Peak Oil: Say Hello Again to $100 Oil

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Darth_Yuthura, Dec 1, 2009.

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  1. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    And is this what you tell your kids?
  2. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    One must be realistic, in order to survive the human population needs to be significantly reduced.
    I also have little faith in sustainable alternatives to oil & other fossil fuels actually being seriously invested in and pushed into action until cars are practically dying on motorways and people have to be rescued. We are for the mostpart lazy and powered by greed. Big Oil companies and banks hold nations to ransom and have too much say in the decisions governments take. Until this is changed, something like Oil won't be replaced because they have too much at stake and will ensure it remains the number one resource.
  3. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Super, this is a fair question, if worded in a way that implies some frustration.


    No, of course not. What I tell them is that we are extremely wealthy by global standards and that as Americans we consume more than our fair share of resources, consequently we have a duty to do what little we can to redress the situation, including:

    1) maintaining a small house that is smaller than what we could afford because it was energy efficient and took up only the space we needed.
    2) buying a home in a walkable community. I do all my grocery shopping on foot. We all do as much of our travel within Chicago as possible using public transportation. We take the train to Michigan on the weekends when we leave the city.
    3) we went from being a two car family to a one compact car family - probably the single biggest step we've ever taken to reduce our ecological footprint. I tried to talk the family into getting rid of our one car but lost that argument.
    4) as a family, we decided to reduce our meat intake by half. I love meat, but America's meat consumption is unsustainable. The energy cost in terms of water and petroleum it takes to produce a meat-heavy diet is something like three times that of the energy cost of a vegan diet. So we have vegan dinner nights and vegan Saturdays. No one is ready to give up meat protein entirely, but we talk about it.
    4) we talk about additional steps we can take to reduce our home energy consumption, and I involve the kids to get their buy in on keeping the summer temperatures higher, the winter temperatures cooler in the house to reduce our electrical/natural gas consumption. (One of the things we've talked about and are considering for next spring as mentioned in a post above is installing solar panels to help heat the house in winter and possibly connecting solar panels to our hot water system to reduce natural gas consumption)
    5) we have taken steps to reduce our waste. We talk about goals for reducing the amount of packaging we bring into the house.
    6) we compost. Composting is part of the kids' daily chores.
    7) we started an urban garden a few years ago. Currently we have raspberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, four kinds of peppers, parsley, basil, cilantro and sage. Next year we're going to add green beans to the mix. It's pretty limited as our yard is small. My older son and I are trying to create a closed loop garden with everything but the seeds. We collect rain water to irrigate, we fertilize with our compost pile. We've talked about experimenting with a drip irrigation system to get more bang from the rain barrels and are planning that as a project for next spring. We got enough out of the garden to do some basic canning: pickles and tomatoes for pasta sauces in the winter. Probably only enough to last about a month and a half, but it was an experiment this year. We may buy more local tomatoes next fall and try to can for the entire winter.
    8) we buy local vegetables in season to try to reduce the miles traveled of the food we eat.
    9) I do annual advocacy - letter writing to my rep and senators about issues that are important to me, including ending subsidies for corn-based ethanol and supporting viable alternative energy infrastructure investment in Illinois and nationally. I've done two trips to D.C. to do Congressional office visits on energy/sustainability issues. I attend local government meetings in my home town where ecological issues are discussed.
    10) I invest in several alternative energy funds which have done very, very poorly over the last year.

    My grandfather was a farmer, and I learned gardening from him and my father. My strategy is to teach the kids some basic gardening skills, talk with them about my involvement in a local permaculture group and teach them how to think critically about their personal consumption habits. Mostly, I think it's been interesting for the kids. We helped start a gardening project at my youngest son's grade school, and I think he's very proud of that.
  4. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    Here we have 3 different outside bins for recycling, garden/food waste and other waste products. We have various bins in the house assigned for aorting rubbish to go into the outside bins.
    We collect rainwater in a large tank for the garden since hosepipe bans have happened in the past and may happen again.
    We have an allotment where we grow lots of food.
    My parents have considered giving up their car once they retire since public transport is free for them and it's so easy to get around London that way.

    Personally I am not a fan of going vegan, it just isn't natural. We are omnivors and therefore should eat as such. Plus, when you cut a lot out of your diet you need to take suppliments to give you all the nutrition you lose. If you eat a regular diet you will gain all that naturally anyway.

    My uncle is a world authority on combustion and has been part of the global council that looks into alternatives forms of fuel for powering combustion engines. During his annual UK visit (he lives in Australia) I ask how progress goes. He seems optimistic about it all, but he doesn't really say much about it.

    Fitting into the accepted quota of 2 Global Hectares as everyone should is not easy for someone living a western lifestyle.
  5. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Going vegan just isn't going to happen at my house, but Americans tend to have too much red meat in their diets. Cutting out meat for part of the week has been I think healthy for all of us.

    The additional 2 billion or so people over the next few decades is going to price a lot of the world's population out of the market for meat and seafood, so I think getting used to a diet that isn't very heavy in red meat or fish is practical.

    What really hurts us as a family from the point of view of our footprint, and probably more than undoes all the other efforts we've made is the transatlantic air travel. My wife is Austrian, and this was a serious, serious mistake in terms of permaculture. When I married her, I didn't think about the problem of not obtaining a local spouse. The petroleum cost of visiting far away family is tragic, and I think something for young people to consider: find a mate whose extended family is nearby. Plus, they will provide a handy community support structure in economically difficult times, a potential refuge from the cannibal hordes. Maybe spousal localization isn't the best thing for genetic diversity, but I'm very contrite about the carbon costs of having imported a spouse.
  6. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    The pattern is this:

    1. Jabba says something pessimistic.
    2. Someone else says something in the vein of : "But surely, Jabba, it can't be that bad? These and these fine minds say this and this".
    3. Jabba says something even more pessimistic.

    So the trick is to break the pattern by out-pessimisticking Jabba.


    Heh...I'm sorry I missed this the first time around. But it's the Jabba we know and love, and besides, what to do with all the leather biker armor and hand crossbows for the upcoming "Mad Max" era?

    But Watto, you also have to understand Oak Park. (if Jabba still lives in Oak Park) I wouldn't say Oak Park is pessimistic, but the residents there certainly aren't afraid to complain and/or take action. I'd say Oak Park is truly liberal minded, but without the drivel-focused California hippie mentality. Or to put it another way, it's more libertarian, but with a focus on community instead of individualism. It's a town that happens when 60's radicals grow up and become successful capitalists.

  7. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Luckily I can buy a gun now to defend my rain barrels from eco terrorists.
  8. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5

    I guess that if your scenario pans out, this is the key point. I hope your urban garden is within reach and defendable when the food riots break out. Also, what about electricity? I'd expected some solar collectors on the roof and a generator in the shed.

    Me, I live below sea level... if your nightmares become reality, I'm doomed anyway. No amount of gardening or canning can save me. I can run to the nearest hills, but there will be twenty million people running with me.

    Sounds like a dream, I'm sold. Will it allow a Dutch refugee family in?
  9. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Super, the Dutch are more than welcome. You would tend to reinforce our self satisfaction about how cosmopolitan we think we really are behind our sleepy suburban facade.
  10. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6

    I can out-pessimism him, I bet:

    In five hundred years, I think that we'll be lucky if we have a billion people on the planet living in something close to early 19th century conditions.



  11. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    That's the optimistic outcome if we continue business as usual for the next fifty years and rely on overshoot and collapse and the chaotic death of industrial civilization to do all the hard work.

    A different approach would get us to 1 billion people by 2050 and, with careful family planning for a steady state population and steady state use of resources, would allow for the continuation of an industrial civilization with access to modern energy and technology for almost everyone for the foreseeable. We need to find a way to kill 6-8 billion people within the next forty years. I'd say about 150 million excess deaths annually through mid century.

    There are a few options. Many of the famines of the 20th century were caused by logistics and denial of access to food. We could recreate those conditions for most of the population of Africa and the Middle East and the parts of Asia that depend most heavily on large scale grain imports. On top of that we could sabotage fishing fleets and, combined with the water resource problems we'll be having anyway, that should get us very close to our goal.

    Another option would be biological warfare, and this would be the most equitable solution. Engineer say, a hyper virulent ebola style virus capable of killing 80% of the population, but with a longer incubation period to allow for rapid spreading. Simultaneously shut down the CDC and WHO and any international disease response institutions that are designed to contain disease outbreaks.

    A third option would be one that would require more international cooperation. If every nation on earth, and Super, I'm taking this idea directly from Larry Niven, would hand out death sentences for everything from minor infractions like jaywalking and parking violations on up, basically get rid of prisons and replace them with rapid execution, we might be able to really make some headway on the population problem.
  12. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    Well see, the whole reason we're trying to control the population is in the end a humanitarian one....so that we don't end up killing each other over food and water and making life miserable for everyone. So mass starvation and releasing diseases into the population ultimately undermines your real objective.
  13. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    That's incorrect. The idea is to cull the population so that the human species has a second chance to enjoy a sustainable future. If we let the process unfold naturally, the human population will empty the earth of nutrients and resources like a plague of locusts, stripping the planet bare in its decades of peak population before an ultimate collapse, after which, if the species survives at all, there will be little left with which to rebuild a viable civilization.

    The alternative to the short term threat of extinction or a bleak stone age future is a radical program of extermination. Very awful self inflicted pain in the immediate near term to save the human race. A small, stable population of well educated, well fed humans with access to modern energy and advanced technology might actually have enough time to solve our longer term challenge - getting off the planet and spreading our species through the galaxy. That will never happen if the plague of locusts exhausts our resource base first.
  14. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Sounds like a dream, I'm sold. Will it allow a Dutch refugee family in?

    Yeah Dutch would be no problem. Except in addition to what Jabba posted, you have to really, really, really like Frank Lloyd Wright. I mean in the sense of waking up every morning and praising whatever higher power you believe in for the gift of architecture. Having a working knowledge of Hemingway is a plus as well, as Hemingway was either born there or moved there when young, I don't recall which.

    And this is way off topic, but an interesting fact about Oak Park was that the city government passed a law which outlawed any resident in town from displaying a realtor/for sale sign when you wanted to sell your house, based on the rationale that the transaction sign would made it easier for outsiders to move into town. All real estate transactions had to be conducted by word of mouth or direct request. Oak Park is a bit like France in that regard, in that it accepts all people, regardless of color, origin, etc.. as long as you adopt Oak Park's sense of community, or have family who were already there.

    The Supreme Court actually struck down the law when it ruled on a similar case. Oak Park does seem to have a lot of laws get struck down by the Supreme Court, but that's just me ribbing Jabba....
  15. whisk Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Sep 14, 2010
    If we can consider this, maybe we oughtn't to survive.
  16. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Whisk, it's the ultimate ends/means question, isn't it? If it were necessary to kill 6-8 billion people within a few decades to ensure the survival of the species, should we do it?

    That's a different question from whether we could do it, or whether it would matter if we did.

    6.8 billion people are already too many, and the world is deep into population overshoot. An additional 2-3 billion people will accelerate the ecological damage, and non renewable and renewable resource depletion. One third of the food supply for the world's population depends almost entirely on the fossil fuel inputs of the green revolution: petroleum-based farming and food distribution and the Haber-Bosch process for nitrogen. So far, GM crops have only added to the dependency on fossil fuel to keep crop yields high.

    When the oil supply peaks, the food supply will peak with it. When the natural gas supply peaks, the downward slope of food production will accelerate. When the last of the world's major ocean fisheries goes into commercial extinction, that downward slope will become even steeper. When grain bowls lose their irrigation options from aquifer depletion and glacial melting, the downward slope will become steeper still.

    Add to that accelerated climate damage as nations turn even more heavily to coal to try to mitigate the energy shortfall from declining oil and natural gas production. Maybe the one benefit there is that Canada and Siberia become the final frontiers for the last world grain bowls.

    Within 5-10 years, there will be another oil price shock like the 2008 shock, and we will see several regional famines that kill many thousands of people.

    Within 20 years, widespread regional famines will become a seasonal occurrence in parts of the developing world. Food export/import protectionist policies will accelerate the misery.

    Within 30-40 years, all the major industrial economies will be collapsing defensively around agricultural production, devoting a larger and larger percentage of available fossil fuel energy to maintaining the food supply, causing widespread wealth destruction and diminished quality of life. The world will indeed peak below 9 billion people, and for the first time since the 1400s, the death rate will begin to exceed the birth rate. 2-3 billion excess deaths will occur worldwide between 2040 and 2060 and by 2100, the global population will be less than 6 billion, smaller than it is today. But because of the the population overshoot that occurred in the 20th and early 21st centuries, the ecological and resource picture will be bleak for people living in the final decades of this century. The population will continue to decline well into the 22nd century, with living standards declining along with it, until perhaps a few pockets of industrialized civilization remain, with the bulk of people living the low energy, subsistence existence of Chinese peasants in the middle of the 20th century.

    This is the optimistic scenario, the one in which we avoid a nuclear holocaust as we squabble over access to vital resources.
  17. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    Canada's grain belt gets less water than Australia or South Africa do. It's great land for farming, while the water lasts and/or while it can be pumped in, but bringing it in requires energy in of itself. Better farming, using less water, might be able to mitigate the damage, but it's still looking to be a problem going forward.

    Freshwater on the decline in Canada. We have more freshwater than just about anyone, we'll be comfortable for a long time at the current rate with our current population, but we are using it faster than it's replenishing.


    I will say this: the suburban landscape may prove to have a hidden benefit, in that people can create their own home gardens. If everyone turned their lawn into a garden, captured rainwater and snow melt to water it and used their own compost, we could do a lot to mitigate the impending food crisis. The land is there, in parcels that can be tended on a per-family basis.
  18. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7

    Urban composting is absolutely critical to slow nutrient loss from the food system. Many western European countries have centralized compost collection now. A hot compost pile that will compost cooked food and meat waste is harder for individual families to maintain, so there are advantages to turning composting into a municipal or county service.

    And yes, urban gardening is an opportunity. Cuba successfully turned to urban gardening when the Soviet Union fell and its subsidized oil imports disappeared. But it's part of what I called the economy defensively collapsing around food production. It will help supplement diets as food prices rise for city dwellers and more and more of their income goes to feeding themselves.

    By the way, for those of you who might want to get information about population overshoot and resource depletion from a source where the person's sanity is not necessarily in dispute: Dot Earth.
  19. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    I'm all in favour of population reduction. But really, who would support that?
    China is criticised for putting in laws limiting the amount of children families can have.
    We fought against Hitler and strongly opposed his Holocaust mass-killings of Jews and those he considered inferior, are we going to go down that path ourselves?
  20. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    There are any range of views about what will happen next of course.

    1. Ultra cornucopian.

    There are no supply constraints, no environmental limits on the earth's carrying capacity, because human ingenuity will allow us to spring over or erase approaching limits.

    The story:

    Technological advances and other forms of human progress have allowed the human population to grow unhindered for 500 years. First we spread European farming techniques into the new world, then we mined guano for nitrogen fertilizer once the food supply exceeded renewable sources, then when guano supplies were nearly exhausted and the world started to panic about a nitrogen crisis, the Haber-Bosch process was invented to allow us to use natural gas or coal bed methane to combine with atmospheric nitrogen and manufacture a seemingly limitless supply of ammonia fertilizer. The green revolution added mechanized farming and petrochemical pesticides to the mix and allowed us to bid up the population to nearly 7 billion. And now, GM crops and other advances in agriculture will let us successfully feed another 2 billion indefinitely and continue to eradicate poverty and increase prosperity worldwide.

    This is what I call the Fire Ice Death defense against collapse: I don't know what it is that will save us, but something will come along in the nick of time, because that's what has always happened before, so I have unconditional faith in the just in time arrival of an unplanned innovation.
  21. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    There is enough food now to feed the starving in Africa, but it doesn't happen. Until inequality and corruption are dealt with no amount of resources can solve the problem.

    The western world can feed its ever-increasing numbers comfortably, but what about those who lack access to technological advancements? Are we going to just give them food for free?
  22. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The amount of food produced isn't the issue at present, and current production would indeed feed everyone adequately if there was perfect distribution and perfectly benign distribution of food resources globally. If you add stress to the system, like the Russian drought, it tends to have rapid consequences in places where there are those kinds of logistics issues, like corruption.

    For me the question is not how much food we can produce but how sustainable that level of food production is. There is no question in my mind that we can feed 20% more people in the near term by bringing more land under cultivation, by shifting grain production from feeding livestock to directly feeding people, etc., but each step in that direction will increase the environmental burden.

    To me the evidence is overwhelming that the current level of food production can't be sustained for another generation. Of course, we can mitigate declines with better distributive efficiency and equity, through food conservation and diet changes. But if the major food consumers hold out from making those changes to try to preserve their food lifestyles, then the unraveling of the environmental conditions that allowed for us to temporarily engage in unsustainable practices will all translate into food price increases that directly cause food insecurity in the developing world as happened in 07-08 and is happening now because of wheat prices, only the price increases will be more severe, more frequent, and longer lasting.
  23. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    Is there really anything inherently wrong with the One Child Policy? China does have too many people, and really this seems like the only way to go about fixing that problem. The only issue is ordinary Chinese people who insist on having boys or else their bloodline dies out and so they abort females, put them up for adoption, or abandon them.

    I am going to assume you are just kidding, and that you are trying to fool me the way I (inadvertently) fooled you in the "Asteroid Impact" thread. La la la la....

    >_>
  24. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    Personally speaking, I have nothing against a One Child policy. I don't find such a policy to be immoral or unethical in of itself. What is potentially immoral or unethical is how such a policy may be implemented.
  25. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Alpha-Red, Raven, the most humane approach to our population problems would be an enforceable, enforced global one child policy. If every female capable of bearing a child only had one, it would bring the world population down to 5.5 billion by 2050, 3.6 billion by 2075, and below 2 billion by 2100.

    Personally, I think a one child policy is a way to bring the world together around a series of common goals. The goal would be that by 2100, every person on earth would have access to 1)clean water,
    2) a sustainable and secure food supply,
    3) preventive public health programs and health care,
    4) modern energy and, except for the most rural areas
    5) fuel efficient, low emission public transportation.

    A global public works program would accompany the one child policy with an effort to build the clean water and alternative energy infrastructure, recycling infrastructure to return nutrients sent to urban areas back to agricultural production, to reduce land under cultivation and the food supply, to end nitrogen and petrochemical runoff and waste disposal into rivers and oceans, and programs designed to allow recovery of ocean ecosystems over a period of a century or more.

    We make those kinds of promises now to the developing world, but they are completely hollow and false at a global population of 9 billion or even 6.8 billion. At 1 billion, we can deliver. We can create a sustainable, stable global population of people who enjoy a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed by most people in western Europe.

    If it were me, I would combine the global one child policy with financially incentivizing some people in the most heavily populated areas to have no children at all. This could bring us out of overshoot several decades more quickly. The global one child policy has to come with efforts to improve overall health of all humans. Those people who live to old age will have to work longer and contribute to the economy well into their 70s to make up for dramatic shifts in the demographic pyramid. Extending good health for everyone as the population falls has to be a priority.

    Realistically: none of this is going to happen, at least until the situation is catastrophically dire (As you know, I believe we're very close to this tipping point) and probably by then it will be too late to make a sustainable future for a billion people possible. A genetically engineered plague would be far easier to implement.

    Anyone who is not for lowering the size of the human population is at least passively supporting the extinction of the human species. There are actually movements that think the world would be better off without us, (e.g. The Voluntary Human Extinction Project) but I would have no part of that. By the time I die, I'd like to know we were on a path toward a sustainable human population of people who share more equitably in available resources. It won't happen without tough love. A global one child policy is the softest form of tough love available to us. But it's not really available, is it?

    The longer we wait, the more draconian the potential solutions will have to become, until eventually of course the problem will solve itself naturally in ways that are utterly merciless. The reason there are people who are out there today advocating female infanticide as a viable population control measure is because we didn't start doing something about the global population 40 years ago.
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