’s Peak.”
Now then, the world-wide peak decade of discovery was the 1960’s. If we now overlay the forty-year delay between peak discovery and peak production domestically with the international curve, we can guess that oil will peak internationally in about 2000. In fact, that is what Hubbert predicted 20 years ago. His calculations at that time proved overly pessimistic, primarily due to new, improved extraction technologies. But several others have updated his work. One, Princeton geology professor emeritus Kenneth Deffeyes, wrote recently, “World oil production will reach its ultimate peak on Thanksgiving Day 2005.” It might happen a few months before, it may be happening now; we’ve recently seen substantial price increases at the pump. Hopefully it will be months or perhaps even a year or two later. In any event, I think it’s entirely fair to emphatically use the word, “soon.” Almost all independent estimates from now disinterested scientists indicate global oil production will peak and go into terminal decline within the next five years.
To apply some quantitative data to this, our nation’s production peak in 1970 was 11 million barrels a day. Today we produce 5 million barrels a day, but consume 20. We import ¾ of what we use every day. Here are some more numbers: for the past several five years, we Americans, along with all the other consumers of the world, have consumed 4-5 barrels for every new barrel found through exploration and added to the “proven reserves” column. This is head-slappingly obvious, but you can’t extract it tomorrow if you haven’t found it today. And our petro-geologists have looked, quite literally, everywhere. Oil can only form in the earth’s crust under certain conditions and in certain places. No resource on the planet has been searched for more rigorously.
To make matters worse, if the upside of Hubbert’s peak was a gentle slope, the downside will be a cliff, for several reasons.
First, the upside was predicated upon the construction of an infrastructure and consumptive patterns to use all that oil. Past peak, all that will be there and the appetite will be enormous.
Second, emerging economic giants China and India are demanding their own share of what’s left. We’ll come back to that later.
Third, consider that we’ve already consumed the easy to extract, higher quality stuff; the proverbial low-hanging fruit. What’s left will be costly to get, ironically requiring more energy just to extract, of lower quality, and located mostly in places where people hate us. The Middle East is the only region left on the planet still on the upside of Hubbert’s Peak. Ever wonder why we’re really fighting a war there? More on that later, too. But back to an earlier point: the reason we will never fully run out of oil is that much of it will require more energy to extract than it will yield, so by simple logic it will be left untouched.
Put as succinctly as I know how, it had a wondrous and unprecedented 150 year run, but the party is over.
Now is time to challenge assumption #2: It won’t really be that bad! Yes, it will.
I’m of the lunatic dirt-worshipping tree-hugging lunatic environmental fringe. But let’s hear from a conservative, business friendly life-long Republican, Matthew Simmons. He runs an investment bank called Simmons and Company and was an energy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney. When asked in 2003 if it was time to bring Peak Oil to the national policy debate, he said:
“It is past time. If energy peaks, particularly while 5 of the world’s 6.5 billion people consume practically none of it, it will be a tremendous jolt to our economic well-being and to our health, greater than anyone could ever imagine.
He was asked for any solutions. He said:
“The solution is to pray. Under the best of circumstances, if all prayers are answered there will be no crisis for maybe two years. After that it’s a certainty.”
A recent report for the US Department of Energy states:
Without timely mitigation, world supply/demand balance will be achieved through massive demand destruction (shortages), accompanied by huge oil price increases, both of which would create a long period of significant economic hardship worldwide.” And, “the problems associated with world oil production peaking will not be temporary, and past “energy crisis” experience will provide relatively little guidance. The world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary. Previous energy transitions were gradual and evolutionary. Oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary.”
Let’s now debunk another theory: we’ll have enough time to adjust. Wrong! While we’ll need 10 – 25 years to retrofit our economy to process any and all available energy sources, we’ll be lucky if we get 30-60 days. My theory is that some perturbation in the system, a refinery fire, a tanker ship accident or terrorist act, or a pipeline break will cause momentary panic. We’ll all run to the gas station and spot shortages will occur which will cause more panic and more binge buying. It will shortly become clear that there is not enough new supply and will never be enough again. Once this occurs, expect traders on Wall Street to quickly bid the price up to $200 per barrel, pushing the price at the pump to $10 per gallon. Overnight, the trucking industries, airlines, and all transportation networks will grind to a halt, ceasing the delivery of food, medicine, and consumer goods.
Former oil industry insider Jan Lundberg recently stated,
“The trucks will no longer pull into WalMart. Or Safeway or Kroger or CVS. The freighters bringing packaged techno-toys and whatnot from China will have no fuel. There will still be fuel in many places, but hoarding and uncertainty will trigger outages, violence, and chaos. For only a shot time will the police and military be able to maintain order, if at all.”
My local Kroger must have 20,000 different products, but if not continually restocked, the shelves would be bare in two weeks.
In March, the Department of Energy released a report that officially acknowledges for the first time that Peak Oil is for real and states plainly that:
“The world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary.”
Our national collapse will be hastened by the fact that the US national debt will become completely unsustainable. The nations to which we owe all that money will have no choice but to pull their investments out of the US while simultaneously switching from the dollar to the euro as the reserve currency for oil transactions. Along with the breakdown of domestic transportation network, the global financial shift away from the dollar will wholly shatter the US economy.
This is about the point where cornucopian and so-called “free-market” economists waggishly proclaim, The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone. We went on to something better! I don’t have time tonight to discuss each and every alternative which might plausibly present itself, but I’ve reached the conclusion that none, individually or collectively, will come to our rescue and provide anywhere near the per-capita supply we now have. This is going to be a permanent energy crisis, and the stresses to our international order have significant potential, especially when synergized with disruptions of climate change, epidemic disease, population stresses, and disparities in standards of living to produce even higher orders of trouble. Before we go on, however, I do think it’s appropriate to spend just a few minutes discussing some of the alternatives.
Coal. While ultimately facing the same Hubbert’s peak as oil, we have abundant resources and I’m sure will exploit them frantically. While coal has been and will continue to be a reliable energy source for production of central-station electricity, because it is difficult to transport and burn cleanly and because it contributes significant greenhouse gasses, its expanded use is limited. It certainly won’t do much for transportation; you can’t pull up a coal train next to a 747 and expect it to leave the runway. Expect to see much of West Virginia, Western Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky turned into a single giant strip mine while air pollution restrictions will be weakened allowing significant new airborne miseries.
Natural Gas. Because of the oil crises of the 1970’s and the nuclear plant disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, virtually every electrical power plant built since has burned natural gas. Domestic natural gas is soon to peak and imported gas is fraught with transportation problems. Transported as a super-cooled liquid, it is amazingly explosive and a ripe terrorism target. Gas’ Hubbert’s Peak follows right behind Oil’s. The fact is, we’re using gas in a frantic way now, too, and ramping up to cover the oil shortfall simply isn’t an option.
Nuclear. The domestic nuclear power industry was left moribund by Three Mile Island, but for many engineers today represents one of the few viable choices. Still, we have a populace understandably skittish about the possibility of 100 or more nuclear plants across our country. For example, Claytor Lake, about 20 miles from here, offers ample water for cooling, plus railroad access, and seems a likely plant site. How would you feel about that? And, I know you’re ready for this: uranium has its own Hubbert’s Peak. After 50 years of development, we’re seemingly no closer to a working fusion reactor which would run indefinitely generating its own fuel. And if we did, fusion reactions generate plutonium, sought after by terrorists everywhere and one of the most toxic substances ever created.
Hydrogen. A “hydrogen economy” is a particularly cruel hoax. Free hydrogen does not exist in nature and must be synthesized by the application of, guess what?, energy. When you put more energy into a “source” than that source provides, it yields nothing. There will be no hydrogen economy.
Bio-fuels. Growing crops to be synthesized into fuel is also a net loser. Today’s agriculture is an enormous energy consumer, with four to ten calories of petroleum energy invested in every calorie of food produced. It is nonsense to think that we can grow crops with nothing more than solar energy in quantities sufficient to power much of anything. Besides, where would we grow such crops, when essentially every square mile of agriculturally productive land is already in use yet still millions of people go hungry?
Solar. Given that solar energy arrives every day and is forevermore, we’ll need to consume lots of it. Unfortunately, it’s fickle and it’s dispersed. Obviously it only arrives half of each day. Then it gets blocked by clouds. But the most intractable problem is that its energy density per meter is small, so enormous swaths of land would be necessary to devote to solar panels or some other technology to absorb and process it. Similarly, wind energy will become more important as energy prices skyrocket, but it’s only available when and where the wind blows. Neither can augment oil in a meaningful way at the volumes we’re now consuming. Think about it this way: petroleum today provides 50% of our energy, while wind and solar combined provide less than 2/10ths of 1%.
New Stuff. Then there’s the hope of amazing new technologies like Thermal Depolymerization, solar Nanotech, Space Based solar arrays, and such. These fantastic new technologies are still perhaps decades from working systems, if ever.
No, I’m convinced that 21st century Americans will simply need to adjust to a fundamentally changed system where you and I and everyone else uses lots less energy. I’m not talking about $3/gallon gas. I’m talking about $12/gallon gas, rationed to 5 gallons per person per week. Spring break in Florida? Forget it. Pineapples from Hawaii at the grocery store? A distant memory. Vacations in Europe? Only for the wealthiest citizens. This box came from Spain filled with clementines. I consume each as if it were my last. Might be!
Ladies and gentlemen, our new reality will require us to downscale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the way we grow our food to the way we work, to the kinds of communities we physically inhabit, to the way we trade our products. Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and consumerism. Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, with its 10,000 mile supply chain, will fall in importance or disintegrate altogether. Food production will become particularly vexing, as industrial “mega-farming” will fail and be replaced by small, local farms. You don’t want to hear this, but the American economy of the mid-21st century may center not on information or services or technology or retail trade or tourism, but on agriculture. That’s right: farming. Mooo! Green Acres, here we come!
In my mind, the effect on the economy I spoke of earlier is most easily understood when we talk about local impact. Volvo in Dublin will be one of the first to go, taking Federal Mogul (engine bearings), Wolverine Gasket, and Corning glass (catalytic converters) with them. The Motor Mile is history, along with their Speedway in Dublin and their boat and camper store in Christiansburg. All the paving and highway construction companies will die. Thousands will lose their jobs and the ripple effect on other businesses will be devastating. I run a commercial printing company in Christiansburg, and I see little chance of our survival if unemployment hits 30% or 40% or beyond. Workers who are lucky enough to still have jobs will but face 30-mile commutes will find they don’t make enough money to justify coming to work.
On the national scene, the airlines are already in trouble and most will vanish leaving thousands of airplanes grounded. Boeing and Airbus will die. Princess Cruises and Disneyland will die as well. MacDonalds, Burger King, Hardees, and all the other fast-food chains which rely on motoring consumers will die. Suburban malls will die and the suburbs themselves will atrophy.
As apocalyptic as this sounds, it may actually be “best case.” Worse case is that we are entering an historic period of potentially severe hardship, turbulence, instability, and international stress. Geopolitical maneuvering around the world’s richest energy regions has already led to war and promises more of the same to come. All I can say at this point is, “Yikes!”
What’s particularly maddening for me is how little press this issue has generated, and with it a paucity of frank, eager discussion. For instance, on the website of our local newspaper, the Roanoke Times, I did a search for Peak Oil and found zero hits. Nothing! And yet on a Monday morning early this month, they devoted half of an entire A-1 front page to the burning issue of beer consumption and sales policies at NASCAR races. Folks, within five years, NASCAR won’t exist. Could we please have some reality here?
You’re probably eager for some good news at this point. Here goes: President Bush and his administration are well aware of the dangers of Peak Oil! They have been briefed repeatedly since 2000.
So what’s been the President’s plan? Please permit me a gross oversimplification by proposing three competing solutions, “hard” and “soft,” and “wishful.”
The “wishful,” hoping something will come along miraculously to save our collective asses, is what we’ve just discussed and largely dismissed.
I’ll talk momentarily about the “soft.” It is clear that Mr. Bush has chosen the hard.
Mr. Bush has proclaimed to our citizens and to the world that our way of life is not negotiable. With the Middle East being so important, the U.S. has attempted to open a big police station in Iraq. I have a multiple choice test for you now. President Bush’s pre-emptive, unprovoked war in Iraq was begun for which reason:
a) to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction
b) to end his support for Al Quada
c) to bring freedom to the Iraqi people
d) to modify and influence the behavior of oil-rich states around the Persian Gulf to our needs, notably Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The correct answer is (d), to dominate the Arab world. The results so far have been far from entirely positive and future prospects are not promising. Yet the intention is clear. We will incur any and every cost and challenge to keep the taps running for as long as possible. Our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, classmates and friends, will be willingly sacrificed, along with hundreds of billions of dollars, in the quest for control of that remaining 1 trillion barrels of oil so we can continue our copious consumption and fuel our SUV’s for a few more years.
As discouraging as this sounds, in its best case it only delays the inevitable. At its worst case, it involves not only the US and the entirety of the Middle East, but Russia, China, India, and other powerful states as well. China in particularly is seeing a tremendous boom in its economy and a commensurate appetite for oil. They must clearly see our war in Iraq for what it is: a power play to secure the oil for ourselves. When will they say we must leave or risk facing their standing army of 1,000,000 soldiers, stationed on the same continent?
Would a softer approach be feasible? Not without considerable pain.
All nations will need to adjust to some degree, but America is in a special predicament due to choices we’ve made as a society during the 20th century, particularly after the end of World War II. Perhaps the worst decision was to completely re-engineer our communities around the needs of the automobile. By incessant highway building, we encouraged sprawl development, plowed thousands of acres of arable land into housing developments and parking lots and malls, let our cities rot and public transportation systems atrophy, and made fuel-inefficient travel necessary for every trip. By contrast, much of Western Europe lives with an enviable quality of life: wholesome, chemical-free food, inspired art, architecture, music and culture, using half the energy we do. Obesity, boredom, and the other trappings of “Affluenza” are uniquely American diseases. If done correctly, the Powerdown of our economy could produce some benefits.
Jane Bryant Quinn, writing in Newsweek last August, penned,
“Conservation, in the form of super efficient energy use, is the fastest growing and cheapest “source” of energy in the United States. When California’s energy prices soared in 2002, the state cut its energy usage by 14% almost overnight.”
We can wean ourselves, and in fact once were well on our way. After the OPEC oil embargoes of the 1970’s, President Jimmy Carter declared a moral equivalent of war to become energy independent. He turned down the thermostat in the White House and placed solar panels on the roof. Here was his fatal mistake: he asked the American people for sacrifice.
Ronald Reagan had another plan. He landfilled Jimmy’s solar panels and told us of a New Dawning of America. Greed was “deified” and we were told it was our patriotic duty to consume. Environmental ethics were marginalized and energy consumption skyrocketed. It was the worst that could happen.
Little did we know! Everything Reagan said and did and espoused, our current president is and says, too, only more so.
Where was my opinion cap, now? I believe everything President Bush does is carefully crafted to make the wealthiest of Americans even wealthier, at the expense of everyone else. His energy policy is to force world compliance towards maintenance of our consumptive patterns, all the while widening the gap between rich and poor.
Will it work in this case? Critic Carolyn Baker says,
“Peak Oil does not need to be defended; it will defend itself quite effectively.”
James Howard Kunstler is more trenchant. He likens the presidency of George W. Bush to that of Herbert Hoover in the months before the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. He says,
“When we look back on the years of George W. Bush we will marvel at his failure to lead, especially his failure to inform the public that our habits of daily life would have to change, that we could not continue to burn twenty million barrels of oil a day, and spend money we hadn’t earned, that we desperately had to reform our suburban land development habits, that the WalMarts and other predatory corporations had to be restrained in their systematic destruction of local economies, that our railroads needed to be rebuilt, that our borders need to be defended, that our local small farmers need to be supported, that our industries needed to be rescaled and retained here, that corporate chiseling had to be policed, that finance had to be qualitatively different than a craps game in some casino.
“The Hooverization of George W. Bush has begun. Only it will go much worse for Bush. His fall could be so hard, swift, and awful that he may not be allowed to finish his second term. That’s how stunned the public and even their entrenched oligarchial elites will be as the economy tanks and our national life begins to unravel.”
David Orr is similarly critical; venturing the Republican Party’s arrogance will be its downfall:
“The Republican party, in the full blush of triumph in control of all the branches of government and large sections of the media, is no longer the moderate business-oriented party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. Now, it belongs to ideologues, increasingly divorced from unmovable facts. The party of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Tom Delay, and their brethren,
Deny science when its findings are not agreeable to constituents
Deny the looming approach of Peak Oil and the potential for chaos we’ve discussed
Deny the limitations of our military power to impose our order on a recalcitrant world.
Anyone who harbors optimistic notions that our current federal government will help stave off the worst economic tsunami in our history seems likely to be fatally disappointed.
So what’s a person to do?
I’m often admonished by friends at about this time in the conversation. “You give no hope. If there’s no hope, why bother?” Another friend says, “Every change in the working environment brings opportunities. You must be astute enough to capitalize on them.”
This is where I turn to you. Here are a few things that I am thinking about and looking for guidance.
Focus on the basics.
Get as self-sufficient as you can as fast as you can.
Food will be a problem after Peak Oil. I’m not much with growing things, but people who can will be at an advantage. Take a gardening class. Join a farmer’s co-op.
We already own a tremendous infrastructure of machinery and equipment and won’t have much money to buy new stuff. Learn how to fix stuff and keep it useful longer.
Look for ways to build tighter bonds within your community.
Get out of debt and stay out. Lower your expenses. See what you can live without.
Spread the word. Convince your friends and family this is really happening. Start a working group here at Tech to advise citizens on issues and strategies. This would be the grandest fulfillment of Tech’s motto, “that I might serve.”
Join active protests against government efforts at maintaining the status quo, including funding for corporate welfare, endless Interstate highway building, and unprovoked wars against countries that haven’t threatened us.
Most of all, strengthen and value your primary relationships. Count your blessings and let every moment count.
More on Hoover
My story about nobody listening.
Pirsig’s story about the monkey trap.