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Woebot
05-10-2005, 08:50 AM
Dunno if anyone stumbled across these threads I started:

on Wind Farms
http://dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=2236&highlight=wind+farms

and

on Nuclear Power
http://dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=492&highlight=nuclear

I've gotten very pre-occupied with this phantom of Energy Depletion. Like many people I have these visions of a breakdown in society at the twin hands of it and Global Warming.

It isnt so much the panic scenario (the UK can power itself with its own resources for something like 45 minutes!) but the unfolding misery of gradually increasing energy costs. Life as we knew it before becoming slowly impractical, descending gradually into desperation.

When I'm feeling positive about it (as is typical when you take these things on at a personal level, when my freelance work stretches months ahead of me and i've paid all the bills - not all that an uncommon scenario!) i'll reason that Wind and Wave Power and Clean Nuclear Energy will pick up the slack and the world will be a better place. This is, admittedly, a very rosy prognosis.

I wonder if our current era will become known as "The Oil Age" one of fantastically gross expenditure and waste. Whether people will look back and (rightly) see all our wars and political conflicts as oil-driven.

On the other hand I wonder contrarily whether the Energy Crisis will look rather like old Nuclear fears of the 50s-80s (CND-When the wind blows-Cuban Missle Crisis) in other words with their share of real disaster (Three Mile Island-Chernobyl) but largely phantasmal and feeding into scoiety's paranoias?

HMGovt
05-10-2005, 09:44 AM
Britain could meet a large part of its Kyoto commitments by blending vegetable oil (as seen at any supermarket) with diesel supplies. So all those gas-guzzling 4x4s on the road may actually offer a cleaner, more CO2-neutral alternative than the average family saloon car.

http://www.ravenfamily.org/andyg/vegoil.htm

Lichen
05-10-2005, 10:03 AM
But there's always a knock on isn't there? You need to de-forest and create horrific mono cultures to grow the veg to make the oil. We import alot of our vegetable oil from Indonesia, where the poor orangutan is losing his habitat. No such thing as a free lunch.

HMGovt
05-10-2005, 12:50 PM
But there's always a knock on isn't there? You need to de-forest and create horrific mono cultures to grow the veg to make the oil. We import alot of our vegetable oil from Indonesia, where the poor orangutan is losing his habitat. No such thing as a free lunch.

Rapeseed oil is considered one of the best to use and plenty of that is grown here in Britain. Are you referring to palm oil or peanut oil (I don't know if palm oil works as well, but peanut oil is already used in the developing world - herr diesel designed the engine to work on vegetable oil from the start, for use in what was then 'the colonies' and is now the developing world).

Lichen
05-10-2005, 01:32 PM
I run a diesel (about an hour in total every day back and forth from work). Paying for petrol would be crippling. The whole enterprise feels dirty and untenable. I may well give veg oil a punt. I'll look for Rapeseed though.

DigitalDjigit
08-10-2005, 02:36 PM
Dunno if anyone stumbled across these threads I started:
I've gotten very pre-occupied with this phantom of Energy Depletion. Like many people I have these visions of a breakdown in society at the twin hands of it and Global Warming.

I wonder if our current era will become known as "The Oil Age" one of fantastically gross expenditure and waste. Whether people will look back and (rightly) see all our wars and political conflicts as oil-driven.

On the other hand I wonder contrarily whether the Energy Crisis will look rather like old Nuclear fears of the 50s-80s (CND-When the wind blows-Cuban Missle Crisis) in other words with their share of real disaster (Three Mile Island-Chernobyl) but largely phantasmal and feeding into scoiety's paranoias?

Aye, but the Nuclear age is not over yet. More countries than ever have nuclear weapons and with Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war there is more reason to be scared than there has been since the mid 80's.

I have no doubt that this age will be seen as a time of "fantastically gross expenditure and waste", a Golden Age in a way. Right now there is simply no alternative transportation technology. Oil isn't getting any cheaper, meanwhile it will take easily a decade to replace all the petrol-powered cars. Even the tar sands which I thought may prolong the oil age may not turn out to be the "salvation". They require high-temperatures to boil out the oil and right now that is produced with natural gas. Natural gas is declining just as fast as oil.

There's this perception that the problems of the past have been solved when in fact they are looming larger than ever, simply overshadowed by new ones. For example I was suprised to find out that there was less grain grown in 2000-2003 than was consumed and 2004, due to good weather, barely produced enough to satisfy demand. Worldwide grain stocks are at historically low levels (at least since WWII). So the food problem which we consider solved is actually worse than ever because all available land/technology/water has been used up and there are more people to feed than ever.

Grievous Angel
10-10-2005, 10:51 AM
"Clean" nuclear, LOL!

D84
11-10-2005, 01:38 AM
Here's a thought - maybe barmy.

Why not stop driving cars? Put it in the garage and save it for the week-end.

If you need to get to work catch a bus or the train. It then becomes the government's problem (on second thoughts though I have severe doubts about our modern governments coming to the right solution).

What's wrong with solar energy? If every roof-top was covered in solar panels surely house-hold energy demands would be satisfied and there might even be some left over to feed back into the power grid. Furthermore the cost of the solar panels should come down as demand would be very high etc. I'm not good with economics but I feel that this complies with one of the basic axioms right?

Woebot
11-10-2005, 08:45 AM
Here's a thought - maybe barmy.

Why not stop driving cars? Put it in the garage and save it for the week-end.

well thats really how often i use my motor. at the weekends.

but i reckon we're at the stage whereby leading by example and making one's own personal contribution to the lowering of co2 levels in the atmosphere is COMPLETELY FUTILE!

try telling that to the developing world. or 95% of americans.

no i reckon its survival time.

blissblogger
11-10-2005, 01:49 PM
i think it was dominic who posted already about this article -- The exhaustion of our energy supply may end affluence as we know it. by James Howard Kunstler in The American Conservative
http://www.amconmag.com/2005/2005_09_12/cover.html

it's all about the collapse of everything we've got used that's based around cheap fuel -- from suburbanization and growth of malls and out of town retail outlets (a really big thing in the USA), to the whole global economy with its long supply lines (wal mart getting most of its goods from China; cheap fruit trucked up from florida or latin america) . his end line is "the world is about to get smaller again", envisaging a time when we've gone back to most people hardly ever flying (planes being the SUVs of the sky). you can imagine inner cities flourishing again, suburbs withering and become bleak and ghostly. food will be become locally produced and seasonal; the rebirth of public transport; the rebirth of the UK coastal resorts as holiday vacations for British people. The cost of air conditioning making certain parts of the world uninhabitable again - florida, LA, phoenix arizona.


the scenario reminded a bit me of this great s.f. book by Harry Harrison, Make Room! Make room!
it got turned into Soylent Green, the movie, but the book is far superior. In harrisonís original novel the soylent green is just the yukky food (made from soya and lentil) that most of the population subsist on, along with krill cakes. It was written in the late Sixties i think and is set round about now actually. In New york. overpopulation is one problem (okay that didnít turn quite as bad as they all thought, with actual declining birth rates in much of the West and a global plateuing mid-century predicted) but also more crucially are disappearing resources. Although itís not specified that itís because of fuel shortages making travel too expensive, most of the population does huddle in the cities, with huge numbers of homeless sleeping in libraries and other public buildings, or on the steps of museums and post offices. With such an excess of unemployed and desperate, human traction is cheaper than fuel-based and the city is full of pedicabs and human-powered vehicles, trucks tugged by people in harnesses. Petroleum-based products of all sorts are impossibly scarce--in the police station, an ancient plastic telephone is cracked and held together by sellotape. Water is rationed--you get a couple of minutes to shower. Foods that require a lot of energy to grow are scarce. Most people living on Soylent and other processed foods; meat is a delicacy such that butcher shops have armed guards. Dog is considered a special treat and steak is equivalent to caviar, the province of the super rich. There's a forgettable noir-ish hardboiled plotline about
a murder but what makes it good is the details of everyday life, the sheer dreariness and sense of total constraint in this overcrowded, resources-depleted, energy-poor future.

HMGovt
11-10-2005, 06:07 PM
We're all eating oil and when it runs out, most of us will starve.

http://dissensus.com/showthread.php?p=31244#post31244

Grievous Angel
11-10-2005, 06:59 PM
Hmmm, I'm not sure that survivalist chic is a good look, even if you're a blogger... (You'll wind up like Twist if you're not careful Matt! All doomsaying and Hawaiian shirts...)

HMG's on the money about role of petroleum in the food chain, that's a bigger "real economy" / technological threat than oil as transport. (I think HMG is more on top of the think tanks than I am these days.)

More on wind power in a minute, if the boys stay asleep...

k-punk
11-10-2005, 11:18 PM
Apropos Simon's post... the SF connection...

funnily enough just finished watching the first series of Terry Nation's Survivors, which is horribly resonant atm (the plague that decimates the world population cannot but remind one of avian flu)... and although oil supplies are not exhausted it amounts to the same thing since no-one can access it...

So many of the early episodes in particular are little essays in speculative political philosophy - what would be the best form of social organization in a world that has become small again? The series begins by considering various versions of Fascism before concentrating on the problems that the characters face once they settle and try to set up an agricultural community. In a rediscovered barter economy, oil/ petrol has high value not only because of its utility but as a highly exchangeable commodity. (One 'entrepreneur' who accumulates gold seems to have missed the opportunity to acquire the commodity that will serve as the 'universal equivalent', the gold standard, in the nu barter economy, 'black gold', i.e. oil).

Some of the most keening epiphanies arrive when characters realise that, because there is no long distance travel, they will never experience the taste of a banana or an orange again...

D84
12-10-2005, 12:08 AM
well thats really how often i use my motor. at the weekends.

but i reckon we're at the stage whereby leading by example and making one's own personal contribution to the lowering of co2 levels in the atmosphere is COMPLETELY FUTILE!

try telling that to the developing world. or 95% of americans.

no i reckon its survival time.

Fair enough. Government advertising campaigns are pretty useless really. But I think as petrol prices rise more people will be leaving the car at home and go to work on the bus etc., especially if it's a choice like eating well or driving.

I'm afraid that I'm not as pessimistic as you guys and I am often skeptical of the predictions of dystopian futures as much as I love to read or watch them. They appeal to a mostly male "survivor" mentality of the "last man" and a justifiable joy in seeing all our institutions and their tyranny of boredom and obedience destroyed... Where they show more tyranny, then surely we should take that as a warning and plan ahead. The other interpretation seems a little reactionary to me - not to mention a failure of the imagination.

Whatever happens I'm sure electronics will survive wherever there might be renewable sources of electricity. Some guy on TV said the other day: all our energy comes from the sun some way or another.

Sure there might be a hell of a depression for a while - as should happen whenever there's s a false economy - but humans are adaptable. Always remember that our society has developed for thousands of years without petroleum and its byproducts.

Perhaps the change will be a good one. Having more closely integrated but technologically and politically sophisticated communities could be a good thing.

tryptych
12-10-2005, 11:32 PM
Another quick SF link in the chain, to bring us back to Woebot's original post - I just finished Iain M. Banks' "The Algebraist" (not that great), and in passing one of the character's refers to this time on Earth as the "Age of Waste".

As for biofuels, the problem with that is of course it's not a long term solution, or even a mass solution. Workable for a small number of vehicles, but not seemingly for all. George Monbiot wrote an article doing the math:

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2004/11/23/feeding-cars-not-people/

This is for proper biodiesel however - but even just using a mix of veg oil in would be quite significant. Following his figures, even just using 10% veg oil in your car (as suggested by that link HMG posted) would require a million hectares of rape - a fifth of the UKs arable crop land.

Solar and wind are the future I suppose. Although there are other crazy options - someone had the idea of building huge glass domes in the Australian desert, with 1km high towers in the middle which would work by convection produced from the warming of the air trapped beneath the domes.

Of course, there's always fusion.. if we can work out how to do it at low enough temp/pressure.

Lichen
13-10-2005, 09:23 AM
Always remember that our society has developed for thousands of years without petroleum and its byproducts.

.

Öbut might have struggled to get off the ground without burning fuel of one kind or another.

D84
13-10-2005, 11:50 AM
Öbut might have struggled to get off the ground without burning fuel of one kind or another.

Such as? The scale of energy consumption has never been so large: the pollution and environmental degradation from CO2 emissions etc is surely a 20th century phenomenon.

Lichen
13-10-2005, 12:38 PM
Modern European civilisation (or Iron/Bronze Age) didn't happen without environmental degradation of one kind or another. I refer particularly to de-forestation for agriculture/building/war mongering/life in general.

DigitalDjigit
13-10-2005, 08:26 PM
Actually there's a theory that the Little Ice Age of 1450-1850 was brought about by the Black Plague which cut Europe's population by 1/3 and subsequently severely impacted agriculture.

D84 is right though, there's still plenty of coal around. Thing will change a lot but we'll still have a decent (from an efficiency/cost perspective) energy source for the next few decades. The industrial revolution happenned through coal and they accomplished quite a bit.

I think the oil shortage will really cut down on the standard of living and change social organization but it won't end civilization/industry or even long-distance shipping. Coal can still provide electricity and fuel for trains/ships.

Food supply is a big problem though. I am not sure if the resulting unemployment and freeing up of land from the end of oil will counteract the loss of fertiliser and machinery. It worked for Cuba though.

droid
13-10-2005, 09:28 PM
Im not so sure that coal is a realistic alternative to oil to be honest. I cant remember the exact figures, but I think world coal reserves are only slightly higher then natural gas, and if the generally agreed upon Peak year of oil production is indeed 2012 (though many claim we have already passed it), then were looking at gas and coal reserves stretching into the 30's or 40's...

As George Monbiot has pointed out, the real problem isnt the availability of short term alternatives, its the cost and difficulty of re-converting back to steam or gas power. Sure we can get electricity from nuclear power, gas or coal, but global and domestic industry, agriculture and trade depend almost exclusively on oil. We cant get the coal out of the ground unless the tools we use are converted to use non-petroleum based energy, and the problem here (as in every other facet of this crisis) is that there is no political or economic will to make that change and face up to reality - and in many ways thats the scariest thing...

Good thread btw. I have to admit to being a bit obsessed with peak oil for the last few years myself.. As a DJ its particularly worrying that one of the first oil derivatives to vanish will be vinyl! :eek:

dominic
17-10-2005, 12:54 PM
i think it was dominic who posted already about this article -- The exhaustion of our energy supply may end affluence as we know it. by James Howard Kunstler in The American Conservative
http://www.amconmag.com/2005/2005_09_12/cover.html

pearsall posted the article


it's all about the collapse of everything we've got used that's based around cheap fuel -- from suburbanization and growth of malls and out of town retail outlets (a really big thing in the USA)

even more distressing for americans, such development (malls, suburbs, retail outlets) has been the engine of the american economy (it ain't export led!!! )-- i.e., so when this all becomes impractical, then america will have to go through a very painful phase of adjustment -- i.e., unless it could prove just as "productive" (gdp) to rebuild the city centers, though such rebuilding will have to be fueled by something other than oil

so america will have to cope both with energy crisis and a seriously uncompetitive economy (no manufacturing base, and in the future no money -- after dollar collapse -- to import necessary supplies and good)

though perhaps global trade will be a memory by this point anyway, especially if america repudiates its debt obligations

HMGovt
17-10-2005, 09:38 PM
A report in the Sunday Times today ("Waiting for the lights to go out") (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2099-1813695,00.html).

Also an interesting bit on Norwegian news on my sat dish yesterday - we are spending a few million quid on a reasearch project with the Uni of Minnesota researching plant extracts as fuel. In the current (US?) fuel market the price difference is very small (a dollar was mentioned, I think for a barrel and it was in plant oils favour).

Might it not be possible to grow oil bearing plant matter on a massive scale in lagoons or in the sea (a shallow, sun-bathed sea like the Gulf of Mexico)? This would sequestrate more carbon in a given area than land cultivation alone. It would also regulate the surface temperature of the sea, which in turn could dampen hurricane formation. It's a wild speculation, but we could turn sunlight into fuel with oleagenous, seaborne drift-gunk and harvest oil at source (without the boring 100-million year burial bit).

Ness Rowlah
17-10-2005, 11:42 PM
Might it not be possible to grow oil bearing plant matter on a massive scale in lagoons or in the sea (a shallow, sun-bathed sea like the Gulf of Mexico)? This would sequestrate more carbon in a given area than land cultivation alone. It would also regulate the surface temperature of the sea, which in turn could dampen hurricane formation. It's a wild speculation, but we could turn sunlight into fuel with oleagenous, seaborne drift-gunk and harvest oil at source (without the boring 100-million year burial bit).


not only the that - that green bio-slush will probably also slow down an incoming hurricane (sucking up some serious energy), plus the oil infrastructure is already there (pipes, refineries etc) so it would be easier to get the whole thing started. Even if the idea might not work - it seems like a bloody good backdrop for a S/F movie.

dissensus - solving the worlds problems :rolleyes:

zhao
18-10-2005, 12:30 AM
my homecountry (Norway) will once again be a likely "priced assett" for the worlds superpowers -
we have oil, water, gas, hydro power, clean air (but a crap climate, that might change as well within the next 50 years).

it's the climate bit that worries me about a place like Norway... when the polar caps melt everything that up north is a goner in seconds...