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From Cavern to Tank: The Cost of Oil

By skyknight in Op-Ed
Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:26:09 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

As someone who believes that people should pay their own way in this world, the economics of oil weighs heavily on my mind. Inextricably ensnared in a hopeless web of externalities, I wonder if a fair way to fund the world's oil habit exists, even in theory. What you pay at the pump belies the untold complexity lurking beneath the surface.


Hurricane induced supply-side shocks aside, the price of gas in the US is fairly cheap in relation to the rest of the world. At least it seems to be insofar as your calculation consists of looking at your receipt at the gas station or from the heating oil delivery guy. Yes, it's more expensive than in recent years, but on the whole it's still rather inexpensive, as long as your definition of cost is sufficiently narrow. Should you look deeper, though, the picture becomes substantially more grim.

Were everyone paying their own way for oil, and were over-sized vehicles not typically engineering abominations that recklessly endanger drivers of more sensible automobiles, one could reasonably argue that footing the fuel bill for a gargantuan car or truck was the right of the owner, that the owner was spending his own money as he saw fit. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Not only is the SUV driving yahoo a quasi-homicidal maniac, but he's also making disproportionate use of a heavily subsidized natural resource, a resource that requires significant behind-the-scenes expenditure to obtain and results in unclear environmental consequences.

The US Department of Defense is only the most tangible subsidizer of oil costs. Indeed, the DoD provides myriad and difficult to calculate benefits to the US in return for its ~$425 billion annual budget. The development of military technology underpins the development of commercial technology, and the resultant stability allows the US, and arguably a large swath of the world, to thrive. That being said, it is obvious to even the most casual observer that the US military finds itself embroiled in conflicts around the world that would not interest it were it not for US dependency on oil. The need for this black gold complicates US international policy to no end. Were it not for the surfeit of petroleum beneath its surface, Kuwait would be as uninteresting as the Congo.

Related to this is the murky cost embodied in the resentment of the US by other nations. The direct material costs of 9/11 are at least on the order of tens of billions of dollars. Of course, this represents only the most readily calculable of costs, i.e. the dollar amount compensated by insurers for buildings, airplanes, and interruption of business. The human cost, of course, is much more difficult to assess. How much were the ~3000 lives lost on that day worth? What of the greater than 2000 servicemen who have lost their lives in Iraq, and the several hundred who have perished in Afghanistan? What of the 15k who have been wounded in Iraq, and the hundreds more in Afghanistan? What of the lost productivity of all the National Guard members who are shipped overseas to fight on foreign soil instead of creating wealth at home by doing their everyday jobs? At least some fraction of this can be traced to the US's dependence on foreign oil.

Worse still, any nation whose wealth comes disproportionately from the value of a natural resource is prone to authoritarianism in a way that just isn't practical in a nation where the primary resource consists of the knowledge of its citizens. Whereas a knowledge based economy makes for an unruly citizenry who cannot readily be held under the thumb of a despot, natural resources are relatively amenable to centralized control. This lends itself to repressed masses living in dire poverty, a fetid swamp serving as a bottomless wellspring of fundamentalism, humiliation, resentment and rage. Should you be seeking to recruit embittered young men with a taste for revenge, then look no further. Were it truly desirous of an end to terrorism, the US would be doing everything in its power to drain these swamps, but its insatiable lust for oil keeps it coming back for more, perpetuating the power of the autocrats who rule these regions. Bombs, bullets and boots on the ground may to some extent be able to contain the problem, but this serves as an expensive treatment of the symptom, largely leaving the underlying cause intact.

Complicating things further still, the combustion of oil generates pollution, pollution that takes many forms. If you believe in Tragedies of the Commons, surely you must count the generation of energy from combustible materials among them. Historically, smoke stacks were built as tall as possible to ensure that the waste products of combustion satisfied the NIMBY-ish desires of nearby residents. Even with a cognizance of such nefariously shirkish behavior, it still remains hopelessly difficult to make the generators of airborne pollution be the ones to bear its cost.

Regulation would seem the only way to keep things from spiraling out of control, but admitting as much is the easy part. How do you actually make people accountable for their behavior? Do you tax emissions? Do you set per-user limits? Do you allow the purchase and sale of usage credits? How do you even begin to calculate the costs being imposed on the system per unit usage of energy? Are we headed for calamitous global warming because of of our love of fossil fuels, or are we in the throes of unavoidable planetary temperature oscillation? The competing research seems reminiscent of the "my research is better than yours" battle over the health effects of smoking in the middle of this past century. The ultimate verdict is at best difficult to predict.

This problem takes root in our inclination toward short event horizons when calculating utility. The long term costs of oil dependence make for an absurdly complex spreadsheet of data, but the onerous burden of decreased availability of oil presents itself readily. A tank of gas costs more, your home is more expensive to heat, the cost of shipping goods increases, and the profit margins of businesses shrink. Mortgaging the future of subsequent generations is an easy and comfortable solution today, but is that the legacy that you wish to leave?

Frustratingly, democratic governments seem woefully prone to operating in fire fighter mode. A preponderously large fraction of a typical politician's brain cycles are consumed thinking about what will go awry in the next ninety days. Such a mind set lends itself to an endless procession of band-aid fixes. This is why the US has not a comprehensible tax code of reasonable length, but rather a 7.5 million word monstrosity, a veritable boulder-sized mass of band-aids strapped to band-aids, a tax accountant's dream. As any reasonably experienced engineer can tell you, there are some systems that are so fundamentally fubar'd that the best course of action is to redesign a new system ground-up, using the old system as a source of lessons learned. The world's oil based economy perhaps represents such a system, and the never-ending global-wide clashes over this resource the band-aids.

The world desperately needs people who can stand above the fray and map out a future for this next century that will extricate us from the cancerous grasp of oil. We need a cleaner solution so that when China and India start guzzling energy at US levels the planet won't be completely wrecked in the process. We need countries to have energy independence so that they don't feel compelled to go on military excursions to slake their thirst. We need to erode the financial underpinnings of oppressive autocrats who rule terrorist spawning grounds, forcing these countries to rely increasingly on knowledge workers who will eventually cajole the ruling class into implementing democracies. To do this, we must stop acting like the junkie, desperately scouring the earth for our next hit. We must envision a future that isn't dominated by oil related politics, and consequently we must be willing to pay the costs of getting over the activation-energy hump that stands between here and there.

There are few things in this world more dangerous than a disconnect between the usage of something and payment for it. No surer way exists to squander a resource and encourage otherwise irrational behavior than to set its price below its actual cost, and with oil it seems that that is precisely what has happened. I know not how we should transact business, but our present course of action gives me cause for trepidation.

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From Cavern to Tank: The Cost of Oil | 261 comments (157 topical, 104 editorial, 0 hidden)
Where is Peahippo when we need him? (3.00 / 5) (#5)
by Kasreyn on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 01:12:09 AM EST

Socialize the costs, privatize the profits. He could say it much better than me, and already has.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
I miss him too. $ (none / 0) (#148)
by mr strange on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 06:32:59 PM EST



intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]
the fuel cycle (2.25 / 8) (#7)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 03:06:38 AM EST

  1. you buy a tank of gas
  2. your money goes to saudi arabia
  3. saudi arabia funds wahhabi madrassas in poor muslim areas
  4. madrassa student grows up a raging islamonazi fundie
  5. islamonazi fundie kills you
solution?

GO NUCLEAR, DRIVE ELECTRIC CARS

wake up rich american suburban morons, your love affair with the internal combustion engine is over, it ended on 9/11


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Here again is a NIMBY problem... (none / 0) (#14)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 08:29:44 AM EST

nearly everyone agrees that nuclear power is a good idea. They just don't want the nuclear plant in their town.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
that's what god made nevada and w virginia for(nt) (none / 1) (#23)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 01:37:00 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
I'd be OK with a nuclear mishap in Las Vegas. $ (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 02:34:37 PM EST



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
translation: (none / 1) (#153)
by loteck on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 07:42:03 PM EST

here's a smartass comment to misdirect you from the fact that i have no real solutions to the problems i bitch about.
--
"You're in tune to the musical sound of loteck hi-fi, the musical sound that moves right round. Keep on moving ya'll." -Mylakovich
"WHAT AN ETERNAL MOBIUS STRIP OF FELLATIATIC BANALITY THIS IS." -Harry B Otch

[ Parent ]
what you say nimby? (none / 0) (#163)
by circletimessquare on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 10:30:39 PM EST

rather send your children to die in the middle east, is that it?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 1) (#24)
by pHatidic on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 02:27:37 PM EST

I wouldn't mind a nuclear plant in my town, as long as the spent fuel rods are stored safely and there aren't high tension lines in the area.

[ Parent ]
THERE ARE NO SPENT FUEL RODS (none / 1) (#109)
by circletimessquare on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 10:21:30 AM EST

pleae find out about new nuclear science tech k thx


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Haha. (none / 1) (#132)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:56:10 PM EST

You and I live in the US, what makes you think they'd use new reactor designs? Besides, all the currently operating ones are 1950s-esque.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
yes, retard (1.00 / 7) (#161)
by circletimessquare on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 10:26:20 PM EST

so when i say, retard, that the population and politicans need to lose their ignorance and inertia and catch THE FUCK UP with modern tech, you understand

right retard?

i'm pretty fucking PISSED OFF at assholes in the suburbs who would rather send their children to die in the middle east then build a SAFE NONPOLLUTING NO TERROR THREAT nuke plant from modern tech nearby

catch the FUCK UP RETARDS

your opinions are IGNORANT and OUTDATED

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Dude. (none / 0) (#197)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 03:08:08 PM EST

I'd have no problem living near a nuclear plant, as long as it's a modern design. I'd have a real problem living within 100 miles of say, Fernald, but a pebble-bed? I'd live as close as a mile, no problem.

It is a smart fix, if not a complete one. But if there's any possible way to fuck up even a good solution, do you think that politicians will somehow miss it?

They'll see that there are more jobs to be had, using the "proven" designs. More pork money. They'll claim that there are national defense implications, and that we need to be able to refine it for nuke replacement parts or something.

They do this with every single decent idea that ever comes their way, do you think they'll somehow just let this one sit?

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

learned helplessness (none / 1) (#198)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 05:24:52 PM EST

politicians come and go, but those who feel like bugs trapped in amber stay immobile forever

dude, they're just politicians, not the grand canyon

stop thinking of them as some immobile impenetrable force you have no control over

you live in a democracy, you have control

duh

how can you even talk about how they defeat good intentions when you spend all of your effort rationalizing why you shouldn't even try?

there is a difference between inertia and immobility

but, since you immobilize yourself with your words, in many ways, your a bigger problem then the politicians you complain about

you can talk about many things wrong with the usa, but alienated attitudes like yours rank higher on the list than anything happening in washington dc


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Hey, it's not that I'm refusing to try. (none / 0) (#202)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:09:01 PM EST

I just have to be a little original in how I go about this.

For instance, would you vote for a politician whose entire political platform was nuclear advocacy?

I'm thinking I would. I'm thinking others would too. If that's the case, it's only a matter of convincing some political wannabe to run on that issue. Hell, with enough work, it's not totally implausible that you might get someone elected to some shitty congressional seat where no one cares. At the very least, getting 4-8% of the vote might make the others sit up and take notice.

I'm just trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B is all. Any ideas?

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

cts (1.50 / 2) (#247)
by nyar on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 10:19:06 PM EST

capitization is for the week

carriage return owns my soul

facts only get in the way

2/3 of our oil comes from this continent

oops

there goes my argument

[ Parent ]

weak week (1.50 / 2) (#248)
by nyar on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 10:19:45 PM EST

it sure sucked for me, and it's only half over!

[ Parent ]
And yet... (none / 0) (#131)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:55:07 PM EST

They probably recieve higher doses of radiation from the amercium in their smoke detectors.

Especially considering modern reactor designs.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

new nuclear plants not necessary for electric cars (3.00 / 2) (#33)
by krkrbt on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 03:01:00 PM EST

There's plenty of excess generating capacity available at night.  So, if an electric car has a range of 90 miles (such as the lead-acid GM EV1), almost everyone could get to everywhere they want to go during the day and recharge it overnight.  

Most days my total distance is ~10 miles, usually <40.  Sometimes I go see grandpa, and that's 100 miles (downhill gives a free ride with regenerative braking).  I figure an electric with a 140 mile range would allow me to get home without having to stop to recharge.

The power-shortfall problem is only one of peak demand, the ~2 hours every summer weekday that everyone has their AC on.  The rest of the time all those extra generators sit idle.  

The consortium that owns Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix has so much extra power at night that they use it to freeze a huge underground pool of water.  Then they use that underground iceblock to cool downtown Phoenix buildings during the day.  Cheap cooling for the stadium, and it frees up the electric company from having to supply all those extra electrons during the day.

[ Parent ]

that's not free generating capacity (none / 1) (#72)
by Delirium on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 07:56:22 PM EST

By "spare capacity", what is meant is that more electricity could be generated without building new plants. It does not mean that more electricity can be generated for free without using any fuel. If you had a bunch of people charging their electric cars at night, but did not have non-fossil-fuel power plants, then the power plants would use more fossil fuels to generate that electricity. That doesn't really reduce your reliance on fossil fuels.

[ Parent ]
big power plants are more efficient than small (none / 1) (#77)
by krkrbt on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 08:11:17 PM EST

If you had a bunch of people charging their electric cars at night, but did not have non-fossil-fuel power plants, then the power plants would use more fossil fuels to generate that electricity. That doesn't really reduce your reliance on fossil fuels.

modern steam turbines are on the order of 50-60% efficient, whereas internal combustion engines are 20-25% efficient.  Replacing the entire fleet with electrics, even if all the power to charge those electrics came from crude oil burned in a generator, you'd still reduce the fuel required by about 1/2.

It's also easier to clean up one big power plant than a million tailpipes.

[ Parent ]

there's other factors, though (none / 1) (#78)
by Delirium on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 08:17:00 PM EST

It may be that it's overall more efficient, but it's not just a matter of big versus small power plants. When you're talking about electric cars, you also have to factor in the efficiency of transmission over power lines, charging a battery, discharging a battery, and converting that to useful work. None of that is 100%.

[ Parent ]
advantages outweigh the disadvantages, i think (none / 1) (#94)
by krkrbt on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 11:58:17 PM EST

... when you're talking about gasoline cars, you also have to factor in the diesel it takes to deliver gasoline to the filling stations, the energy it takes to refine gasoline from crude oil, the energy that goes into fixing engines that frequently break down (electric motors are extremely durable, and there's no routine oil changes, coolant changes, etc either), etc.  

True, there are losses in transmission, charging, discharging and the conversion from electric potential to motion.  

But there are numerous advantages over a gasoline car too.  If I had an electric, I could "fill it up" anywhere there's a power outlet.  So I could go visit someone in the middle of nowhere, drive around in my electric jeep, and fill up on a homemade windmill generator.

[ Parent ]

you're rmissing the point (1.25 / 4) (#79)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 08:17:36 PM EST

to stop polluting the atmosphere

and to stop fueling wahhabi islam with our internal combustion engines

you can do both with pebble bed reactors

plus modern nuke tech uses 95% of fuel, not 10%, so we have an order of magnitude less nuclear waste, and it lasts hundreds of years, not tens of thousands

this also means it can't be used to make bombs, it's all thoroughly spent, it doesn't breed plutonium

and pebble bed reactors just can't go china syndrome, their design is incredibly safe

in other words, only inertia and ignorance is preventing us from building pebble reactors everywhere, and saving us from air pollution, green house gases, and well-funded islamic fundamentalists

as for the NIMBY crowd: i'm sure you enjoy sending your chidren and grandchildren to the middle east to die rather than having a nuclear power plant nearby, right?

i'm just waiting for the general public and politicians to catch up to what scientists already know, and what we can do today economically with exisitng tech, no sci fi and weird schemes need apply


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Correct me if I'm wrong, (none / 1) (#97)
by Kasreyn on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 12:56:37 AM EST

but I've heard that Citgo is owned by Venezuela and sells only Venezuelan oil. I would look this up but I haven't the faintest idea where I could go to find a reliable source of information.

If this is true, then wouldn't buying at Citgo at least keep the money out of the hands of Wahhabists?


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
yes, it would (none / 0) (#108)
by circletimessquare on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 10:20:35 AM EST

but then you would still be polluting the air and greenhouse gassing us to death

nuclear, nuclear, NUCLEAR

catch up to science already you fucking sheeple, you fucking politicians!


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Well, yes (3.00 / 2) (#139)
by Kasreyn on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 04:43:45 PM EST

I'm personally very much in favor of nuclear energy. I think Americans are a bunch of fucking pussies for getting scared off by Three Mile Island, which was about as dangerous as a modern industrial microwave oven.

People whine about radioactive waste, I say it's better to take a few rads and less UV radiation... Once we figure out fusion, we'll have enough power to put all our old fission waste on a rocket and fire it into the sun. It'll keep till then.

The hand-wringers over fission waste really remind me of religious people who go to great lengths to point out that condoms aren't 100% effective. Well duh, jackass, but it's better than doing nothing.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
ignorance and inertia (none / 0) (#162)
by circletimessquare on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 10:29:43 PM EST

the nimby's and clueless politicians would rather send their children to die in the middle east than build a NONPOLLTUING TOTALLY SAFE NO TERROR THREAT nuke plant based on modern tech

it's sad and pathetic, the usa is losing it's edge in the world


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

-1, skynights overblown ego (1.12 / 8) (#26)
by weedaddict on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 02:36:29 PM EST

jk, good article. +1 SP

Reality has a certain cynical bias - Cattle Rustler
Out of idle curiosity... (none / 0) (#32)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 02:59:52 PM EST

Why SP and not FP? What makes the distinction to you?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
I don't find (none / 0) (#34)
by weedaddict on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 03:06:04 PM EST

the information or insight particularly new.

Reality has a certain cynical bias - Cattle Rustler
[ Parent ]
So... (none / 0) (#35)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 03:08:02 PM EST

why vote for it at all?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
To cancel (none / 0) (#36)
by weedaddict on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 03:11:36 PM EST

out the -1 votes some kurons will dish out just because you wrote the article.

Reality has a certain cynical bias - Cattle Rustler
[ Parent ]
Ah... (none / 0) (#39)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 03:29:07 PM EST

Well, there will certainly be more than a few of those.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Yes, (none / 1) (#51)
by weedaddict on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 05:29:45 PM EST

but I'll feel better inside knowing that I cancel at least one of them out. I'm like batman only better.

Reality has a certain cynical bias - Cattle Rustler
[ Parent ]
Interesting (3.00 / 10) (#38)
by cdguru on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 03:20:12 PM EST

But I think you are missing some key things. The reason the world is in the grasp of oil producing countries isn't because some greedy oil barons decided it should be this way. It is because refined petroleum is the cheapest, safest, highest energy density substance available to provide portable energy. You might like to dispute that, but I suggest doing a little research before jumping all over it.
  • Cheapest
    Oil isn't particularly scarce and it is available in almost every part of the planet. Sure, there are some places where it is easier to get to than others and some places which have oil near deep water ports, but look outside at the landscape in Michigan or Pennsylvania and you will see more than a few oil wells. The cost of refining oil is incredibly low, placing gasoline somewhere around the price of bottled water, even today.
  • Safest
    There are inherent risks in all forms of stored energy. Given that a gallon of gasoine has roughly the same explosive power as a stick of dynamite, would you feel comfortable riding around in a metal can with somewhere between 15 and 22 sticks of dynamite? Gasoline and other oil products are incredibly stable and safe compared with compressed hydrogen or high-energy density batteries. This isn't to say that it isn't possible to come up with safe and stable ways of dealing with other portable energy sources. As Nobel discovered a way to stablize nitroglycerin (dynamite), somebody will come up with a solution at some point. The problem is today there is a solution - gasoline.
  • Highest energy densigy
    A significant problem is energy density. What makes personal transportation practical is exactly that - energy density. Without it, humanity would be limited to the range of a bicycle or a horse. Today, electric cars are beginning to approach the range and capabilities of gasoline powered vehicles, but the space required for energy storage is several times that required for the gasoline tank in today's cars. Hydrogen, ethanol, methanol, and all other substances that release energy through combustion have either serious stability problems, a lack of energy density or both, and it is the energy density problem that is the real holdback to widespread use.

Given that oil refining was something that was practically invented in the 1800's you can see it doesn't take a lot of technology to make use of oil for an energy source. A huge detraction against a lot of other forms of "portable energy" is that it requires a substantial infrastructure and very sophisticated process engineering to get it into a usable form. This applies to everything from oil shale to hydrogen.

While I mentioned cost first, that is probably not the most significant aspect here. Safety and stability are very important - if you built a car that ran on nitroglycerin, you would almost certainly be prevented from ever starting it up in public.

Energy density is extremely important and is probably the primary reason we aren't all driving electric cars today. Back in the 1960's they built electric cars with lead-acid batteries. Unfortunately they had a range of maybe 50 miles, took eight hours to recharge and weighed 2-3 times as much as an ordinary car with less passenger and cargo space.

There are some that would like to force the issue and decide that oil should not be used as a portable energy source. This would affect a lot more than cars - remember that a lot of construction equipment such as generators, torches and the like run on some type of refined oil product. And, also remember that much of the North America has been rebuilt in the last 50 years or so with the idea of decentralized transportation. This means lots of low-density roads and no public transit. Without personal transportation it would require rebuilding vast portions of the US, Canada and Mexico. And probably a lot of other places as well that I am less familiar with.

It would be nice to have a simple solution to this. Sure, the US could be self-sufficient in a very short period of time and all it would do is cost more and have more local environmental impact. This runs against the idea of "global trade" and would likely start some different kinds of wars - if the US pulled out of all trade agreements and said they were going to be self-sufficient what would a lot of the rest of the world do? It would be a very different world than the one we live in today. I don't believe this hasn't occurred to most of the world leaders over the past fifty years. They just discarded the idea as being a disaster for everyone.

No simple solutions at all.

Excellent! (1.33 / 3) (#41)
by babarum on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 04:08:54 PM EST

Skynight, and others that have beliefs similar to this story, seem to always miss the points you bring up. It appears to me that they try to boil it down, to greedy capitalists/Americans. In my opinion, it is far more complex than that.

If there were easy and viable solutions in the wings, I think there would be a major shift towards it. The way the Internet changed the way information flowed, a new viable energy solution would change the way energy flows. Just like there was from coal to petroleum in the late 1800's as a major source of energy.

It's not only Americans, it's the whole world.

[ Parent ]

Er, WTF? (2.75 / 4) (#43)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 04:14:51 PM EST

Where did I say anything about greedy capitalists? You're just knocking down the straw man because it's facile to do so. Also, nowhere did I say that there were easy solutions to be had. In fact, I thought it was rather obvious that I consider there to be no easy solutions. As you may have noticed, I didn't suggest any particular plan of action. Rather, I'm just trying to raise awareness of how complicated and deceptive the whole mess is, largely in the hope that it would foster interesting debate and further delineation of the issues. If you're to accuse me of anything, you really ought to pick something less laughable than being anti-capitalist. Be serious.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Hang on a second! (none / 0) (#83)
by babarum on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 09:29:55 PM EST

Once it goes to the voting queue, I was going to vote for it to be front page anyway. I have read the article a number of times now and you are right. cdguru did make some excellent arguments though.

+1 FP once it gets there.

[ Parent ]

It's not as cheap as you say... (2.00 / 2) (#42)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 04:09:40 PM EST

and that's the major thrust of my article. It is fraught with hidden costs that make it very deceptive that what you pay at the pump is on the order of what you pay for bottled water. The refinement of oil is only one piece of the puzzle. The acquisition of oil would seem to be the really tricky bit, and its expense is nearly impossible to calculate as a consequence of it being wrapped in so many entities and actions.

Also, "scarce" and "plentiful" are rather dynamic terms. The abundance of a resource is a function not just of its availability but also the demand for it. If there isn't enough of it to go around, then you end up paying an absurd amount for it. The demand for oil is fairly inelastic, the consequence of which is that we pay a huge premium to get the quantity that we do, and it would be way cheaper if we could curtail just a little bit of usage. An investment banker friend explained to me that oil costs us something like 3x (don't remember exact numbers) as much as it would if only we could shave a few percentage points off of our usage. The reason for this is that there are diminishing returns as we crawl up to our total usage. To get those last few percentage points we have to extract oil from really inefficient sources. That cost gets amortized with all of the cheaper oil, making it as expensive as it is.

I realize that oil is a really wonderful resource, and that gasoline is a very nifty compound. That's part of what makes all of this so difficult. We're downright addicted to the stuff because it really is awesome. And yes, the US is definitely designed for decentralized transportation, so doing something like converting the country over to rail like Europe isn't even on the table. In the short term, we need to phase hybrid vehicles onto the road to increase the efficiency of our oil usage, perhaps allowing us to get it more cheaply by shaving off those last few percentage points, and also allowing us a little more independence. In the meanwhile, we should be working flat out to find an alternative. It will indeed be very difficult to find something as nice as oil, but we should be trying very hard because the stakes are so high.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
that'll happen if it's cost-effective (none / 0) (#69)
by Delirium on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 07:52:38 PM EST

Sure, oil might be cheaper if fewer people wanted it, but the fact remains that it's still cheaper than the alternatives. Heck, my relatives in Greece pay an average of $5/gallon for gasoline, and that doesn't keep people from using the internal combustion engine as the primary mode of transportation (lack of parking is a bigger limiting factor causing people to sometimes take buses, but there are barely any trains).

Why does oil need to be cheaper, again? What's wrong with the current prices? Or even higher?

[ Parent ]

I'm pretty sure that a major point of my article (none / 0) (#70)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 07:54:52 PM EST

was that it's not the pump prices that I find most concerning.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
yeah, i was responding to your above post (none / 0) (#74)
by Delirium on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 07:58:31 PM EST

And really, I think the relatively inelastic demand for fossil fuels is what itself will address the other problems (negative externalities like pollution) that you bring up. As prices go upwards, people will turn to using other sources of energy.

I suppose I could be convinced to instill some sort of pollution tax to monetize those externalities to speed up the process, though.

[ Parent ]

an interesting strategy (none / 1) (#76)
by zenofchai on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 08:05:18 PM EST

perhaps we should lobby to limit all highways to 1 lane -- or better yet, stop tax funding of roads of any kind, and eliminate all tax-funded parking of any kind. this would have a limiting factor on the number of cars.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
No, there are better ways. (3.00 / 2) (#130)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:28:51 PM EST

Take my last 2 jobs that I drove to.

Current job: I drive 40 miles roundtrip, to Columbia MD. We are doing some software upgrade, remotely, to hotel computers across North America, using PC Anywhere. I will be working at this job until sometime in April, when it ends.

This is something that could be done from home by anyone with broadband, assuming they made some fairly minor adjustments (VPN for security, so forth). There are 10 of us that will be doing it, some driving farther than I am. This gasoline is being wasted, completely.

Previous job: DSL tech support for a phone company. As one of the perks, they gave us free DSL and telephone service. They weren't being angels, it's just that for them the service was so cheap they could afford to give it away to a few hundred employees without even worrying about it. If that was the case, it's also true that they could install ISDN lines for a nearly negligible cost. In other words, a phone dedicated just to answering tech support calls. Again, this is something I could have done from home, and enjoyed doing that. It would have saved them at least the space of 50 cubes, maybe more like 70. That means a smaller building is necessary, and I don't believe I'm mistaken in thinking that building costs for a medium-large building are absurd. They probably spent $30,000 a month on the lease alone, not to mention AC for it in the summer, heating it in winter, and lighting it 24 hours a day as businesses generally do.

You understand, they'd probably want to keep a smaller space for the phone support there in the building, enough to make every employee work from the office once or twice a month, enough to train people and weed out the quitters before they spend money installing ISDN at their homes. But it would be a significant reduction to their bottom line, and to their employees. I think I was driving 28 miles roundtrip on that job.

Tax these businesses in such a way that they'd be forced to do telecommuting where practical. That would be a much better proposition.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

what about people who find it difficult to work (none / 0) (#136)
by Lemon Juice on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 03:46:03 PM EST

at home, including me?

[ Parent ]
Difficult how? (2.00 / 2) (#143)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 06:09:03 PM EST

From a personal mental discipline standpoint? Well, count me in that group too. We'd have to learn. It would be easier to learn that, than to shit out a surplus of petroleum from our asses, would it not?

And if you mean difficult in a practical way, well, I don't expect that all jobs, or even a large minority of them could ever be telecommuting. But 2-3% would count for a whole hell of a lot, on a national scale.

It might mean things as significant as a drop in per gallon prices of 50-75 cents (or more). It might mean being stuck in traffic at rush hour for 15 minutes, instead of 75. It definitely means results worth actually working for.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

The real cost (3.00 / 2) (#157)
by pyro9 on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 09:25:28 PM EST

That's the problem. It SHOULD be more expensive at the pump. At the same time, either our taxes should go down or other benefits go up. Most of those externalities are funded with tax money.

Put another way, I ride the train, telecomute, and drive an economical vehicle (I use about 10 gallons of gas a month) why should my tax money subsidize the guy who puts 80 gallons a week in his SUV.

Looking at it from capitalist theory, until the many costs are internalized into the price at the pump, the resource will continue to be mis-allocated.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
public transportation in Mexico (none / 0) (#201)
by maw on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 08:40:07 PM EST

Without personal transportation it would require rebuilding vast portions of the US, Canada and Mexico.

Actually, public transport is pretty good in much of Mexico, at least the areas I'm familiar with (Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca, Guanajuato, etc).

Certainly better than other places I've lived, like Boston and Melbourne.
--
I have no idea what you're talking about, but that's ok, since you don't either.
[ Parent ]

First off (2.75 / 8) (#84)
by LilDebbie on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 10:42:11 PM EST

Historically, smoke stacks were designed to increase thermal clines in order to pull more oxygen into furnaces. They have remained in other industrial applications today because people are retarded and think that putting the exhaust pipe higher up is really going to make an effect on air pollution. Guess what, kiddies? Most pollutants are denser than air, that's why the smog in LA never blows away.

But that is immaterial to your thesis. Yes, we are dependant on cheap fossil fuel exploitation for energy production. You focus on oil like everyone else, and you make the same mistake of thinking of oil purely in terms of transport and heating; consumer-level thinking if you will, the very same you warned about at the start of your article. Tsk-tsk, skyknight. I expect better from you.

The very grim fact of the matter is that our dependence does not end at a cheap tank of gas. The majority of our energy production - ALL energy production, that includes electricity, manufacturing processes, agriculture (guess what fertilizer is made out of?), basically everything that makes life "modern" - is dependent on fossil fuel exploitation. There are no current viable avenues for energy production beyond this. No, we cannot build enough windmills, dams, and solar towers to power the world.

And no, population redistributions and local production won't support our current population either. If a different source of energy is not discovered before fossils and fissionables run out, the world will drop back to pre-19th century population levels, with all the war, famine, chaos, and death that comes with such a shift.

The simple fact is this: the "activation-energy" of which you speak is knowledge-based. Some clever physicist has to figure out a new way to create energy, or the vast majority of us are fucked. The good news is that while oil is on the decline, we do still have substantial reserves of other fossil fuels, namely coil and tar sand, that will keep us treading water for the next century, maybe. So there's your time limit, though I wouldn't be surprised if world governments don't help the process along through wasteful competition for the remaining resource (that's "war" to all you common folk).

I, for one, welcome the coming Apocalypse.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

For shame, LilDebbie... (2.83 / 6) (#89)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 11:20:24 PM EST

Firstly, no, oil is not the whole story when it comes to fossil fuels, but the US has huge coal reserves within its own borders, and hence we don't find ourselves in complex international situations over coal. Duh. Draw your own conclusions.

Second, what does most pollution being denser than air have to do with pollution dissipation? The higher it is ejected from factories, the further it can be carried away by wind. Also, regarding the smog in LA, this can be due to a number of factors. One that particularly comes to mind is geography, e.g. being in a valley. Air currents are a huge factor.

Third, though you belittle my "consumer-level thinking", apparently writing off "transport and heating" as just one small fraction of the puzzle, it turns out that gasoline accounts for 45 percent of the US's oil usage. Since I'm feeling magnanimous, here's a particularly telling graph of the breakdown.

The feeling I get is that you think it's debonaire to just not care. Anything that doesn't welcome the Apocalypse with open arms is "hand wringing".

Your ambivalence is not impressing me.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
My apologies (none / 1) (#154)
by LilDebbie on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 07:44:20 PM EST

I was not aware that transportation made for such a huge cut. However, the point still stands. Without oil, the transportation infrastructure would need another portable energy source, one that would likely have to be manufactured, leading to even greater ineffiencies wrt energy production.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Sure about that? (3.00 / 3) (#100)
by The Diary Section on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 03:04:45 AM EST

They have remained in other industrial applications today because people are retarded and think that putting the exhaust pipe higher up is really going to make an effect on air pollution. Guess what, kiddies? Most pollutants are denser than air, that's why the smog in LA never blows away.

No, people know what the temperature inversion layer is. Shove it over the top and it won't get trapped.
The reason the smog is bad in LA is because of the climate (ie, their cloudless skies, also its surrounded by mountains), it stops convective overturning from taking place. Or do you know some rebuttal of this I don't?
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]

Shove it over the top? (3.00 / 2) (#151)
by LilDebbie on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 07:28:34 PM EST

Good luck building smokestacks that high.

Temperature inversion layers usually occur at around 1km or higher, but thanks for playing.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]

it's the city I live in, the city of angels (none / 1) (#242)
by RevLoveJoy on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 09:06:51 PM EST

Is shaped like a large bowl framed by the Sierra Madre mountains and their intersection with the coastal range. The prevailing onshore winds tend to trap air within about 1 KM of the ground layer which allows pollutants to build up.

At least, this how they taught it in atmo sci at ucla in the 90s.

A nice photo from wiki.

Thanks for reading,
-- RLJ

Every political force in the U.S. that seeks to get past the Constitution by sophistry or technicality is little more than a wannabe king. -- pyro9
[ Parent ]

The coming Apocalypse welcomes you. (3.00 / 4) (#124)
by alexboko on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 11:32:05 AM EST


The simple fact is this: the "activation-energy" of which you speak is knowledge-based. Some clever physicist has to figure out a new way to create energy, or the vast majority of us are fucked.

If a clever physicist came up with your high tech magic bullet today, it would take a decade of R&D to turn that into a practical energy source. Which would require the investment of wealth... which depends on the current petroleum-driven economy. And then we'll have to retool the entire infrastructure to use this new energy source... and this again has to be funded by wealth generated by the current, petroleum econonmy. If the petroleum-driven economy crashes faster than it can be retooled, we're fucked even with the theoretical discovery of an alternative energy source.


The good news is that while oil is on the decline, we do still have substantial reserves of other fossil fuels, namely coil and tar sand, that will keep us treading water for the next century, maybe. So there's your time limit, though I wouldn't be surprised if world governments don't help the process along through wasteful competition for the remaining resource (that's "war" to all you common folk).

Agree fully, and don't forget the biggest fossil fuel reserve-- coal.

I also agree with what you said about no redistribution of the population or local production will sustain the current population. People are going to die, and there's nothing we can do about it. But there is something you can do about whether the deaths happen among you and your neighbors, or less resourceful people someplace else.

If you can make stuff, grow stuff, or patch people up, there's a good chance that you will survive and possibly even prosper in the post-carbon economy. By pessimistic estimates you have ten years. Get cracking.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

Goddammit. (2.80 / 5) (#128)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:09:25 PM EST

If a clever physicist came up with your high tech magic bullet today, it would take a decade of R&D to turn that into a practical energy source. Which would require the investment of wealth... which depends on the current petroleum-driven economy. And then we'll have to retool the entire infrastructure to use this new energy source... and this again has to be funded by wealth generated by the current, petroleum econonmy. If the petroleum-driven economy crashes faster than it can be retooled, we're fucked even with the theoretical discovery of an alternative energy source.

Christ. Barring extradimensional trisexual aliens trading free energy with us via physics differences, what we're really talking about is fusion.

Let's all say it together, F-U-S-I-O-N. Let's not be afraid of it, let's not laugh. It's real, we see it every fucking day, even if it's far away.

Sure, there are a few other things that might be as good as fusion, such as:

  1. Some exotic anti-matter breeder reaction.
  2. Extracting useful zero-point energy.
  3. Cooperative extradimensional trisexual aliens.
Stacked up against fusion though, which do you think more likely, given our level of technology? We can actually do fusion, in some very crude ways... hell, some methods are pretty near break-even.

Now, suppose ITER ends up working. They're saying it will cost 10 billion. Which means more like 50-70 billion. Fine, we spent that x5 on the fucking Iraq mess. The US could have quit playing fucking diplomatic games with EU, funded five of these things ourselves, and not waited another 10 years for it to be built. Think about that a moment.

I'm not saying your stupid peak-oil crash won't happen, human beings, especially those in charge, are just too stupid for me to rule it out, or even bet against it. But it won't be because it's inevitable, or even because it would be likely.

If we had enough of the alternative fuel, we could easily bootstrap ourselves back up within a matter of months/years. We have shitloads of coal, we have a respectable nuclear infrastructure. There is no reason to think that we couldn't plan for the worst, and skip lightly through it.

The peak-oil crash might just end up being "no more cheap chinese plastic junk on walmart shelves" instead of being "every man for themselves, shoot people for their canned food".

Our politicians could fund fusion research with only the porkiest shit in the budget, and still give it 100 billion a year. That would make for a hell of a crash course.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

I used to have this point of view... (3.00 / 2) (#135)
by alexboko on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 03:16:26 PM EST

...until I realized that political, cultural, and economic obstacles are just as real as physical obstacles. They're harder to rigorously quantify and predict than physical obstacles, so people like to ignore them with the "[other] people are stupid" cop-out. That doesn't help you understand why nobody's willing to lay down the money for fusion (or heck, even the much more easily obtainable innovations of putting several wind-generators onto the roof of every new building and solar panels onto every flat surface in the cities that's not being used for some other purpose).

Furthermore, even if it really was something as simplistic as society being "stupid", ten thousand of us wouldn't but a dent in stupidity of that massive scale. In fact, we would ourselves be "stupid" for trying instead of putting our energy into survival and self sufficiency on an individual and local level.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

We can put a dent in it (none / 1) (#156)
by LilDebbie on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 07:52:00 PM EST

It's called letting the harvest come and living it out. Selective pressure is great that way.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Fusion fails it (3.00 / 2) (#155)
by LilDebbie on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 07:50:47 PM EST

for now, at least. Even if ITER starts pumping out a hundred megawatts over input energy; you still have the initial investment, but it's a start. After that, you have to build enough of the damn things to support consumption and pretty soon all the energy you're producing is going into building new reactors.

What happens when the reactors start breaking down as well? Fusion is nowhere near the efficiency it needs to be. Spending $50-70 billion on one power plant is not a viable solution (beyond research purpose, of course).

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]

Ugh. (none / 1) (#206)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:30:08 PM EST

Unless the bottom drops out literally tomorrow, the saudi wells just pumping out sand, then this will work. We wouldn't have to wait til the last minute, when only fusion (and I suppose hydro/coal) is available with which to build more. If we do wait that long, then yes, we are fucked.

But we easily have a few more years of cheap energy, I think. Whether that is 2 years or 10, who can say? But that would be long enough to get fusion working, and get started using it.

Hell, it might even be long enough to start retooling the transportation industry.

The point is, we need to be doing this now, right this moment. If we don't waste what time we have, we have or will soon have the technology to make oil obselete. I do not think that fusion fails it, I think we are less than 5 years away if we spend the money necessary and if we're serious about it. This is opposed to the "always 30 years away" that  is the common wisdom.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

How Wrong Can you Be? (2.66 / 3) (#170)
by brain in a jar on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 02:15:37 AM EST

On smoke stacks: While there may be cases where higher smoke stacks were used to increased the flow of oxygen to a fire, the use of stack height to reduce the impact of pollution on the immediate surroundings has a long history.

If I remember rightly, the UK already had legislation on smoke stack height 100 years ago. As for "most pollutants are heavier than air" do you realise that this is in direct contradiction with your first argument, that the "thermal cline" in the smoke stack increases oxygen supply to the fire. The reason that effect works is that the gasses in the stack are HOT and hence LESS DENSE than the air outside, so they rise up the stack drawing more oxygen into the fire. Once they leave the stack the gasses will cool, but not before they have mixed with the surrounding air, reducing the maximum concentration of pollutants which those in the area are exposed to by simple dilution. Finally as others have pointed out, air pollution is often made worse by the presence of temperature inversions, where cold air underlies warmer air preventing mixing of these two layers. Pollutants can get trapped beneath these layers concentrating the pollution near the ground where the people are. At least for low level inversions (like the ones associated with london smog (a la sherlock holmes) it is feasible with a big stack to put the smoke over the inversion, massively reducing the harmful effects. Finally, the situation ain't hopeless. While it is true that we have an energy problem, which is bigger than the gasoline problem there are solutions. We are presently hugely wasteful of energy and there are viable solutions which are presently just a bit too costly realtive to cheap fossil fuels. If we were to use taxes or other economic instruments to increase somewhat the price of fuels these technologies would become more competetive and become more widely used and people would be less wasteful of energy. Something can be done if we get of our collective asses and do it.

word.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 1) (#210)
by shinshin on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 04:25:21 AM EST

The very grim fact of the matter is that our dependence does not end at a cheap tank of gas. The majority of our energy production - ALL energy production, that includes electricity, manufacturing processes, agriculture (guess what fertilizer is made out of?), basically everything that makes life "modern" - is dependent on fossil fuel exploitation. There are no current viable avenues for energy production beyond this. No, we cannot build enough windmills, dams, and solar towers to power the world.
According to the DOE, transportation accounted for 67% of all petroleum used in America, the industrial sector used 23%, and electricity used 8%. Change all our electricity generation to use nuclear power (like France), and change 20% of our transportation to use ethanol (like Brazil is currently doing), and that's a 21.40% reduction in petroleum that we could have right now. These are proven technologies that have been around for decades.

So it isn't true that there aren't alternatives, especially since the vast majority of our oil is being poured into our SUVs that have a lot of viable alternatives. 21.40% may not sound like much, but that would be a savings of 4.2 million barrels per day (out of our 19.7 million bpd). That's nearly the combined oil consumption of France and Germany (who together consume 4.7 million barrels a day).

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
[ Parent ]

Research is HARD (1.50 / 1) (#246)
by nyar on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 09:16:22 PM EST

Fucking Christ, that sounds like you just took a hit off of the Better Living Through Chemistry crack pipe.

Here's a pretty picture to help you understand what we do with oil:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec5_3.pdf

[ Parent ]

I disagree with some of this pretty strongly (2.66 / 6) (#96)
by trhurler on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 12:34:15 AM EST

For instance, the defense department does not decide what wars interest it. Every war the US voluntarily joined was primarily an interest of the president at that time. The defense department constantly agitates for action(or nearly so anyway,) but it doesn't get its way.

Also, I find it hard to believe that defense department spending constitutes an oil subsidy of the sort that justifies regulation of the sale and use of the end products thereof. By that definition, it constitutes a subsidy of almost EVERYTHING. Should the US government have the power to tell you what to do with every dime you make?

I think one thing that you really missed here is that it is pretty obvious that like most presidents, Bush is concerned with how history will view him, and is engaged in activities he thinks will ultimately look good. He's not just kidding around about spreading democracy and so on. If oil were his purpose, it'd make more sense to invade Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Russia. Iraq is a small player.

Finally, while I hate SUVs, assuming all their drivers are homicidal maniacs doesn't belong in a serious writeup of a topic like this.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Four things: (2.00 / 2) (#106)
by skyknight on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 09:20:36 AM EST

First, I thought that "quasi-homicidal" was sufficiently tongue in cheek for people to realize that I was deliberately over-exaggerating. Maybe it came across as shrill. That was accidental, if it was the case. It was akin to my "use Emacs or vi or kill yourself" quip at the end of my Subversion article, at least, in my mind it was. If it detracted from what I intended as an overall serious tone, then perhaps it was a mistake. Arguably I shouldn't have brought up an editor flamewar at the end of my other article either. :-)

Second, I think you're misreading my bit about the DoD. When I said that "the DoD provides myriad and difficult to calculate benefits to the US in return for its ~$425 billion annual budget", I was actually adding that as a caveat to my argument, meaning that we get a whole bunch of benefits from that ~$425 billion apart from oil. So at best it's extremely difficult to figure how much oil is costing us in military expenditure because the military does so much and there's no way to readily separate out the subsidy that it gives to oil obtainment. That was, of course, a major thrust of my article, i.e. that this "hopeless web of externalities" makes the calculation of the real cost of oil damn near impossible.

Also, you've read criticism of DoD into this article when it just wasn't there. I'm voicing concern over the DoD's usage by the US government as a band-aid fix for problems that are resulting from our dependence on oil, suggesting that perhaps there is a more sustainable strategy we could be pursuing. There's a huge distinction between impugning an organization and impugning those who task an organization. I thought I was very clearly doing the latter.

Lastly, you'll note that I didn't recommend any specific policy. I didn't recommend taxation. I didn't say we should pull out of oil related military operations abroad. I didn't say we should rush to a non-oil fuel source as sole energy source. This is all very complicated and I don't have the answers. My purpose of writing this piece was to underscore how terrible complicated the real cost of oil is, and that we shouldn't think of its costs in terms of pump prices but rather in terms of all the externalities that get invokes in bringing the oil all the way from some foreign hole in the ground to the pump at the gas station.

With those clarifications, do you really find my position all that disagreeable? This isn't about Bush. This is involves a problem that transcends specific presidencies.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 1) (#159)
by trhurler on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 09:49:11 PM EST

I'm just not sure I see the huge problem then. Sure, oil will run out sometime. In reality, it won't be as soon as everybody outside the oil industry fears, because the figures the industry publishes are conservative to say the least(which is why THEY show so few signs of concern,) but yes, it will run out.

Before it does, no amount of subsidy or warmongering or other interference is going to keep the price from skyrocketing. This is readily apparent; we can't even keep minor temporary glitches in our supply mechanism from kicking the price through the roof, so obviously when real shortages hit, prices are going to go way up.

Given this and the ready availability of alternative technologies that are "just a bit" too expensive to be competitive right now, why am I supposed to be worried?

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
The point isn't to keep the price low... (none / 1) (#179)
by skyknight on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 07:37:11 AM EST

The point, as far as I am concerned, is to keep the price reflective of its actual cost. If it's too cheap because it's being underwritten by government subsidy, then it's going to be mis-utilized. Doesn't it bother you, as a libertarian, that so much goes into obtaining oil for the US, and yet it is still extremely cheap at the pump? This makes people's choices about it stupid because they've essentially already been forced to pay for it and the cost at the pump is relatively nominal. I could see an argument for using fluctuating government subsidy as a capacitor to keep gas prices stable, but that's something completely distinct from keeping gas prices distorted, albeit not mutually exclusive.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Actually, (none / 0) (#225)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 02:07:58 AM EST

I don't think gas is all that cheap. When you consider that the actual cost of getting it out of the ground is a few cents a gallon tops, and that transportation is another few cents, and refining is maybe another few, the reality is that we're paying the price of price speculation more than anything else. The US military doesn't keep oil cheap for us; oil is cheap for us because if we don't buy it, millions of people have to learn how to eat sand.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
my take (none / 1) (#111)
by khallow on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 10:47:56 AM EST

The discussion on regulations is pretty weak. If there are hidden costs in oil production and consumption to the US (and yes, a substantial portion of US military spending does protect the oil infrastructure), then there should be a tax on oil so that oil prices accurately reflect the costs. But we need not regulate everyone's consumption of oil or how they spend every dime.

The US government isn't subsidizing everything. For example, income is heavily taxed. Capital gains on stock and real estate are taxed only when they are sold. The oil infrastructure requires a lot of protection from the federal government that isn't paid for by those that consume the oil.Hence, that is a subsidy.

I think one thing that you really missed here is that it is pretty obvious that like most presidents, Bush is concerned with how history will view him, and is engaged in activities he thinks will ultimately look good. He's not just kidding around about spreading democracy and so on. If oil were his purpose, it'd make more sense to invade Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Russia. Iraq is a small player.

Why do you think that "looking good" means that he's serious about spreading democracy? There are more effective levels to prod these other countries and they usually play ball. Iraq was about to slither past the economic sanctions via Oil-for-Food bribes. Iraq also has a history of causing trouble (invading countries, developing nuclear weapons, etc) that magnify its already weighty presence as a big (not small) oil player.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Subsidy (none / 1) (#166)
by pyro9 on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 10:59:29 PM EST

Let's face it, if the Middle East didn't have oil, do you really think the U.S. would have been so involved in it for the last several decades? The DOD doesn't spend that much protecting saffron production, or coffee. All of the various operations in the middle east have racked up many hundreds of billions of dollars. It should be paid for at the pump, not from income tax.

Were that change made, the economic balance would shift in favor of more economical transport, alternative fuels and domestic oil production.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Let me get this straight (2.50 / 2) (#175)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 03:34:45 AM EST

You're claiming that Americans actually change their behavior based on gas prices? Despite all evidence that, a few oddballs aside, this is completely untrue? Despite the fact that every economist worth his pocket protector claims that US demand for oil is essentially price inelastic? As the 19 year olds who infest this place these days like to say, PROOF OR STFU!

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
PROOF: (none / 1) (#176)
by skyknight on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 07:24:42 AM EST

STFU? :-) I know you won't. In any case, do you really think your typical US citizen wouldn't think twice about filling up an SUV's tank were the price reflective of its full cost, as opposed to being heavily subsidized by the government and thus shared across people like me driving Honda Accords? What fraction of people do you think are rich enough to be insulated from a tank of gas costing $100? The only really compelling argument I can fathom regarding this is that given our lack of public transit, a carelessly enacted gas price would be incredibly cruel to the poor, so maybe taxing gasoline would be a really bad idea. I suppose you might tax cars based on their MPG rating, but I haven't really thought about it enough.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
The poor (none / 0) (#215)
by pyro9 on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 10:53:32 AM EST

The poorest don't have cars, so won't be affected at all. The less poor would need some form of assistance or an increase of minimum wage to reflect the real cost of getting to work. The assistance could come from the fuel taxes.

To fully internalize the costs, taxes will need to be applied at different levels. Import of crude, refining (which externalizes the costs of pollution) and at the pump (to internalize the cost of pollution from the exhaust pipe).

If (admittedly a BIG if), the taxes are then actually applied to the currently externalized costs such as increased health care (due to harm caused breathing foul air), lost property value (nobody wants to build a nice house where the air smells foul), etc., the poor might be better off than they are now since they will no longer be subsidizing the rich guy with his 200 gallon a week habit.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Um (none / 0) (#228)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 02:16:22 AM EST

The used SUV/truck markets have been going down for ages, since long before fuel prices spiked, and have not accelerated their decline since then by any appreciable amount. The biggest reason they've tanked LATELY is that US carmakers are offering such insane deals trying to keep from going out of business that it doesn't make sense to buy a used vehicle if you want an American product, and American SUVs and trucks still far outsell their foriegn competition. When the big rebates kicked in, the value of used vehicles plummetted overnight.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
maybe it's both (/forrest) (none / 0) (#238)
by Sacrifice on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 05:29:58 PM EST

You'd have to be pretty willful to not concede that both explanations are actual causes in play.  Your "insane deals" is also (partially) caused by "higher gas prices cause SUV demand to fall".

I am dangerously close to refusing to even consider any claims that demand for fuel-efficient vehicles doesn't increase with high pump prices.  Clearly car buying happens infrequently enough that you can expect some short-term inelasticity.  My common-sense-guessing tells me that vehicle fuel is a large enough part of oil consumption that we shouldn't complain that per person oil consumption is long-term inelastic.  

I do think that oil prices can rise along with demand, as previously low-tech/wealth populations start adding their consumption to make up for any decrease in the first-world's in response to increasing oil prices.  This may give the appearance of 'inelasticity' but that's not the meaning that first came to mind when you first claimed it.

[ Parent ]

Well, let's see (none / 0) (#244)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 09:09:14 PM EST

When the rebates and employee pricing and so on really got in swing, the used market dropped values immediately and massively. When gas prices skyrocketed, there was a correlation too - but it was a slow moving, very soft correlation. It would be reasonable based on the facts to say that at least 90% of the problem with the used market is due to cheaper new vehicles, which leaves not enough for gas prices for that argument to really matter.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Hybrids selling well (none / 0) (#233)
by Rhodes on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 05:42:37 AM EST

You neglected to mention with the downturn in SUVs and trucks, that hybrids are selling well.  In fact at least for Prius's the market is so hot that an old one is selling for more than a new one- because the lead time is so much less.  


Focusing on the Toyota Prius:
http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/6774/tmc500k.htm


(2nd page of pdf:)
http://www.eere.energy.gov/cleancities/conference/2004/pdfs/daverio_toyota.pdf

[ Parent ]

Yeah, (none / 1) (#180)
by brain in a jar on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 07:49:53 AM EST

As skyknight points out, demand for gasoline is only price inelastic in the short run. As gas prices rise people think more about fuel economy when buying cars (and about the potential resale value of their gas guzzler should gas prices rise) and demand for gas falls as a result.

For this reason the government could probably even induce a change in behavior just by signalling that it might tax fuel more heavily in the future. Consumers would possibly hedge against this risk by buying more fuel efficient cars.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Consumers would do that after it happens (none / 0) (#184)
by lukme on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:13:05 AM EST

Consumers, as are CEOs, are short term kinda thinkers. The hybrid cars that are currently being produced scrafice some handling caracteristics for fuel economy. I bet they are particularly bad snow cars. The insight may be OK for commuting, however, I wouldn't want to get into a wreak with it Furthermore, it would be impossible for a family of 4 to travel anywhere in even a prius (the insight is a 2 seater), due to the lack of cargo room.

Just doing a back of the hand calculation, the price of gas would have to be about $15 per gal over 3 years, just to make up the difference between the price of the car (insight at about 12,000, and old clunker at 5000 (my old clunker at 200,000 gets 25 mpg)). $7,0000 dollars buys alot of gas. (The average USian drives about 10,000 miles per year - supposedly)




-----------------------------------
It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
You don't have to buy a hybrid (none / 0) (#187)
by brain in a jar on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:59:25 AM EST

To save money.

Buying an ordinary station wagon will still save you a lot of money over an SUV and will carry a similar amount of stuff around. The lower body means less air resistance, and they tend to be lighter as well so you can get acceptable performance with a smaller engine (some volvos are pretty fast). A little known fact is that many SUVs are only rated to carry relatively small loads, since they are often not engineered to take much more than their own already considerable weight.

Secondly, you maybe overstate the problems of travelling in smaller cars, I have personally fit four kayaks, four people, and their luggage onto/into my 1.6 litre ford focus, which does about 40 miles to the gallon. If I fill its 45 litre tank with gas I can drive nearly 400 miles before I have to fill up. Though I'll admit, it wasn't too comfortable.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Yes, 1/2 of my point. (none / 0) (#200)
by lukme on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 08:25:31 PM EST

Consumers will do whatever solves their problem that is the cheapest at the time of the decision. Not necessarily what is best for the environment or even optimizing if a worst case senerio comes true (ie an oil embargo).

Personally, I have a volvo 960 station wagon, and it is amazing how much fits into it, how confortable the car is overall, and how fast it is (6 cylinders instead of 4). That said, it is not ideal for the environment since the car is over 10 years old and has 200,000 miles on it.




-----------------------------------
It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
Er, no (none / 0) (#227)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 02:14:22 AM EST

Actually, most full size station wagons get comparable fuel economy to SUVs. Your theories notwithstanding, there are "facts" you can consult, and they say you're wrong.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Its pretty hard (none / 0) (#231)
by brain in a jar on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 05:08:55 AM EST

Care to show me those facts that you are quoting?

and don't go comparing the biggest, fastest station wagon you can find, with some small and underpowered SUV that isn't representative of the cars which are actually on the road.

There are good reasons to believe that the average SUV is going to have poorer fuel economy.

A good proportion of the energy required to propel a vehichle goes into overcoming air resistance. This depends largely on the cross section area of the car as viewed from the front, as well as the vehichles length. Generally longer vehichles with smaller cross sections in the direction of travel have less drag, and will tend to burn less gas.

Weight is also a factor in fuel economy, especially for stop-start driving in town and SUVs tend to be heavier, some being super-heavy in order to qualify for the famous "hummer-deduction" which Clinton was dumb enough to sign into law.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Look moron, (none / 0) (#243)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 09:07:41 PM EST

Go look up Ford's standard V6 station wagon(nobody puts 4s in full size wagons, and those little hatchbacks are not suitable replacements for SUVs.) Then look up a Ford Explorer.

Case closed.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Actually, (none / 0) (#229)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 02:16:43 AM EST

You mean "as skyknight speculates."

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Irrelevant (none / 0) (#216)
by pyro9 on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 11:09:53 AM EST

Assuming for a moment that consumer demand is truly inelastic over the medium to long term, internalizing the price WILL have the desired effect.

Total consumer demand may not change much with price, but given 4 gas stations at an intersection, they will buy their inelastic 80 gallons for the SUV they insisted on at the cheaper station. If E85 becomes cheaper than gasoline, they will choose the new SUV that can use it over the one that can't.

In other words, the inelastic demand is for any fuel that will make their SUV (that will probably never be off-road) go. Exactly which fuel that is doesn't matter to consumers at all. They will go with the least expensive.

Further, while some insist on an SUV at all costs, others merely insist on some sort of personal vehicle. It is true that most will drive a car rather than take the bus or train no matter what, but they may choose a more economical car if gas prices are high enough.

As the prices rise, particularly if the real costs are internalized to the oil companies, THEY will see the benefit of developing alternatives to foreign crude oil on the supply side. THEY will do the math and prefer to pay $80/bbl for an alternative and/or domestic crude rather than $100/bbl for foreign oil.

Meanwhile, corporate fuel consumers WILL go with less expensive alternatives where available. While the subsidized cost of diesel and gasoline may be more attractive, the unsubsidized price will make alternatives look more attractive. Fleet vehicles are often the first to convert. Since they are generally fueled in corporate garages general availability of an alternative at the corner gas station is less important to them. Further, the decision makers really don't care if the employees driving the vehicles get a warm fuzzy 'driving experiance' or not.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Er... (none / 0) (#226)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 02:12:41 AM EST

First of all, E85 solves the renewability problem, but not any other problem really, and people in the know will pay more for gas simply because the energy density of E85 sucks balls(which translates to poor range, poor engine output, or both.)

Second, during this supposed time of high gas prices, what is the fastest growing new car segment in the US? That's right. High powered rear wheel drives. Cars that eat gas like candy. People want power, they want range, they want comfort, and they're willing to pay for it.

Third, when you consider the price of the cars people buy, what makes you think they care about the relatively trivial cost of gasoline by comparison? Even if you quintupled the price, any big heavy SUV or performance car dwarfs the cost of the fuel it consumes. If people will pay for the vehicles, why would they balk at the fuel?

In short, you expect people to behave irrationally, and they aren't going to do it.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Did you even read my reply or did you skim? (none / 0) (#235)
by pyro9 on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 01:42:11 PM EST

My argument was that people doing EXACTLY what they do now will STILL choose correctly if the costs are internalized because the oil companies will make the economic decisions.

You argued back that people won't change their behaviour (which I never denied). As for E85, by cheaper, read cheaper per mile. Further, most people don't seem to be much in the know, so I doubt that will be an issue.

So, am I to assume that since consumers will make the right choices in spite of their current behaviour (you certainly presented no counter argument), and you agree that they won't change their behaviour, that the point is made?


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
You still don't get it (none / 0) (#245)
by trhurler on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 09:11:44 PM EST

Car companies are going to sell what people want. Fuel providers are going to sell what the fleet demands unless and until they simply cannot. Nobody's going to quit selling premium pump gas at reasonable prices(relatively speaking, obviously,) while there's a market of millions of vehicles that need that fuel. It simply will not happen.

Now, if you want to argue that over a very long time(decades,) behavior might change because demonstrably superior(in the eyes of consumers) alternatives arrive, or because oil literally runs out, you might have something. But short of the end consumer wanting something different or literally being physically unable to obtain what he really wants, nothing will change much - it never has, it never does, and it never will.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
NO, READ IT AGAIN (none / 0) (#249)
by pyro9 on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 10:22:41 PM EST

One more try just in case you're not being pointedly obtuse. Please re-read until you understand once and for all, I made no claim that consumers would ever change their behaviour. It's the producers that will change.

Demonstrably better may be nothing more than cheaper. Lets compare Gasoline at $2/gal vs fuel X at $4/gal.. People will of course buy gasoline. Internalize the cost of gas and it costs $5/gal (I've seen estimates as high as $12/gal, but we'll stick with 5 for now). Suddenly everyone wants fuel X. They will NOT reduce their consumption in the least, They will still insist on driving their tank to the mailbox, but they WILL buy the cheaper fuel.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Iraq is Big Player (none / 0) (#232)
by Rhodes on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 05:30:39 AM EST

Russia and Saudi Arabia have been the biggest producers, but Russia's proven reserves are low. And Iraq's are the 2nd highest. A large reason for the US to generate hatred against itself among Muslims worldwide was to base troops in Saudi Arabia during Gulf War I; invading a (relatively) friendly country that would invoke hatred among multiple hundreds of millions Muslims is as insane as invading Syria or Iran.

[ Parent ]
+1 FP even though I disagree with you (2.00 / 3) (#98)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:32:56 AM EST

It looks like you're trying to justify some sort of foreign policy tax on petro products. I think that smacks of lunacy for many of the reasons mentioned elsewhere in the discussion. However, you've cranked out a well-written article that's generating a lot of discussion, so I don't see any reason to give this anything but a +1. I'd like to think that people on K5 are actually smart enough to handle the fullness of your prose; I disagree with those saying that it's too sophisticated for this venue.


"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
Well, actually... (3.00 / 2) (#121)
by skyknight on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 11:13:24 AM EST

I'm not quite sure what exactly we should do insofar as enacting a specific policy, but I am sure that oil's cost is way more complicated than what we pay at the pump, and we need to start realizing that. I think it's interesting that people started getting hysterical in the US when hurricane Katrina made gas prices jump from slightly over two dollars per gallon to about three and a half dollars per gallon. If people think that is disturbing, they ought to realize that the real cost of gas is more than $2/gallon all the time.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
This is what I remember. (1.50 / 2) (#127)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 12:54:44 PM EST

2 years or so ago, I remember googling to satisfy my curiosity on this subject. The difference in our gasoline consumption between 1992 and 2002 was pretty roughly equivalent to the back-of-the-napkin calculations on what you'd get if you replaced the millions of decent gas-mileage sedans with big clunky SUVs. In other words, we'd be using only as much gasoline as before, if we didn't drive shitty humvee-looking monstrosities that look safe to soccer moms.

If we were using the same amount, there'd be alot less pressure on the market. I do not know if it would be enough to return the price to 1992ish levels (right out of highschool, I remember seeing 89-95 cents a gallon in Indiana and Ohio). But it would certainly be enough to keep it from hitting the goddamned 3 dollar mark.

SUVs deserve a $100,000 per year tax. Retroactive. Get a goddamned station wagon, yuppy.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

Please tell me more about what I deserve. (2.50 / 4) (#141)
by alexboko on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 05:17:46 PM EST

SUVs deserve a $100,000 per year tax. Retroactive. Get a goddamned station wagon, yuppy.

I use my SUV to haul lumber, windmill parts, tools, and occasionally passengers. At the time I was shopping for a car, I couldn't find any used station wagons in decent condition, and no used trucks that had room for passengers. So I took what I could get. I walk to work and I drive my SUV maybe 10 miles a week to Lowe's and Home Depot. Since you seem to have such strong opinions on how other people should live their lives and spend their money, do you have any advice for me?


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

If you are honest. (3.00 / 4) (#142)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 06:04:13 PM EST

Then I have no problem with the way in which you use it. Hell, SUVs could be a good healthy 3 or 4% of the market, and cause all of us no problems. That's plenty for people like yourself, who genuinely need the thing.

The SUV is hardly a new thing, I remember Broncos and Jeeps and so forth all the way back to the 70s. It was never a problem then either.

But do you have any other ideas how to completely fucking squash the fashion statement that they have now become? It needs to stop, and it needs to stop in 1998, let alone today. Hauling lumber and building supplies is one thing, but hauling the squawling yuppy brats to soccer practice is completely another. And I just have no idea what to do about it.

The automotive industry claims they are only catering to what people want, and yet they come out with these obnoxiously boxy fucking behemoths? I can't put my finger on the exact social mechanism at play, but they create demand for the damned things, and without alternatives, it's not like people are going to buy a bicycle instead.

So you tell me, how do we do this without hurting the few people who have true need of such vehicles?

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

SUVs (3.00 / 2) (#149)
by alexboko on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 06:46:37 PM EST


But do you have any other ideas how to completely fucking squash the fashion statement that they have now become? It needs to stop, and it needs to stop in 1998, let alone today.

Yes. Wait for US gas prices to rise to the same levels relative to income that they are in Europe, Asia, and other places where people like small cars. It won't be a long wait.


So you tell me, how do we do this without hurting the few people who have true need of such vehicles?

You can't. But it's not me you should be worried about. You should be worried about people who aren't using this last chance at cheap fuel to prepare for the inevitable while they can still afford to do so.

But you know, SUV's are just a symbol that happens to piss you off. Like reactionaries are pissed off by largely imaginary "atheist liberals and their gay agenda eroding the traditional family".

If you're going to start hating people who drive SUV's for whatever reason they might have, you might as well hate people who rely excessively on supermarkets instead of using more home-made and home-grown products, thereby necessitating the use of gigantic gas-guzzling tractor trailers.

Or people who place a low value on proximity to their jobs, thereby choking the roads with busses and passenger vehicles.

Or especially people who can't limit themselves to having just one or two children and instead piss away the future of everyone's children by having "large families". If there were only, say, 500 million of us on the Earth, we could all live as wastefully as we wanted and get away with it.

But I think it's a waste of time unless you have some concrete way of changing the behavior of vast numbers of people. I prefer to think locally-- what can I do differently to remain standing when the rest of these jokers ket knocked down?


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

Hmm. (2.50 / 2) (#152)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 07:34:04 PM EST

But you know, SUV's are just a symbol that happens to piss you off. Like reactionaries are pissed off by largely imaginary "atheist liberals and their gay agenda eroding the traditional family".

No, I don't think it's a symbol. Starbucks might be a "symbol" for these people, but SUVs are an actual source of the problem.

If you're going to start hating people who drive SUV's for whatever reason they might have, you might as well hate people who rely excessively on supermarkets instead of using more home-made and home-grown products, thereby necessitating the use of gigantic gas-guzzling tractor trailers.

I don't hate them, just disgusted by their lack of sense. Much like my ex-girlfriend who hated recycling, because it was "too much work". There are two trash cans sitting side by side, it takes not even a split second to decide which to throw something into... too much work was actually only learning a slightly new behavior. Some people though, you know, can't grow their own garden out in the backyard, myself for instance. I guess I could let dairy cattle graze in my living room though.

Or people who place a low value on proximity to their jobs, thereby choking the roads with busses and passenger vehicles.

No one I know likes to drive 50 miles to work, or even 5. I could place the highest priority to this possible, spending every spare dime, and it would still only mean either being jobless or homeless.

Or especially people who can't limit themselves to having just one or two children and instead piss away the future of everyone's children by having "large families".

You mean people I know, who all strangely seem to be childless, and wanting none, even in their 30s and 40s? Or the few that have one child? Oh, you mean those in developing countries, where the cost of an extra child is outweighed by the extra income they can provide, or the social insurance that having a large family is. The same way it was in our country, even 100 years ago.

If there were only, say, 500 million of us on the Earth, we could all live as wastefully as we wanted and get away with it.

That's a bad thought to be thinking carelessly. The few people who tend to think like that, will work hard to make sure there are only 500 million (or less), and that you and I aren't one of the few remaining. It's a wet dream of theirs, be wary of anyone who says the same.

Besides which, if we would just be smarter, there are unlimited resources, period. We could support 500 billion if we weren't so fucking stupid about it. We're literally burning our capital, instead of using it to come up with even better ways to make energy.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

Taking away the tax break (none / 0) (#173)
by destroy all monsters on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 03:28:51 AM EST

for the most egregious behemoths would be a start. State taxes could be enacted either in the form of additional cost for yearly registration or out of income taxes for vehicles that get less than x many miles to the gallon.

I have an SUV but it's dwarfed by the Escalades, the new Porsches, Hummers and whatnot. Still, what I'd do to be able to retrofit it for hybrid at a nominal cost.

"My opinion: You're gay, a troll, a gay troll, or in serious need of antidepressants." - horny smurf to Lemon Juice
[ Parent ]

Easy (none / 1) (#174)
by godix on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 03:31:59 AM EST

But do you have any other ideas how to completely fucking squash the fashion statement that they have now become?

Have a government program to make SUVs cheap and affordable to people living on $10 an hour. Once the poor people start driving SUVs the status seekers will get rid of their SUVs as soon as they possibly can, and when dick compensation is on the line that can be pretty damned quick. Then you end the government program so poor people aren't getting SUVs anymore either. All that will be left are the small number of people who actually need an SUV. There you go, a quick and easy way to kill the SUV fad.

More CORN!

[ Parent ]
Nothing new (3.00 / 2) (#105)
by starX on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 08:41:35 AM EST

Meh, nothing new here.  No ideas that haven't been given the works over the past few years.  No new insights as to possible solutions, or new illuminations as to sources of the problems.  Very eloquent; eloquent enough to make going over all of this data engaging enough to go over again, but unfortunately its value ends there.

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust
Skynight, YOU are part of the problem. (2.33 / 6) (#117)
by alexboko on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 11:00:38 AM EST

Because you're not part of the solution. You write up a little essay on k5 about oil and have a nice warm feeling like you did something. Kurons read, vote, and comment on your essay and now they have a nice warm feeling like they did something.

None of you have done shit, and that nice warm feeling is safely sublimating the urge to do something in the real world.

Whining about what politicians and businesses should do is not part of the solution, in the absence of a concrete plan to force them, motivate them, or circumvent them. To do what you think they should.

Such a concrete plan MUST have the following features:

  • It has to offer a course of action that every one of your readers can implement immediately.
  • It must have inherent, short-term, tangible benefits to the individual following it.
  • It must be easy to explain and otherwise memetically catchy.
  • It cannot assume the support of government and big business. Work only with what you've got.
It also wouldn't hurt for the plan to be ideology-neutral enough to avoid alienating large swathes of potential supporters.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
No... (none / 1) (#119)
by skyknight on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 11:09:51 AM EST

SkyKnight is not part of the problem, and what you're doing is commonly known as ad-hominem attack. What makes you think that posting articles on K5 is the only thing that I do in this world? Furthermore, what makes you think that someone would want their meat space identity and activities completely linked to their on-line pseudonym? Just ask Rusty how fun it is to get phone calls at 3AM from NIWS.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Look, Batman (none / 1) (#122)
by alexboko on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 11:16:52 AM EST

I'm not asking you to remove your mask. Just to move the discussion toward some sort of practical direction. If only to urge people in some jurisdictions to vote in some particular way in the next election, useless though that may be.

Those of us who aren't George Bush fan-boys already know what the problem is. What nobody knows, from top to bottom, is what to do about it. So telling a government to take action when it itself has no idea what to do will result in hastily written, constitutionally dubious, ineffective legislation with huge unintended consequences.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

Sure, but... (2.00 / 2) (#123)
by skyknight on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 11:18:42 AM EST

a hastily written K5 piece that can spawn a few hundred comments might be a good starting point for figuring out what we should be asking of the government.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Duh. (3.00 / 5) (#126)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 12:32:03 PM EST

We should be asking them all to drop dead. From the president, to congressmen, all the way down to the low-level unelected bureaucrats.

We should be asking them to drop dead. When you testify before congress skyknight, your speech should be something like:

"... and in conclusion, respected senators, please fucking DROP DEAD. Right now, this instant... heart attack, anyeurism, impacted bowel syndrome, the specifics do not matter. The american people need you to die immediately. Thank you."

I'm not sure they're capable of anything else that would be helpful, but if you do think of something, ask that first, just in case they actually honor the request to die.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

the cost of oil: (none / 0) (#192)
by moondancer on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 01:05:30 PM EST

You are right about that! Perhaps all the negative comments will bring forth some positive ideas. Some spew nasty negative remarks in order to be heard i suppose.
**We are simple and we are free.**United Fools
[ Parent ]
-1 Unreadable (1.22 / 9) (#125)
by thankyougustad on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 12:28:04 PM EST



No no thanks no
Je n'aime que le bourbon
no no thanks no
c'est une affaire de got.

-1 You are a very poor writer (2.53 / 13) (#129)
by Tex two point oh on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:10:51 PM EST

First this article is just plain bad (i.e., it explains the problems with oil with no greater insight than that which could easily be gained by reading the newspaper once per month)

Second, I guess when you were in grade school or college some teacher must have told you that you were an all-star when it comes to literary prose. Let me help you come off this notion. Not only is your grammar clearly wrong in a few places (e.g., Even with a cognizance of such nefariously shirkish behavior, it still remains hopelessly difficult to make the generators of airborne pollution be the ones to bear its cost.) but you continue to write with this ridiculously pretentious style that magnifies, rather than conceals, the lack of any unique or original insight within this rant of yours.

At least it was mercifully short.

long, wordy (2.25 / 4) (#150)
by debacle on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 07:17:10 PM EST

And vague.

Some numbers would be nice. I prefer 4 and 17.

It tastes sweet.

We need to learn to catch thunders (1.50 / 2) (#158)
by truchisoft on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 09:28:55 PM EST

Lightnings are the tools the world gives us to generate energy...

From wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning)
"An average bolt of positive lightning carries a current of 300 kiloamperes, transfers a charge of up to 300 coulombs, has a potential difference up to 1 gigavolt (a thousand million volts), dissipates enough energy to light a 100 watt lightbulb for up to 95 years, and lasts for tens or hundreds of milliseconds."

Thats a LOT of energy on a single strike.
Wonder if we can build the biggest battery on the world, and charge it with ligthnings... hrmm...

Now that would end our energy troubles!
--- Saludos de Argentina.

Potentials... (none / 0) (#214)
by Znork on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 10:49:33 AM EST

Without being an expert on the subject, I suspect that it'd be more practical to build some form of potential-harvesting power-plant. Like, say, a suspended metal mesh between a few helium baloons. Basically you'd suck the potential difference out of the cloud before it actually comes to a lightning discharge. Slower discharge, simpler energy physics, more positionally reliable, etc.

Of course, it's the storage that's the real problem anyway. Generating electricity isnt that difficult, keeping it around 'til you actually need it is the tough one.

[ Parent ]

Your article is pretty much crap (1.33 / 3) (#181)
by mfeltman on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:31:54 AM EST

but I voted it up because the debate it will antagonize makes it worth keeping.


whisper.


Okay, concrete steps you can take. (3.00 / 2) (#182)
by alexboko on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:49:25 AM EST

  • Read Hugh Piggott's "Axial Flux Windmill Plans" and build one.
  • Read Vincent and David Gingery's series of books on home metalcrafting.
  • If you can afford to, look for a few acres of rural land at least one day's walking distance from the city, preferrably more. Try to find other people in your area who want to do this, and buy adjacent plots or subdivide one big plot. That way you have neighbors you can trust right off the bat.
  • Take an EMT course.
  • If you have even a few square feet of lawn, try growing something edible or otherwise useful, just for practice. Instead of that boring, water-guzzling useless grass. If you have a balcony or patio, try growing vegetables in barrels or pots.
  • Make as much money as you can while the economy is still good. Self-sufficiency doesn't have to be expensive, but money can really help when you're getting started.
  • Form a city-level political organization, and figure out which zoning ordinances and building codes create obstacles for homeowners who wish to install windmills or solar panels or grow their own food. Deliver a heaping dose of righteous outrage and public scorn to the local politicians responsible for these obstacles.
  • Make sure you own a reliable set of hand tools, a drill, a jigsaw, and a circular saw. While electricity is available (or you have enough windmills and batteries) you can build almost anything with those three power tools. In the absence of electricity, you can still build almost anything with the hand tools, but it will take a lot longer.
  • Join http://fieldlines.com/ (free, and you'll find the interface strangely familiar). That site has some of the most useful advice on self-sufficiency and renewable energy I've seen anywhere.
  • Seek out and make friends with people who you think could pull their weight in a crisis. I.e. not big pussies who are too lazy to learn any useful skills and are utterly helpless without shopping malls. Ignore their politics, focus on resourcefulness and intelligence.
  • There exist idiots who think they're going to be some kind of survivalist badasses just because they own a few guns. If that's all they own, they're not ready. However, since they do have guns, it unfortunately means that you should consider buying and learning to use a gun as well, just in case.
  • Consider getting a diesel vehicle. You can grow and produce small amounts of biodiesel yourself. Possibly enough for those situations where nothing but a car will do the job.
  • In your quest for self-sufficiency, you're likely to develop some marketable skills (carpentry, welding, appliance repair, etc.). Go ahead and market them! Start building your reputation for when you're the only craftsman within a day's walk.



Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
Guns? (none / 1) (#191)
by t1ber on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 12:03:10 PM EST

There exist idiots who think they're going to be some kind of survivalist badasses just because they own a few guns. If that's all they own, they're not ready. However, since they do have guns, it unfortunately means that you should consider buying and learning to use a gun as well, just in case.

You absolutely do not understand hunting.

Hunting is an excellent prospect from a survivalist perspective on the simple fact that if you run out of food in winter, you're screwed.  I realize that careful rationing could prevent this, but meat has an excellent energy-to-weight ratio and fats can be used for fire fuel or eating.  Skins provide excellent warmth.  Instead of writing off gun owning survivalists as nutjobs, ask them if they know how to make gunpowder, can cast bullets, and can reload shells.  You're not going to trap animals while in the middle of winter when animals generally arn't moving around, but a hunter can kick up small game and that can be a good source of food.  Larger animals, such as deer, have been used by many cultures for tools, materials for clothes and housing, and food for ages.  The firearm is a wonderful tool, but it's the individuals responsibility to use it properly.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

Guns. (none / 0) (#195)
by alexboko on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 02:53:47 PM EST

Hey, I am a gun-owning survivalist, but you're right, I've never hunted.

I certainly didn't mean to disparage gun ownership, and I agree that learning how to reload is a very useful skill (even in a prosperous economy, .45 ammo gets expensive fast). I just know the kind of denial-fugues non gun-owners go into when you talk to them about guns, so I was trying to broach the matter sympathetically.

That being said, I'm not sure that hunting is as effective per calorie spent doing it as simply raising livestock. Though I guess self-sufficiency is about taking maximum advantage of every opportunity offered to you, so yeah, hunting is on the list.

Also, there are juvenile people out there who think just owning a gun makes them prepared. Guns are the least efficient solution to most disputes, which is why their proper place in conflict is as a last line of defense.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

Yeh. (none / 0) (#203)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:17:47 PM EST

When it all goes to shit, you'll be able to do plenty of hunting, no one else will have that idea, and no one else in the US owns guns.

LOL.

Unless you want to hunt and eat people. That might work. Hmmmmm....

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

Shit, now you know, you're at the top of the menu! (none / 0) (#204)
by t1ber on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:57:42 PM EST

When Hell fills up and the dead walk the earth, well, don't drink that liver to death.  We're going to have to eat it.  We're terribly sorry, that's just the new order of things.

And if you could quit smoking, that would be fantastic.  Tar just ruins the lung soup, you know!

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

The below posts make me ask two questions. (2.00 / 2) (#183)
by alexboko on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:02:17 AM EST

  1. What proportion of gasoline usage is passenger traffic and what proportion is freight?
  2. What are the actual subsidies on oil (which laws, tax regulations, etc.). I agree that foreign policy can be used to help the oil industry, but I'm talking about overt, recognized subsidies. What are they?



Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
Why Do You Hate Google? (none / 0) (#240)
by nyar on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 09:02:41 PM EST

#1 is easy:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/consump.html

#2 well, not so easy.  Are you talking foreign or domestic?  Did you know that we get 2/3 of our oil from Canada and Mexico?  Didn't think so...

Did you know we trade them lots of other things besides dollars for better access and pricing to oil?  Try assigning a figure to that...

[ Parent ]

I don't hate Google. (none / 0) (#251)
by alexboko on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:42:02 PM EST


#1 is easy:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/consump.html

Nope, that doesn't have the data I'm looking for. At least not on that page, I'll look around there, thanks. What I'm looking for is how much of the petroleum used by cars is personal vehicles versus tractor trailers and company vehicle fleets? Because the SUV/Hummer hysteria might be completely bogus if it turns out that delivery vehicles are burning the lion's share of fuel. Then it will be time to bitch at people for shopping in supermarkets, rather than just for driving a car someone else thinks is ugly.


#2 well, not so easy.  Are you talking foreign or domestic?  Did you know that we get 2/3 of our oil from Canada and Mexico?  Didn't think so...

Did you know we trade them lots of other things besides dollars for better access and pricing to oil?  Try assigning a figure to that...

Sure, but I'm talking about actual subsidies to oil drillers and distributors-- tax credits, low-interest loans, deliberate perks made available to them but not to your average business.

The reason I'm asking this is it's insane to admit that the cost of gas is subsidized and at the same time call for a gas tax or a vehicle tax! First try removing the subsidies, and see how the non-distorted market behaves. But then it's necessary to point to specific subsidies that should be removed in this way.

Anyway, my questions were mainly directed to the author, so his next essay on the energy problem will have more substance. If I had time to Google and digest all this stuff, I'd be writing my own essay. ;-)


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]

Ironically (1.33 / 3) (#186)
by A Bore on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:35:40 AM EST

You are burning oil with this post, pissing aay the kilowatts to discuss the pissing away of kilowatts without offering any solutions. It sounds like an expanded first paragraph of an essay. The reason why we are all so dependant on oil is because no-one has found another energy solution, and you aren't suggesting anything.

Lotsa solutions around man (none / 1) (#208)
by ivancruz on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:52:24 PM EST

... without offering any solutions.

A well defined problem is a half solved problem. By defining the issue precisely the author implies the solution: take off the subsides or make consumers pay the real price and alternative energy sources will pop like mushrooms in a wet summer morning.

When barrel hits $80-$100, eolic and solar alternatives will became instantly competitives. As consumers flock to those "new" technologies, the production scale will make them even cheaper, many companies and universities will jump on the band waggon and in no time we will have better and cheapper batteries and/or fuel cells.

The only and single problem is: oil is too cheap, yet.

______________________________________
Eu vou, eu vou vender a minha v, Eu vou vender a minha v, A minha v filosofia.(Zeca Baleiro)
[ Parent ]

Driving while typing (none / 0) (#239)
by nyar on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 08:56:06 PM EST

WTF are you talking about?  Are you really that ignorant of how we generate electricity in this country?

Up in my neck of the woods, RIGHT NOW we are displacing all of the natural gas turbine generation for the entire west coast of the 'States, due our massive surplus of water.  Sure, it's seasonal, but currently we are just about giving away power on the open market.

Now from oil wells, NG is really the only other fuel besides oil that is produced.  Also: We do not produce NG from oil.  In fact, it was considered a "waste product" from unproductive wells in the past.

So uh..

You are burning oil with this post

Huh??  

[ Parent ]

I loled (3.00 / 3) (#188)
by bml on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:13:47 AM EST

at this sentence:

Even with a cognizance of such nefariously shirkish behavior, it still remains hopelessly difficult to make the generators of airborne pollution be the ones to bear its cost.

I find it very representative of the unnecessary pomposity of the whole article. You should really try to write in smaller words.

Take it as constructive criticism from someone with pretty much the same problem...

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey

But, when people get a new thing, they like to (none / 0) (#189)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:16:11 AM EST

show it off...

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

.50 word + .50 word + .50 word (none / 0) (#194)
by dissonant on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 02:00:53 PM EST

It all adds up to about uhhh... three fiddy.

[ Parent ]
I think it's funny in an enjoyable way (none / 1) (#223)
by collideiscope on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 01:12:46 AM EST

I get a kick out of the way the sentences roll of the tongue. It's no more challenging for me to read than less-loquacious verbiage.  

Maybe if you both had larger vocabularies, you'd find it easier to read...? :)

-------------------------------
Hope is a disease. Get infected.
[ Parent ]

Let me simplify (none / 0) (#258)
by skim123 on Tue Jan 24, 2006 at 11:40:41 PM EST

Them bitches that be making all that pollution and shit, man, those bitches need to be the ones paying for it out of their own pocket and shit!

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
You need smaller words and more profanity. $ (none / 0) (#259)
by skyknight on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 07:01:41 PM EST



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
blah (1.33 / 3) (#190)
by dke on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:51:25 AM EST

What a POS, can't belive this got through the queue
Nothing is ever easy
Take some responsible action, please! (2.75 / 4) (#205)
by garywiz on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:15:23 PM EST

Neither criticizing the original author's rhetoric, nor posturing about what you might do if you had omniscient control of governments and finance is pointless. Such a tedious thread. I tire of the propensity of unempowered psuedo-intellectuals to analyze problems from a "global perspective" (as if they could do something) while ignoring personal responsibility (where they can take action).

Regardless of how you feel about the original posting, it is relevant. There is a crisis of global oil economics which puts the USA in the unfortunate position of being the victim of its own oil addiction.

Most of us cannot do anything except try to elect responsible officials, write letters to Congress, and promote greater understanding of the problem. But, those are indirect actions.

What of direct actions? How much oil do you use?

97% of America's transportation needs are powered by oil. Of that, 50% are used to keep America's cars and trucks on the road. That is one barrel in seven used globally.

As you drive, count the number of cars that have better gas mileage than yours. If you count ZERO, you're doing your part better than most. If you drive an SUV (but don't really need one), a muscle car (and can't find a better way to bolster your ego), it's time to ask the hard questions.

My wife and I are US citizens living in Australia for the moment, but the car situtation here is about the same. Recently, we scrapped our Jeep and bought a small economy car that gets about 40mpg. It's really all we need. We didn't do much offroading, and surprisingly, we can fit more in the back of our economy car than we could in the Wrangler. Last weekend, we took a short trip and it was likely that 90% of the cars on the road passing us were using 30% to 60% more fuel than we were. I noted that pretty much none of the SUVs had more passengers than our car would carry. We felt really bad that for all those years we wasted so much fuel with our Jeep.

In the early 80s, the US had just come out of a harrowing OPEC price increase that rocked the nation. The average MPG for new cars purchased in America in 1984 was 27.5mpg, the highest it has ever been. For whatever reason, Americans are taking steps backward. Today, the average fuel consumption of US consumer vehicles is 23.9mpg. Most SUVs top out at 20mpg. A significant percentage of the problem is thus directly attributable to consumer behavior. This is a problem for which each individual can take action.

Americans drive about 2.5 trillion miles per year. If every American were to drive a car which had better gas mileage, and the 1984 gas consumption figures were to return, America would use 333 million barrels of oil less each year. And that doesn't place Americans at even the slightest inconvenience. More can be achieved if people try harder.

I'll accept that there are many perspectives on these numbers and the psychology of American car culture and how it relates to oil dependency. But, I challenge anybody to argue that there is any reason why any American should buy a Ford Mustang GT. Even the stock version has a 4.6L engine, has two doors, and gets 17mpg in the city. You can't use it for a family. You can't use it for hauling things. You can't use it for offroading or difficult situations. It's unsafe, and it has a virtually useless trunk.

Its only purpose is waste.

(In-depth statistics about American driving habits are at the Bureau of Transportation Statistics).

Move to New York. (none / 0) (#218)
by vectro on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 05:26:40 PM EST

Owining cars here is outrageous.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Totally! (none / 0) (#256)
by Comrade Wonderful on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 03:39:42 PM EST

Not to mention the clean public transportation system, the generally clean condition of the city overall and the fresh smell of the air.

[ Parent ]
Transportation (none / 0) (#220)
by Rhodes on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 08:05:02 PM EST

as other commenters will make, one can make other decisions that change individual fossil fuel consumption even more.

1) use a lower power transportation vehicle. The lowest energy one that I know of is a bicycle (it's more efficient than walking). Consider 100 Watts versus 1000+ Watts for a personally owned automobile. (lots of stats: http://bicycleuniverse.info/transpo/almanac.html) and a nice little analysis: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/advocacy/bike_co2.htm

this follows to: 2) live close enough to your work so that multiple modes of transport can be used.

The unexpressed ideas in the article about our oil dependency regards how we chose to increase housing after WWII-- suburban growth in America has been the reason for the necessity for automobiles.

[ Parent ]

energy cost by mode (none / 0) (#221)
by Rhodes on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 08:14:46 PM EST

this link: http://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch8en/conc8en/img/th_energymode.gif from this website: http://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch8en/conc8en/ch8c2en.html demonstrates the point-- the energy cost for bicycles is one tenth that of automobiles.

[ Parent ]
Bravo! I like this train of thought (none / 0) (#236)
by Yaroslav The Wise on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 03:53:49 PM EST

So many times, we babble on and express our own opinions in thread after thread. I always enjoy the the posts that call for or suggest courses of action and not just commmunication. Thank you.

[ Parent ]
You must frequently get beat up. (none / 0) (#257)
by Comrade Wonderful on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 03:49:51 PM EST

The obviously better solution is to build in the costs into the fuel tax.  If I have enough money to drive a car with 7mpg then who the hell are you to judge me on that?  I'm paying market price for the fucking fuel; it's mine to waste if I desire.

If the car generates really horrendous pollution there should be a tax in there.  Etc.  As there currently is.

Your position is basically, "If you drive a fast car that handles well and costs a lot, you must be compensating for your cock, and you are behaving in a morally reprehensible manner!"

Sad.

[ Parent ]

You must often win arguments by yelling louder (none / 0) (#260)
by garywiz on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 09:37:27 PM EST

I didn't make a moral judgement, not once. I did specifically mention that the Mustang GT has no practical value when judged in terms of a transportation vehicle. I never said that cars that cost a lot are bad. I never said that there is some "macho factor" at work here. You're making that up. Re-read what I said.

I also indicated that, from a purely selfish perspective, having more money in your bank account, and spending less getting from point A to point B does have its advantages. It also makes one less vulnerable to the problem.

Not everybody makes their value equations the same way. So, taxes and high cost are the primary ways that will predictably change people's behavior.

Yes, I made a judgement about the motivation (not the morals) of buying particular cars. But, isn't placing a tax on specific cars also "judgement"? I'd say so. I don't think you can avoid it, and judgements based upon fuel efficiency and accident statistics shouldn't be confused with judgements aimed at people's character.

If you're going to make an argument, at least make a proper one.

[ Parent ]

I apologize (none / 0) (#261)
by Comrade Wonderful on Sun Jan 29, 2006 at 02:43:27 AM EST

if I misinterpreted you.

What I think we could agree on is if there was a fuel tax per gallon that would cover the cost of alternative energy production and also of compensating for environmental damage, then it shouldn't matter to anyone if I drive a car that gets 100mpg or 1mpg.

And ps. There is a pleasure of driving a well-crafted machine capable of high speeds and tight cornerings that is not entirely explained by small cock size. :)

[ Parent ]

Very nice, if a bit unhelpful (2.50 / 2) (#207)
by A synx on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:32:03 PM EST

What a well written article!  It's very concise and clear, and doesn't exaggerate authority anywhere.  It's true we're in a real conundrum.  I was a little upset that you didn't spend most of your article working out solutions to the conundrum, but it's still valuable to try to convince people who don't yet admit a problem exists at all.

Brazil & Ethanol (none / 1) (#209)
by shinshin on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 04:04:23 AM EST

Bravo on a well-written and thought-out piece, skyknight. It does always surprise me, though, when these sorts of posts that bemoan the dilemma of there being no practical alternative to oil don't consider the example of Brazil, who has been successfully using ethanol for transportation for decades. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal just today (reprinted on a non-subscription site at here), ethanol accounts for 20% of Brazil's transport fuel market. This isn't some pissant back-water country, this is the world's 9th largest economy, and one that depends heavily on transportation. The technology exists: it's just a matter of having the political will and policy acumen to encourage it.

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
Ethanol from corn? Polluting (none / 1) (#230)
by DaoDePhys on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 03:15:49 AM EST

Wasn't it from corn? One thing I know is that the pollution was actually claimed to be worst. If it is not from corn, I don't know if it is worst or better. In any case it could diminish dependence, without necessarily being a good way.

[ Parent ]
Definitiely (none / 1) (#237)
by shinshin on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 04:41:58 PM EST

Yeah, it is dirty, but that's not the question at hand.

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
[ Parent ]
Well, if you grow it. (1.50 / 1) (#241)
by nyar on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 09:05:53 PM EST

Brazil has more arable land in the tropics than the US, which is why it's #1 export is sugar cane and ours is...  Wait, what do we export?  

Also corn produces a ton of waste given the sugar you get out of it.  In fact several studies have concluded that it's a net energy loss to produce ethanol from corn...  Not a great solution if you ask me.  

What we got a lot of is COAL.  Mmmm... sweet coal.  

[ Parent ]

Cost of Oil -2 (none / 1) (#212)
by DaoDePhys on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 09:30:13 AM EST

As many remarked, the article is well written. It doesn't have solutions? Well it doesn't have the opposite neither. Anyway, if this skyknight has an idea of what are the potential solutions and can write it as well and concise at this article, many will be reading the article a few times.

Misplaced modifier in first sentence $ (none / 0) (#217)
by Phssthpok on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 04:18:20 PM EST


____________

affective flattening has caused me to kill 11,357 people

Interesting take on Science (none / 0) (#219)
by Rhodes on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 07:40:20 PM EST

I appreciate the rhetorical strategy regarding climate change and smoking; I must question the range of unintended consequences of the statements.

First smoking, even secondary smoking is a demonstrated causal agent in multiple health risks (heart disease, ephesamy, cancers of the mouth, jaw, and lungs). Despite the huge expentitures on the part of the tobacco industry (on scientific, public relational, legal / political ground), tobacco products are maligned and illegal to use in many public environments (like offices...) (California has the most enforced laws to my knowledge).

On the same part, the arguements regarding climate change have begun to earn huge funding from multiple industrial groups; the evidence is very unlikely to be shown as conclusively as with tobacco products (since one get very close to direct causal evidence in the case of smoking; climate change must rely on derived models); one can still make policy decisions that reduce exposure to the attendent risks. Risks like polar and glacial ice melting, sea level rising as a result of the melting ice, larger storms from warmer oceans; more ominously, the gulf stream and salinity / density driven currents will dry out Northern Europe and make other places wetter. And climate change is undoubtly happening. Though global warming is the usual term, it is actually the most directly measurable component; higher average temperatures actually translate to the above risks as well as other less obvious risks that climate change conveys better.

And undoubtly humans have altered and accellerated natural processes; changes in the ozone layer hold promise to similar human caused emissions (both in the positive and negative sense, the growth of ozone holes has been reduced), while it may be difficult to visualize all the other consequences of climate change.

Smoking has been shown to be a risk in the US since at least the 60's; warnings about greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels have been made since at least 1900. The former had significant corporate funding to fight the demise of the tobacco industry; climate change is similarly having increasing funding on multiple fronts so the impacted industries are not negatively affected.

Even more so, there are quite a few plans afoot to decrease the ability to collect and present data from US federal agencies. The dismantling of the Office of Technology Assessment is an important historical point in the politization of science that the article I am commenting on refers to in an oblique sense; for further reading: The Republican War on Science ISBN:0-465-04675-4.

Obtuse writing (none / 0) (#222)
by notaddicted on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 10:03:05 PM EST

While browsing this article of writing I found the vocabulary causelessly complex. I would suggest that perhaps the objective in a piece of writing is not to demonstrate one's ability of the polysyllabic variety, but insead to make known one's ideas.

Take your own advice [n/t] (none / 0) (#250)
by nanobug on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:50:43 AM EST



[ Parent ]
pretty sure he was going for irony $ (none / 0) (#254)
by perplext on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 09:27:01 AM EST



[ Parent ]
oil as the motive for US DoD/military actions (2.00 / 2) (#224)
by collideiscope on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 01:49:18 AM EST

first of all, the US isn't just running after oil in foreign countries. It's running after oil and bases in foreign countries.

Just look at all the useless, massive bases we have in dozens of countries around the world. Keeping the peace? Unlikely. Military necessity? Not hardly. Militarism and militaristic imperialism? Much more likely.

Afghanistan is down. Iraq is in progress. Syria and Iran are probably next. In fact, Cheney produced a document - a target list, really, of over 80 countries that the US might have to potentially invade as part of the War on Terror.

Gee, wouldn't that be terrible. Invasion, puppet governments, and permanent military bases and garrisons in hundreds of countries all around the global. A base network, if you will...all financed by the fleeced American taxpayer at home who still staunchly pays his taxes to support the fight against tyranny and oppression in places that have natural resources we want.

See Chalmer's Johnson's excellent Sorrows of Empire.

-------------------------------
Hope is a disease. Get infected.

you missed the point (none / 0) (#234)
by t1ber on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 10:57:33 AM EST

To quote (I think) CTS:

"Iran is a theocracy, with nukes.  This doesn't get anyone's attention?"

$OTHER_COUNTRIES bases on foreign soil generally work to keep the peace, depending on the region.  Any other idea is to deny the whole concept of the UN Peacekeeping forces.  For a USian look at foreign policy, since you've invoked them, look at Somalia.  I only pick on Somalia because the Clinton administration was spearheading the withdrawal.  This is not to say that there were not other nations involved, but Somalia also has no real natural resources.  You probably can have a look at the movie Black Hawk Down for the 10 cent tour of the problem.  The drug lords moved in, the locals died, and they were using food to control the population through starvation.  Disagree?  Rebel?  Riot?  Starve!

Before the peacekeeping effort backed by the UN in Somalia, there was pretty much a national genocide within Somalia.  The local thugs would kill each other and nothing productive we being accomplished.  The US/UN efforts leave (in 1993) and the land has been divided into rougly three seperate states, with no formal government.  The area is in a constant state of warring between the tribes.  The people literally have nothing to do except kill one another.

So, next time you knock bases on foreign soil, try to at least remember that there's this small and insignificant organization called the UN which many nations are members of and it does an OK job of keeping the peace through infrastructure on foreign soil.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

OMG we're totally zerg-rushing them!!! (none / 0) (#252)
by alexboko on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:44:38 PM EST

All your base are belong to us, n00bs.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
[ Parent ]
facts (none / 0) (#253)
by the77x42 on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:13:33 AM EST

  • there was gas rationing in the second world war. why not now?
  • the price of gas is waaaaay too low.



"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Other alternatives (none / 1) (#255)
by dogeye on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 03:38:56 AM EST

What if I work from home? Then can I drive an SUV to the store a couple times per week?

Doesn't living in suburberia and commuting 45 minutes into the city rather than living in a small apartment downtown cause just as many envrionmental problems as people driving SUVs?

If the only way to slow down oil consumption is to hurt the world economy, then lets just use up the world's oil as fast as we can. Does it really matter if it runs out in 2030, 2070, or 2100? Our planet needs another energy source, regardless. I suppose restricting oil consumption might increase the chance that an affordable alternative energy source might be found before the oil runs out, but there are really no guarantees.

I have to admit, every time I hit the highway and see smog I am fairly disgusted. For this reason, I'd like to see any polution restriction laws, but only those that will not hurt our economies ability to compete against the rest of the world.

From Cavern to Tank: The Cost of Oil | 261 comments (157 topical, 104 editorial, 0 hidden)
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