There is a great article in the April 7 issue of Rolling Stone, The End of Oil, which I strongly suggest should be read by anyone who owns/drives a car. I get into a number of discussions with treehuggers every now and again about the fact that there is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to fuel.
Of all the evils you can imagine, a world plunging into the dark ages in terms of transportation is one of the worst… especially for Americans. The article linked above talks about the very strong possibility that the world will run out of “cheap” gas by 2010 and what might (most likely will) happen when the world’s industrial civilization finds itself with an empty tank. Oil is used not only to create gas, but to heat homes, make plastics, make electricity, and power farm equipment (to harvest foodstuffs) among other things. If we run out of oil, frankly, we’re fucked.
The article also discusses the rather piss poor promise of cheap renewable fuels like hydrogen. While on the surface it seems like an answer to our oil-dependent culture, hydrogen-fueled cars are nothing more than slightly less evil sisters of the gas guzzler. See, the current crop of hydrogen fuel cells are produced by burning natural gas… a fuel who’s reserves are in worse shape than those of crude oil.
I’m not saying hydrogen isn’t a viable solution, but here is where the treehuggers will get their hemp thongs in a bunch: The other way to make hydrogen is through electrolysis of water using power from hundreds of nuclear power plants. No such thing as a free lunch remember? Maybe the Berkeley hillbillies are ready for a world without the automobile, but are they prepared to live without their I-Pods filled with their bootleg Grateful Dead mp3s?
Personally I’m all for the world collapsing upon itself. I’d like nothing more than to see the world’s oil-fueled economy fail. What will happen when the world’s oil producing nations no longer have the threat of oil embargoes to blackmail the US into doing their dirty work? It should be quite a explosive event let me tell you.
None of the current “green” energy options (solar or wind) will provide enough power to keep the industrialized world from goosestepping beyond 2020. For just a moment today, think about all the wonderful things man’s ingenuity has produced over the last 30 years (coincidently, around the same number of years since the last major decline in oil reserves). Computers, DVDs, CDs, MP3 Players, digital cameras, the Internet… now imagine what the world will be like without them. Pretty soon you won’t have to imagine that world, because it’s going to happen in our lifetimes. I’m not prophesizing about the doom of civilization, but instead a return to a less materialistic economy. One based on the common goal of survival instead of comfort. Are you ready?
8 thoughts on “boulevard of broken dreams”
That just ain’t true about windpower. California has enough wind to power us night and day, believe it or not. Hawaii has even more access to wind, and PEI is set up to be the first solely wind powered province in Canada. Create enough electricity, and you can make Hydrogen without nuclear waste piling up in remote mountain reaches and targeted by terrorist salvagers.
The midwest states carry enough wind to provide electricity for nearly the entire US, and the northwest states are mainly hydropower for good reason. The problem with wind is transmission lines, not windpower. No one wants to build them due to cost, people think they are unsightly, utilities don’t want the headache because they actually have to CREDIT people for the wind they “farm”, much like they currently netmeter solar. Imagine if everyone had a solar panel or two on their roofs, peak costs would drop dramatically, and solar rebates are ending in the next 2 or 3 years even if our CA gov wants 1 mill solar “somethings” to happen here. Also, if every gov’t building had solar panels on its roof, the gov’t, one of the biggest electricity users, wouldn’t be a drain on utilities for peak hours. If we could stand to see really big solar thermal field projects in the mojave, we’d also get the bonus of more California Desert Tortoises, whose babies hide under the arrays protected from hawks and overheating. But people don’t like acres of black shining PVC’s cooking oil in tubes, so they don’t want them; NIMBY& NIMDesert. Additionally, there’s a cool german co that has created “batteries” for solar thermal electricity generation: they pack special silos with different types of salts and the layers create an extra thermal insulation that keeps the solar heated oil super heated through the night, so solar becomes NOT just peak energy, but an electric producer thru evening as well. We could also stand to add small cogeneration plants to every heat producing factory, to generate their own electricity (lots of big factories use fuel cells because they are expensive, but cheaper than buying from PG&E, and the heat is refed into cogeneration plants, brill, non?) and that would cut down on electricity from fossil fuels in manufacturing. Incidentally, CA burns mainly natural gas, but it’s captured from dminishing antracite fields too deep to mine in Montana, so we tube ’em and suck it out, collapsing the fragile ecosystem structures in many northern states, not to mention the many tunnels and messes we’ve created from coal mining in general throughout bituminous mines in the east. Coal is the main source out of state for electricity, and we are looking at gas-to-liquid technologies in remote natural gas countries to make diesel, naptha, gasoline, and other fuels (tis done by catalysts.) And don’t believe clean coal mumbo gumbo, there’s no such thing. The powder waste is impossible to get rid of, and burning all the carbon just releases CO2. It’s like millions of years of sunlight in solid form released into the atmosphere. Bad juju. And don’t believe the “gasification” procedures, where they capture the CO2 and pump it into disabled oil wells. It’s crap. They don’t know if it leaks. They also use it to capture extra oil potential from said wells. Sickening how desperate we are for fuel.
Yes, nukes are the only feasible way to produce H right now, but solar and wind are possibilities if we chose to build the infrastructure. That’s the most expensive part, did you know that? Nope, CA is one state that would rather sneakily build coal plants on the borders of NV and AZ and pipe in electricity from coal plants located in pristine states than deal with an actual hyrdogen highway.
I agree completely with your comments, especially about wind and solar being a “possible” solution if we build the infrastructure. The problem is of course that it would not only cost billions of dollars to do so, but we’d still be using more combustible fuels during the interim. As I said, nothing comes without a price and in the case of wind and solar, that price might be too high to pay at this point.
Its also less than certain that we are running out of oil. I believe in 1919 the US Sec of State for Mines ( the equiv to Energy Secretary) stated that production had reached a peak and that after 1924 would see a decline in oil availability………
Since the mid 90’s proven oil reserves have increased massively not decreased. Partially due to exploration in Africa but also coz of more efficent exploration in the FSU. Secondly oil companies can now extract upto 65% of the oil from a reserve rather than @35% that they were achieving before…so we aint gonna run out of oil for a long time yet…
Neither of these facts undermines the fact that alternatives are required and in particular a certain country needs to get off its generally quite fat ass and try walking instead of driving to the mall, but as you say E!, the liklihood of ppl making this switch from comfort to commonsense seems unlikely. Which is perhaps why high oil prices are a good thing; if only they were also taxed properly then these jackasses could be really squeezed.
One things for sure, we’ve moved so far away from an agriarian economy, we’re fucked. Most people have no idea how to plant their own crops let alone own land to even bother. commercial farming has fucked our soil anyway. To go back to a a time without modern industrialization will be pretty screwed up. Mostly we’re looking at a lot of people dying.
Thats actually the biggest concern I have. Without corporate farming, the more than 3/4 of the world’s population will die… though, that might not be such a bad thing.
It was interesting hanging round western Asia; middle class, educated refugees died far faster and in higher proportions than the more working class or rural types. far too soft, unable to adapt to their new realities and unable to compete effectively.
I think you can extrapolate from that the likely fate of a bunch of pansy assed westerners if it all goes pear shaped….
You know something? The world is a machine. Greater than the sum of its parts, it keeps rolling right along, with or without human intervention. While I look forward to some kind of reckoning, the truth is that the people of the world are a rather resilient lot and always find a way to survive despite the obstacles placed before them. Intelligence and ingenuity are the two things that have made humans the dominant species on the planet.
the world as a machine. Agreed..which, to me, is why environmentalism is so self-centred. It occurs to me that people who blather on about “saving the planet” are really talking about ‘saving our version of the planet”. Which has to be impossible; we may be the dominant species now but, inevitably this will change. Destroying a human friendly version of this “machine” will be tragic for us, not for the planet, and will indeed be an opportunity for the next dominant species to step up and take control.
So we are intelligent and Im sure will come up with ways to prolong our dominance. I just wish we’d be a little more honest with ourselves.
Dunno where all that came from..its late…
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