After peak oil: Will America survive?

(NewsTarget) As public awareness about peak oil continues to grow, and even the big oil companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. are now starting to admit that the future supply of oil looks troublesome (see this Boston Globe article), there’s an increasing focus on renewable energy solutions. But most members of the public still don’t understand energy very well, and they generally have no idea whether alternative energy sources like solar, wind or CSP (see below) can replace oil. Many people are concerned about a potential collapse of modern society due to the end of cheap oil. So to help answer some of these questions, I’ve put together a set of uncensored, science-based answers about oil, renewable energy and the future of modern civilization. This is offered in a Q&A format.

 

Question: Will oil really run out in the near future?

Of course it will. Even the recent conclusions reached by an Exxon Mobil about the future of global oil supplies are wildly optimistic and based on numbers that industry experts speaking off the record say are significant exaggerations of supply made for political reasons. Oil is running out, period, and we may already be past peak oil. From here forward, oil is only going to get increasingly scarce and more expensive. Demand for oil will soon significantly outstrip supply. The growth of China’s consumption, combined with America’s unprecedented thirst for energy means that from here forward, it’s a bidding war over increasingly scarce supplies.

Can alternative forms of energy replace oil?

Yes and no. “Yes” because there’s plenty of energy all around us that can replace oil. There’s enough solar energy hitting the land in the state of Arizona, for example, to meet the entire energy needs of the United States. Likewise, there’s enough wind power in Southern Wyoming to power the whole country, too. But this power is untapped. This is the “No” part of the answer: All the energy in the world is useless to you if you can’t harness it. Without wind turbines, the wind in Wyoming is useless to us. Without solar panels, the Arizona desert is likewise useless to us as an energy source. Actually harnessing these alternative, renewable energy sources would require many billions of dollars in infrastructure spending, and right now, nobody in Washington seems to have the foresight to plan for a world without oil. There is currently very little investment in developing renewable energy sources.

Thus, the United States may find itself energy starved in the near future even though it is surrounded by abundant (unharnessed) energy!

What’s the most promising alternative energy technology?

Few people know about this one, but based on my research, it’s the most promising: Concentrated Solar Power, which requires no solar panels at all. It works by concentrating sunlight onto a small pipe using cheap parabolic reflectors. The pipe contains a liquid that’s heated to very high temperatures by the sun and drives a steam boiler that rotates a turbine to generate electricity (much like nuclear power plants, but without the nuclear waste). It’s cheap, low-tech, and far more affordable than solar power. Plus, it can be built in practically any desert, so it doesn’t take up valuable land. As another bonus, when CSP operations are built near the ocean, they can desalinate ocean water as a side effect, providing fresh water for irrigation to grow food. This is the only renewable energy technology I know of that can produce cheap energy, fresh water and crop irrigation all at the same time. Plus, it has no emissions, no toxic chemicals, no nuclear waste and very little environmental impact.

CSP is, in my opinion, the single most promising technology for renewable energy. Isn’t it interesting that almost nobody is talking about it? The best solutions, as usual, are routinely ignored.

What happens when the oil runs out?

That depends on whether the nation is prepared to operate without combustion engines. If the people have mostly switched over to electric vehicles, then operating an economy without oil isn’t difficult. Sure, other forms of transportation still need oil, but the greatest consumption of oil is found in automobiles.

If the end of oil catches a nation unprepared, then things become quite chaotic. No oil means no more transportation and farming, and that’s really all you need to know. No farming (or greatly diminished farming capacity) means no food. The United States, I submit, is about three meals away from mass social unrest. When the average American finds himself without food for three meals in a row, the ensuing chaos (riots, etc.) will make the United States a rather inhospitable place to be. Martial Law will immediately be declared, and the country will become a police state starvation camp. This can all be avoided, by the way, by shifting America away from an oil-based economy. If transportation is based on electricity rather than oil, none of these dire predictions need come true.

Why aren’t our national leaders doing anything about this?

Because they are either idiots or crooks. I’m not sure whether they’re clever enough to be considered crooks, so I’m sticking with idiots. The utter lack of vision and leadership found in the White House and Congress has been nothing short of astonishing. As far as the current president goes, Bush seems more interested in destroying other nations than saving America.

Can’t we be saved by growing ethanol as a replacement for oil?

Put bluntly, the idea of growing ethanol to replace oil is one of the most short-sighted, politically-motivated and outright stupid ideas that has ever been proposed. This is true for two simple reasons: 1) The more corn you grow for fuel, the less corn you have for food, which means that growing enough corn to replace the oil we presently import would result in mass starvation, and 2) It takes almost as much oil energy to grow corn than you get from the resulting ethanol.

In other words, if you want to base your combustion-engine economy on ethanol, what you have to do is take over mass acreage of corn croplands, power all the farm equipment with oil, convert petroleum to the fertilizers and pesticides needed for use on the corn, then spend even more energy on processing, transportation and delivery of the ethanol. So you end up with a nation in a food shortage (corn is the based food ingredient in the vast majority of food products) that’s still dependant on fossil fuel oil. So you’d still end up with an oil crisis, but with starvation as an added side effect. There’s no faster way to destroy the food supply than to promote the widespread growing of corn for ethanol.

Ethanol, it could be said, is a highly inefficient way to convert oil and sunlight into fuel. You’d be far better off with CSP, which converts sunlight into electricity at much greater efficiency (about 40%).

But what about the massive tar sands in Canada? Can’t we get oil from there?

Sure we can, at great expense and with enormous environmental destruction. Extracting oil from tar sands is a very expensive process. It takes sifting through two tons of sand to get one barrel of oil, and it costs about 300% more to refine tar sand oil than the light crude oil coming out of the ground in Saudi Arabia. As stated by Richard Heinberg in The End of the Oil Age:

“Oil sands are likewise reputed to be potential substitutes for conventional oil. The Athabasca oil sands in northern Alberta contain an estimated 870 billion to 1.3 trillion barrels of oil — an amount equal to or greater than all of the conventional oil extracted to date. Currently, Syncrude (a consortium of companies) and Suncor (a division of Sun Oil Company) operate oil sands plants in Alberta. Syncrude now produces over 200,000 barrels of oil a day. The extraction process involves using hot-water flotation to remove a thin coating of oil from grains of sand, then adding naphtha to the resulting tar-like material to thin it so that it can be pumped. Currently, two tons of sand must be mined in order to yield one barrel of oil. As with oil shale, the net-energy figures for oil sands are discouraging. Geologist Walter Youngquist notes “it takes the equivalent of two out of each three barrels of oil recovered to pay for all the energy and other costs involved in getting the oil from the oil sands.

“The primary method used to process oil sands yields an oily wastewater. For each barrel of oil recovered, 2.5 barrels of liquid waste are pumped into huge ponds. In the Syncrude pond, 14 miles in circumference, 20 feet of murky water floats on a 130-foot-thick slurry of sand, silt, clay, and unrecovered oil. Residents of northern Alberta have engaged in activist campaigns to close down the oil sands plants because of devastating environmental problems, including displacement of native people, destruction of boreal forests, livestock deaths, and an increase in miscarriages.

“Replacing conventional crude with oil sands to meet the world’s energy appetite would require about 700 additional plants the size of the existing Syncrude plant. Together, they would generate a waste pond the size of Lake Ontario. While oil sands represent a potential energy asset for Canada, they cannot make up for the inevitable decline in the global production of conventional oil.”

This who promote the “heavy oil” tar sands as some sort of magic-bullet solution to the world’s oil shortage are not thinking clearly. Sure, it might contribute several hundred thousand barrels of oil per day to the supply right now, and it could even be ramped up to perhaps a couple of million barrels per day, but this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the 88 million barrels per day in global oil demand expected by 2008. The tar sands cannot replace Saudi oil, and Saudi oil is starting to run dry.

If this oil problem is so bad, why didn’t anybody see this coming?

Plenty of people DID see it coming. M. King Hubbert predicted the peak oil phenomenon in 1974. He was widely ridiculed and laughed out of the oil industry. The thinking at the time was that oil would never run out. Curiously, this thinking continues even today.

See Peak Oil at Wikipedia.

Now, as then, no politician wants to hear the truth that cheap, abundant oil may be coming to an end. It’s just like politicians not wanting to face the truth about the national debt, or the bubble real estate market. They simply would prefer to pretend that bad news doesn’t exist. The preferred response today seems to be burying their heads in the sand (or the tar sand, as it were), and declaring the future looks bright even as they’re staring into a dark pit of desperation.

What can I do to prepare for the post-oil era?

The most popular course of consensus action is to simply do nothing and wait to see what happens. This is what 99% of Americans will choose to do. They will continue to buy their gas-guzzling vehicles, live energy-hungry lifestyles and pretend that America will simply take over the oil supplies it needs in the future by military force. (Which may actually be the plan at the Pentagon, by the way…)

The smarter folks out there have already figured out that the war on Iraq is all about controlling oil supplies. So is the cozy relationship with the Saudis. If there’s a revolution in Saudi Arabia, and someone takes over the country and decides to stop selling oil to America, the U.S. would stage a military invasion within days. The real mission would be to protect the oil and ensure future shipments to the U.S., but the public explanation for the invasion would be whatever fiction the national leadership thinks the public would swallow (most likely something related to “terrorists”).

If you’re genuinely interested in surviving the post-oil era with anything resembling quality of life, it requires modifying your lifestyle so that you do not depend on long, highly-complex supply lines for your food, water, energy and basic needs. That means moving out of extreme climates (where you have to heat your house all winter, for example), pursuing your own home garden food production (meaning you’ll need good soil and water sources), and learning to live in a more self-reliant manner (or being part of a small community that can operate in a self-sustaining way).

Most Americans, flatly stated, have no interest in giving up the luxuries provided by an oil-powered economy and pursuing some sort of simple, sustainable lifestyle. Americans tend to believe that’s the way people live in third-world nations, but not here in wealthy America. That imagined wealth, of course, will largely evaporate when oil becomes scarce. Even the cheap goods at Wal-Mart are shipped here from China using oil.

$10 a gallon for gasoline? Only a matter of time…

To really get a clear picture of what’s coming, I invite you to think hard about what happens when gasoline hits $10 per gallon. It’s coming. It’s only a matter of time.

$10 a gallon for gas means all your milk, bread, beef and other processed food items will double, triple or quadruple in price thanks to the oil-powered miles necessary to transport those items to your local grocery store. $10 a gallon means triple or quadruple the price for an airplane ticket. The cost of building supplies would skyrocket, diminishing home construction. The entire economy would nosedive into a deep depression, and all the financial bubbles we now pretend don’t exist (the debt bubble, sub-prime lending bubble, real estate bubble, etc.) would come crashing down.

$10 a gallon means massive layoffs and job loss. It means a huge recalibration of the economy, and it transforms “easy times” into “hard times.” Oil is really that important to life as we know it today in first world nations.

I’ve attempted to explain this to a few individuals, but no one gets it. Generally speaking, people cannot believe that the future would be any different than the present. They believe that things will always be as they are now, even when discussing the worldwide consumption of a resource that exists in a finite supply.

There is very little rational thought being applied to the issue of peak oil today. Most individuals believe there will be no negative consequences of oil running out simply because they cannot imagine any negative consequences. They have no concept of life being anything other than what they experience as a daily routine right now. The mental flexibility required to even consider our modern world without oil greatly exceeds the safe, comfortable thought zones inhabited by the majority of people today.

Now, maybe all this is irrelevant. Perhaps someone will event a free energy machine that creates electricity out of Zero Point Energy. An Irish company called Steorn says they already did invent such a machine, but can’t quite make it work in public demonstrations. The free energy, it seems, only appears to work when no one is watching.

I’m not betting my future on the invention of some new, radical free energy machine. Neither does it appear that hot fusion is poised for any major energy breakthroughs for at least the next fifty years. Cold fusion, as I’ve reported in previous articles, actually does work about 30 percent of the time, but it’s not a technology that seems consistently reproducible, nor does it produce massive amounts of excess energy even when it does work (it simply heats a pool of water few degrees).

There are no magic bullet replacements for oil. If we want to have an energy source in the post-oil era, we’re going to have to build the infrastructure starting right now.

The oil economy will soon be history

The era of cheap, easy oil is ending. The future can either be abundant and clean, or devastating and chaotic. It all depends on whether society will wake up and get serious about making a transition away from oil and towards clean, renewable energy sources. Constructing a couple thousand wind turbines isn’t enough. Slapping some solar panels on the roof of your corporate headquarters building doesn’t cut it (although it’s great for corporate publicity and P.R.). We either pursue a massive switch to renewable energy using an Apollo space mission kind of national priority, or we are going to be stuck poor, broke and starving when the oil stops flowing.

If Bush had any brains left at all, he’d announce a JFK-like challenge to America to build a new, renewable energy infrastructure in the next decade. But alas, the man is too steeped in oil to seriously pursue alternatives.

The truth is that if our next president does not put this nation on a radical, accelerated shift towards renewable energy, it will soon be too late to save America from economic collapse. Never underestimate the enormous impact that cheap energy has made on America today. Our economy, our cities, our population and even our military strength are all totally dependant on oil. Take away the oil, and America collapses under its own weight.

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About the author: Mike Adams is a holistic nutritionist with a strong interest in personal health, the environment and the power of nature to help us all heal He has authored more than 1,500 articles and dozens of reports, guides and interviews on natural health topics, reaching millions of readers with information that is saving lives and improving personal health around the world. Adams is a trusted, independent journalist who receives no money or promotional fees whatsoever to write about other companies’ products. In 2007, Adams launched EcoLEDs, a maker of energy efficient LED lights that greatly reduce CO2 emissions. He also founded an environmentally-friendly online retailer called BetterLifeGoods.com that uses retail profits to help support consumer advocacy programs. He’s also a noted pioneer in the email marketing software industry, having been the first to launch an HTML email newsletter technology that has grown to become a standard in the industry. Adams also serves as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a non-profit consumer protection group, and enjoys outdoor activities, nature photography, Pilates and adult gymnastics.

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5 Responses to “After peak oil: Will America survive?”

  1. Yehuda Draiman
    January 8, 2008 at 7:06 am #

    AMERICANS INSATIABLE THIRST FOR ENERGY MUST BE MODERATED R5.
    By Yehuda Draiman, Energy Development Specialist

    As you know, many serious problems are associated with our insatiable thirst for energy. The reason is simple: To gain the energy we must burn the fuels. The combustion, by the way quite inefficient, causes huge gaseous emissions polluting the air and forming an invisible screen responsible for the famous “ green house effect ”, i.e., blocking the dissipation of heat and thus causing the feared warming up of our planet, with deadly consequences for nature and man.
    There is only a finite amount of oil in the world. Everybody knows this.
    Someday, we’ll run out. It will be gone.
    Meanwhile, our insatiable thirst for oil — which we burn — has put enormous sums of money into the hands of fanatics who hate us and everything we stand for, and who use that oil money to fund the terrorists who murder Jews and Americans wherever they can.
    We can’t burn oil forever.
    And it’s bad strategy to base our economy on cheap oil when we have to buy at least some of it from our enemies.
    Optimists tell us that the free market will eventually deal with the problem. Their theory is that as oil gets harder to extract cheaply, the price will go up; then other forms of energy will become economically attractive and we’ll switch over to them.
    Here’s why their optimism is nothing short of suicidal.
    First, there’s no guarantee that without intense government-funded research and financial incentives now, the new energy sources will be available in quantities large enough to replace oil when it does run out.
    In other words, if we wait until it’s an emergency, our economy could easily crash and burn for lack of energy sources sufficient to drive it.
    It’s easy to supply energy for an economy that’s only a tenth the size of the world’s economy today. The question is how many people will die in the resulting chaos and famine, before new free-market equilibrium is established?
    Second, how stupid do we have to be to wait until we run out of oil before acting to prevent its waste as a fuel? Petroleum is a vital source of plastics. We could use it for that purpose for hundreds of generations — if we didn’t burn any more of it. But if we wait till we’ve burned all the cheap petroleum, it won’t be just fuel that we have to replace.
    Third, market forces don’t do anything for our national defense, our national security. We had a clear warning back in the 1970s with the first oil embargo. What if terrorism in the Middle East specifically targets all oil exports, from many countries?
    And even if they keep the oil flowing, why are we pumping money into the pockets of militant extremists who want to destroy us? Why are we subsidizing our enemies, when instead we could be subsidizing the research that might set us free from our addiction to oil?
    You notice that I haven’t said anything about polluting the environment. Because this is not an environmental issue.
    In the long run, it’s an issue of whether we wish to provide for our children the same kind of prosperity that we’ve luxuriated in as a nation since World War II.
    It is foolish optimism bordering on criminal neglect that we continue to think that our future will be all right as long as we find new ways to extract oil from proven reserves.
    Instead of extracting it, we ought to be preserving it.
    Congress ought to be giving greater incentives and then creating mandates that require hybrid vehicles to predominate within the next five years.
    Within the next fifteen years, we must move beyond hybrids to means of transportation that don’t burn oil at all.
    Within thirty years, we must handle our transportation needs without burning anything at all.
    Predicting the exact moment when our dependence on petroleum will destroy us is pointless.
    What is certain is this: We will run out of oil that is cheap enough to burn. We don’t know when, but we do know it will happen.
    And on that day, our children will curse their forebears who burned this precious resource, and therefore their future, just because they didn’t want the government to interfere with the free market, or some other such nonsense.
    The government interferes with the free market constantly. By its very existence, government distorts the market. So let’s turn that distortion to our benefit. Let’s enforce a savings program. But instead of putting money in the bank, let’s put oil there.
    Oil in the bank … so our children and grandchildren for a hundred generations can slowly draw it out to build with it instead of burn it.
    Oil in the bank … so we’ll be free of the threat of fanatics who seek to murder their enemies — including us — with weapons paid for at our gas pumps.
    Do you want to know who funded Osama bin Laden? We did. And we continue to do it every time we fill up.
    You don’t have to be an environmental fanatic to demand that we control our greed for oil.
    In fact, you have to be dumb and a fool not to insist on it.
    But … foresight just isn’t the American way. We always seem to wait until our own house is burning before we notice there’s a wildfire.
    Oh, it won’t reach us here, we tell ourselves. We’ll be safe.
    Talk about foolish optimism.
    Fair Threat to World Economy But Oil Boycott Improbable
    Energy Efficiency Must Be North America’s Priority but Canada and
    U.S. Fail on Energy Efficiency Policies
    “The despots of the moderate Middle East are non-players save for
    their oil in the ground… My concern is that my grand kids might see parts of the
    Middle East turned into a nuclear waste land, and Ali Baba and The Forty
    Thieves. The world community needs to see a checkmate within the next 60 –
    90 days. Failing that, Iran and Syria will be emboldened.” Reiterating an almost
    universal view on the panel, this CEO emphasized that the world’s seemingly
    The Chinese contribution to the energy crisis
    The quest for resources. The dynamic Chinese economy, which has averaged 9 percent growth per annum over the last two decades, nearly tripled the country’s GDP, has also resulted in the country having an almost insatiable thirst for oil as well as a need for other natural resources to sustain it. The PRC has been a net importer of petroleum since 1993, and has increasingly relied on African countries as suppliers. As of last year, China was importing approximately 2.6 million barrels per day (bbl/d), which accounts for about half of its consumption; more than 765,000 bbl/d – roughly a third of its imports – came from African sources, especially Sudan, Angola, and Congo (Brazzaville).
    To get some perspective on these numbers, consider that one respected energy analyst has calculated that while China’s share of the world oil market is about 8 percent, its share of total growth in demand for oil since 2000 has been 30 percent. The much publicized purchase, in January of this year, of a 45 percent stake in an offshore Nigerian oilfield for $2.27 billion by the state-controlled China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) was just the latest in a series of acquisitions dating back to 1993 whereby the three largest Chinese national oil companies – China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), and CNOOC, respectively – have acquired stakes in established African operations.
    Our insatiable thirst for Middle East energy is “the oil [that] feeds the fire.”
    This idea that we can live in a homogenous cul-de-sac suburban development in our plastic homes driving 50 to 100 miles to work in a 4700lb SUV to our middle management job at Bed Bath and Beyond and expect this way of life to just continue on indefinitely with no consequences represents mind boggling ignorance and negligence towards our future. The “American Dream” is a relic of the Baby Boomer generation and will die with our parents and grandparents. To quote author James Kunstler: “Suburban development in this country represents the single largest misallocation of wealth and resources in the history of the planet.”

    So could a 900 acre photo voltaic array power a major metropolitan grid. No, probably not. But the question isn’t how do we squeeze enough energy out of the technology to accommodate our seemingly insatiable thirst for electricity and fuel but rather how do we cut the fat and waste out of our civilization and our lives and actually live WITHIN our environment with some sort of sustainability. There is no one technology that will provide all our solutions. It will have to be a combination of wind turbines, solar and hydroelectric excluding the remote possibility that some new form of energy production (i.e. cold fusion or something equally fantastical) is unleashed on the world by CERN or ET. These power plants will operate primarily at a local level servicing on a much smaller scale than what we here in North America have been so used to in the last 70 or so years.
    IS TECHNOLOGY BEING HELD BACK
    New Solar Electric Cells – 80% efficient
    Mr. Marks says solar panels made with Lepcon or Lumeloid, the materials he patented, … Most photovoltaic cells are only about 15 percent efficient. …
    If the American public’s insatiable appetite for automobiles continues, uncurbed by any sense of responsibility, someone must, like a parent with a selfish child, at least start slapping wrists.
    Perhaps we should ration gasoline, and insist that all cars meet a miles-per-gallon minimum — one higher than many sport utility vehicles, for example, achieve now. The rationing would not be a wartime figure, of course, but a reasonable amount allowed for business and pleasure.
    Americans consume the largest portion of gas in the world and cry the loudest about the price.
    The government should repeatedly increase the price of gasoline in an effort to slow our country’s insatiable thirst for oil. Utilize the excess profits and taxes to fund research and rebates for renewable efficiency and renewable energy.
    Yehuda Draiman, Energy Analyst – 1/1/2008 – renewableenergy2@msn.com
    PS. but they will keep pumping more in the years ahead to quench our insatiable thirst for energy.
    A new source of energy storage is in the works using ULTRACAPCITORS.
    THE NEW DAWN OF SOLAR
    A California firm “Nanosolar of San Jose” says it is producing solar panels for 30 cents per watt. If true, then a power plant made from these solar panels should produce electricity cheaper

  2. Yehuda Draiman
    January 21, 2008 at 1:02 am #

    Hidden beneath the Rockies lies a big oil field! 2 trillion barrels
    Let us say it is true. How come everyone is not running to exploit it, like they exploit any other economic and financial benefit?
    The other aspect is how much energy, and at what cost – financial and ecological, is it going to take to heat the oil shale up and extract the oil.
    I suggest conserving resources; we should use renewable energy, such as Solar and Wind energy etc. to heat up the shale.
    Another issue is they are waiting for oil to reach $200 per barrel so the government can reduce the deficit and outstanding loans.
    I hope that is the truth and that there are no hidden agendas.

    Technological hurdles to extract oil from shale
    “Despite all the attempts to develop a shale oil industry in the United States over the past 100 years, the fact remains that no proven method exists for efficiently moving the oil from the rock. There are a number of candidate processes possible, but none has demonstrated a practical capability to produce oil.”
    Experts with field experience who are bullish on the prospects for America’s oil shale. But they recognize that, here and now, we are still not there yet technologically.
    There are a number of problems yet to be solved before US oil shale can be recovered on any type of meaningful scale, let alone a mass scale. And getting the extraction technology right is only one monkey wrench in the works with US oil shale. There are others.
    For example, there are questions of air quality regarding domestic oil shale operations. How badly would these operations pollute the air? Would the levels be acceptable? Shell isn’t sure.
    There are questions of water availability. During the extraction process, how much water would be required?
    Experts are not sure. An early “guess” is two to three barrels of water per barrel of shale. This could be a conservative estimate. Either way, will the massive amounts of water necessary for heavy-duty shale extraction even be available in the first place, given that the Colorado River Basin is already running low?
    You also need to account for the environmental and ecological damage and restoration to pre-drilling condition.
    American technology and knowhow will find the answer – all you have to do is wave the dollar bill in front of corporate America and they will find the answer “by hook and by crook”. Then the executives, the shareholders and the politicians will laugh all the way to the bank.
    Yehuda Draiman

  3. Daren Chua
    May 4, 2008 at 6:11 pm #

    Great to know that you manage to put this online. It’s great to listen to what others has to say. For me it’s just another business strategy. Who’s actually manipulating the price. The way how trading market works is the one to be blamed. It’s all base on speculation. At the end, we the normal people who’s suffering.

    —————————
    Do you know how to save 70c per gallon on gas?

  4. Jay Draiman
    May 28, 2008 at 11:16 pm #

    American economy in crises – a long time coming

    When a country and its society import more than they export for over a quarter of a century, it is bound to erod the economy to its primate state.

    We have only ourselves to blame, what goods and products are we exporting, what goods and services are produced in the USA, the answer is very little by comparison.

    In the past 50 years as our population has increased, technology advanced, we have become a nation that consumes enormous amounts of resources, we shop for competitive prices. Corporate America is constantly looking to increase the bottom line.

    Most of the goods for and by Americans and its companies are produced overseas and in the past decade with the advancement of telecommunications, many of the services sector are also imported.

    The increased costs of energy over the past 10 years, has affected the economy to unimaginable comprehension.

    This economic activity has eroded our economy to its core. It seems that the situation is getting worse every year. American debts are increasing beyond our wildest dreams, endangering the future economic vitality of our future generation.

    I hope it is not too late for our society to recognize the graveness of our economic predicament and its resolve to take appropriate action to stem the tide of our economic downturn.

    Americans are a nation of great technology and knowhow. We must utilize that technology and our resources to find new means to regain our economic independence.

    We must face and implement fiscal responsibility, both by the government and the population with its infrastructure of corporate America.

    It is no longer an option, it is a must if we as a nation want to survive and retain our way of life and economic vitality.

    Inflation, recession and financial crises are here. Let us take the bull by the horn, initiate immediate actions to minimize and hopefully reverse our economic crises.

    Jay Draiman, Northridge, CA.

    PS
    The US economy has enormous momentum. Metaphorically speaking, if someone turned off the locomotive that drives the US economy, the economy would go on for miles before anyone would likely notice something was wrong. But something has been wrong for many years. Is there really hope for the future? Maybe. But the terrible truth is that no one really knows. But if there is hope, we’re already on the wrong track. And that has to change..

  5. Jay Draiman
    June 29, 2008 at 10:55 pm #

    Utilizing all the sources into one formula.

    Often partial solutions to our problems are presented on the Internet but nobody puts the pieces together. Recently, I have focused quite a bit on the energy issue, and I have found that solutions abound, but the political will to implement them is lacking, or they appear uneconomical because they are, by themselves in fact uneconomical.

    A good example of this is wind power penetrating the grid at more than about 20%. By itself taken in isolation, with all other variables ignored; more than about 20% seems impractical because of the variability of wind. But taken with other solutions the picture is quite different.

    Our existing electrical grid is mostly an AC grid, the east and the western grids aren’t substantially connected, and overall it’s inefficient, unreliable, and at capacity straining to meet ever growing demands.

    If this weren’t the case; if we modernized our electrical grid adding east-west ties and converting all spans longer than 300km to DC transmission, first, doing this alone would be like adding 15% additional generating capacity to the grid without any additional pollution because we could cut the losses from around 17% to around 2%. Moreover, efficient east-west transmission would allow us to distribute the peak load across the time zones requiring less peak capacity and making more efficient use of the capacity we already have, above and beyond grid losses.

    If we can utilize geographical diversity with wind generation, something only possible with the modernization of our power grid; then the total capacity available from wind power never falls below about 1/3rd of peak capacity, and then we could, if we choose, simply overbuild capacity and supply our entire electrical needs from wind alone. I’m not advocating wind alone, ideally we’d use a mixture of renewable sources, solar, geo-thermal, ocean-current, ocean-wave, tidal, ocean-thermal, various forms of hydro (there are forms that can capture energy from the movement of river water without dams), etc.

    We could generate all of our electricity by wind if we so choose simply by building 3x as much capacity as we need and modernizing the electrical grid. But there is a snag, wind, presently the least expensive method of generating electricity, less so even than coal now, would lose its attractive economics if we had to overbuild by 3x AND if there were no market for that peak power.

    Add in some other technologies, for example, we can take electricity, carbon dioxide, and water, and using one of three processes, we can make an alcohol called Butynol (Butynol is manufactured by combining the petroleum gases. isobutylene and isoprene at the extremely low temperature of 100 degree centigrade) which can directly be used as a replacement for gasoline in ordinary gasoline cars. Butynol actually has tremendous advantages over gasoline. Butynol produces only 3% of the hydrocarbon emissions, almost un-measurable carbon monoxide emissions, and greatly reduced nitrous oxides relative to gasoline. It also produces slightly better fuel mileage and power, greatly reduced acidic blow-by products (thereby enhancing engine life) and less waste heat (also enhancing engine life).

    We can make Butynol from electricity, carbon dioxide, and water by one of three methods. There exists a kind of reverse fuel cell that was recently invented that uses a catalyst in the presence of electricity to convert carbon dioxide and water to Butynol. That is one method; it’s a method that from what I’ve read Richard Branson paid to have developed to produce Butynol as a renewable jet fuel. However, there are two other methods also that can be used, carbon dioxide can be electrolyzed into oxygen and carbon monoxide, the carbon monoxide can be mixed with steam to form “process gas”, and then in the presence of catalysts, this can be used to create a variety of useful hydrocarbons including Butynol. Lastly, electricity can be used to create sufficient heat to disassociate carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen and then the same process that follows electrolysis can be used. The last process has been demonstrated on an industrial scale, I’m not sure if the first processes have made it out of the lab, but they have at least been demonstrated in the lab. Using the latter two processes it is also possible to make synthetic diesel.

    If use the electricity generated during times when there is excess capacity to create Butynol, we can replace imported oil used for gasoline and diesel, while at the same time providing a market for the peak electrical production, thereby allowing wind power to be economical even when capacity is overbuilt, and we create a market for the carbon dioxide generated by existing coal and gas fired plants instead of just releasing the carbon dioxide into the air. When the Butynol is burned it will release carbon dioxide, but this is displacing oil that would have been burnt, so the net result will be a reduction in carbon dioxide and if we can bring enough renewable electricity capacity online to eliminate the need for fossil fueled power generation, then we can continue to make Butynol by sequestering carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, thus making the process a closed loop resulting in no net carbon dioxide increase.

    Any one of these elements by themselves may not be economic; but they are all mutually synergistic and implemented together they could eliminate our dependency upon foreign oil first, and later eliminate our dependency upon fossil fuels (or for that matter abiotic oil) entirely. (Abiotic – generally asserting that oil is formed from magma instead of an organic origin)

    We should be doing this, and we should not be doing it ten or fifty years from now, we should be doing it now.

    Jay Draiman said…
    Water is the source of life – treasure it! R4.
    Water is the source of all life on earth. It touches every area of our lives. Without it, we could not thrive — we could not even survive.

    Sustainability – “We strive to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
    We should discourage wastefulness and misuse, and promote efficiency and conservation.
    “Conservation is really the cheapest source of supply,”
    For the benefit of mankind, maintain the quality of life and preserve the peace and tranquility of world population. Water resources must be preserved – to sustain humanity. We must eliminate wasteful utilization of water, conserve our water sources and implement rigid conservation methods. We should utilize solar and or other source of renewable energy to operate desalinization projects from the oceans. Utilize renewable energy sources to purify and transport the water to its final destination. As world population increases the scarcity of water will become a cause for conflict, unless we take steps now to develop other sources of water for drinking, rainwater harvesting – storm-water and gray-water utilization. Designing of landscaping that uses minimal amount of water.
    “With power shortages and a water scarcity a constant threat across the West, it’s time to look at water and energy in a new way,”
    To preserve the future generations sustainability, we should look into urban farming – vertical farming. The term “urban farming” may conjure up a community garden where locals grow a few heads of lettuce. But some academics envision something quite different for the increasingly hungry world of the 21st century: a vertical farm that will do for agriculture what the skyscraper did for office space. Greenhouse giant: By stacking floors full of produce, a vertical farm could rake in $18 million a year.
    Jay Draiman, Energy and water conservation consultant
    June 29, 2008
    PS.

    Hydro dynamics: forget oil. Sharing freshwater equitably poses political conundrums as explosive and far-reaching as global climate change.
    Quoted from other sources
    Anyone who has ever stood on a beach and looked out into the vast expanse of an ocean knows that there is a lot of water on this planet. In fact, 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. It may seem like water is all around us, but safe, clean, reliable drinking water is not a ceaseless resource. The problems facing drinking water range from failing infrastructure, to climate change, to insufficient supplies.

    Personal Conservation
    Preserving our water resources is not a job for water industry professionals alone. We all have a vested interest in ensuring that water remains safe, affordable and available. Therefore, each individual American has a responsibility to monitor and control their water use, There are many simple ways for people to reduce excess water use, lower water bills and protect the environment, especially in die spring and summer months, Beyond the standard constraints of watering the lawn only when necessary and washing car wisely by using soap and a bucket of water, some steps include: draining water lines to outside faucets, disconnecting hoses, shutting off outdoor water sources during cold weather and running a small trickle of water on whiter nights to prevent pipe from freezing.
    Conclusion:
    Water supply management is an issue that affects us all. It may not be apparent to every citizen today, but with climate change and population shifts transforming the United States, it soon will be. Effective solutions need to be put into place today before we are faced with a water crisis. A focus on careful planning, treatments, innovations and conservation measures will help to create stability for long-term water management. Commitment to keeping water at the top of the list for communities and citizens will better prepare us for whatever the future of water holds.

    WATER!
    The indispensable source of life-without water there would be no industry, no agriculture and, most importantly of all, no life. In dry parts of the world this essential commodity is even more precious. Almost all human actions involve water from taking a shower to reading a newspaper to driving a car or simply eating a sandwich – almost everything we do or touch is somehow related to this precious treasure. We ask that you stop and think how you use water and what you can do to conserve this essential natural resource.
    *Water, beliefs and customs,
    *Water as a vehicle of the economy,
    *Water, source of art and life, irrigation and cultivation.
    The people have decided to act to try and develop a real awareness program on the theme of water preservation and distribution in an attempt to help maintain the original purity of rivers and streams.
    In many parts of the world water sources and wells are not equally distributed. Water as a source of life can also be at the source of conflict.
    Whether we live in India, Iceland or the Atlas… we have always tried to trap and tame water. Dams, pumps, canals, water treatment centers; there are so many different ways to exploit this resource that we often forget how fragile this unique and essential treasure actually is.
    Unfortunately, many of the things we do every day can harm our water. That’s why all people and government should be working with municipalities, farmers, business leaders and developers just like you to take action to protect our water and clean it up.
    Small changes can make a big difference. This guide outlines practical things we can all do to preserve and protect our water. We all need to be part of the solution.
    Concentrated Solar Power, which requires no solar panels at all. It works by concentrating sunlight onto a small pipe using cheap parabolic reflectors. The pipe contains a liquid that’s heated to very high temperatures by the sun and drives a steam boiler that rotates a turbine to generate electricity (much like nuclear power plants, but without the nuclear waste). It’s cheap, low-tech, and far more affordable than solar power. Plus, it can be built in practically any desert, so it doesn’t take up valuable land. As another bonus, when CSP operations are built near the ocean, they can desalinate ocean water as a side effect, providing fresh water for irrigation to grow food. This is the only renewable energy technology I know of that can produce cheap energy, fresh water and crop irrigation all at the same time. Plus, it has no emissions, no toxic chemicals, no nuclear waste and very little environmental impact..
    “You can’t escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today” – Abraham Lincoln said it.
    “That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest” – Henry David Thoreau.
    “To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed” – Theodore Roosevelt.
    “When the ‘study of the household’ (ecology) and the ‘management of the household’ (economics) can be merged, and when ethics can be extended to include ‘environmental’ as well as human values, then we can be optimistic about the future of mankind. Accordingly, bringing together these three E’s is the ultimate holism and the great challenge for our future” – Eugene Odum.
    Water, it’s been said, is the “oil of the 21st century” — a commodity whose availability and quality may be subject to both known and unknown influences. For companies, that poses significant risks, and many companies are making water a strategic issue, creating water management plans that include efficiency and conservation as well as contingency plans should water become less available or more costly. Many firms are examining their products, policies, and processes through the lens of a world in which the availability of water becomes a constraint to doing business.

    JUNE 29, 2008
    COMMENT
    To be sure water is important to life; it’s one of the first things we look for on another planet when considering whether that planet may or may not be capable of supporting life.

    That said; fresh water on Earth is a secondary problem. Water is an issue only to the degree energy is an issue because there is plenty of salt water and energy can turn salt water into fresh water.

    You and I disagree with respect to priorities. You make the statement, “As population rises water will become more scarce”.

    Well, that’s true; but let’s look at the first part of that equation, “As population rises”, and attack that issue first.

    Population doesn’t rise in developed countries with robust economies except through immigration.

    The lesson there is, if we can eliminate poverty globally, we’ll eliminate population growth. In my view, this ought to be priority number one because sustainability depends upon a stable population.

    Eliminating poverty, even with conservation, is going to require increased energy production and that can’t be accommodated by fossil fuels.

    Even worse; the production of fossil fuels has at least temporarily peaked, and even though recent discoveries and new technology will no doubt allow it to continue to grow, no new technology will produce more air; or ocean capable of absorbing carbon dioxide; therefore it’s important that the use of fossil fuels not increase, even if we are capable of doing so.

    However, the demand is growing and supply is stable or shrinking, if this issue isn’t addressed immediately we’re looking at a world of economic collapse, widespread hunger, and increased population growth rate.

    So we need to consider every option available to replace declining sweet light crude production, we can not, absolutely can not “forget oil” as you suggest.
    JUNE 29, 2008
    OUR CURRENT METHODS OF LIVING ARE NOT SUSTAINABLE
    HOW WE MAKE A FUTURE FOR OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN.

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