Monday, June 23, 2008

Technosanity #4: Review: A Crude Awakening

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This is a very deeply interesting documentary about oil, oil supplies, the peak oil phenomenon, and the coming looming disasters which await us. The documentary is not "balanced" in that they gave no voice to the other points of view, but I suppose they think those other points of view are so far out of truth to not be worth addressing.

It starts with some assertions of truth: Oil is the Blood of the Dinosaurs, Oil is the Bloodstream of the Global Economy, Oil is the Blood of the Earth

Our arrangements of using Oil is making ourselves dependent on unstable regimes in nasty parts of the world. This isn't covered in the documentary, but I wonder how much of that instability is due to geopolitical machinations launched by the U.S. to secure the supply of oil. In any case it's obvious from the daily news that the middle east is unstable, and this is where our oil is coming from.

Assertion: It's important (to some) to keep us dependent on oil for as long as possible.

It would be in the business interests of the oil companies to keep the world dependent on oil. Clearly if the world continued its dependence on oil, the world will continue to ship money to the oil companies.

Most people have no inkling of the problem we're facing. The looming crisis includes unemployment, bankruptcy, starvation.. all this is the normal behavior of a collapsed society.

Assertion by Colin Campbell: The bulk of the worlds oil was formed in two periods of extreme global warming, 90 million years ago, and 150 million years ago.

If this is correct it makes oil a one time resource which will "never" be recreated on this planet. I'm a little surprised and will need to double check this assertion by Dr. Campbell. I always thought there was a continuing process of creating new oil, it's just that the planet takes a long time to do the process.

The work value of oil is phenomenal. Scientists can equate units of human labor to the energy, and the energy content of $1 worth of oil contains the energy equivalent to 25,000 hours of human labor. In other words the drive to my job, 10 miles, uses energy equivalent to 40,000 hours of human labor. But I know from personal experience I can ride a bicycle for that same distance, it takes me 45 minutes to ride, so there's a huge wastage of energy (40,000 hours of human labor to drive my car versus the 45 minutes of human labor it takes me to ride my bicycle).

Assertion: "Oil is our God" and that whatever religion we profess to, what we really worship is oil. Eh? What do they mean by "worship"?

70% of oil is used for transportation fuel

98% of transportation energy comes from oil

Constructing products like cars or computers or food, all these things by modern production methods require more weight in oil to produce the thingy than the thingy itself weighs. In Agriculture, for example, it's widespread to use petroleum based fertilizer. Oil makes plastics, insecticides, cosmetics and more.

"They're not making a lot of dinosaurs any more"

"Oil is a magnet for war. Oil starts wars." This speaker goes on to claim the conflict in Darfur is really about oil. There are oil supplies in southern Sudan, recently found. The Sudanese government (based in the north) wants to control the oil, and are therefore ethnically cleansing southern Sudan so the northern Sudanese can control the oil.

However this "Oil starts all wars" is a strange short-sighted statement. What about the wars which begun before Oil was discovered and brought into use by humans? There were many wars fought before the age of Oil, and clearly those wars were not fought over oil resources. However it's ominous that she claims World War I was really about oil (??Was it??). Many events in World War II were affected clearly by oil supplies, especially the German attack into Russia so that Germany could gain control of the Baku oil fields.

The first war purely about Oil was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This was absolutely and fundamentally about a dispute over an oil field.

In the more recent U.S. stupid illegal invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military did not secure the WMD areas. Supposedly the war was to control WMD's, so why didn't they secure Iraq's military depots? By not securing Iraq's depots the arms and other military supplies in there instead were looted and were made available to the insurgents, who have been blowing up U.S. troops ever since. Anyway, instead of securing the WMD depots the U.S. military secured the oil fields. Instead of securing the museums in Baghdad, the museums which contained the original records of human civilization, the museums which contained the cuniform tablets that are the earliest form of writing, instead of securing the museums which were looted, the U.S. military secured the oil ministry.

We're "Always just a drill bit aqway from a major new discovery" but it's been a very long time since the last significant discovery.

Extracting oil from tar sands and other heavy deposits, it's technically possible however it requires more energy to do so than you get from the resulting oil. The Fischer-Tropsch process was invented by German scientists before World War II and is how the Germans were able to fuel their war machine while not having a supply of oil. They converted coal into oil using this process.

Use of this process is only feasible as a last resort, because it's so expensive to do.

"Sustainable peak supply" -- what does this phrase mean?

They assert that oil allowed world human population to explode. At time of christ, 300mil, by 1700's it'd doubled to 600mil. But as soon as oil was discovered the population exploded to the 6billion it is now. They're saying population increase came as a direct result of better energy supplies. Maybe so, but weren't there other effects? Better medicine? Also better food supplies, though better food is due to better oil supply.

Richard M. Nixon: If our energy resources are sensibly developed they can provide for us for centuries to come

There's a belief many have had that oil is limitless and will always be cheap. Businesses have written into their assumptions that oil will continue being supplied as it is today. Again most people are clueless as to what's about to happen.

A 30-40-50 mile commute only makes sense when there's cheap oil. In the U.S. we've reconstructed the cities to make for 30+ mile commutes, with people driving everywhere, the cities are organized for the convenience of drivers, and there is resulting very little mass transit. This is short sighted thinking which led us to suburbanize U.S. cities under the belief that there would always be cheap oil and gas.

The U.S. evolved our cities for cars. The end of cheap oil means we'll have to rebuild our cities from scratch to a denser style. Perhaps.

e.g. riding bicycle's would be the kind of adaptation people will have to make. But most people are unwilling to ride bicycles for any serious amount of riding.

There are two options: a) militarize the taking of oil by force, b) prepare properly for the coming end of cheap oil

Technology can come to the rescue. Natural resources can be exhausted, but human ingenuity is inexhaustible.

Projections of current trends in energy demand say the human population will require 14 terawatts of energy in 2050. This is tremendous. It would require thousands of new nuclear plants (for example) and by doing this with nuclear power would mean the uranium supplies would reach their peak uranium production very quickly.

Living in the style to which we have become accustomed is not sustainable. It is going to create for us a crisis. How will we get through this?

Technosanity #4: Review: A Crude Awakening

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