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Fri Apr 6, 2012, 06:32 PM

If fossil fuel use caused our population to rise...

will a fossil fuel decline cause it to drop?

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Arrow 24 replies Author Time Post
Reply If fossil fuel use caused our population to rise... (Original post)
GliderGuider Apr 2012 OP
slackmaster Apr 2012 #1
earthside Apr 2012 #2
izquierdista Apr 2012 #3
GliderGuider Apr 2012 #5
Dead_Parrot Apr 2012 #9
GliderGuider Apr 2012 #10
Dead_Parrot Apr 2012 #11
wandy Apr 2012 #4
izquierdista Apr 2012 #8
kristopher Apr 2012 #14
izquierdista Apr 2012 #18
kristopher Apr 2012 #15
wandy Apr 2012 #22
kristopher Apr 2012 #23
wandy Apr 2012 #24
Dead_Parrot Apr 2012 #6
GliderGuider Apr 2012 #13
Dead_Parrot Apr 2012 #17
XemaSab Apr 2012 #19
Dead_Parrot Apr 2012 #20
LineLineLineLineLineLineNew Reply .
XemaSab Apr 2012 #21
kristopher Apr 2012 #7
GliderGuider Apr 2012 #12
kristopher Apr 2012 #16

Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 06:37 PM

1. Good question. My knee-jerk reaction is "Not necessarily."

 

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 06:44 PM

3. Read the Smithsonian

 

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Response to izquierdista (Reply #3)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 07:09 PM

5. Yes.

My question is somewhat rhetorical. I expect the answer to be "yes", modified only somewhat by the growth in renewable energy.

Energy - especially fossil energy - has driven resource extraction, the construction of human habitat, and food production, all of which have created the necessary physical conditions for population growth.

The net energy available from fossil fuels will probably start to decline in the near future. That will be due to the post-peak declines in oil and gas extraction, and the declining net energy available from fossil fuels overall. The net energy will decline because the energy required for drilling oil and gas, as well as for mining tar sands, shale oil and lower-grade coal will continue to increase. The combination of dropping extraction rates and with the rising energy cost of extraction will reduce the amount of energy left over for non-extractive purposes (i.e. everything else we do).

So, the amount of energy we have available from fossil fuels will start to drop, and given the amount of energy we need to keep the wheels on the Great Bus of Global Industrial Civilization, I strongly suspect that wind and solar will not be able to keep up. As the energy available for mining, logging, manufacturing, building cities and growing food starts to drop, a concurrent population decline seems almost inevitable.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #5)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 07:56 PM

9. I'd argue that that affects lifestyle more than population, though.

The population of Bangladesh's still growing, and they make Haitians look like energy hogs.

Edit: Come to think of it, don't the high-energy countries tend to have the lowest population increase rates, and vice versa? It might even have the opposite effect for this point of view.

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Response to Dead_Parrot (Reply #9)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 08:11 PM

10. If it had the opposite effect, we'd be seeing world population dropping.

We're not.

There are a lot of factors that affect population levels, and while I can agree that high levels of energy consumption affect lifestyle more than population, the close correlation of the graphs is more than a bit suggestive. Everybody has a pet theory about population, but it's a multifactorial phenomenon, with a lot of indirect linkages. I suspect this is one of them.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #10)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 08:17 PM

11. See my post down thread...

...I think it doesn't so much directly affect population, as protect us from the things that do.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 07:02 PM

4. Try to think of it this way. Work with me for a moment here....

Fossil fuels are not the ultimate answer. A limited resource who's use fowls the planet, fossil fuels still work out better than 20,000 slaves dragging a chunk of stone in the sand to build a pyramid. It is a limited resource so we must move on.
As bad as nuclear is, we must utilize it while we still have resources (energy) to make it work. Most nuclear power plants in use now are of a 40+ year old design. We can do better now and we must.
Nuclear is NOT the answer. As with fossil flues it is a stop gap measure. Be that as it may we will need it to see us to the next breakthrough.
Think about it. A 60W lamp can be replaced with a 28W CFL. A 28W CFL can be replaced with a 12W LED. Although not moving quickly, if you're not a teabagger you can see we are making progress.
Power generation, either solar or wind or tide must follow the same coarse. We can improve on current technologies and even find other ways.
We need to use whats left of what we have now to go foward less we find ourselves huddled by a dung fueled fire in the back of a cave.

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Response to wandy (Reply #4)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 07:55 PM

8. Nuclear CAN be the answer.

 

But not the way it is currently done. There were some futuristic thinkers who came up with the right way back about 40 years ago, but like a lot of good ideas, they have to wait for the bad ideas to die a protracted death. The answer lies in building the plants deep underground, where they can be abandoned in place when they are no longer usable.

See http://books.google.com/books?id=LQsAAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=Rogers+%22underground+nuclear+power%22&source=bl&ots=Xx1coEO6Bc&sig=mx0Busu2II_UJvfLGAHcin0MyTQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=u4F_T--RA4be0QHHnI2JCA&sqi=2&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Rogers%20%22underground%20nuclear%20power%22&f=false

Had Fukushima or Chernobyl been even 100 or 200 feet underground, there would be no exclusion zone at the surface.

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Response to izquierdista (Reply #8)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 09:03 PM

14. Did you know the site of Fukushima was originally a cliff over 100 ft high?

They brought the site down to just above sea level in order to avoid the energy costs of pumping cooling water up to the reactors.

Fukushima Daiichi has a total installed capacity of about 4700MW. If they ran 75% of the time that gives us roughly 3500MW per hour 365 days a year.

If they are running about 500 gallons per minute per megawatt through their cooling system, you can see that the energy involved for pumping is not an inconsiderable line item.

3500 X 500 = 1,750,000 gpm
X 60 minutes= 105,000,000 gph
x 8760 hours = 919,800,000,000 gpy

The economics drove them to a risk/benefit decision to tear down the cliff.

The economics already don't work for nuclear so I don't think that burying the plants is a viable proposition.

We have cleaner, safer, less expensive, and more reliable alternatives in distributed renewables. We don't need nuclear.



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Response to kristopher (Reply #14)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 09:41 PM

18. Read the article

 

Most of the cost of nuclear is bound up in the containment. Once you rely on geology instead of man-made structures for containment, the economics changes.

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Response to wandy (Reply #4)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 09:06 PM

15. The renewable technologies we have now are more than adequate to power our world.

Spending money to build any more nuclear is just a diversion of resources that can be more effectively used with renewables technologies.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #15)

Sat Apr 7, 2012, 01:23 PM

22. Currently we are not generating enough power by renewal means to power our world......

This only means that we are not trying hard enough. We would be far better off investing in renewals than blowing off the tops of mountains to get coal! The real problem here lies with the likes of Charles and David Koch. They can profit from coal and as such continue to leverage its use.
If you think renewable technologies are good now, just wait until we get serious about it. That is when you will see some real advances.
We had best get started NOW while we can still rely on fossil and nuclear to power our society and science.
Time IS running out.

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Response to wandy (Reply #22)

Sat Apr 7, 2012, 02:02 PM

23. We don't need any "real advances"

The technology is just fine and we are well started on changing the nature of our generating system from one designed around centralized thermal to a distributed renewable grid.

We don't need to "rely" on centralized thermal, we need to shut it down as soon as possible. We could eliminate it in 10 years if the political will existed. The effort to tool up for WWII was at least a comparable undertaking and it was accomplished in 3 years.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #23)

Sat Apr 7, 2012, 03:03 PM

24. We are basically saying the same thing. I just wonder if we have those 10 years to make the...

transition. It's not just that we are running out of fossil fuels, theirs the small matter of screwing up the planet.
Right now we have the infrastructure to put renewable power in place. You can not make a solar array from a pile of sand by rubbing two sticks together.
As to advances....
I was their in 1980 when the common thinking was that their was no need for household PCs.
I was their in 1984 as the proud owner of the pathetic original IBM PC.
And where are we today? You're cell phone likely has more comput power than early mainframes.
Once we become committed to alternate ways to produce power, advances will just happen.
Someone will always seek greater market share by building a better device.
Unfortunately it will likely be used as a weapon first.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 07:39 PM

6. Possibly.

The initial increase was more to do with agriculture and medicine than fossil fuels, but more recently they've allowed us to shift food in bulk when needed. Crops fucked in the US? Shift food in from Russia. Crops fucked in Russia? Shift food in from Europe. Crops fucked in Europe? Shift food in from the US.

When that doesn't happen, it gets ugly. So the question is whether we can find a suitable replacement - 'cause local farmers markets are no damn use when the rains fail.

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Response to Dead_Parrot (Reply #6)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 08:37 PM

13. Of course FF drove agriculture to begin with

And it made possible the wealth (not to mention the steel and cement) that permitted the building of universities where medical advances were developed.

Unfortunately, the world's food system still uses about a fifth of all the oil. It's vulnerable to price rises and supply disruptions.

All our urban infrastructure relies on oil for both its maintenance and expansion.

The combined effect of failing rains and falling oil supplies are definitely going to put a crimp in the farmers' markets, whether the markets are local or global.

I think it's past time for each of us to look at planting a garden and tightening our energy belt.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #13)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 09:38 PM

17. Well, it certainly helped automate it...

....freeing us up to find more productive uses for out time like blogging and selling health insurance for cats, but I'm not sure one guy with a fossil-based tractor is necessarily more productive than, say, three guys and a wood-based traction engine. If we de-centralized population1 from giant conurbations to 'market town' sized communities this might go a long way to fixing it: Re-introducing communal harvesting would help, also2. We'd still have spare for universities et al so long as the system works.

(I'm assuming, btw, that our current taste for having food from half the globe away available at a local store is kicked into touch. I can buy goods from N. America, S.America, Europe, Asia and Australia just in the wine fridge. And I've got dozens of vineyards within walking distance. How fucked up is that?)

But this is just "local" organization. I think the unfixable problem lurks in those times when it doesn't work locally, and assistance is needed at the international & global level. Then, I suspect, you are pretty much humped.
=====
1Admittedly, alongside "If I won the lottery" in terms of probability.
2Assuming here that there's enough wood. I see the abolition of slavery roughly coincides with the introduction of mechanical (steam) power, and am pondering if it works in reverse.

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Response to Dead_Parrot (Reply #17)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 10:46 PM

19. In a pre-industrial society

having 10 kids and/or an army of slaves to work the land was needed.

Now a single tractor can do as much in a day as a thousand children, slaves, or child slaves could.

If we have no tractors, then we're going to need more raw labor for food production.

In a post-industrial society, I think it will make sense for people to have large families again. In other words, children will go from being a liability to being an asset.

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Response to XemaSab (Reply #19)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:16 PM

20. A thousand children?

Note to self: Stock up on vitamin E & Viagra before apocalypse. Also, extra linen. Get Barry white albums on vinyl. Wind-up record player.

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Response to Dead_Parrot (Reply #20)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:36 PM

21. .

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 07:44 PM

7. How do you account for population declines ...

...that we are seeing now which are attributable to post-modern culture's division of labor?

The point being that if you limit the choice of variables that might result in population decline to only those that are generally deemed undesirable (such as insufficient food production), then I believe you are missing our most likely path. Barring a global scale disaster, I see us moving into a period with a sustainable economic paradigm. Nothing lasts forever and where we go from there is wide open, but we have several cultural models that show us that sustainability is actually desirable based on normal human values, economically functional and achievable.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #7)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 08:20 PM

12. Can you show me a country that's exhibiting a decline due to the division of labor?

After all, division of labor has been going on for at least a couple of thousand years, certainly during the century from 1900-2000.

As I said to Dead Parrot, population dynamics are multi-factorial, and there are a lot of indirect effects that play a role. One might be, for example, Virginia Abernerthy's "Fertility Opportunity Hypothesis:

Abernethy's research has focused on the issues of population and culture. Her most famous work discounts the demographic transition theory, which holds that fertility drops as women become more educated and contraceptives become more available. In its place she has developed a fertility-opportunity hypothesis which states that fertility follows perceived economic opportunity. A corollary to this hypothesis is that food aid to developing nations will only exacerbate overpopulation. She has advocated in favor of microloans to women in the place of international aid, because she believes microloans allow improvement in the lives of families without leading to higher fertility.

I think she's generally ly full of crap, but it could be that in some places people are choosing to have fewer children because they have a growing sense that the good times are coming to an end. That's exactly what drove my decision to remain child-free, taken back in 1972 about when LtG was published.

I don't think a "sustainable economic paradigm" is possible until we hit a lower level of pretty much everything. Until then the operative paradigm is the maximization of Net Present Value, the commoditization of the human experience, and the monetization of everything in sight.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #12)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 09:11 PM

16. All of the post modern countries are changing the trajectory of their pop growth.

And Japan is declining.

The idea behind modern division of labor being a factor is that people don't need children for cheap labor or to care for them when they become elderly. With specialized skills a single individual operating within a modern economy makes the decision to have children or not based on economic ability rather than economic need. When you decided to forego children you did not incur a worry about who would care for you as you aged for you knew that our society has specialized resourced dedicated to that task.

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