The Coming Global Petroleum Withdrawal

There will be a socialization class in room 700 for citizens cited for deviations 23-A and 96-A per subchapter six of the Permanent Emergency Code…

Something worth a good deal of thought, I think, is how we of the First World plan on coping with the upcoming end of our collective petrochemical binge. See, for example, this Rolling Stone article by James Howard Kunstler: The long emergency.

7 Responses to “The Coming Global Petroleum Withdrawal”

  1. Rise Against Says:

    Hmm, go figure you have to read Rolling Stone magazine to get any truth about this subject.

    I for one welcome the fall of the industrialized society, as it’s just too damn stressful and harmful to our environment.

  2. Sven Says:

    This is a frightening topic, but here is another link with extensive information about peak oil:

    http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net

    I can only hope the websites author is wrong about the extent of devestation that will result when we start running out of oil (now?), but fear he’s too right.

  3. ethan-p Says:

    I for one welcome the fall of the industrialized society, as it’s just too damn stressful and harmful to our environment.

    I’m not sure that our industrilaized society is going anywhere. Like it or not, there is more invested in industrialized society than anything else (that I can think of). Business will find a way to keep itself going, and overcome any adversity in it’s path. Greed is a powerful thing which can be harnessed in ways both beneficial, and harmful to us — and I believe this to be an ideal that this country was founded upon. As with everything with natural resources and environmentalism, there is no shortage of horribly bleak and catastrophic predictions, and the logic is very similar to the religous ideal in that ‘the more catastrophic the potential outcome, the more vigorusly we have to fight for what we think is right…and fuck the facts, because we have faith that we’re goddamn right — and besides, even if we’re not, we’re still doing the right thing by protecting us from the worst case scanario (bad shit happenning to our eternal souls/future generations/the earth).’

    I’m sort of conveniently ignoring the fact that there may be something to this in that stock markets have more to do with perception than actaul events, and the spread of paranoia may perpetuate said events. Let’s put that aside for now.

    The Rolling Stone article discusses ideas like the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era, and after I actually read it, I found that it was more intelligent than I had imagined. I am, however, curious as to where they get data on our stores of coal on tap. As I understand it, we’re still finding new ribbons of coal deposits pretty regularly.

    There is no shortage of armchair environmentalists who who push for one-stop solutions like clean air, electric cars, and elimination of nuclear power. Interestingly, I find these ideals to be self defeating. Right now, most of our electric power comes from coal, which is a hardcore pollutant when burned. AFAIK, burning coal is far worse than burning refined gasoline (it takes about a pound of coal to burn a 100 watt bulb for an hour). Large-scale solar and wind power will just not serve our needs, especially when combining personal needs with our industrial energy needs (and interestingly, it takes vast amounts of electric energy to make more economical cars through the use of lightweight aluminum alloys.) Now, if we question these folks on stuff like this, we’re automatically assholes and tools of the corporations.

    Anyway, as smart as the article was, I have some issues with the predictions. Here’s a summary of our food supply on the lifeaftertheoilcrash page (congruent with food supply predictions on the RS article):


    1. Pesticides are made from oil;

    2. Commercial fertilizers are made from ammonia, which is made from
    natural gas, which is also about to peak.

    3. Farming implements such as tractors and trailers are constructed
    and powered using oil;

    4. Food distribution networks are entirely dependant on oil. In the US,
    the average piece of food is transported 1,500 miles before it gets to
    your plate;

    Pesticides are made from oil, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be fossil oil. It’s just how we do it now, because oil is currently cheaper than water. Are organic pesticides made from fossil oil? Almost exclusively not. When it’s time to move on, we can and will.

    As far as ammonia in fertilizers being made from natural gas — it’s the same as the pesticide argument. Does it have to be? Aren’t organic fertilizers made without natural gas? (No and yes) Natural gas is just cheap right now.

    As far as farming equipment being made from and powered by oil products…well, I don’t have much argument for the former, other than the fact that I have faith that the manufacturing industry will adapt. As far as the latter goes, farm equipment is generally powered by diesel engines. Diesel was designed by it’s inventor to be run on vegetable oil, not fossil oil. The original idea was for farmers to harvest a fraction of their crop and press it into oil to power their tractors for the rest of the season. In fact, the diesel engine was originally demonstrated to the world being run on peanut oil. We adapted the diesel engine to use a form of fossil fuel, (petrodiesel) due to the low cost of oil (especially compared to vegetable oil). As it gets more expensive, and vegetable oil becomes cheaper compared to diesel fuel, we can simply move to that. Shit, diesel engines can run on *used* vegetable cooking oil with relatively little modification to the engines. I went to school with a group of guys who designed a waste cooking oil system for diesel cars. They sell conversion kits today at greasecar.com. They say that it even runs on bacon grease. I’ve got a friend with a diesel VW Golf that has this kit installed. Depending on your stance on human involvement in the global warming debate, running vehicles on biological fuels is a huge boon, since the net release of carbon dioxide into the air will be nearly 0. (The idea is that we’d be burning plants, and releasing their carbon into the air as carbon dioxide. However, most of their carbon is derived from the air during photosynthesis [simply put, air is 'inhaled', carbon is absorbed becoming simple sugars and then metabolized into plant mass, oxygen is released]. Burning plants thus has a net release of atmospheric carbon of almost zero, since nearly all carbon in the plant came from the air.) …although I’m no scientist. See wikipedia for more data on the carbon cycle.

    As far as food networks being dependant on oil to ship produce across the country…well, we’re sort of jackasses for that. Spending tens of thousands of calories to get a 100 calorie orange across the country so folks in the northeast can enjoy it in January is just not economical from an ecological standpoint. It does, however make sense from a a cost standpoint currently. When fuel is more expensive, this will not be economical from a cost standpoint either, and we will see less oranges in the northeast, and they will increase in price. In quite a few european countries, most meals are planned around what is available locally in a given season. We have not forgotten how to do this. Contrary to popular beliefs, we’re not entirely fucking retarded in this country…we just do things differently because we can. In college, I spent a few years participating in a CSA (Community Supportive Agriculture, or as one of the founders called it, Communist Subversive Agriculture, which was a commentary against shipping food cross-country), and it worked similarly to this — buying a share in a local farm, and getting a weekly allocation of food. We got good, fresh, organic vegetables that were harvested seasonally. This is not such a difficult model, and it can serve quite a few communities. Until then, I’m in the northeast/mid-atlantic, and I like oranges…so keep sending fucking oranges while it’s cheap.

    Will an oil shortage have an affect on our economy? Sure — fuck yeah.
    Will it be disasterous? Maybe.

    Adam Smith said something about “creative destruction” in The Wealth of Nations. I can’t give the exact quote…it’s been a decade and a half since my last civics class. However, the idea (greatly simplified) is that out of the ashes of a failed business (or industry), something new will grow. The need for goods and services has not been eliminated, and someone will see that need, and figure out another way to do it, and make a bunch of money in the process.

    I’m just not buying the doomsayers predictions. Maybe we do have a difficult road ahead of us, but I don’t see it as apocolyptic, and I don’t see insurmountable difficulties ahead.

  4. Robert Says:

    Hi all,

    It was interesting reading the R.S. article and ethans points of views, I think they both have good points, just wondering how ethan can say “Business will find a way to keep going?” sure he came up with a few little ideas like using used cooking oil for deisels, which i think is a rad idea! and others but the problem is on a huger scale. And one important fact that im not sure has been addressed is that the poppulation is huge and only getting bigger,

    Do we Honestly need to fill the world with this many people? I Believe that we should only have a maximum of 2 Children per Family otherwise where just gonna fall off the bloody planet like Lemmings ! not literally, but you get the drift, things these days just are not as personal any more. Not only are the Fossil Fuels Depleting but so are our Moral standards, it could be quite scary what might happen, people will murder, just to get essential items!!

    We need to find Jesus Man

    Sure Buisness is Powerful, but it’s not as powerful as Nature!

    the Good Doctor

  5. ethan-p Says:

    Robert,

    Good point. Honestly, I don’t know for sure that business will persist, but I’ll tell you why I think it will. Businesses are run by humans, and we’re pretty adaptable creatures. Businesses that don’t adapt to a world with plenty of fossil fuel around tend to go the way of the dinosaur (pun intended). You say that business isn’t as powerful as nature — and I’m not sure what you mean by that. We’re humans, and we adapt. Nature changes and humans adapt, likewise, business adapts.

    As far as overpopulation goes, the issue will become distribution of resources more than anything. I wish I could cite numbers on this, but in college, I sat down with my agriculture professor and worked out that we have enough errable land to easily feed over 12 billion people, double the world’s population.

    I’m curious, however, how would you impose legislation on how many kids a family could have? If I don’t want kids, can I sell my kid license to a family who wants a third kid?

    I don’t think that our escalating population has anything to do with any decline in moral standards. Moral standards are in a constant state of flux, and the change tends to be ushered along by popular culture. There will always be a contingent of social conservatives who want to cling to their older ways, but the fact is that things change. Popular culture isn’t driven by old farts who sit around the Rotary club and talk about the way things used to be. It’s all about the youths who want to create their world for thelselves. Much of the time, drastic changes are in response to values and moral standards which are viewed as obselete. Usually, the new ideals wildly fly in the face of the old, only to find a middle ground later. Of course the social conservatives will be pissed at the outcome no matter what, but that’s the way things go.

    I’m not quite with you on the link to people being less up tight about sex and murdering people to get essential items. Perhaps you’re referring to something else, in my country the debate about people’s moral values really comes down to sex. Personally, I tend to fall on the side that has some ideas where the moralists can shove it (if that wasn’t already clear). More often than not, I find that the moralists (especially the vocal ones) tend to be ethically corrupt and their vocal objections to modern ideals is just compensating for something they’re ashamed of.

    Finally, I think that I’ll do just fine without Jesus, thanks.

  6. Robert Says:

    Hi Ethan,

    Some good points, re: Humans running businesses. although business is basically about people making lots of green back, and the past trends have shown that most business has a total lack of thought, respect or even consideration to these following areas: 1. Environment (Which it destroys) 2. Health (Companys will give people Cancer and who knows what else to get some stash) 3. People (Business will Sack, evict, steel from, rape and Murder people in it’s quest for success=Money)

    So their you go.

    I am 30 and even in my teens I was pretty pissed off at Man kinds morals and how things are worstening, kids taking Knives and guns to school, smoking and taking drugs and alcohol under the age of 10 etc… Homosexuality, bestiality, why do you think people get aids from sleeping around? Bad Luck hey!!
    Wake Up!!!!

    You think that anyone who cares about peoples morals and the way we treat our fellow human sits around at the Rotary Club, then think again, because their are millions of people out there even younger than you that actually give a shit, that shows how much you know or care you Fucking Twat!

    Any way I better wrap up here

    Take Care…..Dr. Robert

  7. ethan-p Says:

    I’m a fucking twat for my opinions? If that’s the case, I suppose that there isn’t anything left for us to discuss.

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