7455Re: [carfree_cities] Is the oil dependence problem on the radar?
- Jun 22, 2004On Sat, 19 Jun 2004, Steve Geller wrote:
>Indeed, there's still coal -- The undisputed king of global warming
> There's still coal. There might even be some surprise oil formations,
> or some new technology to cheaply process marginal oil formations.
and filthy air. See the recently-circulated article in which we hear
the Shell honcho proclaim, "I'm really very worried for the planet."
By comparison with coal, oil is clean energy.
Considering the history of discoveries over the past three decades
(during which exploration technology has improved by orders of
magnitude), it seems quite unlikely that surprise formations, of
sizes likely to make a long-term difference, are out there to be
No doubt, recovery processes will improve, but there will always be
unavoidable *energy* costs associated with overcoming gravity,
friction, etc. Unless those costs are relatively low in comparison
with the energy value of the recovered fuel source, that marginal oil
is an energy *sink.* Not to mention the environmental damage
associated with production of oil from unconventional formations.
> If none of this takes place, we're simply going to have to get mostYep. Those, with other renewables, will have to suffice. Just don't
> our energy from something besides oil. There's still wind, geothermal,
> hydro, tides, waves and of course the sun.
imagine that 6-10 billion people are going to use these sources to
"enjoy" "standards of living" similar to those currently prevailing in
North America and Western Europe.
> And don't forget nuclear power. Maybe the members of the "nuke club"A fair amount of reprocessing could, of course, take place. It would
> will get together and reprocess spent fuel elements for another
> trip through the reactors, instead of making the stuff into WMDs.
have to, because, contrary to all of the 1950's nonsense about power
too cheap to meter, *fissionable* uranium is actually rather scarce on
We could certainly produce much more nuclear-generated
power than we do now, but there is only one way (unless you want
to wait for the Fusion Fairy) that it is even conceivable to
use it to replace cheap oil: Build a bunch of fast-breeder reactors.
Just imagine a world of greedy warmongers and clashing cultures
blessed with an unlimited supply of cheap plutonium. Pu-239 is *such*
useful stuff and, with a half-life of 24,100 years, so very durable.
Of course, even that nightmare scenario depends upon relatively early
adoption of a plan for all-out nuclear construction, and widespread
commitment to its implementation. It takes a lot of time, money and
(ever-scarcer and more expensive) *energy* to build nuke plants. The
last round of such building took place in a world of much cheaper and
more plentiful oil.
I'm afraid that those who expect technology or Fortune to save us from
the looming permanent energy crunch have unreasonable and unsupported
expectations. It ain't gonna happen.
If human civilization is to survive (I think it's a big "if"), it will
have to be in communities that use much less energy and many fewer
resources, while discharging a tiny fraction of the poisonous waste,
we Westerners do now. Consumer culture and endlessly-growing
material wealth will be history, or we will be.
So, imagine a carfree, post-industrial, sustainable city or town --
and go build it. Soon.
"Is it not a strange blindness on our part
to teach publicly the techniques of warfare
and to reward with medals those who prove to
be the most adroit killers?"
-Donatien-Alphonse-Francois de Sade, 1740-1814
Post Office Box 307
Corte Madera, CA 94976 USA
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