Reasonably Ascertainable Reality

Thoughts and musings on current events and other random occurrences.

Location: South Jersey, United States

Friday, June 03, 2005


Poor Bret Schundler...can't he dig up some of his own enthusiastic supporters?

More peak oil discussion...Well Z, I think you've done some good.

More reaction from conservatives over Peggy Noonan's assertion that Mark Felt has some complicity in the Cambodian slaughter and the fall of Vietnam.


Blogger z said...

Thanks for pointing out the PO (peak oil) article.
To those of us familiar with the problem, I would be willing to wager that most of us agree with the first four parts.
The fifth part is a problem. If we start doing something about it twenty years ago we might be able to mitigate some of the suffering. Unfortunately, "now" is not an option. Now is probably too late.
An article in Rolling Stone by James Howard Kunstler pointed out recently that,

"...we are faced with the global oil-production peak. The best estimates of when this will actually happen have been somewhere between now and 2010. In 2004, however, after demand from burgeoning China and India shot up, and revelations that Shell Oil wildly misstated its reserves, and Saudi Arabia proved incapable of goosing up its production despite promises to do so, the most knowledgeable experts revised their predictions and now concur that 2005 is apt to be the year of all-time global peak production.

It will change everything about how we live."
(Read the full article here).

For those that think technology will save us, think again. about 60% of the oil we use daily goes to the transportation sector, that means cars and trucks.
If you hate Wal-Mart, this is a good time for you. If you love your job, or the money you get for your commute everyday, it's probably a bad time.
There's nothing available to replace oil for cars and trucks. Nothing. No "thing," period.
Hydrogen is ten to fifteen years away as a fuel (which, by the way, uses natural gas for its hydrogen source, the same natural gas that is difficult to transport and follows oil production's peak curve stucture).
Ethanol? It takes about 3 gallons of gas to produce 1 gallon of ethanol, so it's an energy sink.
Do you really want to burn wood in you car for steam? Or coal? Maybe Biodiesel?
Anything we can do will only delay the inevitable.
Barring help from Aliens (think "Independence Day"), magic (think "economics"), or God (think "my God, what have we done") Mother Nature is going to have her revenge on humanity and it's not going to be pretty.
In more scientific terms think of it this way, without the benefit of continual growth and production provided by cheap oil, the earth can comfortably sustain a population of about 2 to 2.5 billion people.
Todays world population is about 6.4 billion people.
Let's do the math....
6.4 billion
-2.5 billion
= 3.9 billion.
That looks to me like almost 4 billion people have to go, somewhere.
Using history and nature as a guide I'd guess massive die-offs are just around the corner because of resource wars, starvation (due to the loss of petro based fertilizers) and the general breakdown of social infrastructure (electricity, med care, police, governments etc).

I hope I'm wrong.
Evidence seems to indicate I'm not.

Have a nice day. :-)

10:27 AM  
Blogger Jay Denari said...

Hi, Katinula,

Have you yet sen the FX flick "Oil Storm?" You should, even though it's bad, if you're interested in this... just pay attention to what's NOT said. I wrote about it in my blog, so I won't go into detail here.


Where'd you get that "3 gallons of gas to produce 1 gallon of ethanol" figure? It makes no sense. People have been creating ethanol (in the form of beer and wine) for millennia without ANY gasoline. I assume it comes from the fuel consumption of modern farming, but isn't necessary to produce ethanol, at least in small quantities.

4:43 PM  
Blogger z said...

Hi there Katinula and Jay,
I don't think ethanol is a lost cause. I agree that on a small scale there is great potential use for it as a fuel.
I just don't think it's a panacea for our energy problems.
I'm not alone... (BTW, the 3 to 1 gas to ethanol ratio was an estimate, I don't think anyone is really sure about true net-loss/gain ratio. I've heard much lower estimates to even net gains from ethanol use. Most of the time data is not clearly presented, which adds to the confusion).

1) From "Science Daily,"
A report on a study by UC Berkeley geoengineering professor Tad W. Patzek.

Study: Ethanol Production Consumes Six Units Of Energy To Produce Just One
It may sound green, Patzek says, but that's because many scientists are not looking at the whole picture. According to his research, more fossil energy is used to produce ethanol than the energy contained within it.
biofuel as a gasoline additive actually results in a net energy loss of 65 percent.

2) From the Oregon Department of Energy:
Because a gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline, the production cost of ethanol must be multiplied by a factor of 1.5 to make an energy-cost comparison with gasoline. This means that if ethanol costs $1.10 per gallon to produce, then the effective cost per gallon to equal the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline is $1.65. In contrast, the current wholesale price of gasoline is about 90 cents per gallon.

The federal motor fuel excise tax on gasohol, a blended fuel of 10-percent ethanol and 90-percent gasoline, is 5.4 cents less per gallon than the tax on straight gasoline. In other words, the federal subsidy is 54 cents per gallon of ethanol when the ethanol is blended with gasoline. The subsidy makes ethanol-blended fuel competitive in the marketplace and stimulates the growth of an ethanol production and distribution infrastructure.

3) From Canada's Bioenergy Development Program:
Until recently, environmental concerns were outstripped by the fact that gasoline was far cheaper and more accessible than ethanol. However, with heightened environmental awareness and a global commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, ethanol has emerged as an available option for consumers.

4) Ethanol Fuel from Corn Faulted as ‘Unsustainable Subsidized Food Burning’
David Pimental, a leading Cornell University agricultural expert, has calculated that powering the average U.S. automobile for one year on ethanol (blended with gasoline) derived from corn would require 11 acres of farmland, the same space needed to grow a year's supply of food for seven people. Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion into ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTUS. Thus, 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in it. Every time you make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs.

Mr. Pimentel concluded that "abusing our precious croplands to grow corn for an energy-inefficient process that yields low-grade automobile fuels amounts to unsustainable subsidized food burning".

5) Just to be fair, from the National Corn Growers Association:
Myth #5
Ethanol takes more energy to produce than it contributes.
Fact #5
Ethanol facilities are extremely energy efficient. A recent study by the Argonne National Laboratory found that for every 100 BTUs of energy used to produce ethanol, 135 BTUs of ethanol are produced. The difference comes from the fact corn plants are very efficient solar panels, collecting and storing energy. USDA analysis has found corn farmers use about half the energy to produce a bushel of corn than they did just 25 years ago.

It would be great if technology could make production more efficient, but remember, ethanol facilities are heavily subsidized by the Federal Government and corn growers are going to be prone to support these programs for their own benefit.

10:11 PM  

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