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Peak Oil: the next big thing. (Part One.)

By Apuleius in Science
Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 03:25:26 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

In between shark attacks, missing persons, Michael Jackson, and who knows what else, you might have missed a few important stories. On the 4th of July, a power plant in Grati, on Indonesia's island of Java, was shut down after it just plain ran out of its stored fuel oil. Another power plant on the island is going to close next. This should not be all that surprising. Oil is now trading at $60 a barrel, and the first to suffer from this are those who can't cough up that kind of dough. But this is just the beginning. The price won't come back down, and soon enough you will begin to feel the pinch. Grab a cup of coffee and read on.


The catch phrase "Peak Oil" refers to one predominant theory of what will happen as the world's oil supplies begin to dwindle. You can read more about it also on Wikipedia. Apart from the Deep Hot Biosphere types, we all know that there is a finite amount of rock oil under the earth, and that sooner or later it will run short or run out. The big questions are when we would run out, how the situation would look when we ran out, and what we could do to continue living comfortably come that day. The peak oil theory was first spelled out in a paper published in 1956 by the oil geologist M. King Hubbert, who took a probabilistic look at the oil exploration and extraction process, and with it predicted the way oil supply would act in the future.

To describe the theory in laymen's terms, just start with an analogy to a peach harvest. You start with the fruit that are large, ripe, and low hanging, and start filling up your baskets. As the day progresses, you move higher and higher up the branches of the tree, reaching for smaller fruit, greener fruit, windfalls, peaches that might be slightly battered, and so on. At some point you walk away from the tree, even though it still has many fruit still there, but which you deem no longer worth your effort. The same applies to oil fields. The geological history of our planet gave us oil fields that are not uniformly distributed, that vary in size, and in content. We began by drilling in areas where oil was seeping out of its own accord. Then we learned to go further and drill deeper. Since then we have developed a whole economy and infrastructure, worldwide, by drawing from the largest oil fields, the ones that were most easily reached, that were most easily drilled, that had the lightest, thinnest oil (and therefore easiest to extract from the ground), that had the "sweetest" oil (a term of art meaning low in sulfur content and therefore easily refined). But as the fields run out one by one, we have to resort to looking for smaller and smaller fields, in harder to reach locations, deeper down, and to settle for denser, thicker oil, with more sulfur to make our life hard. And so gradually, less and less oil will be available for our use, and at higher prices. That is the qualitative summary of the Peak Oil theory.

Hubbert was more quantitative. In his paper,Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels he went through the known estimates of oil reserves of the time, and projecting from ongoing trends in demand for oil and the performance of the oil exploration and production process, predicted a peak and subsequent drop off in American oil production in the early 1970s. (The only math in the paper involves the fundamental theorem of integral calculus.) As related by Kenneth Deffeyes, a Hubbert protege, in his book Hubbert's Peak this paper was presented against fervent pleading by the Shell Oil management, and received with much skepticism by one and all. Then the oil peaked, in 1970. At the time, the signs of peaking oil production were subtle, and noticed mostly in hindsight after the oil shocks in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. Such signs included this tidbit from Deffeyes's book:

Hubbert's prediction was fully confirmed in the spring of 1971. The announcement was made publicly, but it was almost an encoded message. The San Francisco Chronicle contained this one-sentence item: "The Texas Railroad Commission announced a 100 percent allowable for next month." I went home and said, "Old Hubbert was right." It still strikes me as odd that understanding the newspaper item required knowing that the Texas Railroad Commission, many years earlier, had been assigned the task of matching oil production to demand. In essence, it was a government-sanctioned cartel. Texas oil production so dominated the industry that regulating each Texas oil well to a percentage of its capacity was enough to maintain oil prices. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was modeled after the Texas Railroad Commission.6 Just substitute Saudi Arabia for Texas.
The "100 percent allowable" meant that the TRC was authorizing all well operators in Texas to open their valves to full production. This, however, was no longer enough to allow the United States to hold stable the price of oil. Again, to Mr. Deffyes:
With Texas, and every other state, producing at full capacity from 1971 onward, the United States had no way to increase production in an emergency. During the first Middle East oil crisis in 1967, it was possible to open up the valves in Ward and Winkler Counties in west Texas and partially make up for lost imports. Since 1971, we have been dependent on OPEC.
Since then, adherents of the Hubbert school have endeavored to predict the behavior of the worldwide oil sector, and to estimate the day worldwide oil production reaches its peak. This is more difficult to do than what Hubbert did. Hubbert had the advantage of estimating oil reserves in a democratic country, where such data was calculated by publicly traded oil companies that had to answer to outside audits. In the rest of the world, these estimates are done by nationalized companies beholden to domestic politics, national security considerations, and the desire of each OPEC member to inflate its reserve estimate in order to have a higher quota assigned to its production. Another thing is the definition of an oil reserve. Only a portion of the oil in each field can be extracted affordably (both in the financial and thermodynamic sense). But as time went by, technology improved to raise that portion in field after field, to a current neighborhood of 35%. We do know, however, that this portion cannot exceed 100%.

What we do know about the day of peaking worldwide oil production, is what the economic ramifications will look like. When American production peaked, the US was no longer able to adjust its production rates to stabilize the price of oil. Only OPEC could do that. When worldwide production peaks, neither OPEC nor anybody else will be able to manipulate the supply of oil (well, not upwards, anyway) to adjust the price (well, not downwards, anyway). So, once production peaks, the price will be highly unstable. It will be more demand-driven, as competition among oil buyers will intensify. It will also be supply driven. A supply disruption on part of one source will not be compensated by any other source. It will become much more volatile, given to many extreme swings up and down. And it will go up more than it will go down. Then, after the peak, production will inexorably go down, the price will inexorably go up, and we will know that the peak has happened in hindsight. It is the closed nature of much of the oil industry (production figures in Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria are currently difficult to extract from anyone who might know them) that requires us to look at past economic figures to see if oil has peaked. This explanation is brought to you by Jim H. Kunstler, in his book The Long Emergency.

With me so far? Good. Now take a look at the oil market. Fiddle with the chart for long and short views. Play a little with the moving averages. The price has been rising steadily for two years now, and been increasingly fluctuating week to week and day to day. We may have reached the oil peak.

The Hubbert theory has plenty of opposition (summarized in Wikipedia). One critique is that innovation in oil extraction technology will increase extraction yields and defer the oil peak to long past our lifetimes. Ironically, the Hubbert theory is more optimistic than the former school. The more efficient we become at depleting each oil field, the less warning we will get from our extraction methods of when the oil is running out. A slow decline in production and increased reliance on lower quality oils has the saving grace that it will give us some level of warning that the oil is running short. This is proven by the rate at which extraction declines from fields depending on the technologies employed. Older oil fields are declining slower than the North Sea oil fields, where oil was extracted using the latest technologies. So like old man Murphy, Hubbert was an optimist.

An important implication to the Peak Oil theory isn't just that supply will stagnate. Demand won't. As other economies develop, so will their thirst for oil, and we First Worlders will have to compete with them for the declining supply, both financially, and maybe militarily. Without increasing production, each of us must prepare for decreasing consumption. The extent to which we rely on oil to enable our way of life is difficult to exaggerate. A decreasing supply of it, therefore has profound and unsettling implications, and introduces problems and challenges that are difficult to face head on.

A common responses to the coming end of oil is to express faith in human ingenuity as a force for solving any problem in our future. This faith is directed at two things: research into new technology, and the ability of the free market to drive more of said research. This faith is misplaced. 99% of progress in technology comes from seeking answers to the following question: "What new ways are there of using stored energy to perform physical and intellectual labor?" This is a relatively easy question. Two much harder questions are "How can we keep doing what we do using less and less energy?" and "What new sources can we tap for energy?" These questions are more difficult to answer, and progress into them has been much slower over the last several decades. They have certainly not been answered to the point that we could give up oil tomorrow.

The other misdirected recipient of our faith is the free market. We would like to believe that progress into new energy and more efficient use thereof is slow merely because not enough money is being put into it. As the price of oil rises, therefore, more money will go into such research, more progress will be made, and new technology will then be implemented and deployed to preserve our way of life. A common slogan is "the stone age didn't end for lack of stones, and the oil age won't end for lack of oil." This faith is utterly misplaced, and comes from a misunderstanding of the free market. This institution predates the invention of bronze. Even stone age tribes know how to barter, and how to use durable goods of stable value as a medium of exchange. The mechanisms of the free market are in tune with our psyches, and that makes the free market a wonderful institution for providing people with the motivation to do what the rest of humanity wants them to do. The free market can drive people to try all sorts of things. But whether they succeed depends primarily on the laws of physics, which the free market cannot defeat. It cannot drive new discoveries of oil if there isn't any left to discover. It cannot get people to invent impossible technologies, but it can certainly get people to try. And people are already trying. Anyone who develops new solutions to our energy problems stands to gain such astonishing rewards, that it is ludicrous to think that if these rewards are increased by X amount, our savior will pop out of the woodwork. The rewards already go far beyond "fuck you money."

While facile solutions to our energy predicament may emerge, taking faith in that scenario is foolish. It implies that you believe in the All Too Convenient Anthropic Principle - the principle that the laws of nature are tuned not only to cause the emergence of life on our planet and its evolution to include the appearance of our species, but also that the laws of nature are conducive and will forever be conducive to our species enjoying a Western consumerist lifestyle from now to eternity. Don't count on it. Next articles will cover just how dependent we all are on the oil economy, why switching to other sources of energy is a move that is itself dependent on the oil economy, and what all this means for you.

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Related Links
o On the 4th of July,
o You can read more about it also on Wikipedia.
o Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels
o Hubbert's Peak
o Jim H. Kunstler,
o Now take a look at the oil market.
o Also by Apuleius


Display: Sort:
Peak Oil: the next big thing. (Part One.) | 367 comments (337 topical, 30 editorial, 0 hidden)
So are you saying that (1.20 / 5) (#1)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 09:46:59 PM EST

we need to nuke the brown bastards now?

--
"What's next, sigging a k5er quote about sigging someone on k5?"


A plausible interpretation, but.. (none / 0) (#2)
by Apuleius on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 09:48:36 PM EST

No, I'm asking whether k5 is worth anyone's time nowadays.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
holy shit (none / 0) (#95)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:47:12 PM EST

you think K5 is bad on trolls? I think it is an enlightened place to discuss things.

take a trip to Slashdot or OS News. you will see trolls there.

[ Parent ]

Got any solutions to surviving this? (2.50 / 4) (#6)
by Medicated on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 10:35:30 PM EST

I bought a shotgun months ago. That's the best solution my simple brain could come up with.

Anyone have any better ideas? No public transportation in my city. When gas gets too high I know Miami will riot.

I'm interested in surviving in the times of the Road Warrior. What should I do?

Got several. (none / 0) (#7)
by Apuleius on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 10:38:06 PM EST

Here's a start: get to know all your neighbors by name. Others will come in the next articles.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Shit, my writing pace is slowing down. (1.50 / 1) (#20)
by Apuleius on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 11:24:27 PM EST

So here's a free sneak preview for you: get the fuck out of Miami, while the going's still easy. Go for parts of the US where the social fabric is in good shape, and where the physical layout of the communities around you will relieve the worst of it. That means the Northeast and the Upper Midwest.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Too bad I'm poor. (none / 0) (#35)
by Medicated on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:43:31 AM EST

I'd love to get out of here. Guess I'm going to have to rely on my gun.

[ Parent ]
The longer you wait, the harder it will get. (none / 1) (#51)
by Apuleius on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:35:56 AM EST

Dude, Greyhound will set you back $100. If you save up now you can travel by other means and take your stuff along. It's scary, since you'll be travelling light and when you settle in somewhere it will be a while before you can be sure where your next meal will come from, but it will still be better than Miami.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Shouldn't all their names be "dead" (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by destroy all monsters on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 11:49:20 PM EST

I sure think so. Stock up on your ammo chillun.

"My opinion: You're gay, a troll, a gay troll, or in serious need of antidepressants." - horny smurf to Lemon Juice
[ Parent ]
Oh, and another note. (none / 0) (#8)
by Apuleius on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 10:39:14 PM EST

Life won't look like Road Warrior once gas runs short. Hope you know how to ride and take care of horses.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I know. (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by Medicated on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 11:05:16 PM EST

Those cars they used looked to be gas-guzzlers.

Thunderdome gave me some good ideas though. When the end-times come I'm starting a city fueled by pigshit. And I'm definitely going to find a retarded giant and a midget to control him. That's just good sense.

[ Parent ]

faster than horses (none / 0) (#364)
by Rhodes on Wed Jul 12, 2006 at 06:14:40 PM EST

faster than (steam) locomotive:
http://www.denverpost.com/coloradosunday/ci_3873696

faster than horses:
http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/Social/place_of_bicycle_transportation.htm
http://www.stanford.edu/~learnest/cyclops/olympics.htm

"heavy loads", carrying capacity (up to 100kg):
http://www.xaccess.org/technology.htm

advocating bikes:
http://www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk/~ira/illich/facts/social_effects.html

[ Parent ]

Get a house with land in the temperate land (none / 1) (#67)
by Adam Rightmann on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 11:21:54 AM EST

so you may grow your own vegetables. Buy a rifle and learn to hunt. Meet your neighbors.

[ Parent ]
Some sensible suggestions (none / 0) (#318)
by Engineer Poet on Sun Jul 17, 2005 at 12:04:56 AM EST

Pretty much all the suggestions are for financial survival, not physical survival.  If things break down far enough to need the shotgun (except to keep people from stealing your efficient stuff, the way people stole gasoline during the 1970's fuel crises) all bets are off.
  1. If you are in a position to trade vehicles now and you are driving a gas-guzzler, get rid of it ASAP.  Even if fuel doesn't become prohibitively expensive, the value of used trucks and SUV's is being eroded rapidly by incentives on new ones.
  2. If a hybrid will fulfill your needs and you can get one (meaning, it's within your budget as well as available from the dealer), do it.  If a diesel car will fulfill your needs and you can get one, do it.  Except for big diesel pickups, either one will go a lot further on a dollar of fuel than most of the stuff on the road.  If neither of those are within your means, get the most efficient car that will do what you need.  Used is fine as long as it has a good repair record - Toyota good, Focus bad.
  3. If you own your home, insulate, seal and use appropriate shading to cut heating and cooling costs.  The price of electricity isn't going to skyrocket because the diesel that pulls the coal trains doubles, but anything that offsets your higher fuel costs will keep YOU out of the red.
So there you have it.  A lot less worrisome than some suggestions, and easier too.

(This is my first post on K5.  In with both feet...)
--
Did you hear about the homeopath who drank distilled water and died of an overdose?
[ Parent ]

-1, lay off the acid (1.50 / 2) (#9)
by More Whine on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 10:41:26 PM EST

Oil gets more expensive, alternative energy becomes more and more attractive.  Economic recession?  Maybe.  "Mad Max part deux" = no.

It ain't that simple. (none / 0) (#10)
by Apuleius on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 10:43:07 PM EST

Alternative energy sources aren't just a matter of finances. They are a matter of logistics and more importantly, they are a matter of thermodynamics. And the thermo is where it gets really nasty. No amount of money will make a sucky energy source less sucky. I will cover this in the next article.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Not to mention that (none / 0) (#88)
by Masklinn on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:14:55 PM EST

oil isn't used only for energy production.

Energy production is one of oil's use, but fabrication of plastics and most of the modern chemistry use craploads of oil.



[ Parent ]
Exactly... (none / 0) (#285)
by ckaminski on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 09:27:20 AM EST

and I'd wager that 99% of that plastic ends up getting burned in incinerators around the country, as waste in food wrap, throw away cutting sheets, grocery bags, childrens toys, and medical waste.

I would argue that in an oil depleted state, only the last should receive allocation of plastics.  

At the right price point, if we don't have to fuel cars, bioplastics could cover our needs for manufacturer plastic.  If we also have to fuel cars, well, then I think we're in trouble.


[ Parent ]

Plastics and TDP. (none / 0) (#294)
by grendelkhan on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 01:08:42 PM EST

Thermal depolymerization will supposedly recycle plastics as well as turkey guts. Also sewage and a good proportion of what goes into landfills. I'm left scratching my head as to why New York City isn't powering itself off of its own sewage. Exactly what is CWT (the sole company that owns the rights to TDP, and is not licensing it right now) planning to do? It's been three years, and they've opened one plant in the US, and one in France. Is that all?

Given that they own the patent, does that mean that no one can build one without permission? No one can operate one for commercial gain? You'd think researchers everywhere would be lining up to apply TDP to every organic waste-disposal problem we have.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

CWT has one plant, and it's not doing well (none / 1) (#319)
by Engineer Poet on Sun Jul 17, 2005 at 12:20:43 AM EST

The Carthage (MO) plant has severe odor problems of an undisclosed nature.  (Why undisclosed?  Nobody's taken a gas chromatograph to town and just sniffed the stinky air?  I find this hard to believe, but the news about the stink says nothing about what the actual stinky stuff is.)

Given that nobody seems to be talking about the malodorous compounds and the obvious fact that the problem has not been corrected with anything resembling alacrity, it's a safe bet that the problem isn't just a small operational glitch in that particular plant.  This does not particularly surprise me.  The feedstock for the plant contains a lot of protein, several amino acids contain sulfur, and that sulfur has to go somewhere; H2S seems as likely as anything, or perhaps mercaptans.  (Why not just add a bit of lime to the inputs and convert the sulfur to CaS?  Seems too obvious, so the problem must not be that simple.)

Until problems like this are licked, putting a plant anywhere near NYC or any other heavily-populated area is not a good idea.
--
Did you hear about the homeopath who drank distilled water and died of an overdose?
[ Parent ]

TDP plants. (none / 0) (#352)
by grendelkhan on Wed Aug 03, 2005 at 01:34:26 AM EST

I've heard nothing about the stink problems. There's no information on exactly what it is that's floating forth from CWT's smokestacks?

I was under the impression that CWT was looking to build plants in Europe instead of the US because the US allows its livestock to be fed turkey guts, and thus turkey guts are a valuable commodity. In a country with a sane agricultural policy, it would actually be profitable to operate that Carthage plant. Another reason to throw a big "fuck you" at the USDA. Or the FDA. Whichever.

Ah; here's an explanation. Like I said, it's not profitable to operate, because turkey guts are a valuable commodity and not agricultural waste as they should be.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Acid expands the mind. (none / 1) (#36)
by Medicated on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:45:35 AM EST

If you're intelligent, and you go into the experience prepared, you'll be a better person after your first acid trip.

Your troll reveals mental weakness.

[ Parent ]

Hahaha (none / 0) (#55)
by More Whine on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 02:25:34 AM EST

Trust me, I don't handle drugs too well.  No more comment necessary.  

[ Parent ]
to bad they stopped the guided trip psychotherapy (none / 0) (#94)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:42:11 PM EST

that might have helped a whole lot of hurting people.

[ Parent ]
Mad Max, recession... (none / 0) (#353)
by alexboko on Wed Aug 03, 2005 at 02:47:57 PM EST

The difference between Mad Max and recession is "how bad?".

Places like Somalia and Sudan are living out the Mad Max scenario full-force already. Are we far enough away from the edge that we'll get off with just big unemployment and long lines? As always, I'm hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.


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 ]

-1: It's still bullshit (2.44 / 9) (#23)
by Surial on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 11:48:27 PM EST

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/4/22/134835/319
We've covered this less than a year ago.

Also, your entire post is one big sea of logical fallacies. To name some:

'the stone age didn't end for a lack of stones'
What it means is: It's possible that the world may at some point have little need for oil not because we're forced to, but simply because we moved on.
It doesn't try to prove or disprove anything except the theory that the end of the 'oil age' is not, neccessarily, instigated by the complete depletion of the oil reserves.

You're basically weaving it into some non-sequitur.

While you did at least refer to the wikipedia entry, which is a lot less biased than you are, that doesn't excuse you from at least trying to point out some flaws in the whole peak oil argument. The basic notion is simply this:

People have been using the peak oil argument to predict impending doom, backed up with statistics and all, for the last 50 years. The ONLY time the peak oil theory nailed it, was that very first instance - the US oil peak. Statisically speaking it's more logical to state that that was a coincidence than to say it proves that peak oil works.

Your doomsaying also fails to account for something we already have: Nuclear Fission. As you said yourself, as long as you have energy, the rest follows. And Nuclear Fission, especially using Breeder reactors, can supply the earth for at least another 200 years, including accounting for rapidly increasing need for energy, and that's just with currently prospected stock. The search for radioactive fuel material will extremely likely go just like oil: We may be able to extract, say, 10% of the earth's radioactive fuel right now, but once people actually want that stuff in far greater amounts as compared to now, new techniques and more seismologic inspections will unearth easily 5 times the amount we now know exists.

That's about 500 years covered.

As far as meltdowns - well, yes. Shit happends. France supplies over half their local energy needs with Nuclear Fission. You can build huge plants off somewhere in nowhereland and transport the energy (transporting energy is moderately difficult but if the pressure is on, I'm sure someone will come up with something - in the mean time, we just use energy to transport energy, burning more radioactives, but that's okay, we got plenty).
The nature nutjobs will become quickly irrelevant if the price of oil really does explode as peak oil theory suggests. So, even if the extremely unlikely happends and peak oil is not actually a DAMPING PILE OF FOOL-MEME CROCK BULLSHIT, there's still no need to dig a hole, haul out the M16, and start screwing your siblings for the good of the species, regardless of how much you'd love for that to happen.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

These statements do not contradict. (3.00 / 2) (#28)
by Apuleius on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:01:38 AM EST

"Oil's running out" versus "we can go nuclear." Both are true. More to come. And recall what I said about misplaced faith? Thou dost protest too much, methinks.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
So? (none / 0) (#65)
by Surial on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 10:55:22 AM EST

Your entire article reeks of the "grab your entrenching tool and head for the cellar!" TEOTWAKI mongering, and that's just uncalled for.

In addition, you just covered the least of my three problems with your articles.

That's ANOTHER logical fallacy. What about the fact that peak oil has never managed to predict anything, except that one time? You just conveniently forgot about that?
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]

no he did not you retard. (none / 0) (#92)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:38:10 PM EST

He said you cannot get the right numbers because the nature of the governments who control the oil.

[ Parent ]
Who is the retard? (none / 0) (#115)
by Mousky on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 12:01:54 AM EST

I think you mean reliable not right numbers? If you cannot get reliable statistics then how can anyone prove or disprove the oil peak theory? Besides, I just read an article that discussed how a few companies are returning to supposed empty wells with new technology that gets those wells pumping again. With oil prices rising these new technologies are becoming more viable. There are numerous technologies that can extend the life of an oil well and perhaps retrieve up to 80% of the capacity of an oil find versus the 20% or 30% the oil companies are content with.

[ Parent ]
the fact that oil is finite (none / 0) (#136)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 12:56:13 PM EST

means that peak oil will happen.

and we can see it happening now. the price of oil has been going up and up and up. there has been no stability in the market for almost 3 years now.

There is either a huge oil company conspiracy to jack up the prices, or we have hit peak oil production.

[ Parent ]

Yes, oil is finite. So? (none / 0) (#186)
by Mousky on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 10:13:03 AM EST

I never stated that peak oil will not happen. I'm just pissed that whenever the price of oil hits some supposed new high, all the naysayers bring out the "Peak Oil Theory" as if peak oil theory has everything to do with the price of oil. Define stability? Plenty of goods have been increasing in price at rates higher then increases in the price of oil. Have you factored in inflation in those rising prices. Compare a gallon of gasoline today with the price during the oil shortage of the 70s - is oil really costing more? Don't confuse decreased production with hitting peak production. If I owned a resource that everybody wanted, I would reduce production to increase my profit.

[ Parent ]
oil is a market based commodity (none / 0) (#196)
by modmans2ndcoming on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 04:46:18 PM EST

its price is based on the supply/demand curve, not inflation.

commodity prices are not effected by inflation, they CAUSE inflation.

[ Parent ]

Spread Your Crap Elsewhere (none / 0) (#224)
by Mousky on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 12:01:46 PM EST

Any tangible item that can be bought and sold is a commodity. A car is a commodity. A computer is a commodity. Commodity prices do not cause inflation, too many dollars chasing too few goods causes inflation.

[ Parent ]
commodities not just tangible (none / 0) (#243)
by Rhodes on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:56:34 PM EST

software can be a commodity- for certain uses, wouldn't any database server for business use be primarily defined by the cost of the license and support?  Sure there are techical advantages for certain implementations, but at some level the cost of DB2 vs. Oracle vs. SQL Server vs. MySQL becomes less an issue of the technical capabilities, and more a cost breakdown.  

Another example of how items go to the state of marked up item to a commodity- Personal computers are relatively recent commodity.  Only after COMPAQ successfully reverse engineered the BIOS did IBM PCs become commodities.

Car insurance and term life insurance can be considered commodities- price becomes for many the determining factor.

So a commodity is not just a tangible item.  It can also be financial product... like a mortgage.

[ Parent ]

Not Really (none / 0) (#272)
by Mousky on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 10:08:44 AM EST

Almost every definition of a commodity refers to a good, a tangible item or prodcut, a physical substance, a specific item, a bulk good, an article of commerce, an economic good or a raw material.

Car or term life insurance is not a commodity. You are buying a service - in the event that you crash your car or die someone will pay you or your estate some amount of dollars. That is a service not a good.

[ Parent ]

are you retarded? (none / 0) (#265)
by modmans2ndcoming on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 08:27:16 PM EST

I said MARKET BASED. that means that a bunch of guys on wall street and other markets decided the price by trying to buy and sell the commodity.

when you are at maximum capacity to produce and an increase in demand happens, the price rises based on the market forces.

that means that as oil goes up the price of all products based on oil go up and all the products that use those derived products go up. That is how inflation is caused, the rise in market based commodity prices causes the rise in prices of all derived products.

[ Parent ]

Are you stupid? (none / 0) (#271)
by Mousky on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 09:59:50 AM EST

Thanks for explaining how the laws of supply and demand work (gee, I never knew that), but you still have no idea what causes inflation. An increase in market based commodity prices may cause an increase in the price of derived product, however, that does not necessarily cause inflation. The manufacturers of derived products may alter their manufacturing processes to gain additional efficiencies, they may user cheaper materials, they may reduce their profit margin, they may seek concessions from their employees, they may shift production, they may do a million things before increasing the price of their derived product.

Who said we are at maximum capacity to produce? Any number of nations could increase their output of oil to lower the price, but since there appears to be no major inflation fallout from increased oil prices, most oil exporting nations are willing to reap a windfall.

[ Parent ]

You have a few points (none / 0) (#150)
by pnadeau on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 05:26:34 PM EST

But why all the hate?


"Can't buy what I want because it's free, can't be what they want because I'm..."  Eddie Vedder


[ Parent ]
Indeed (none / 1) (#90)
by Masklinn on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:23:35 PM EST

As far as meltdowns - well, yes. Shit happends.

But with the last 2 nuke plants generation they're damn frigging unlikely... unless the plants are run by private companies with a burning desire to feed their shareholders and no tight enough govt overview that is

France supplies over half their local energy needs with Nuclear Fission.

76% of the french electricity is produced by the 58 nuclear reactors in 19 plants. As far as global energy production/consumption goes, I must admit that I don't have the figures.



[ Parent ]
this article is peak OIL, NOT ENERGY (3.00 / 2) (#124)
by auraslip on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 06:33:03 AM EST

save your rant for slashdot
124
[ Parent ]
You're making the same logical fallacy (none / 0) (#320)
by Engineer Poet on Sun Jul 17, 2005 at 12:35:29 AM EST

You can build huge plants off somewhere in nowhereland and transport the energy (transporting energy is moderately difficult but if the pressure is on, I'm sure someone will come up with something - in the mean time, we just use energy to transport energy, burning more radioactives, but that's okay, we got plenty).
That's the exact same logic, if I can call it that, being used by the people who deny that oil production will ever peak.  "Someone will come up with something that will give me what I want" (whether having cheap gasoline forever, or putting nuke plants safely away in "nowhereland", you NIMBY you).

Physics has tighter constraints than your wishes.  The practical limits of engineering and technology are far tighter still.  If the things you want aren't safely inside those limits, demanding them just prevents things from getting done and you wind up with half-baked solutions that nobody likes.  Example:  anti-nuke activism against permanent waste disposal led to dry-cask storage of spent fuel outdoors at plant sites while the plants kept running.
--
Did you hear about the homeopath who drank distilled water and died of an overdose?
[ Parent ]

All too Convenient? (2.00 / 3) (#25)
by Kasreyn on Fri Jul 08, 2005 at 11:51:42 PM EST

Is this an actual well-known extremist joke variant of the Anthropic Principle, or your own personal attack on it? The Anthropic Principle says nothing about laws of nature being tuned to anything. It just says that we see the universe we see because we're here observing it.

Also, I thought it was "fuck me" money. :P


"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.
It's not a well known one. (none / 1) (#31)
by Apuleius on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:04:52 AM EST

But it will be. And it's more of an attack on people who misunderstand the Anthropic Principle (who vastly outnumber those who do understand it.)


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
There is also Strong Anthropic Priciple (none / 0) (#98)
by kkumer on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 07:29:19 PM EST

There are weak and strong versions of anthropic principle. Weak one says what you say it says, but strong one really says that laws are "tuned to our existence".
"The Universe must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history."


[ Parent ]
Hmm. (none / 0) (#114)
by Kasreyn on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 11:31:04 PM EST

I wasn't aware of that, thanks for informing me.

I really don't see why the strong principle should be needed. The way I see it, it's not possible for us to rule out that there may be other universes, even an infinite quantity of them. Therefore the possibility will always remain that our universe just happens to be in whatever tiny percentage of that multitude that display the precise physical laws allowing the formation of sentient life. So much for the argument from complexity. :P

From my point of view, the "weak" version isn't that weak at all!


"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 ]
And... (none / 0) (#204)
by DavidTC on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 08:49:45 PM EST

...the very strong anthropic principle states, of course, that the universe must exist in such a way to allow us to exist right here and have this exact discussion, because we are having this discussion. ;)

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]
Furthermore, the ... (none / 0) (#329)
by glor on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 02:04:34 PM EST

''completely ridiculous anthropic principle'' argues that because we are here, conscious, and having this discussion, that the universe itself is in some way conscious.

This particular principle is only good for its acronym.

--
Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.
[ Parent ]

Many Alternative Sources of Energy (1.50 / 2) (#32)
by mberteig on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:27:09 AM EST

Solar, wind, tidal, nuclear, fusion, coal, geothermal.  Others?

With all these other sources, and some of them with huge un-tapped reserves and some of them renewable, doesn't it seem likely that we'll be able to find a decent solution?


Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile

The next article will deal with them. (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by Apuleius on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:30:26 AM EST

Right now I am just making the point that oil is kaput.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Don't get too full of yourself. (none / 0) (#37)
by Medicated on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:47:42 AM EST

This article isn't faring too well in the queue. Maybe you should consolidate your arguments into one article. It might fare better.

[ Parent ]
It'll add up to something 6 times this length. (none / 0) (#38)
by Apuleius on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:52:33 AM EST

No worries. There are other sites. I'd stayed away from K5 for quite some time after the trolls became inteolerable, and only submitted the article here to see if there was hope for this site.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Well trim it. (none / 0) (#40)
by Medicated on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:02:30 AM EST

It's a good article. But I see fat to trim. Not so much paragraphs, just sentence by sentence. You seem to just constantly use more words than are necessary.

Brevity is the soul of wit and all that. Be more concise and you'll be more effective.

[ Parent ]

eating energy (none / 0) (#365)
by Rhodes on Wed Jul 12, 2006 at 06:19:40 PM EST

well oil supplies all those wonderful products too- the amount of plastics is increasing-- pharmaceuticals, pesticides, ...  nearly everything (even dyes for your clothing) -- all from petroleum products.  So again, tell me how a windmill is going to help?

[ Parent ]
Windmills are useful because... (none / 0) (#367)
by alexboko on Tue Jul 25, 2006 at 07:10:13 PM EST

...they will provide electricity with which to run power tools and railroads, thereby at least allowing us to hold on to mass-production and long-distance rapid transport.

The plastics, drugs, dies, etc. will have to come from vegetable oils, or we will be forced to do without. And yes, we will be screwed by this, but not as screwed as we would be without electricity on top of that.


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 ]

I'm betting on EV (none / 1) (#39)
by MSBob on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:01:54 AM EST

I'm hoping that electric cars will tide us over through the dark times of "peak oil". I'm going to get a prius soon as it's the only car that can be modded to run in a purely electric mode.

Chances are good that even with oil running short, electricity will be relatively easy to produce for many years to come as only a tiny fraction of today's electric power comes from burning oil.

Nucular is a good alternative although uranium will one day "peak" the way oil has (or is about to). The Chinese are building nuclear plants all over the place and scrambling to control the remaining oil supplies through acquisitions and long term contracts (such as the one they're trying to get from Canada regarding the oil sands). The USA should be building nuclear plants in a real hurry!

Good article but please don't be too swayed by latoc. As they are realy doomsday cranks. Likely the transition beyond oil will not be as severe as described on that website. Not for the western world anyway given its military might and ability to control world's oil reserves.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

Don't bet on the roads. (1.50 / 1) (#42)
by Apuleius on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:07:01 AM EST

Without cheap oil, we will not be likely to continue putting much effort in maintaining all that flat, delicate (oh, yes, very delicate) macadam you see around you. This itself is an energy intensive process. And it the roads go to pot, your prius's suspension will not be happy. Don't let me stop you from buying the prius. But a more important bet you should make is to be sure you can walk to a decent set of stores, and bike to work (and that your job will still exist!)


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Easier said than done! (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by MSBob on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:17:07 AM EST

Most of us in North America cannot realistically get to work on foot or even by a pedal bike. The society that boomers left behind forces us to consume energy incessantly because of the way the society operates. Case in point, my wife's and my workplace are 120km apart. There is no public transport to either workplace.

However, we can get to the local grocery store on foot and the local farmers' market is less than 10km away.

Still though, when you move to a Small town in North America the way we did you are almost guaranteed that long commutes will be involved if both you and your partner want to participate in a full time job. Europe is sooo much better equipped to deal with the transportation woes that peak oil is going to create....

As for the state of roads, post peak oil... they can (actually should be) built out of concrete.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
And that's why we have to start NOW. (none / 0) (#46)
by Apuleius on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:21:28 AM EST

Which is why I am writing.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Good. We're on the same page... (none / 0) (#50)
by MSBob on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:33:09 AM EST

However, I still don't buy into the darkest hour scenario predicted on LifeAfterTheOilCrash.net because while I do agree that oil either has peaked or will peak within a couple of years, the world energy production has not peaked and we are able to make up the lost oil energy with burning other fuels such as coal or by splitting uranium.

Now, we're in a bit of a pickle when it comes to transportation of course, as it requires energy in a highly condensed form the property which oil posesses and seemingly no other fuel does. I'm hopeful though that announcements such as this just might be the little "miracle" we need to get us out of the "oil was so damn convenient we failed to find a decent substitute for it for 150 years" predicament.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Yup. (none / 0) (#53)
by Apuleius on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:45:24 AM EST

I don't buy into the gloomier scenarios either, for a simple reason: oil has already peaked in Cuba, and the people are coping. Oil peaked for them because they're stuck with Castro. When it peaks for us, we won't have political repression to make us even more miserable, so we will cope better than the Cubans. (And, they have neither coal nor nukes...) As for technology, we'll see. The big deal with tech is the longevity of the storage medium more than just the capacity. We'll know in a few years if this new battery measures up. If it doesn't, there will be new candidates to wait for. But it is best if we all started thinking like boy scouts.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
is 600 mAh good? (none / 0) (#91)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:31:55 PM EST

what does that translate to? if you scaled this larger would it run a car?

[ Parent ]
Batteries (none / 0) (#118)
by chroma on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 03:37:46 AM EST

If you put enough batteries of any kind together, they'll run a car.

The parent article linked to a development in a quick charging variety of battery. This means that a car with these would have to spend far less time charging, and thus be able to be used for driving more.

[ Parent ]

Here's the math (none / 0) (#131)
by MSBob on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 12:27:01 PM EST

Given the typical 3.6V output of a Lithium Ion battery it yields roughly 283 Wh/litre energy density.

Assuming your electric car consumes around 200 Wh/mile it would require space of around 210 litres. Quite bulky compared to a typical 65 litre gas tank but not unimaginable especially given the space freed up by a smaller engine and no transmission.

Check out the electric spyder. It achieves a 300 mile cruising range on a single charge and that's without the new Toshiba battery.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Concrete? (none / 0) (#182)
by grinder on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 01:44:42 AM EST

You know, manufacturing cement is a very energy-intensive business too. It's not certain that the world will be able to continue to produce as cheaply as we have up until now, or in anything like the same quantities.

Cement is made from crushed limestone. That in itself requires some serious energy. During the manufacturing process, it is also heated up to around 1500 degrees Celsius. That too requires significant energy, not something you're likely to achieve by plastering photovoltaic cells on the roof of the factory.

And then there's the question of the energy involved in transporting the raw materials to the factory, and the finished cement to the place of use.



[ Parent ]
Electricity (none / 0) (#194)
by MSBob on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 04:13:15 PM EST

Electric motors can crush rocks, heat is very easy to generate from electicity. We can produce electrical power through a number of ways. Nuclear fission is probably going to be the dominant one in the post peak-oil world.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Uranium will follow its own production peak (none / 0) (#218)
by grinder on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 11:24:38 AM EST

Uranium is just another non-renewable resource. There is still no reasonable method for dealing the the waste, fifty years later, and that's not for the want of trying.

Uranium extraction follows its own peak. We'll go after all the high-grade yellowcake first, and then we'll be forced to rely on ores of increasingly poor quality, meaning much more ore needing to be mined and processed, with larger amounts tailings and waste, to get the same amount of U235. And you are not going to run around in a huge excavator with a honking large powercable plugged into the mains. A lot of fossil fuel is, and will be, required in order to extract and refine the uranium needed to power nuclear fission reactors. Extraction from seawater is considered to require large energy and chemical inputs.

As the uranium concentration in the ore falls, exponentially more energy is required to extract it. Eventually it takes more energy to extract it than you get back. Current estimates indicate that there are about fifty years of supply remaining at the current rate of consumption. Boost up the number of nuclear reactors in operation, and that length of time decreases.

So you can forget about fission.


[ Parent ]

curing cement (none / 0) (#366)
by Rhodes on Wed Jul 12, 2006 at 06:21:16 PM EST

emiting CO2 helps climate change, too

[ Parent ]
Dark Times My Ass (none / 0) (#116)
by Mousky on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 12:21:35 AM EST

Where are we going to discard all those batteries when they no longer hold a charge? No one ever looks at the full impact of electric cars. Yup, they look like a great alternative, but where are we going to pour all that battery acid? We need to look at the full impact. The funny thing is that most people respond to "peak oil" scare but suggesting alternative fuel sources. Very few people suggest changing how we consume oil. This article is bullshit to begin with. Bad science based on bad data. Everytime the price of oil hits a new peak, there is a rash of these articles in the mainstream media and in the internet. American's thrive on bad news.

[ Parent ]
Silly argument (none / 0) (#135)
by MSBob on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 12:36:39 PM EST

First of all nobody is thinking about led acid batteries for modern EVs. That's just passe. Two, most modern batteries (such as Lithium ion) are highly recyclable and can be reconditioned with minimal waste. Dead battery disposal is a non-issue with Li. That and the fact that the promised toshiba battery is going to wistand 10,000 recharge cycles. That's likely longer than the lifetime of the vehicle it powers.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
I can tell you where to pour that battery acid (none / 0) (#181)
by Roman on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 01:44:37 AM EST

we will have plenty of space underground, where the oil used to be.

[ Parent ]
NUCLEAR! NUCLEAR! NUCLEAR! (none / 1) (#126)
by grendelkhan on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 06:35:44 AM EST

Please don't say 'nucular'. It hurts my brain. Thanks.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

On the bright side (2.50 / 6) (#56)
by godix on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 03:43:47 AM EST

over the last few years there has FINALLY been some real indications we're preparing for a post-oil world. At some point over the next decade I expect cars that are powered entirely by gas will no longer be manufactured and around 20 years after that most gas powered cars will have gone junkyard. This type of scenario has always appeared to be a pipe dream in the past but now hybrid cars are a mass produced reality and entirely electric cars appear on the verge of becoming affordable for the common person. This alone will shift the majority of our current oil usage into mass produced electricity sources.

As for the mass produced electricity; wind farms, hydrothermic, and hydro plants are already in use around the world. Solar panels have finally hit the point where it takes less energy to make them than they produce over their lifetime. Nuclear power has had two PR blessing recently, pebble bed reactor designs mean no nuclear meltdown fears and many enviromentalist groups seem to have realized that we gotta get our power from somewhere so they've been much less opposed to nuclear power as before. Real world research into fusion is proceeding although that's a long way off from being a major power source. Bio fuels are becoming more and more common and both Europe and the US have plenty of farmland. And the best thing of all these various alternatives, only ONE really needs to be successful in order to transition off an oil based economy. Once vehicles are powered off electricity it doesn't matter how the electricity was made after all.

Which means the only other major use of oil left will be plastics and there's already many alternatives for that, although they are more expensive. Which is probably a good thing, more expensive plastic would mean less wasteful use of plastic in packaging which is a nice end result.

Of course htere are some things we can't reasonably replace oil for but if you cut out cars and plastic demand you're left with such a small demand left that Anwar could probably supply us for decades.

Most of these developments are fairly recent. All the research started from the 70's oil crisis is starting to hit paydirt. 10 years ago I couldn't see an alternative to oil but today I finally see a future when the western nations aren't slaves to a power source primarily found outside their borders. As an extra special bonus, all the people who bought those giant SUVs that are nothing but dick extensions are going to get fucked up the ass and that is one damned happy thought.



- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.

pollyanish (none / 0) (#61)
by collideiscope on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 07:28:45 AM EST

in 20 years we may all be dead. neither wind nor solar nor water can replace all our current energy demands, let alone meet the demands of the growing Eastern economies (and all third-world countries that want a first-world way of life). Unless you're talking about turning several large continents into wind farms or something. All "alternative" energy sources make up just a TINY percentage of our total domestic energy use right now. Fusion is not gonna happen. There are currently 104 nuclear reactors operating in the US. They are all operating at about 95% capacity (which means they can't put out much more power - they have to go down for maintenance sometime, which is that 5%). Building a new nuke takes about 12 years (or did in the 1970s, when the last nuke was comissioned). In 12 years we may have already had a war with China over oil fields in Canada. Basically we're all gonna die.

-------------------------------
Hope is a disease. Get infected.
[ Parent ]
China, solar, etc. (none / 0) (#64)
by Nyarlathotep on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 09:10:05 AM EST

China is no millitary threat, especially not in Canada.  They have a "minimal deterrent" policy (80-150 warheads, less then UK's 200, none of which are mounted on missiles).  The price of oil will keep them from *ever* projecting force to North America.  The threat is that we will just let them buy our oil companies, or our scientists.. and that we will keep spending $400 billion per year on our own millitary.  Now what I want to know is if the U.S. will eventually just forgive all its tressury bonds in order to void China's bank accounts.  :)

Wind and solar don't need to account for current energy demands.  You don't need to ship products all over the world.  You don't need to live 2 hours away from work.  You don't need an SUV.  As gas gets more expensive, we will just stop living in the suburbs, using AC, and eating bannanas.  $300 per barrel is not the boogy man its cracked up to be, at least not in the west.  We can adapt.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]

umm (none / 1) (#78)
by emmons on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 04:37:21 PM EST

By definition, the US treasury can't "forgive" its own bonds. In order to do what you propose, the US government would have to default. Doing so would most certainly cause a worldwide depression. Oil prices would be a rather minor concern.

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]
The question then becomes... (none / 0) (#79)
by spectra72 on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 04:46:35 PM EST

Who can ride that depression out better?

[ Parent ]
probably the US (none / 0) (#81)
by emmons on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 05:37:35 PM EST

But throwing the entire planet into a second great depression just to avoid the inconvenience of car pooling and using public transportation seems a bit drastic, wouldn't you say?

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]
Buses do not operate 24/7 (none / 0) (#103)
by pin0cchio on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 08:24:59 PM EST

Increased reliance on public transportation, even in buses that burn biodiesel, means that nobody will be able to go anywhere during the night or on Sundays or holidays, when the bus system closes.


lj65
[ Parent ]
Why not? (none / 0) (#106)
by cronian on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 09:00:07 PM EST

If enough people are using public transportation, they will probably be inclined to increase service. More rural areas may be stuck with lousy service, but urban areas should fair better. Although, the cost of taking public transportation could go way up.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
Auto Industry (none / 0) (#153)
by tinkertux on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 05:32:50 PM EST

A well functioning public transit system would mean that a family no longer needs at least 2 cars. The auto industry would tank. They are the reason that the US does not currently have a good public transit system.

[ Parent ]
Not precisely. (none / 0) (#214)
by grendelkhan on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 09:48:37 AM EST

Well, not precisely---it didn't go down exactly as it did in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Alas, we stupid Americans would be using buses even if GM and its buddies hadn't given us a little extra push.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

levittown (none / 0) (#240)
by Rhodes on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:45:40 PM EST

it is the model of levittown that led as much to the death and dearth of public transit in the united states.

neither suburban development nor most of the rest of economic growth in the US is sustainable across any sort of time scale appropriate for "world empires"- 50 years is a while, but not compared to the thousands that represent recorded history.

[ Parent ]

I concur. (none / 0) (#293)
by grendelkhan on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 01:06:41 PM EST

Oh, I agree with that---commuting that much makes no damned sense. I suppose it would help if everyone started working from home, but that's not really feasible on such a large scale. (Remember, communication and transportation are economic complements; one can displace the importance of the other---to a certain extent.)

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Enough of the Auto Industry Conspiracy (none / 0) (#227)
by Mousky on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 12:08:07 PM EST

The auto industry would not tank. It would shrink in size. The auto industry is not the reason why the US does not currently have a good public transit system. Cheap land is a main reason why the US (and Canada) has a poor public transit systems.

[ Parent ]
BS (none / 0) (#110)
by localroger on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 10:01:18 PM EST

When I went to San Diego to go to Tijuana for my dental work, I was very impressed with the electric trolley system that makes it possible to get from your hotel to the border (and a lot of other places) without renting a car. It does run 24/7 with 15 minute service, and 7.5 minute service during rush hour.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
Yes they do! (none / 0) (#129)
by wobblywizard on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 08:05:59 AM EST

At least in those parts of the world which have a decent public transport system. Like every big city in Germany, for example. Take Berlin, which is admittedly one of the best examples: buses, trains and subways run from 4:30am to 1:00am. In between you have buses going every 30mins. Also, on the weekends, trains and subways run 24h/day.

I see no reason why the US could not implement similar systems, especially when the demand increases.

--
You never win an argument with anyone who fucks you or signs your paychecks. I just smile, bite my lip and sip my drink. --Philalawyer
[ Parent ]

Europe is different from North America (none / 0) (#229)
by Mousky on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 12:22:45 PM EST

Most European countries are also building new highways, tunnels and bridges for vehicles. The Millau Bridge in France, Oresund Link between Sweden and Denmark, Brasov-Bors Motorway in Romania, E-75 from Poland to Greece, to name a few. Passenger and commercial vehicles are just important in Europe as in North America.

[ Parent ]
NEW DOLLARS ANYONE?? (none / 0) (#339)
by cathouse on Thu Jul 21, 2005 at 06:31:14 AM EST

I hate to say it, but if France and Mexico can do it, so can we.

pity this busy monster manunkind not

progress is a comfortable disease


[ Parent ]

Plastics (none / 0) (#119)
by chroma on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 03:43:41 AM EST

Which means the only other major use of oil left will be plastics and there's already many alternatives for that, although they are more expensive. Which is probably a good thing, more expensive plastic would mean less wasteful use of plastic in packaging which is a nice end result.

Manufacturers are already trying to reduce the amount of packaging on everything in order to cut costs. More expensive plastics make everything more expensive. For example, most lightweight autos get to be so light because of they replace metal with plastic.

[ Parent ]

I cant quite put my finger on it but this peak oil (1.25 / 4) (#57)
by 1318 on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 04:29:49 AM EST

stuff has some bad science stink about it.

Perhaps it's the overtones of doomsday scenarios that accompany it? Maybe its the oil-conspiracy friendliness.

I dunno. Something hinky about it.

"So then, why don't you die?"-Antisthenes

Yes and no (none / 0) (#60)
by Nyarlathotep on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 07:18:05 AM EST

Its probably true.  It'll probably fuck up some poor places.  But it need not fuck up the west.  Why?

1)  We get more time to understand the problem by witnessing it in poor places like Grati.

2)  No one has more money then us (or a better millitary), so we get the remains, and hence our problems happen slower.  Worst come to worst, the U.S could forgive tressury bonds; now suddenly much of China's saved wealth no longer exists, scrach one compeditor.

3)  The talk about energy densety *really* has the stink of bad science about it!!  Technological improvments could allow one to use low energy density sources, like wind and solar, to run anything short of transportation.  So switching to local food production, short commutes, and public transportation willl radically decrease the need for high energy density sources.

All this talk about energy densety and the hydrogen economy assumes people are not willing to change their lifestyle.  Don't count on it!  People *can* change lifestyle quite easily.  I'll happily give up AC and banannas to keep my other toys.

The interview with Simmons linked from the following MiFi article discusses the one threat which sounded realalistic to me.
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/43332
He is affraid that the rising oil prices will be used to make a few people very rich, and these profits won't be plowed back into research.  He advocates increasing taxes, not on oil itself, but on oil company profits, and spending the money on energy research.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]

Learn to spell for god's sake. (none / 0) (#62)
by I HATE TROLLS on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 07:31:53 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Actually... (none / 0) (#66)
by Surial on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 11:03:23 AM EST

The energy density story is not bad science at all. It's something armchair experts either ignore or harp far too long on about.

Suffice to say that it'll be EXTREMELY difficult, nay, impossible, to run the world's current energy needs off of wind and solar alone. We need many decades of very dedicated research before we could come even close. Right now, the world spends more energy (from ie oil, gas, nuclear, sources the green nutjobs tend to abhor) on making solar panels compared to what it gains from them.

This is a two way knife. It means that we can't solve the world energy problem by 'just making more solar panels'. But it doesn't mean that solar panels are by definition a dead end. We will be able to improve on them. We may be able to take them to the source - fly a bunch of solar panels up into 24 hours a day sunny space and then beam the energy back down (that's currently difficult, but with research, who knows).

It's something you do have to consider, though. Solar and Wind will not be there to fill the gap in the unlikely event the oil runs out. The technology isn't even remotely close.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]

nuclear has pretty good energy density (none / 1) (#71)
by Delirium on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:26:32 PM EST

Nuclear fuel is also nearly unlimited.

[ Parent ]
Only if you count the storage. (none / 0) (#205)
by DavidTC on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 08:52:37 PM EST

Energy density doesn't mean a lot if you need a huge-ass nuclear reactor to get the energy back out.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]
Yes, it is bad science (none / 0) (#74)
by localroger on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 03:56:19 PM EST

Suffice to say that it'll be EXTREMELY difficult, nay, impossible, to run the world's current energy needs off of wind and solar alone. We need many decades of very dedicated research before we could come even close.

Say what? We have working wind farms right now that are competetive with oil at its higher historic prices. There is nothing hard or mysterious about this. When petroleum gets too expensive, building windmills will look like a smart move, and people will start doing it.

Solar is more practical on an individual scale. You can buy a practical, code compliant solar electric system right now that would look like a pretty sound investment if electricity was getting close to $0.50/kwh, a price it reached in some parts of California during the Great Enron Screwing. Of course with electricity more typically at $0.05/kwh it doesn't make much sense to spend $10K for a system that will take ten or twenty years to pay for itself, but when the prices go up more people will, and economies of scale will kick in to make such things even cheaper.

This is not even to mention other technologies which are very likely to work but haven't been pursued aggressively. Some ridiculous percentage (I want to say 30%) of all the electricity generated on Earth goes into light bulbs. Massively switching over to modern quickstart flourescent and white LED's can cut this part of our energy budget to 20% or less of its current value with hardly any impact to our way of life at all.

The Chicken Little peak oilers have to make a lot of assumptions to support the doomsday scenario which simply defy all current understanding of economics. Ultimately it's like every other "end of the world" scenario we've been handed for the last few thousand years. Yes, the world will change, in some places even catastrophically. But humans will deal with it. For all our flaws we tend to do that pretty well.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

I know (none / 0) (#89)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:16:25 PM EST

how about we stop using lights all over the place?

[ Parent ]
With current technology... (none / 0) (#128)
by Surial on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 07:40:19 AM EST

you couldn't build enough windmills to power the world and keep your farm in decent repair. Period.

You CANNOT just discard the amount of energy needed to whip up a wind turbine or a solar panel.

You CANNOT use those numbers as basis to outright claim a technology is doomed.

Either assumption is a falsehood and hence leads to flawed arguments.

To summarize: We need 10+ more years of research and only then can one say if solar and wind can run the world population's energy needs solo. Right now the experts really don't know, and I somehow doubt these armchair experts somehow do know.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]

You keep saying things like this... (none / 0) (#132)
by localroger on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 12:28:28 PM EST

you couldn't build enough windmills to power the world and keep your farm in decent repair. Period.

Um, no, that simply isn't true, and repeating it doesn't make it truer. We have wind farms, we know how to build and maintain them. It's true that they exist now because they were subsidized, but the reason for subsidizing them was to see how the technology works. And the answer to that has been "pretty well." With petroleum scarcer and energy prices higher, it won't be necessary to subsidize wind farms to get energy companies to build more of them.

Now if we do start building windmills all over the place economies of scale and new learned lessons will kick in, making them even cheaper and more reliable than they already are; this always happens when use of a technology expands. But it doesn't have to happen. We already did the research you are whining about in the 70's during that energy crunch (which, may I remind you, was also supposed to be the end of civilization according to many doomsayers).

Since you are crying about the end of the world and I'm basically saying that technology will do what technology has always done, I think you're the one who needs to produce some numbers to justify what you're saying.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

You can write, but can you read? (none / 0) (#154)
by Surial on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 05:34:33 PM EST

Read some of my other comments in this thread and the other peak oil crackpot story of half a year ago. I believe peak oil is bullshit.

I know for sure the world isn't ending.

As far as the energy efficiency of windmill and solar tech - it's true. Look it up. Aint my story, and I have my facts straight already. I don't have a bookmark on file. I'm sure google will suffice, and maybe the wikipedia has something nice to say about it. EE of windmill and solar strongly suggests that if oil really kicks the bucket, we'll be looking at nuclear for large scale (ie powerplants, big transport boats, and high energy industry such as reconstituting oil and oxygen from anything with coal in it + water, aluminum factories, and some other usual suspects). Solar and wind are fortunately quite portable. They can and most likely will be deployed on for example the roofs of homes (solar) and on high rises in cities (wind).

All I'm saying are these two things

1) Solar and Wind - don't bet the house on them. The experts certainly aren't sure it'll work.

2) The world isn't ending. Even if all oil wells dry op virtually overnight, energy will go on. Nuclear Fission will pick up slack, wind and solar get a bit better, and eventually between those three technologies, we can do everything we do now. Even the difficult stuff, such as flying airplanes and building plastics, because it IS possible to make oil from random garbage (C is in an unbelievably large amount of crap), water, and a lot of energy. And you tend to get free oxygen out of it too, good for nature.

--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]

not without population loss (none / 0) (#228)
by Rhodes on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 12:16:55 PM EST

you are neglecting the role of fossil fuels in food production.  where are the fertilizers and pesticides going to be produced from?  sure, they can be produced from existing materials, but it is no more sustainable than our present methods.

[ Parent ]
No... (none / 0) (#276)
by Surial on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 09:33:14 PM EST

As I said, you can make oil from just about anything + energy + water.

You could build some kind of huge breeder reactor out in bumblefuck, Arizona, and spread the bred material to ie LW reactors on big cargo boats and Pebble Bed reactors that power cities, and use the considerable energy that you get out of a breeder to reconsitute crap and ocean water into oxygen and oil, and pipe it onwards to the neighbouring factory complex which makes fertilizer.

Given enough energy, all else follows. So, all that's left, is replacing (and then some) the enormous quantities of energy we currently gain from fossil fuels. That's a tough one to crack, but given enough pressure, I'm fairly confident it'll work. Probably with some depressions left and right, but nothing truely drastic.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]

It could work, but that doesn't mean it *will*. (none / 0) (#297)
by grendelkhan on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 01:18:19 PM EST

I'm fairly confident it'll work. Probably with some depressions left and right, but nothing truely drastic.

You mean like wars, rioting, possible civil unrest escalating into civil war, and so forth? Depending on how this transition is handled, it could be a large hiccup, or it could be the end of civilization as we know it.

We don't know which of those it'll be. But if we use our resources to fight oil wars (regardless of the current one, future wars will certainly be fought over oil) instead of reducing dependence and replacing infrastructure, the crash will be very, very hard indeed.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Absolute agreement (none / 0) (#340)
by cathouse on Thu Jul 21, 2005 at 06:50:20 AM EST

Given enough energy, all else follows.

There is absolutely NO need for petroleum in order to precure fertilizer-all that is needed is the energy to form the N-H bond.

pity this busy monster manunkind not

progress is a comfortable disease


[ Parent ]

If alternative ways were cheaper... (none / 0) (#343)
by alexboko on Fri Jul 22, 2005 at 04:11:36 PM EST

...they'd be used right now instead of petroleum. Therefore, count on food becoming more expensive after an extended period of high oil prices.


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 ]
energy on demant is the problem (none / 0) (#142)
by caridon20 on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 02:54:41 PM EST

you can build enough wind and solar to generate the energy we use today. It will be expensiva(as oil becomes more expensive everything becomes more expensive as most transportation,farming and production relies on oil) but it is posible.

what isent posible is to have the energy on demand. that is where you want it when you want it.

Denmark today have the highest relative amount of windpower in the world and they are already having problems with ter electric grid because of the randomness of windpower.
A rough estimate gives that intemitient sourzes (wind,solar,wave ext)  can suply about 30% of your needs but the rest needs to come from oil, nuclear, hydro, Natural gas or other on demand sourzes.

/C

Dissent is NOT Treason Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
[ Parent ]

Storage is the next problem (none / 0) (#152)
by localroger on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 05:28:06 PM EST

I've also seen estimates that if everybody installed solar electric systems it would destabilize the grid. So yes, storage is a major problem we haven't done too much work on yet, because only in very few places have we reached a density of intermittent sources sufficient to make it a problem.

The most likely large-scale solution is to build enough capacity to generate plenty of excess peak power and use what isn't going into the grid to electrolyze water, then burn the hydrogen in more conventional generators when the winds or whatever are down. Bonus points for using the hydrogen as a portable power source for cars. I would expect that technology to develop rapidly once there's a need for it; there's certainly no reason to consider it "science fiction."

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

possible but expensive (none / 0) (#159)
by caridon20 on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 07:37:48 PM EST

Your idea is possible but the cost for doing this is  huge both in terms of infrastructure and increased production needs The electrolyze/burn (i would prefere fuelcells for the hydrogen because of higher efficiency) cykle  is very ineficient so it would require large amounts of spare power att peak production.

/C
Dissent is NOT Treason Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
[ Parent ]

luckily for us (none / 0) (#77)
by emmons on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 04:30:13 PM EST

We have more coal in the US than we'll ever know what to do with.

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]
enough to cough too (none / 0) (#171)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 09:18:26 PM EST

we moved away from coal because of the environmental damage associated with it. and the human damage from it. London had hundreds die from coal pollution in the 1950's. That is quite recent, as things go. But hey, we get to make the same mistakes, if we don't remember or learn ... http://www.londonair.org.uk/london/asp/information.asp?view=howbad (search for pea soup) http://www.lshtm.ac.uk/history/bigsmoke.html http://www.aeat.co.uk/netcen/airqual/networks/faq/epiwintr.html

[ Parent ]
here are autoformatted links (none / 0) (#172)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 09:20:03 PM EST

we moved away from coal because of the environmental damage associated with it. and the human damage from it. London had hundreds die from coal pollution in the 1950's. That is quite recent, as things go. But hey, we get to make the same mistakes, if we don't remember or learn ...

http://www.londonair.org.uk/london/asp/information.asp?view=howbad
(search for pea soup)

http://www.lshtm.ac.uk/history/bigsmoke.html

http://www.aeat.co.uk/netcen/airqual/networks/f

[ Parent ]

I never said it would be good (none / 0) (#191)
by emmons on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 01:34:07 PM EST

It is likely possible to find a relatively clean way to get energy out of coal, and if oil were ate $200/bbl it would probably even be cheap by comparison.

That being said, I'm not advocating that we immediately switch to using coal for everything. I'm just saying that we have options. Expensive oil isn't the end of the world.

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]

end of US dominance, though (none / 0) (#222)
by Rhodes on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 11:45:58 AM EST

no, the end of cheap oil is not the end of the world, or the end of history.  yet the current manifestation of power is certain to change.  because power is all about how others think about you.  and if people start noticing things, our power diminishes.

sure the US can still destroy the world with ICBM's, but can we project force adequately as our milatary hawks propose we can?  Can we project force to secure oil supplies when those oil supplies are on the same continent as China?  When China requires the US as a market to keep their workers busy creating goods for our 30% obesity?

much of our force projection is based on jet fuel.  Will vegetable oils work as well?  

Only by increasing the size of the US military.  When retention is low and getting lower, and recruitment is becoming more and more difficult, the draft looks more and more likely.

More than that, can our economy withstand the devaluation of suburbia as the McMansions become uneconomical to maintain, to drive to and from all the errends we have scheduled ourselves for?

Much of the US growth rate has been in valueless suburban development.  Valueless in the sense that real estate generates no export value; trade is the only way to generate value.  Trade or using the land to create or manufacture goods that can be traded.

[ Parent ]

wind can actualy do it (none / 0) (#87)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:13:25 PM EST

we just need to deploy them on a grand scale to get the full benefits, and probably turn much of it into hydrogen for transportation to other remote locations unless room temperature super conductors can be created, then we can use the power anywhere.

[ Parent ]
Single solution. (3.00 / 2) (#123)
by grendelkhan on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 06:31:13 AM EST

There is not, and there should not be, a single solution. What oil dependence should teach us, if anything, is that a single point of failure for an entire civilization is a bad frickin' idea.

I live in an area with a lot of rivers. These rivers used to run a large number of mills, then electrical generators to power the local towns. A major utility came around, promised energy "too cheap to meter!" with its newfangled nuke plants, and took out the waterwheels. (The nuke plants sometimes work, sometimes don't; we import a considerable amount of electricity from out of state.)

Take energy where it presents itself. There's a lot of slack that can be picked up. Solar in the middle of the desert, hydro in wet, rainy areas. There is, as has been said, no one solution.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

here here (none / 0) (#170)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 09:13:09 PM EST

this is a great comment.  your point is correct, yet it could be carried even further...

[ Parent ]
energy density (none / 0) (#127)
by Nyarlathotep on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 07:16:19 AM EST

Sure, I'll believe that its reasonable to ask "How much energy does it take to move this energy," but I still think people are underestimating our adaptability and over estimating our need to move energy around (outside of the power grid, where its presumably cheap to move it).

Apparently solar panels have recently reached the point where they produce more energy over their lifetime then it requires to make them.  Plus, the rumor is that just sticking a sterling engine and a generator on a reflective dish pointed at the sun is 2 (or 3?) times as efficient as solar panels.

More importantly, all these technologies are mass produced car sized objects, so I doubt we've even begun to tap the kinds of improvements in production methods which are possible when we want a lot of them.  People are probably underestimating what genuine need and massive competition will do to costs.  I can't find the link, but it seems that the oil company which has invested heavily in solar, and mildly in wind, say solar is profitable, but wind is not, while the one that invested heavily in wind, and mildly in solar, says the opposite.  The might very well both right, either will be profitable if you pump money into it.

Anyway, I have nothing against nukes, or even drilling in ANWR.  Of course, I think ANWR should be drilled slowly so that (a) we get the best price for it, (b) its last a long time, and (c) we maximize the amount we get out (the faster you take oil out, the less you ever get).  I also think ANWR should be drilled by a nonprofit controlled by enviromentalists and the federal government, but that's just my nutty side.  :)
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]

ignoring "energy" (none / 0) (#169)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 09:11:58 PM EST

not all energy is equilivalent.  not in the physics sense, in the practical, everyday world sense.  

when you are mentioning solar power, that may run a fridge the size of your small toaster, but how are you going to run a car for your errends?  

or the truck that brings your food which was not harvested because the combine requires oil based fuel that had such poor production because of the lack of pesticides and fertilizers.  

and where is all the lead pollution going to go when we require all the batteries to store the electricity?  

despite all the claims from counter peakers that peakers are chicken littles, there is usually only partial explanations- for transportation, for electricity generation, for all the synthetic materials produced using the benefits of cheap oil.

oil and the refined byproducts offer a great combination of ease of transport, relative safety, and incredibly high energy density.  

[ Parent ]

Your economic refutation is bogus (3.00 / 8) (#68)
by localroger on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 11:53:52 AM EST

The economics of alternative energy do not depend on "impossible technologies." Sufficient technologies to power our civilization at nearly its current level already exist, and could be deployed within a relatively short time. The only reason they aren't is that they are too expensive compared to $35 a barrel oil. They are not, however, too expensive compared to $100 a barrel oil.

Alternative energy development tends to be a bit sluggish because even when oil prices go up, they are volatile and historically have eventually gone down, pulling the rug out from under more expensive alternatives. When it is clear that oil prices are up to stay, though, the situation will become quite different.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer

Well price makes a difference (none / 0) (#69)
by jongleur on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 12:03:42 PM EST

that will be felt in our economy and lifestyle - this is not a rebuttal at all.
--
"If you can't imagine a better way let silence bury you" - Midnight Oil
[ Parent ]
so? (none / 0) (#70)
by Delirium on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 01:25:10 PM EST

It's still not the end of the world. People may have to get more used to taking public transport, setting their air conditioner at 75 F instead of 72 F, and living in less sprawling cities. Hardly an armageddon scenario.

[ Parent ]
The Great Depresion (3.00 / 2) (#75)
by JahToasted on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 03:57:20 PM EST

wasn't the end of the world either. But it wasn't very pleasant either.

Not saying that things will get as bad as the great depression either. I'm just saying that if the cost of all transportation more than doubles it probably won't be a good thing economically.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]

possibly; possibly not (none / 1) (#100)
by Delirium on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 08:19:12 PM EST

Transportation costs increasing will hinder globalization, which in the short term will reduce the outflux of labor-intensive jobs from first-world countries, and possibly even bring a few back.

[ Parent ]
"living in less sprawling cities" (none / 0) (#210)
by An Onerous Coward on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 07:11:11 AM EST

Those words strike me as a bit understated,  given their actual implications.  Consider what it means:  we have to abandon a great deal of housing capacity in suburbia,  while simultaneously investing in replacement housing close to city centers.

Houses are expensive,  and letting millions of them sit unoccupied is expensive.  Plus,  each home represents the life's investment of some family.  So I guess people will do whatever it takes to keep their suburban dwellings "viable".

I've got this theory that we'd be much better off if we beefed up the mass transit system in most city centers,  and turned all the parking garages into residential apartments.  It would be wonderful if people actually lived near where they worked.

[ Parent ]

Costs could come down too (none / 0) (#97)
by levesque on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 07:09:28 PM EST

The only reason they aren't is that they are too expensive compared to $35 a barrel oil. They are not, however, too expensive compared to $100 a barrel oil

When technologies move to mass production, the original quoted production price looks like an exaggeration and sometimes, actually, it looks more like a grossly exaggerated price.

[ Parent ]

Yes (3.00 / 2) (#109)
by localroger on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 09:59:17 PM EST

If millions of people were lining up to pre-order home photovoltaic systems, even with no major technological advances the price would come down considerably just because of economies of scale being applied to the manufacture of solar cells and inverter components. Similarly, with windmills, we already have the technology to just about completely replace oil for fixed use, but if we start actually building wind farms on such a scale the price will come down for the same reason. This is part of the reason why I find the Chicken Little peak-oilers argument rather unconvincing.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
Scared people are useful, you know. (none / 0) (#122)
by grendelkhan on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 06:23:50 AM EST

This is part of the reason why I find the Chicken Little peak-oilers argument rather unconvincing.

Yes, but if the alternative is head-in-the-sand "I know nothing!" silence we've been getting from any establishment leadership on this issue---you know, the people in the best position to effect changes at this point which could have real, lasting effects on whether or not we as a whole can weather this transition, and how well---I'd rather have this be one of those self-preventing prophecies that David Brin talks about.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Good point (none / 1) (#133)
by localroger on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 12:30:45 PM EST

...but for our purposes here I think I'll continue to assume K5'ers are among the elite who can be trusted to act responsibly when trusted with the truth ;-P

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
electricity is only part (none / 0) (#165)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 08:50:11 PM EST

so the paranoia is a bit irritating.  yet the uses for oil extend beyond electricity.  transportation is the highest use- trucks, automobiles (all the trips to and from the mall), ships to tranport, and that's neglecting all the materials, and pharmaceuticals dependent on cheap oil.  

electricity generation can be produced at good cost with wind power, and other "alternative" techonologies, yet in the US most homes are heated with fuel oil or natural gas.  

Do you think everyone has the thousands to spend on an electric furnace?  

With the current state of consumer debt, national debit, and all the other factors, we are as the chinese might curse, living in interesting times.

[ Parent ]

You call them Chicken-little... (none / 1) (#296)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 01:16:46 PM EST

...and I call them "self-negating prophecies". Y2k was a self-negating prophecy. A bunch of paranoid geeks started shouting that civilization as we know it would end, until managers and government types listened to them, and put a lot of money in to fixing crufty old software and guess what? January 1, 2000 civilization didn't crash. Stupid, stupid geeks, right? Wrong. If we didn't sound the alarm, nobody would have done anything, and things might have turned out as badly as we were predicting.

So, you're in the contradictory position of saying demand for photovoltaics and windmills will create a huge industry from a tiny one in a span of a decade or two and this will save our asses... yet at the same time you are insulting the early adopters and evengelists!


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 ]

The problem (none / 0) (#300)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 02:50:57 PM EST

is, when someone goes around yelling "The sky is falling", people tend to tune them out. Y2K would not have ended civilization as we know it. It might have ended any social life for countless programmers who had to fix everything at once instead of over several years, but the cars would have driven, elevators would have worked, and planes wouldn't have fallen out of the sky.

Oil IS a finite resource, and with China eating it like candy and the prices rising, it's clear we need an alternative, but it's equally clear that we're not going back to the 1800's.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]

Afghanistan & Somalia are the 1880's. (none / 0) (#303)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 03:50:14 PM EST

Nobody's saying that we are literally going back to the 1880's. A more accurate model might be... "What present-day poor and technologically underdeveloped country are we going to most resemble?"


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 ]
Be glad there's no Cher Patent Act (none / 1) (#101)
by pin0cchio on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 08:20:37 PM EST

Alternative energy development tends to be a bit sluggish because even when oil prices go up, they are volatile and historically have eventually gone down, pulling the rug out from under more expensive alternatives.

Another issue allegedly holding up development of alternative sources of energy is that each inventive step takes 20 years, as the major oil companies buy patents and sit on them until the patents expire. Just be glad that Congress never considered a Cher Patent Term Harmonization Act.


lj65
[ Parent ]
+1FP cause it's a nice discussion. However... (2.00 / 2) (#72)
by xutopia on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 02:40:01 PM EST

I disagree with the lack of faith in us changing our ways and finding alternatives. A combination will be needed and will happen. I bet that today if you throw enough money at a house you'll have it be sustainable without the use of fossil fuel. Solar panels, wind power(and/or hydro power) can more than make up for the use of fossil fuel. Soon hybrid cars will be more than common and fully electric cars will be the next big thing. Yes I know, we currently rely heavily on fossil fuel for electricity in North America but that doesnt' mean we cannot do the same with sutainable energy.

when oil gets scarce, we will have to move to (none / 1) (#85)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:06:22 PM EST

electric production. we have lots of coal, so the power companies will not be hurting for a time yet. we can bring more nuclear power plants on line, and we can invest in an electric rail service for long haul transportation of good and people.

we will also have to demand 99.999% uptime for the electrical system.

electricity is the future because it will be cheapest.

[ Parent ]

Assumptions (2.57 / 7) (#73)
by NoBeardPete on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 03:39:21 PM EST

The thing that is most amazing to me is the extent to which people continue to sink massive quantities of resources into houses, farms, and factories that can't possibly be viable if transportation becomes too expensive. So when the oil price rises by too much, they're screwed. Exurbs in the US are only feasible for people to live in if they can cheaply drive to distant stores and places of employment. Some of the fastest growing cities in the US are located in the desert, and depend on the fact that food can be cheaply shipped in. It makes sense for China to erect factories that can produce the cheap manufactured goods for the world only if it's also cheap to ship them to their destinations. It makes sense for a quarter of America's food supply to be grown in California's Central Valley only if it's cheap to ship perishable, bulky food thousands of miles very quickly.

When transportation was expensive, people needed to live close to their supplies of food and manufactured goods, excepting small, light, or expensive luxuries. Once we got good at using oil for transportation, we started to production of food and goods, often far from the population of people who ultimately use them.

It seems almost certain that transportation is going to get much more expensive as oil prices rise, even if one is wildly optimistic about how well alternative energy and transportation technologies advance. If this makes it uneconomical for the Central Valley in California to provide food to the East Coast, and they have to cut back production by a factor of two, it will be terribly disruptive to both the Central Valley and the East Coast. If it costs $10 less to make some trinket in China than in the US, but $20 more to ship it to market, it will be terribly disruptive to China. If a city like Phoenix which is situated in the desert can't cheaply get fresh water or food, it may have to be largely abandoned.

And yet people continue to build houses, factories, farms, etc in places that are more and more dependent on cheap transportation. I don't understand how they so blithely sink massive amount of money, massive amounts of human labor, massive amounts of real resources like wood, steel, cement, etc, into building durable structures that could last hundreds of years but will quite possibly have to be abandoned in a few decades. People naturally tend to assume things will continue to work much as they do now, I guess, despite there being many reasons to believe they may change dramatically in the fairly near future.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!

we need to start mass production of ethanol (none / 0) (#84)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:02:41 PM EST

and replace our gasoline with that. we can produce it on our own and if we work on streamlining the production of it, it will become as cheap, or cheaper than gasoline.

[ Parent ]
Or biodiesel (none / 0) (#99)
by pin0cchio on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 08:16:34 PM EST

we can produce it on our own and if we work on streamlining the production of it, it will become as cheap, or cheaper than gasoline.

It still takes a lot of petroleum products to fertilize the ground in order to grow and harvest the corn that gets turned into ethanol. Worse yet, it takes more than a barrel of oil to convert corn into a barrel-equivalent of ethanol. Most peak oil reports that I've read, such as Life After the Oil Crash, claim that production of diesel fuel from soybeans has a much better energy efficiency than production of ethanol from corn.


lj65
[ Parent ]
ethanol from soybeans and other biomass products (none / 0) (#112)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 10:36:34 PM EST

takes less than a gallon of ethanol to produce ethanol.

[ Parent ]
That depends on who's numbers you believe (none / 0) (#176)
by tassach on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 10:06:28 PM EST

Ethanol fuel is a pipe dream. First off, it's not proven that you can get a net energy return from using ethanol as a fuel. And even if you do get a net energy gain, it's so small as to be useless except for propeganda. I've read several studies, and they all flawed, particuarly the optimistic ones (IE those that show a net energy return). The first problem is that the optimistic studies always include non-fuel by-products in the total energy return. Personally, I think this is bogus and bad science. If you can't put it in the tractor's gas tank or otherwise use it to directly produce more fuel, you just can't count it as fuel replacement. Secondly, the optimistic studies use very favorable estimates for the amount of energy it takes to harvest the grain and process it into ethanol. Even a small increase in these energy costs makes that tiny net energy gain disappear. Third, no study that I have read takes second-order energy costs into account. In order to move from a petrolium infrastructure to an ethanol infrastructure, not only do you need to use ethanol to make and transport the ethanol, you also have to use ethanol to make, service, and transport the capital equipment (tractors, distilling equipment, etc) used in the production process. Once you add in the second-tier energy costs, you'll see that there's no way ethanol can be a self-sustaining fuel source. Fourth, even the optimistic studies show a very small net energy gain -- too small to be practical as a replacement for petrolium. The energy return for petrolium is 10:1 or more (IE, you get 10+ units of oil for every 1 unit you burn accquiring it.) Even the most optimistic numbers for ethanol show at most a 10:9 energy return rate (IE you get 10 units of ethanol for every 9 units you burn in production). It should be obvious that there's no way that a process that gives you a 10% return on investment can replace a process with a 900%+ ROI. Fifth, even if you use the most favorable numbers available, there's not enough arable land on the planet to grow enough grain to meet our current energy demands. Ethanol fuel is a pipe dream, except possibly as a storage mechanism for another, more efficient energy source.

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants" -- Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

well, we cnanot go on the way we are now (none / 0) (#195)
by modmans2ndcoming on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 04:43:25 PM EST

I think that we can do it.

[ Parent ]
Half right (none / 0) (#215)
by tassach on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 09:55:20 AM EST

You're right that we can't go on the way we're going -- our current petrolium-based industrial society is not sustainable for more than another couple of decades at most.

I disagree that we can do anything meaningful about it before it's too late.  Well, not so much CAN'T as WON'T.  Human nature is to stick with the status quo, even when we know it's not working.  Real change will not happen until there's no option to do otherwise.

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants" -- Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

From corn, no. From sugarcane, perhaps. (none / 0) (#217)
by grendelkhan on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 11:16:02 AM EST

Perhaps for corn-based ethanol---the Brazilians are quite happily using sugarcane-based ethanol, which takes much less energy to produce, and has recently become tremendously popular there because of soaring oil prices elsewhere.

The US would be in a similar position, if we'd started an alternative-fuels program thirty years ago like the Brazilians did. (Well, like their dictatorship did.)

Now, Brazil's climate is conducive to sugarcane, while the US's may not be. But there's always the South...

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

you might whant to stopp reading Pimental (none / 0) (#335)
by caridon20 on Tue Jul 19, 2005 at 03:54:26 AM EST

He is the great "ethanol dosent work"  proponent and is responsible for most of the "studies" claiming this.

The problem is that his "studies"  uses outdated figures and are quite irelevant (imagine claiming that we cant make efective airplanes because we dont have motors efficient enough and using engine data from the fifties, not quite credible)

you might whant to read this to get more infor about his stupidity.

http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=156187&threshold=5&mode=thread&commentsort=0&op=Change

As a sidenote, most studies today talk about a net gain af between 20-250%

/C

Dissent is NOT Treason Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
[ Parent ]

link (none / 0) (#113)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 10:50:44 PM EST

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/analysispaper/biomass.html

that should help you a bit, though I must say I am a proponent of any renewable energy resource.

if a biodiesel station opened near me, I would get a diesel vehicle for my next vehicle.

thusly, if an e85 or pure ethanol station opened, I would get a flexible fuel car.

[ Parent ]

I'm not a fan (none / 0) (#105)
by NoBeardPete on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 08:53:53 PM EST

My understanding is that right now corn produced ethanol is thermodynamically a losing proposition. I'm inclined to think it's never going to be really worthwhile. The only reason it happens is so that the government can channel money to certain key voters.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

umm.. well think about actualy expanding that (none / 0) (#111)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 10:34:31 PM EST

Biomass ethanol is thermodynamically viable, so is corn ethanol, but it takes more money to get it there.

grasses, plants, and other green soft cellulose plants can more easily be distilled.

[ Parent ]

replace engines more often (none / 0) (#175)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 09:37:35 PM EST

ethanol is quite corrosive.  in addition, there is no net energy gained by ethanol (between the caring for, harvesting, transportation, fermenting, ...)- it just becomes a way to continue our present "standard" of living a little longer, perhaps.

[ Parent ]
Bio-Fuels... (none / 0) (#332)
by Western Infidels on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 07:32:31 PM EST

...only work as long as topsoil holds out. Like fossil fuels, topsoil is a resource built up from thousands of years of biomass, and it's something we actively consume when we grow stuff in it. So even at best, bio-fuels could only be a stopgap on the way to something more long-term.

And even so, they may not be so hot.

[ Parent ]

link offers no support (none / 0) (#334)
by caridon20 on Tue Jul 19, 2005 at 03:37:19 AM EST

Can you please point out where in your link "grow stuff in it" is supports your claim that we actively consume topsoil by growing because i cant find any.

The conventional wisdom (supported by experiments) is that by clever rotating of crops you can increase the depth of the topsoil in a field by about 0.5-1 cm/year.

/C
Dissent is NOT Treason Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
[ Parent ]

Sorry (none / 0) (#336)
by Western Infidels on Tue Jul 19, 2005 at 10:11:02 AM EST

That wasn't the link I thought it was. I'm probably not going to be able to find the link soon, either - I'm at work now.

The story I intended to link to pointed out that correct land management, although well-understood, is too often neglected in practice for the sake of (relatively) short-term gain. There are places in the US where repeatedly farmed prarie has visibly sunken many feet compared to unspoilt prarie, as the topsoil is slowly consumed.

None of which may matter that much, for other reasons, like the fact that a liter of bio-fuel currently requires more energy to grow than it produces when burned. Or the fact that arable land is not infinite, meaning that there will be a limit to how fast it can be produced. That could eventually lead to a "Peak Bio-Fuel" situation very similar to the petroleum peak - when demand outstrips supply even a little, the price skyrockets.

[ Parent ]

Interesting speculation.... (none / 1) (#86)
by claes on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:07:48 PM EST

The thing that will go away if oil goes to $300/bbl is cheap, portable power. We can still run the coal-fired and nuke electric power plants, but the portable power will be expensive.

Where is this important? Transportation mostly. Railroads can be electrified, but with a hefty capital investment on long-haul routes due to the sheer number of miles involved. So we get fewer long-distance routes. Not sure what that means.

Cars, of course, get very expensive to use. Short-haul transportation can go electric, hydrogen, or even spinny things, but once again long-haul transportation requires the effecency of fossil fules.

The thing that I can't figure out is what to do about air travel. There simply isn't an alternative to the energy-to-weight ratio you get from jet fuel, (no, DOD experiments with nuke plants on airplanes don't count). So plane trips get very, very expensive.

In a way, we get back to the days of sail travel, when if you left your home for another continent, you knew you may never, ever see your home again.

-- claes

[ Parent ]

It shifts the world balance interestingly as well (3.00 / 3) (#102)
by Coryoth on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 08:22:38 PM EST

Where is this important? Transportation mostly. Railroads can be electrified, but with a hefty capital investment on long-haul routes due to the sheer number of miles involved. So we get fewer long-distance routes. Not sure what that means.

This is actually a major point, and it is interesting because all of a sudden Japan and parts of Europe will be massively more competitive because of their much larger rail infrastructure, a lot of which is already electric, and the rest of which gets enough regular passenger and freight traffic to make sure upgrading the rest to electric quickly is a an economic proposition from the get go.

Jedidiah.

[ Parent ]

Motivations (none / 0) (#140)
by calumny on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 02:41:49 PM EST

Part of the reason that public transportation is so popular in Europe is because gas prices are kept high through taxes: almost $6.00 a gallon, and this has been true for years. This price - exorbitant or realistic, depending on your country of origin - has also done much to encourage smaller, energy-efficient cars. In my experience in Italy, air conditioning and central heating are also rare.

Unfortunately, America has come to see cheap gas and limitless power as God-given rights, so I doubt a similar thriftiness could be inculcated in the states. Although the price of oil regulated by production might bring this about, wouldn't a sane gas tax instituted earlier have been far easier?

[ Parent ]

a/c (none / 0) (#173)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 09:27:54 PM EST

the climate in europe is usually much better for not having a/c.  of course, americans have gotten used to their luxuries.  such that they are not seen as luxuries anymore.

[ Parent ]
A/C (none / 0) (#188)
by Cro Magnon on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 10:40:45 AM EST

I'm sure the French wished they had such "luxuries" in the summer of 2003.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
europe (none / 0) (#237)
by Rhodes on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:38:06 PM EST

so their electrical grid could die as well as the thousands of people?

[ Parent ]
A first-world country (none / 0) (#253)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:49:16 PM EST

would be able to handle the power demands.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
A First World Country? (none / 0) (#331)
by Western Infidels on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 07:22:26 PM EST

Like the USA?

[ Parent ]
more than that (none / 0) (#174)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 09:30:53 PM EST

GM (and tire manufacturers) successfully ruined rail mass transit in a lot of cities all across the US.  Here is a link to antitrust suit that GM was fined for.  And the amount- a pitiful $5000...

http://www.trainweb.org/mts/ctc/ctc06.html

[ Parent ]

Not exactly the way it went down. (none / 0) (#219)
by grendelkhan on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 11:26:30 AM EST

Trolleys went out of vogue because buses were more efficient, more convenient, and cheaper to operate. GM may have helped, but London, for instance, got rid of its trolley infrastructure around the same time the US did, without any meddling from GM.

It makes a really nifty story, but that's not exactly the way it went down.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Re: air travel (none / 0) (#209)
by An Onerous Coward on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 06:57:29 AM EST

By the year 2025,  it'll be all about the zepplins,  man.

Okay,  that was meant to be a joke,  but now that I think about it,  it might be a viable,  low-energy way to move non-perishables around the country.  Too slow for passenger transport,  though.

[ Parent ]

Survival tips (2.28 / 7) (#76)
by UNITE on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 04:29:43 PM EST

  1. Do not eat or use products from any animal that is fed and eats parts of its own dead.
  2. Do not kiss or have intimate relations with anyone you do not know.
  3. Learn basic sanitation and water purification.
  4. Be comfortable around firearms. Learn to shoot and clean a gun.
  5. Get a good first aid kit and learn to use it.
  6. Find 5 people within 100 miles that you trust with your life and stay in contact with them.
  7. Get a copy of the US Constitution and read it.
  8. Eat less.
  9. Get a bicycle and two sets of spare tires. Ride it 10 miles a week.
  10. Consider what you would bring with you if you had to leave your home in 10 min. and never return.


8======A==Proud==Author==of==the==FNH==nastygram==story====D ~~~
Shut up, Eric. (1.00 / 6) (#121)
by kitten on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 05:27:09 AM EST


mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
yeah (none / 0) (#163)
by klem on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 08:32:49 PM EST

you're obviously a fat person who likes to read real ultimate power a lot and think about being a ninja

[ Parent ]
hahahaha (none / 0) (#166)
by enderbean on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 08:52:15 PM EST

ok Titor.


----------
"No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." - James Madison
[ Parent ]
yeah,,, (none / 1) (#273)
by chopper on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 10:31:36 AM EST

knowing the constitution will really help.

give a man a fish,he'll eat for a day

give a man religion and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish
[ Parent ]

11.... (none / 0) (#317)
by alexboko on Sat Jul 16, 2005 at 09:12:53 PM EST

11. Make sure your tin-foil helmet if on shiny-side-out.


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 ]
In Short (1.33 / 3) (#80)
by modmans2ndcoming on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 04:52:20 PM EST

We are fucked.

Bad Example (2.75 / 4) (#82)
by thelizman on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 05:50:55 PM EST

Indonesia fucked itself. It has 4.9 billion bbl of proven reserves, and  2.549 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves. By not investing in new oil exploration, they wound up becoming a net oil importer in 2004, with the government subsidizing oil imports. The irony is that if they had made the necessary and proper investments into thier own oil resources (which they ahve plenty of), they would be selling oil on the world markets at record high prices.

Doing that now may not be so easy. Indonesia needs significant reforms before they can attract external capital. Right now investing in Indonesia makes about as much sense as sticking your penis into a pickle slicer.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell

What kind of pickle slicer? /nt (none / 0) (#93)
by skyknight on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:40:28 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 ]
the pickle slicer was fired, also. (none / 0) (#120)
by Rhinobird on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 04:51:15 AM EST


"If Mr. Edison had thought more about what he was doing, he wouldn't sweat as much." --Nikola Tesla
[ Parent ]
10pts (none / 0) (#160)
by thelizman on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 07:38:45 PM EST

You would have gotten 20 if you said "she was fired..."
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Fuck Natalee Holloway! She made Oil Peak [nt] (1.00 / 6) (#83)
by Smiley K on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 05:52:26 PM EST


-- Someone set up us the bomb.
my predictions (2.60 / 5) (#96)
by Polverone on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 06:50:04 PM EST

Nuclear fission and coal will be the big power sources. In highly industrialized nations, fission will produce more power than coal. Even if controlled fusion surpasses break-even, it won't be rapidly adopted because of the gargantuan front-loaded costs of building fusion plants. In a century or two, recovery of uranium from seawater becomes economically competitive with terrestrial mining (as land-based supplies become harder to recover), at which point the price of energy (at least electricity) stabilizes for millenia at levels not much higher than today.

Wind, hydro, wavepower, etc. will be used where appropriate but will supply only a modest fraction of total energy consumed. Chemicals (including liquid fuels) will widely be manufactured starting from coal and biomass. Aggressive pollution-control technologies will be needed to keep the cleanliness comparable to current petroleum-based chemical production. If enough nuclear power is used, CO2 emissions may drop somewhat, else the atmosphere will be pumped full of pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Despite the chicken-littleism about industrialized countries raping the earth to support their luxurious lifestyles, it will continue to be the poor, overpopulated regions which do the most environmental damage. Industrialized nations will be nervous about every two-bit country bringing nuclear reactors on line, and they will try to offer discounted energy products, subsidized windmills and solar panels, and special tamper-resistant reactors to curb the proliferation problem.

Electric vehicles, hydrogen, and low-temperature fuel cells in general will contribute only modestly to transportation needs. Liquified coal and synthetic alcohols will be the fuels of choice, and they will continue to be burned in more-or-less conventional engines. Nations currently experimenting with large scale synthetic fuel projects (like China) will perfect the technology first and may end up selling fuels to the other industrialized nations, playing a role similar to that of the Middle East now. Even if China doesn't have a technological edge in synthetic fuels, it is more willing to tolerate the associated pollution without installing expensive controls, so it could still undercut the prices of fuels produced in the highly industrialized nations.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.

Right...haha.. (none / 0) (#104)
by kcidx on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 08:34:23 PM EST

You forgot the last part... "....and we will be up to our eyelids in shit that lasts hundreds of thousands of years and makes every cell in your body glow!" Not to mention that giving up oil means the entire transportation infastructure has to be replaced on the quick, and that will pretty much totally destroy our economy.

[ Parent ]
No. (3.00 / 3) (#107)
by Polverone on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 09:36:25 PM EST

High-level nuclear waste occupies little storage space relative to the amount of energy derivable from its production. The problems associated with its disposal are mostly political (if you can dispose of mercury and arsenic, you can dispose of radwaste). The use of synthetic liquid fuels means that transportation infrastructure and technology does not need to change drastically, which is one reason I suspect it'll win out over hydrogen and electric transportation. You can handle the fuel like gasoline or diesel and continue to use it in internal combustion engines.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
dream on (none / 0) (#148)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 03:59:25 PM EST

right so the liquid fuel techonology that has not been tested (on a large scale since WWII) will be able to seamlessly integrated into our present infrastructure.  

you're better off learning to ride a bike.  and imagining the situations when cyclists become the way transport works.

[ Parent ]

It has been tested. (none / 0) (#149)
by Polverone on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 04:54:12 PM EST

It was used in apartheid-era South Africa. It was explored on a pilot scale in the US during the 70s-80s fuel crisis. New large scale liquefication plants are currently under construction in China. In a sense you are right, since this technology is not exactly the same as what was used in WW II, but it is similar. It has never been used on a scale sufficient to satisfy current US liquid fuel demands, so there are interesting times ahead. But it's silly to imply that this tech has simply rested on a dusty shelf since the 1940s (maybe that's not what you wished to imply).

I have seen DOE estimates that synthetic liquid fuels can be produced for $57 a barrel if the processes are scaled up, which is competitive with current natural oil, but I believe those estimates are based on somewhat dated estimates of how stringent pollution controls would need to be. As I said before, industrializing nations may win out over industrialized ones for synthetic fuel production because they are more tolerant of pollution, which makes the process cheaper to run. I don't expect the transition to synthetic fuel will be pain-free, just far more achievable than a transition to a hydrogen/electric transportation infrastructure.

I already ride a bike. I'd consider a car a poor investment even if gas were available at $1.50 per gallon for the next decade.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

so the fuel is for ?? (none / 0) (#168)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 08:57:58 PM EST

good for your method of commuting.

biking as commuting is relatively recent (last 2 months or so) to me- though I rode a bike exclusively in college.

and back to my criticism of syn fuel:
so is the syn fuel for the UPS trucks to deliver the Amazon goods to your home or office?

big energy companies (mostly on the discovery side) lack of investment in refining plants I would read as a similar lack of interest in syn fuel.  of course, the lack of action (or published news stories to that effect) could represent so many other things.

[ Parent ]

synthetic fuel replaces gas/diesel/kerosene (none / 0) (#179)
by Polverone on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 12:51:59 AM EST

It's a way to enable the US to continue business more-or-less as usual even once real petroleum is prohibitively expensive. It's a way to keep SUVs, suburban bedroom communities, home-delivered goods, air travel vacations, and all the other energy-intensive goodies that Americans love alive. They'll cost somewhat more when synthetic fuels have taken over, but not so much more that many people will change their lifestyle. That's my guess, anyway.

A lot of the R&D for this tech has been done by oil companies, often under contract to the federal government. I would say that they haven't been building US plants yet because it's not clear how sustained the current increase in oil prices will be. It's painful to build a billion dollar chemical plant aiming at $60/barrel fuel prices, only to see real petroleum slump to $45/barrel three years after the plant comes online.

Another reason I'd guess this is the way of the future, apart from America's love of the automobile, is that high energy density fuels and the vehicles powered by them are militarily critical. You're not going to see battery powered tanks or fuel cell powered transport planes in the next few decades. If the government supports synfuel commercialization, as I have little doubt that it will, the costs of synfuel production will be spread over the military and civilians at greater economy of scale. Otherwise fueling military vehicles becomes a much more expensive niche technology, whether done with synthetics or increasingly rare/expensive natural petroleum in increasingly rare/dated refineries.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Actually, no. (none / 0) (#250)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:36:12 PM EST

First of all, every "diesel" locomotive in America is actually an electric locomotive that happens to use an onboard diesel generator to generate the electricity for its drive motors. It is child's play to add 3rd rail support to these locomotives. Adding the 3rd rail would be a non-trivial task, but we already have efficient long-haul (and short haul) capability.

Secondly, it is relatively easy to add electric capability to busses via overhead wires. Go look around in downtown San Francisco sometime.

So it is clear that the future of America is electric-powered mass transit. This will cause serious changes in the American lifestyle -- away from unsupportable suburbs and back to tightly-packed cities (which make mass transit financially feasible). Life will no more go on once oil becomes too expensive for personal transport than it went on once the Roman Empire collapsed -- just as people's lifestyles changed drastically when the Western Roman Empire collapsed (when Romans went from being dwellers in cities and towns to being dispersed subsistence farmers), so will it happen when the Oil Empire collapses.

One last thing: Some people wonder why diesel-operated automobiles are so rare in the United States. My personal belief is that this is on purpose, to differentiate personal transport (gasoline-powered) from commercial transport (diesel-powered) so that as oil becomes more scarce, it can be preferentially targetted to commercial transport (diesel-powered trucks and busses and jet planes -- note that jet fuel is basically diesel). Bio-diesel is possible today, and can be used to keep short-haul commercial transport running after fossil fuels become intolerably expensive. Also note that it is possible to make synthetic motor oils and greases from vegetable oils.

- Badtux the Techno-history Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

Why will people all go urban/electric? (none / 0) (#261)
by Polverone on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 06:47:21 PM EST

It's obvious that Americans don't generally want to radically reogranize their lives and give up automobiles. The question is, will circumstances force them to do so regardless of preference? I don't believe that the disappearance of inexpensive natural petroleum will force a radical reorganization, because synthetic fuels made from coal offer a non-radical alternative and coal is far more abundant than petroleum. If it's feasible to keep selling cars and gasoline instead of trolleys and bicycles, it will be done, because it's more profitable. And it is feasible.

What I said upthread about synthetic fuel prices was too pessimistic; a 1999 Bechtel estimate, using then-current technology, was that synthetic gasoline or diesel made from coal could be produced for under $40/barrel. There has been a lot of progress in synthetic fuel technology over the past 20 years even though full-scale deployment has been rare. In particular, more effective and inexpensive catalysts have been developed, and plants have been designed to be less complicated and easier to maintain.

Visit a university library and look in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry at the long Coal Liquefication section for more hard numbers and descriptions of the known processes, paying particular attention to indirect liquefication. If you can't find a library with a copy, I think you can download the electronic edition from P2P apps.

Once all the fossil fuels are rare or hard to extract (this is a state considerably more distant than "natural petroleum becomes expensive"), things do get harder. Carbon compounds will have to be created starting directly with atmospheric CO2 or indirectly starting with biomass that has fed on atmospheric CO2. But I don't think biomass-derived fuels can be environmentally or economically competitive on a large scale with coal-derived synthetics at current or near-future technological capability. Using waste biomass to produce useful fuels is a smart idea, but using biomass looks considerably less smart if it requires dedicated large-scale production (as it would to replace a significant fraction of current transport fuels).

Diesel fuel is often taxed to indirectly charge trucks for their use of roads. This partially offsets the better-mileage/lower-cost advantage when someone considers buying a diesel automobile. Diesel autos are less common, so somewhat harder to get serviced. Current diesel engines with current fuels emit more particulates and sulfur dioxide than gasoline engines, so there's been little air-quality support for more diesels. US standards for diesel fuel are getting tighter in the next 2-3 years, so future diesel vehicles will have catalytic converters (like gas vehicles), and emit less particulates and sulfur. This is an opportunity for synthetic diesel, BTW, since coal-derived syndiesel produces fewer particulates when burned and is ultra-low-sulfur. The Ullmann entry estimates that syndiesel can command a ~10% price premium over high quality petroleum-derived diesel because of its utility in making blended fuels to meet upcoming sulfur standards.

Notice that what I've written talks about economics, convenience, and technological feasibility but does not address global warming. I believe that the transition to synthetics will pump CO2 into the atmosphere faster than ever, since the liquid fuels still produce as much CO2 when burned and additionally it takes more energy to produce said fuels. There are interesting times ahead.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Economics (none / 0) (#264)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 08:25:26 PM EST

If it costs $50 a gallon for gasoline, which will happen, you will prefer to live close to work rather than far from work, thus in an urban setting.

The problem with synthetic fuels is multi-fold: 1) It takes more energy to create a gallon of bio-diesel than is contained within that bio-diesel. 2) It takes a hundred acres of corn to create that gallon of bio-diesel. 3) If you use coal instead, note that the supply of coal in the United States is limited too, and that coal mining causes enormous environmental damage (they are basically knocking the tops off of mountains in West Virginia now to get the coal out from under the mountains).

The reality is that personal transportation devices, with their limitation of requiring a concentrated hydrocarbon source of fuel (forget all that "hydrogen economy" nonsense, you can't get the required fuel density that way to make personal transportation feasible), will sooner or later become economically unfeasible. Luckily we have an alternative...

- Badtux the Realist Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

The United States has a lot of coal. (none / 0) (#269)
by Polverone on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 11:59:25 PM EST

I don't doubt that mining it all will cause considerable environmental damage. Still, I fully expect my fellow Americans to decide that large scale coal mining and ramped-up greenhouse gas outputs are better than abandoning trillions of dollars' worth of sprawl, moving into dense cities, and learning to live without cars.

I expect the decade-averaged pump price of gasoline to stay below $10 per gallon (inflation-adjusted) for the rest of my life. I don't expect that said gasoline will be made from petroleum by the time I'm buried, though, and it's quite possible that it will spike higher than $10 during the transition period.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Another economic point (none / 0) (#270)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 09:48:59 AM EST

Currently, the only feasable way for me to get to work is by car. For me to move closer to work, I'd have to sell my low priced house in a questionable area and buy a MUCH more expensive house. Even at $50/gallon, I might be better off economically staying where I am and driving to work.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
on the flipside... (none / 0) (#108)
by bobdole on Sat Jul 09, 2005 at 09:44:35 PM EST

if everybody glows, imagine the amount of energy saved on lights around the globe; everybody provides their own...
-- The revolution will not be televised.
[ Parent ]
the revolution will not be televised... (none / 0) (#117)
by fleece on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 03:14:57 AM EST

does that mean that any revolution that's televised is not The revolution, by definition?



I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
[ Parent ]
Yeah. (none / 0) (#203)
by DavidTC on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 08:43:40 PM EST

That radon released by coal mining is a bitch.

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]
It's great to be white!! (none / 1) (#125)
by auraslip on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 06:34:05 AM EST

and we First Worlders will have to compete with them for the declining supply, both financially,<b> and maybe militarily.</b>

Here we come iraq.....
124

Free market economies... (2.80 / 5) (#130)
by skyknight on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 09:02:35 AM EST

can foster responsible stewardship of natural resources. That being said, I think that there are two pre-conditions for it working. Firstly, present day consumers must somehow bear the costs of irresponsible use. Second, and this is somewhat non-orthogonal to the first, the resource probably has to be renewable. Unfortunately, oil fails both of these tests.

It is extremely nebulous how long the present rate of oil consumption can continue, leading people to wishful thinking that things can proceed the way they always have long enough to get to some new energy source. Will it fail for me? My children? My grandchildren? People are hopelessly over-optimistic when it comes to their assessments of how they will figure out problems tomorrow. Look at how they use things like credit cards. They think only of their needs of today, and put off pondering the details until later, often to disastrous effect.

Combine this with the fact that oil is non-renewable, thus engendering a mentality of "better get mine while the getting is good", and you have the pricks whose commuter cars look like something more suited to a battlefield. They think that it's fair because they are forking over money at the pump. Never mind that the oil prices are heavily subsidized by tax dollars, and the blood of both soldiers and civilians. Two dollars per gallon is so out of touch with the actual cost of gasoline that it's no wonder that people drive such monstrosities.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
limited liability (none / 0) (#185)
by Nyarlathotep on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 07:33:55 AM EST

You also need to (1) eliminate limited liability for corperations, and (2) equalize criminal penalties betweeen corperations and individuals.  If a company comits a crime which would result in 80 years of prison time for an individual, you should divide up that prison time among all the (voting) shareholders.  If a company goes into bankrupsy, you should start taking the (voting) shareholders money to pay off the creditors.  Of course, the courts are free to descide that its really the CEO responciblity, or that ex-shareholder Bob who sold his shares should get time as the crime was comitted while he had power.  If corperations are legal fictions, lets treat them like legal fictions.

Now you might find some non-government tasks are too risky to do without limited liability.  Nice free market solution here too: a well designed auction for limited liability status could raise a lot fo revenue.  Or you could just try to think about what activities were valuble enough to warent limited liability, you know like the King of England did way back when corperations were invented and had to be approved by the King.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]

Awww.... Come on. (2.00 / 2) (#134)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 12:32:11 PM EST

Peak oil may or may not be a valid theory, but no one seriously believes the current rise is caused by the exhaustion of resources.

The current rise in prices has one simple explanation: China's demand for oil has been exploding - it doubled in the five years up to 2004 and it appears to have doubled again in 2004.

Given this explosion in oil consumption, who needs to invoke plausible-but-unproven theories about oil exploration?

How many trolls could a true troll troll if a true troll could troll trolls?

think again. (none / 0) (#138)
by caridon20 on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 01:29:11 PM EST

It is not that oil will run out (as oponents of peak oil tries to make it sound as) It is our ability to extract enough oil to keep up with demand.

when that happens the basic law of syuply and demand will make prices go through the roof.

The point is that even if chinas demands did not increase, the diminishing ability to extract oil would put us in this situation sooner or later.

/C
Dissent is NOT Treason Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
[ Parent ]

Bzzt. (none / 0) (#143)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 03:02:24 PM EST

It is not that oil will run out (as oponents of peak oil tries to make it sound as) It is our ability to extract enough oil to keep up with demand.

that's wrong. Peak Oil is the theory that (a) Earth's oil supply is finite (almost certainly true) and (b) we have already consumed the majority of that supply (unproven).

For an example of a typical Peak Oil hysteric, please see this.

How many trolls could a true troll troll if a true troll could troll trolls?
[ Parent ]

not majority (none / 0) (#146)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 03:51:40 PM EST

Peak oil is that when the production of oil is at it's peak, we will have consumed 50% of the available supplies. So if all oil producers are producing as much as they can, then the demand and supply curves go their separate ways, and the Iraq war is shown to be all about the oil.

[ Parent ]
bzzzt yourself (none / 1) (#158)
by caridon20 on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 07:33:15 PM EST

You can read the hysteria pages.I prefere to read about what peak oil is.

try http://www.peakoil.com/
or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil

a nice quote:
"Peak oil theory states: that any finite resource, (including oil), will have a beginning, middle, and an end of production, and at some point it will reach a level of maximum output as seen in the graph to the left."
note: nothing here about how much is left (as it is irellevant.)
the question is when we have reached MAXIMUM OUTPUT !
Now normaly (for a single well) peak output is when aprox 50% have been extracted but this can change. (slower extraction,new methods ect.)

/C
Dissent is NOT Treason Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
[ Parent ]

Peak Oil hysterics. (none / 1) (#292)
by grendelkhan on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 12:54:16 PM EST

What initially bothered me sites like latoc.net was their overwhelming aura of hippy-dippy, as if central governance and all the other trappings of civilization are a bad thing, and talk a lot about "community" and living locally, close to the land and so forth.

The idea that you're not likely to die by violent means is a very recent one. Pastoral, "community-based" living puts us all at the mercy of marauding gangs, or of feudal lords. It's a fucking nightmare, and people who idealize it make me want to punch them in the brain.

Furthermore, I'd get more out of latoc.net if they didn't make mind-bendingly stupid comparisons like figuring out how much human labor replaces a barrel of oil, which would be relevant if humans had been doing all of our labor by hand and sweat instead of by animal, then by water power, which hasn't been the case in thousands of years.

That said, it is criminal, yes, criminal how our leadership is not taking action on this now. Right now. Right fucking now. Because the time when we'll have the cheap energy required to replace huge gobs of our infrastructure is running out.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

define "unproven" (none / 0) (#145)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 03:49:03 PM EST

is "unproven" the correct prediction Hubbert made in 1970?

[ Parent ]
For that matter... (none / 0) (#151)
by Pakaran on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 05:26:56 PM EST

How can we be sure that the current rise in prices isn't due to speculators who are hoping, and betting, that peak oil has occured or soon will? It's possible that they'll lose and the rest of the world will win.

[ Parent ]
Oil fueled power plants are closing? (none / 0) (#137)
by sholden on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 01:00:04 PM EST

So demand for oil will be reduced.

What do you know, as the price rises the demand drops and hence we use less and don't run out overnight. I wonder why economists never noticed this relationship between price and demand before?

Who knows, maybe as the price rises people will realise they could make a profit producing electricity with other fuel sources. I wonder why economists never thought about this relationship between price and supply before?

--
The world's dullest web page


less electricity = less development (none / 0) (#164)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 08:40:30 PM EST

the US economy requires certain growth rates for the consumer society to function.  when cheap clothes can not be made in the third world sweatshops (and transported half around the world), that means retail chains will start finding that perhaps their operations are not sustainable.  of course the lack of oil will also affect the production of synthetic fabrics, and the dyes used to color nearly all cloth.  and there are so many more ramifications from price increases for oil (pesticides, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers).  automobiles and the suburia that coincide (in the US) are our own lodestones, weighing us down.  start growing a garden, commuting with your bike,...  

[ Parent ]
So that's the problem, now lets talk solutions (2.66 / 3) (#139)
by alexboko on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 01:47:37 PM EST

Big business and government might solve it... but if they had the foresight, intelligence, and organizational flexibility to do so, don't you think they would have moved earlier, when there was more time to act?

I hope they do have something in mind (cheap coal liquification or better tar sand extraction for instance)... but since I can't do anything about that, I have to have my personal backup plan. As it happens, I do, and it's a little bit more optimistic than "buy a shotgun". Even if the problem gets solved on a global level, implementing this plan on a local level will guard those who implement it against a wide range of economic, political, and natural disasters.

The plan is basically to learn to make wind-power generators out of recycled parts. At minimum, this takes a large motor (which can be retrofitted into a dynamo or for some motors just used without modification), materials from which to make blades (wood, varnished foam, or 10" diameter PVC pipes cut in half), and a sturdy tower (anything ranging from an old basketball hoop to a radio tower). If you're out in farm country, you can also probably buy an after-market windmill because they're all over the place.

You can learn more about how to do this by reading the The Windpower Workshop which is considered to be one of the best hands-on books in the field. You can also hang around The Otherpower board or their IRC channel (irc://65.166.58.15#otherpower.

The main challenges are going to be...

  1. Setting up a standard test rig in which to test out candidate motors under plausible speeds to see if the copper cables need to be rewound before they'll function efficiently as motors.
  2. Experimenting with you blade material of choice to find the best length and geometry for wind conditions in your area.
  3. Building enough of these things to generate (on average) the 2kW that a typical house uses.
  4. Buying batteries to put into float-service in line with your windmills to ride out non-windy periods or high use periods. This is the expensive part, but the more batteries you buy, the better. In the long run, the batteries are kind of the Acchilles Heel because they are expensive and it would be nice to be able to build them yourself so you don't have to rely on external sources even for that. Since nobody wants to work with lead anywhere near their home, one candidate might be some kind of home-grown version of Edison's Nickel-Iron cell.
The other thing you'll need, and the hardest thing for people who don't already have it, is space. A workshop to do this in, and land on which to set up these towers and test them. But don't despair if you're an urban apartment dweller. Most people with undeveloped land (at least in the USA) are always looking for something profitable or at least non-useless to do with it. You can find like-minded people who do have land and negotiate a rental agreement or even get them to lend you the use of their land (maybe in exchange for a few windmills once you figure out how to build them). Try the Craig's List for your area or your local FreeCycle group or just take out an ad in your local paper.

When you get good at DIY power generation, it may even become a profitable source of supplementary income. Even if the worst of the "Road Warrior" scenarios don't turn out to be true, everybody agrees that energy will become more expensive than it is now, and therefore alternative power (of which wind is the most accessible) will start to look attractive to more people. The big barrier to entry into alternative, off-grid power for most people is the initial capital expense... and if you can make these things out of junk in your own garage, you're addressing a very real need right there without even having to invent anything new.

Now, you by yourself won't save the world, and that's not the point of this. The point is...

  1. To make sure that at least in your immediate neighborhood people will continue to have power no matter what happens, and so the adjustment to a post-oil economy will proceed in a peaceful, safe, and relatively comfortable manner.
  2. To make money off helping it along.
  3. To be one more node in a spreading wavefront of people going "Hey, if I can make a case-mod or soup up my car, I can make the stuff this guy is making and actually do some good in the process". If DIY power generation catches on as a hobby, then that just might save the world (or at least your country) where more global and centralized approaches have failed.
How long will this take? I'm not sure, I've just started. I guess I'll be posting updates on our progress here and on the KTLO website as they happen. I'm guessing it shouldn't take more than a year from the initial panic attack to your first prototype windmill. All the subsequent ones will proceed much faster, since you will have acquired all the tools and skills you need while building the first one. Before you know it, you'll end up like this guy. Now, someone like him, you know is going to do just fine no matter what kind of hell breaks loose... and he's doing it by helping people instead of screwing them over.

And what if this is all for nothing? What if the magic hand of government and mega-commerce comes up with some kind of magically fast transition to tar sands or liquified coal? Well, we can all relax and go "phew" then... but you'll still know how to make your little corner of the world recover faster from wars, hurricanes, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks against the power grid.

So there you go, something you can do instead of feeling scared, angry and powerless. Suggestions welcome.


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.

expound further, (none / 0) (#248)
by loteck on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:29:06 PM EST

organize, and submit as story. focus on the facts of DIY power and avoid any semblance of "kookery".

DIY shit is fun


--
"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 ]
Thank you. (none / 0) (#263)
by alexboko on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 07:00:07 PM EST

I've been thinking of doing that. If I do, this will be my first K5 story. I'm kind of waiting to see what else the author of the parent story writes so that I'm not repeating them.

(also, I have a dissertation proposal to finish writing, otherwise this writeup would have been a lot better and more detailed... uurrrgh... must... stop... procrastinating...)


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 ]

two things (none / 0) (#362)
by Entendre Entendre on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:56:14 PM EST

Big business and government might solve it... but if they had the foresight, intelligence, and organizational flexibility to do so, don't you think they would have moved earlier, when there was more time to act?

No, because there isn't enough money in it. Yet.

Also do you have any idea (honest question) how much power a wind generator will provide? Does it provide enough power to run a refrigerator, for example? Assume "national average" winds for the USA.

--
Reduce firearm violence: aim carefully.
[ Parent ]

Re: two things (none / 0) (#363)
by alexboko on Wed Jan 18, 2006 at 09:40:37 PM EST


No, because there isn't enough money in it. Yet.

R&D and restructuring take lots of investment. It's the surplus that gets invested. If everyone has to spend more of their wealth on continuing to survive/stay in business right now, they have less to invest. I'm not saying that there won't be investment, I'm just saying that it's setting up to be a nasty race between how fast we can transition and how fast the oil runs out. And that's assuming no disruptions in the supply due to politics.

But yes, there will be money in renewable energy. A lot of money. And whoever is standing in front of that particular wave will be like the people fiddling around with HTML back in the early 90's: glad.

And on that note, here's my answer to your other question. The windmill I'm bulding should put out 100W in a 10MPH wind, and the output increases with wind speed and blade length. I could probably power my lifestyle without conservation measures on twenty of them. With conservation, ten.

But it doesn't have to be that many before it sarts to make a positive impact on expenses. Furthermore, even a couple windmills this size are enough to power the single most important and irreplaceable use of electricity in your house. Know what that is?


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 ]

Question (none / 0) (#141)
by calumny on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 02:49:03 PM EST

Just curious at this point: will you be talking about some of the more revolutionary (outlandish, foolhardy) schemes for power generation in your next article? Traditional solar, nuclear, coal and wind are treated as the only options when solar chimneys, lake source cooling (with power generation from the temperature differential), and orbiting solar collectors are all reaching some measure of feasibility.

Nevermind the sci-fi. Need simple, cheap, robust (none / 0) (#144)
by alexboko on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 03:26:44 PM EST

Solar chimneys are not a new power generation scheme. Just a way to convert solar power into wind power. And a very good way that might be accessible to the do-it-yourselfer. Just put up a huge tent made out of clear material (and maybe a black floor), put up a hollow tower in the middle of the tent, and mount a windmill inside the tower. Lake source cooling may also be practical... don't know how good temperature differential (Stirling) generators are at this point, but certainly possible.

Orbital collectors? No fucking way. Not because it's not a good idea-- it's a great long-term idea. But it takes time and money to do this, and as oil runs out there will be less and less surplus money to invest in speculative power sources.

It's the same problem as nuclear but multiplied-- if we went all out building nuke plants all over the place right now, ten or twenty years later we might have enough to meet all our needs. It would be the biggest single infrastructure project in history. If we go all out five years from now, oil (and therefore just about every other good) will be more expensive, and therefore it will take an even larger chunk of our GNP. And so on... eventually a point is reached where oil (and everything else) is so expensive that you can't afford to fix the problem at all... at that point you might as well just hoard the remaining oil and wait for the inevitable.

We need to look to simple, cheap, and robust power solutions. The time to design and implement speculative energy technologies was ten or twenty years ago. If something is still on the drawing board at this late stage I'm going to ignore it until after the immediate crisis passes (although I wish the inventors luck in marketing it, and hope that I'm wrong about their chances of getting it on the market in time). The only exception to this are new inventions that are cheap and simple enough that ordinary individuals can build DIY implementations.


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 ]

transportation is huge expense (none / 0) (#147)
by Rhodes on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 03:53:36 PM EST

start riding bikes, because that's what transportation will look like. hopefully my age will preclude me from the draft...

[ Parent ]
Yes and... (none / 0) (#156)
by alexboko on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 06:08:54 PM EST

Bikes and once there has been time to breed up enough horses and cattle, animals.

Biodiesel might work, but the priority here would be farm equipment, and biodiesel crops take up quite a bit of acreage, at least with currently available breeds (I'm sure that a few decades of selective breeding and a little help from GM methods may yet max out the per-acre yield).

For bulk goods perhaps railroads will make a comeback... still a big project but it will be easier to resurrect those than to make millions of new electric vehicles with dwindling resources.

I suspect police and military vehicles will still run on gas (who do you think those strategic reserves are maintained for, Mr. Commuter?) but even they might use them more economically than they do now.


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 ]

Where is the talk about shale? (none / 1) (#155)
by mattw on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 05:41:24 PM EST

No discussion of peak oil is really even started without a mention of oil shale. It represents a 1.6 trillion barrel resource, of which 75% is in the United States. Hardly inexhaustible, but it represents enough oil to satisfy 45 years worth of current worldwide oil demand. (If we looked only at US consumption, and assumed no rise in it, that's about 180 years worth of oil)

Not that it is without downsides - it is expensive and inefficient to extract right now (which is why it isn't being done; although if the price of oil remains where it is, it is economically profitable to do so), has several bad environmental consequences and will also eventually run out.

How about an energy research tax? We'll tack 2% onto oil, either when imported or when produced domestically. That all goes directly into a research fund that is awarded for the purposes of researching alternative energy sources. Given that oil has doubled in the past year, that's hardly epic. It would raise almost $9B/yr that we could use to fund research to our heart's content.


[Scrapbooking Supplies]

oil sands in alberta (none / 0) (#183)
by synx on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 02:15:22 AM EST

Don't forget about the oil sands in alberta. There is approximately 1.7-2.5 billion barrels of oil in there. Of course you can't get it for as cheap as $10/barrel - which is why it really isn't being used right now. But as the oil price stays high then it becomes economically viable. A quote: " The sum of these covers an area of nearly 77,000 km2. In fact, the reserve that is deemed to be technologically retrievable today is estimated at 280-300Gb (billion barrels). This is larger than the Saudi Arabia oil reserves, which are estimated at 240Gb. The total reserves for Alberta, including oil not recoverable using current technology, are estimated at 1,700- 2,500Gb. " from: http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/102spring2002_Web_projects/M.Sexton/

[ Parent ]
Its the price... (none / 0) (#268)
by dasunt on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 09:30:31 PM EST

There is no justification to extract shale oil until conventional oil will stay above $45/barrel.

OPEC creates artificial scarcity. When faced with serious competition, they can open up the pumps and flood the competition in cheap oil.

Back in the 1970s, during the oil crisis, investments were made in shale oil infrastructure. That money was lost as soon as OPEC lowered prices.

Its only when OPEC is forced to raise its prices through natural scarcity does peak oil have a chance -- if OPEC can't lower the price to force out competition, then you'll see shale oil.

Other than the competition from conventional oil, its a great product -- demand is already there, the demand will probably increase, and the infrastructure to sell your product is in place around the world.



[ Parent ]
don't worry (2.71 / 7) (#157)
by circletimessquare on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 07:19:20 PM EST

the biggest "duh!" i can think of when it comes to energy policy: nuclear is our salvation

pebble bed reactors will save us (no meltdown possible)

human nature is so shortsighted though we won't actually make the switch until we're paying $300 a barrel with no relief in sight and china is fighting wars with japan for the little islands between them and china is fighting wars with the philippines for the little islands between them with massive fields underneath

pebble bed reactors combined with battery technology (that's right: battery technology, not the fucking waste of energy called hydrogen) will be our salvation

and we have enough uranium deposits to keep us a zipping around for a long time

the air will clean up too

environmentalists: nuclear is on your agenda more than you know yet, it represents all the salvation you want from environment destroying energy policies, but too many of you have seen hollywood freak outs like "china syndrome" and "silkwood" and not enough of you dunderheads know enough basic science to appreciate that pebble bed reactors just ain't gonna go chernobyl

so get your science education please, and not from hollywood, and then open your fucking mouth

your intentions are good and appreciated dear environmentalists, but some of your iq is rather low on the subjects you talk about

and any of you worried about terrorism?

guess what funds wahabbi islam and their fundamentalist madrassas right now?

petroleum does

so we should go nuclear to SAVE us from militant fundamentalist islamic terrorism


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

Pebble Bed Reactor? (none / 1) (#187)
by jold on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 10:21:53 AM EST

Pebble Bed Reactor don't seem really safe after a serious examination by MIT researchers. You can find a light one at http://www.tmia.com/industry/pebbles.html

[ Parent ]
ooh! i found a link! (none / 0) (#190)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 11:52:26 AM EST

that says that the earth has 4 simultaneous days!

can you believe that shit?????

no????

well now you know how i feel, you fucking propagandized quack


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

[ Parent ]

That was such a load of horsecrap (none / 0) (#200)
by lordDogma on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 07:47:59 PM EST

I feel a lot stupider after reading it.

[ Parent ]
it's called propaganda for a reason (nt) (none / 0) (#202)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 08:26:13 PM EST



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

[ Parent ]
Disposal of Spent Fuel (none / 0) (#199)
by ewhac on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 05:59:11 PM EST

Preventing a reactor from going Browns Ferry/Three Mile Island/Chernobyl on you is only one of the two main objections to nuclear plants. The other is what to do with the spent fuel.

I'm not up on nuclear physics, and even worse on nuclear chemistry, so I don't know which elements or isotopes are used in fission reactors today, what their half-lives are, and their relative hazard to life when no longer useful as reactor fuel. Can you give me a thumbnail sketch of exactly how all this nuclear fuel is supposed to get safely dumped?

Schwab
---
Editor, A1-AAA AmeriCaptions. Priest, Internet Oracle.
[ Parent ]

you like smog? lung cancer? fundie terrorists? (none / 0) (#201)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 08:06:12 PM EST

so what if a fucking mountain in nevada is radioactive

i'm dead serious: who gives a shit

weigh the positives and negatives of the choices before us and get your head out of your ass

choose


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

[ Parent ]

Who gives a shit? (none / 0) (#212)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 09:01:47 AM EST

I'd say the people who live near the radioactive mountain give a shit! You do realize that you can get cancer from radiation as easily as you can from smog, don't you?
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
you're genuinely low iq (none / 0) (#233)
by circletimessquare on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 02:45:32 PM EST

1 mountain, shielded, no one lives near there- radiation

every goddamn city in the us- smog... as well as well-funded fundie terrorists from petroleum

i mean are you just trolling me or do you genuinely lack analytical skills a kindergartener can appreciate?

are you genuinely telling me you prefer petroleum?


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

[ Parent ]

Yeah, man, but the ANTS (none / 0) (#259)
by nollidj on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 06:30:28 PM EST

Smog doesn't make GIANT ANTS, man.

muahaha. MuaHaHA! MUAHAHAHAHAHAAAHAHAHAA!!!!
[ Parent ]

Disposal is easy (none / 1) (#247)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:25:26 PM EST

Reprocess the wastes and use the remaining radioactive isotopes as fuel, get rid of the inert elements. Really, this one is almost ludicrously simple, other than the fact that the primary element produced via reprocessing the fuel is plutonium, which is also useful for making nuclear weapons. But a breeder reactor (one that uses plutonium and raw uranium in order both generate electricity and breed more plutonium fuel) is quite feasible technologically, albeit not politically.

Note that U-238 (the primary element in raw uranium) is one of the more common heavy elements on the planet, only slightly less common than lead. It is the U-238 which gets irradiated in nuclear reactors to produce Pu-239, which in turn is useful either as nuclear fuel or nuclear bomb material. It is U-235 (a trace element in raw uranium), the primary element used in modern light water reactors, that is in somewhat short supply (albeit there is a glut on the open market at the moment). So there's no shortage of nuclear fuel. Just a shortage of political savvy for making proper use of what fuel we do have.

- Badtux the Glow-in-the-dark Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

Integral Fast Reactor is solution to waste problem (none / 1) (#316)
by Jah-Wren Ryel on Sat Jul 16, 2005 at 02:53:47 PM EST

See the wikipedia entry for Integral Fast Reactor which is a specialized form of the fast breeder reactor.

The waste from an IFR has a very short half life, the stuff will decay back to the original levels of radioactivity within 400 years, compared to tens of thousands of years for most other designs.

On top of that, an IFR is also fail-safe - if things get too "hot" the reaction automagically slows instead of accelerating like Chernobyl, etc.

[ Parent ]

Peak Energy (none / 1) (#161)
by starX on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 07:53:03 PM EST

I waver between fear and hope on this issue, but if it truly is the end of western civilization as we know it, so be it.  The roman empire fell, and people managed to survive, and then go on to build some damned fine civilization in the process.  Still, I think the real concern is not peak oil, but peak energy.

To whit, a friend of mine has posited that all of this bravado about making sure countries like Iran and N. Korea "fulfill their international obligations" by foresaking all nuclear technology is a ploy on the part of current nuclear powers to ensure that they have as much of the worlds supply of fissable material when it becomes our primary source of energy in the world.  Interesting theory.

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust

You forgot the dark ages. (none / 1) (#178)
by ultimai on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 12:47:19 AM EST

And had a long, nasty, stagant dark ages period before recovery.

[ Parent ]
I'm not forgetting (none / 0) (#180)
by starX on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 01:41:09 AM EST

My point was mainly that society would survive in some way.  Yeah, it might take a half a millenium to get back there, but we'd make it.  Or alternatively we wouldn't, but I certainly won't be there to see the day, so no harm, no foul.

Besides, I would find it hard to classify the middle ages as completely stagnant.  There was constant artistic, architectural, cultural, and philisophical evolution over previous societies.  Granted, this tended to happen over the space of centuries, but one could argue the same for western europe and its descendants in the modern era (pre mass media).

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust
[ Parent ]

But if there is something we could do... (none / 1) (#208)
by alexboko on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 12:11:11 AM EST

If getting up just a tiny bit off our lazy fat computer geek asses and taking some preventative/preparatory action will make life a little more tolerable for us and our progeny, we'd do it, wouldn't we? Right? Even if the Dark Ages weren't so bad.

BTW, I don't know about the last ones, but the next Dar Ages will suck hard. Forget romantic visions of knights, vikings, and happy peasants frolicking in the fields. Think Somalia. Think Afghanistan.

If the Dark Ages happen tomorrow, the people whose bitch you and your family will most likely be are:

a) inner city drug gangs
b) rural white supremacist paranoid millenialist kooks
c) heavily armed bandits who used to be members of your country's military and police

Take your pick. Or maybe instead get busy making your damnest to be sure it never, ever happens.


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 ]

Possibly (none / 1) (#213)
by starX on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 09:17:52 AM EST

Romantic visions of knights, vikings, and happy peasants frolicking in the fields?  Nah, I know too much about history.  Actually Somalia et al is a fair representation of dark ages meets modern tech.  Thing is, it can't last long.  

inner city drug gangs.  Nope, these guys will get stomped out pretty quickly.  Fact of the matter is, their drug supply is an extremely limited thing, and modern cities are predicated on the concept of cheap energy (the ability to move mass quantities of food and water into the city daily).  There won't be inner cities for very long, and the drug gangs of which you speak would rapidly lose their drugs.  This in conjunction with the fact that they are lightly armed in comparison to the local police and national guard units that would be brought in when martial law was declared.  There really isn't a problem here, because these folks would be pacified out of existence in the military dictatorship that would necessarily follow the fall of the republic.

rural white supremacist paranoid millenialist kooks.  To a certain extent see above.  Some of these people are planning for an apocolypse, some are talking about it.  There are vastly more of the latter.  Honestly the rural communities have the best shot at self sustainability, but in the ensuing military dictatorship that will necessarily follow the fall of the republic, these people will be pacified in order to deliver as much food as possible to the metropolitan (such as it would be) population and ruling castes (the military).  Here again, resistance will be quickly dealt with.

heavily armed bandits who used to be members of your country's military and police ding ding ding, we have a winner.  These fellows would have immediate authority in the military dictatorship that would necessarily follow the fall of the republic, and would efectively become the feudal lords of the new era.  Still, something I don't think your taking into account, their heavy armaments will cease to function within a century or so, and without the fuel necessary to manufacture more, they will be reduced to iron age technology.  

Or maybe instead get busy making your damnest to be sure it never, ever happens. That's like spitting into the wind.  Republics fall.  In the long march of history dark ages and fuedal economies are followed by republics and monetary economies, which are followed by military dictatorships/empires with mixed monetary and fuedal economies.  To presume that we are somehow immune from this is.... well... haughty.  We have perhaps created the greatest society that human history has ever known, but it isn't permanent.  Even Hitler wasn't arrogant enough to think his perfect society would last forever.  Republican and Democratic values erode, and free societies are inevitably replaced by societies that can guarantee security, which ultimately collapse under their own weight when they lack a strong enough leader to sustain them, and then the strong will ultimately oppress the weak. In the ideal sense they will do so justly (that is to say with the best inentions of their people in mind).

I don't know about the last ones, but the next Dar Ages will suck hard. So let me clue you in, the last dark ages tended to suck pretty hard for the common peasant.  Life was constant toil, there was no social security, and there really wasn't even military security.  When the vikings came they butchered everyone they found outside the castle walls, which was generally the peasants still in their fields.  When the invading army came, they butchered peasants in their fields.  A peasant was the property of their feudal lord (google the concept of prima nocte).  The life span of your average peasant was not more than 30 or 40 years, and on average the figures in the Bible would have been more real to you than your own grand parents.  There is much butchery during these dark times, which is one of the reasons why empires and military dictatorships are often idealized in lyric form; they hearken a time of relative peace and stability, and serve as a model for all fuedal lordes to follow.

If getting up just a tiny bit off our lazy fat computer geek asses and taking some preventative/preparatory action will make life a little more tolerable for us and our progeny, we'd do it, wouldn't we? Right? Nah, no one ever believes they are living on the cusp of the fall of civilization as they know it.  In fact, it is one of those things that can be very hard to tell while it's happening.  Rome wasn't built in a day, nor did it fall in one. It was more than a thousand years before historians fixed an arbitrary date for a turning point at which they say that the Rome that was passed away, but there were many people yet who lived for centuries that thought of themselves as Romans all over Europe and Africa, and Charlemaigne himself didn't seek to create a new empire, but instead to restore the old one, except in a more explicitly Christian moulde (thus the Holy Roman Empire).  

Death is inevitable both for individuals and for societies; ours is no different, and just as you only realize you've grown older when you look back at your memories from a distance, it is often times only in retrospect that we can tell when a society has entered into an irreversible decline.

Moment of zen: "In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will be singing. About the dark times." --Bertolt Brecht

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust
[ Parent ]

entertainment (none / 0) (#225)
by Rhodes on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 12:02:16 PM EST

don't forget to watch the news and all the syndicated TV dramas- you can't plan with that type of distraction.  

And don't forget that the best entertainment is right before the fall...

[ Parent ]

Artistic decline (none / 0) (#246)
by starX on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:10:00 PM EST

Often foreshadows cultural decline.  Of course cultural decline necessarily comes before artistic decline, but the disintegration of the arts is one of the first clear indicators of a society that is on a downward slope.

Of course this bears repeating that you can only tell the event after a few hundred years of history.  Just like oil prices rise and fall, there are many peaks and valleys in the course of the cultural development of a civilization throughout its lifetime.  

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust
[ Parent ]

I mostly agree with you. (none / 0) (#241)
by alexboko on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:56:10 PM EST

There is something you're overlooking when you say this...


That's like spitting into the wind.  Republics fall.  In the long march of history dark ages and fuedal economies are followed by republics and monetary economies, which are followed by military dictatorships/empires with mixed monetary and fuedal economies.  To presume that we are somehow immune from this is.... well... haughty.  We have perhaps created the greatest society that human history has ever known, but it isn't permanent.  Even Hitler wasn't arrogant enough to think his perfect society would last forever.  Republican and Democratic values erode, and free societies are inevitably replaced by societies that can guarantee security, which ultimately collapse under their own weight when they lack a strong enough leader to sustain them, and then the strong will ultimately oppress the weak. In the ideal sense they will do so justly (that is to say with the best inentions of their people in mind).

I don't think the Republic can be saved, and I'm not putting any effort into doing so. But on a small, local scale life can remain civilized. Throughout the Medeival times there were pockets of peace and enlightenment, and I'll be satisfied merely if I can do my part to help the area I'm living in be one of those centers. This could then serve a catalyst for the next renaissance.


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 ]

Brief respite (none / 0) (#249)
by starX on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:32:51 PM EST

Throughout the Medeival times there were pockets of peace and enlightenment

But they were so brief as to not really matter that much.  It was only when the economics started to change to a monetary economy that a renaissance was truly possible. It tends to be the development of international trade that makes this a necessity, which also facilitates the cultural exchange and influx of new ideas that also make a renaissance possible.

Peasant farmes living under a feudal lord might go through periods of relative properity, but ultimately these isolated communities lack the ability to bring about any real or lasting change.

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust
[ Parent ]

Sorry, I'm just not a fatalist. (none / 0) (#256)
by alexboko on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 05:07:49 PM EST

History has a cyclical character, recurring themes, but it's a typical human oversimplification to say that it literally repeats itself.

I can see why someone might choose to believe that we're fucked and there's nothing we can do about it. That justifies just enjoying life and continuing to do whatever it is you've been doing all along.

As I see it, if something is not physically impossible, and accomplishing that something is important enough, I'll give it my best shot of the alternative is despair. This best shot consists of stating the problem as clearly as possible, identifying possible responses, from these responses identifying the ones most likely to work, and then decomposing these responses into a series of tasks and subtasks until I drill down to the point where I have a manageable list of things I can do every day or every week to prevent disaster.

From my other posts to this article, you can see what plan of action I've come up with. I'm always interest in hearing other plans.

Resignation is not a plan, it an intellectual justification for apathy.


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 ]

For starters (none / 0) (#260)
by starX on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 06:45:16 PM EST

Some interesting ideas can be found here.

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust
[ Parent ]
That's about the right idea. (none / 0) (#262)
by alexboko on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 06:57:20 PM EST

Read that as a kid. I also read Canticle for Leibowitz and liked that a lot too.

The final bit of inspiration came from here.


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 ]

A plan (none / 0) (#277)
by whazat on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 10:06:29 PM EST

Switch to a biotechnology society.

Develop living bio-engineering kits. So that you can grow biological systems that can perform biotechnology experiments. This would keep the civilised aspects of learning and experimentation without requiring the vast infrastructure of factories and the like needed for modern biotech. There are definitely some things this society would miss such as good lenses, aerials and lasers for communication and the ability to harness nuclear fuels for transportation.

We would need a good understanding of neurons if we were to use them as computers, which would be a major stumbling block to civilisation if we didn't have them.

It would also require getting over the squick factor of altering our own genomes.

[ Parent ]

As a biologist... (none / 0) (#279)
by alexboko on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 10:38:23 PM EST

Dude, I'm working on a PhD in molecular physiology, and I can tell you first hand, biotech is going to be screwed first and hardest of all the sciences in the event of a civ-failure. In fact, that realization is what got me started on the whole topic of simple, robust, decentralized, DIY energy. If the power ever goes out for an extended time, my hard work and everyone else's will be wasted and it will take decades to get back to where we are now.

With "hard tech" you can pretty much pick up where you left off once you get power restored (assuming you took proper care of the equipment and data media while it was in storage). Not so for biology-- most of our value is stored as frozen cell lines, frozen embryos, frozen tissues, and frozen cell extracts. The stuff that isn't frozen is alive and needs a controlled environment to stay that way. Power goes out for a week, we're back to culturing bacteria from dirt and hoping they express the enzymes we need in order to purify them for the other techniques on which molecular biology depends.

Nor is biology anywhere close to "biocomputers" or "biofactories". Ten to twenty years from now at the earliest, assuming no interruptions.

So if you're like me and dream of a high-tech future, start acquainting yourself with the robust-tech present on which everything else depends.


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 ]

I know we are not near (none / 0) (#284)
by whazat on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 04:27:02 AM EST

I was mainly thinking of it as a sort of manhatten project governments could attempt as a backup/gamble as they found energy and civilisation harder to maintain. I reckon society won't collapse quickly so this sort of project may be feasible.

The reason why I picked biology was that there needed to be some way of preserving computation. If we assume the future would be energy poor then 5-20 years after general production of computers stops all the computers that modern research relies on will start to decay.

If however society has the wherewithall to continue the centralised manufacture of computers it will still need enough cohesion to produce centralised power (including nuclear) for the refinement of silicon etc.

I am not sure what a decentralised power supply gets you in the long term as all modern artifacts used for research are products of centralised mass production (which I agree we should keep going, but I don't see your plan for simple energy doing that).

[ Parent ]

Biological systems consume energy too. (none / 0) (#290)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 12:36:25 PM EST

Computation is a tiny fraction of our power draw, and would not be that expensive to keep going.

You do put your finger on an important point-- centralized mass production is a point of failure. It's just secondary in priority to centralized energy. The factories and machinery won't just wink out of existance the moment there is an extended blackout or brownout. Most cities have factories that are capable of producing most consumer goods or can be modified to do so. If we can get power flowing again, most of the other stuff can be put back on line if it happens quickly enough.

Don't get me wrong, I am interested in backyard foundries and garage metal shops but I have to prioritize, so I'm starting with energy and moving up the tool chain.

Once KTLO has the wind-turbine thing figured out (and hopefully packaged as a kit and/or manual we can sell for fundraising purposes) we can start branching out into decentralized manufacture.


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 ]

It is not the energy cost of computing (none / 0) (#302)
by whazat on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 03:16:51 PM EST

It is the energy cost/specialism needed in the creation of a computer. You need high purity silicon and clean rooms and vacuum pumps.

If you can think of some nice easy distributed way of creating control circuits and computers I am all ears.

However computers are only part of it. Humans would engineer themselves to be more adapted to their environment (with fur for colder climes and more efficient cooling for hotter) so that energy wouldn't have to be spent on central heating on Air conditioning. This kind of radical societal change. Again a good few years down the line.

The biotech is only really part of my plan, but is the slightly unusual part of it worth discussing (also it obviously wouldn't be accepted by everyone) and is the last resort part of the plan. I only think a small subset would be converted and they could spread the technology around if it was successful.

So the majority of people would be sprouting their own mung beans and setting up their own generators. But if modern industry was too broken, there would still be a back up chance for humanity.

[ Parent ]

Re: I know we are not near (none / 0) (#291)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 12:41:49 PM EST

But as a more direct answer, why spend limited time and resources on researching a speculative technology when we could spend this time and resources getting technologies we already know work onto the market?


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 ]
"dark ages" (none / 0) (#223)
by Rhodes on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 11:58:19 AM EST

was not dark in "Arabia", or "China" (I'm including the mongolians).  Militarily, technologically, culture, crafts, "arabic" and "chinese" culture were doing very well.

Arabia includes the Islamic societies; that started in Saudi Arabia and culminated in the Ottomen empire; Chinese culture includes the mongolians that successfully defeated the long standing rule.

No, the end of cheap oil can be even more dramatic for the world than the fall of the Roman Empire.  And most dramatic for the US, which uses the largest proportion of natural resources per person.  


[ Parent ]

And what's nasty about the next one... (none / 0) (#282)
by alexboko on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 11:37:08 PM EST

What's nasty about any future Dark Ages scenario is that we're all so politically and economically intertwined, that it's not so certain anymore that there will be a China or Arabia to our Rome. The downside of a global village is that the whole damn thing becomes capable of globally burning to the ground.


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 ]
People did NOT survive (none / 0) (#242)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:56:10 PM EST

The city of Rome went from a population of close to 2 million to a population of maybe 10,000 huddled survivors in the ruins in a space of perhaps 100 years. The only reason the city wasn't abandoned altogether was because the Roman Catholic Church for some reason developed an attachment for the place and decided to build their big cathedral there.

And no, those 2,000,000 people didn't all flee to the hinterland and take up as subsistence farmers. Lots of them did. But probably at least half of them -- probably more -- died due to violence, disease, and starvation.

- Badtux the History Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

You've misunderstood. (none / 0) (#255)
by starX on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 05:03:36 PM EST

The fall of a single city, even one as grand as Rome, was ultimately insignificant.  The empire itself was distributed enough so that the City was not the only center of civilization.  Remember that the Byzantines reffered to themselves as Romans all the way through the Turk invasion in 1476, and they were (until then) a very prosperous civilization.

The only reason the city wasn't abandoned altogether was because the Roman Catholic Church for some reason developed an attachment for the place and decided to build their big cathedral there.

Which came first, the basillica or the ruin?  The primary reason that people stayed in the cities was because of the churches and temples; solid, well fortified structures that were already there.  This ultimately allowed the church to define its political power at the outset of the dark ages.  

The city of Rome went from a population of close to 2 million to a population of maybe 10,000

Got a source on those figures? I'd love to paruse a book that examined the decimation of the populace in depth.

"I like you starX, you disagree without sounding like a fanatic from a rock-solid point of view. Highfive." --WonderJoust
[ Parent ]

Roman population (none / 0) (#266)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 08:50:41 PM EST

Note that not only the population of Rome was decimated. The population of *all* Western Roman towns and cities was decimated. The population of the Western empire fell from perhaps 22 million in 300AD to perhaps 12 million by 650AD. As for the population of the city of Rome itself, the Gothic War (535-554) nearly ruined Rome which sank to the level of to an armed camp of 30,000 residents. In 1527 after the city was sacked by Charles II the city's population was around 10,000 people, from its peak of perhaps 2 million people in 300AD.

Note that all of these population numbers are subject to some amount of slop. I think it is clear, however, that a lot of people did *not* survive the collapse of Roman civilization in the West, and those who did, had a seriously reduced livestyle, basically only barely removed from living in caves and thumping critters on head with clubs.

- Badtux the History Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

Nukes are the future (2.50 / 2) (#162)
by lordDogma on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 08:24:47 PM EST

CTS is correct. Pebble beds, VHTR, and other Gen IV nuke designs WILL be used no matter what the environs* say.

But nukes only replace coal, not oil. Unless you have electric cars, or nuke heat-cracking of H2. Then the nukes can replace oil, albeit inefficiently.

Lastly, I'm so god damned sick of these Peak Oil/Future of Energy/Global Warming articles on slashdot and K5. It gets me all worked up and frustrated because I know our retarded politicians and their stupid voter bases won't address the problem until its a crisis. Then, 20 years from now whatever party has the presidency will get fingers pointed at them by the party that's not in power. And all the stupid moronic brainwashed masses will argue about who has the best Vietnam war record, complete with forged documents being peddled on TV by some political operative masquerading as an unbiased news anchor. Its so sad.

*environ - 1. n. environmentalist moron.

flawed assumptions (2.25 / 4) (#167)
by CAIMLAS on Sun Jul 10, 2005 at 08:54:38 PM EST

Your assumptions are flawed. You assume that, because the price of oil is going up that the supply is also decreasing. This implies that demand is constant, and it is not.

Right now, not only is the demand for oil in the US at an all-time high (and apparently showing no likelyhood of subsiding anytime soon), but there are also much greater foreign demands for oil.

Specifically, China is buying any and oil they can get their hands on, stockpiling massive reserves for both military and industrial use.

It's simple economics. Why pump more oil and sell it for a lower cost when they can simply pump the same amount of oil and sell it for more, making the same of greater profit?

Part of the problem is that the Arabs are now showing preferential treatment to China: they get the good oil, because they're the ones that are consuming the most.
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

not quite (none / 1) (#193)
by reidbold on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 04:07:47 PM EST

I don't believe he assumed that peak oil has been reached, just suggested it may be happening. There is no flaw in the assumption that Earth's oil supply will not last forever, it is (in our timescale) a non-renewable resource. Some peak oil models takes into account new discoveries of oil reserves and the rate at which these discoveries occur, and are succesful. The determination of the actual peak does not just deal with current oil usage.

This is not 'simple economics', you can throw your ECON 101 book out the window because we're not talking just about microeconomic infinite supply/limited demand.

[ Parent ]
I'll start to believe in nukes when... (2.00 / 2) (#177)
by alexboko on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 12:03:21 AM EST

I'll start to believe in nukes when I see lots purchased, engineers hired, and construction started on plants. And not two or three, I mean enough plants to meet all our static energy needs, and lots extra to obtain hydrogen from electrolysis for mobile applications. It takes 10-15 years to build a plant, IIRC. So, how many are being built in the USA right now? None? What a surprise. I guess nukes won't be what saves us. And no, I'm not some kind of tree-hugging zealot. I agree with you that it's partly because of the tree-hugging zealots that the US doesn't have more nukes. But it's a little bit late to be pointing fingers. We're in this mess now, and we need to get ourselves out. If you have access to a few billion bucks or you own an energy company or are a member of congress, well, you know what to do. As for the rest of us, the only choice left now is energy self-reliance. Buy or build renewable energy systems, look into biodiesel, and most importantly, learn to fix/rebuild any aspect of your off-grid energy solution just in case the company that sold it to you is either no longer in existance or no longer capable of shipping parts to you when you most need it.


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.
French did it - why can't Americans? (none / 0) (#236)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:15:44 PM EST

The French get 100% of their electricity from nuclear power or hydroelectric. Are you saying that Americans are too stupid and lazy to do what the French did?

- Badtux the American Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

Yes. (none / 0) (#239)
by alexboko on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:42:51 PM EST

Yes, we are too stupid, lazy, and I'd add to that, pathologically risk-averse.


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 ]
Stupid, lazy and gutless? (none / 0) (#244)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:58:03 PM EST

Hmm, sounds like a Bush voter...

Note that at least 1/4th of voting-age Americans do *NOT* fit that description.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

Shrug. Finger-pointing won't fix this. (none / 0) (#257)
by alexboko on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 05:20:38 PM EST

A little too late for partisan finger-pointing, but fine, let's get it all out of our system right now and then move on.

It's the fault of conservatives for not taking solar and wind power seriously enough. It's also their fault for being in blind denial that this or any other serious global problem (other than terrorism of course) can even exist.

It's the fault of liberals for having a knee-jerk aversion to nuclear power. It's also their fault for refusing to separate this problem from their overal socioeconomic agenda, thereby politicizing it and hampering public acceptance of the fact that this problem exists.

It's the fault of every voter and consumer for mindlessly delegating the hard problems to leaders instead of thinking what we can personally do to alleviate the problem locally.

It's the fault of harsh reality that investments don't get made until there is reason to expect a profit, and sometimes conditions shift so fast that a market can't keep up... in which case there is the same outcome as for any other homeostatic system that can't keep up with its environment-- dissolution and collapse (i.e. markets aren't omnipotent, just self-correcting).


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 ]

France has an advantage (none / 0) (#251)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:36:43 PM EST

IIRC, they don't even have air conditioning in the summer. It probably only takes 1 or 2 reactors to power their whole country.

In the US, we need enough A/C to keep the summer death toll below 10,000. That requires a lot more reactors.

We also require heat in the winter. I don't know how cold France gets, but I bet it's not as cold as, say, Minnesota. Again, more power needed.

Last, but not least, France is about the size of one state. We have 49 more to power.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]

Not quite. (3.00 / 2) (#267)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 09:14:42 PM EST

France produces around 600 billion kilowatt-hours. The United States consumes around 3400 billion kilowatt-hours (of which app. 400 billion kw-hours are imported from Mexico and Canada). And France is about the size of California insofar as population and economy is concerned, so yes, it's about the size of a state, but it's a *LARGE* state (note that California accounts for app. 20% of the U.S. GDP, so we're not talking about a trivial state here).

France does have some advantages that much of the U.S. does not have, though: the entire country is seismically stable, and most of the country has ready access to water. It is unwise to build a nuclear power plant in a desert or in a seismically-unstable area. This means that California, for example, is a poor place for siting a nuclear power plant (given that California is *both* of these). Given the difficulties of transporting electricity for long distances (basically, you can't do it), reality is that some major chunks of the U.S. energy grid will have to be powered by something other than nuclear energy, because there are some areas where building a safe nuclear power plant is a contradiction in terms. Luckily those places also tend to be places where solar, wind, and geothermal energy are feasible.

- Badtux the Nuclear Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

Nope. (none / 1) (#184)
by Ward57 on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 06:00:58 AM EST

The question "how do we do what we're doing using the same energy" is much easier to answer, at least in the short term.

Nope (none / 0) (#326)
by synaesthesia on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 11:24:37 AM EST

It's not that simple, I'm afraid. Two things which will hopefully be expounded upon in part 2 are the First World's Economic House of Cards and China's Long Game.


Sausages or cheese?
[ Parent ]
The Problem is Economic Rationality... (3.00 / 2) (#189)
by profgoose on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 10:58:59 AM EST

While the notion of the tragedy of the commons is a little askew here, one part of it does fly: the notion that human beings, if rational, will hoard and use more than their share of a resource until it is rational for them not to do so, or they are coerced/penalized for doing so. That's the really scary part of this to me: if peak oil is real (and the more I read on it, especially Deffeyes, Simmons, ASPO, etc.), the more it seems to me that the consumerist traits of humanity are what's steering us to a real crisis instead of leading us to pull back on the stick to come in for a softer landing. Petroleum is the only energy source that has this high of an EROEI and is scalable in our economic system. Alternatives are nice, but none of them are ready...especially if you buy that the peak is now. The world consumes 84mb/d. The world extracts 84mb/d. Chinese and Indian demand will continue to rise, as will ours. Many existing fields, esp. in Saudi Arabia are in decline. We are not running out of oil. We are running out of cheap and uncontested oil. That has big geopolitical consequences. All I can suggest is reading as much as you can about this, read the critiques, read the Pollyannas, read the Cassandras, and come to your own conclusions. If you're interested in learning more, I would suggest a whole bunch of sites. peakoil.com, energybulletin.net, flyingtalkingdonkey.blogspot.com. Also, I am part of an academic blog that looks at this topic called The Oil Drum. Stop by if you wish.
The Oil Drum: An Academic and Progressive Blog on Oil.
One might hope not. (none / 0) (#206)
by Apuleius on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 10:15:21 PM EST

One would hope that people would see the difference between say the last leopard (hmm, that pelt must be worth megabucks!) and the last oil field (hmm, once that goes, money might be meaningless..) but alas. Anyhow, article 2 is in draft form, and I will leave it in the editting queue long enough to make sure the people I might rip off notice so I can give proper credit. I'll drop you a line when I submit it.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
indeed... (none / 0) (#207)
by profgoose on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 12:04:01 AM EST

please do. theoildrum@gmail.
The Oil Drum: An Academic and Progressive Blog on Oil.
[ Parent ]
Not a problem (none / 1) (#192)
by cdguru on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 02:12:51 PM EST

First off, there are many sources of the hydrocarbon fuel that todays transportation runs on. We might want to eliminate oil-fired power generation, but there isn't much of that. And think about getting electric generation down to prices that make electric heat (or heat pumps) reasonable alternatives for oil and gas for home heating.

Hydrocarbon fuel can be obtained from oil shale - reasonable extraction can be had at the levels oil is going for now. This hasn't been done before because the oil was too cheap to ship over from Saudi Arabia. Same goes for tar sands and other petroleum deposits. The 1940s brand of "synthetic oil" was produced from coal, something that we have plenty of. All of this is available right now - now that the price of freshly-drilled oil from Saudi Arabia is now price competitive with it.

As far as the price of oil meaning anything, you have to be joking, right? We have gotten ourselves into a state where price stability for any commodity cannot be achieved because of the rapidity at which confounding factors interchange. There is never going to be price stability for items traded on commodity exchanges again because these markets are driven by rumors and guessing. Someone thinks the oil shale in Colorado will be opened up, so they want to hold off bidding for a hour. Someone else picks up on this and attributes it to some new field being announced and we have a $2 price change in 30 minutes. We have gas stations reflecting the oil spot market pricing instantly even though the oil priced at $60 a barrel will not even hit the refinery for two or three months. Price stability? This was a dream of the past. It is going to get much, much worse for commodity exchanges in the near future.

The oil-sands & nukes people miss the point! (2.50 / 2) (#197)
by alexboko on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 05:38:28 PM EST

There are hundreds of power sources including next-gen nuke plants and oil shales we can switch to and maybe a dozen or so mobile power storage media. Nobody's disputing that.

The point is, in the real world all of these take time and money to bring online, especially on such a massive scale. We're not bringing them online quickly enough. The longer we wait, the harder it will beceome.

Is that simple enough?


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.

yes (none / 1) (#220)
by Rhodes on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 11:31:21 AM EST

fully agreed.  and the other thing that people miss is that oil is used in so many different ways that increasing its price increases the price of virtually EVERYTHING- from transportation, manufacturing, food production, ...

[ Parent ]
Falls apart (2.00 / 2) (#198)
by redelm on Mon Jul 11, 2005 at 05:50:34 PM EST

After a very good, balanced and factual article, it falls apart in the last three paragrpahs with unsupported assertion and extraordinary claims that must be supported by extraordinary evidence.

Nuclear power is already a feasible, known solution. It scares people who see mushroom clouds over hyperbolic natural-draft cooling towers. It will not be adopted short of $200 oil because of the fear. There are also some interesting space-based solar farming solutions. They need fairly minimal development.



Anthropic principle (2.00 / 2) (#211)
by ADCO on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 07:51:31 AM EST

Your article is quite interesting. If it weren't for your unfortunate ending comment, that is. You might want to check what the anthropic principle is, so you avoid nonsense next time. I do believe in the anthropic principle, and I believe in it because it derives from pure logic. Of course, I don't believe in what you THINK the anthropic principle is, which would be quite stupid. But this principle certainly does not state that "the laws of nature are conducive and will forever be conducive to our species enjoying a Western consumerist lifestyle from now to eternity", if only because it does not state anything concerning the future but only the past. And even about the past, you are much mistaken if you believe it states "that the laws of nature are tuned to cause the emergence of life on our planet and its evolution to include the appearance of our species". Actually, what the Anthropic Principle do is explain to morons why they should not be surprised that the laws of nature SEEM to be tuned. What the principle is, in an example, is: - whoh, what a wonder that nature happens to have made women curves attractive, out of so many shapes that would be utterly repulsive and would prevent reproduction - it's the anthropic Principle, you stupid. Or: - whoh, what a wonder that I'm precisely myself, among all that I could have been. - it's the Anthropic Principle, stupid. What do you think you'd say if you were not precisely yourself? but well, apart from that ignorance on your side that has the unfortunate position of being the conclusion, article is find.

Antrhopic principle in other words (none / 0) (#226)
by malfunct on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 12:07:24 PM EST

I was still confused after reading your explaination of the anthropic principle so I read up a bit on it. I agree with you that the articles author misused it though. Anyways, to me the antrhopic principle is a specific instance of the general principle that the effect proves that its cause did indeed happen though it can't prove which of many possible causes was the actual cause.

[ Parent ]
The Ultimate Resource (none / 0) (#216)
by birdsong on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 09:59:05 AM EST

While the doomsday scenarios are always interesting, and useful for scaring people, they're not very inventive. We've been hearing it for a long time. You might want to check out Julian Simon's The Ultimate Resource which says that human ingenuity will always triumph over declining resources. Simon made a bet with Paul Ehrlich that a basket of commodities price would drop (Ehrlich believed they would rise) over a ten year period. Even when supplies decline, humans find ways to get around things and do things just as well or even better. Yes, oil is finite, it will go away, but we will move on.

Doesn't always work (3.00 / 3) (#235)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:09:58 PM EST

Entire civilizations have collapsed due to resource depletion, such as Easter Island and the Western Roman Empire (which fell primarily because of depletion of critical resources, in particular depletion of topsoil, wood, bronze, and gold). Within 100 years the population of the city of Rome fell from over a million to less than 10,000 survivors huddled in the shattered ruins.

In a sense, civilization is always a race between human ingenuity and resource exhaustion. The problem is that we are depleting a much larger swathe of resources than the Romans did, and most of the resources we are depleting are not renewable (unlike topsoil and wood).

- Badtux the History Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

"Ingenuity" can mean a lot of things (none / 1) (#252)
by nixman on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:48:16 PM EST

human ingenuity will always triumph over declining resources

Sometimes the ingenious solution is to kill your competitors. Dwingling resources will lead to more conflict.

[ Parent ]
human resourcefulness (none / 1) (#278)
by veasun on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 10:25:42 PM EST

You have a very naive view of human behavior. Someday we will drive ourselves into extinction. There is no god up there protecting us. I bet you trust George Bush.....ah, shucks cowboys, the Man he don't never lie.

[ Parent ]
Incorrect assumption (2.33 / 3) (#221)
by omegageek on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 11:37:50 AM EST

You seem to be equating Indonesia's inability to buy expensive oil with a shortage of oil. This is incorrect. There is no shortage of oil. A shortage only exists when you cannot purchase all you want of a commodity AT ANY PRICE. There is plenty of oil for sale at $60/barrel, Indonesia just can't afford it at that price to burn in their power plant. That does not equal a shortage. Saudi Arabia is not producing at full capacity and has no immediate plans to increase production because they don't see a demand for more oil. If there is more capacity than demand then there is surely no shortage.

If the Indonesian economy is so on the edge that they can't afford to buy oil at $60 dollars, you need to ask yourself how long could they have afforded to buy it at $50, $40, or even $30? All you have here is a case of a (relatively) poor country not being able to afford to buy something. That's not a shortage.

I see this as a good thing. Speculation, rather than supply and demand economics is mostly responsible for today's artificially high oil price. However, this incident in Indonesia shows that economics is coming back into play. These current high prices are starting to erode demand. As demand falls, the price must eventually collapse, no matter how hard the speculators try to artificially prop up the price by promoting needless panic over things like terrorism, hurricanes, developing world demand, strikes in Nigeria, peak oil, etc, etc. Once the price gets too high, people will simply stop using so much oil, either by choice, or simply because they can't afford it anymore. Eventually the price will come back down. The supply of oil for the foreseeable future is more than adequate. Despite all the nonsensical panic over oil supply being spread around by speculators, the supply just keeps coming unabated. So eventually this bubble must burst. Don't be the last sucker to buy into the nonexistent oil shortage. You'll regret it.

Omegageek

Digital Rights Management? Hell no! The only person with any rights on MY computer is ME.

Shortage? (none / 0) (#230)
by thejeff on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 01:04:01 PM EST

That's a weird definition of shortage.

Consider: a food shortage only exists when you cannot purchase all the food you want AT ANY PRICE.

If anyone willing to spend $10,000 dollars a day on food could get enough to feed themselves, but anyone with less money was starving, you wouldn't consider that a food shortage?

Obviously oil hasn't reached that stage (and may not even be nearing shortage), but when would you consider it a shortage? There never will be enough for everyone to have all they want, is it not a shortage as long as there is enough for someone to have all they want, if they're willing to pay ANY PRICE? (Is someone a nation? A company? An individual?)

[ Parent ]

No Shortage (none / 1) (#231)
by omegageek on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 02:09:03 PM EST

That's a weird definition of shortage.

It is the correct definition. Feel free to consult a dictionary. A true shortage only exists when there is less supply than demand. Price does not enter into the equation.

If anyone willing to spend $10,000 dollars a day on food could get enough to feed themselves, but anyone with less money was starving, you wouldn't consider that a food shortage?

No. I consider that a money shortage. The food is available for purchase but the money is in short supply. Such improbable seeming scenarios actually do occur in countries suffering hyper-inflation. Money is suddenly all but worthless and even a wheelbarrow full of it isn't enough to buy you a loaf of bread. However, that has nothing to do with the actual supply of bread available for purchase. A high price for a commodity does not necessarily mean there is a shortage of that commodity.

Obviously oil hasn't reached that stage (and may not even be nearing shortage), but when would you consider it a shortage?

When we place an order for X barrels of oil and the oil producing countries reply that they are sorry but they can only supply Y barrels, and more money won't change that. Only then will a shortage exist.

Omegageek
Digital Rights Management? Hell no! The only person with any rights on MY computer is ME.
[ Parent ]

Re: No Shortage (none / 0) (#274)
by cabin on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 11:23:50 AM EST

A high price for a commodity does not necessarily mean there is a shortage of that commodity.

That is true but it often means there is a shortage.

If you can make more money by selling a higher volume of your product at a lower price then either you are not interested in making money, or there is a shortage (from your perspective) of your product.

If the producer of a product thinks there is shortage, then that is a good indication that there is one.

[ Parent ]

But it's all tied together (none / 0) (#287)
by thejeff on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 11:40:23 AM EST

A true shortage only exists when there is less supply than demand. Price does not enter into the equation.
That's nonsense. Price drives demand. Price goes up, demand goes down. Supply goes down, price goes up until demand matches supply. That's basic economics. As long as there are multiple buyers, supply can always be shifted to whoever is willing to pay the higher price.

By your definition, has there ever been a shortage of anything?

No. I consider that a money shortage. The food is available for purchase but the money is in short supply. ... A high price for a commodity does not necessarily mean there is a shortage of that commodity.
Hyper-inflation is one possible reason for the scenario, but famine would be another. Even during famines, the rich still eat well, so is there no food shortage there?

When we place an order for X barrels of oil and the oil producing countries reply that they are sorry but they can only supply Y barrels, and more money won't change that. Only then will a shortage exist.
Depending on the definition of "we". If the US places an order for X barrels and the oil producing countries reply that they can fill it if we pay more, not by increasing production, but by sending less to other countries? Does that qualify?

[ Parent ]

Saudis not producing at full capacity? (3.00 / 2) (#234)
by badtux on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:04:31 PM EST

There are people who disagree with you here. When Preznit Shrub was running for re-election, he sent Colin Powell to the Saudis to ask them to up their oil production in order to give the U.S. economy a pre-election bounce. They declined, citing "temporary production constraints due to maintenance in our oilfields." The suspicion is that these "temporary" constraints are actually permenant -- i.e., that they're just plain running out of oil.

- Badtux the Oily Penguin
In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin
[ Parent ]

No, actually it fits the shortage model nicely. (none / 0) (#254)
by Dr. Zowie on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:50:37 PM EST

There is indeed a shortage of oil at $40/barrel (or whatever the Indonesians are willing/able to pay). That is why the price has gone up. The problem is that, in the short-to-medium term, oil supplies have a fixed maximum rate of delivery (because discovering and exploiting new oil fields takes time).

When the rate of delivery is fixed, the price adjusts to keep demand at or below the maximum rate of delivery -- the good gets scarce. Raising the price doesn't produce any more oil (in the short term); it only reduces demand by keeping the good from the people who can't afford it.

Regardless of the dictionary definition of "shortage", that seems to fit the colloquial common usage pretty well.

Incidentally, BP and the other big oil companies are extremely skittish and short-sighted because of the bath they took during the oil-glutted 1990s. Last time I heard (a few months ago; I have a friend who works there) BP was basing their oil exploration strategy on something like $20/barrel oil, treating the current high price as a blip of windfall profits. Those profits were being immediately distributed to shareholders. At $50/barrel, a lot of fields are available (in the long term) that are not in use now.

[ Parent ]

Wishful thinking. (none / 0) (#258)
by omegageek on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 05:49:26 PM EST


There is indeed a shortage of oil at $40/barrel (or whatever the Indonesians are willing/able to pay)

There's a severe shortage of gold at $4 per ounce too. Does that mean there's really a shortage of gold? Or does that simply mean gold is expensive? Expensive != shortage. Here in the real world, just because a price is higher than we wish it to be doesn't constitute a shortage.

Just because oil is more expensive than Indonesia is willing or able to pay for right now doesn't mean there is a shortage. It just means oil is artificially expensive right now. Unfortunately, we consumers don't get to wish the price of commodities down to levels we like, and if the prices are higher than we wish they would be, that in no way constitutes a shortage. Try wishing in one hand and crapping in the other. See which one fills up first.

When the rate of delivery is fixed, the price adjusts to keep demand at or below the maximum rate of delivery -- the good gets scarce.

There is no shortage or scarcity or shortfall or under-production or _____ (insert synonym of choice for shortage here). Period. All the oil anyone wants is available at $60. Nobody is going without because there is not enough oil available to meet demand.

Regardless of the dictionary definition of "shortage"

If you have a valid argument, you shouldn't have to rewrite the dictionary and redefine words in order to try to make it. The Peak Oil story that spawned this thread is BS. The author tried to blame high prices on a shortage of oil. Since there is no shortage, his premise is wrong.

At $50/barrel, a lot of fields are available (in the long term) that are not in use now.

At last you have said something grounded in reality. There are a lot of wells pumping away in Texas that have been idle for at least the last few years. I know because I recently drove through the oil fields. Domestic oil is cost-competitive at these prices.

Omegageek

Digital Rights Management? Hell no! The only person with any rights on MY computer is ME.
[ Parent ]

Concept of "shortage" (none / 1) (#275)
by Dr. Zowie on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 02:47:56 PM EST

No, actually rewriting the dictionary isn't necessary. I actually took the trouble to look up "shortage" over at dictionary.com, and found "an deficiency in amount; an insufficiency".

The problem here is that you're insisting on a very tight definition of "shortage" that may fit into the economics jargon but does not match common perception. Someone else used the example of food -- if a lot of the populace is starving, there is a food shortage -- even if wealthy half of the population has enough to eat (at higher prices than the poor half can pay).

The point I was trying to make is that the supply is very inelastic in the short term, so that it makes sense to speak of a shortage: if the total available supply of oil exceeds some threshold demand (on the time scale of a few months) then prices are stable, but if the supply drops even slightly below that,the prices rise high enough and rapidly enough to disrupt normal informed decision making in the marketplace.

Sure, in the medium term people can bring not-so-productive wells on-line, and in the long term exploration can happen -- that makes the supply more elastic on time scales of a few months and a few years, respectively. Likewise, people can change their commuting/heating/car-buying habits, making demand more elastic on time sacles of a few months/years. On those time scales it makes no sense to talk about a "shortage", because both halves of the market can adjust well to find a new equilibrium.

[ Parent ]

Re: Concept of "shortage" (none / 0) (#280)
by alexboko on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 10:53:16 PM EST


On those time scales it makes no sense to talk about a "shortage", because both halves of the market can adjust well to find a new equilibrium.
  1. They may find a new equilibrium, but it won't necesserily be an equilibrium you'll like. For instance, what if the new equilibrium involves extraction costs so high that the oil companies are barely breaking even and passing on these costs to the buyers resulting in prices so high that gas is reserved only for "mission critical" applications (i.e. national defense and corporate security) while the rest of us are forced to "economize" on a level that has not been experienced by anybody in the industrialized world for generations?
  2. The market isn't magical. It tends toward equilibrium, but we have experiences with other homeostatic systems that tend toward equilibrium, and they can all be overwhelmed by a sufficiently extreme perturbation (like, for instance, exhausting their main energy source faster than they can develop alternatives). The examples I'm thinking of are living organisms and ecosystems. Okay, sure, I guess if one were to get technical, being dead and being a barren wasteland  could also be considered equilibria. In that case, see above.



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 ]
No incentive to develop alternatives. (3.00 / 2) (#232)
by highfreq on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 02:26:03 PM EST

With low oil prices, what is the incentive to develop alternative energy sources?  Who would invest in such an endeavor?  Only governments, and ecologically driven individuals.

The thing about capitalism is that there is a limited amount of capital available for investment.  That capital goes to what its holders feel is likely to turn the highest profit, quickest and with the least risk.

Until recently it was pretty certain that if anyone developed an alternative energy source that was cheaper than gas, OPEC would just open up the spigot, and lower the price of gas, thereby putting the alternative out of business.  

This is what OPEC is all about.  OPEC holds prices just low enough to inhibit the development of alternatives.  Obviously, when the spigot is wide open, OPEC has lost its power.  And for every dollar oil rises, investments in alternatives are that much more attractive.

So, increasing the rewards by X may be exactly what is needed.  Because, the investment is Y, and if X/Y is not better than other investments, nobody is going to invest Y.  The investment is potentially huge, like the infrastructure for distributing hydrogen.

Finally, I fail to see how this presents a major challenge to humanity.  In the US most of that energy is just going to our convenience, luxury and leisure.  It is hardly a catastrophe if our lives are suddenly somewhat less convenient, luxurious and leisurely.  


It's not about leisure. (none / 0) (#238)
by alexboko on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 03:40:06 PM EST

The entire North American distribution system for food and goods runs on oil, as do many types of farming and manufacturing machinery. Oil prices go up, so do the prices for everything.

At worst, this will bring down the industrial world to the same level of poverty as the developing world, and possibly some of the same corruption, political instability, and violence that accompanies poverty.

Even at best it's a virtual certainty that as a society we will have less of what I call surplus wealth. This surplus wealth is not the same thing as convenience... it's what funds the arts, the sciences, the humanities.

It's surplus that fuels advancement, because when everyone is living hand-to-mouth nobody has spare time or resources to experiment with new ideas.

Rather than gleefully cheering on our own demise, we should be thinking about how to preserve and increase the amount of surplus wealth all countries enjoy. And wind/hydro/solar might just be the ticket, because they much less limited in supply and geographic distribution than oil. But they too require an investment of surplus wealth, so we better start investing it while we have it.


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 ]

Peak Oil is a myth, baby (1.75 / 4) (#245)
by Jonathan Walther on Tue Jul 12, 2005 at 04:01:09 PM EST

If Joe Vialls is correct, there are unlimited supplies of oil lying right under our feet.  Read his take on it: Russia Proves Peak Oil is a Scam.  Apart from writing extreme conspiracy articles, Joe claims to have worked on various oil exploration projects in the Middle East.  First-hand experience trumps theory in my books.  Enjoy!

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


Bogosity filters & critical thinking. (none / 0) (#281)
by alexboko on Wed Jul 13, 2005 at 11:14:56 PM EST

Let's see...

As K5-reading geeks, your life and mine are predicated on, if not exactly the status quo, then at least things continuing to change in the direction they've been changing our whole life. So we're disinclined to believe any data that would call into question the time and effort we've invested in our careers, education, and hobbies so far warning bell number one. We see a guy (already associated with conspiracy theories warning bell number two) presenting something we want to believe warning bell number three as fact without citing any independent references warning bell number four unless you count his frequent quotations of the Bible* warning bell number five.

*This is not a dig at religion. I believe in a supreme being also, but I do it quietly. I don't quote the religious texts I subscribe to in support of my arguments because I realize they'll only be convincing to people who already share my faith. Especially if said religious texts are only validated by self-reference. It's commendable that he's so devout, but the fact that he can't separate his religious views from his arguments suggests that his judgement is suspect at best and his integrity is suspect at worst.


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 ]

The checklist. (none / 0) (#289)
by grendelkhan on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 12:25:30 PM EST

You left out warning bell number six---positing that there exists a massive conspiracy to cover up his world-shaking findings, which is, of course, the reason that they have not yet shaken the world.

But yeah, he pretty much fits the checklist.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Shenanigans (none / 0) (#283)
by coder66 on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 04:20:05 AM EST

This is not about energy or the availability or oil or any other energy source. This is about greed plain and simple. It is possible to make practically unlimited qauntities of oil very cheaply using thermal depolymerization. Thermal depolymerization uses waste products to create oil including plastic, turkey offal, medical waste, and sewage. I beleive that the one plant that is open was estimating $8-$12 a barrel. However, as usual due to greed, people are charging them for their garbage(when in fact giving it away saves them money as opposed to COSTING them to get rid of it). I beleive the plant is now producing oil at about $80 a barrel, which works out to $1.90 a gallon(Still much cheaper than the 2.30 I am paying now). Still, if the government wanted to they could provide massive amounts of waste(landfills, sewage, etc) for free and we could all be enjoying cheap oil until a cheaper/more efficent energy source was developed. So, in fact the Sci-Fi process of making energy from garbage is available to us(albeit with the added step of making it into oil before energy[but with the added benefit of being useful for other things like lubricants, etc]). If this isn't cheap or efficent enough then I don't know what could be. As I see it greed is what is driving oil prices and nothing else.

I read the same Wikipedia article... (none / 0) (#286)
by shambles on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 09:53:59 AM EST

...and it`s nothing to do with greed.

The one plant in the US that is producing oil in any significant quantity (and still only 400 Bbl/d which is less then the output of one small California field) was set up near a turkey processing plant, but they hadn`t taken account of the fact that there is alternative market for the turkey waste. Why should the turkey plant give the waste away when they can make $30 to $40 a ton selling it as feed. Why should they make less money just so somebody else can make a profit from oil?

The plant operators seem to be hoping for a tax break to make the whole process profitable.



People are more important than Truth - Edgar Malroy
[ Parent ]
Shit? (none / 0) (#288)
by grendelkhan on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 12:21:58 PM EST

Well, they had taken account of the fact that turkey waste is used as cattle feed, but in light of the mad cow scare at the time, they were expected to make it illegal to feed animal corpses to animals destined for human consumption. The USDA did not do this, so turkey guts did not become trash, and remained a useful commodity. Stupid, stupid USDA.

Sewage treatment seems like a good idea. The city of New York produces, I'm certain, more than a thousand tons of shit per day, and TDP can supposedly run on sewage.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Very low yield (none / 0) (#304)
by shambles on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 06:13:42 PM EST

not many long chain hydrocarbons in shit.

That`s one thing that worries me about the figures in the article. He says that only 15% of produced energy is needed to power the process. Surely this depends on the input? I bet his figures are based on plastic not turkey.

People are more important than Truth - Edgar Malroy
[ Parent ]
Sewage is definetly the lowest yeild but... (none / 0) (#309)
by coder66 on Fri Jul 15, 2005 at 02:17:00 AM EST

the 85% efficency is based on turkey offal, which still contains a large amount of water(water content is what drives up the energy cost to process it). http://forums.biodieselnow.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=829

[ Parent ]
Yes it is greed (none / 0) (#308)
by coder66 on Fri Jul 15, 2005 at 02:12:05 AM EST

I didn't read over the entire article on wikipedia, as I was just using it as a quick reference for some numbers(I got my data from a different article that I couldn't find now, think it may have been linked from Fark). I can see how you could get that impression, but the original article I read said that that particular plant was cooperating with the TDP plant(I assume because they invested in it) and giving them waste materials. Regardless, selling turkey offal as feed is 100% greed. Common sense would tell us that feeding processed meat products to HERBIVOROUS animals(primarily cows) is not healthy, yet it is done every day for money all around the world(this is how mad cow disease spread so quickly in Europe). I also was not suggesting using turkey offal to fuel the plants, how much usable material is sitting in landfills around the US? How much is being spent to fix leaking landfills? How much of this waste could be converted into usable oil? How much medical waste is thrown away everyday(I am pretty sure that medical waste has no other legal commercial use). How much plastic is thrown away every day? Why was the plant not given a tax break? I understand that it didn't meet the current standards, but a $42 tax credit would make this cheaper than what oil is currently going for. The current oil prices didn't happen overnight, and there has been plenty of time for congress to take some kind of action. We could easily be independent from any foreign interest for oil. The government could easily enact tax-breaks to make this self-made oil cheaper than foreign oil. I am sure there are some drawbacks or problems with TDP that I am unaware of. I am sure that the people backing it want it to seem as good as they possibly can. However, the widespread availabilty of cheap feedstocks and the fact that the Carthage plant is virtually matching the current market price under less than ideal conditions leads me to beleive that only the personal greed of people who have someting to lose in the current oil industry is preventing progress in this area.

[ Parent ]
One of the Best Explanations I've Read (none / 1) (#295)
by RaveX on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 01:13:24 PM EST

of why "peak oil" generally doesn't make any sense from an economic perspective.

There's little doubt that oil will have to be mostly replaced by other technologies within the next 50-100 years (the estimates are generally towards the 50 end), but the "peak oil" scenarios described by proponents of the theory just don't make much sense.
---
The Reconstruction

Very interesting link. (none / 0) (#301)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 03:04:48 PM EST

Thank you for linking that article. I found it very thought provoking and recommend that people read the whole thing, including the reader feedback and his responses to it.

This is how a non-kneejerk peak oil skeptic sounds, and I respect him for it.


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 ]

no crystal ball... (none / 0) (#307)
by Rhodes on Fri Jul 15, 2005 at 12:16:30 AM EST

markets are only efficient where and when  information is shared equally.  the actual amount of  reserves, and production is only know after the production.

in addition, it can predicted that oil will be selling for more money three years from now, but predicting the price depends on knowing what the demand will be.  how much more will demand will there be in three years?  

[ Parent ]

I like the part where... (none / 0) (#311)
by alexboko on Fri Jul 15, 2005 at 08:15:32 AM EST

I like the part where some non-economist (maybe) innocently asks something along the lines of "so what's the self-regression of commodity prices versus the actual spot prices at the expiration of the options?" and the answer turns out to be that futures prices predict about 5% of the variation in price. I'm imagining that if this was a dinner conversation, there would be an awkward pause at that moment as all the non-economists looked at the economists in shock and the economists all blushed and tugged at their collars and stared down at their plates.

5% huh? In my field of research that's called "no correlation for practical purposes", but then, we all know how exact and precise biology is.


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 ]

this is the spot (none / 0) (#312)
by Rhodes on Fri Jul 15, 2005 at 11:02:46 AM EST

where I mention something about Economics being the dismal science...

[ Parent ]
More like 40% (none / 0) (#349)
by RaveX on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 09:44:25 PM EST

It varies, but 3-month futures prices explain about 40% of the variation in the expiration price for highly volatile commodities, like oil.  Of course, at the expiration, futures prices equal commodity prices...

You ask yourself, what is all this noise?  Why only 40%?

Well, in a 3-month period with a commodity such as oil, a lot can happen.  And as such, the daily news in the industry can have a pretty significant effect.  This doesn't mean that efficient markets doesn't apply, it just mean that the information available to the players changes between 3 months and 0 days.  Additionally, there's pure speculation, which tends to be particularly potent within about a 3-month window...

Two notable things to keep in mind:

  1. Futures are like insurance-- and as such, their value is dependent upon perceived risk-- thus, the predictive value of futures prices is at best only a conservative best-guess as to the price at expiration
  2. The R-squared rises from 12 months to 6 months and from 6 months to 3 months, as one would expect-- as the timeline gets shorter, information gets better, and the futures price becomes a better indicator of the spot price at expiration.
So... no blushing and tugging at collars.  But I am curious... where did you get the idea that the R-squared was only .05?

And to the other poster... we call it "The Dismal Science" because it's fundamentally about making decisions under constraints... always looking at our limitations makes us a surly bunch :)
---
The Reconstruction
[ Parent ]

The article itself (none / 0) (#313)
by bml on Fri Jul 15, 2005 at 11:10:34 AM EST

... is pretty short-sighted, but the comments below are very very interesting. Thanks for the link.

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]
Consequences of being right/wrong. (2.00 / 2) (#298)
by alexboko on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 01:21:04 PM EST

Thought experiment.

What if oil production does not peak in the next 20 years, but we all prepare for it peaking?

What if oil production does peak in the next 20 years, but none of us prepare for it peaking?

These are both unrealistic extremes, but which outcome do you think would be better?


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.

My answers. (3.00 / 2) (#306)
by Apuleius on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 06:54:03 PM EST

In the former scenario, we come out well prepared for when it does peak, and with a good bit of knowledge and experience to give the next generation. In the latter scenario, I have a bottle of Jamesons and I will pilfer some barbiturates. That takes care of me. Good luck to the rest of you.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Reductio ad Absurdum (none / 1) (#337)
by Bluesee on Wed Jul 20, 2005 at 10:30:50 PM EST

Kind of like Pascal's Wager, isn't it? The only thing you have to lose is time and effort learning about conservation, but you stand to gain a lot if you're prepared.

[ Parent ]
Yes, and furthermore... (none / 0) (#342)
by alexboko on Fri Jul 22, 2005 at 04:09:19 PM EST

Unlike Pasca's Wager (if I interpret it correctly) it's not an absolute yes-no decision.

You can finely tune the effort you put into preparedness to your assessment of the costs and benefits involved. It's not as if we have to choose between 100% business-as-usual and selling off everything and moving to some bunker in the woods.

Even modest steps toward self-sufficiency are better than none at all.


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 ]

once upon a time... (none / 1) (#299)
by Rahyl on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 02:21:05 PM EST

There was a time when whale oil held a similar position. With only so many whales in the oceans and faster ways of killing them being devised all the time, we were headed for disaster. Then came oil. Suddenly, the whales weren't in such high demand anymore. It wasn't whale blubber we needed, it was what it provided that we needed. Advances in technology allowed us to turn away from whale blubber, a commodity who's price and demand were climbing rapidly, to petroleum, bountiful and inexpensively obtained. The transition didn't happen overnight but it did happen. The ever increasing demand and cost for what whale blubber provided drove us to develop an alternative.

The key to understanding the "oil problem" is this: people do not consume oil, they consume what oil provides them. There is not a single use for oil which cannot be provided by something else. Hydrogen, fast becoming an affordable alternative to traditional fossil fuels, may one day become the primary source of power in homes and businesses. Every year, more and more grid power comes from cleaner sources like solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and others. Advances in isulative materials like Aerogel (www.aerogel.com -no, I don't work for them :) ) help to stretch the use of these resources to their (current) limits. We've enjoyed the use of 100% synthetic lubricants for a while now and they outperform their traditional counterparts quite well. Even in the various materials sciences, the move away from petroleum has begun (aero gels, nano-tubes, etc).

Yes, one day we will run out of cheap oil, but perhaps we should look at the cloud's silver lining. The sooner the price of oil climbs, the sooner we'll be using alternatives.

..and they lived happily ever after. (none / 0) (#305)
by Apuleius on Thu Jul 14, 2005 at 06:52:09 PM EST

There is not a single use for oil which cannot be provided by something else. Not at anywhere near the scale or convenience offered by oil.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
actually ... they did live happily ever after (none / 1) (#310)
by nlscb on Fri Jul 15, 2005 at 03:42:24 AM EST

There is not a single use for whale blubber which cannot be provided by something else. Not at anywhere near the scale or convenience offered by whale blubber.

-Melville

Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange
[ Parent ]

Yes, but... (none / 0) (#341)
by Eccles on Fri Jul 22, 2005 at 09:40:41 AM EST

We quit using whale blubber because technology gave us cheaper alternatives.  We're talking about reducing our petroleum use because we're running into supply problems.

As a general rule, I have faith in the power of technological advances to improve things, but it would be much nicer economically speaking if we were reducing our oil use because some alternative undercut the price of still-abundant oil.

[ Parent ]

betting on H (none / 0) (#314)
by iggygray on Fri Jul 15, 2005 at 09:28:36 PM EST

Hydrogen as a source of power has been known for centuries. It is the most abundant element in the universe. Why is it not a source of energy? The laws of physics gives way to the laws of economics. Most of the hydrogen supply is locked up in hydrocarbons (crude oil, natural gas) and water. It is possible to free the hydrogen. Ever wonder why we haven't extracted it from these abundant sources? Because the energy needed to pry Hydrogen free from its bonds is greater than one would get back from the Hydrogen. Never pay two apples for one apple.

[ Parent ]
H is not a power source. (none / 0) (#315)
by alexboko on Sat Jul 16, 2005 at 02:14:23 AM EST

For practical purposes, H is a form of power storage, not a power source. You use surplus electrical power to electrolyze water, store the H2, and burn it later to reconstitute water and release energy


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 ]
Won't work this way either. (none / 0) (#357)
by moocha on Tue Aug 16, 2005 at 05:43:16 PM EST

You need to transport energy too, not just store it, and transporting energyu bound in H is anything but trivial compared to transporting oil. H can't replace oil, no matter how you look at it.
/earth is 98% full, please delete anyone you can.
[ Parent ]
...or, strictly speaking... (none / 0) (#358)
by alexboko on Tue Aug 16, 2005 at 10:35:31 PM EST

You can't replace oil while maintaining both the current standard of living and the current energy use habits.

Obviously oil can and will be replaced with something... we're all just hoping that what it gets replaced with is something more pleasant than firewood and gangs of slaves to chop it all for the friendly local militia/ex-military/ex-police warlords.


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 ]

Incentive for Alternatives (none / 0) (#321)
by jonnyd on Sun Jul 17, 2005 at 10:34:14 PM EST

Good article, but I definitely take issue with the assertion that alternatives won't progress much faster as the incentive for them increase. In fact there are already viable alternatives to oil for electricity production - namely wind and nuclear. Wind energy is already competitive with natural gas and the prices should continue to come down as utilities invest in it and larger wind turbines come on line. 36% of energy used in the US is electricity and the vast majority of this is either coal or petroleum. Much could be done to reduce our dependence on petroleum just by attacking electricity production. Furthermore while wildly impractical now, the realization of energy storage technologies like fuel cells coupled with non-petroleum based electrical energy production would begin to cut into need for petroleum in the transportation sector. In reality these are technologies that are here right now and could have a major impact, but they have not been economically feasible to this point. The incentive will be there soon though and there are no major show stoppers except for infrastructure, and infrastructure will be built when the need arises.
JD
Sure. (none / 0) (#322)
by alexboko on Sun Jul 17, 2005 at 11:26:15 PM EST

...but the REOEI (return energy on energy invested) for alternative source will need to fall as low as the current REOEI on petroleum before our economies can return to being quite as prosperous as they are right now. I'm sure that given enough time it will happen. The question is how much time, and to what level of poverty we will equilibrate until that happens.

Remember, the market can only furnish optimal responses to problems. "Optimal" != "As good as things are under current conditions".


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 ]

Energy Invested (none / 0) (#325)
by jonnyd on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 08:18:42 AM EST

The amount of energy invested in something like a wind farm is essentially zero. Manufacturing, transportation to the site and maintenance are the only energy users and there is no reason there is anymore energy invested per megawatt harvested in a wind farm than any other power plant - probably less. Remember, coal has to be mined which is energy intensive and oil has to be drilled, pumped and shipped. These energy expenditures are still very small compared with the amount of energy contained in the product, but the same is true of wind generation.
JD
[ Parent ]
Yeah... (none / 0) (#327)
by alexboko on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 12:41:04 PM EST

Well, wind probably has better REOEI than solar and  maybe nukes, but I can tell you already that the amount of energy invested is NOT zero. I'll have a more exact figure for you once I build my first windmill, but every blade, bearing, magnet, and bit of wire in there took energy to produce and assemble.

One of the big problems we're facing right now is that the worksite someone lent us doesn't have electric power. Oops, irony. Time to buy a diesel generator for the tools or build up those biceps pumping a hacksaw in the Texas heat.

I'm estimating the equivalent of maybe 10 gallons of petroleum per windmill. Still not bad, though. Using recycled materials and local production probably saves us a lot.


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 ]

You've completely misunderstood (none / 0) (#344)
by jonnyd on Sat Jul 23, 2005 at 11:37:35 AM EST

First of all, I didn't say it was zero energy invested, go back and read my original comment. I said there is energy invested in manufacturing, transportation to the site and maintenance, whichi is it. Secondly, the whole "diesel generator" nonsense is just that - nonsense. I live in Texas and traveling between home and school in California I drive right by the largest wind installation in the country. They send wind generators in 5 pieces - the tower, each of 3 blades and the geny on top and then use a crain to erect it. That's it, there's no onsite manufacture, just snap it together, wire it in and turn it on. Manufacturing may be slightly more involved per megawatt than a coal or petroleum powerplant, but I sort of doubt it. High pressure, high temperature steam loops are large, expensive and have a lot of safety issues. The maintenance on a wind generator is FAR below that on a steam cycle plant as they are far more simple and less exposed to corrosive environments (800 C steam at 10Mpa is not a benign environment)
JD
[ Parent ]
Spelling... (none / 0) (#345)
by jonnyd on Sat Jul 23, 2005 at 11:38:17 AM EST

Sorry crane, not crain
JD
[ Parent ]
I'm not against wind. (none / 0) (#346)
by alexboko on Sat Jul 23, 2005 at 02:13:46 PM EST

I think windmills are the best chance we have for distributed and sustainable energy production. I'm just saying that as someone who's learning to build these suckers, it's not as simple as you're making it sound. The cost of manufacturing the components is not negligible and this cost will go up if the overall cost of energy goes up.

If my estimates are correct, using recycled parts for windmills will cancel some of this effect allowing wind-energy to affordably power the equipment necessary to build new units completely from scratch by the time supply of useable scrap parts runs out (I estimate 10 years after petroleum becomes unaffordable).

No matter how else things play out, twenty years from now, the average Texan is going to be poorer than they are today. What still is up to us is how much poorer, and whether we as individuals are going to beat that average.

In order to do that, there's no room for wishful thinking.


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 ]

Diesel (none / 0) (#347)
by alexboko on Sat Jul 23, 2005 at 02:25:23 PM EST

I can't find what you're responding to with regard to diesel, but here's my take on it:

It may have a niche as a portable power source, not as fuel for electrical generators.

Petroleum right now supplies a minority share of our electrical generation needs (it's mostly coal and natural gas).

We may be able to replace some of our reliance on trucks for bulk shipping by switching back to railroads.

However, farm equipment may be problematic. It may be problematic even with biodiesel, for REOEI reasons similar to the ones I invoked earlier for windmills.

I haven't yet researched the maximal per-acre oil yield of rapeseed, sunflowers, or canola... nor how much of a multiplier effect heavy farming machinery has on this yield. But if overall biodiesel can pass breakeven, we will probably avoid life-threatening disruptions in food supply, at least at the production end.


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 ]

Oh yeah, remembered my original point. (none / 0) (#328)
by alexboko on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 12:54:58 PM EST

The US can definitely be powered by windmills if there's enough of them.

Let's say some combination of energy companies and back-yard machine-hackers do build enough of them. It will still be one of the biggest infrastructural investments in history. Whether this is money you spend at the hardware store or your government spends on public works, it's still money that right now is being used for other purposes which will now go into building and maintaining millions of windmills. It's better than not having them, but that's what I mean when I say that no matter what, society's wealth ultimately depends on the REOEI of its main fuel source.

But I worry that the big boys might not yet realize how much time and energy it takes to switch over to a different energy source. So we might not even get the above scenario... but the whole point of taking the local approach is to isolate yourself and your community from the the consequences of the economy coming crashing down around you. Admitting that you can't do anything to help people accross the continent or even accross the state, but you can at least start doing what you can to make sure your local economy thrives and perhaps can even continue to support close to the current level of technology.


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 ]

Making a buck while saving the world. (none / 0) (#323)
by alexboko on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 12:00:26 AM EST

Something to consider.

As of 2002 renewable energy currently supplies 6% of the total energy demand. Petroleum supplies 39% and natural gas 24% (together, 63%, and both are peaking). The rest are supplied by coal (23%) and nukes (8%). Therefore, without even assuming a growth in energy demand, the renewable energy sector will have to grow 6.5-fold in order to replace petroleum. It would have to grow 10.5-fold in order to replace petroleum and LNG.

Nukes will probably expand as well, but still, to replace oil and LNG the combined growth of nuclear and renewable power would still need to be a healthy 4.5-fold. 450%. Over the course of how many years? Let's say 20.

So this means that if I dump my cash into some kind of index fund that tracks the nuclear and renewable energy sectors, I'll be realizing something like a 6% compounded annual yield. Not too shabby... certainly better than how the S&P 500 has been doing at any point in the past 5 years except between 2003-2004. And the S&P 500 itself outperforms some scary fraction of the managed mutual funds, I thought I remember reading it was like 70%.

Not a bad deal, huh? And on top of that, I get the satisfaction of knowing that I'm simultaneously doing my patriotic and environmental bit by actively participating in the market's remediation of the energy crisis.

Yeah, maybe we'll still turn into an impoverished hellhole, but at least I'll be richer than the idiots who blew their cash on adding a swimming pool to their house in the suburbs of Las Vegas.

Any business or econ geeks out there care to vet my estimates? Curious to see if you think this would work. Thanks.


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.

Sources (none / 0) (#324)
by alexboko on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 12:03:18 AM EST

S&P500 performance: http://askresearch.com/

Percentage of overall demand met by various energy sources: http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/infosheets/renewableenergy.htm

Actively managed mutual funds getting their asses kicked by S&P500: vaguely remembered essay I read on http://fool.com once :-)


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 ]

Just invest in BP or Shell (none / 0) (#330)
by shambles on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 03:52:29 PM EST

They are the biggest investors in solar power research and you get the bonus of good profits from the high oil price.

People are more important than Truth - Edgar Malroy
[ Parent ]
Status Quo (none / 1) (#354)
by Katsujinken on Sat Aug 06, 2005 at 03:13:16 AM EST

I like the thinking towards investments that can make money while bolstering lassez-faire principles, however, given what's at stake, long term, I'd be more concerned about preserving my ASSets.

Look, if we run out of oil, the marketplace that supports the stock market, the free market, commerce, international trade, etc., will be severely diminished.

Personally, if I was worried about a peak oil crash, I'd not put my money into any kind of speculative market fund or investment. I'd make sure I paid off all my debts, have zero credit card balance. Then I'd do some research on properties. Properties with reasonably tolerable winters and productive springs, summers and falls. By productive, I mean productive towards growing things. You know, like food. The stuff you eat. The stuff you can't buy at the Supermarket any more because they don't get any deliveries from California, Mexico, Ecuador because they either can't get the fuel to power the truck lines, or the fuel is too expensive. So the food stays in Mexico.

Now what?

By the way, when you finally buy that property, you ought to invest in some other things, wind/solar power generation, firearms, FRIENDS (this is important, building close communities, real communities, of trusted friends is what will get us all through something like a peak oil crash.

I'd also invest in parts to keep the computers going, get some ham radios, communication gear.

Self sufficiency. Think about it, it could be heaven or it could be hell.

[ Parent ]

Dude, you belong on my site. (none / 0) (#355)
by alexboko on Sat Aug 06, 2005 at 12:11:10 PM EST

It's the one in the sig. I basically agree with you and that's excactly what I would do if I had $20-$30k saved up and no commitments to keep me tied to where I am.

However, I have to play a more difficult game. This means having to guess what the market will do on it's way down and use this insight to make the money I'll need to invest in property, tools, renewable energy, defense, and friends.

Right again, about friends. Too many "survivalists" think only in terms of them and their guns against the world. True security only can come from being part of a moderately sized, prosperous community that resolves internal disputes peacefully and is willing to stick together against external threats.

Moreover, the message about the need for self-sufficiency at the community level needs to be spread far and wide. That increases the chances that any one of us can find a community we agree with, and it also will decrease the number of thieves and bandits because they will instead be absorbed as productive citizens into one community or another. Not all of them, but at least some.

Check out the link under my name. I think you'll find that it's right up your alley.


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 ]

Oh, and another thing. (none / 0) (#356)
by alexboko on Sat Aug 06, 2005 at 12:23:50 PM EST

I'm 90% sure that an oil peak will happen within my lifetime.

But I'm only 50% sure that the "solution" the market finds to this problem will be a Somalia-like economy.

Therefore, it would be equally irrational of me to mobilize either all my resources toward preparing because as it would be to mobilize none of them. I'd hate to fail at my chosen (high tech) career if the world doesn't go to hell in a handbasket, after all.

I believe a balance can be struck. I believe that there is an optimal amount of effort I can invest in preparedness.

I also believe that preparedness can be a profitable activity even if things do turn out okay. At some point between now and when we know for sure how the market will react, there will be waves of people looking at the fundamentals of the energy industry and seeing the risk I see... and if I have a skill or a product useful to these people, it can be a lucrative side-business.

In short, my point is that preparedness doesn't mean dropping everything and heading for the hills this very instant. It can complement our business-as-usual lives instead of displacing them.


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 ]

Don't forget batteries. (none / 0) (#333)
by alexboko on Mon Jul 18, 2005 at 07:52:10 PM EST

The focus is on energy generation (and if you agree with my point of view, DIY, local, generation by individuals and small businesses). But that's actually an easier problem than energy storage.

Currently the most accessible energy storage medium for DIY energy are deep cycle lead-acid batteries (I'm not talking about mobile applications, I'm talking about residences and businesses). They have a service life of 5-10 years depending on how hard you beat on them. Each one costs at least $40 US and you need several dozen of them if you want to be able run your house completely off DIY energy for a full overcast day without wind.

When they give out, and if the post-oil economy has arrived, replacements will be difficult or impossible to obtain. Maintenance is very much possible, but the main problem is avoiding poisoning yourself or polluting your property.

Therefore, we should look into Edison-style nickel-oxide/iron cells. Though some individuals have allergic reactions to nickel, it's benign compared to lead. Moreover, Edisons use KCl as an electrolyte, which is a salt rather than an acid, so no acid burn hazards. Finally, Edisons are almost indestructable. Not only can they handle being discharged all the way, that's the state in which people normally store them.

I think the toughest component for the DIY-er to get will be nickel. Off the top of my head I can only come up with electroplating kits, pottery glaze, and dead NiMH batteries. All of these sound pretty labor intensive, but I'm sure that with enough brains and eyes on the problem someone will come up with a cheaper source from which to recycle nickel.

Edison's methods are public knowledge of course... but it will take some amateur R&D effort to adapt them to the small space, limited budget, and minimal equipment of a 21st century backyard engineer. We may end up with a less efficient and bulkier cell than Edison did... but then again, he was trying to use his to power vehicles!

Yup, that's what I said when I first read about it.

Anyway, something to think about.


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.

Related article (none / 0) (#348)
by coder4hire on Fri Jul 29, 2005 at 10:08:06 AM EST

An earlier issue of the PristinePlanet.com newsletter had a short, related article: http://www.pristineplanet.com/newsletter/2005/04.asp

Why? (none / 0) (#350)
by SadLittleGoth on Tue Aug 02, 2005 at 11:32:03 AM EST

Why is there so little attention paid to accelerator driven fission reactors? We have enough Thorium to last us about 400,000 years, at present consumption levels, and, employed in an accelerator driven reactor, this would give us a relatively safe and abundant power source. Safe, incidentally, because it's not a self-sustaining reaction. This isn't crank science, and it's a far more certain bet than fusion...

Once and for all, logistics. (3.00 / 2) (#351)
by alexboko on Tue Aug 02, 2005 at 02:41:48 PM EST

Just because something can work doesn't mean it's likely to get implemented fast enough to serve a significant part of our power needs in the next ten or twenty years.

How much does it cost to build one of these badboys? How long will it take? How many do we need to meet, say, 30% of our current static energy needs?

Do you have a controlling interest in a company capable of building one in the next ten-to-twenty? Do you have authority over a government agency that can do this? In the unlikely event that the answer to either of these is yes, then get off Kuro5hin and do it already for chrissakes!

Otherwise stop wasting your time and ours. Because you can build plenty of wind-turbines, solar heat-engines, and biodiesel processors in the next ten to twenty years to meet your own needs and those of your neighbors.

This cheerleading for fusion, nukes, and orbital arrays by people who have absolutely no way to mobilize the enormous investment needed to get these off the ground... it's just a subset of the "I'll sit here and do nothing waiting for some external force to save my ass."

The lefties call this force the government and the libertroids call it the free market, but the unifying theme here is not having to actually personally do anything different.


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 ]

What about Plastic (2.50 / 2) (#359)
by Gwylld on Tue Aug 23, 2005 at 04:06:52 PM EST

I know I do not know the statistics but don't we use oil to make plastics? Would we not just lose power but also the major material of our age after this peak? I don't know what I would do without plastics (granted I dislike the fact that they do not break down and that we use far too much when we could use a more bio friendly substance but they are everywhere). Is there some new tech that i just don't know about that will take the place of plastic? From medical divices to electronics to construction material... there are a lot of essentials made of plastic.

In short, yes! Big problem. (none / 0) (#360)
by alexboko on Wed Aug 24, 2005 at 11:55:13 PM EST

Vegetable oils can probably be chemically treated to produce something approximating the right material, but you can count on it being exobriantly expensive and reserved applications where no other material will do.

Luckily wood, ceramics, glass, rubber, and recycled plastic could fill a lot of gap.

Now, the petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides on which current agriculture depends to feed our teeming millions is a more alarming issue.

The organic farming advocates claim that the yields on organic methods can be brought high enough to feed everyone. I hope they're right, but even if they are, there's that ever-present question of how long it will take us to make the transition and when we should start doing it.


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 ]

It is a transport thing (none / 1) (#361)
by arivero on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 01:52:04 PM EST

70% of oil goes directly so transportation bussiness, and still some of the other 30% goes indirectly via fabrication of chemicals, plastics and even roads. So it is not an energy problem, but a problem about the model of economy. Just bring factories home again. Walking distance.

Peak Oil: the next big thing. (Part One.) | 367 comments (337 topical, 30 editorial, 0 hidden)
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