Friday, July 01, 2005

somebody spiked the punch

The ramifications of Peak Oil are absurd.

This explains much of the knee-jerk criticism to the well-established model of Peak Oil. It doesn't mesh with our world as it has been experienced. People don't have a cognitive frame of reference for “running out of oil”; it has never happened before. (As Jay Hanson pointed out.)

People in the U.S. can tell you what to expect if kidnapped by aliens (they’ll probe yeranus), but would have no idea what to expect if Iran blockaded oil traffic in the Gulf, using their cruise missile capacity. (Where are the frosted flakes???)

Adding to a general lack of knowledge is the angry criticism directed at individuals who stray towards negative scenarios. My sense of self does not include a tin-foil hat, but an outside observer might perceive one nestled on my hairy pate.

For example, proclaim something perfectly reasonable, in a post peak context: “The airlines are going the way of the Dodo”, or “Gold will rise in excess of $1000 US dollars an ounce” and the big nets come out. Peak Oil – what dat?

Consider a simple negative scenario:

Shortly, we lose 8% of our oil production in a given year.
Subsequently, we grow 8% less food in the next year,
Human population shrinks by 8% around the globe.

Now, this absurd scenario is easily picked apart. (Liquid fuel could be allocated for food first.) Or, it is easily supported. (Rich countries control the supply; poor will suffer.) It strikes me that arguing over this scenario is pointless, because:

Peak oil is absurd in the context of our current civilization.
It ALLOWS for absurd consequences.

In that light, the simple negative scenario described above has moved into the realm of the possible. That is a very different thing from me ADVOCATING such a thing, as those who discuss overshoot are often accused.

Absurd, I tell you.
Be ready for anything.

17 Comments:

At 2:42 AM, July 02, 2005, Blogger honyaku said...

I think that you are absurdly right. All the geological data points to peak oil now or in a year or 2. But, there is no way of knowing what will happen. Anyway, it should be really interesting to watch. I live in Japan and there is still nothing in the Japanese media regarding Peak Oil.
Bill

 
At 7:29 AM, July 02, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your right. Even talking about it with friends and relatives has been rather difficult. People are truly clueless right now about what is coming in just a few years. There is a general problem of awarness first of all of the problem, and then, there is a significant preception problem. Most people here in the United States, or more specifically, California, seem to have a nearly fanatical belief in this mystical law of the evalution of technology, and BELIEVE that nothing really serious will take place, because there is always someone, some company, some product, that will make it better. I am begining to call this the United States "Titantic" syndrom, because even as we are striking the iceberg, even as people ARE getting into lifeboats,( gold,silver, scaling down, getting out of debt), there is this very stuburn belief system that continually says "but we CAN NOT sink." So, the automatic preception that people have today is that the concerns, worries, issues, problems, are completely over blown and a reflection of the person, not of the state of the world. Yet, everyday I see more and more evidence that this Peak Oil issue, is probably the single least understood, and most underestimated threat, to our current civilization. The disruptions are going to be giantic, and the consequences are going to be truly historical, but like the last days of summer, it is rude to speak of the coming storms of winter when everyone wants to just enjoy their last days on the beach.
egl9sun@sbcglobal.net

 
At 1:20 PM, July 02, 2005, Anonymous jmg said...

Good post. The reason peak oil seems absurd and unimaginable to most people these days, of course, is the modern faith in Progress -- the grand mythology of the modern world and the church at which most people nowadays actually worship. The myth of progress says that technology always gets more powerful and more available over time, leading to a society that's allegedly better for everyone. Peak oil flies in the face of that, and more -- it points out that progress is an illusion. We haven't become smarter and more powerful than our ancestors, not really; we've just been draining a vast but not unlimited store of basically free energy. One of the recent books on peak oil points out that a plane full of tourists flying from California to Egypt to see the Great Pyramid use as much energy for that trip as it took to build the Great Pyramid in the first place. As oil depletion takes hold, that sort of extravagance is going to stop...and so, over time, will most of the technologies that power our daily lives. Progress? We're on the verge of massive regress, straight back to the early 19th century if not further, and getting used to that hard fact is the biggest job we face right now.

 
At 10:07 PM, July 02, 2005, Blogger theragtopguy said...

Most people that I've tried to explain the concept to do dwell on 'technology will save us' philosophies. It's like the majority are in the 'Land of Permanent Plenty' and nothing will ever happen to upset their applecart.

 
At 10:38 AM, July 03, 2005, Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

These people need to be jolted into action.

Ask them if they are ready to pay 50% more to heat their homes each winter.  No?  If not, they are going to have to find ways to make do on less natural gas (note that I did not say "less fuel").

Is their house leaky?  Can it use new siding?  If so, this is the year to replace the windows, rip out those old sagging glass-fiber batts and spray in some nice impervious urethane (yielding a whole-house vapor and infiltration barrier too), and top it with another couple inches of foam board under the new siding.  Seal everything.

Can they heat with wood?  They may want to plan for this.  A water coil in the wood stove will make for wood-fired showers and laundry, too.

Do they have a southern exposure that's unshadowed during winter days?  Flat-panel solar collectors feeding in through windows are a nice, cheap, low-tech method of capturing free heat.

I think that the wood stove and solar panel might be great things to break people out of the apathy of despair; even if they don't feel handy enough to put in such things themselves, a lot of people are going to see themselves doing it.

 
At 1:17 PM, July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can they heat with wood? They may want to plan for this.

'heating with wood' is a nice mantra - until you remember how natural gas heating resulted in cleaner air back when the population was far less.

This spring there was a nice thermal-inversion in my neighorhood and for hours the smoke just 'hung there' from the less than 1% wood burners.

Your 'solution' of wood burning isn't a solution as it ignores the after effects of the burning. Unless home owners are to pump the smoke into the ground to sequester it too.

 
At 1:19 PM, July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flat-panel solar collectors feeding in through windows are a nice, cheap, low-tech method of capturing free heat.

Errr, the heat is already IN the building at 'this point' - so exactly WHY are you 'capturing' the 'free heat'?

 
At 8:47 PM, July 03, 2005, Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Get yourself a Blogger account and I'll explain to you what you've misconceived.  (I don't answer people who can't even be bothered to use a tagline.)

 
At 11:54 PM, July 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact we have a lot of experience on diminishing oil consumption. We have already seen much that will happen after the peak oil:

1) The oil production and consumption actually decreased in the 70's during the oil crisis (but only briefly).

2) We have seen a lot ovat societies in energy crisis: Cuba (after the collapse of the oil imports from Russia in the 90's), Russia after the peaking of oil pruduction there in late 80's, Romania (deep energy crisis in 80's), North Korea (severe coal crisis now), Argentina (economic crisis after the peaking of national oil production). Most intersting here is that the effects of the energy crisis were seen but not the crisis itself. So the peak oil will probably be a "non-event", but it will affect all of us.

3) We have seen many countries having fuel emergencies (WW I and II in Germany, South African sanctions etc.).

4) We have seen early energy crises during the coal age: the Great Depression in 30's in Europe was connected with a crisis in coal production)

5) And the most important thing: we see right now how people cope with very low energy consumption level per capita in Asia and Africa. And the Europeans have already 5$ or 6$ gas per gallon.

Yes, we really know a lot about the life after peak oil. The majority of the world population lives right now in a low-energy society (i.e. it is possible that the cities will grow as they do in the developing world).

And no, there is something we don't know: the world has never experienced a prolonged decline of energy consumption. These dynamic, long-term effects will be the most difficult to predict.

 
At 5:52 AM, July 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This spring there was a nice thermal-inversion in my neighorhood and for hours the smoke just 'hung there' from the less than 1% wood burners.

How was the wood burned? Throwing a couple of logs on a bed of embers, with partial oxidation throwing out a lot of smoke? Or controlled combustion of wood pellets ensuring a clean burn?

When the big energy crunch comes, people are going to have to take a close look at how they get their energy. If people want to piss calories up the chimney, that's their loss, but I would like to hope that when people realise they're going to have to resort to burning wood, they will be looking to get the most bang for their buck.

 
At 6:12 AM, July 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most intersting here is that the effects of the energy crisis were seen but not the crisis itself. So the peak oil will probably be a "non-event", but it will affect all of us.

I'm not sure how one can seperate the rising cost of energy VS the effect as you seem to wish to do.

If *ALL* that was going on was 'a rise in pricing' - then I doubt many of us would be spending time reading and posting to the internet. It is a lack of trust in our fellow man - as expressed by government, corporations and even citizens that has the people who wring thier hands wringing hands.



And to a different poster:
(I don't answer people who can't even be bothered to use a tagline.)

Looks like you DID post an answer. Yet again. Even though you claim to not post responses to "unknown" posters.

"The storage group’s focus for the next few years will be on empirical research, particularly seeking to illuminate the effects of high carbon dioxide conditions on well cements." (Huh. The 'injection idea' people don't even understand how the injected CO2 will effect the cement. )

“We now realize that in some likely injection locations, the injected carbon dioxide plume will contact several hundred existing wells. Because those wells could provide direct connections between the deep subsurface and the land surface, they are of obvious concern.” (Huh. So just putting it in a hole means gas might leave via a different hole? Who'd thunk it eh?)

Wonder how much cash the Shells and BP's will get for the 'filling' of 'their wells' with CO2?

"The promise of a future technological solution such as the 'technofix' of carbon sequestration clearly poses a real danger: it will relax the pressure to reduce fossil fuel use, as governments would find it a far easier option conceptually and politically than taking on powerful economic interests or people's lifestyles. And if it proves unsuccessful, after say a 25-year development time, it could be too late to start tackling the patterns of production and consumption that are at the root of the problem. " (Huh. 25 years and it still doesn't work. Why does that sound like fusion? Or 'hydrogen economy' Or flying cars? Or nuclear power so cheap you won't meter it?)

"If large volumes of stored CO2 were suddenly to leak, severe climate change would occur without even the limited time we have now for mitigation or adaptation." (Huh. Wonder if such has ever happened before?)

"A sudden release of naturally formed CO2 in Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986, for example, killed over 1,500 people in this way. " (Yup. Guess so.)

"There are particular worries about the stability of deep saline aquifers - which have much greater available capacity, but are poorly understood geologically - especially since (unlike oil and gas fields) gas injection leaves them at higher pressure than in their original state.16 There are also risks of forcing out saline water; contaminating drinking water aquifers." (Huh. You don't get soda water but salt water to drink with CO2 injection.)


"Another problem is that each of the carbon capture technologies require an extra energy input; estimated to be 15-37 per cent of the total energy used in a power station" (Yet, no EROEI WRT the cost to get that stored energy released as CO2. Once you get in the 5 or so range, wind and PV - Non CO2 sources are a better idea eh?)

the cost of technologies in particular is still too high, at $120-340 per ton of carbon. (Huh. And yet the biggest producer of CO2 per person can't be bothered to buy armored vechicles for the troops, make sure they have body armor, and pay for the veterans benefits in addtion to other "needed" items. And you want 'em to find MORE money to pay for CO2 'storage'? Yea, that's a "go" idea.)

 
At 6:28 AM, July 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How was the wood burned? Throwing a couple of logs on a bed of embers, with partial oxidation throwing out a lot of smoke? Or controlled combustion of wood pellets ensuring a clean burn?

Why ask such a question, if the original statement was about the smokey haze? Looks like you answer your own question.

When the big energy crunch comes, people are going to have to take a close look at how they get their energy.

Bull. They will look at the effect on the wallet. Wake me when the cost of energy is 'correctly adjusted' for the wallet.

If people want to piss calories up the chimney, that's their loss,

You act the calories cost them money?

but I would like to hope that when people realise they're going to have to resort to burning wood,

Actually 'people' don't HAVE to burn wood, they can build 'super insulated passive solar homes'. But new construction doesn't address old homes, does it?


they will be looking to get the most bang for their buck.

Buying pellets VS using paper, downed branches and whatever else one can find. Which gives 'the best bang for the buck'? junk mail you get and stuff you find *OR* pellets you buy?

 
At 10:22 PM, July 04, 2005, Blogger WHT said...

I just played with earth.google.com over the weekend. At just the time we can virtually zip to and from every point in the world, we have run out of gas to do it concretely.

In other words, too depressing a situation to consider.

 
At 1:23 AM, July 05, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Some of you anon's are pretty snarky, considering you are nameless. Consider using "other" so we can identify you from post to post.

My thoughts on wood burning, pellets or otherwise:

The population of the earth is relatively outsized right now. If people turn to wood as a desperation fuel, we are in trouble.

As soon as areas become deforested, they immediately become more arid and depending on the latitude, turn into steppes or desert.

This has happened repeatedly in the past. There was a forest throughout much of the (now desiccated) middle east.

burning wood does not make me happy in general. Turning it into ethanol also is a bummer.

Buy a sweater now.

 
At 1:52 AM, July 05, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Peak Oil will not necessarily mean rising energy costs. It will only mean that there are less oil available.

A deep economic depression could very well cut the oil consumption as much or even more than the supply will decrease. In this case the prices might even drop. Depressions are generally deflationary.

Note that cutting energy consumption can trigger a decelerator effect. For instance,you buy a new car after you have certain mileage on it, let us say every third year. If you drive less you can keep the car four years. You use less repair services, tyres and spare parts per year. Car production per year is also cut. By driving less you cut the energy consumption by a lot more than just the spared gasoline. But then you also cause somebody to lose his job. He stops commuting and ...

Cutting oil consumption is the easy part. No effort needed, it will happen anyway. Coping with the social and economic consequences is the difficult part.

 
At 1:59 AM, July 05, 2005, Blogger funkysmell said...

the world is done for!

 
At 6:54 AM, July 05, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coping with the social and economic consequences is the difficult part.

My fellow man is why *I* worry about Peak Energy (oil)

But let me quote from the urbansurvival.com site today:

. About 100 protesters at the G-8 have been jailed for their defiance. Some get it, others are just along for the riot. Remember, as we have pointed out previously, it was the rioting at the WTO in Seattle in 1999 that was a warning shot to the PTB that when the economy crashed, the people will be furious. Notice how "terrorism" wasn't "invented" until 2001? Notice that ever since, and we think not coincidentally, maintaining "domestic security" has become the major PTB hot button?

Comments like George's - which have a strong ring of truth - is why I do not trust my fellow man.

 

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