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Reply #46: Things having worked out O.K. in the past doesn't mean they always will. [View All]

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cosmicaug Donating Member (676 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-17-04 03:09 PM
Response to Reply #22
46. Things having worked out O.K. in the past doesn't mean they always will.
Birthmark wrote:
All quotes are taken from this site:

"Ultimately the renewable must completely fill the gap left by the depletion of oil, for the nonrenewable beyond oil which include coal, nuclear, oil sands, shale oil (so far an unrealized source), geothermal energy, and hydro-electric power, will also ultimately be gone."

Geothermal energy is going to be gone? lol When? A million years or a billion? I don't think that the earth is going to run out of heat anytime soon. The overwhelming majority of scientists would agree with me.
You're using a straw man argument. Clearly you've read the note which you quote below and should know that you're debunking something other than what the author intended? He claims that geothermal plants diminish in efficiency over time and clearly, with at least some arrangements, this must be true (you are using deep rock/earth as a heat sink and if you manage to change its temperature significantly due to excessive heat flow to your heat engine you will reduce the temperature differential and thus the efficiency of the engine). Now, whether that is, in real life a long term concern or not I cannot tell you but I can tell you it is not the physical absurdity you're making it out to be. The other issue is whether it is practical to put this form of energy into general, widespread use to a sufficient degree so as to actually offset enough oil consumption to make a difference. We don't know the answer (one clue, however, would be to note that if this essentially free form of energy production was very easy to implement in general, everybody would be doing it).

Birthmark wrote:
Similarly, I see no reason to suppose that rivers will stop flowing. I guess that I'm just not enlightened. I mean, after all I didn't even know this:
As to hydroelectric power, the same applies. You've read what he's written and you should know he's not claiming water will stop flowing. He's talking about a sedimentation issue (though, I suspect the timetable might be a little long --i.e. this probably doesn't make a great deal of difference in the big scheme of things because, if we are to be screwed, it will happen long before it becomes an issue).

Birthmark wrote:
"(Note: Dammed reservoirs eventually all fill with silt, and all geothermal electric power facilities show some decline to a greater or lesser extent. In the longer term, neither hydro-electric power nor geothermal energy for electric power generation is a renewable resource)."

See? I'm such a dunderhead that I thought that we could build new damn dams! Of course, I still think that since the author never makes it clear why new dams can't be built
As to the issue of just making more dams, that clearly ignores the fact that damns have associated costs with them which we may or may not be able and willing to pay (such as loss of living space, ecosystem damage, loss of arable land --that last one could become a biggie). This is not to say damns are good or bad. They have their place. The issue is whether the electrical output can be ramped up to a sufficient degree to make up sufficiently for the drop from oil based energy production as to make a difference. The other issue is whether it can be ramped up fast enough (damns --or most other forms of energy production, for that matter-- cannot be created overnight). We don't know that.
Birthmark wrote:
"There have also been some interesting advances. One is the production of oil from organic waste - which won't be running out any time soon. There are some interesting developments elsewhere on the energy front. (I'll see if I can dig up some links)
O.K., that can get just a little bit silly. It will be of help, there's no doubt about that. However, you should note that a lot of that waste has been made with oil in the first place and that you will never (I try not to use that word because it's almost always wrong, but this time it's right) get as much energy out of it as you put in. That leaves you with agricultural waste and begs the question of: whether it will be enough and whether it will be the best use for agricultural "waste" (remember, unless you think this process is magic, you won't get enough energy from it to want to waste it on fertilizer production).
Birthmark wrote:
But let's not let inconvenient facts get in the way of a good 21st century re-working of Malthus. After all:
The only reason Malthus gets a bad rap is because we humans hate to admit that the consequences of laws of physics have the very real potential of applying to human populations as well as they do to populations of bacteri in a Petri dish (newsflash: they do). Well, that and dogma led magical thinking by economist types such as Julian Simon.
Birthmark wrote:
"When one examines suggested alternatives to petroleum, two facts stand out. First, the use of oil and natural gas as a huge supply of raw material for myriad petrochemical products importantly including fertilizer and pesticides, is unrivaled. Second, energy is energy in a sense, as it is defined as the ability to do work."

Of course, this may be true. But the author has to find a way out of this unaccountable moment of clarity. Ah, here ya go!

"It is important to note that the end product of many alternative energy sources such as nuclear, hydro-electric power, wind, solar, geothermal, and tides is electricity, which is not a replacement for oil and natural gas in their important roles as raw material for a host of products ranging from paints and plastics, to medicines, and inks. But probably the most vital of all uses is to make the chemicals which are the basis for modern agriculture. Electricity is no substitute."

There is a logical flaw that is cleverly hidden in the author's contention. That is, that one source must fulfill all of oil's uses. This is patently untrue.
In my opinion, you're seeing a flaw where none exists. What you're replying to can be summarized with "electricity is no substitute", which is true. As to what would be a substitute, that is easy. Any process which ends up producing a mess of carbon chains of different lengths is likely to provide a decent starting point. The aforementioned process to turn waste into fuel (assuming it works well and scales up in time) could be one such starting point. Simple biomass would be another possibility. You still have to realize that it will involve costs which we may not be willing or able to pay (if you use biomass for fuel or, as a raw resource for raw materials at a greater extent than we currently do now, it'll involve diversion of crops for the purpose of feeding --this at a time when we'll have no fewer people to feed and a likely loss of productivity from lower usage of fertilizers).

Birthmark wrote:
Any reduction in the use of oil by alternative power for whatever purpose will lengthen the time until we run out of oil.

If we reduce our use of oil by say, 50%, then we have twice as much time to deal with the problem, assuming the problem actually exists in the first place. I'm not exactly clear on how soon that they say we will run out of oil. If it's 50 years at current consumption, then a 50% reduction would give us 100 years.
That's your biggest mistake right there. It's not about running out of oil. It's not even about human economies adjusting to an increasingly tight supply. The issue is about how the adjustment is likely to take place (is it going to be Mad Max after a massive die-off or is it going to be Shangri-la). The answer is that we don't know.

This is also true with various ecological doomsday scenarios. Anybody who thinks that they can mean the end of life on earth is wrong. The problem is that they may mean the end of life on earth as we know it where "not as we know it" may or may not be much fun at all (if it even includes humans --which in my opinion, it probably would though the question again reduces to Mad Max or Shangri-la).

Birthmark wrote:
Think of the advances that have been made in the last 100 years. Nuclear power was undreamed of! As was solar. 100 years is a very long time in our technological society. Of course, if we could reduce our use of oil by 90% (which is extreme, I'll admit), then we might buy ourselves another 450 years. I won't even attempt to guess what advances are possible in that span of time.
That things have worked out O.K. in the past (actually they haven't but at least we're still here) doesn't mean they always will turn out O.K. in the future. This argument only works until it stops working (and by then it's too late). Again, it's dogma led magical thinking by the Julian Simon types.

Birthmark wrote:
"A recent review of the future prospects of all alternatives has been published. The summary conclusion reached is that there is no known complete substitute for petroleum in its many and varied uses (Youngquist, 1997). The distinguished British scientist, Sir Crispin Tickell (1993), expresses a similar view: "... we have done remarkably little to reduce our dependence on a fuel which is a limited resource, and for which there is no comprehensive substitute in prospect" (p. 20)"

Note the clever use of the words "complete" and "comprehensive." There is no reason in the world to suppose that a single souce must do all that oil does. The replacement for oil might (and probably will) involve several substitutes, used for several specific purposes.

Certainly if we are to significantly reduce our dependence on oil it'll be through conservation and through expansion of energy production from other sources. The issue at heart is whether the present alternatives can be expanded sufficiently (and on time) to prevent serious problems. The writer of the piece you quote opines otherwise and you haven't presented a convincing argument to contradict that.
Birthmark wrote:
As I said in my first and much briefer post, Peak Oil is alarmist bunk.

Or not.
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  -The best thing about Peak Oil and the coming financial apocalypse is... Peak_Oil  Jul-17-04 12:42 PM   #0 
  - other: anarchic civil war.  taxidriver   Jul-17-04 12:45 PM   #1 
  - ...but when Jesus comes back, he'll make ALL THE OIL WE NEED...  The Zanti Regent   Jul-18-04 10:05 AM   #106 
  - No, we'll become Brazil.  iconoclastic cat   Jul-17-04 12:46 PM   #2 
  - That would be a GOOD thing!  Swamp_Rat   Jul-18-04 05:42 AM   #99 
  - Or we go back to the Gilded era with its robber barons  GreenPartyVoter   Jul-17-04 12:48 PM   #3 
  - Let me just say, with all respect,  BareKnuckledLiberal   Jul-17-04 12:50 PM   #4 
  - You BOTH are correct, but to varying degrees...  HypnoToad   Jul-17-04 12:59 PM   #6 
  - Put your double-layer tinfoil hat on for these  GreenPartyVoter   Jul-17-04 01:08 PM   #9 
  - Get the f*** outta here.  Peak_Oil   Jul-17-04 01:24 PM   #12 
  - i dont understand the signifigance of the map.  taxidriver   Jul-17-04 03:16 PM   #49 
     - Oh, there's a bunch of psychics out there that predict  GreenPartyVoter   Jul-17-04 10:04 PM   #87 
  - Maybe, maybe not.  Peak_Oil   Jul-17-04 01:22 PM   #11 
  - I gotta agree with you  Gman   Jul-17-04 01:04 PM   #8 
  - You are correct, sir.  indigobusiness   Jul-17-04 01:32 PM   #15 
  - I think you made a mistake ...  StandUpGuy   Jul-17-04 05:10 PM   #64 
  - Great point!  BareKnuckledLiberal   Jul-17-04 06:15 PM   #68 
     - Great post  StandUpGuy   Jul-17-04 07:10 PM   #73 
        - True again  BareKnuckledLiberal   Jul-17-04 08:22 PM   #76 
           - Damn I'm saving that one  StandUpGuy   Jul-17-04 08:45 PM   #78 
              - Can we? Yes. Will we? Toss a coin!  BareKnuckledLiberal   Jul-17-04 10:10 PM   #88 
  - Why will the horses be gaunt and sickly?  neebob   Jul-17-04 06:35 PM   #71 
  - Starving horses. And dogs. And cats.  BareKnuckledLiberal   Jul-17-04 09:20 PM   #81 
  - Don't worry  nose pin   Jul-17-04 09:54 PM   #83 
  - I second that  WLKjr   Jul-17-04 07:50 PM   #75 
  - Yeah, great,  asthmaticeog   Jul-17-04 12:55 PM   #5 
  - To lose is to win, and he who wins shall lose...  HypnoToad   Jul-17-04 01:02 PM   #7 
  - Peak Oil is nonsense  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 01:09 PM   #10 
  - Have you actually explored the subject or are you "just sayin'" ?  Geo55   Jul-17-04 01:28 PM   #13 
  - I've explored it in as much detail...  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 01:32 PM   #16 
     - Please give us a quick run down  shadu   Jul-17-04 01:38 PM   #17 
     - Here's some  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 01:52 PM   #22 
        - What about the argument that  Taylor Mason Powell   Jul-17-04 02:31 PM   #36 
        - What will really happen.  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 02:44 PM   #40 
           - Time will tell.  Taylor Mason Powell   Jul-17-04 02:50 PM   #41 
           - My sigline  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 02:57 PM   #42 
              - Hilarious!  Taylor Mason Powell   Jul-17-04 03:07 PM   #45 
                 - I have the best dreams of anyone I've ever heard of.  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 03:10 PM   #47 
           - You have offered good information on why a total  MiddleMen   Jul-18-04 08:09 AM   #100 
           - Backup for no mass die-offs  Birthmark   Jul-18-04 09:23 AM   #101 
              - I'm not sure what world you are looking at.  MiddleMen   Jul-18-04 10:33 AM   #109 
                 - OK, I see where you're at.  Birthmark   Jul-18-04 10:56 AM   #112 
                    - That's pretty cruel, I think.  Peak_Oil   Jul-18-04 11:15 AM   #113 
                    - But peak don't you get it.  MiddleMen   Jul-18-04 11:32 AM   #116 
                    - Oh, cool! I can envision the rich divesting themselves for the poor too!  Peak_Oil   Jul-18-04 11:57 AM   #117 
                    - Me, cruel? Nah.  Birthmark   Jul-18-04 12:29 PM   #118 
                    - You aren't being realistic.  MiddleMen   Jul-18-04 11:21 AM   #115 
                       - A whole infrastructure? Really?  Birthmark   Jul-18-04 12:31 PM   #119 
           - What won't really happen.  Peak_Oil   Jul-18-04 10:09 AM   #107 
        - Things having worked out O.K. in the past doesn't mean they always will.  cosmicaug   Jul-17-04 03:09 PM   #46 
     - hee hee! That's a funny comment, but  Taylor Mason Powell   Jul-17-04 01:43 PM   #20 
     - Please see post #22 above.  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 01:55 PM   #24 
     - Are you sure you understand the implications of peak?  Dissenting_Prole   Jul-17-04 02:02 PM   #27 
        - No, I'm really quite stupid.  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 02:06 PM   #29 
        - Supply/Demand  rustydad   Jul-17-04 03:02 PM   #43 
  - Peak buffalo was scoffed at, too.  indigobusiness   Jul-17-04 01:38 PM   #18 
  - Which of those led to an apocalypse, if any?  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 01:42 PM   #19 
     - Your right.....  Geo55   Jul-17-04 01:47 PM   #21 
     - what about reply # 20, birthtmark? eom  gpandas   Jul-17-04 01:54 PM   #23 
     - I responded in post #22 above.  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 02:03 PM   #28 
     - Only one.  cosmicaug   Jul-17-04 01:56 PM   #25 
     - For the buffaloes, maybe.  Birthmark   Jul-17-04 02:02 PM   #26 
        - "just just inconvenient"  Geo55   Jul-17-04 02:20 PM   #34 
        - Your claim of a need for a CONSTANT flow of oil is unsupported.  robcon   Jul-17-04 03:22 PM   #51 
           - I guess...  cosmicaug   Jul-17-04 03:29 PM   #54 
           - where you around in '73  Geo55   Jul-17-04 03:33 PM   #55 
              - Well actually, 1973 marked the date of peak oil in the USA  JellyBean1   Jul-17-04 07:38 PM   #74 
        - The mass-killing of buffalo was a crucial part  AlienGirl   Jul-17-04 03:21 PM   #50 
        - Most of the Amerind.........I  Blue Wally   Jul-17-04 04:27 PM   #59 
           - Exactly.  cosmicaug   Jul-17-04 04:47 PM   #62 
        - You know what the hell I'm talking bout.  cosmicaug   Jul-17-04 03:26 PM   #52 
        - You think we palefaces merely inconvenienced native  DemBones DemBones   Jul-17-04 03:35 PM   #56 
        - For the Plains tribes, the loss of the buffalo  Lydia Leftcoast   Jul-17-04 06:37 PM   #72 
        - I agree.  Birthmark   Jul-18-04 09:44 AM   #103 
        - Birthmark- Thanks For Keeping The Hysteria In Check  redstateliberal   Jul-17-04 09:56 PM   #84 
           - Thank you.  Birthmark   Jul-18-04 09:40 AM   #102 
     - Peak oil  indigobusiness   Jul-17-04 02:10 PM   #31 
     - Apocalypse  Dissenting_Prole   Jul-17-04 02:13 PM   #32 
        - Common use.  cosmicaug   Jul-17-04 04:37 PM   #61 
  - Great Short Article On Peak Oil Here  mhr   Jul-17-04 03:14 PM   #48 
  - Bike to work?  indigobusiness   Jul-17-04 01:29 PM   #14 
  - The best thing....  Dissenting_Prole   Jul-17-04 02:08 PM   #30 
  - For those of you who are interested in what the future will be like  mellowinman   Jul-17-04 02:17 PM   #33 
  - Hemp will be relegalized  drdigi420   Jul-17-04 02:24 PM   #35 
  - Then we'll be dealing with Peak Hemp!  Taylor Mason Powell   Jul-17-04 02:34 PM   #37 
     - Hemp is renewable - no peak hemp  drdigi420   Jul-17-04 03:04 PM   #44 
  - decrease in the population..  unhappy_guy   Jul-17-04 02:37 PM   #38 
  - What "Peak Oil" really is  BareKnuckledLiberal   Jul-17-04 02:44 PM   #39 
  - I see this as inevideble  Geo55   Jul-17-04 03:48 PM   #58 
  - Too bad it'll take 100 years to fix the disaster first  JNelson6563   Jul-17-04 03:28 PM   #53 
  - Gravy Train  seemslikeadream   Jul-17-04 03:41 PM   #57 
  - One word  Blue Wally   Jul-17-04 04:34 PM   #60 
  - Without petroleum-derived agricultural fertilizers  SOS   Jul-17-04 04:47 PM   #63 
  - I disagree with part of this  Massacure   Jul-17-04 05:33 PM   #66 
  - No separable causes  BareKnuckledLiberal   Jul-17-04 06:00 PM   #67 
  - A Population Die-Out Would Not Be a Bad Thing  Crisco   Jul-17-04 09:01 PM   #80 
  - From my memory of how nitrate and ammonia-based fertilizers are produced  muriel_volestrangler   Jul-18-04 05:20 AM   #98 
  - Mad Max  Mr.Green93   Jul-17-04 05:24 PM   #65 
  - I'd rather saw my own leg off  BareKnuckledLiberal   Jul-17-04 06:26 PM   #69 
  - As one who was alive in the 1950s  Lydia Leftcoast   Jul-17-04 06:29 PM   #70 
  - Why we are screwed  rustydad   Jul-17-04 08:32 PM   #77 
  - Maybe end up as a global scale Easter Island  Geo55   Jul-17-04 09:27 PM   #82 
  - "All in all, a better time"?...  misanthrope   Jul-17-04 11:10 PM   #90 
     - None of these had anything to do with oil  Lydia Leftcoast   Jul-17-04 11:34 PM   #91 
  - Don't you think alot of this has to do  nose pin   Jul-17-04 09:59 PM   #86 
  - I Think You're WAY Off on #13  Crisco   Jul-17-04 08:59 PM   #79 
  - You do know that Canadians  nose pin   Jul-17-04 09:57 PM   #85 
  - FYI Europeans eat horsemeat for I'm quite sure in Canada we RIDE horses  Valerie5555   Jul-17-04 11:45 PM   #93 
     - Horse meat is available at the IGA  nose pin   Jul-18-04 12:16 AM   #95 
  - The Problem with Applying Peak Oil Theory  Nederland   Jul-17-04 10:42 PM   #89 
  - Hubbert peak  rman   Jul-18-04 04:31 AM   #97 
  - Response  Nederland   Jul-18-04 10:00 AM   #104 
  - Translation:  Peak_Oil   Jul-18-04 10:29 AM   #108 
     - Good Summary (nt)  Nederland   Jul-18-04 10:47 AM   #110 
  - Could anyone believe how Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House  Valerie5555   Jul-17-04 11:39 PM   #92 
  - If Al Gore had been able to take his rightful place in the WH  gauguin57   Jul-17-04 11:45 PM   #94 
  - Chimpageddon!  Octafish   Jul-18-04 01:18 AM   #96 
  - peak oil is a political, not a technological, problem  treepig   Jul-18-04 10:04 AM   #105 
     - You're exactly right.  Selwynn   Jul-18-04 10:52 AM   #111 
     - Wow, that looks like a comprehensive list. Thanks.  Gregorian   Jul-18-04 11:20 AM   #114 

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