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Don’t Tell me Technology Will Save Us, Please!

Richard Embleton, Oil be seeing You
…Peak oil is upon us, or just around the corner. Global warming will continue to worsen as there are no foreseeable energy options that will allow us to replace our profligate use of fossil fuels. Global dimming, which has been weakening the impact of global warming over the past several decades, is now on the wane as we have declared war on the visible air pollutants responsible for it, clearly achieving a hollow victory in the process.

This will allow the full impact of anthropogenic global warming to become very apparent over the coming decade. But please, please, please don’t tell me that technology holds the solutions to these or other global problems, that technology will save us. Don’t tell me about hybrid vehicles, EVs, carbon sequestration, bio-fuels, bio-diesel, tidal power generation, thin film solar, the hydrogen economy, nuclear pebble bed reactors, clean coal, GTL, CTL, LNG, space mirrors, genetically modified GW-resistant plant species, scattering particulate matter in the upper atmosphere to neutralize global warming.

Don’t tell me that Monsanto or Dupont or Cargill will genetically engineer some new grain seed that will double global grain production and save billions from starvation. They’ve done enough damage with their GMO monstrosities to last forcountless generations. It is our pursuit of and overuse of technology, including our flagrant abuse of genetic technology, that has driven us to this cliff in the first place. A problem cannot be its own solution.

Tell me, instead, that people are learning that we must reduce our energy consumption. Tell me that politicians are ready to negotiate our lifestyle, with our blessing and support. Tell me that the global bullies will not invade or economically destroy more poor, weak nations that just happen to have fossil fuel resources. Tell me that multinational corporations are ready to put the health of the earth and the survivability of our future generations ahead of their greed for short-term profit.

Tell me that we are embarking on a cooperative global effort to reverse the trend of the past century and steadily reduce the global energy consumption per capita to pre-industrial levels. Tell me that governments throughout the planet are cooperating to dismantle the personhood of corporations and the easily abused economic and political power that grants them. Tell me that all air conditioners and furnaces are going to be sold with governors on them to restrict the temperature range in which they can be set. Tell me that the electric can opener has been banned.
(24 May 2007)
Richard Embleton is

Author of “Oilephant Down”. Owner Yahoo Group “RunningOnEmptyCA”. Thirty years experience in computer systems, much of it in the oil and petrochemical industry. Lifetime member of Mensa Canada. Ten years experience in health food industry, including my own store.

When the GRID dies . . .

Gilbert Schmidt, DocScience
We are wasting the most valuable resource that we have on this planet.

Instead of using fossil fuels to build energy devices that will be useful for hundreds of years, we are just burning them for a one time brief benefit to heat our homes and to drive our vehicles.

It does not have to be this way. Read what the future holds, not the distant future, but your children’s future and probably yours.

Because it is now so late, the solution will devastate the economy, but by not doing so, it will be far worse. When our fossil fuels [ oil , NG (natural gas) , and coal ] start to run low , we will lose the electricity grid. Think about what that means; no Internet, computers, lights, fridges, electric stoves, water heaters, TVs, telecommunications, radios, CDs, VCRs, clocks, plug in telephones, washers, dryers, computers, and anything else that you plug in. Your oil furnace uses electricity to run, but there will be nothing to burn for heat anyway. Even if we all had wood stoves, the forests would be gone in a very short time. We will truly be cold and in the dark.

It looks like the world will start to run low on oil in probably less then 10 years (r.1) and, like oil, NG is already running out in North America (r.2). You still hear people saying that we have coal to last for hundreds of years. This is very incorrect. Two new studies on coal conclude that, because of increased use of coal (r.3), worldwide, we will reach PEAK COAL in about 15 years (r.4) and then start running out. Nuclear has very serious waste problems that many people try to ignore.

Within 20 years, we will not just be running out of all the “fossil fuels” , we will be in a very severe energy shortage. It will be somewhere around that time when we lose our electrical grid permanently
(23 May 2007)

Come on in – the quicksand’s fine: my part in the energy crisis

Chris Shaw, On Line Opinion
Thermodynamics – the branch of physics concerned with the conversion of different forms of energy.

Entropy – a thermodynamic quantity representing the amount of energy in a system that is no longer available for doing mechanical work.

Let me admit from the start that I am a dunce where money is concerned. Many of the finer points of economics are just arcane mysteries to me. Maybe that is a serious handicap. Maybe not.

Trying to make sense of fuel supplies by observing market forces is tricky. Obviously there are people who profit from rising oil prices and those who profit by price instability. It’s like trying to get the ants off a carcass, to see how much flesh remains.

Let’s stick with the simple physical things that we think we know. We think we may have used the “easy half” of the world’s endowment of oil. In the best mining tradition, we have preferentially consumed the better grades of oil, as that is where the greatest energy profit may be had. But even the better quality oil deposits tend to yield their lighter fractions first, leaving the heavier, energy-lean residues to be scavenged later.

We know that the abundant poorer grades of oil contain less energy and more dross (tar sand is an extreme example). We know that they require more energy to be consumed in extraction and processing, to produce the gasoline and diesel we need. So dwindling oil quality is double jeopardy for the production of the desired article. By slow degrees, MORE energy must be sacrificed to liberate ever LESS contained energy.

No matter that we have enjoyed a plenitude of easy gasoline and diesel, that wonderful resource was never more than the “spare” energy left over after extraction, transport and processing.

It follows that as the remaining oil quality decreases, the supply of crude oil and the scale and pace of refining must increase for a steady amount of fuel produced. Yet producers are experiencing this phenomenon during a period of increasing fuel demand.

Now add the tyrannies of distance and depth to reach unexploited oil deposits.

Add the costly investment, relative to the yield of smaller oil deposits.

Then to make things really confusing, realise that it is oil energy which sets the value of money (especially the US dollar), not the other way around.

For example, if we wish to boost nuclear power in the teeth of dwindling liquid fuel supplies, we will discover that the “cost” of plant, mining, processing and other infrastructure will become uncomfortably high by present expectations. The more we try (and the more gasoline and diesel we burn in the process) the higher will go the “price” of the essential ingredients. It will be like chasing our own shadows. The same effect will plague the remnants of the oil industry itself.

And once burned, the energy is gone forever.

We could call that the Quicksand Effect.

A more ominous example of the Quicksand Effect is the present method of garnering oil by force of arms. This policy burns huge amounts of precious fuel, sinking us deeper and ever more rapidly. The US Department of Defense is the largest single-entity user (addict) in the world. Every tiny unit operation, from the largest aircraft carrier to a lace in a soldier’s boot, is created and maintained with high-quality energy. This leaves me wondering: Is the US military a high-tech superpower, or do I see a dinosaur stuck in a tar pit?

The harder we try, the more we sink. The faster we run, the more distant our goal … because our energy goal is actually behind us, and there can be no turning back. Shall we slow down, to see if it will catch up? Shall we empty the treasury into the bog in order to get a little more traction?

We have honed economics until it has achieved cult status in our western societies, but of what use is that cult if it departs from physical reality? Money measures the scope of dreams, but only energy can fulfil them. How then did the money dream catch us all unawares?

This is my theory: Money is the best way there is to put the greatest distance between our actions and their consequences.

No wonder money trumps science and ethics. No wonder we embrace it so.

Having thus discovered and admitted to this basic flaw in my tiny western soul, I turn to government in the hope that wiser heads might have somehow congregated at the seat of power.

I see no evidence for that.

I see only the usual tiresome Bronze Age pursuit of money, using raw political and military force.

I see only false leaders, false gods, false morality, bizarre economics and delusion masquerading as science
(12 June 2007)