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[P]
Peak Oil: the next big thing. (Part Two.)

By Apuleius in Science
Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:02:13 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Several months ago I wrote Peak Oil, the Next Big Thing, on the world's slowly growing energy predicament. I promised some sequels, and now belatedly comes part 2, on the alternatives to conventionally drilled & refined petroleum. I have links galore to more detailed information on energy alternatives, which is why here I will stay largely qualitative rather than quantitative.


To recap, "Peak Oil" is a catch phrase for the theory that we are facing an upcoming slow exhaustion of conventionally obtained fossil fuels. That much is so patently true that it borders on tautology. Oil is a finite resource. One way or another, our use of it therefore will cease. Larger oil deposits are easier to find than smaller ones. Sooner or later, the oil fields we drill would run out, and we would have to look for others, finding less and less as time went by. What the Peak oil theory also claims is that as oil extraction became more difficult, demand for oil would continue to increase, making each barrel pricier and your share of oil production smaller.

It's been 6 months after my first article, and the 200 day moving average for the price of oil has reached $60 per barrel, and will continue to rise slowly since winter has begun. The day by day price continues to fluctuate by over a dollar. Oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico has been severely disrupted by the last hurricane season, and is not expected to recover until the summer, right in time for the next. The Saudis have admitted that by 2015 they expect not to be able to increase production in line with demand, which in real terms means this day will come much sooner. In the last six months, just as in the last 30 years, there have been no new major finds of oil. And in the Appalachian Mountains, old oil wells are back in production, now that their care and operation is profitable again. Let's look at the alternatives.

Why the Alternatives are Paltry and Unattractive

Petroleum is a wonderfully convenient material. Yet it is a finite resource, as was well known from the very beginning of our oil economy. The supposed best hope for our time, the hydrogen economy, was discussed in depth in a lecture by J.B.S. Haldane, Daedalus, or Science and the Future , presented to the Heretics circle in Cambridge in 1923.

In his lecture, Haldane pictured the future of Britain after both coal and oil. What he imagined was a widespread deployment of windmills, which are used to produce and liquify hydrogen, stored underground thanks to Britain's limestone geology, ready for use on demand by industry. He was also forward thinking enough to predict the invention of flourescent lighting on account of the inefficiency of the incandescent variety. Haldane could almost afford to be blithe about a post-carbon Britain. He was only speaking of Britain, and an older Britain, one highly dependent on coal but not yet on oil, and a Britain where the farming was not yet "tractored out" and plenty of people knew how to sail. And, there was no end in sight for oil or coal.

That was in 1923. Since then, the alternative energy scene has evolved greatly, but is no more ready to replace oil than it was then. To explain why, I should sing the praises of oil's great convenience. Oil products, such as gasoline and diesel oil, carry an astonishingly high concentration of energy. A single gram of oil contains the energy of a day's labor on part of a healthy man. (Ex-oilman Pierre Chomat coined the term Ergamine, or energy slave, in his book Oil Addiction - The World in Peril.) This energy can be put aside for long periods, moved around in bottles small or very, very large, and stored safely. Then, all this energy can be put to use at the turn of a key. And to top it all off, we know how to use this energy in machines that can propel themselves over most of the earth's surface and perform hard labor wherever they go.

It is not easy to up such an ante, and despite decades of hard work, the alternative energy scene of today would look eerily familiar to Mr. Haldane. Many years' cogitation by first rate minds have gone into this effort. It is not for lack of intelligence or imagination that we have not made progress here. It is because the quest for energy sources is fundamentally different from the other endeavors of scientists and engineers. The most common technology quest is that of doing new things with available materiel and energy. At this we have gotten so good we can call it instinctive. A line from J.M. Barrie's play Peter Pan comes to mind. "All you need is trust, and a bit of pixie dust."

A more difficult quest is the one to do what has been done before, but with less energy and cheaper materials. We're good at it, but not as good, which is why we are still using those wasteful internal combustion engines to move around. The most difficult is the quest to find more sources of energy. More pixie dust. We really could use help from the faeries. Here's what we have right now:

Unconventional Fossil Fuels

A good starting point is oil's unconventional cousins. There is more energy in deposits of these than there is in reserves of conventional oil, but "conventional" is misnomer. What makes oil conventional is that it is convenient to use, because of several attributes it has. The ideal oil find is convenient as follows: it is light. That means it is neither too dense nor too thick, and therefore extractible by cheap drilling equipment. it is sweet, meaning low in sulfur content and thus easy to refine. It is in a big deposit, so you can set up a well, get it running and go read Kuro5hin for the next several years before having to pack up and drill elsewhere. It is placed somewhere with decent weather and close to enough of the amenities of life. And finally, the people near your rig want you to be drilling there.

A good example of convenient oil is, East Texas crude oil, as discovered in the Spindletop find in 1901. (Though some of you may beg to differ about the weather.) As such oil runs short, or fails to meet demand, you have to give up on the beer and drill for it in places with worse weather than Texas, like, say, Saudi. You have to look harder for smaller finds, and get less and less profit each time you haul your rigs over. Then you have to give up on land altogether and drill the ocean bottoms, going deeper and deeper and into stormier waters. You might decide to go drilling in places where the locals don't want you to drill. Maybe they are too remote or powerless for their objections to carry weight. And maybe you don't mind drilling because the people who object are a bunch of goddamn dirty [insert relevant ethnic slur here.] You wouldn't do it if you could drill elsewhere, but if that's where the oil is, to hell with the [ethnics] living there.

Having reached this point, you now have to settle for oil that is thicker and more sour. Thicker means you spend more money on your drills and pumps, and pour more fuel into running them, and the oil comes out more slowly. More sour means more money into your refining apparatus, more energy spent on your refinery fires, and more pollution produced at the refinery. Then you start looking at the really thick oils: the oil tars of Venezuela and the tar sands of Alberta. When you reach that point you are getting less and less energy out for each unit of energy you invest in extracting and refining oil. With conventional oil, for each 10 gallons of fuel you buy, approximately one gallon was already spent in extracting, refining, and transporting it to the station where you filled up. When you start using tar sands, the ratio is more like a gallon spent for every gallon you obtain.

Another problem is that once you are digging oil out instead of pumping it, you are no longer able to boost production as easily. To boost extraction in an oil field, you just drill another bore somewhere nearby and start another pump. When instead of a pump you have a huge digging machine, it's not so easy to increase production. The reverse direction is also bad. To slow down oil production, you turn down a few throttles. To slow down production in a tar sand field, you have to tell a large number of employees to go take a day off, or give them a pink slip. It makes the economics of all this really inconvenient.

And the pollution from unconventional oils is truly nasty. Tar sand extraction requires producing immense amounts of wastewater, and the energy invested also produces lots of air pollution. None of this is visible to me, as I fuel my Honda in Boston, but it is still out there. Other nonconventional oils come from oil shale and coal liquefaction. Oil shale extraction is even more problematic than tar sand (which is why there is tar sand extraction happening but no oil shale right now).

Another source of unconventional fuel is coal gassification. The option is always there, to do it, but at a tremendous cost. The gassification process takes major chunks of energy off a coal mine's output. If at all possible, you're always better off just burning the coal for steam. And increased reliance on coal means increased reliance on an industry that goes through miners like a meat grinder. The human and political cost is considerable.

This is what unconventional fossil fuels mean. Their extraction from the ground provides less energy profit per energy invested. That can really knock down the effective fuel efficiency of that hybrid you're so proud to have bought (not to worry - it's still better than driving a guzzler.) It requires more intervention by more people with more skills using fancier machinery and therefore requires more money to employ. It pollutes more at the extraction and refinery stages. The unconventional industry is not as versatile at adjusting output to market conditions. To sum up, by every possible measure, unconventional means inconvenient. It means less energy at higher financial cost, higher environmental cost, higher social cost, and higher moral cost.

Nuke'm

So much for unconventional fossil fuels. Other options also exist. There's nuclear power. I'll be concise. Nuke plants put out less radioactive waste than coal plants, ironically, but we have still not perfectly solved the question of how to dispose of their wastes, especially if we scale up the use of nuclear power. More challenging is the matter of decommissioned nuclear plants. Finally, yellowcake uranium ores won't last forever either. Then there are the more speculative energy technologies. We are 50 years away from developing fusion. 50 years ago, we were 50 years away from developing fusion. (Oft-said joke, that). If we do figure out how to carry out a sustained fusion reaction, none of us will ever have to think about energy again.

If.

Solar

Strictly speaking, almost all of the energy we use is solar energy. But for here I'll define solar power as power gotten by building an apparatus and exposing it to sunlight. Solar energy has many benefits besides the warm fuzzies it gives to think about. It is a source that will keep on giving until the sun goes red giant, and solar technologies supply us with the same solar energy that oil does, but without a 50 million year middle man, and therefore much more efficiently. But of course, there are catches. Solar is only available one half of the day, at times of fair weather, and can only be used efficiently in lower lattitudes, especially desert areas. Worst of all, solar energy does not scale up well. In order to gather up enough solar energy to power our modern day lifestyle, we would need to spread solar collectors over a wide acreage. Then we would need personel to traverse this wide area to maintain the solar plant as it is subjected to wind, rain, rock slides, lightning, wild animals, and saboteurs. In a desert climate. Travelling, no doubt, in off-road capable automobiles, if nothing else, then just to get the dust off the panels.

Nevertheless, solar energy technologies are promising. Photovolatic cells are improving in efficiency and in price. They have already crossed the most important benchmark: a PV cell will gather more juice from the sun than it takes to manufacture it. Newer designs boost efficiency further by lensing light from larger areas onto smaller PV cells. A more problematic issue with PVs is that they transmit every drop of energy at the moment thet collect it from the sun. An alternative to PVs comes from thermal collection. An array of sun tracking mirrors can heat a sodium collector or an oil tube, to high temperatures (2000 degrees C for a sodium collector). The heat can be saved for a while and then spent by an adjustible heat exchanger to run a steam engine or sterling engine. Such solar plants can heat up in the daytime and continue to provide electricity well into the evening.

More promising still is solar algae technology. Solar algae assemblies are tacked onto any smokestack producing CO2, be it a power plant or any other heavy industry setup. The smoke is bubbled through water containing algae bred for this application, which then traps the carbon and nitrogen emissions and performs photosynthesis, a process whose efficiency can be boosted in a high CO2 environment. On a sunny day a solar algae kit can trap 80% of the CO2 going through it. The algae then concentrate into a source of biodiesel and ethanol. Solar algae is a win all around. It reduces greenhouse emissions and provides us with fresh oil. Look for this technology to expand. But by itself it is not a complete answer to the challenge of oil scarcity (nothing is).

Wind

Similar catches apply to wind technology. There is enough wind out there to supply a major amount of our needs. Their energy is available only when the weather is willing, and they involve the manufacture of finely designed metal foils (of increasingly exotic metals) which are then deployed far and wide and exposed to the elements. These are mechanical parts subjected to irregular strains and wear and tear. And, even dead bugs are enough to cost a wind foil a third of its efficiency. The same catch applies: we do not know if the economics, logistics, or thermodynamics are favorable for setting up and maintaining wind farms without an underlying carbon economy. A more speculative technology is that of tidal power. The idea is to build an apparatus on the coast, in sea water, where it will be exposed to the salty water, the barnacles and seaweed, to the wind, the waves, and the tides. Oh, and it will gather energy by fighting the tide. To anyone who wishes to build a tidal plant, Good Luck.

Biomass

Another source for liquid fuels is agriculture. Grow a crop, harvest it, refine it and out comes liquid energy. If only it were so easy. Agriculture today is an oil intensive activity. Oil powers the tractors and combines that plow, till, spread seed and manure, and finally collect the harvest. Oil powers the pumps that irrigate so many of the fields. Oil and gas provide the chemical feed stock for the nitrate fertilizers that made the so called Green Revolution take place, and they power the processes that make them. Oil powers the mining and delivery of phosphates. And, oil powers the crop as they go from the fields to the factories and kitchens. A lot of energy besides solar energy goes into producing fuel crops. In the case of ethanol and biodiesel, none of the crops used to make it can be grown to make an energy profit. Two crops that can are the American switchgrass and Asian elephant grass, but only if they are not fermented or pressed into oil. To make sense, switchgrass has to be pressed into pellets and burned. You can run trains that way. And generators. And heat farmhouses. But not an automobile society.

There is also a new process called thermal depolymerization (TP), that tries to mimic the process by which oil source rock was cooked into oil in the earth's bowels. You can throw almost any organic matter in, and oil comes out, at a 15% energy cost. The big catch with TP isn't whether it scales up, but whether it scales down. The first TP plant was built next to a turkey processing plant, for obvious reasons. And it quickly fell into financial trouble because the turkey plant found other uses for its waste. The bigger catch with TP is the cost of gathering organic materials for the process. TP depends on an underlying base of food processing and household waste separation to provide each plant with its inputs. If the new economy doesn't support enough of these activities to create the inputs and transport them to each plant, we lose. This is why TP has to scale down. A plant in every neighborhood might work. Maybe. What won't work is combining agriculture with TP, because without oil, our crop yields per acre are going to drop, and we have no way of knowing just how many acres we will be able to devote to fuel crops rather than the more mundane goal of growing food. It may be none.

Cogeneration

Remember that word. Cogeneration means making better use of our existing energy infrastructure. A steam turbine generator doesn't just generate electricity. It generates hot water that need not go to waste. MIT's cogen plant is linked to an elaborate warm water plumbing system throughout the campus. And really, any community with a steam plant or other source of waste heat can plumb itself for tremendous energy savings by circulating waste heat to where it can be useful.

Similarly, Toronto just started on a program to save cooling expenses for its downtown buildings. Toronto's water system draws from deep into Lake Ontario, where the temperature is a constant 4 degrees C. Previously the water would equalize with surface temperatures in the filtration plant. Now the water is first circulated through heat exchangers in several downtown buildings to save on cooling costs. Similar ideas can take hold in many places. The philosophy behind them is to use energy in the form made available rather than converting (and converting) from form to form, losing some at each step.

Hydrogen

But still, it's nice to have energy in a form that can be saved, stored, transported, bought, sold, and used when needed. We do, sort of. It's called oil. When it qualifies as being within defined tolerances for density and composition, oil can be traded and optioned in the exchanges of New York and London. But it is running short. Which brings us back to Haldane and the hydrogen economy. The hydrogen economy is supposed to help is unite every source of energy no matter how small or whimsical into a single grid for all uses, including automobiles. The hydrogen economy is a cruel joke. Turn your back on an oil tank and it will sit there. Turn your back on hydrogen and it will seep away into the atmosphere, through every crack and valve. Worse yet, hydrogen is a corrosive reducing agent. It eats its way out of tanks, pipes and valves. And its energy density is low.

So, to Sum Up

There are other sources of energy that I have omitted. All of them show some promise, but there are too many unknowns to easily figure out which of them will be used in what proportion to supplant what we do these days with oil. This blog does go at length into doing back-of-the-envelope estimates. But some things you should keep in mind: our grandparents, parents, and we ourselves have invested dozens of trillions of dollars into the worldwide oil economy. The people out there who are developing and deploying new energy sources are living like you and me, as part of the oil economy. They use it to obtain materials and manufacture their tech, to transport and maintain it. Can a solar cell factory be powered by solar cells? Not today. Can a society without oil build a nuclear plant? Right now it is easy to explore and debate the merits of alternative energy sources. Oil lets us think of each alternative by itself. It's what lets us bail out easily from any investment gone sour. But the oil economy is going away. While it is still here, we can use it to fuel the transition to the energy economy of the future. If it goes away before we've done it, we are screwed.

And once we have left the oil economy, be it the easy way or the hard way, we will move into a different looking world. Without oil, energy will be more scarce. You will find yourself at times unable to obtain energy for your use at any price you can afford. It will be more expensive in every sense of the word. Particularly scarce will be energy in forms that can be used to power self-moving vehicles. Of the energy available to you, a portion will be available on its own schedule, not on yours, and its schedule will be subject to change without prior notice. Don't be too surprised. This is already true for a lot of people out there. Be prepared. My next article (hopefully more promptly written..) will be on some of the ways our way of life depends on the oil economy and what that means for short term energy crunches, like what we saw in Hurricane Katrina.

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Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o Peak Oil, the Next Big Thing,
o "Peak Oil"
o and the 200 day moving average for the price of oil has reached $60 per barrel,
o The Saudis have admitted
o Daedalus, or Science and the Future
o A good starting point is oil's unconventional cousins.
o Spindletop
o solar power
o wind technology.
o There is enough wind out there to supply a major amount of our needs.
o This blog does go at length into doing back-of-the-envelope estimates.
o Also by Apuleius


Display: Sort:
Peak Oil: the next big thing. (Part Two.) | 326 comments (319 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
Genocide is really cool. (1.00 / 12) (#1)
by Lenticular Array on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:00:09 AM EST


ANONYMIZED
Suicide is painless. (2.60 / 5) (#10)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:32:48 AM EST

It brings on many changes. And you can take or leave it as you please.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
i love... (none / 1) (#57)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:14:41 PM EST

...how causeheads get their panties in a bunch about complete phantoms and then bluster with righteous indignation that the sane people are not disturbed by these grumpkins.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
no, nuclear is the way to go (2.57 / 7) (#2)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:15:38 AM EST

no green house gasses, no well-funded religious extremists, just drive electric cars

modern pebble bed reactors don't go china syndrome: no silkwood, no three mile island, no chernobyl

additionally, old style fuel rod reactors only used 5% of the fuel, requiring tens of thousands of years of high grade waste storage and a constant bomb threat

the new reactors use 90% of the fuel and only require a couple hundred years of low grade low threat storage

so, review: modern nuclear tech has no greenhouse gases, no bomb threats, low grade waste problem

nuclear should be, if everyone understands the tech, an environmentalist's best firend AND a national security policy analysts best friend

nuclear is the best solution to our security and environmental problems

the scientists understand this, we're all just waiting for the public and the politicians to catch up to the implications of the latest nuclear tech


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

Yes, but.. (2.40 / 5) (#3)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:20:36 AM EST

1. Better be quick. Building a nuke plant is not easy if you have to deliver the parts in a horse and buggy. 2. The plant itself doesn't pollute much, but uranium mining is a bitch. That's something the nuclear energy lobby prefers not to mention. If you meet a nuke flak, as I did once, ask him why Navajo girls get vaginal cancer so frequently and watch him squirm. 3. Yellowcake is scarcer than you think, and lower grade ores are a bitch. And at any rate, uranium mining is itself a bitch without the right energy input to run the mines.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
nuclear has a lot of negatives (2.66 / 3) (#7)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:29:46 AM EST

except all the other choices have worse negatives


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

[ Parent ]
There are avenues that haven't been persued (none / 0) (#12)
by debacle on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:41:35 AM EST

Mostly because, even for the US, they are cost prohibitive.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]
the tech is already proven (3.00 / 3) (#14)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:56:25 AM EST

the avenue is already explored

all that is required is for inertia and ignorance to be overcome


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

[ Parent ]

You are very right (1.33 / 3) (#19)
by debacle on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:21:43 AM EST

And I think that similarly that nuclear is probably the only solution for the next 150-200 years that will satisfy mostly everyone. If only we understood nuclear radiation a bit better (which we will by 2050) the nuclear option wouldn't be a problem at all.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]
wtf? if we understood radiation better? nt (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:57:06 AM EST



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

[ Parent ]
Sorry, that was pretty vague (none / 1) (#36)
by debacle on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:46:03 AM EST

Once we can easily create a situation, through medical engineering or physics iscoveries, where 'radiation sickness' and other diseases are easily mended or surface only to a point as to become negligable.

I would say that, considering the 'human cost of oil,' we are at a point now where this is the case, as the benefit outweighs the cost, but opponents of nuclear power disagree.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]

what the fuck is your problem? (2.33 / 3) (#49)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 01:49:24 PM EST

radiation sickness? are we building nuclear reactors in people's living rooms?


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

[ Parent ]
and... (3.00 / 3) (#69)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:53:55 PM EST

...forcing them to run without shielding, with cooling provided by licking the fuel rods repeatedly?

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
The job market's tight these days (3.00 / 4) (#75)
by debacle on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:33:59 PM EST

Licking fuel rods is one way to make a living.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]
how is radiation sickness (none / 1) (#78)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:36:27 PM EST

an argument against nuclear power?

how is lung cancer an argument against coal?

how is skin cancer an argument against solar?

how is chapped lips an arugment against wind power?

jesus chirst, i'm drowning in trolls


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

[ Parent ]

dude, calm down (2.66 / 3) (#79)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:40:52 PM EST

i was AGREEING with you.

remember how rare that is?

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
sorry (3.00 / 2) (#81)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:43:22 PM EST

i need to chill

when you miss sarcasm you got a problem, i got a problem ;-P


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

[ Parent ]

More negatives than you might think. (2.60 / 5) (#20)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:35:20 AM EST

More information here.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
very good article link +3 n/t (none / 0) (#24)
by m a r c on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:32:27 AM EST


I got a dog and named him "Stay". Now, I go "Come here, Stay!". After a while, the dog went insane and wouldn't move at all.
[ Parent ]
yes, now stack them all up (2.66 / 3) (#25)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:15:47 AM EST

and tell me what comes out ahead of nuclear in terms of less negatives

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

[ Parent ]
Conservation. (2.25 / 4) (#48)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 01:48:33 PM EST

More soon.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
well duh (2.66 / 3) (#52)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:06:14 PM EST

but you made a comment extraneous to the observation that nuclear has less negatives than other sources of energy. in other words, conserve nothing, conserve like a motherfucker, either way, the pluses and negatives that shows you should get your energy from nuclear remains unchanged

it's like arguing about the best way to smuggle cocaine to the united states to make money. it doesn't matter if there are 100,000 addicts in the usa or 100, you still have the problem of getting the cocaine there in the first place


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

[ Parent ]

Regardless (2.00 / 4) (#5)
by debacle on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:27:32 AM EST

There will have to be an interm.

There isn't enough time to build a nuclear infrastructure in the US let alone China, Europe, and the Middle East.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]

Indeed. (2.25 / 4) (#8)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:30:14 AM EST

An interim at least a dozen years long. Meanwhile, the oil crisis is now.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
china and europe are already doing it (2.66 / 3) (#9)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:31:04 AM EST

they are both building pebble bed reactors

the us is doing squat

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

[ Parent ]

EU says they are well behind schedule (3.00 / 3) (#11)
by debacle on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:39:04 AM EST

And I think that in light of recent events it is more the oil lobbies rather than the environmentalists (the rational environmentalists at least) that are holding back the nuclear option. If there was some sort of incentive, I'm sure we could be seeing several pop up each month in the next 18-24 months.

Even Canada is taking some initiative.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]

whoever has the largest dependence on (none / 1) (#15)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:58:23 AM EST

pebble bed reactors has the least environmental concerns and the least security issues (not being a target of islamonazis funded by oil)

let the race begin

go canada go


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

[ Parent ]

oil funded islamist radicals (none / 0) (#29)
by nusuth on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:47:48 AM EST

I'm in the biodiesel bussiness and when I check US sources, I see this argument brought up very often, even in technical discussions about BD. I just don't see the point. Of course, you dislike funding Arab dictators as much as I do whenever you fill up. But what good will it do if all those people are suddenly without income? Poverty makes a fertile groud for breeding terrorist. And oil lords already have enough money to fund terrorists for decades. It takes a lot less to buy a few RPGs than run a country.

[ Parent ]
you're fucking stupid, twice (2.66 / 3) (#50)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:02:15 PM EST

biodiesel pollutes just as much as regular diesel... AND you are ripping out forests to grow the crops you're going to convert to biodiesel... so really you are talking about more environmental degradation and more pollution

so in other words, biodiesel is WORSE than regular oil, from an environmentalist's perspective

biodiesel is completely stupid, it's a fucking joke, it's a step backwards. i don't understand why any environmentalist with 2 neurons would support that bullshit

#2: But what good will it do if all those people are suddenly without income? Poverty makes a fertile groud for breeding terrorist.

you obviously are a sucker choking on some sort of propaganda. the people who perpetrated 9/11 were all middle class/ upper middle class RICH saudi arabians. oh, i'm sorry, and a RICH lebanese/ jordanian. where exactly did bin laden's family get all it's money for construction? OIL, YOU RETARD

what does poverty breed? lots of bad things that should be fought. but NOT global terrorism. that is bred by well-funded religious bigots. take out the well-funded part, and you have religious bigots stuck without an airplane ticket to new york city


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

[ Parent ]

your fucking stupid (none / 1) (#68)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:47:14 PM EST

Biodiesel l gets its carbon from PLANTS... plants are CARBON SINKS. Thus, you get a net of ZERO CARBON added to the system.

also, WHO THE FUCK is clear cutting for farm land in the US?

we have more farm land than what we know to do with.

[ Parent ]

not the usa, morons in europe (1.83 / 6) (#77)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:34:36 PM EST

basically, to rely less on middle east oil, assholes in europe would rather destroy indonesian and malaysian and thai rainforest

TO GROW THE SHIT YOU HAVE TO CLEAR FOREST YOU STUPID FUCK

FORESTS THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BE SUCKING CO2 OUT OF THE ATMOSPHERE YOU FUCKING MORON

BIODIESEL IS UTTERLY RETARDED, AN ENVIRONMENTALISTS WORST NIGHTMARE

http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v3/news_business.php?id=173158

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10510089/site/newsweek/

http://www.theedgedaily.com/cms/content.jsp?id=com.tms.cms.article.Article_7b509 963-cb73c03a-15f4a7f0-bdabf061

http://biz.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2005/12/19/business/12891382& sec=business

http://biz.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2005/12/13/business/12847905& sec=business


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

[ Parent ]

Oil producing algae, perhaps? (3.00 / 2) (#126)
by John Mytton on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:26:59 PM EST

They were mentioned in an earlier comment, and would not need the clearing of any land nor extensive labor. While biodiesel derived from crops may not be efficient, remember that rapeseed isn't the only oily thing in the world.

[ Parent ]
ok, i buy it (none / 1) (#130)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:36:30 PM EST

but we live in a world where environmentalists whine about salmon farming

as if depleting natural fish stocks are superior to those fucking whiners

so good luck, convincing them, but i buy it

still, you have to admit, nuclear's negatives are not as negative as biodiesel's negatives


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

[ Parent ]

Fish farming... (none / 1) (#209)
by John Mytton on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 12:14:22 AM EST

Can be harmful to the native fish (if it's in the ocean) because the farmed fish are protected against disease which can ravage natural stocks, as well as the harvesting of smaller fish for feed for the farmed fish. But yeah, it's a good idea. Of course, nuclear is better than biodiesel, but we're not exactly to the point where you can load up a little reactor into the trunk of your car. I'd much rather have a biodiesel, a car that can be easily repaired and refueled, rather than a complex electric. Though of course, if I lived in a city designed by the folks at www.carfreecities.com, all that I'd really want for transportation would be a motorcycle or a scooter.

[ Parent ]
What you want (none / 1) (#221)
by procrasti on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 03:12:13 PM EST

is a hydrogen fuel cell motorbike.

-------
if i ever see the nickname procrasti again on this site or anywhere in my life, i want it to be in an OBITUARY -- CTS
doing my best at licking arseholes - may 2015 -- mirko
-------
Winner of Kuro5hin: April 2015
[ Parent ]
Bullshit (none / 1) (#165)
by OpAmp on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 01:15:04 PM EST

TO GROW THE SHIT YOU HAVE TO CLEAR FOREST YOU STUPID FUCK

I live in Europe. The deal is that we have cleared almost all forest here in the Middle Ages, so we have nothing more to clear. But in modern era with the advances in food production technology we have ended up with too much farm land. The net result is that currently most of the EU budget goes to the agricultural subsidies, the main goal of which is - wait for it - pay the farmers for NOT growing the plants.

This is why biodiesel is looked at positively over here. You know, if you pay the farmers for sitting on their asses, you can as well pay them for producing the fuel, using the land they already have, and save money you pay the Arabs and Russians for the oil. An added benefit is that all the required technology is cheap and the fuel produced can be used with current infrastructure (sometimes with minimal changes). This is not the case with any other solution.

The EU is currently enacting legislations permitting (or sometimes _requiring_) adding of several per cent biodiesel into standard diesel fuel. Plus, there is some talk about using biodiesel in public transportation systems. Given the we use them more than the Americans that may not be a bad idea.

[ Parent ]

can you read you stupid fuck? (1.50 / 2) (#177)
by circletimessquare on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:49:39 PM EST

europeans are paying to have malaysians clear their forests to grow palm oil and ship it to you

did you read the articles?

would like to try again wiht your stupid comment?

IT'S ALREADY HAPPENING

biodiesel is fucking stupid, it's a bigger threat to the environment than regular petroleum, case closed

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

[ Parent ]

Duh (none / 1) (#210)
by OpAmp on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 04:37:17 AM EST

Biodiesel produced locally (i.e. in Europe) isn't that stupid. Importing biodiesel from Malaysia is one of the dumbest ideas ever. You are right on that ;-)

[ Parent ]
BD is inefficient solar (3.00 / 2) (#148)
by nusuth on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 06:30:29 AM EST

It makes sense just because it can be deployed right now, unlike most other solar technologies. It is not totally oil independent, consequently it is not carbon neutral either. All carbon savings come from two simple facts:

a) You can produce 4 units of BD from oil you would have used to produce 1 unit of petrodiesel.  So you cut carbon emissions due to oil consumption 75% by using it to make BD rather than petrodiesel. It is true that you can produce BD without using any petrolium but that isn't the case right now.

b) BD makes diesel engines run slightly more efficiently in the sense that carbon emissions produced per unit mechanical work is less. (On other metrics [such as max power, work per volume of fuel] BD is less efficient.)

All other carbon savings are fictional. You can always grow plants to trap CO2, with or without intention of making BD from them. If carbon is already trapped in the plant body, you could do a lot better than burning the plant to release it to atmosphere as you would do with BD. You wouldn't say gasoline is carbon neutral if you were planting trees to absorb your car's carbon emissions, would you?

[ Parent ]

common sense! thank you! nt (none / 0) (#188)
by circletimessquare on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:28:49 PM EST



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

[ Parent ]
I bow to your higher intellect (none / 0) (#147)
by nusuth on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:45:22 AM EST

However, I have two objections to your post:
  1. I said nothing about my personel beliefs about environmental benefits of BD. I make money from producing it, not advocating it.
  2. There is more to terrorism than 9/11. What I said is a fact.


[ Parent ]
(snicker) (none / 1) (#187)
by circletimessquare on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:27:50 PM EST

paraphrase:

"1. i fully admit what i sell is stupid and hurts the environment worse than regular petroleum, but i'll do it anyway to make a buck
2. even though 9/11 was clearly perpetrated by the rich, i still think it's because of poverty"

whatever shoddy rationalizations you need to make sense of your world, i guess

but perhaps a little more thought is required from you when the theory doesn't match the evidence, no?


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

[ Parent ]

That is some nice paraphrasing (none / 1) (#189)
by nusuth on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:55:22 PM EST

Obviously, I'm not saying either of those. A more correct paraphrase for the first would be "I'm not willing to discuss merits of BD." I do believe BD is good for environment, since it has better emissions except NOxs, but that is irrelevant to question of whether oil funding stops the terrorists. You completly missed the mark on second one. While it is true that a series of high profile Al Queda attacks -including 9/11- were executed by middle class terrorist, majority of Islamist terrorism is suicide bombings executed by the poor. Welloff Islamiststerrorists are a peculiar exception, unique to high profile Al Queda operations.

High rates of poor terrorists are the rule, middle and upper class terrorists are bit more common in leftist terrorist organizations but virtually absent in right. Al Queda is just one exception and you should better believe dictators already have enough stash in the bank to found a dozen new organizations, if they wish to do so. I can't imagine them doing that as long as they get paid.

[ Parent ]

listen again to what i originallly said (none / 1) (#193)
by circletimessquare on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 06:48:12 PM EST

what does poverty breed? lots of bad things that should be fought. but NOT global terrorism. that is bred by well-funded religious bigots. take out the well-funded part, and you have religious bigots stuck without an airplane ticket to new york city

religious bigots praying on their own communities are fine: if your community has strict religious edicts, you get what you pay for. you better learn by embracing non-fundamentalist teachings, or you will breed mad bombers forever

however, back up suicidal morons with a well-funded (an OIL funded) organization, and the religious idiocy is exported: bali, madrid, london, nyc

no oil money, and the religious wackjobs are left with no one to kill but memebers of their own community. THAT'S NOT A GOOD THING. but what does it take for a community to change it's fundamentalist laws? maybe a good understanding of the consequences of those fundamentalist laws. but if propaganda is effected where your poverty is to blame on outside decadent western forces, rather than the local retarded fundamentalist policies, then bombing the west makes sense

perhaps something the community should learn that mad bombers is the byproduct of religious extremism. maybe if they stop with the fundamentalist policies, they won't have to deal with inevitable effects of the fundamentalist policies

either way, the point is to remove the oil $ so these a**holes aren't allowed to EXPORT their lunacy

do you understand the role of the $ now?

no oil $, and no religious bigot with an airplane ticket to the west, understand?


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

[ Parent ]

My point is (none / 1) (#197)
by nusuth on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:18:43 PM EST

Leaders have money, right now. When cash flow is no longer there, there will be poorer masses. Leaders will still have money; if anything their relative wealth will increase. And for them, it may be easier to convince and fund poorer people to commit terrorist acts. They may be more willing to create new global terrorist organizations, with a more traditional terrorist profile. They may also be more inclined to give money to Al Queda to keep themselves in power. It may be any combination of two, or something equally sinister. What they won't do is just sit back and watch their power vanish, enjoying the cash from their golden days.

Also, I'm not living far from middle east. So I wouldn't be safer if they were out of their ticket money.

[ Parent ]

so you're proving me wrong (1.50 / 2) (#200)
by circletimessquare on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:32:50 PM EST

by saying my actual proven phenomenon is trumped by your speculative fear-based phenomenon?!

look:

a country's wealth is reflected in how liberalized it's policies are. constrictive policies result in poverty, and liberalized (social and economic) policies result in wealth

it's a well-established correlation

meanwhile, oil is an artificial injection of $ into societies that would otherwise be poor

the result is a funding of awful fundamentalist policies that should, if societies in the middle east evolved naturally without any oil funding, receive no funding whatsoever, since fundamentalist policies only reap poverty and hate and decay

if saudi arabia were poor, it would have a population clamoring for liberalization

but since saudi arabia has $ from oil, it has developed a false sense of pride in policies which make no social or economic sense whatsoever

the point is, THE MONEY FUELING THE INSANITY HAS TO STOP

all of your spillover fearful scenarios? well what about them? are you saying they are inevitable? are you saying we should artificially prop up religious fundamentalism forever to prevent its inevitable collapse when our reliance on oil fades? exactly what are you saying?


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

[ Parent ]

I was asking the rationale (none / 0) (#211)
by nusuth on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 06:10:41 AM EST

I didn't see how leaving very rich fundies in control of poor populations helped fighting terrorists and asked why people always thought so. I got my answer, and I'm satisfied with it. You people are not understanding a single think about middle eastern mindset, that is why you don't see it won't do any good and probably a lot of harm - that is my real answer.

As for my suggested course of action, well, I'm not really in a position to suggest one. If I were in power (fortunately I'm not), I would have done very ugly things to get power from the dictators before their countries' income is cut off.

[ Parent ]

well that's funny (none / 0) (#213)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 08:06:11 AM EST

As for my suggested course of action, well, I'm not really in a position to suggest one. If I were in power (fortunately I'm not), I would have done very ugly things to get power from the dictators before their countries' income is cut off.

sounds exactly like what the usa did

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

[ Parent ]

Life is full of incompatible goals (none / 0) (#216)
by nusuth on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 10:16:23 AM EST

My dilemma is choosing between the goal of taking power from middle eastern dictators and the goal of not giving the world hegemon even more power to control our lives.

[ Parent ]
"the world hegemon"? (none / 0) (#227)
by circletimessquare on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 06:35:40 PM EST

is that like the illuminati? i thought it was the masons that were secretly controlling our lives, or is it opus dei? i lose track

(snicker)


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

[ Parent ]

It is a valid political term (none / 0) (#241)
by nusuth on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 03:19:06 AM EST

Sorry you never heard of it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realism_in_international_relations

[ Parent ]
sorry (none / 0) (#242)
by circletimessquare on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 03:45:27 AM EST

i was too busy making sense


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

[ Parent ]
I love you (1.00 / 2) (#4)
by debacle on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:26:02 AM EST

Best article ever.

"In one fashion or another, our use of it therefore must cease."

This sentence is a bit of a cuff though, because you state it directly after the reasons we cannot sustain a fossil-fuel based economy. 'One fashion' to me would indicate a solution rather than a cause of issue. Perhaps reword it to:

"Under one circumstance or another, our use of it therefore will cease."

Then again, it's probably just me.

It tastes sweet.

many thanks. (none / 0) (#6)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:28:20 AM EST

editting now.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Two things (2.66 / 3) (#23)
by trhurler on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:29:05 AM EST

First of all, we've got fusion; we just don't have economical fusion. That's a matter of engineering. A hard problem, but probably not much harder from our perspective than the Manhattan project was from its contemporary perspective, really.

Second, do your homework. There's quite a bit of oil left, and the things that keep it out of play right now will not seem so important when the price goes up enough. The oil companies know this, and they also know their estimates for what's in the ground are conservative by design, which is why they seem so nearly completely unconcerned.

A bonus thing for you: inner fuel reactors more or less completely solve the problems of fission plants, provided you are willing to let them sit for a few thousand years when you're done with them, which isn't an unreasonable tradeoff - especially considering that future technology will probably let us clean them up much sooner than that.

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

Expensive oil is not the solution (none / 0) (#28)
by bml on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:37:53 AM EST

It is... wait for it... the problem!!


The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]
heh (2.75 / 4) (#47)
by khallow on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 01:18:38 PM EST

Some of us don't view expensive oil as a problem.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

It might not be a problem for YOU (none / 1) (#146)
by bml on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:43:49 AM EST

(in the short term), but it is devastating for the economy. Ever heard of stagflation? It's a very funny thing, the US had a taste of it back in the 70s if I'm not mistaken.

It's obvious that 100$/barrel oil would cause or accelerate change, a good thing in itself. But the transition would be extremely nasty. I think we'd all prefer a more sensible and soft transition. That's the whole point.

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

so what? (none / 1) (#157)
by khallow on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 11:48:35 AM EST

Economic devastation isn't necessarily a problem in itself, if we grow out of it. FWIW, the US auto industry was far more competitive in the 80's and 90's than it was in the 70's. In comparison, the Great Depression is an example of where economic devestation was coupled with misguided socialist policies to create a decade of economic weakness. Even now, we have organizations and oligopolies (eg, the FCC, music and entertainment industry, baseball, financial systems, labor unions) that trace their origins or accumulation of rent-seeking power to the 30's.

Also the transition need not be "extremely nasty". The fact that oil prices can and do rise goes a long ways towards making this transition "sensible and soft". Finally, if there is an economic downturn, I too agree that it'll probably have the form of stagflation. The developed world (not just the US) is hostile to deflation because of the reliance on debt to stimulate economic activity.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

yeah I gotta throw in (1.50 / 2) (#186)
by army of phred on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:24:34 PM EST

with that sentiment, a good LONG depression related to really high energy prices would be almost a fantasy to some folks who foresee far greater misery in the future.

The so called "soft landing" obviously could use high oil prices that would taper out consumption to allow more time for alternatives.

"Republicans are evil." lildebbie
"I have no fucking clue what I'm talking about." motormachinemercenary
"my wife is getting a blowjob" ghostoft1ber
[ Parent ]

I'm sorry, but they will seem important to me. (2.50 / 6) (#45)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 01:06:12 PM EST

15 years ago the Cofan tribe in Ecuador expelled oil prospectors from its hunting grounds. They were able to do it because 20 years earlier American missionaries arrived and turned them into clothed and literate people who could henceforth push back. Now the rising price of oil is eroding their ability to keep their forests. Soon they will be staring down the barrels of AK-47s wielded by oil company mercenaries. To me, that's important. Clouds of pollution from the Alberta tar sands is important to me. Muck coming down from the Colorado oil shale fields is important to me. The price of oil isn't just a number. It's a measure of the moral compromises we have to engage in to keep living as we do.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
so China will invade Ecuador (2.50 / 2) (#64)
by Battle Troll on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:39:12 PM EST

That's how power politics works.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
See, I've this strange thing about me. (none / 1) (#66)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:46:12 PM EST

I'm sympathetic towards Injuns.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
yeah right, racist (none / 0) (#70)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:57:13 PM EST

I'm part Cherokee and your rejection of technology is a nail in the coffin of industrializing indigenous peoples everywhere.

Screw the Bureau of Indian affairs and give us our sovereignty back.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
look here, cousin (none / 0) (#72)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:04:20 PM EST

And learn.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
what, a living museum exhibit for hippies? (none / 0) (#73)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:10:09 PM EST

not how it should be.

i aspire to see atomic-powered longhouses on the moon, where the white man won't be able to trade us plague blankets or scalp our women in the night.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Hmm? (none / 0) (#76)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:34:10 PM EST

I thought it was your people that did the scalping.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
nope. another racial slur. (none / 0) (#80)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:43:16 PM EST

While there has always been some ambiguity about scalping and its origins in North America, the best evidence indicates the English introduced it in "Massachusetts" -- aimed against the Wabanaki [Abenaki/Abnaki] nations of Maine and environs in the very early 1700s. At that time, the province/territory of Maine was part of Massachusetts and Maine didn't become a state until 1820. Initially, however, these payments-for-genocide started as literal head-hunting -- the English had a bounty on Native heads [men and women and children and babies].

But the English headhunters complained that the heads were heavy and smelly during the summer "hunting season" -- so scalping was then approved.

English "head-hunting" started as early as the latter 1600s.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Sorry, not true. (none / 0) (#103)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:59:39 PM EST

Pre-Columbian skulls have been found with scalping marks.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Assertion... care to cite? (none / 0) (#110)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:18:11 PM EST

And even if you have a cite: Blood Ritual Aztec Mexico != Eastern Seaboard

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Here's one on the Great Plains. (none / 0) (#117)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 07:41:17 PM EST

Right here.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Um... (none / 0) (#124)
by trhurler on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 08:48:24 PM EST

No. In fact, scalping was NEVER an acceptable alternative to head bounties, because people often survived it. Also, as the other guy points out, this started with the natives, and there's proof in one of his posts. You appear to have bought some more "revisionist history" peddled by asshole leftists.

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

[ Parent ]
Whatever, cuz. (none / 1) (#82)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:49:27 PM EST

The Cofans just want clean water & game.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Yeah, right. (none / 1) (#89)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:17:34 PM EST

They don't want TV, music, or cigarettes?

I lived for 6 years all across the South Pacific in villages of indigenous people.

Even though they lived subsistence lifestyles from palmtree huts in the rainforest, they aspired to have their own gasoline powered canoes, nylon fishing line, steel machetes, cigarettes, alcohol, medicines, and vaccines for their children.

Invariably, visiting hippies would always talk about how these people wanted to have sustainable harvest of their ancient rainforest trees, sustainable harvest of their fish populations, etc etc., while at the same time these indigenous peoples were enthusiastically selling harvest rights for these same things so they could get access to the stuff I listed above.

These native peoples want to reap the health and enjoyment benefits of civilization as much as anyone else.

Flaming liberal causeheads want to force these native peoples to stay forever frozen living a neolithic lifestyle so that their lands can be treated as a nature preserve.

Not fair and utterly inhumane.

You want to dictate how they can use their land? Rent the rights from them.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Read their web site for crying out loud. (none / 0) (#93)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:44:44 PM EST

Then talk.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (none / 1) (#96)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:30:39 PM EST

So these Cofán are native english speakers are they?

And they host their webservices at the data center down by the old banyan tree beside the human waste filled river a mile from their village?

Open your eyes, gringo.

That is a website put together by a bleeding heart post-colonialist dilettante who has created an image of the Noble Savage that they intend to have the world force upon the Cofán whether they want it or not.

see: Oklahoma Reservation

see: Path of Tears

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Yes, some speak English. (none / 0) (#102)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:57:37 PM EST

They are clothed, Christian, and literate. One of their sub-chiefs is a white American who keeps an office in Quito. They also seriously know their stuff about the jungle they live in, which is why they collaborate with the Field Museum of Chicago. They do not, however, "paint in all the colors of the wind."


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
One of their sub-chiefs is a white American" (none / 0) (#109)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:16:56 PM EST

That is a website put together by a bleeding heart post-colonialist dilettante who has created an image of the Noble Savage that they intend to have the world force upon the Cofán whether they want it or not.
As I said.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Noble Savages don't read. (none / 0) (#118)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 07:45:35 PM EST

They also don't dress. And they sure as hell don't pray to Jesus. The Cofan are modernized. Nobody who deals with them romaticizes them. Any one of them who feels like it can hop on a boat and go to town. Some do. But life in Ecuador isn't particularly nice for urban Indians, so most don't, and some who do go back. Which is why they don't want their forest fouled.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
what do you want from me? (none / 1) (#83)
by Battle Troll on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:56:54 PM EST

I didn't make China.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Yes you did (2.50 / 2) (#85)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:08:25 PM EST

if you shop at Walmart.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Oil company mercenaries? (none / 0) (#123)
by trhurler on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 08:47:18 PM EST

What fictitious world do you live in, moron?

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

[ Parent ]
Shell in Nigeria (none / 0) (#133)
by Spendocrat on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:42:10 AM EST

Or is that a Liberal Conspiracy too?

[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 0) (#137)
by trhurler on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:14:44 AM EST

Yes, they defended property they had contracts on against mob violence. I'm shocked. That's not quite "mercenary," nor is it an unprovoked assault. Or an assault at all, actually.

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

[ Parent ]
Perhaps (none / 0) (#168)
by Miniluv on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 02:29:24 PM EST

As with any situation, there are almost as many sides as there are people who speak about it. However there is an increasing amount of evidence to show that Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco and numerous other smaller outfits who've been complicit in human rights violations in the name of pulling oil out of the ground.

Some of those violations may in fact be "legal" in Nigeria, since the government there is hardly one to advocate real human rights. However in jurisdictions throughout the world, but most prominently in the US, these companies are being brought before judges and juries and asked to explain their actions and defend them. This tells me that this isn't just some innocent oil companies being targeted by vocal activist hippies who don't understand how the world works, but there is a good chance that some genuine atrocities have happened.

As the price of oil rises it seems only natural that these will become more frequent, larger scale, and that the situation will be painted in more and more ludicrous terms by both sides of the debate. There's just too much at stake for anybody to play by the rules.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Are you aware... (none / 0) (#220)
by skyknight on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 02:28:45 PM EST

that Nigeria is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world? In a recent report by Transparency International, of 146 countries surveyed, only Bangladesh was rated as more corrupt.

I take this to mean that any oil contracts sold by Nigeria are brokered by absurdly corrupt government thugs. As a libertarian, this is not the kind of contract that sits well with me. Presumably the government officials could not care less if the land is strip-mined for all kinds of resources, as long as they get their bribes. To quote the Economist:

[Nigeria's] hefty oil revenues, which make up around 90% of its foreign-currency earnings, are still consistently squandered by its 36 state governments and 774 local governments, all thriving on long-entrenched systems of patronage, with funds used to buy off political opponents or to arm gangs of thugs if cash won't persuade them to shut up.

Are you sure that you want to defend the sanctity of these "contracts"? As far as I am concerned, people who takes up arms to defend such a corrupt regime might reasonably be called mercenaries, and so the characterization isn't as shrill as it often is in other contexts. Nigeria truly does Fail It as a country, and to perpetuate its failed state is kind of sad.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Two things (none / 0) (#223)
by trhurler on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 05:09:19 PM EST

1) I'd like it if places like Nigeria weren't so corrupt. Nevertheless, they are. I have to imagine that the stockholders in oil companies are aware of this to some extent or other (but less so than the executives who actually run the companies,) but still, they do have a right to know that in exchange for the outlay of their funds, contractual obligations to them will be met. Similarly, the fact that the US government passes laws largely on the strength of lobbying, and that therefore law can be bought, does not mean that legal protections afforded you can or should be violated as a matter of convenience or "ethics."

2) Remember that all too often, no corruption is really involved in attacks on oil companies. What happens is, some movement arises, often nationalist or theocratic in nature, that sees "foriegn involvement" as evil. Often, economics may not even be a primary mover. In scenarios like that, do you really expect the oil companies to say, "ah, well, you showed up with molotovs and a few AKs, so we'll just abandon our billion dollar investment here which we built with the good faith expectation of employing your people and making a profit"?!?

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

[ Parent ]
and Shell hasn't been too helpful either (none / 1) (#258)
by Delirium on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 01:55:42 AM EST

I'm fuzzy on the details, but I recall a few years ago BP (then still British Petroleum) tried to begin a policy of publishing exactly how much money they were paying to each country for licenses, fees, etc. The rationale was that this would reduce corruption by putting a number out in the open that the government in question would have to account for, thereby making it harder for money to just disappear.

However, countries like Nigeria protested loudly that these numbers were sensitive national security details, and that they would revoke BP's contracts if they published them. BP tried to respond by organizing a common declaration by multinational oil companies that they would all institute the same policy, thereby basically calling the bluff of the various African countries in question by forcing them to revoke all oil contracts or else grudgingly go along with the new disclosures. However, Shell et al were not very interested, so BP eventually backed down.

[ Parent ]

Found in many places. (none / 0) (#134)
by Apuleius on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 01:00:41 AM EST

Start by googling "Osage Reign of Terror".


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
I Googled it (none / 0) (#138)
by trhurler on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:16:58 AM EST

It has NOTHING to do with either contemporary events, oil corporations, OR mercenaries. Are you a complete fucking idiot, or do you just play one on k5?

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

[ Parent ]
Irony (none / 1) (#298)
by Western Infidels on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 06:06:47 PM EST

Second, do your homework. There's quite a bit of oil left, and the things that keep it out of play right now will not seem so important when the price goes up enough. The oil companies know this, and they also know their estimates for what's in the ground are conservative by design, which is why they seem so nearly completely unconcerned.

Peak Oil theory says that production will peak when about half the reserves are left in the ground. Of course there's "quite a bit of oil left." That doesn't change the seriousness of Peak Oil predictions - that is the Peak Oil prediction.

Many of the players in the oil game (most notably OPEC members, whose agreed-upon production caps are related to claimed reserves) have strong incentives to exaggerate their oil reserves.

The oil companies are indeed concerned, some of them have even started to admit it openly. Note that in the face of rising demand and rising prices, oil refiners have left refining capacity stagnant, or even elected to reduce it in some cases. The simplest explanation is that they believe the Peak will come before new refining capacity could pay back the investment it represents.

[ Parent ]

You are vastly underating nuclear (2.60 / 5) (#26)
by Betcour on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:19:11 AM EST

Nuclear technology can still be a lot more improved before we have to switch to fusion. The development of breeder reactors, and the use of thorium instead of uranium (as it is more abundant) could give us cheap are rather clean power for a long, long time.

Slightly harsher scenario: (2.40 / 5) (#31)
by Eight Star on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 08:29:52 AM EST

Bicycles.

Gasoline accounts for 45% of oil consumption. There are huge gains to be made by simply having a more efficient society. I would be hard to replace all our oil energy, and it would be very hard to do without that energy, but if we go half way by reducing our energy use, and half way with alternatives, the total trip could be surprisingly easy.

Yup. (2.00 / 2) (#44)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 01:02:09 PM EST

That's for parts 4-5.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
I hate bicycles. (2.50 / 2) (#86)
by Parity on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:09:36 PM EST

They are high-exertion high-discomfort slow-speed means of transportation that leaves one sweaty and out of breath just as one is supposed to appear professional.

Build a damn train from where I live to where I work already. Power by solar or wind or bloody oxen.


[ Parent ]

Biking ain't bad! (none / 1) (#219)
by luke on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 01:51:46 PM EST

In my experience, bikes are a high-excitement, fun, and in the long term not a high-discomfort mode of transport at all (biking gets easier as you ride more regularly, and you get into better physical condition, making your overall comfort (all the time, not just when on the bike) increase!)

I love riding my bike to work every day -- I'm more alert when I get to the office, and it is a great way to "get me going" in the morning. The car sits in the driveway except for long trips, big grocery trips, etc. I enjoy the ride so much that I do it year round, even in the US Midwest winter (which isn't really uncomfortable at all as long as you are dressed properly). I'd be sad if I had to start driving to work every day.

Sure, the first few weeks might be hard and un-comfortable, but once your body gets into the swing of things, it's great, in my opinion.

Oh, and no, I am not stinky when I get to work :)

[ Parent ]
what do you bike like 20 feet? (none / 0) (#224)
by /dev/trash on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 05:18:16 PM EST

How do you not sweat and stink?

---
Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
well... (none / 0) (#230)
by luke on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 07:50:42 PM EST

I ride about 4 miles to work and 4 miles back. Yeah, sure, there's a little bit of sweat on my forehead when I get in to work, but I've never noticed any stink, and haven't heard any complaints :). It's not like I ride to work at race-worthy pace.

Even in the summer, it's usually fairly cool when I leave for work in the mornings, so it's not like I have sweat pouring off of me. I usually do bring my lunch to work with me when it's excessively hot outside, so that I don't have to venture out on the bike in the hot middle of the day.

[ Parent ]
I bike to work sometimes (none / 0) (#245)
by NoBeardPete on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 11:51:13 AM EST

It's about 20 miles. It's a nice ride. Most of the distance is through Fairmount Park, along either the Schuylkill River or Wissahickon Creek. If I'm riding regularly and in good shape, it takes me maybe an hour and a half. This compares favorably with the 45 minutes to an hour that driving takes, or the 1:15 that it takes on the train. I get to work energized and excited, as opposed to misanthropic and mad at the world when I drive, or sleepy and out of it when I take the train.

Once I get to work, I take a quick shower, change into my work clothes, and head to my cube. If anything, I'm cleaner and more pleasant smelling at work for doing it this way.

Obviously, riding one's bike to work isn't feasible for everyone right now. Most employees and employers make little effort to arrange for it to be feasible, while they go to considerable effort to make driving as easy as possible. If businesses would spend a fraction of the money on things like showers that they spent on parking lots, it'd make biking attractive for many more people.

Still not everyone - obviously anyone that needs to carry large quantities of papers or equipment to and from work needs a bigger vehicle, as well as people in harsh climates. Biking may not ever be attractive for the elderly, the sickly, the constitutionally lazy. But it could be an option for many more people than it currently is.


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

Got a citation? (none / 1) (#169)
by Miniluv on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 02:31:01 PM EST

Where'd you get your number? Not that I necessarily doubt you, but thats a bold statement to make without a link, or even an unlinked citation. Care to qualify it as applying world wide, US wide, or to any particular way of divvying up world oil consumption?
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Got it (none / 1) (#176)
by Eight Star on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:35:43 PM EST

Demand

It's under the category 'U.S. Consumption by Product'

[ Parent ]
Cool, thanks (none / 1) (#192)
by Miniluv on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 06:26:33 PM EST

I'm moderately surprised by this number, though I suppose I shouldn't be. One thing to note though, odds are good that if we raised the average MPG that this wouldn't change the percentage significantly, just the raw volume it represents. I could be wrong, but I doubt that there is much potential oil consumption failing to happen due to constraints like price or supply.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Damn (1.33 / 3) (#32)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:03:01 AM EST

I was all set to vote +1FP until I saw a failure to spell check. The first time, I was willing to let multiple misspellings go; this time, I'm going to need to drop the hammer.

Attention potential authors: Please spell and grammar check your articles before moving them to vote. You really lose credibility by not doing so, and it makes it appear that you don't really give a shit about what you're writing. Multiple spelling errors will result in your article meeting the same fate as this one...

-1


"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
I used to do that (none / 1) (#34)
by curien on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:02:02 AM EST

The problem is that K5 is so hostile to reposts. Once it goes to voting, if it gets pulled and resubmitted, people are loathe to vote for it. Plus, all the comments get lost (sure, you can provide a link to the old comments page, but that still has issues).

--
We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]
Well, then (none / 1) (#39)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:53:14 PM EST

maybe the author should get it right the first time, no? The author knows damn well what the stakes are...


"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
[ Parent ]
I guess I just lack your conviction nt (none / 1) (#67)
by curien on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:47:07 PM EST



--
We are not the same. I'm an American, and you're a sick asshole.
[ Parent ]
Too true. (3.00 / 2) (#46)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 01:07:08 PM EST

That is embarassing.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
+1FP (1.00 / 2) (#33)
by t1ber on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:35:00 AM EST

Although you didn't touch on the new oil shale drilling process in Colorado but did touch on Fusion, it's still worth the read.

You can use high sulphur oils and gas in two stroke combustion engines just fine.  Which is to say that if we all went over to diesel tomorrow, the whole sulphur problem would go out the window...

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

Oil shale has the same problems as tar sands. (none / 1) (#43)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 01:01:37 PM EST

Only it's even worse. More work, and more pollution, for less energy.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Yeah, but it's still oil (none / 0) (#149)
by t1ber on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:48:12 AM EST

Consider the idea that we're at Peak Oil (entertain him, he managed to post something not political) and the oil is going to dry up in one year.  I realize this is silly because the US would be drilling holes in Alaska and Texas so fast that it wouldn't be funny, but I have a feeling that the only reason why the people who are opposed to drilling in Alaska and Texas are opposed to it are because we haven't run out yet...

But we don't KNOW that the oil is going to dry up in one year, because the Saudis have been lying to us.

So Oil Shale represents a technology we could deploy to at least to tide us over until everyone buys a Prius.  Gas prices would go out the wazoo and I'd be left really wishing I had bought a hybrid instead of a turbocharged sportscar, but it wouldn't be the end of the world since the oil shale process would be there to smooth the transition.

I don't know if oil shale is the answer compared to traditional oil refinement, but it's a better answer then saying 100% electrical.  The sad fact of the matter is that the world would stop for awhile while people caught up to electric transportation.

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

[ Parent ]

I see trains and nuke plants, but no airplanes... (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by claes on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:32:51 AM EST

Nuke plants, electric trains, short-haul electric trucks to get from the train depot to where you are.

Oceanic transport is a bit harder, but coal will work, as does wind power, except it takes forever. Nuke powered ships do exist, but the cost is pretty high, so they've got to be very big.

The only thing that's really hard to replace is the airplane. Nothing but petroleum will do the trick. So if you want to fly somewhere, do it soon.

-- claes (bicycle parts, hmm, sounds like an investment)

Lots of other fuels... (none / 0) (#55)
by rpresser on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:10:14 PM EST

not as convenient or useful as oil, but they exist. Consider all the rocket fuels like hydrazine that do not have a petroleum origin. Consider LH2/LOX, for that matter.

Airfares would go up a hell of a lot, though.
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]

Hydrogen generated from nuclear power? $ (none / 1) (#56)
by procrasti on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:13:37 PM EST



-------
if i ever see the nickname procrasti again on this site or anywhere in my life, i want it to be in an OBITUARY -- CTS
doing my best at licking arseholes - may 2015 -- mirko
-------
Winner of Kuro5hin: April 2015
[ Parent ]
hydrogen leaks like a sonovagun. (none / 0) (#59)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:33:06 PM EST

Not useful.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
There are lots of ways of transporting hydrogen (none / 1) (#92)
by procrasti on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:35:07 PM EST

There are already hydrogen powered buses. Granted they don't fly, but there are many ways of using hydrogen too. You don't need it in a pure gaseous state for it to be useful. There are many projects attempting to turn hydrogen into a liquid (well, a way to store hydrogen in a liquid in which it is easy to put in and take out, is stable at room temperature and doesn't explode) in order to reuse the existing petroleum transportation infrastructure.

Basically, getting enough fuel cells, burning hydrogen directly in jets and/or storing it in a safe way on a comercial jet are basically engineering problems that have probably already been solved by someone.

-------
if i ever see the nickname procrasti again on this site or anywhere in my life, i want it to be in an OBITUARY -- CTS
doing my best at licking arseholes - may 2015 -- mirko
-------
Winner of Kuro5hin: April 2015
[ Parent ]

Not keeping up with technology? (none / 1) (#170)
by Miniluv on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:00:12 PM EST

While certainly not yet in widescale production or distribution, technology exists which solves this problem. See this research done in Denmark that stores hydrogen in a safe, non-leaky form which is supposedly easily converted back into a form which converts easily to electric energy and vice versa.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Good start but need much more work. (2.50 / 2) (#37)
by onealone on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:57:50 AM EST

You really need to say a lot more about both fission and fusion. They are the only power sources that will allow us to continue using energy at current levels.
What are the estimates of current uranium deposits? How long will they last? What is the cost of extraction and where are they?  

Nuclear fusion is a realistic option. Working reactors have been built, it's just a matter of scaling them up to produce power efficiently. Unfortunately this requires huge funding, but the ITER project has that funding now and the reactor should be able to power up around 2017. Commercial reactors could then follow.

One problem with nuclear power though is that it won't power cars, so a massive investment in rail would be neccessary.

Also, with hydrogen, you've not covered the issue of producing it in the first place. Hydrogen may be abundent, but it is always combined with something else. Most hydrogen is produced from natural gas at the moment.
Hydrogen can be produced from water, but this would only be useful if it is then used in fusion. Burning it would produce less energy than used to produce it.

I'll say this. (2.25 / 4) (#42)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 01:00:40 PM EST

Uranium rich ores are also scarce. If we use them up as casually as we are using oil, not only will we merely defer our predicament by a generation, but we will then stick the next generation with the problem of dealing with nuclear wastes without the necessary resources.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
breeder reactors (3.00 / 2) (#63)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:37:50 PM EST

duh.

[ Parent ]
Not quite (3.00 / 2) (#53)
by rpresser on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:07:50 PM EST

Hydrogen can be produced from water, but this would only be useful if it is then used in fusion. Burning it would produce less energy than used to produce it.

If the energy used to produce hydrogen from water is plentiful enough, it may not matter that burning the hydrogen produces less energy.  Producing oil from solar energy, which is where the Earth's oil reserves originally came from, obviously wasted a lot of energy. But the convenience of using oil as an energy storage medium far outweighed the waste.  The same could be true of hydrogen - if the source energy is plentiful enough. Which it ain't, yet.

Of course, if we do get fusion, then hydrogen is not just an energy storage medium but a fuel for producing more energy, as you have correctly noted.
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]

what happens when we run out of hydrogen? (3.00 / 2) (#62)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:37:07 PM EST

will we move to helium based lifestyle?

[ Parent ]
lol $ (none / 0) (#114)
by procrasti on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 07:13:30 PM EST



-------
if i ever see the nickname procrasti again on this site or anywhere in my life, i want it to be in an OBITUARY -- CTS
doing my best at licking arseholes - may 2015 -- mirko
-------
Winner of Kuro5hin: April 2015
[ Parent ]
Stone age did not end for a lack of stones (1.66 / 3) (#38)
by Surial on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:20:37 PM EST

The subject is probably an overhyped response to the peak oil issue, but there's a rather large grain of truth in it, and you use some pandering to logic in the introduction that already breaks the basic idea behind the idiom.

There are 2 other resolutions to the oil issue:

 1. Oil gets replenished as quickly as its being used.
 2. The world will move on to other sources of energy* before we run out of oil.

Neither resolution has been proven to be impossible. #1 is unlikely, which I'll admit, but #2 is by no means to be ruled out.

*) Oil is also a basic ingredient for a very large number of items such as fertilizers and plastics, but you can create oil from virtually limitless resources (such as water and plant materials) provided you have energy, so it's basically 'safe' to reduce the discussion about oil to just the energy aspects of it. This works due to simple chemistry. (oil substances are carbon chains with hydrogen atoms on it. These can form under high pressure with just carbon and hydrogen. You can get endless amounts of hydrogen by electrolysis of water, and you can get virtually endless amounts of carbon by extracting it from plantlife (a rather crude way of doing this: Burn the crap out of a log of wood. charcoal is mostly carbon).

Hence, 'we're  going to run out of oil' is NOT A TAUTOLOGY whatsoever.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

No, but the bronze age did end for lack of bronze. (2.66 / 6) (#40)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:58:19 PM EST

Seriously. After the island of Cyprus was too deforested to support copper smelting, the Mediterrenean culture had to switch from bronze to iron even though iron was more scarce, harder to work with, worse at keeping an edge or a shape, and not as long lasting. It sucked.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Wow (3.00 / 2) (#60)
by modmans2ndcoming on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:33:54 PM EST

I had no idea that they took a step back in technology because they depleted their resources.

good bye computer :-(

[ Parent ]

True dat (3.00 / 5) (#91)
by some nerd on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:26:16 PM EST

I saw a documentary a while ago where they made a bronze sword and an iron sword using techniques and material grades contemporary for the bronze / iron age transition period, then got 2 armoured guys to spar with each other using them for a while (mostly parrying each other's blows.) I expected iron to "win". However afterwards the bronze sword was virtually the same, and the iron sword was so badly notched it could have been used as a saw.

However, they did demonstrate that one benefit of the iron sword was that you could just heat it up and give it a quick hammering to restore it, whereas bronze is considerably harder to repair. Their biggest problem was that they only knew how to make crap low purity iron, so things got better later as smelting techniques improved.

--
Home Sweet Home

[ Parent ]

no it didn't. (none / 1) (#161)
by Surial on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:28:19 PM EST

It ended for a lack of energy.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]
No it didn't. (none / 0) (#235)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 10:14:38 PM EST

It ended for a lack of wood.

We could go on like this all day, but saying that it ended for a lack of bronze is the best way to put it.

[ Parent ]

Read the article more carefully. (none / 1) (#41)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 12:59:18 PM EST

Yes, alternatives exist. They cannot support our current way of life, because of the limitations they come with. Visit the links too.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
THE STONE AGE ENDED BY MY GREAT AND MERCIFVL HAND (3.00 / 15) (#54)
by fenix down on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:10:04 PM EST

                 H
                 |
              H--C--H
                 |
                 |
                 H

  AND IN THOSE DAYS THE OIL FARIES
  DID LIVE WITH THE ANTIPODES DEEP
      IN THE EARTH'S CORE, AND
  CONSTRVCTED VNTO THE LORD MIGHTY
   MOLECVLES OF GREAT LENGTH AND
            VOLATILITY.
                 †
  AND IN THE DAYS OF INTERNET PORN
    AND KELLY RIPPA, THE FVCKING
CHEMISTS DID GET ALL VP IN THE LORD'S
  FACE, AND DOVBTED HIS OIL FAIRIES,
AND DENIED THE LORD'S PROPHET, 'CRAZY
 RVSSIAN GVY', WHO DID PVBLISH VNTO
          THE MVLTITVDES.
                 †
 BVT THE LORD DID DELIVER AN AVSTRIAN
   ASTROPHYSICIST, AND HE DID KEEP
 TELLING EVERYBODY THAT THE MOON WAS
 COVERED IN A MILE-DEEP SEA OF DVST,
   AND THAT ASTRONAVTS WOVLD SINK,
 AND BECOME ENTANGLED IN THE INFERIOR
          LVNAR MOLECVLES.
                 †
  AND FOR THE LORD'S ASTROPHYSICIST
 HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE TOTALLY GAY
  FIELDS OF CHEMISTRY OR GEOLOGY, HE
  DID SEE CLEARLY THE LIGHT, AND DID
 DELIVER CRAZY RVSSIAN GVY'S ACCOVNTS
  OF THE OIL FAIRIES VNTO THE CEO OF
EXXON, AND HE AND THE JVNKSCIENCE.COM
     GVY WERE PLEASED MIGHTILY.
                 †
     FVCK THE HATERS, SO SAYETH
 HYDROCARBON JESVS, KING OF FVELS AND
   ISRAELITES.  HE WHO DOVTETH THE
   BOOK OF AIBOGENISIS 10:14 SHALL
BVRN IN SPAIN, FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN.


[ Parent ]

dude, that's the funniest shit (nt) (1.75 / 4) (#95)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:28:59 PM EST



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

[ Parent ]
That's fucking awesome. (2.00 / 2) (#108)
by Patrick Chalmers on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:16:52 PM EST

Seriously, I logged in just to give this a 3.
Holy crap, working comment search!
[ Parent ]
yeah, but... (3.00 / 2) (#100)
by Eccles on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:56:54 PM EST

#1 is unimportant, unless you posit some non-human source of oil, oil-rich asteroids, vast oil fields 50 miles down, or some such. If you're talking about synthetics, the energy will have to come from somewhere.

#2 is exactly what this whole article about. If we're going to move on, what will we move to?

Hence, 'we're going to run out of oil' is NOT A TAUTOLOGY whatsoever.

Would you prefer "we're going to have to switch to non-oil sources of energy"? (Synthetic oil is a "battery", not an energy source.)

[ Parent ]
wrong set of words. (none / 0) (#160)
by Surial on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:28:02 PM EST

We don't 'have to'. It'll happen all by itself. You make it sound like we're on the clock and if we don't come up with a viable alternative soon enough, we're dead in the water or we're all going to have to revert to being savages or something.

That's what I take rather extreme exception to.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]

I call bullshit (1.00 / 5) (#51)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:02:44 PM EST

To recap, "Peak Oil" is a catch phrase for the theory that we are facing an upcoming slow exhaustion of conventionally obtained fossil fuels. That much is so patently true that it borders on tautology.
This is only true for people with whom the assertion of a thing is the same as proving it.

It is becoming widely believed amongst scientists that hydrocarbon fuels have mineral rather than biological origins.

Note that the driveling idiot who posted this story makes no mention of this debate, as it suits his rhetorical purposes to assert that there is no doubt as to his starting assumption.

In short, I slap a glove in his face, point to the dueling box of axes, and designate Egil as my second.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

Overplaying your hand, young man. (2.16 / 6) (#61)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:36:00 PM EST

Abiotic oil theory is up there with phlogiston and Lamarckian inheritance. No respectable scientist supports it.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Your Nobel Prize (none / 0) (#65)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:43:01 PM EST

You've conclusively proven the existence of extra-terrestrial life!!!

Apparently, your Nobel Prize was awarded because you've proven that the methane, ethane, and ethyl butane atmosphere of Titan is the result of decaying dinosaurs!

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Epigenetics is the new Lamarckian inheritance (3.00 / 2) (#87)
by xmedar on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:11:22 PM EST

Identical twins grow up to be different

The Ghost in Your Genes

and the torrent of the programme.

Your point about phlogiston is however without dispute.


[ Parent ]

Ugh. (none / 0) (#98)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:48:35 PM EST

I had to switch my rating to a 2.0 rather than a 1.0, because someone inappropriately applied a zero to your comment.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Yeh... (none / 0) (#113)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 07:02:46 PM EST

All those hydrocarbons on Jupiter were formed 135 million years ago, when a bunch of dinosaurs and 40ft tall ferns crawled up their to die.

Of course, Earth could be the one planet whose hydrocarbons aren't abiotic, that doesn't violate Occam's razor at all.

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

Occam would spit on you (none / 1) (#171)
by Miniluv on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:06:29 PM EST

You're misapplying his razor rather badly. Sure it means that it is much more likely that abiotic generation of hydrocarbons is true everywhere, but that is an awfully long way from proving it true. The razor is a tool for comparing theories which are otherwise uncomparable and untestable (which in this case its useful for), not for proving or even beginning to prove which one is actually true. I happen to think abiotic theory is most likely correct, since Occam's razor really does apply strongly, but I think things like thermal depolymerization and the aforementioned supplies of hydrocarbons in places we don't believe life existed are stronger arguments in favor than Occam.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
So what? (none / 0) (#225)
by jake123 on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 05:30:31 PM EST

Here's the real question: what was the process that got all those materials out of the atmosphere and into the earth's crust? Biological processes, that's what: plants took the hydrocarbons out of the air, and a lot of it ended up under the surface of the ground, where over millions of years it took the form of oil.

The fact that all that stuff is in Jupiter's atmosphere is evidence that there has not been any life there like there has been here, as those life forms haven't tapped all that chemical energy to power themselves, leaving it in its primordial state as gases in the atmosphere.

[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#285)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 07:26:20 PM EST

Primordial hydrocarbons exist, even as the star/planets itself are forming.

Logically, each planet gets some of them, big planets like Jupiter tend to get alot. Some of the closest planets may get very little, as violent solar processes burn it out, blast it out further.

Earth gets some, which is buried deep in the planet, maybe as deep as 100 miles into the mantle. It bubbles up occassionaly to the surface.

That's abiotic oil origin in a nutshell. It's not perfect, but it explains oil all the other places we'll ever find it.

Hell, there may even be a case for biological oil origin... there are some things that are just too hard to ignore or explain away. But even so, this would be a second origin, perhaps even a secondary one. If that's the case, the only important question is how much can be attributed to each.

Mind you, it doesn't really change our problem. Sure, there may be 1000 times as much oil down there, but it's unattainable for all practical purposes. I just get tired of everyone claiming that the idea is preposterous.

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

So? (3.00 / 3) (#99)
by Eccles on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:52:45 PM EST

It is becoming widely believed amongst scientists that hydrocarbon fuels have mineral rather than biological origins.

That's as maybe, but that doesn't mean more is going to be created.

The debatable issue with Peak Oil is when, not if. Oil is not being created on earth, at least not in the amounts we're burning. The natural deposits -- fossil or mineral -- will eventually run out, and we'll need a new source. You can argue this is in 50 years, 100 years, 200 years, 500 years; but it will happen. The only question is what to do about it.

[ Parent ]
This may be true (2.00 / 2) (#105)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:03:32 PM EST

But a planet's worth of outgassing hydrocarbons is likely to last something on the order of hundreds of millions if not billions of years.

Far longer than humanity.

Furthermore, it means that if we develop cheap space travel (like a space elevator), we can probably ship primordial asteroids (carbonaceous chondrites) to earth orbit to be broken down as hydrocarbon fuel.

A typical 100m specimen would probably yield 528 million gallons (or 9.6 million barrels) of hydrocarbons.

If we sent small solar ion engine powered tugs out into the asteroid cloud and they took about twenty years to push these asteroids into parking orbit, we could have a constant stream.

The trace metals and silicates in the asteroids could be used to build heat shields for splashing these deliveries down at desired locations...

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 1) (#153)
by Eccles on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 09:23:48 AM EST

But a planet's worth of outgassing hydrocarbons is likely to last something on the order of hundreds of millions if not billions of years.

All evidence so far is that the planet is not significantly "outgassing" this stuff. No new fields are suddenly appearing, and fields such as the North Sea are measurably depleted.

Furthermore, it means that if we develop cheap space travel (like a space elevator), we can probably ship primordial asteroids (carbonaceous chondrites) to earth orbit to be broken down as hydrocarbon fuel.

That's a big if. And isn't this essentially coal?

[ Parent ]
Sort of (3.00 / 2) (#172)
by Miniluv on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:12:38 PM EST

Its certainly similar to coal, and the parent post ignored some of the other large technical hurdles, however the parent is essentially correct that space travel is one of the major avenues towards resource independence for us as a species.

One other avenue that the overall story ignored related to solar is all of the work going on to build orbital solar stations where the sun always shines, weather never really interferes and the spectrum isn't diluted by our atmosphere and then beam the power to terrestrial conversion stations. We've got a long, painful road before this becomes possible, but the major limiting factor is money.

Everybody is ignoring the single largest limiting factor, the oil companies. They currently have a massive stake in maintaining the status quo, and are willing to spend absurd amounts of capital towards that end. I recently saw an interview with Milton Friedman that I found highly illuminating, in which he stated that if we really want corporations to start doing what we want we ought to tell them that through government. Applied to this situation, we the people should be mandating through our governments that Shell isn't an oil company but an energy company, and that we demand that they find alternatives to oil.

Once we do that we turn the entire process over to the most efficient system of optimization mankind has ever seen, namely a free market. We define the paramters (renewability and emissions), they define the process. As long as we're careful to define the parameters we want and need, we can pretty much count on getting the outcome we desire.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Thank you. (none / 1) (#198)
by alexboko on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:28:07 PM EST

This nicely encapsulates something I've been thinking about lately: that the market finds equilibria, not optima. For it to find optima, the market-- a mindless, indifferent natural outcome of individual decisions-- would have to be capable of having some sort of inherent system of values and these values would have to correspond to our own.

This may be the answer to a lot of the contradictions in Libertarianism that have been bugging me... the role of government might be to set parameters, and the role of the market to dream up ways to come up with outcomes. In analogy to how we've hijacked the mindless, indifferent equilibria-seeking of evolution to our own use by selectively breeding (and now engineering) livestock and crops.

Ah, but what about the contradictions in Statism that have been bugging me? For those I don't yet see anything resembling an answer.


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 ]

Biogenic vs Abiogenic (none / 1) (#266)
by Very Little Gravitas Indeed on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 07:40:23 AM EST


The argument of abiogenic vs biogenic is pointless,
we know that oil wells run dry, and we have to drill elsewhere, Do wells regenerate?

The point is not whether earth is or will produce more oil, if it is, we don't know about it, or have no access to it, perhaps oils and coal are created in the core, but we don't want it there, we want it up here and if we have no way of getting hold of it, it doesn't matter if it is created biogenically or not.
Were the deposits created with the formation of the crust, were they created in the core and brought to the surface by continental drift?
The sources could still be abiogenic and be non-regenerating. If that is the case we still have no power.

So the theory of Abiogenic sources of these fuels first has to be proven, and then it has to be proven that this will give us our never ending source of oil.
All the sources of oil/coal etc. Have been found and mined relatively recently. And we use them at a ferocious rate. Even if they were created by abiogenic sources, it is quite possible the method by which they are formed takes long periods of times, perhaps millenia to create the resouces we already have, in which case we'll still run out because we are consuming it faster than it can be produced.

So there are a lot of ifs surrounding the whole biogenic origin of fuels.

It is folly to put hope into such an uncertain thing to save us from ourselves, sure maybe there are a lot of ifs involved in developing alternative technologies. But if we have infinite generated in the depths of the earth, what does it matter we spent a load of it on a pointless case, but if we have limited energy from the planet, then that money will be well spent.


[ Parent ]

I was just noting... (none / 1) (#271)
by CodeWright on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 11:44:17 AM EST

...that the author had wilfully ignored this very real debate and proposed his conclusions as having been foregone (which is fallacious and misleading).

If I were to take a position in the energy wars, it would be that we should use fast breeder reactors to thoroughly use and re-use nuclear fuels, including the "recharging" of U-238 and Pb-208.

Energy produced by reactors can be stored for consumer use as synthetic hydrocarbons (see: Fischer-Tropff).

In other words, there isn't any reason to leave the oil economy.

And, if people are still concerned about running out of radioisotopes even with breeder reactors, then we can just set up solar power satellites and microwave beam down the energy to receiving facilities which will then do the hydrocarbon synthesis.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Regenrating wells (none / 0) (#284)
by jeffgus on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 04:49:57 PM EST

The argument of abiogenic vs biogenic is pointless, we know that oil wells run dry, and we have to drill elsewhere, Do wells regenerate?

I have heard reports of re-filling from somewhere (radio, TV) and couldn't believe it. I did some searching around on the Internet and did indeed find reports of this happening. Wells that have been considered dried up for years and years appear to be mysteriously re-filling. I have no idea how common this behavior is or how quickly this re-filling is happening. It does seem to give credence to other theories of oil generation.

[ Parent ]
Oh god (2.33 / 3) (#58)
by the77x42 on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:20:09 PM EST

My papa is 'up' with the times on this. Even though the initial beginnings of Peak Oil started in the 1920's, he brings it up constantly, usually while he's having fits of chronic depression. I get peak oil lectures every time I go to his house. This is no joke.

Peakists (and my papa) love to tell you how the world is going to be in the next 50 years. I've heard everything from world wars to in-home agriculture. Peakists love to point out that alternate sources of energy aren't enough. It's always about supply. The supply of oil isn't enough, the supply of energy can't keep up. We have to get more supply or we die.

But whether peakists like it or not, there is another axis in the economic model they hate so much: demand. Now most educated people (politicians excluded) agree that demand could and should be lowered. How?

- Overpopulation
Yes, it's American to have a dozen crack head kids living in a trailer park, but more people means less resources for everyone else. Why not limit the number of kids per household to one for a generation? Why not? Because the Catholic Church is against it? Population grows exponentially; unless we have controlled birth, there's just too many people on the planet to cope with the coming energy crisis.

- Transportation
Airline travel consumes way too much fuel. Internationally there is definitely a need for air travel (there's no way I'm swimming), but why not have more trains instead of more domestic flights? There's train tracks all over north america that aren't being used.

SUVs -- like, seriously, you aren't a movie star. Why do soccer mom's need SUVs? To pickup your eleven kids? Last time I checked my coupe could hold four passengers and a driver. And they're cheaper. And they use less energy. And you can still pimp them out with useless aftermarket addons so you feel special.

- Business
Now this is a tricky one. China is coming out of the dark ages. Everyone wants to be like the 'land of the oppressed free', but it takes a lot of oil consumption. Economic development is a hard thing to advocate when you are trying to conserve energy, but at least in my opinion, it shouldn't be rushed.

I'll give the example of New Orleans. When all that toxic water was in the streets, people were screaming to have it removed. Why? They still have nothing to go home to. But the government would be perceived as 'slow' if it left it there, and slowness and thoughtfulness doesn't get you votes. So instead of taking the time to setup proper treatment plants, they just dumped the toxic water into the ocean/lake or whatever it was. No foresight whatsoever. That's what I mean by rushed development. It's going to bite them in the ass in the future. Building your economic industries on burning coal or similar is great in the short term, but in the long term when we're all dying from air pollution, maybe it would've been better to invest some time in cleaner and more efficient alternatives.

- Population and immigration
I think that when it boils down to it, overpopulation is what drives the wasting of energy. Cut down on growth and you cut down on consumption. Scandinavian countries do a great job of this and have stable populations. Why can't North America?

Immigration is mentioned here as well. It puts a strain on a countries resources. Politicians love immigration for two reasons: 1) it's a quick way to get money into a country 2) it's a quick way to get more votes. But why is it necessary? Especially in Canada, immigrants usually come to two main cities (Toronto and Vancouver), and it's putting an enormous strain on both regions. The importing of people leads to increased crime and drug trafficking for one, but also to increased urban expansion which leads to great travel distances to work. As much as politicians would love to say immigrants are creating more jobs, they're coming in at such a rate that more are looking for work than opening businesses. Usually immigrants are also willing to work for less and in worse conditions, making it harder for the rest of us to find good jobs. Immigrants strain health care and educational institutions.

Now nobody likes to talk about the bad side of immigration. I'm not being racist here. I don't care if you are moving into Canada from the US or England or the moon. The fact is, when you get a huge influx of people into only a couple major population centres, these centres increase drastically and increase energy demands more so than if the population base was spread out over a greater area. The infrastructure just isn't there.

- What's it going to take?
Planning and realistic approach. This isn't going to happen with current governments.



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

coal and china (none / 1) (#74)
by jarv on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:19:32 PM EST

Building your economic industries on burning coal or similar is great in the short term, but in the long term when we're all dying from air pollution, maybe it would've been better to invest some time in cleaner and more efficient alternatives.

I don't think it is a shortterm strategy for China. They currently meet 70% of their energy demands by burning coal and are not increasig their oil imports. Not to say it isn't causing a lot of pollution but we are seeing innovations in the short term that is making coal energy more efficient and less pollutant.

Yes, it's American to have a dozen crack head kids living in a trailer park, but more people means less resources for everyone else. Why not limit the number of kids per household to one for a generation? Why not? Because the Catholic Church is against it? Population grows exponentially; unless we have controlled birth, there's just too many people on the planet to cope with the coming energy crisis.

These days it is American to have less kids and not reproduce enough to sustain a population. If it wasn't for immigration we would be losing population, not gaining. Government imposed limits on childbirth doesn't sound like a good idea, even in countries where it would matter. I think you will find this tends to upset the gender balance.

[ Parent ]
Mer? (2.60 / 5) (#88)
by jmzero on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:16:54 PM EST

Yes, it's American to have a dozen crack head kids living in a trailer park..

The American rate of reproduction is just above replacement.  In Canada, the rate is well below replacement - 1.5, whereas replacement is 2.1.  In both countries, the rate would be much lower if not for recent immigrants who produce many more children.   It's worse in most of Europe.

It's one of the reasons why there's immigration.  Our beloved social welfare programs are predicated on a growing population of wage earners.

A lower overall population would certainly reduce energy demands - but it's not like US population is booming due to thousands of trailer kids.  
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

New Orleans water (3.00 / 3) (#115)
by bigbird on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 07:34:39 PM EST

I'll give the example of New Orleans. When all that toxic water was in the streets, people were screaming to have it removed. Why? They still have nothing to go home to. But the government would be perceived as 'slow' if it left it there, and slowness and thoughtfulness doesn't get you votes. So instead of taking the time to setup proper treatment plants, they just dumped the toxic water into the ocean/lake or whatever it was.
Slightly offtopic, but I don't like to let errors stand uncorrected. While it was not drinkable, the biggest problem with the flood water was pathogens (such as fecal coliforms), not chemicals. Actual analysis of the water showed that it was nowhere near as bad as the media portrayed. It wasn't pristine or anything, but the water quality was probably equivalent to the stormwater that ends up in the lake and rivers anyways. For more info, see: Environmental Science and Technology A-Pages (Magazine section, probably only freely accessible through January 15, 2006). The abstract of the actual reseach paper is always viewable, and the full text of the paper was also available when I just clicked through for it (the American Chemical Society often makes selected high profile research papers available, this one probably qualifies).

[ Parent ]
Overpopulation (none / 1) (#150)
by OzJuggler on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:58:12 AM EST

"Why not limit the number of kids per household to one for a generation?"

Well because then every person in the world would be a spoiled brat. That's what happens when two parents spend all of their resources on just one child. They act like a spoiled brat. Do you want the whole world to be full of spoiled brats? Even if it became so normal that no-one noticed this personality, what do you give the brat who already has 2 SUVs, 3 refrigerators, ducted air-conditioning, and their own giant Tesla coil home defense system?
Something even more grand and energy hungry, that's what. And they'll expect it.

But having said that, I still agree limiting population is a worthwhile thing to do, regardless of the energy angle.

OzJuggler.
"And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.
[ Parent ]

I don't think so (none / 1) (#152)
by Cro Magnon on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 09:14:11 AM EST

I know families with 3+ kids, and they're ALL brats! Single kid households can't be any worse than those multi-kid homes.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
In America (1.50 / 2) (#173)
by Miniluv on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:18:41 PM EST

The majority of population growth in the US is through immigration and not births. The fertility rate per woman in the US is barely over 2.0, most of western Europe is under 2.0. This means that births aren't contribution significantly to population growth.

Limiting birth rates in the US would simply mean that to sustain our population we'd need to increase immigration. Further, it would mean reducing the overall percentage of world population that is in the US. While many would argue this is a good thing, when applied to the large scale of Western Civilization, it becomes tougher to defend.

Do we really want a larger and larger share of the world population being born in countries with repressive regimes, high poverty rates, poor to nonexistant medical care and so on?
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

-1, US-centric and stupid. (3.00 / 3) (#215)
by OzJuggler on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 08:37:45 AM EST

This means that births aren't contribution significantly to population growth.

WTF??!!!!

Look, see, your mummy and daddy told the stork, then the stork dropped you in the cabbage patch (right on your head I think) and the cabbage patch is where you came from!

Either that or your mother gave birth to you, thus increasing the population by one. Dumbass.

Immigrants were born SOMEWHERE ON EARTH. Sustaining the USA's population is not what I suggested. It's the whole planet's population that should be reduced.

With globalised economies, more mobile labour forces, and uneven social security and environmental protection laws, you can't keep one country under control while their neighbour cranks out babies. The exodus of businesses to more corporate-friendly climes would stymie political population goals by economic methods.

-OzJuggler.
"And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.
[ Parent ]

The interesting thing is that as you increase (2.66 / 3) (#222)
by procrasti on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 03:19:02 PM EST

wealth you decrease population levels... To decrease the whole planet's population, make the poorer countries richer.

-------
if i ever see the nickname procrasti again on this site or anywhere in my life, i want it to be in an OBITUARY -- CTS
doing my best at licking arseholes - may 2015 -- mirko
-------
Winner of Kuro5hin: April 2015
[ Parent ]
Yay. I agree. -nt (none / 0) (#301)
by OzJuggler on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 10:52:03 PM EST



[ Parent ]
You have a huge hole in your reasoning (none / 0) (#292)
by Miniluv on Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 10:49:15 AM EST

Namely, you seem to think population is actually a part of the problem. Its not. This planet can easily sustain a significantly larger population than it does now. Just not in the fashion we're supporting them in currently.

It seems counterintuitive, but the higher a standard of living people maintain, the easier it is for those people to support a larger population. Most of the things required to support large popluations can take advantage of economies of scale. The few that can't need population pressure to force better solutions to be found.

As for it being US Centric, that's where I live. I don't live on some island at the bottom of the planet that wishes it had influence but instead is so busy isolating itself and beating the living crap out of people who look different than the ones who first stole the land.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

No, population is part of the problem. (none / 1) (#302)
by OzJuggler on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 04:12:14 AM EST

This planet can easily sustain a significantly larger population than it does now. Just not in the fashion we're supporting them in currently.
It's been established that if everyone on the planet lived the same lifestyle that the average USA citizen lives, we would need at least 7 entire planet Earths of land and resources to sustain them. (My own rating is 4.4 Earths.) Earth is running at 120% production right now only because the consumption is not uniformly spread and because the sustainability clause is being violated.

For your scheme to work, we would either need to reduce everybody's standard of living to the levels currently seen in Algeria, China and Ecuador, or else we would need to enshrine a global socioeconomic pyramid scheme that keeps the poor very poor, embraces true globalisation, and effectively creates an underclass of labourers who earn a materially meagre existence by serving a small core of rich consumers in the West. (Hey, as long as you know what you're asking for.)

It seems counterintuitive, but the higher a standard of living people maintain, the easier it is for those people to support a larger population.
This describes the evolution from nomadic tribes into city-states. So it's not counter-intuitive at all, as long as you admit that not all of the supported population have the same high material standard of living that you're alluding to. Wherever there is a value chain, there is inequality.

At least now I know which alternative you're lusting after; more sweatshops, yay!

Only part of the footprint calculation is energy related, so the need to reduce population is there regardless of improvements in domestic energy efficiency. Reducing population makes all the other problems easier, and by reducing total energy demand it would avoid an energy crisis. Overpopulation is part of the energy problem because energy demand already exceeds supply in many areas and (if left unchecked) the population will increase to 22 billion by the year 02100 - creating what I think would be a literally insatiable appetite for electricity.

As for it being US Centric, that's where I live.
As for me being entire-planet-centric, that's where we both live.
I don't live on some island at the bottom of the planet that wishes it had influence but instead is so busy isolating itself and beating the living crap out of people who look different than the ones who first stole the land.
You heard it here folks - rascism is officially no longer a problem anywhere in the USA. (But yanky arrogance continues unabated).

OzJuggler.
"And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.
[ Parent ]

You have overpopulation facts wrong. (none / 0) (#276)
by 123456789 on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 04:09:38 PM EST

The population of the USA would actually be declining (along with almost every other Western nation) if not for immigration. Contrary to general belief, it is not Jimbo and Edna having 10 kids in their Alabama trailer park that creates the problem - it is Jose and Margarita bringing their 10 kids up from Mexico. Check the census stats for the last 50-100 years to see the trend.

Since this is K5 I feel I must explain that this post is not in any way meant to be racist or hurtful, I am merely stating what the numbers say.

---
People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.
- Soren Kierkegaard
[ Parent ]
Actually (none / 0) (#283)
by NoBeardPete on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 01:14:09 PM EST

While the fertility rate of the US is slightly below replacement level, our population would be rising even without immigration. It'd level off before too long, once the demographic bulge evened out a bit.


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

If a path to the better there be (none / 0) (#71)
by jarv on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:02:54 PM EST

it begins with a full look at the worst.. dieoff.com

Has anyone seriously considered this? (3.00 / 2) (#84)
by Insoc on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 03:57:15 PM EST

http://wired-vig.wired.com/wired/archive/13.06/craven.html?pg=1&topic=craven &topic_set= cold water power... very neat article

Neat idea, scary caveats. (none / 1) (#106)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:03:35 PM EST

The cold temperature of the Benthic layers of the ocean is an integral part of our ecosystem. The first people to start warming the sea bottom may discover all sorts of nasty consequences. My bet is a Polynesian country will try it, discover complications, and then use it very frugally. And the rest of the world will have to think of something else.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
History of oil (3.00 / 5) (#90)
by dogeye on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:21:28 PM EST

Not that this is completely related to the article, but there is an amazing book on the history of oil called "The Prize."

Most interesting book I've read since Guns Germs and Steel. My favorite quote from the book: "All the fortune I have earned has not served to pay for the anxiety I felt during that time." - John D. Rockefeller.

Rockefeller essentially founded the following companies: Amoco, Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Conoco, Arco, and a few others.

My favorite amoral business practice (from wikipedia) -- this one is really priceless: "In one of the most infamous examples of Standard's monopolistic practices, a rival oil association decided to build an oil pipeline, hoping to overcome the virtual boycott imposed on Standard's competitors. In response, the railroad company (at Rockerfeller's direction) denied the consortium permission to run the pipeline across railway land, forcing consortium staff to laboriously decant the oil into barrels, carry them over the railway crossing in carts, and then pump the oil manually back into the pipeline on the other side. When he learned of this tactic, Rockerfeller then instructed the railway company to park empty rail cars across the line, thereby preventing the carts from crossing the line."

What can you do? (2.60 / 5) (#94)
by garywiz on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:20:52 PM EST

One in seven barrels of oil globally, almost 50% of America's oil consumption, are used by American passenger vehicles, which travel 2.5 trillion miles per year. Today, the average passenger vehicle gets 23.9mpg. If that number were 1984's peak figure of 27.5mpg, almost 350 million barrels of oil per year would be saved without a scrap of inconvenience. By driving more sensibly, and purchasing more responsible transportation instead of SUVs, muscle cars, and other ridiculously wasteful vehicles, Americans can save at least a billion barrels per year or more with minimal change in lifestyle.

You can take these actions as individuals. Americans are victims not of governments and oil companies, but of their own addiction to the product. To make change, you don't need the cooperation of corporations, you don't need government regulation, and you don't need new types of cars and energy sources to be designed. They are already available, and the more you buy, the greater the demand, and the more options that will appear. It's an easy and fun cop-out to debate what others should do and speculate about big problems with big solutions that require retooling the nation. Skip it. Just do something yourself.

While this may not solve the problem, it buys time. A lot of time. Americans can extend the life of the oil they use now by decades or even generations merely by being responsible and sensible. When gas is $8 per gallon and many can't afford to drive to work, make sure you weren't one of the guilty suspects. By taking responsible action with your own oil consumption habits, at least your personal dependency on oil will decrease, and you'll be less affected. So, there's even a selfish angle.

I've already posted about this two days ago (Take some responsible action, please!). But, considering the almost total absence of this type of reasoning here, I felt compelled to repeat some of it.

economics (none / 1) (#97)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:48:16 PM EST

people perceive more derived benefit from spending that billion barrels per year than conserving it.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Only because they're not paying a fair price. (3.00 / 2) (#101)
by mr strange on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:57:23 PM EST



intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]
someone must be losing a lot of money then... (none / 0) (#107)
by CodeWright on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:14:38 PM EST

...hmmmm. not the consumer.

...hmmmm. not the oil company.

...hmmmm. who is it then?

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
All of us. Aren't you paying attention? $ (3.00 / 3) (#112)
by mr strange on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:46:52 PM EST



intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]
All sorts of people. (3.00 / 3) (#120)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 08:19:49 PM EST

It's called "externality." A fundamentally important facet of the oil economy.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
The next generation (3.00 / 2) (#128)
by svampa on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:47:31 PM EST

After oil companies sell out all the oil, they will realize that they sold it too cheap, and consumers will see that they wasted it.

The trick is that both said "that's next generation's problem, not mine", and we said the same, but we were wrong, it won't last so long.



[ Parent ]
"Externalities" (3.00 / 2) (#132)
by Spendocrat on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:33:32 AM EST

You're welcome.

[ Parent ]
The Federal government? $ (none / 1) (#143)
by bml on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:26:15 AM EST



The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]
As a consumer, not much. (none / 1) (#104)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:01:53 PM EST

As a citizen, however, you can do a lot. That's for a next article.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
It won't work (none / 0) (#127)
by svampa on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:34:19 PM EST

Surial wrote: a comment "Stone age did not end for a lack of stones" that's the point, stone age ended because someone came out with something much better before they ran out of stones. If they had almost run out of stones, they wouldn't have been able to start the bronze age.

The solution is quite easy, someone must come out with something better than oil before we reach a point where oil gets too expensive. In fact, "coal age" ended when someone came out with oil before coal got scarce. Perhaps someone, pressed by the high prices of oil, finds out a new wonder. If such happy event happens, we'll get along, if it doesn't happen we'll go to hell.

Current technologies are worse than oil, not better. Their use means less energy... less economic level... less food... less people.

What can we do?... nothing. At least nothing effective.

We depend upon a future new technology better than oil, or at least as good as oil. I'm not specially confident in that such technology will appear, I just mean that we depend upon its appearance. And unfortunately, it's a matter of chance.

The rational behavior is to save the current resources in order to get time to have better chances to find a new technology. Or in the worst case (that is, such new technology never appears), the rational behavior is to accept that we will face a negative growth of economy, so we should save the current resources in order to make the slope down as smooth as possible.

That would be the rational behavior, but it needs cooperation, to make agreements and honour them. But it's unlikely to happen. The one who breaks the treaty, uses and accumulates resources while the others save resources, wins, so the final behavior is that most people stop saving resources, even though the aftermath is stone age. I'm not cynical, it's the real world, there are many examples: Arms race, Kyoto...

Check the Nash equilibrium and Prisioner's dilema.

What can we do? we can save electricity, heating, cooling, gasoline, so we will feel better, but it won't make any difference, most people/governments will keep on consuming. We are doomed to rely in a magic technology or go to hell.



[ Parent ]
It's irrational to unilaterally conserve... (3.00 / 2) (#164)
by alexboko on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 01:04:53 PM EST

...if that's the only thing you're doing.

Any miniscule surplus due to your conservation will be cancelled by the oil someone else wastes. If a sizeable group of people agreed to conserve, that would slightly slow the rise in price of oil for a little while, until everyone else noticed and started using more oil.

You might as well assume that oil will run out within your lifetime, and optimize your resource use for preparation not conservation. Burn that gas while it's cheap! Order big heavy shipments of solar panels if you can afford them. Run your farming machinery preparing land and run your shop machinery making things you'll need later. Use that gas while it's cheap, because anything you don't use will be wasted by some lamer soccer mom taking her six rugrats to practice.


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 ]

Is being a consumer actually wrong? (none / 1) (#175)
by Miniluv on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:33:54 PM EST

I keep hearing this anti-consumer ranting anytime somebody brings up just about anything, but especially when it comes to oil scarcity. First its the anti-big company rhetoric, then its the anti-globalization rhetoric, then comes the anti-SUV rhetoric.

The real issue, as I see it, is that people have stopped trying to lay out ideals through governance. By becoming a nanny state, instead of a progress one, the US has ceded its power to guide the direction of the global economy. We're now at the mercy of the Chinese peasants who assemble our DVD players to tell us what we can buy.

Since oil is currently non-scarce, but in fact is still quite abundant, it makes sense that consumers buy and drive SUVs. If we wanted to make it clear to people the coming scarcity, we should tell our government representatives to slap a huge tax (think a couple bucks a gallon) on it and use that money to find the next stage in economic evolution.

We could pump nearly $1 trillion USD annually into new energy research simply by adding a $1/gallon additional federal tax and then funneling that money straight into research. Hell, we could take half of that and thoroughly understand climate change, several major diseases, and make a gigantic dent in the infrastructure problems of the third world which prevent them from climbing the economic ladder at a pace we find satisfactory.

That number, by the way, is based on the average annual consumption of 464 gallons per person in the US multiplied by 270M (about 30M less than the census burea says live here now). This would mean the federal tax would still be 25% of what it is in the UK, by way of comparison.

Harder to measure is the economic "damage" that would result from the major shifting of economic priorities it would encourage. Personally, I'm willing to live with the fallout. We'd need to divert some of that money into investing in the infrastructure needed to keep transportation from inflating the prices of basic necessities, as well as providing economic assistance to people in poverty to prevent them from falling further away from acceptable standards of living. Yeah it'd be painful, but the end result would be well worth the hassle.
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

If the government was smart enough... (none / 1) (#194)
by alexboko on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:05:14 PM EST

...to listen to ideas like this...

...we wouldn't be having this problem right now in the first place.

But it's not, and we are. So I'm more interested about how much we can accomplish with the limited influence we actually do have. I've long given up on the government doing anything except staying in power.

I'm so sick of people saying "so-and-so should" (where so-and-so is SUV owners, governments, corporations, and other entities that couldn't care less what you think they should do). Are we so stupid that we can't tell the difference between "so-and-so should..." and "let's you and me do..." ?


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 ]

Doing something starts at home (3.00 / 2) (#204)
by garywiz on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 08:52:29 PM EST

Note that my original post refers to a post where I described my family's personal experience in scrapping our 18mpg Jeep and buying a 40mpg economy car. So, I wasn't necessarily telling anybody else they should do anything, but reacting to the realization that our bank balance is fuller, we can travel cheaper than we ever did, and almost everybody on the road is using more gas to get where they're going than we do. It feels good, and it's more responsible. If everybody did it, we'd have a lot more oil reserves (in theory at least). It's what caused me to start reading about oil, understanding the issues. The economic principles may, because of the harsh realities of markets, mean my theory is nothing but wishful thinking. But to me, it's damned good wishful thinking and I had to share it.

[ Parent ]
Actually your solution scales fine. (none / 0) (#208)
by alexboko on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 10:04:29 PM EST

I like your approach.
  1. Even if nobody else is doing what you did, you're still getting the rewards inherent in the action (saving money) whether or not the larger reward of everyone doing it is realized (slowing down the arrival of peak oil enough for the economy to make a smooth transition).
  2. You're honestly sharing your experience, thereby spreading the meme that enriches all who accept it.
Who I have a problem with are the people who have an angry self-righteous attitude about conservation, and the people who believe "the economy" or "the government" or "the scientists" will come up with something.


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 ]
And no, it's not wrong. (3.00 / 2) (#199)
by alexboko on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:31:56 PM EST

I actually like consumerism. I like the bright, glossy, colorful packaging stuff comes in. I like shopping malls. I like air conditioning and block-buster movies. I like cool little high-tech gizmos. And I'm not one of those spoiled brats that keeps bitching about how much we're "forced" to consume. If I want to get away from it all, nobody's stopping me. I'm grateful to be living in a huge, rich, decadent, high-tech, plutopia.

I'm taking the energy crisis seriously precisely because I want the party to go on... or at least to start back up as quickly as possible after it's initially over.


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 ]

Unfortunatly (3.00 / 6) (#111)
by ShooterNeo on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:29:52 PM EST

The problem with your article is that you evidently don't have a good handle on the actual technology.  You've read about it, but you don't understand it.

For instance, any form of fuel generation that involves crops is already a wasted effort.  Production of methanol uses more oil powering tractors, feeding workers, and running processing plants than it produces.  Cogeneration and thermal polymerization are methods to recycle energy that would otherwise be lost.  They do NOT add new energy to the system.  (It took a LOT more energy to raise all those turkeys than the 'leftovers' leave in fuel after processing)

A simple fact is that nuclear technology, with known technology and the lessons learned from the last efforts, can do the entire job.  We won't ever run out of fissionable fuel if we construct (more) breeder reactors.  Off the cuff estimates say with known uranium reserves we have 1000 years.

Further, solar, with technology that is just about ready, meaning the dozens of technologies to make PV devices cheaper, can also do the entire job.  It would take about 100 square miles of the Arizona desert to run the power grid during the daytime.  There are simple and obvious methods to reduce costs.  Once we develop a cheap way of making solar panels (there are tons on the table), we can build a giant factory, powered by the output from the first panels set up, to mass produce them.  If the net cost of the power is less than current electricity rates investment would surge into this technology.  I think this will happen within 20 years.

As for maintainence, the simple answer to the problem is don't do it.  The only human labor would be dumping the modular panel to it's spot in the desert.  A simple Robot running on integrated rails would clean off the dust and grit.  When a panel failed or became less efficient, it would shut itself down and be left to sit there, likely never repaired, since the factory could produce a new panel with less labor required than repairing an old one.  

Saboteurs can't really damage something that takes up hundreds of square miles.

Houses and factories would adjust their energy consumption to use either stored power (which is a MUCH easier problem to solve if you don't use batteries but use heavier gadgets) or more expensive electricity during the night in the united states.  

Methane (natural gas) is perfectly good for running cars and trucks and trains, and would be generated from C02 and H20 and (solar) energy in giant catalysis plants.  Or, improved batteries would be used.  

Jets and planes would likely have to use liquid hydrogen.  Or, we could synthesize kerosene,

Quibbles. (3.00 / 3) (#119)
by Apuleius on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 08:10:33 PM EST

Pimentel et al (at Cornell) actually crunched the numbers on fuel crops. No ethanol crop succeeds, but miscanthus and switchgrass do turn a profit if pressed into pellets. Oilseed rape (aka canola) might turn a profit with some breeding work. And palm oil, while a limited resource, is also a net gain. Cogeneration and thermal depo make sense only for activities we are already doing, and yes, the composition of our food industry can't be counted on to support thermal depolymerization in the future. But if a TP plant can scale down to a neighborhood level, it can take all sorts of biowastes. And we will always be generating those. For nuclear plants, perhaps you can cite the sources you're using. I do know that we do not have 100 years' worth of yellowcake ore. Now, for solar.. Arizona is often cited as the place to do it. Well, Arizona does get serious seasonal winds. And flash floods. So maintenance is not as easy as you think. And robots on rails add serious cost given how extensive the rails have to be. A more serious option is to set up a solar plant on or near the Navajo, Apache, O'otham or CRIT reservations. As for saboteurs, dude, 3 dudes with a pickup truck and some shotguns could really piss you off. That gets you juice. But storing it is not an easy problem to solve. As you yourself pointed out, the American power grid needs protocols for negotiating for available power. There are plenty of customers who could use it once the nuts and bolts are in place. Also, instead of photovoltaics, you can use hot sodium. It lets you collect energy for later use on the scale of a couple hours. That's actually pretty sweet because a hot sodium plant in Arizona will stay hot right for the all important 5-9 interval on the East Coast. Natural gas will get scarce before oil. In fact it is scarce RIGHT NOW. Generating it is thoroughly inefficient, so forget catalysus. However, trains have plenty of alternatives thanks to modernized steam or sterling engines. As for jets and planes, they will get what remains of oil, as well as palm oil and similar products. They also won't be used as much.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Well (none / 1) (#122)
by ShooterNeo on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 08:41:50 PM EST

Here's what I envision.  A big part of the cost of anything is the complexity of the system.  For instance, take a nuclear plant.  You need highly, highly skilled workers who manipulate the controls which are more complex than those on an airliner.  There are countless systems and safety systems.  EVERYTHING has to be checked, and parts of the process have to be worked on wearing radiation suits.  EACH plant right now is more or less custom, there isn't one type of plant.  Numerous failures occurr, and so the total cost of cleaning up a decomissioned reactor runs into the billions, and takes super specialized people.

Solar panels : while each photovoltaic cell is small, each one is exactly the same as all the others.  Every last panel coming out of the plant is the same.  There is no radiation or real envioronmental dangers.  The system would be spread across arizona, not just in one spot, because eventually the panels would be so cheap that the net cost of electricity would be about that of hydroelectric power (actually, probably less...sorta like how consume electronics get cheaper, but on a MUCH larger scale.  For instance, there are many models of flat panel display but there would only be 2 or 3 variants on the basic panel being produced for DECADES.  The factory could eventually be basically fully automated.  It's not like a car plant, where you change the model every year and have to reprogram the equipment).

  For instance, there are organic PV technologies that basically involve spraying a film between giant sheets of glass.  This could easily be automated on an incredible scale.

Do you have any idea how much surface area a square mile is?  Hint : it's 640 acres.  The power grid would likely run from several hundred square miles in total  (which is a tiny corner of Arizona still).  When I say "robot", I mean an automatic sweeping and washing machine that runs on metal rails.  It would be no more complex than your inkjet printer, just larger.  And yes, people would also incorporate solar into all the roofs and awnings and so forth of a city, just this way doesn't produce as cheap a power as doing it in a few centralized locations on an industrial scale.

So guys in a pickup could shoot up the place, maybe kill a few kilowatts worth of generating power.  At worst, they hit a substation and take out an acre worth.  That is incredibly unlikely and rare.  

This is no more vulnerable than current systems, and this is a rare event.  And it's not like anything that bad would happen...a tiny part of the grid would go down, power would get a fraction of cent more expensive, the power grid would adjust demand.  (for instance, many people would have their AC and electric car charger and storage bank accumulator run only during the parts of the day when power is the cheapest)

The neato way to store power is to use gigantic flywheels, probably just made of steel, in buried giant drums, suspended on magnetic bearings.  On a big scale this would be much, much cheaper than batteries.  So in your neighborhood there would be a station where these drums are at, and it would charge itself up when Arizona is getting the most sunlight, and sell power to you at a premium during the night.  Your house might have one of these drums buried in the yard as well, to store the power you generate from your own panels.  This power would be used to run the lights and computers and stuff during the night, first.

Cost wise, I seriously doubt a boeing liquid hydrogen powered jetliner would be much more expensive than the current generation of aircraft.  Yes, some cryogenic tankage and a brand new jet engines would cost billions in R&D...but it costs that much to design a new jet anyways.  Volume might be a small problem...the cryogenic tanks would probably have to be in the main fuselage, and take up more physical space for the same range.  So the planes would be longer for the same capacity.  Per MASS hydrogen is lighter for the same energy output, and I think even with the weight of the tankage would weigh about the same.  So the actual, net, range of the plane could be about the same.  Production costs would be more expensive, since giant vacuum insulated bottles would be more expensive to manufacture than rubber tanks, but as a whole not THAT much more.  Our society could easily do it, and the eventual cost to the consumer - ticket prices - would likely be not much different than it is today.  

Spacecraft would use laser launch, which will make space launches cost less than 10% of what they do now.  Military labs have finally made the pulse lasers that have the potential to do this cheaply.  Obviously, the lasers would suck a lot of power...I can imagine during launches, for a few minutes a big fraction of the power grid in Arizona would divert to the launch site, and the cost for electricty would rise a few pennies a kilowatt hour, and in office buildings everywhere and homes and factories the air conditioners would shut themselves down, computers might shift to a lower power mode, steel mills would turn off their heaters, and google would underclock its processors so that the internet would briefly slow.

[ Parent ]

Well (3.00 / 2) (#125)
by ShooterNeo on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:00:22 PM EST

I guess what I'm saying is : we can do it.  Our society has the technology, or can fine tune current technology, to keep our soccer moms driving Ford Expeditions and living in big houses that are fully air-conditioned.  We can continue getting fatter, or with new drugs, make everyone who can afford it trim and fit.  With powerful enough pulse lasers we can build an ultimate strategic defense system to eliminate the only real threat to our way of life (nuclear weapons), or with drones and mechs and other super ground troops, invade the countries and destroy the regimes that threaten us.  

Even if the third world becomes second or first world, eliminating our source of cheap labor (since Chinese consumers will eventually demand the pay and resources that our workers demand, and so it won't be cheaper to make stuff in factories there), and the middle east runs dry, we can continue on with only minor hiccups.  While the business world would rather use cheap labor than robots, algorithms and computers have gotten incomprably better.  We could make basically fully automatic factories in our own borders to make all the T-shirts and DVD players and other consumer shit that cheap laborers currently produce.

Energy isn't a problem, nuclear breeders and sunlight falling on rocks in giant deserts can produce far more energy than we need anytime soon.

[ Parent ]

Read up on pebble bed reactors (3.00 / 2) (#218)
by rusty on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 12:59:46 PM EST

For instance, take a nuclear plant.  You need highly, highly skilled workers who manipulate the controls which are more complex than those on an airliner.  There are countless systems and safety systems.  EVERYTHING has to be checked, and parts of the process have to be worked on wearing radiation suits.  EACH plant right now is more or less custom, there isn't one type of plant.

Do some googling -- the whole point of pebble bed technology is to eliminate all of these problems. They're developing power plants that are just bolt-together modular units, using off-the-shelf parts, and the goal is for them to be "walk-away" safe. That is, the whole staff can go off and leave the thing running, and the worst thing that can happen is it stops producing power. There is no meltdown potential.

It's not proven at scale yet, but it's a good way along. And the obvious advantage as a short-term solution (besides the fact that it exists as a viable solution, while solar currently does not) is that modern nuclear technology can be plugged directly into the existing grid. There's no major infrastructure change needed, as with solar.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Eh (none / 0) (#229)
by ShooterNeo on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 07:45:23 PM EST

It's still not nearly as easily automated : you can't work with nuclear materials with autonomous robots.  A screwup at the plant that makes those little pebbles can still cause a chain reaction and kill some people and contaminate a lot of stuff.  There's all these high cost materials in the reactor, right now there's no way to easily reprocess the pebbles (so we run out of nuclear fuel...vs. reprocessing which means we have to have reactors burning plutonium and weapons grade nuclear materials), there still is radioactive waste, the piping and stuff is just as complex and requires just as highly paid a plumber, when the reactor shuts down it still has to be decommissioned at the cost of billions of dollars.

In short, except for (unless they screw up making the fuel) meltdowns, all the other problems are still present.  It's a super high cost technology that has a very small chance of catostrophic failure.  The key is you can't have dozens of companies competing to make nuclear plants for as cheap as possible a cost.  

With solar technology, as long as the panels work and last for a while, it's good enough.  It doesn't matter what corners the manufacturers cut to make them that cheap.  Further, solar is probably cheaper than nuclear RIGHT NOW, with NO improvements in manufacturing.  This is because it has been found that the cost of cleaning up a nuclear plant and burying the waste somewhere comes to several cents for EVERY kilotwatt hour the plant ever generated.  This is why most decommissioned nuclear plants just sit there, and we leave the waste in swimming pools, because noone wants to pay the bill.  

This is the real reason no new plants are constructed : anyone planning one can quickly calculate that it would be cheaper to just make natural gas generators (one of the most expensive ways to make power), in most cases.  I am aware that a few lobbyists are trying to get massive tax incentives and other federal subsidies that, after effectiving pumping in billions of taxpayer dollars, albeit indirectly, would make a new nuclear plant feasible.  

Rusty, you do have a point I am overlooking : to make a solar infrastructure work, the high frequency transmission line network has to be improved, and numerous other changes to the delivery system are needed, such as replacing everyone's electric meter with a much more complex one that also measures WHEN the power was consumed, since until the storage technology is in place during nights coal and natural gas and nuclear power would make the energy, and those producers would have to charge a higher price.  That's an awful lot of electric meters to change, for instance.  (though they are just 'plugs' actually)

But in the long run, I think the cost would be negligible - we need to upgrade the decaying electric grid anyway.  

Large scale nuclear power generation has many more problems, for instance with reprocessing in theory every plant would have to be protected by the military and have strict security because if just a few kilograms of plutonium is stolen the damage and loss of life possible with even a simple fission bomb stretches the imagination.  

So would you rather pay double for power made by a leashed nuclear demon that you must trust corporate people to keep under control?  (I fully believe that with properly educated people and no cost cutting you can run nuclear plants safely, but corporations running them have no incentive for either)

Or one where power costs about what hydroelectric does, or less, and except for some shadows and junk left in a desert you never see there is no pollution?  Oh, and perhaps some improper disposal of the arsenic and cadnium and other poisons by the cost cutting solar plant makers?  (they dumped it out in the desert and hurt only a small town)

[ Parent ]

pebble bed downsides (3.00 / 2) (#288)
by maynard on Wed Jan 18, 2006 at 05:02:34 PM EST

The biggest problem with a pebble bed solution is that the graphite pebbles encasing the fissile material produces more low level radioactive waste than traditional rods in a water cooled system. And it's impossible (or very expensive) to extract the fissile material for reclaimation. So if you go pebble bed, be certain you never want to go breeder with that material in the future. The safety angle is a big plus though.

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
Pebbles of Graphite - No Thanks... (none / 0) (#322)
by gbruno on Thu Apr 06, 2006 at 12:30:10 AM EST

Anyone recall Chernobyll and those chunks of burning radioactive graphite whizzing through the air? One report said that a terist could tip a drum of kerosine into a pebble bed and set the whole dang thing alight.

[ Parent ]
Graphite not self sustaining burning (none / 0) (#323)
by jrincayc on Thu Apr 13, 2006 at 08:20:33 AM EST

see Wikipedia talk page for pebble bed reactors.

[ Parent ]
ShooterNeo, 100 square miles is not the entire gri (none / 0) (#234)
by udham on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 08:50:33 PM EST

You seem to think that 100 square miles of solar energy will get you very far... here are some facts that get in the way of your story

On a very clear day (note Peak)

Peak Solar Flux  = 700 W/m^2 direct + 200 W/m^2 diffuse

100 square miles = 10 miles x 10 miles = 16,000 m x 16000 m = 256 million m^2

Assuming PV efficiency is 100 % some day (the current gen PV technology is much much lower less than 15%), this gives you about 250 billion watts of power at the best time of the day or 35 billion watts with today's technology.

If you look at figures posted at
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/electric.html#IntlCapacity

you will learn the US installed capacity is more like 1000 billion watts. So the patch of arizona desert you will need with current gen PV technology is not 100 square miles, but more like 100*1000/17 with current PV technologies assuming peak flux is available through out the day, all year round. Since that does not happen to be true, make that more like 100 times 100 square mile, i.e. 10 THOUSAND square miles with current gen PV. Now suddenly, you are talking about a much bigger infrastructure and a much bigger area.

Now an automobile is a totally different animal. To keep a compact car cruising at 75 mph, the power requirement is more than 10 kW, there are 80 million cars/light trucks in the US today, you do that math.

-a.


[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#269)
by ShooterNeo on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 10:56:40 AM EST

I screwed up.  Can't deny it, I forgot to check the math using my calculator.  Actually, 100*100 is still doable...but that's a lot more Arizona taken up.  I just checked, there's still a LOT of Arizona left (using google earth)  

So it might take more room than I first posted.  

As for cars, it might still work out.  10kw is only a few square meters of panel.  

[ Parent ]

solar (none / 1) (#326)
by Eivind on Fri Jul 07, 2006 at 03:36:46 AM EST

Actually, the best available solar-cells today achieve about 35% efficiency, which is twice as good as the best cells available 20 years ago.

There's no reason to think improvements in efficiency won't continue, allthough It will offcourse slow down as we get closer to theoretical limits.

But let's assume your area of 10.000 square miles for covering todays US electricity-consumption is nevertheless in the ballpark.

That is 25.000 square kilometres. The land-area of the USA is around 9.000.000 square kilometres, so that'd mean you'd need to cover around 0.25 % of the land-area with solarcells to cover your entire energy-consumption.

Put another way, that's on the order of 80 square meters for every American, which is significantly less than your current roofed area.

In other words, you could likely cover your entire electricity consumption with no extra area wasted at all, by simply installing solar-panels instead of conventional roofing.

Yes. I know it's not cost-effective today. Yes, I know it's not practical today. But nevertheless it doesn't seem such an impossible medium-term solution. You don't need to do it all at once, it can be donw slowly, one roof at a time. As an added bonus, this decentralised power-production reduces the load on the grid significantly. Especially in areas where the highest power-consumption is on warm sunny days.

Germany already has a "100000 roofs" program. That's not enough to make *much* of a dent in the power-consumption, but its a start.

[ Parent ]

Pimtell is wrong. (none / 1) (#196)
by caridon20 on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:14:12 PM EST

first:
He based his studies (he has made several) on old data and wont use the newer more accurate data.

Try "Estimating the Net Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol" by Hosein Shapouri, James A. Duffield and Michael S. Graboski  for a better studey.

Second:  these studies are all made on corn in the US. corn is a suboptimal plant for creating Ethanol.
the case for ethanom from shugar cane is much better
And as ethanol can be readily shiped  i belive we will se a new export product from places like brasill and cuba (especialy cuba as they have been under embargo for a long time and have learned to grow cane with a minimum of oil use)

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

Pimentel versus Shapouri (none / 0) (#257)
by Apuleius on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 12:31:01 AM EST

I'll have to look further into their sources to see whom to believe. As for ethanol from sugar cane, keep in mind Cuba's sugarcane productivity is abysmal, and Brazil has a plantation economy with a regular occurence of slave holding incidents in these plantations - not something I want to count on for my energy wants. Also got to check the numbers on phosphate reliance in sugar cane agriculture.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Poor Farming Practices... (none / 0) (#308)
by mengel on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 12:42:28 PM EST

[sorry for the repeat post, but people keep making this point, and it needs clarification]

People keep convolving these things.

We have a farming industry which currently uses ridiculous amounts of fossil fuel products, because they are cheap. So we use fossil-fuel based fertilizers, and replant the same crops on the same fields -- basically turning fuel-oil into corn, indirectly. When you examine current farming practice, therefore, it is inherently stupid to use current farming practices to generate fuel from farmed product, because we are making farmed product from fuel, and you pretty much can't win that way.

However, if you farm organically, do intelligent, 5-crop rotations, etc. which is only a few percent more expensive than our current farming practices, you can remove the fossil fuel from the process right up to harvesting (although I can show you some Amish farms in Pennsylvania that haven't used any fossil fuel at all in 300 years -- horses run on biomass, directly, after all); and you could run the harvesting equipment on fairly direct biomas products (steam tractors used to be the norm 100 years ago...)

So the biomass debates are horribly confused, because how you grow the crop, and what crops you grow, make huge differences in whether it is cost/energy effective:

  • If you take, for example, the way most corn and soybeans are grown today, you discover it's a net loss. But
  • If you look at an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, you get crops deliviered to a local facility with no fuel consumption whatsoever -- the horses are fed with a percentage of the crop, and the farmer gets methane gas lighting from a vat of manure in the back.
So the claim that you can't generate a positive energy rate from farming is only correct insofar as you farm the way current US factory farms do it.

[ Parent ]
Diversification is key (none / 1) (#116)
by flicken on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 07:40:11 PM EST

There are many promising technologies. By itself, few of them have the potential produce enough energy to replace conventional oil on its own. However, when combined together new sources of energy could definitely be enough to satisfy our energy needs for a long time.
--
20 mil and I will! Learn Esperanto with 20M others.
geothermal (3.00 / 3) (#121)
by danny on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 08:35:32 PM EST

One alternative you didn't mention is geothermal power. That's only an option in the right areas (Iceland, parts of Australia, etc.) but it will still be part of our energy supply mix.

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]

also what about hydro power? (none / 0) (#145)
by gzur on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:43:01 AM EST

I don't know about the general case for hydro power - but in Iceland it supports up 90% of their electrical consumption - with room for more.

_________________________________________
"I'm not looking for work, but I wouldn't say no to a Pacific rim job."
[ Parent ]
Check out the book "Cadillac Desert" (none / 0) (#156)
by Wisp on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 11:22:01 AM EST

It recounts the history of water projects in the US. The gov't managed all this land reclimation for the most part with -- Dams. These generate power as well as diverting water. The main reason that the US can't look to hydroelectric to offset other power demands is that most of all of the best damn sites are already dammed. (pun intended...)

[ Parent ]
Idiot (1.00 / 7) (#129)
by tdamon on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 10:20:14 PM EST

Peak oil is a dead theory. Oil is born the same way diamonds are, but without Debeers holding the strings. Deep geological forces that we don't have a grip on yet, are replenishing fields that we thought were dead 50 years ago. Take another hit, pass it on, and nod in agreement.


I got a sweater for Christmas. I really wanted a moaner or a screamer.
Any links? (none / 0) (#131)
by Spendocrat on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:31:10 AM EST



[ Parent ]
oh, sure (3.00 / 3) (#135)
by Roman on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 01:29:43 AM EST

oil is materializing out of the thin a... no. Out of nowhere. Or maybe it is stones? Yes stones! Moron. Deep geological forces are creating oil? At the speeds at which we are using it up? What a load of crap.

[ Parent ]
Dear 'scientist', (3.00 / 3) (#140)
by mrgomel on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 04:30:12 AM EST

I see you are quite versed in the area of 'unconventional' theories.

May I interest you in this totally new and awesome, nod-in-agreement theory that I call Intelligent Oil Design?

According to my leettle theory, conventional secular geology can not precisely explain how oil is created. That theory has gaps. Also, noone can explain why oil is so useful to humans but is located in unaccessable areas.

Therefore oil had to be designed and created by a powerful and vicious deeper being, which  derives pleasure from hiding the sweets from us poor leettle children.  

I also hear from my fellows in the area of IOD, that that being has noodles, appendages and can fly.

Sincerely,

Your supporter

[ Parent ]

hi-rez pics plz $ (3.00 / 2) (#144)
by gzur on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:31:29 AM EST



_________________________________________
"I'm not looking for work, but I wouldn't say no to a Pacific rim job."
[ Parent ]
Wishful thinking, I'm afraid. (3.00 / 2) (#162)
by mr strange on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:35:35 PM EST

Americans seem to specialise in wishful thinking. Yes, in the 'land of the free' the greenhouse effect doesn't exist, war is the solution to all problems, everyone in the world loves America, and Islam is a religion of hate.

Grow up!

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

Actually the theory is Russian nt (none / 0) (#280)
by extra dry on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 07:00:07 PM EST


Those impostors then, whom they style Mathematicians, I consulted without scruple - St Augustine, Confessions
[ Parent ]
not a sure thing (none / 1) (#184)
by army of phred on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:06:26 PM EST

I do consider the nonbiological origin of oil to be very plausable, but the problem is that this is even more evidence for a "peak oil" crisis since the oil now has many more billions of years to have originated since now it could predate the existance of biological mass.

"Republicans are evil." lildebbie
"I have no fucking clue what I'm talking about." motormachinemercenary
"my wife is getting a blowjob" ghostoft1ber
[ Parent ]
this man is largely correct. link inside (none / 0) (#217)
by de0 on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 12:43:07 PM EST

For information on modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins: http://www.gasresources.net/

[ Parent ]
Replenishing at what rate? (none / 0) (#291)
by borys on Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 10:26:04 AM EST

I am not convinced that there is an abiotic source of petroleum, but granting it existance, the next question is what is its rate of production?

Is it replenishing fields at a rate faster than they are being drawn down? World-wide, are fields being replenished at the the approximately 80 million barrels per day that we need to maintain _current_ demand?  Will it be able to accomodate the increases that our economies need for growth?  

Given that the US has been in decline since the early '70s, I would suspect that there is no abiotic source there, or if there is, it hasn't been able to keep up with the rate of extraction.

It will be necessary to change our ways of life as we come to terms with PeakOil.  Looking for magical ways to maintain a dream is okay and natural for children, but it doesn't work for adults.  Looking for practical ways to soften the fall to give enough time to power-down is a mature approach.

[ Parent ]

Abiotic oil is irrelevant (none / 0) (#306)
by greylion on Tue Jan 24, 2006 at 07:46:37 PM EST

It really doesn't matter, whether oil is a finite or infinite resource - The CO2-level is rising, and plants grow faster and (as recently discovered) release methane, which also contributes to global warming.
The polar caps are melting, polar bears are drowning, and the weather is getting totally out of balance.

We *HAVE TO* stop using oil all together.

Suggestions:
Move closer to where you work.
Install some solar panels on the roof, or a thermal solar system powering a Stirling engine.
Ride a bicycle to work, the exercise will do you good.
Buy an electric car for the shopping trips.

Build a greenhouse around your house - you might not have to heat the house at all during winter.
Build a windmill, or buy one.
Think of more ways to save oil and how to grow independent of oil and the electric grid.


[ Parent ]

peak oil: the DEMAND side of things (3.00 / 4) (#136)
by circletimessquare on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 01:46:38 AM EST

yeah, yeah... peak oil supply side histrionics... blah blah blah

it's the DEMAND side of the equation that will screw the west utterly

it's the reason gas is almost $3 a gallon now in the USA

not 9/11. not iraq war. not katrina. not al qaeda

why?

china's demand is skyrocketing, that's why

and that's not going away


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

The peak is there, with or without China (3.00 / 2) (#201)
by svampa on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:47:47 PM EST

The prices are related to offer and demand, the peak of oil is related to geology.

They don't say the peak is near because they have analized the prices, offer and demand. They say the peak is near because they have analized the known reserves and the rates of production and the rate of new discovered fields.

You say there is a gap between offer and demand that skyrockets prices, think of how it will be after the peak, when the gap becomes an abyss.



[ Parent ]
well yeah (none / 1) (#202)
by circletimessquare on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 08:00:25 PM EST

i'm just saying that whatever you can say positively or negatively about the supply side, china and india jumping in the game multiplies the problem more than sketchy supply side considerations because they radically multiply the demand side of things immediately and directly

it's the driving force behind the spike in oil prices in the last few years, so that demand becomes more of a pressing issue than supply, and demand is only promising to go up more and more

look: supply side equations are nebulous, but demand side equations are concrete and easily understandable and completely unmoveable

in other words, it may make sense to build a boat and get off the island now because all the trees seem to be dying and you might be faced with a shortage of wood in a few years

or, it might make sense to build a boat and get off the island now because there's a goddamn tsunami headed at you that's going to hit in 10 minutes

see the difference between supply side and demand side pressures?

one is a nebulous and long term pressure

the other is a concrete and immediate pressure

and which do you think will motivate people more, considering typical human shortsightedness?

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

[ Parent ]

How much will that last tree be worth? $$$w00t$$ $ (3.00 / 2) (#207)
by procrasti on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 09:18:32 PM EST



-------
if i ever see the nickname procrasti again on this site or anywhere in my life, i want it to be in an OBITUARY -- CTS
doing my best at licking arseholes - may 2015 -- mirko
-------
Winner of Kuro5hin: April 2015
[ Parent ]
The problem is deeper (none / 1) (#232)
by svampa on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 08:15:01 PM EST

I have a better metaphore:

We are in an island, the rest of the human kind died because of a virus, so none will rescue us. Moreover, there is nowhere to escape to, because the rest of the world is contaminated, this is the only safe ground in the world. Beside this, there are not trees, instead it's a plain island without any trees, but there is a small timberyard, forgotten by an old company.

Your metaphore has two flaws:

A) We can't escape any where, in two senses. We can't escape from The Earth. And there is not another energy source as good as oil,and seems that research about new kind of energy is disappointing.

B)The image of trees that seem to be dying introduces some misleading ideas:

  • There may be is a problem, but we are not sure if such problem really exists.
  • If the trees are not dying and we exploit them with responsibility, we will have wood for ever. That is, it's a renewable resource.
  • The timber is a better image, we have always known the amount of timber we had, and we could have decided sensibly since the begining what were we going to do with it.

    Still the image of timber is not good enough: You can re-use the wood, to certain extend,you can build something, take it to pieces and build another thing. The oil you use is gone forever. In addition, wood doesn't look like a basic necessity, a matter of life or death.

    Probably a pile of cans of food is a better image. We know the cans will be consumed, and eventually will have to live of farming. But meanwhile you can get feed without effort.

    We can begin farming while we are still good fed and with good health, and wait the next harvest eating the food of the cans. As well as being aware that some day the cans will run out and we'll depend fully upon farming.

    On the other hand, we can relax and keep on eating the food of the cans. When the cans run out, we will fight for the last cans, then eat wild fruit, and when we are starving, slowly begin farming, or perphaps just die.

    In the case of oil, the pile of cans is so big that, although we know it's finite, we fell and act as if it were going to last forever. In despite of that, we have always known (at least since 30 years ago) that the oil is finite, as well as calculate how long it will last. In short, we have always known that eventually we will have to live without oil.

    The problem of oil is that we are not a small group lost in an island working together to survive. But loads of people acting selfish.

    And the tragedy of oil is that, contrary to cans, it hasn't last just a season, but several generations. So the farming in island can sustain 100 inhabitant, but thanks to cans there is a population of 1000, and then is too late because there is no pressure able to motivate people to stop eating... nobody dies voluntarly. Eventually we will have to return to 100 people.

    There will be problems when cans can't stand more people, but as soon as cans can't stand the "current" population, famine begins, will stay there until the drop their number to 100.

    Prices, offer and demand happen when the production can't meet the rise of demand, but real problems will begin when production decreases and can't meet the current standard of living.

    China's demand only means that we are not 1000, but 1500, so the shortage will begin before, and 500 people more will have to die. The high prices, resulting of offer and demand, only will decide which ones die.



    [ Parent ]
    The trouble with nukes, and a possible solution (2.33 / 3) (#139)
    by chroma on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:29:04 AM EST

    The biggest problem with the acceptance of nuclear power is public perception. People get skittish when they hear words like:
    nuclear
    radiation
    atomic
    reactor
    uranium

    The good news is that other terms seem to be less well known and therefore have less negative associations:
    fission
    breeder
    relativity
    isotope
    enriched
    pebble bed

    Therefore, I recommend that advocates of using fission to generate electricity use these words to talk about possible energy alternatives. While some people might have a problem with a "nuclear reactor" being built near them, many of the same people wouldn't mind the jobs and cheap electricity from a power plant that happens to use modern pebble bed fission technology.

    OMG NUCLEAR (3.00 / 2) (#141)
    by some nerd on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 04:56:06 AM EST

    Supposedly Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) scanners had to be renamed to the less descriptive Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), despite the fact that they have nothing to do with ionising radiation, because people were scared of the "Nuclear" part. Sigh.

    There's also a joke that it was changed because people were going in, telling the doctors they'd been referred for an "NMR" and getting an enema instead ... I really doubt this ever happened though.

    --
    Home Sweet Home

    [ Parent ]

    NMR (none / 1) (#166)
    by Cro Magnon on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 01:48:37 PM EST

    There's also a joke that it was changed because people were going in, telling the doctors they'd been referred for an "NMR" and getting an enema instead ... I really doubt this ever happened though
    Are you implying that the people who said that were full of shit?
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    *drum roll* *cymbal* [nt] (3.00 / 2) (#179)
    by some nerd on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 04:15:58 PM EST



    --
    Home Sweet Home

    [ Parent ]
    Nuclear is OK (3.00 / 3) (#174)
    by The Diary Section on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 03:32:23 PM EST

    its "nuckular" that makes most people jumpy.
    Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
    [ Parent ]
    I don't have a problem with the safety of nuclear (none / 0) (#236)
    by SoupIsGoodFood on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 10:41:42 PM EST

    It's the waste that is the problem. I don't care if it's only a small amount, it's pretty bad stuff and it doesn't just go away. There are solutions for too much carbon dioxide, but no real solutions that I know of for nuclear waste. Putting it in a concret box and covering it up is not what I call a real solution.

    Find a way to process the waste so that it can be disposed of safely into the environment, and I'll be in favor of nuclear plants rather than hydroelectric dams (which actually create a lot of polution).

    [ Parent ]

    Nuke'm (3.00 / 2) (#142)
    by QuantumFoam on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:02:04 AM EST

    We had a fellow come in and speak to our class on the subject of nuclear waste once. He was from Los Alamos, and he was responsible for drawing up a grand plan for the US's nuclear power consumption. With traditional reactors, what we have already dug out of the ground could power the US for 100 years and if we were to use breeder reactors to burn the waste of the conventional reactors we could extend the lifetime of the supply to thousands of years.

    Basically, the thorium and plutonium from a normal fission reactor are used in a breeder reactor instead of being stored under a mountain. The breeder reactor produces fuel suitable for other reactors, which all feed into each other. The benefits include a smaller dependency on foreign sources of energy and extremely cheap energy for millenia. The downside is that you would have to transport the fuel from plant to plant, which would be a security risk.

    It's really too bad the federal government couldn't annex a ton of land in a useless, climatically- and tectonically- stable state such as Utah and build a huge complex of nuclear reactors, allowing for maximum security and efficiency. Ohm's law prevents that from being a good idea, but if there should be a significant breakthrough in superconducting materials or any other form of efficient, long-haul power distribution, it could solve our energy and security woes.

    - Barack Obama: Because it will work this time. Honest!

    You just agreed nuclear is not the answer. (1.50 / 2) (#151)
    by OzJuggler on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 08:35:59 AM EST

    How do you stop people from using the output of breeder reactors for making nuclear weapons?
    Is it not better to prevent the large scale manufacture of plutonium in the first place? Do you get all your energy policies from an atomic bomb expert?

    And I feel slightly ripped off by your estimate of "thousands of years" of nuclear power. All this nucelar waste that will last tens of thousands of years and we only get 1000 years of energy? That's a raw deal.

    Whilst I think the greenies are loonies for insisting that it isn't possible to safely deal with the problem of radioactive waste, I can't fault their logic in pointing out that nuclear power is a distraction from the real issue. Nuclear power is not sustainable in the long term (as you've admitted), it produces long term hazardous waste which in some cases is weaponizable, and it involves occasional risks in transportation of both fuel and waste.

    When we run out of fissionable fuel we'll have to solve the sustainable energy problem anyway, so why dick around for 1000 years creating radioactive hotspots when we can just jump straight to the endgame now?

    If sustainable means "will not run out for over one hundred thousand years" then there is only one answer: solar. Add in the zero hazards and low pollution features and it becomes lunacy to pursue either fossil fuels or nuclear power. There are places where reliably intense sources (like nuclear) may still be excusable, such as refining aluminium, but on the whole both residential and industrial power supplies can be met by solar power with existing PV technology at less than coal-fired prices. All other propositions for energy sources are short-term distractions from this truth.

    OzJuggler.
    "And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
    at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.
    [ Parent ]

    Why is weaponising such a problem? (none / 0) (#154)
    by procrasti on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 09:31:53 AM EST

    The US at least already has a butt load of nuclear weapons... How can more be a problem? Perhaps instead of enriching the uranium for weapons use, it can be reused in another reactor, greatly extending the amount of useful fuel available? There's way more energy in nuclear bonds than chemical bonds, lets exploit it.

    -------
    if i ever see the nickname procrasti again on this site or anywhere in my life, i want it to be in an OBITUARY -- CTS
    doing my best at licking arseholes - may 2015 -- mirko
    -------
    Winner of Kuro5hin: April 2015
    [ Parent ]
    Breeders = short half-life (none / 1) (#182)
    by smithmc on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 04:44:47 PM EST


    And I feel slightly ripped off by your estimate of "thousands of years" of nuclear power. All this nucelar waste that will last tens of thousands of years and we only get 1000 years of energy? That's a raw deal.

    Actually, with breeder reactors, once the fissionable material is all used up, the remaining waste has a half-life more like tens or hundreds of years. The most stable "waste products" with the longest half-lives tend to be the ones that are still fissionable, like plutonium.

    [ Parent ]

    Nuke 'em (3.00 / 2) (#206)
    by QuantumFoam on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 09:06:36 PM EST

    How do you stop people from using the output of breeder reactors for making nuclear weapons? Is it not better to prevent the large scale manufacture of plutonium in the first place? Do you get all your energy policies from an atomic bomb expert?

    Well, the idea is that the fissile materials are much safer from theft when they're inside of a reactor than locked in a drum underground. And while the production of more plutonium would be bad in the sense that more nuclear weapons could be made, my idea supposes that the plutonium would be used as an energy source in other reactors and not in bombs, so your criticism is invalid. Could the US produce more nuclear weapons with a greater stock of plutonium? Yes. Would the US having more nuclear weapons somehow radically change the current balance of power? Why do we need to be able to blow up every square inch of the world four times when we can already do it three times?

    Also, the fellow who was talking to us was not an "atomic bomb expert". He was an atomic energy expert. He was charged with coming up for a plan to efficiently use the nation's nuclear reactor fleet, so, yes, I would say that he was a valid person to listen to on the topic of energy policies. He didn't propose the "massive complex in the desert to power the country" idea, that was just my suggestion.

    And I feel slightly ripped off by your estimate of "thousands of years" of nuclear power. All this nucelar waste that will last tens of thousands of years and we only get 1000 years of energy? That's a raw deal.

    Well, obviously you didn't read my entire post. Only a thousand years? We've barely been using electricity for even 10% of that span of time. Also, you would not be producing all that much nuclear waste because you would be burning the waste as you go. And as far as the waste goes, anything that will last tens of thousands of years will be benign. Scientists and engineers wish that the isotopes with half-lives in the tens of thousands of years were dangerous since that would make them useful, too.

    The current volume of radioactive waste sounds scary until you realize that it is mostly gloves, cups and other crap that is left over after medical procedures. The longevity of radioactivity sounds scary until you realize it's inversely proportional to energy output. Guess what? All my life, I've been eating food that has this horrible radioactive element in it. It's half-life is over 5,000 years! For tens of thousands of years after I die, this crap will still be in any remaining part of my body, slowly decaying. That carbon-14 sure is some nasty stuff.

    Nuclear power is not sustainable in the long term (as you've admitted), it produces long term hazardous waste which in some cases is weaponizable, and it involves occasional risks in transportation of both fuel and waste.

    I didn't say it wasn't sustainable, I said what we had already dug out of the ground could last us 1,000 years if we use it right. If were were to dig up more in the coming centuries, this form of energy production would be viable even longer. The waste is a concern, but it can be turned into energy, killing two birds with one stone.

    When we run out of fissionable fuel we'll have to solve the sustainable energy problem anyway, so why dick around for 1000 years creating radioactive hotspots when we can just jump straight to the endgame now? If sustainable means "will not run out for over one hundred thousand years" then there is only one answer: solar. Add in the zero hazards and low pollution features and it becomes lunacy to pursue either fossil fuels or nuclear power. There are places where reliably intense sources (like nuclear) may still be excusable, such as refining aluminium, but on the whole both residential and industrial power supplies can be met by solar power with existing PV technology at less than coal-fired prices. All other propositions for energy sources are short-term distractions from this truth.

    Why can't we just convert to solar right now? 1. Because it's not mature enough. The technology is not sufficiently effecient to warrant investing in it at this stage. Solar cells have only recently gotten to the point where they recover the energy used to manufacture them in their lifetimes. 2. Because it's not dense enough. The power per unit area is insufficient for most places. A country like Australia would do well with solar. You have a nice big desert and a low population density. You could have huge solar farms near your cities, and the dingos would have some shade. A more polar country such as Russia would not find solar to be as useful. 3. Because it also has it's environmental downsides, which you conveniently forget. The production of solar cells involves all sorts of nasty chemicals that DO get into the environment eventually.

    This isn't to say that solar can't be part of the solution. There are developments in the US where the houses all have solar panels, good insulation, energy-efficient appliances, and so on. The people who buy them usually make money by selling excess electricity back to the power company. Solar is good for making a few joules here and there, but when it comes to centralized power generation, you just can't beat nuclear.

    - Barack Obama: Because it will work this time. Honest!
    [ Parent ]

    You'll say "Nuke `em" again, won't you? (1.33 / 3) (#214)
    by OzJuggler on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 08:06:43 AM EST

    I bet you're just gonna nuke nuke nuke until there's nothing left to nuke, right?

    my idea supposes that the plutonium would be used as an energy source in other reactors and not in bombs, so your criticism is invalid.

    My criticism is invalid because of your hitherto unstated assumption? Hah. You'll have to do better than that. That criticism still stands intact.

    Why do we need to be able to blow up every square inch of the world four times when we can already do it three times?

    Look kiddo, just because a plan is irrational, crazy, costly, and dangerous, does not mean that the neocons won't do it. Example: The Cold War. And Bush has half of the crooks from the Reagan administration behind him, Reagan being quite possibly the biggest terrorist that ever lived. Dubya has recently approved a plan to miniaturise nuclear weapons for regular use on conventional battlefields.
    Okay, maybe that's a bit off-topic, but this point you raised doesn't help your case.

    Also, the fellow who was talking to us was not an "atomic bomb expert". He was an atomic energy expert.

    Who works at Los Alamos. Uhuh. Any Uni physics boffin can tell you about nuclear energy. Los Alamos has prestige because of its military allegience. I think my cynicism is forgivable.

    Well, obviously you didn't read my entire post.

    All you've done is prove that nothing is obvious. In fact I did read your entire post, and I still think I understood it correctly. So it's no mistake or misunderstanding; I just don't accept your conclusions as being the right choice.

    Only a thousand years?

    Yes. If those durations were roughly correct then we have to keep the waste secure for between five and nine times longer than the period in which we could extract the benefit of electrical power. And even when radioactivity has died off, the materials are still chemically toxic anyway.

    Imagine having a big party that took you more than a week to clean up afterwards. If you knew it would take that long, would you still have done it? And if you know you aren't actually the one who will have to do the cleanup, how can you say it's your call to make?

    If the timescales of the consequences are on the range of thousands of years, then thinking only of the next 1000 years is a blinkered approach.
    I know of no other energy option on the table that requires placing such a large responsibility on future generations whose politics and technologies are as yet unknown. We've already taken that step with existing nuclear projects, but that's no reason to make the situation worse.

    And your C14 strawman is irrelevant.

    The waste is a concern, but it can be turned into energy

    What with, magic? E=Mc^2 buddy. If all the existing waste was "turned into energy" at once we would crack the planet open.
    I think you must mean reprocessing spent fuel rods to recover plutonium and remove long-lived actinides. The recovered elements can be used as fuel in breeder reactors, but just because they can go around the cycle again does not alter the fact that waste is produced. Waste that remains dangerously radioactive for around 500 years.

    I can believe that radioactive waste can be stored safely for long periods, but I don't understand why anyone would go through this whole rigmarole if they didn't have to.

    Why can't we just convert to solar right now? 1. Because it's not mature enough.

    I don't know what your definition of "mature" is wrt PV. Energy conversion ratios of lab prototypes are over 33% and the commercial grade efficiencies are about 17% making it economical for household applications.

    2. Because it's not dense enough.

    False. Your own Department of Energy web site debunks this myth.
     http://www.eere.energy.gov/solar/myths.html

    3. Because it also has it's environmental downsides, which you conveniently forget. The production of solar cells involves all sorts of nasty chemicals that DO get into the environment eventually.

    Irrelevant. I did not "forget" the environmental impact of PV manufacturing. That was in fact the reason that I said it had "low pollution" instead of zero pollution. The DoE myths page also points out that making CPUs and other semiconductors for the entire computer industry creates similar wastes, which are handled by acceptable environmental standards.

    The trend for "nasty chemicals" in solar cell manufacturing to "get into the environment eventually", as opposed to the entirely well behaved nasty chemicals in nuclear waste who obediently remain in their container unsupervised for thousands of years, just goes to show that the pro-nuke crowd can't lose. heheh.

    I'm not scared of radiation if the exposure is correctly managed in the long term. I even think that if more reactors are built then central Australia would be the perfect place to store the entire world's waste, and I wouldn't have aproblem with that. I just doubt humanity's ability to actually do it successfully. I recoil at the prospect of assuming we know what the future holds and writing ourselves a big cheque now that future generations will have to pay.
    Most of all, I don't understand why we would choose to face ANY of the risks of nuclear energy, no matter how well managed those risks might be, when we have other simpler options available that have virtually no risk attached to them at all. And unlike the complex options, solar power will never run out. It's PERFECT. Why don't you see that?
    IT'S A BEAUTIFUL SPECIMEN!
    RIPLEY! THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES!

    - OzJuggler
    "And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
    at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.
    [ Parent ]

    It doesn't last for thousands of years. (none / 1) (#244)
    by gordonjcp on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 05:33:33 AM EST

    Either it's extremely radioactive, in which case it decays rapidly or it lasts a long time, in which case it only emits a small amount of radioactivity.

    The stuff in the ground has been radioactive for thousands of years. All you're doing with nuclear waste is putting it into a smaller space.

    Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


    [ Parent ]
    Can you expand upon this? (none / 1) (#155)
    by thefirelane on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 09:57:13 AM EST

    What the Peak oil theory also claims is that as oil extraction became more difficult, demand for oil would continue to increase, making each barrel pricier and your share of oil production smaller.

    I read this early in the article, and was hoping for more clarification? You ignored this throughout the rest of the article, but it is a central tenant of your 'peak oil' argument.

    My question becomes: How can I take this to be true since it conflicts with basic economic theory. As price increases, would this not decrease demand? In this way, alternate fuels will slowly fade in as they become more economic. Decreasing demand can already be seen in the US as SUV sales decrease when gas prices increase. Are you really arguing these sales will go up?

    -
    Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
    Demand curve shifts (2.66 / 3) (#159)
    by NoBeardPete on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:14:08 PM EST

    For any given demand curve, as the price rises, the number of people willing to pay that price drops (excepting maybe a few luxury goods or other anomalies). At any point in time, we can expect there to be a certain demand curve. The author is claiming that as time passes, the demand curve will shift. As countries like China rapidly develop and industrialize, billions more people will want to use gas, and have money with which to purchase it.


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

    Elasticity of demand. (3.00 / 3) (#163)
    by alexboko on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:50:16 PM EST

    No, he's arguing that certain uses of petroleum have an inelastic demand, and this inelastic demand keeps growing as the 1) population grows and 2) more and more of them are trying to acchieve the standard of living enjoyed in the west.

    Forget SUVs. Think heating oil. Think plastics. Think most food you buy travelling a thousand miles or more to get to the store and thereby using up more energy in the form of gasoline than the calories contains.

    So yes, over the long term, demand becomes more elastic. It could involve driving less. It could involve being forced to convert to a more agrarian economy. It could exciting alternate energy technologies like coal and wood. It could even involve consuming less food... which, if we're very unlucky, results in fewer consumers, which will also contribute to decreasing long-term demand.

    My point is that the market doesn't find optima. Like any other natural system it finds equilibira, but there is no particular reason to believe these equilibria will by themselves be pleasant ones. So by making the right choices as consumers and entrepreneurs, we can sometimes influence which of several possible equilibria the market selects.


    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 ]

    Indian and Chinese consumption continues to rise. (none / 1) (#167)
    by Apuleius on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 02:18:01 PM EST

    Ergo, so will the price of oil. ANd your share will decline.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Demand at a price vs. demand curve (2.00 / 2) (#180)
    by smithmc on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 04:25:35 PM EST


    My question becomes: How can I take this to be true since it conflicts with basic economic theory. As price increases, would this not decrease demand?

    Sure, that's how the demand curve looks - demand decreases with increasing price in a given market scenario. But, in general, as the population increases and we continue to become more reliant on our toys and the things we do with oil (which ain't just energy - plastics, semiconductor manufacturing, etc.) the demand curve as a whole will shift upward, and as a result the equilibrium price will shift upward along with it.

    [ Parent ]

    no (none / 1) (#212)
    by That Guy From That Show on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 06:58:45 AM EST

    My question becomes: How can I take this to be true since it conflicts with basic economic theory. As price increases, would this not decrease demand? Gasoline does not follow that rule. Much like Tobacco, people do not respond to Gasoline prices in the same manner that they do Theater tickets.

    [ Parent ]
    Economic theory or economic fact? (2.50 / 2) (#267)
    by Very Little Gravitas Indeed on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 07:59:59 AM EST


    As I understand it economic theory is just a model.
    Oil is so pervasive that it can't just be dropped like a bad habit, maybe we could always use less, but population keeps growing, so demand keeps growing. Plus people still need the oil, they need to get to work, they need the products created by oil, the demand is still there.

    What does this mean for the economy? I think it means if we don't find alternative to oil, not just for energy but for every application we use it for, fertilisers, plastics, etc. The economy will melt down, we can't manage without oil, the demand will always be there unless we find alternatives, and it will always increase.

    The price of oil will rise, we'll spend more money on oil, inflation will increase. Oil prices will increase. Again demand can't decrease, because of the pervasiveness of oil in our society, so it increases, prices increase, we spend more on oil, inflation increases, oil prices rise. Without reduced demand on oil you have a situation that can't get better.

    What alternatives are there to oil?  And not just for power creation.

    The problem is that our economy has no link to the real world, it is not limited by the resources available, the man power available.
    We've already passed the sustainable point in our economy. It cannot be sustained. It relys on continuous growth, which is impossible. To get over this flaw fake growth is invented.

    But eventually the system will fail when it reaches an impasse.
    When it is discovered supply and demand aren't linked in our economy. And oil is exception which disproves the point.


    [ Parent ]

    Fission is the only short-term answer (2.60 / 5) (#158)
    by nightfire on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:01:05 PM EST

    First of all, good article.  It was well written and hopefully will expose the less-engaged to the realities of our current predicament.

    It does however continue the North American tradition of ignoring (or underestimating) nuclear fission.

    The United States (and Canada as well) has painted itself into a corner over the last 50 years by portraying the destructive power of nuclear weapons as fission's primary (or most noteworthy) application.  Further, the tragedy of Chernobyl rings in the minds of everyone, while the news of conventional power plant disasters (and coal mining) is typically ignored.

    So-called environmentalists do nothing to solve the problem and indeed make the problem worse by lobbying against the nuclear industry.  Although their hearts are in the right place, their actions result in more and more carbon emission! Our energy demand doesn't disappear simply because many have an irrational fear of the nuclear process.

    Several countries (in particular France) use nuclear fission for the majority of their electrical power.  They have not recorded a single civilian fatality due to the operation of a nuclear reactor.

    It's difficult to estimate, but it has been suggested that deaths due to cancer caused by exposure to coal plant emissions, worldwide, are in the thousands... per year.

    One interesting technology that wasn't noted, is Lithium Polymer batteries (used in newer phones and laptops).  Although refined lithium itself is very expensive (which must change), the energy density (by volume) of newer lithium polymer batteries approaches that of gasoline (when you consider relative efficiencies vs. internal combustion).  They charge rapidly (1-2C; half hour for a 90% charge) and discharge even quicker (10-20C).

    Even better, LiPoly loses only 2-3% of charge capacity per 100 cycles (2-5% per year), runs acceptably in low temperatures, is environmentally friendly (when recycled).  A 40L battery (approximately the same weight of gasoline) can power a 3000lb vehicle for 350 highway miles... today.  With refinement and lighter vehicles, we can ease our transition to nuclear.

    "C"? (none / 1) (#181)
    by smithmc on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 04:29:43 PM EST


    They charge rapidly (1-2C; half hour for a 90% charge) and discharge even quicker (10-20C).

    What is "C" here? Rate of charge or discharge would be measured in amperes (A).

    [ Parent ]

    C (none / 1) (#203)
    by chroma on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 08:33:27 PM EST

    refers to the capacity of the battery. Higher capacity batteries can typically charge and discharge quicker.

    As I recall, for a 1 Ah battery, 1C = 1 A. A 20 C discharge capability would mean that same battery can supply 20 amps.

    [ Parent ]

    Spot on (none / 1) (#228)
    by MSBob on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 06:50:31 PM EST

    Anyone who follows this debate has got to agree with your points. Electric vehicles make perfect sense and replaceable batteries wouldn't be too complicated to design for an ultra fast "refill" should you go on a roadtrip. As a matter of fact the first cars on American roads were electric but later it was deemed more economical for manufacturers to go into the internal combustion engine. Decades of research went into improving the ICE and the industry has little to show for all the time they've been at it. If the same amount of dedication and money was funneled towards electric cars I have little doubt that much more impressive progress would have been made in terms of building the efficient vehicles and the "refueling" infrastructure to support them.
    I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

    [ Parent ]
    Lithium Polymer... pointless. (none / 1) (#260)
    by Very Little Gravitas Indeed on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 06:57:24 AM EST

    One interesting technology that wasn't noted, is Lithium Polymer batteries (used in newer phones and laptops). Although refined lithium itself is very expensive (which must change), the energy density (by volume) of newer lithium polymer batteries approaches that of gasoline (when you consider relative efficiencies vs. internal combustion). They charge rapidly (1-2C; half hour for a 90% charge) and discharge even quicker (10-20C).


    Batteries are not a primary source of energy, they are just an energy carrier, so aren't worth mentioning in this article which appears to be about energy generation. Regardless of how good Lithium Polymer batterys are they will never recharge themselves. Whilst they may have equal energy densities as oil, the fact is they can only be recharged by electricity which has already been created by, burning oil perhaps. Which means with all the losses due to energy production and transportation, plus the energy spent to create the battery. It is still a worse source of energy than oil, or any primary power source.



    [ Parent ]
    You missed the point (none / 0) (#297)
    by Polverone on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 05:41:06 PM EST

    He's advocating for nuclear fission as the primary source of energy. High-energy-density storage is necessary if you want to use fission-derived electricity (or any other electricity) for personal transportation. That's why lithium polymer batteries are attractive: they offer the potential to eliminate fossil fuels from automobiles.

    I'm not sure there is enough lithium to convert all the world's cars to automobiles, though, even if manufacturing costs drop precipitously. I've wondered if there are similar battery designs possible using sodium that might offer adequate performance.
    --
    It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
    [ Parent ]

    You overstate the problem (2.00 / 2) (#178)
    by Fon2d2 on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 04:07:21 PM EST

    I'm as much as an oil doomsayer as anybody else, but I still have trouble seeing how deep the problem really is. I think the biggest hurdle is getting over the hump, so to speak, but the future is not as bleak as you presume.

    First off, you make a lot of qualitative claims in your article without linking to any supporting information. Many of them are claims I know I have read otherwise about elsewhere. For example, I remember looking for and finding information that ethanol is no longer a net energy loser.

    Also, you say nothing about our transportation industry. There was a recent article by skynight about the cost of oil. There are some links I'd like to dig up, but as I believe they were buried in some comment, and I didn't save them, I don't have them now. One showed that almost 50% of energy use in the US is used for personal transportation. Also, internal combustion engines are only 20 to 25% efficient. And worse yet, due to the law of diminishing returns, this means we are paying way more for gas than we would be if people just drove efficient cars.

    Let's get one thing straight. The US are energy pigs. There is massive room for improvement in the transportation sector alone. Many people drive trucks that get between 10 and 20 mpg. Some drive sedans that are between 20 and 30. And a select few drive hybrids that can be as high as 50. Most people use these cars to drive to work and back, or drive to the store. Already there's room to knock off almost 50% of energy use in the transportation sector. Now start accounting for the fact that many people could work from home. Somewhat rare now, but easily could be much more common. Since this would reduce traffic, this would have a positively reinforcing effect. And what if we finally move beyond the internal combustion engine? Fuck hydrogen (I agree with you on that), but power plants are way more efficient. If electric cars ever do reach marketable quality we stand to see even more improvement from that as well.

    As I understand, wind, solar, biomass, and nuclear would be very well poised to take over the remaining energy demands at this point. Biomass could still improve alot as well I think. And we'll have better means of capturing wasted energy (like the solar algea and thermal depolymerization you mentioned).

    Now also think of the housing sector. Too many houses are just not built with good energy principles in mind. I.e. passive solar heating. The best is where you have south facing windows with trees that provide shade in the summer but let the sun in in winter. It can make a huge impact on energy bills. This is even without talking about solar water heaters or solar panels on the roof or heat exchangers with pipes buried in the ground. There is definitely lots of room for improvement here. And also, think about this. What's the number one energy user in the summer. The A/C. People don't really have to turn it on, and if electricity really gets too expensive, they won't. When I grew up, there was a period of time before our house ever had A/C.

    And finally, to help persaude you that energy independance really is possible, here's a book, readable online in it's entirety, about achieving such a goal for Ireland. Granted Ireland is not the US, but really goes into some wonderful depth. It also discusses some other interesting ideas, such as turning horses back into work animals.

    Are we answering the right question? (none / 0) (#183)
    by Arkaein on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 04:55:20 PM EST

    First off, very nice and informative article. However, it seems that a lot of the article is answering somewhat the wrong question.

    The article is about peak oil. Most of the proposed solutions involve alternative energy. These things are not interchangeable. As far as I know even if we ran out of oil today we would be far from out of energy, we still have existing nuke plants and hundreds of years worth of coal reserves for generating electricity. This means that even if we had working fusion right now, we'd still face massive obstacles in overhauling our transportation systems and finding ways to produce plastic.

    Some forms of transportation could be replaced easily. Buses for example, and likely taxis. Depots for both could be configured to quickly exchange batteries in a vehicle with a freshly charged bank in about as much time as it currently takes to refuel. But what about the millions of privately owned cars? The days of the 500+ road trip might be finished, unless every petroleum service station can also be converted. Recharging batteries simply takes too long for anything but commuter style trips unless battery technology is greatly advanced, either in terms of capacity or recharging time.

    Air travel might also be doomed, I don't foresee any electric 747's in the near future. Trains should be workable. I don't know a lot about cargo ships, but I guessing these might be problematic. Long haul trucks could also be tricky.

    Plastics could probably made from synthetics produced using some form of biomass, but this would be competing in supply for any legacy applications which would require biodiesel.

    I don't have the solutions to these problems, I just wanted to point out that alternative energy sources are only part of the solution to the problem of peak oil.

    ----
    The ultimate plays for Madden 2006
    [ Parent ]

    oops (none / 0) (#190)
    by Arkaein on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 06:00:24 PM EST

    sorry, meant to post at top level

    ----
    The ultimate plays for Madden 2006
    [ Parent ]

    the plastics red herring (none / 0) (#299)
    by Polverone on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 06:15:26 PM EST

    Suppose we have limited oil and abundant, cheap electricity provided by controlled fusion, fairy dust, or whatever.

    Plastics aren't a problem: they are composed primarily of carbon and hydrogen, sometimes oxygen and halogens too. The carbon can come from coal, and the hydrogen from water. This isn't alchemy: before the Middle East's vast oil reserves were discovered, du Pont apparently planned for producing every organic chemical starting from coal, water, and air. It's not harder than using petroleum if you can produce a few fundamental feedstocks from the coal. Or, as you said, it could come from biomass. If bioethanol were cheap enough, for example, ethylene (the feedstock for polyethylene) is easily produced from ethanol. The raw material cost of plastics that appear in most retail products is a small fraction of retail price, and therefore considerable plastic price increases will have but a minor impact on shelf price. Of course this is less true for products with low margins composed entirely of plastics, such as PVC piping, but if you consider it in the context of "plumbing costs" (including labor and maintenance) rather than "pipe costs," doubling the price of PVC is still of limited impact.

    Transportation is where hydrocarbon fuels are really important. It is possible that useful electric cars can be made if the price of advanced lithium batteries comes way down, but that would still leave heavy trucks, ships, and aircraft high and dry. But -- good news! Shell has had a methanol-to-gasoline process for ~20 years. Methanol is made on an industrial scale by the catalytic combination of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Given absolutely any sources of carbon and hydrogen, you can make methanol from it, and gasoline from that, assuming that you don't want to directly use the methanol in modified internal combustion engines. Processes are also known and have been used in South Africa for decades to more directly convert coal to synthetic liquid fuels that can take the place of gasoline or diesel. The processes can produce petroleum-equivalents for about $50 per barrel, IIRC, which you'll note is actually cheaper than natural petroleum at the current time. So why don't we already have a dozen coal liquefication plants operating in the US? Bad news! There are large up-front capital costs for building these large chemical plants. From the perspective of private investors, it makes sense to support plant construction only if you know for sure that natural petroleum will remain expensive for decades. If it gets cheap again, like it did following the first energy crisis, then your investment has become an expensive white elephant. Bad news again! Although coal-derived fuels can keep transportation going, they of course aren't helping to control climate change. Bad news for the last time! My original supposition that we have cheap, clean power from fusion or fairy dust is not currently true. If we operate large chemical facilities to produce liquid fuels using coal both as the feedstock and the sole source of plant power, the CO2 emissions are going to be much worse.

    So in my mind, at least, it is clear that peak oil does not threaten the existence of the OECD way of life over the long term. There could still be very unpleasant economic shocks in the transitional period, because it takes time to bring synthetic fuels and new power plants online even after the choice has been made. But the real threat is massive climate change, accelerated by heavy use of coal as less carbon-rich fossil fuels rise in price.
    --
    It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
    [ Parent ]

    Space constraints. (none / 0) (#185)
    by Apuleius on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 05:18:36 PM EST

    I only had space to write about the supply side issues here. Demand considerations will be dealt with in future articles.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Those links are... (none / 0) (#205)
    by skyknight on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 08:55:14 PM EST

    here, though I shouldn't be so generous with people who misspell my name.

    It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
    [ Parent ]
    Are we answering the right question? (2.50 / 4) (#191)
    by Arkaein on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 06:02:14 PM EST

    Reposted this comment at top-level instead of as a reply to another comment

    First off, very nice and informative article. However, it seems that a lot of the article is answering somewhat the wrong question.

    The article is about peak oil. Most of the proposed solutions involve alternative energy. These things are not interchangeable. As far as I know even if we ran out of oil today we would be far from out of energy, we still have existing nuke plants and hundreds of years worth of coal reserves for generating electricity. This means that even if we had working fusion right now, we'd still face massive obstacles in overhauling our transportation systems and finding ways to produce plastic.

    Some forms of transportation could be replaced easily. Buses for example, and likely taxis. Depots for both could be configured to quickly exchange batteries in a vehicle with a freshly charged bank in about as much time as it currently takes to refuel. But what about the millions of privately owned cars? The days of the 500+ road trip might be finished, unless every petroleum service station can also be converted. Recharging batteries simply takes too long for anything but commuter style trips unless battery technology is greatly advanced, either in terms of capacity or recharging time.

    Air travel might also be doomed, I don't foresee any electric 747's in the near future. Trains should be workable. I don't know a lot about cargo ships, but I guessing these might be problematic. Long haul trucks could also be tricky.

    Plastics could probably made from synthetics produced using some form of biomass, but this would be competing in supply for any legacy applications which would require biodiesel.

    I don't have the solutions to these problems, I just wanted to point out that alternative energy sources are only part of the solution to the problem of peak oil.

    ----
    The ultimate plays for Madden 2006

    boats are pretty energy efficient (none / 0) (#246)
    by nietsch on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 12:31:02 PM EST

    I don't know a lot about cargo ships, but I guessing these might be problematic. No, not really. Did you know there where cargo ships before the introduction of oil or fossil fuels? They were called sailing ships. They were driven out of business because ships whith coal or diesel fired engines were quicker and cheaper to run, but if the price goes up enough they might become economically feasible again.

    [ Parent ]
    Wind powered ships are already being worked on. (none / 1) (#251)
    by jrincayc on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 02:15:47 PM EST

    http://skysails.info/index.php?id=111

    [ Parent ]
    The bottom line is... (2.00 / 4) (#195)
    by alexboko on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 07:14:08 PM EST

    If you fancy yourself some kind of rugged individualist and yet you dismiss the possibility of a disruption in the oil supply as some kind of liberal tree-hugger propoganda, then you are a hypocrite. Why?

    Imag

    Because you are failing to provide for yourself, relying on external forces to protect you. Unless you are a scientist directly involved in developing alternative energies or a VC directly involved in funding the effort to develop them, STFU about nanosolar, fusion, orbital power arrays, and all that other Start Trek shit. Unless you are a government official or seriously believe yourself to have influence over one, STFU about what the government should do.


    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.

    thought (none / 0) (#226)
    by Vladisglad on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 06:08:23 PM EST

    I don't know if anyone mentioned the fact that the trend in our technology is that it annual becomes more productive and more efficient energy wise. 50 years ago televisions and cars used much more energy than today's average asian car or a flat screen TV. Oil engines of course gain more and more efficiency but still consume a lot. Now Im not an expert on the future of nanotechnology, but, if everything is being scaled down and becoming efficient on atomic scale then we will probably end up using less and less energy. If nanotechnology promises us television screens as thick as a piece of paper that can run on a single double AA battery then as technology progresses over next few decades we will become horribly more efficient in all aspects of our econonmy ranging from electronics to heating and even transportation. Of course the huge machines and factories might not benefit as much when it comes to having raw power to lift or push heavy things, but all other daily energy wastes might go away.

    Yes, but nowdays people buy more of them. (none / 0) (#237)
    by SoupIsGoodFood on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 10:51:39 PM EST

    When TVs first came out, a family would be lucky to have one. Nowdays, two or is common. Want to watch TV from your study? Don't bother moving the TV you have, just get another one. Same with cars etc. We live in quite a disposable society. And those TVs cost energy to make.

    People also take things for granted more and leave things on, not to metion the fact that there are simply more of us now.

    [ Parent ]

    Nano has the same problem. (none / 1) (#238)
    by alexboko on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 12:41:55 AM EST

    Nano face the same race-against-the-oil-clock problem as everything else.

    If we have mature nano before oil gets expensive enough to mess up the economy and destabilize society, it may buy us some time. Maybe a lot of time. But if the oil crunch comes first, it will delay nano and all other tech as people will be too busy trying to just get by.

    Funny though-- I bought a 2'x2' slab of 1/4" plate steel the other day, and I'm sawing it into circular parts for windmills. I'm going to end up wasting half the damn thing, turning it into piles of shavings and stacks of scrap pieces. I was looking at the scrap, and remembered Drexler's comments on the sheer wastefulness of bulk technology. If we had advanced nano, we could drop a metal ingot into a vat, and have it get rearranged into the desired part. Or just drop some ferrous ore into a vat... and perhaps the part itself wouldn't have to be as large in the first place... some kind of self-assembling piezoelectric nanogenerator or something... I sure hope nanotech grows up fast.

    But as always, I'm not betting on 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 ]

    rearranging metal (none / 0) (#274)
    by chroma on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 03:52:35 PM EST

    If we had advanced nano, we could drop a metal ingot into a vat, and have it get rearranged into the desired part.

    This process is called "casting" and has been around for a long, long time. I'll have you remember that it takes energy to break bonds and rearrange atoms in solids. More expensive than that, however, is the human effort required to design and make parts.

    To summarize, you should just have bought the parts from me.

    [ Parent ]

    D'oh good point. (none / 0) (#281)
    by alexboko on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 08:43:54 PM EST

    I succumbed to the nanomagic meme.

    You're right, in principle whether something is cast, milled, deposited electrochemically, or assembled by nanobots, the overall change in entropy is the same.

    Still, I somehow get the hunch that much more energy is wasted in casting and much more material is wasted in milling.


    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 ]

    excellent article (none / 1) (#231)
    by zenofchai on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 08:03:39 PM EST

    worth reading just for the term "Ergamine", and the rest is a nice bonus.
    --
    The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
    linky (none / 0) (#233)
    by zenofchai on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 08:32:56 PM EST

    some blog entry talking about ergamine calculations
    --
    The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
    [ Parent ]
    Oil and Organic Chemistry (2.50 / 2) (#239)
    by gmol on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 01:56:04 AM EST

    This is something I haven't really seen investigated (and I've posed the question to people who you think would have a thoughtful answer, but I never get anything).

    Forget about, for a moment, all of the petrochemical material products (plastics etc.).

    What about all of those pure, <500 dalton organic molecules that are used in flavoring, dyes, and medicine?

    I am really quite ignorant about how all those kgs of magical starting materials and barrels of solvents get to Aldrich and then to me; but I have never seen anyone tell me how the rate of

    a)Drug discovery
    b)Drug availability

    will be affected by an oil shortage.

    I see some labs go to great lengths to recycle solvents etc., I can't imagine what is going to happen when this stuff will start getting really expensive.  Will there be subsidies to suppport the discoverey of new molecules?  Will we be able to correlate decreases in grant funding of molecular discoverey directly with the price of starting materials?

    The answer I usually get is that "no one plans much farther than 5 years down the road, we will deal with it when we can see it coming".

    I guess that is all you can do.

    Your concerns are justified. (none / 1) (#240)
    by Apuleius on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 02:52:38 AM EST

    There is a lot of research going on into making standard chemical feedstocks out of oil crops like canola (and these are not much more chemically heretogenous than crude oil, after all). But it doesn't answer every concern. On the other hand, oil scarcity is bound to result in chemical operations being a higher priority for what oil remains. So we could muddle through.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    fine chemicals have nothing to fear (none / 1) (#300)
    by Polverone on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 06:39:48 PM EST

    The retail cost of cutting-edge drugs is maybe, what, 100+ times material production costs due to patents? Looking at the different prices on brand-name aspirin and bulk agricultural acetylsalicylic acid, I'd say that even OTC drugs are easily selling at 10+ times material costs. A doubling of the price of bulk feedstocks would prompt the merest ripple in retail drug pricing. The material cost for dyes and flavorings is similarly a minute part of retail pricing in products that use dyes and flavorings.

    Aldrich has already tremendously marked up the prices on common chemicals like methanol, toluene, dichloromethane, pentane, etc. They could similarly pass on a steep rise in bulk material production costs and you'd barely see the prices change in your catalog.

    There's far more risk in applications that call for super-low-pricing, basically transportation, where the chemicals are so cheap that you're just burning them. Civilization wouldn't fall apart if gas went to $8/gal, but it wouldn't be an unnoticed blip either.

    Anyway, the technology already exists to convert coal to petroleum-like fuels and feedstocks at a price that would actually undercut current-day pricing on natural petroleum. The problem is that the plants are capital-intensive and could become huge white elephants if oil prices fall again like they did following the last energy crisis, so private investors are generally wary. South Africa has been making petroleum-like chemicals from coal for decades, and China is starting to use similar technology too, but their ventures are backed by their governments. Look in Ullmann's encyclopedia of industrial chemistry under 'coal liquefication' to see how it can work.
    --
    It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
    [ Parent ]

    i have the solution (1.25 / 4) (#243)
    by the77x42 on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 03:59:12 AM EST

    see i got to thinking that nuclear fission is a great source of energy, but the damn terrorists are certainly going to try and sabotage it because we still want to invade countries to get oil to make money for my campaign sponsors.

    then i thought, hey, we have this missle defense shield! what we could do is kick everyone out of utah -- no wait, that's a red state... new mexico then... and then we would also have grounds to build a wall along the border to stave off the communist wetbacks. anyway, we kick everyone out of new mexico and make it the 'power' state. essentially texas because workers will be allowed to carry guns to shoot any muslims they come across. we have all the security we need, because that's the only concern we have, and fill the state with nuclear power plants.

    the best part about the whole thing is that we'll finally have enough plutonium lying around to travel back in time in my delorian and win the crusades fair and square, securing our place in the middle east!

    so then there's this problem about waste. firing it all into the sun or the moon or canada (that place WAAAAY north of here) probably isn't a good idea because it will take too much energy to transport. so what i did was come up with this new diet and lifestyle. see, you can be around all the nuclear waste you want. sure, conventional 'science' says it's bad for you, but the trick is to cut out the organic stuff at the same time. you then turn your body into a waste-burning machine and you can tolerate the high levels of radioactive material!

    i've been having deep conversations with god about this and my mom thinks i'm a genious, so i think i'm going to go ahead and make this policy now. fuck congress.


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

    Electrically powered mining equipment (none / 1) (#247)
    by jrincayc on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 12:38:51 PM EST

    An interesting thing that I found out by reading the book Infrasturcture: A field guide to the industrial landscape, is that much of open pit mining and strip mining uses electricity to power the draglines and other large equipment. There is a great picture on page 25 of a tractor with the job of keeping the machine's power cord from getting snagged by other equipment. In short, it is possible to use electricity to power mining equipment and other things that we don't usually think of as electrically powerable, and for some cases is already cheaper than using diesel.

    Underestimating Tar Sands (none / 1) (#248)
    by Armada on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 01:34:25 PM EST

    "With conventional oil, for each 10 gallons of fuel you buy, approximately one gallon was already spent in extracting, refining, and transporting it to the station where you filled up. When you start using tar sands, the ratio is more like a gallon spent for every gallon you obtain."

    I'd like to see a source cited here. I've never heard of this high of costs associated with tar sands by any credible source.

    Now, I HAVE heard that tar sands are expensive to get into, but there's at least one company in Canada that has been making a profit at it.

    Also, there is the fact that the current oil drilling and pumping technology is designed for oil, and really not all that intuitive. Just like with wind and solar and countless other possible technologies, the only reason why they aren't really cost-effective yet is because there hasn't been enough research put into them. The only reason research hasn't been put into them is because oil works just fine.

    I'm not worried, I'm willing to pay up to 5 bucks per gallon for gas, after about the 4 dollar point, I get the idea that it'll be a higher class privilege to be able to drive. At which point I can show off my higher class to move up in the working world.

    You gotta know where your priorities lie, and if Gas costs $5/gallon, you can be damned sure there is a REASON for it. Even if it is just to beef up some oil exec bank statement, it's still money that is being used somewhere.

    Google for "tar sands" and EROEI - 1.5 (none / 0) (#255)
    by Apuleius on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 12:10:43 AM EST

    one example.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Uhh.. (none / 0) (#273)
    by Armada on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 03:43:51 PM EST

    That website looks like it was made by a two-year old. If they can't make a website, what makes you think I'm going to believe whatever crap they write down on it?

    I can make a website that espouses bullshit facts/data too.

    [ Parent ]

    Fine. (none / 0) (#278)
    by Apuleius on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 06:54:38 PM EST

    Dude, can you not Google for yourself? All you have to do is keep going. You won't find a citable source giving better than 1.5 on oil sands. Here's another.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    The problems with the article (3.00 / 3) (#249)
    by OpAmp on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 01:38:50 PM EST

    First, let me congratulate the author for a well-written piece.

    Having done that, please let me give some criticism.

    First, let me say that I do not believe in economical collapse due to the Peak Oil. What I think we are more likely to see, will be that with the rising price of oil alternative solutions will become economically viable. The simplest example is that the Americans, who have always been blessed with cheap fuel drive unefficient SUVs, whereas Europeans, living with huge fuel taxes use much more economical designs. A more economical car, even with higher initial cost becomes more viable with rising fuel cost. The same argument can be used about switching from using car trucks to electric railways (powered by e.g. nuclear power plants) for long distance transportation. Etc. Personally, I believe that as time progresses natural oil will be slowly relegated only to uses such as air transport, where volume/energy ratio is critical. The cost of living would probably rise, but that will rather result in lifestyle change than a disaster.

    This brings me to another major problem I see with author's approach. Namely, I have an impression that the author is trying to find a drop-in replacement for oil, fails to finds it and concludes that we are awaiting doom. I disagree. The conclusion that there is no drop-in replacement for oil, is valid. However, one should not conclude that it means the imminent collapse of civilisation. The author overlooks the most obvious solution: diversification.

    A brief look at the current EU energy policies reveals that the EU administration is attempting to face the crisis by using a combination of alternatives. Except throwing money at ITER and fuel cell research, other policies are currently being implemented with the target of producing 22% of electricity and 5.75% of transport energy from renewable sources by 2010 (although one can dispute whether this target will be met, the direction is obvious). The point is that the EU is currently subsidizing research and commercial deployment of all renewable energy technologies, with wind energy, photovoltaic, solar thermal and biomas/biodiesel attracting the most commercial interest. This is combined with financing energy conservation efforts and railway transport. The overall image is clear.

    While it is true that renewable energy is currently commercially viable in Europe mostly because of government involvement (subsidizing, tax breaks, etc.), its economics looks better every day with the rising price of oil.

    A final note. The author has overlooked the possibility of synthetic fuel production from coal. The technology has been used on industrial scale in Germany during WW2 and is still used contemporarily in South Africa. I have read an analysis recently indicating that large scale industrial production in Europe would be viable at today's oil prices and could buy us some more time given our still relatively large coal reserves. Granted, this is still fossil fuel process, but it is still some alternative until we eliminate omnipresent internal combustion engines.

    No! (none / 0) (#253)
    by OldCoder on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 06:13:20 PM EST

    The article isn't predicting doom or disaster. Just a price rise. You're attacking a red herring or a straw man. Possibly a straw woman. RTFA.

    --
    By reading this signature, you have agreed.
    Copyright © 2004 OldCoder
    [ Parent ]
    RTFLP (Last Paragraph) n/t (none / 0) (#270)
    by OpAmp on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 10:59:52 AM EST



    [ Parent ]
    That is not doom or disaster. (NT) (none / 0) (#275)
    by Apuleius on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 03:52:46 PM EST




    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Its a straw herring I think (none / 0) (#282)
    by The Diary Section on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 11:49:08 AM EST

    aye and they be cruel, confusing beasts...
    Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
    [ Parent ]
    Algae Dervied Biodiesel (none / 1) (#250)
    by StCredZero on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 02:03:22 PM EST

    No one ever seems to be aware of this option in their discussions of alternative energy. But it's an important wrinkle because:
    1. No arable land need be used
    2. No potable water need be used
    3. It is potentially productive enough to supply all of the vehicular demand in N. America
    Algae Derived Biodiesel

    I mentioned it in the article. (none / 0) (#256)
    by Apuleius on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 12:12:06 AM EST

    It is indeed a promising technology, especially if we can figure out how to combine it with carbon sequestration.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Kudzu, Baby, Kudzu ! (3.00 / 2) (#252)
    by OldCoder on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 06:11:01 PM EST

    Biodiesel from Kudzu. Thermal depolymerization of Kudzu. Direct biomass burning of Kudzu. One of these has to work. Kudzu is a weed that grows a foot a day all over the US South. Georgia and all that. They can't get rid of it and they don't know what to do about it. I say burn it, convert it, use it. How could you NOT mention it? Crops my foot -- use the weeds!

    --
    By reading this signature, you have agreed.
    Copyright © 2004 OldCoder
    It's gathering the stuff that's a bitch. (none / 0) (#254)
    by Apuleius on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 12:05:29 AM EST

    Okay, so you send out rednecks in pickup trucks to whack at the kudzu and gather the stuff up for conversion (TP or whatever the hell). The trucks will need gas. The rednecks will need beer. That damn kudzu is too widespread to make the process an energy win.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Gather it, use it on the farm Pritchard power (none / 0) (#286)
    by gbruno on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 11:03:09 PM EST

    Biomass is widely available, but low energy density. So it cannot be effectively trucked to a central generator, because of transport costs. Pritchard External combustion Stirling/Steam generators burn straw, crop residue, etc One model can be lifted by 2 men. If Pritchard steam generators are trucked to farms, the transport cost is once only, for the generator. The biomass thereafter is only moved a short distance from field to generator. In addition the electricity is not transmitted far. All over the world farmers burn the stalks in the field. Burning in local Pritchard steam generators seems like a great idea. The world needs a hundred million of these, starting now.. http://www.pritchardpower.com/Potential%20Applications.html

    [ Parent ]
    Thanks for the info. (none / 0) (#287)
    by Apuleius on Wed Jan 18, 2006 at 12:28:42 AM EST

    Looks interesting. Still probably less than profitable for farm workers in the southern US, but interesting.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    biodiesel from algae (none / 1) (#261)
    by user 956 on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 06:57:56 AM EST

    Did you see the article on slashdot about biodiesel from algae? amazing. Place some algae tanks on some coal-power-plant-generator-smokestacks, and you not only reduce carbon emissions by 40%, you generate viable bio-diesel, too.
    ---

    Top Chuck Norris Facts.

    (lazy sunday)
    [ Parent ]
    carbon emissions (none / 1) (#272)
    by gnixdep on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 12:49:52 PM EST

    You *delay* the carbon emissions, when you burn the biodiesel, the same carbon will be dumped into the atmosphere.

    I do agree, this is an excellent way of getting more bang for your carbon credit.

    [ Parent ]

    Biomass based systems... (none / 0) (#264)
    by Very Little Gravitas Indeed on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 07:17:36 AM EST

    Biomass based systems are very hard to push into a net positive energy source.
    As mentioned the energy to fertilise, harvest and process is great. It doesn't scale up well using current techniques for farming, whilst it could possibly if it was researched and invested in, you would still end up with a rather delicate balance, it would however be sustainable, if it was possible.

    [ Parent ]
    Based on poor farming practices... (none / 1) (#307)
    by mengel on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 12:05:54 PM EST

    People keep convolving these things backwards.

    We have a farming industry which currently uses ridiculous amounts of fossil fuel products, because they are cheap. So we use fossil-fuel based fertilizers, and replant the same crops on the same fields -- basically turning fuel-oil into corn, indirectly. When you examine current farming practice, therefore, it is inherently stupid to use current farming practices to generate fuel from farmed product, because we are making farmed product from fuel, and you pretty much can't win that way.

    However, if you farm organically, do intelligent, 5-crop rotations, etc. which is only a few percent more expensive than our current farming practices, you can remove the fossil fuel from the process right up to harvesting (although I can show you some Amish farms in Pennsylvania that haven't used any fossil fuel at all in 300 years -- horses run on biomass, directly, after all); and you could run the harvesting equipment on fairly direct biomas products (steam tractors used to be the norm 100 years ago...)

    So the biomass debates are horribly confused, because how you grow the crop, and what crops you grow, make huge differences in whether it is cost effective:

    • If you take, for example, the way most corn and soybeans are grown today, you discover it's a net loss. But
    • If you look at an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, you get crops deliviered to a local facility with no fuel consumption whatsoever -- the horses are fed with a percentage of the crop, and the farmer gets methane gas lighting from a vat of manure in the back.


    [ Parent ]
    The problem is labor. (none / 1) (#309)
    by alexboko on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 03:22:26 PM EST

    Wouldn't the petroleum-free farming methods be much more labor intensive? Therefore requiring more of the labor pool to be employed in agriculture? Therefore leaving fewer less labor for other tasks, including scientific research into better alternative energy sources, and the vast support network of people who aren't themselves scientists but keep scientific research running?


    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 problem of labor, but a different problem. (none / 1) (#312)
    by Apuleius on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 09:09:18 PM EST

    Amish style farming requires a larger year-round amount of labor, but come harvest time you don't need that many more hands to bring in the crops. Industrial farming requires very few hands until harvest time (which is when you bring in the underpaid, easily abused itinerant sharecroppers.) So you're right, but not only in the way you're thinking.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    hydrogen (2.00 / 2) (#259)
    by user 956 on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 06:55:34 AM EST

    is anyone still arguing that hydrogen isn't the future? I mean, seriously.. i don't know how you can't examine all the information currently available and not come to that conclusion.
    ---

    Top Chuck Norris Facts.

    (lazy sunday)
    Hydrogen (3.00 / 2) (#262)
    by nr1 on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 07:10:46 AM EST

    Hydrogen is not an energy source, only a means to store and transmit energy.

    [ Parent ]
    Hydrogen = fools gold. (3.00 / 2) (#263)
    by Very Little Gravitas Indeed on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 07:11:16 AM EST

    Hydrogen is an energy carrier not an energy source.

    Hydrogen does not exist in the form we require in nature. To create it we need to expend energy, the best way to make hydrogen is by cracking fossil fuels.

    Why would you crack fossil fuels when you could just burn fossil fuels? Saves wasting a lot of energy to create a carrier energy source.

    Second you can create it using hydrolysis of water.
    Again this requires energy, and is an even worse way of creating hydrogen than cracking fossil fuels.

    Now if you can ignore both those facts then you have the fact that hydrogen is so incredibly difficult to store. Hydrogen has the best energy density uncontained but contain it and it becomes awful.
    And that is the killer, once you get around to storing hydrogen the energy benefits just aren't there.

    Of course if we ignore the fact we have no sources of hydrogen, that it is so difficult to contain, maybe it is good because it only produces water when burned right?

    Wrong.

    Hydrogen will only create water as it's only product when burnt in oxygen, but that isn't what it is going to be burnt in, it's going to be burnt in atmospheric air, add to that the engine lubricants, and you are getting all manner of nasty pollutants.

    Of course you could burn it in a fuel cell, but then why bother when you could just use another energy carrier technology which is so much easier to produce and use to contain, and probably has a better energy density.

    So the answer is hydrogen is not the answer not ever.

    [ Parent ]

    Don't forget NIMBY (none / 1) (#303)
    by KILNA on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 03:02:26 PM EST

    The one thing it does give us is the ability to put large nuclear facilities in the middle of nowhere, where nobody will complain, and turn the energy into a prortable physical format fuel.

    [ Parent ]
    have you seen (3.00 / 2) (#265)
    by user 956 on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 07:19:54 AM EST

    Has everyone seen the effects of this on the dollar? Iran is threatening to trade oil in euros. I think this is the big reason the US is brainstorming an attack on Iran.
    ---

    Top Chuck Norris Facts.

    (lazy sunday)
    attack on Iran (2.50 / 2) (#310)
    by Peaker on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 06:56:24 PM EST

    It probably has more to do with the fact that they are islamic fundumentalists trying to become a nuclear power.

    [ Parent ]
    Utterly irrelevant. (none / 1) (#311)
    by Apuleius on Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 09:06:17 PM EST

    Currencies are so fungible that it doesn't matter in the slightest whether the oil is traded in dollars or euros.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Not really (3.00 / 2) (#317)
    by duffbeer703 on Sun Feb 12, 2006 at 05:56:57 PM EST

    Alot of countries peg their currency to the dollar, and thus need to hold huge reserves of dollars. If they can buy oil in Euro's, they'll begin to diversify and dump more dollars on the open market.

    This will be a bad thing for those of us who live in the US... hello inflation!

    [ Parent ]

    Yes, really. (none / 1) (#319)
    by Apuleius on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 03:20:14 PM EST

    Pegging currency to the dollar is done for reasons completely besides that of oil. Argentina did it in order to force fiscal discipline. Furthermore, for the last 15 years the Federal Reserve has all but begged the rest of the world NOT to peg currencies against the dollar. As for buying oil, the NYMEX sport market deals in dollars, but once you've obtained the dollars and bought the oil, guess what! The sellers immediately use those dollars either to get euros if they anticipate a strong euro, or pesos, or whatever might rise in value tomorrow. That is why the euro bourse is not a threat. (Besides the issue of hosting the spot market in an insane country like Iran..)


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    bullshit maths. (3.00 / 2) (#268)
    by Eivind on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 08:42:28 AM EST

    A single gram of oil contains the energy of a day's labor on part of a healthy man.

    How do you figure ? That is nonsense. A liter of oil releases on the order of 10Kwh when burnt. This is the same as 3,6MJ of energy. One gram of that is 1/1000 of it, so around 3.6KJ of energy.

    An adult person requires on the order of 15000 KJ/day, and will release the same amount of heat over a day. Now it's true that the amount of "work" a person can do is lower -- we're not even close to being able to convert food 100% to work, in the physical sense of force times distance. (neither is oil though it is closer)

    Still, it's clear that our day-output is *MUCH* higher than 3.6KJ. That would mean that say biking at an intensity of 100W for 36 seconds is all we can do in a day. That's very very obviously nonsense.

    Close, but Density of oil <> 1 (none / 1) (#277)
    by rpresser on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 05:09:28 PM EST

    Using a density of 820 kg/m3, I get 1 gram of oil = 1.2195 cc3.

    And I found one site  that claimed petroleum had an energy density of 45 MJ/kg. But other sites agreed with your 10kWh/kg.  So I don't know who's right.

    ------------
    "In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
    [ Parent ]

    Work as in useful work. (none / 0) (#279)
    by Apuleius on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 06:55:57 PM EST

    It is well known that the human body is not an efficient machine for doing anything strenuous. That got figured out around the time of the invention of the plow.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    temperature (none / 1) (#289)
    by BabyPeanut on Wed Jan 18, 2006 at 08:20:43 PM EST

    Oh this one is too easy. Oil's density is influenced by the temperature of the oil. Unless a standard temperature is used all volume and density measurements are meaningless.

    [ Parent ]
    Thermodynamics is all a liberal plot anyway. (none / 1) (#290)
    by alexboko on Wed Jan 18, 2006 at 09:28:38 PM EST

    Just like evolution.

    Trust nothing but the Bible and AM radio.


    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 ]

    Part of the problem is conservation rhetoric. (3.00 / 2) (#293)
    by alexboko on Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 05:53:43 PM EST

    The denial surrounding the oil issue is because people raising awareness of it usually only offer up one choice, and an ineffectual one at that: "conserve, you capitalist bastards".

    It's too late for conservation in the sense of preventing or greatly postponing peak oil. But still not too late to prepare. The message we should be getting accross is "We're not judging your lifestyle... do whatever makes you happy, but realize that the oil that was the 20th century's huge lucky break is about to start costing a lot more, so if you want to maintain your current standard of living you'll want to think about how to prepare for this ahead of time".


    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.

    Perhaps there is one positive aspect (none / 1) (#294)
    by PCnerd on Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 06:32:26 PM EST

    Perhaps there is one positive aspect to peak oil. Once the cost of transporting materials and finished goods skyrocket, manufacturing companies may have no choice but to relocate closer to the market they wish to sell to. That should mean many jobs would have be created as manufacturing plants are rebuilt near communities. It may also turn out to be, that the most efficient way to distribute merchandise will be to have many smaller plants clustered around communities, just as it was in the past. The days of the mega-plant serving the world from somewhere in Asia, may be numbered.

    IAWTP and, poetic justice. (none / 0) (#296)
    by alexboko on Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 11:24:16 PM EST

    The companies who were the quickest to sell you out will be the most deeply invested overseas and will face the biggest "onshoring" expenses.


    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 second age of sail (none / 0) (#304)
    by Lacero on Sun Jan 22, 2006 at 10:21:00 AM EST

    I would like to see what kind of transport sailing ships people come up if oil was taken away. With other modern technology there might be some very cool designs that weren't possible last time.

    [ Parent ]
    kite-surfing oiltankers ? (none / 1) (#325)
    by Eivind on Fri Jul 07, 2006 at 03:01:34 AM EST

    I've seen serious suggestions oil-tankers should carry huge kites, and deploy these for "pulling" when wind-conditions are favourable. It was claimed doing so would save on the order of 30% on fuel and the needed equipment would repay itself on the order of months.

    That qualify ?

    [ Parent ]

    A couple interesting articles (none / 0) (#295)
    by PCnerd on Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 08:28:48 PM EST

    A couple of interesting articles. Nuclear Sources: http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/factsheets/doeymp0338.shtml http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf04.htm Currently after three or four years in a reactor, the uranium pellets are no longer efficient for producing electricity. Spent nuclear fuel may be treated as a resource or simply as a waste. But it still generates a considerable amount of heat and represents a potentially valuable resource. Hence there is an increasing reluctance to dispose of it irretrievably. Evolving concepts lean towards making it recoverable if future generations see it as a resource. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spent_fuel_pool "...the Chinese are building a 200 MWt nuclear reactor to run on used fuel from nuclear power stations to generate process heat for district heating and desalination. ... Other research envisions a similar low-power reactor using spent fuel where instead of limiting the production of hydrogen by radiolysis, it is encouraged by the addition of catalysts and ion scavengers to the cooling water. This hydrogen would then be removed to use as fuel. [2]". Wind & Solar combined Source: http://www.economist.com/science/displayStory.cfm?story_id=4455446 "Harnessing artificial tornadoes as an energy source - Louis Michaud, a Canadian engineer .... has devised a way .... by generating artificial whirlwinds that can be controlled and harnessed. He calls his invention the "atmospheric vortex engine". ...His idea works on a similar principle to a solar chimney .... a tall, hollow cylinder surrounded by a large greenhouse. The sun heats the air in the greenhouse, and the hot air rises. But its only escape route is via the chimney. A turbine at the base of the chimney generates electricity as the air rushes by. A small solar chimney was operated successfully in Spain...." Sustainable oil An article at http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=38645 about oil spontaneously refilling old exhausted oil wells from somewhere deeper in the Earth.

    Many fail to realize how big an issue this is (2.25 / 4) (#305)
    by cbarcus on Tue Jan 24, 2006 at 03:43:07 AM EST

    This issue is important as it is fundamental to understanding US foreign and even domestic policy. There is every indication that the current administration has chosen not to deal with this problem in a way that would minimize human suffering.

    The issue isn't that the developed world is going to run out of energy, or that nuclear power is an important path forward. The world is not going to run out of energy and nuclear power is critical for the future. Oil is an essential component of power which drives the global economy- gold, drugs, and arms are others. If the price of oil rises too high for a long enough time, it will have massive financial repercussions. The United States is particularly vunerable as most of its infrastructure is dependent on cheap energy. What happens when people can't afford to get to work, or worst yet, there's fuel shortages because people elsewhere are able to pay more. The result is economic collapse. The United States is a huge consumer market, so economic collapse there will dramatically constrict the flow of dollars to Japan, China, South America, and elsewhere. Those dollars are required to purchase oil in most of the oil-producing countries. If either there is a shortage of dollars, or a tremendous surplus (the value plummets due to inflation), then producers will move to other currencies if possible. The Euro is an obvious choice now, and Venezuela even barters oil for services. Furthermore, if US dollars lose their value and the US market begins to dry up, there is less incentive to finance US debt. The US has built up a tremendous amount of debt both via trade (dollars flowing out of the country to purchase goods from China) and budget (parasitic military spending is out of control- Iraq war/occupation cost between $1-2 trillion + ~$500 billion/yr for military). I think this is an obvious attempt to try and maintain military and economic dominance in the short term at the expense of the future.

    While it is true that higher energy prices can encourage efficiency, at issue here is whether enough conservation can occur before a crisis. Energy prices can raise far faster than the global economy can handle it. Hoping that the "market takes care of itself" is both very naive and incredibly risky. Consider that the fate of civilization as we know it is in serious jeopardy.

    While petroleum geologists have been trying to raise public consciousness of this issue for years, the issue didn't break into the mainstream until 2004.

    To gain some insight into how the Bush Administration views things, please look into Project for a New American Century. I think there are very good reasons why the Administration has fought to keep that 2001 energy conference out of the public eye.

    For those who are familar with the novel 1984 may see the so-called "War on Terror" as a crude means of controlling the population and Bin Laden as Goldstein; the ever elusive "enemy of humanity". The 9/11 tragedy can be compared to the Reichstag Fire. On close examination, the official story of 9/11 does not stand up to scrutiny.

    For those who believe in a free press, ask the question who does the media serve? Who owns the media? For those who have studied Iran-Contra know how much the public is missing... "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." - Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." - Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Goering, before committing suicide at the Nuremberg Trials

    Peak oil = yesterday's news (none / 1) (#313)
    by dilaudid on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 06:40:54 PM EST

    182 days before this article you noticed that oil prices had risen significantly. You use a 200 day moving average of oil prices - and amazingly it rose to validate your claims. All that means is that oil prices have not fallen further than they had risen - your choice of figures is rhetorical, not statistical.

    Peak oil was futurology at it's worst - take a current trend and extrapolate it far beyond its validity - the same kind of unreason that led people to calculate that london would be buried in horseshit by the mid 20th century (all the horse-driven carriages, you see...)

    The reason oil is currently so expensive is because the price of all commodities had fallen over a 30 year period - investing in mining, oil production or particularly refining wasn't fashionable - which is why there isn't any capacity now. This meant that 5 years ago, when people should have been talking about the need to invest in oil production infrastructure, all the interest was in the internet miracle and how the Dow would hit 35,000 - remember that?

    In short - to predict the future, focus on how long existing factors will work together in new ways, not on extrapolating the previous 6 months. And I don't disagree that things will change - but I don't think I'd trust your predictions to be more relevant than your 200 day moving average.

    Prices have risen for 3 years now. (none / 1) (#314)
    by Apuleius on Sun Jan 29, 2006 at 12:42:32 AM EST

    The beauty of the 200 day average is that it gives you the price after putting it through a low-pass filter, thereby mitigating the effects of fast spikes and subsequent falls. 182 days ago the 200 day average was rising in almost a straight line. It plateaued at $60 and now is slowly rising again. Peak oil is not futurology. Futurology is assuming energy will stay abundantly available and making projections based on that. (Flying cars! Vacations on the moon!) Peak oilers are far better at pointing to uncertainties than their detractors are. As to the reason oil is expensive, first off, the price of all commodities is itself tied to the price of oil. All commodities require it to produce them. But that is irrelevant as far as your claims. If refinery capacity was insufficient, gasoline prices would skyrocket while the price of oil would stay constant. Instead, we are seeing the opposite. Oil is rising and gasoline prices are far more stable.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    Spot gasoline prices (none / 0) (#316)
    by dilaudid on Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 05:45:41 PM EST

    Sorry if there's some confusion - I was talking about the United States where spot NY unleaded gasoline prices (i.e. excluding tax) spiked to $3.07 in August 2005, and are currently sitting at $1.71, a rise of 62% on the year. That spike was effectively a tripling of the spot gas price over 9 months - equivalent to WTI crude hitting $125 per barrel - and is one of the reasons oil became a major issue in the US media.

    In the US, petrol prices are far less stable than crude oil prices, due to lack of refining capacity and the difficulty of storing gas. The reason that oil prices are high is mainly due to a lack of infrastructure - brought about by under investment.

    [ Parent ]

    About biomass (3.00 / 3) (#315)
    by C0vardeAn0nim0 on Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 12:38:02 PM EST

    you probably know that brasil is the worlds leading producer and user of biomass fuels, right ?

    we started developing the technology in the 1970s as a response to the oil crisis. this project involved sugar cane farmers (we already had plenty, mostly dedicated to production of sugar. we're also the worlds large producer of sugar), sugar cane mills (had plenty too, again, sugar) and a state owned monopoly in the extraction, refining and distribution of fossile fuels (petrobras. if you ever asked who were those guys sponsoring the williams formula 1 team).

    the project (called Pro-alcool) helped farmers increase the planted area (some, ok, lots of, deforesting involved), retrofitting and expanding sugar mills to boost production of alcohol, adapting gas stations all over the country, and of course: creating cars capable of working with a more corrosive, less energetic fuel.

    the engines were co-developed by the local car manufacturers (the most interested ones at the begining were the european ones. volkswagen and fiat. ford, GM and chrysler came up later.) and universities. the first batch of cars from fiat were simply awfull, to say the best. not only their cars were complete crap, several problems with the technology itself arrived. cold start was a pain, specially in the more temperate states in the south, corrosion was taking it's toll in fuel tanks, carburators, fuel lines, etc. and power output from the engines was really small for a high comsumption of fuel. later models from fiat, volks, GM, etc. solved most problems. for cold start, a small gasoline tank in the engine compartment would supply the engine, until a thermal valve switches the fuel to alcohol once the engine is warm enough, corrosion was solved by replacing the metal tanks with plastic, the steel on exaust pipes was replaced with stainless steel, carburators recived a nickel bath and the power output increased with increased compression rates (being less energetic, alcohol suports compression rates above 11:1, wich would make regular gasoline  detonate spontaneously), without afecting fuel comsumption.

    the improvements in the technology also  allowed the goverment to mix alcohol to the gasoline. today when we buy gasoline in a station, we're taking 25% of alcohol on the purchase.

    it was a smashing success... in 1989, 98% of the cars manufactured in brasil were alcohol models, from all big four manufactures (chrysler had stoped making cars long before that. they sold the remaining truck factory to volks in '85). the only one out of the alcohol project was toyota, but at that time they were only making light trucks and SUVs, both diesel powered.

    then we had our local version of the oil crisis. alcohol producers became greedy, and started chargin too much for the product. resources once destined to alcohol were diverted to sugar, in a time when sugar price was high. this economical factor almost doomed the alcohol technology. it wasn't social or technological, was purely economical. the result was manufacturers reverting to gasoline engines, and this lasted until a couple of years ago, when advances in electronics allowed flexible fuel engines. these high compression engines can work with any mixture of fuel, from 75%/25% mix of gasoline/alcohol found in the comercial "gasoline" to pure hydrated alcohol (alcohol with up to 7% of water). production of flex fuel cars now represent 80% of local manufacturers output. cars that run only on gasoline can be found brand new with big discounts.

    we're facing a new period of rising prices in alcohol, mostly because we're in-between sugar cane crops, but thanks to the flex-fuel technology, we don't have to worry about dry alcohol pumps making our cars useless, and if the price is too close to the gasoline, we can use the later if the gain in autonomy is satisfactory (flex-fuel engines produces more power with alcohol, but they give freater milleage with gasoline)

    now that you know about the history and technology involved, lets talk about thermodinamics.

    alcohol mills (sugar mills too) simply _DON'T USE_ any kind of fossile fuels to make their products. use of oil derivatives is mostly in the form of lubricants. they only use oil in the crop itself, but this ammounts to a small percentage of the total energy involved.

    you see, sugar cane contains a lot more energy than the one in the sugar. even because some sugar remains in the pulp after it's squeezed. this pulp then is dried and fed to the mill's burners, generating steam for the brewing vats where sugar cane wine is produced and the stills where the alcohol is distiled, with enough left to generate electicity for the electric gear.

    the oil used in the sugar cane crop and to transport the fuel from the mills to the fuel stations is a small part of the whole proccess, and it's getting better...

    last year, embraer (our local airplane manufacturer, worlds 4th largest) came up with an alcohol powered dust cropper called "ipanema". yes, an alcohol powered airplane. and the government started investing in bio-disel production from castor seeds, which grow in soils not suited for other crops like soy, beans, rice, corn or vegetables. the projects aims to mix large  ammounts of bio-diesel in regular diesel oil (like it's done with alcohol in gasoline), with large trucks running on pure bio-diesel in the future.

    in other fronts, our geography greatly favor the production of electricity from hydro-plants. we still hold the record for the largest, most powerfull hydro-electric plant (itaipu, which we operate in partnership with paraguay. it'll be the largest untill china completes the Three Gorges plant). so we're not that much dependant of thermo-electric power or nuclear.

    if it wasn't for those bio-fuel initiative, we'd still be importing oil from venezuela, mexico or saudi-arabia, but we don't. this year we'll be self sufficient in power generation for the first time. we'll have a small surpluss of oil, we already have surplus electric power, and thanks to exports of refined oil products, which sells for more than the cost of raw oil, the net product of our oil industry will favour us this time.

    well done, the use of bio-fuels could reduce the need for oil a great deal, making the current reserves last a lot longer, ensuring the production of lubricants, plastics, chemicals and the likes for a few more centuries until we figure it out how to produce them from other sources.

    http://www.comofazer.net

    No phosphates? No fertilizers? (none / 0) (#318)
    by Apuleius on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 03:16:17 PM EST

    Brazil is be pretty special. There is no place in North America that can grow sugarcane without using nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers. I'd like to know the numbers on Brazil. I'd also want to know about the extent of the slave labor problem on Brazillian sugar plantations.


    There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
    [ Parent ]
    British Natural Gas Prices (none / 1) (#320)
    by dilaudid on Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 02:53:34 PM EST

    As a further follow up - British Natural Gas Prices have just quadrupled. This is not because natural gas supplies have peaked - it's because it was considered uneconomic to build storage facilities for gas, and because there is no effective free market for gas in Europe where state monopolies control gas supplies.

    By the way Apuleius, I didn't realise when I responded you wrote the article. I have to say it's a worthy article - I am just concerned that the tone seems slightly at odds with the world situation. There is no crisis. Inflation levels in the west are at record lows, while real growth rates are as high as ever - this is not the 1970s.

    Global warming is a definite problem, but there are means you have described to address it. What you don't seem to realise is that with oil at $60 a barrel, people will find ways of making these methods work, and it won't be long before net carbon emissions really start to fall. If they don't, and you're right, then we'll need to start taxing carbon to artificially inflate oil prices.

    This has been addressed again and again. (none / 0) (#321)
    by alexboko on Wed Mar 15, 2006 at 04:27:29 PM EST

    The economy adjusts, but not necesserily quickly enough and smoothly enough to avoid things like blackouts, crime waves, civil unrest, epidemics, and even draughts and famines. Have all the faith you want in the market, I know I do, but start working on a personal preparedness plan just in case.

    Or to put it differently, see what you can do to be one of those people who find ways to make these methods work.

    Also, a carbon tax would be ridiculous, since then we'd be simultaneously subsidizing and taxing the same thing.


    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 "Peak Oil" (none / 1) (#324)
    by dilaudid on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 03:31:38 PM EST

    Interesting graph on Google trends. It looks like the peak for peak oil has past:
    http://www.google.com/trends?q=peak+oil&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all

    September 2005 was the peak. Demand of peak oil articles will now diminish as the human race finds substitute theories, and vast supplies of untouched peak oil articles will be left undisturbed in the depths of the subconcious.


    Peak Oil: the next big thing. (Part Two.) | 326 comments (319 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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