To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence. - Sun Tzu

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Peak Oil II: The Long Kiss Goodnight

Given current reserves, we have 20-30 years of oil left. I'll generously assume that future finds will increase that by another 5-10 years. Demand is also increasing, though, so it's even less than that.

Anyway, with Oil it won't be so much a matter of "running out" as being priced out. Prices are staying fairly level in the $60-$70 range now, but expect them to skyrocket when, for example, we go to war with Iran; in any case, I expect close to $100/barrel by the end of the year. By the end of the decade, it could be up to $150 (and that's not factoring in the collapse of the dollar and catastrophic inflation that will result from the imminent depression). Think in terms of $5, $6 per gallon. By the end of the next decade, gas for car fuel will be inconcievably expensive. I base these numbers on my own shady memory of facts heard long ago, but investigation will probably find corroborating evidence. Specifics don't matter as much as the fact that, within the next half-century at most, we will not be able to use Oil anymore.

The only alternative that has any hope as far as I can see is produce-derived (corn, sugar, elephant grass) Biodiesel. But, from what I understand, it would take something like 7 times the surface of the Earth to grow enough crops to feed our fuel demand, according to thermodynamics. The problem is that this source derives its energy from the sun, and oil is basically millions of years of sun-derived energy compressed. Also I like the prospects of Coal-derived Methanol, but it's still a non-renewable resource, and much less useful than oil for other things. So we need to use less energy.

So, here's what we need to do to save civilization:
First and foremost, guarantee a good education to everyone in the world- Not for humanitarian, social, or economic reasons, but because educated people produce fewer babies, demographically.

Second, we need to implement off-the-shelf technology into all cars, trucks, and SUVs to improve their fuel efficiency. Ford, for example, could instantly nearly double their fleet fuel efficiency doing this. This will buy us more time to convert the economy to survive without oil.

Third, we need to immediately stop all urban sprawl into valuable farmland and ensure that all cities have sufficient nearby food sources, because there will one day be no such thing as a refrigerated semi.

Fourth, we need to begin what could be described as an orgy of building biodiesel refineries.

And Fifth, we should convert to Wind and Geothermal electricity production.

Also I reccommend building underground- Sure, it's more expensive initially, but the energy savings from all that dirt insulation is more than worth it. Also, this frees up more surface for farming close to or inside cities, reducing energy use by reducing transportation distance.

This isn't like in Civilization where technology is going to just keep getting better and better- Before the end of the century, we will regress. Prepare for the long, slow slide backwards.


Blogger ronsta said...

just spent $40 on gas...that's about $240 a month for me. can't afford it. hate bush and hate dependency on oil...but like all people, i'll swallow it and smile just so i can do my 60 mile commute to a shitty job.


4:27 PM, April 17, 2006


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