what if... something new besides oil came around

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Ruhh's picture
Ruhh
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what if... something new besides oil came around

Okay, I know this source is the least trusted on my personal list but I thought it was an interesting topic. I don't even remember how I got to this link.

 The abundant fossil fuel you've never heard of
http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2008/12/03/the-abundant-fossil-fuel-you%E2%80%99ve-never-heard-of/

Just fishing for some thoughts here...

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joemanc
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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

I just read about methane hydrates yesterday in the book Peak Oil - The view from Hubbert's Peak. It's legitimate, you can read more about this in the book, as well as other possible sources of energy, carbon based on renewable.

switters's picture
switters
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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

Something new besides oil will come around.  Plenty of things besides oil are already around, and have been around for a long time.

The point is whether a new potential energy can be as energy dense, variable in its applications and produced and distributed as safely, cost-effectively and efficiently as oil.

There's enough solar energy in theory to meet the world's energy demands many times over.  But even after decades of research, we have not found a way to increase the EROEI of solar to anything even remotely close to the EROEI of oil in its heyday.  What's more, the production of solar panels and technology and the development of new infrastructure that could take advantage of the energy solar produces is heavily dependent upon oil.  We cannot presently produce solar power on any meaningful scale without using considerable fossil fuel inputs. 

Therefore, even the so-called "renewables" are not truly renewable.  Although this point is absolutely essential to consider in any analysis of the potential of renewables (assuming we want that analysis to be accurate), it is very often overlooked or ignored.

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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

While it sounds promising, the biggest problem that I see is our current infrastructure.  Mostly, it is set up to use oil derivatives.  Any type of large-scale conversion in the next five years seems unlikely given the current state of politics and the economy.  

The more I hear about the bailouts it makes me sick.  Just imagine the possible investments into energy and national infrastructure that could have been possible.

 Instead, the money is thrown into a giant black hole.

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Reuben Bailey
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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

I don't have any real knowlege of them, other than the linked article, but the question that immediatly springs to mind is "How does this impact the  paradigm shift that (I feel) needs to happen?"  Will the discovery of another energy-dense resource help us break out of exponential growth mode? To me the thought of using this as an energy source is just a drug addict finding a new high, rather than getting treatment.

All the best.

Reuben

 

 

Also, if I remember correctly, some of these deposits "melting" are believed to have caused disappearances in the Burmuda Triangle.  Part or all of a deposite melts, causing a very large bubble to come to the surface, swallowing anything that might be on the surface. 

switters's picture
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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around
reubenmp3 wrote:

Will the discovery of another energy-dense resource help us break out of exponential growth mode? To me the thought of using this as an energy source is just a drug addict finding a new high, rather than getting treatment.

This is another excellent point that is often disregarded.  

In some ways, the absolute worst thing that could happen to us as a species would be to discover a cheap and unlimited source of energy.  There would be virtually no barrier to the amount of exponential growth that would occur, which would lead to an even greater population explosion and more rapid depletion of the resources needed to sustain human life (water, minerals, topsoil, food, etc.).

Again, I encourage anyone who hasn't already read William Catton's Overshoot to do so.  It clearly explains what happens to organisms that encounter an abundant energy source.  As humans we like to think of ourselves as exempt from the rules and proclivities of the natural world, but history demonstrates that we behave in the same way as other organisms when it comes to energy.

Just look at the history of the world since oil was discovered. 

It is vital to understand the whole picture when looking at the Three Es.  If the lessons of systems theory and evolutionary biology are ignored, we could very well end up making the problem worse in an effort to "solve" it.

The cold, hard truth is that we cannot continue with business as usual - no matter what energy source is powering it.

 

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Stan Robertson
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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

It seems to be well established that there are huge methane reserves in hydrates, but whether or not they could be developed for use within a few decades is unknown. But even if they were available today, Reuben and Switters have pointed out that it might not be wise to use them, and certainly not without some new understandings of a finite planet.

Our economic system is quick to exploit earth's resources. If availability of energy is not a constraint then exponential growth will continue until something else becomes not only limiting, but potentially disastrous. It would seem that some benevolent oversight of our activities might be useful as we go about plundering the planet. But look around and see if you see anyone or any organization with the wisdom to manage our affairs. I don't. For better or worse, we are going to have to manage things ourselves. Chris has made an extraordinary contribution to our understanding of the three E's. Now we need to help spread his message.

Some folks who post on this site almost seem to welcome an economic catastrophe and hard times as an antidote to exponential growth, but that is not the cure for it. Hard times don't last forever and without new understanding, our governments will spend all of their efforts and our resources trying to resurrect an exponential growth mode. They might even succeed for a short time until peak oil problems begin to bite harder. What is needed is a sustained effort to educate others and our political leaders.

If we survive the present economic crisis without a currency collapse, we will need some bridges to a different energy system. A better short term bet than methane hydrates is available in the shale gas reserves that can be exploited with horizontal drilling technology. These reserves are availble in many sedimentary basins around the earth and can be exploited without serious risk of uncontrolled methane leaks. The Boone Pickens plan has some real merit and deserves support. The point of this plan is not to sustain exponential growth, but rather to minimize economic disruption and hardships for many people while we make a transition to renewable energy sources and learn to live without exponential growth. I would rather give it a shot than to wish for a disaster that rids the earth of human vermin.

Stan 

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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around
brandenism wrote:

While it sounds promising, the biggest problem that I see is our current infrastructure. Mostly, it is set up to use oil derivatives. Any type of large-scale conversion in the next five years seems unlikely given the current state of politics and the economy.

In fact, the current infrastructure was built over a long period of time (~100 years) one brick at a time, as and when it was needed, when oil was REALLY cheap, and its ERoEI at its peak...

Now, we need to replace it 'all at once', just as oil's ERoEI is a fraction of what it used to be, and its supply is shrinking.  Even at $20 a barrel (might it go that low?) it is still considerably dearer than what it cost in the 40's 50's 60's and 70's.... 

We need magic fairies.  And I wouldn't count on methane hydrates.  I belong to an energy Yahoo group populated by engineers and physicists, and there isn't one who thinks it's doable, at any scale significant enough to make any difference... 

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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

Peak Oil is not the main concern for me. Peak Food is. Globally we are reaching hard limits on how much food we can grow. Limits imposed by lack of fertile soils, land to grow on, fertilizer, climate change, fresh water... the list goes on. Diesel needed to power the farm vehicles is only one of the problems facing the production of food. If we found a replacement for Oil we would quickly run into peak fertilizer (Urea made from Nat Gas/Oil and more importantly Super Phosphate which is currently being mined at rapidly diminishing yields.) or Peak Water or Peak Soil.

The simple fact is the real problems are Over Population and lifestyles that are unsustainable. Solutions we need to be looking at in my view are global population control. Maybe not like China but something needs to be done. And an end to the consumerist lifestyle and a return to the older values of sustainable living ie Permaculture.

On a side note I saw an Anime series called Ergo Proxy where the last of humanity was living in domed cities because the outside world was rendered uninhabitable by a "Methane Hydrate incident".

 

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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around
Sabco wrote:

Peak Oil is not the main concern for me. Peak Food is. Globally we are reaching hard limits on how much food we can grow. Limits imposed by lack of fertile soils, land to grow on, fertilizer, climate change, fresh water... the list goes on. Diesel needed to power the farm vehicles is only one of the problems facing the production of food. If we found a replacement for Oil we would quickly run into peak fertilizer (Urea made from Nat Gas/Oil and more importantly Super Phosphate which is currently being mined at rapidly diminishing yields.) or Peak Water or Peak Soil.

I agree completely that there are many other problems affecting food production besides oil depletion.  At the same time, it's difficult to underestimate how inexorably intertwined oil is in every step of the food production process.  From the machinery use to plant and harvest, the pesticide used to protect crops, the packaging, the trucks used to distribute it... oil is there every step of the way.

 

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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

There are visionaries in this world and they ain't environmentalists.

One
form of energy, however, is both excellent from a base load perspective
and is not subject to the vagaries of nature – nuclear power.  If
we are serious about energy and infrastructure you should commit to
building 100 new nuclear plants in the next 10 years, and 100 more 10
hence, or a total of 200 new facilities.  Fuel
supply is an issue, which mandates that we have a mixture of advanced
designs such as pebble bed units and fast breeders that can produce
more fuel than they consume, making the installed base of plants
fuel-cycle positive. 

The
technology to produce fast breeders exists and has since the 1960s;
Fermi I was an operational, power-producing plant in Monroe MI that was
decommissioned after an incident caused by a design change that had
unintended consequences.
 

There is no such thing as 100% “safe” energy and never will be.  Life
is about trade-offs and it is time for the Office of The President to
be honest with the American people about what they are, and why we must
choose wisely.  While nuclear power comes with a
risk of accidents coal kills tens of thousands a year one at a time as
a consequence of emissions and mining byproducts.  Nuclear
energy in the United States, along with other advanced nations such as
France (which gets most of its electrical generation from nuclear
power) have never suffered a death as a consequence of nuclear energy
production.

With
a revamped and solid electrical infrastructure advanced biofuel
synthesis (e.g. blue-green algae via aquaculture producing biodiesel)
becomes possible, and primary-plug design hybrids (with an auxiliary
engine to prevent being stranded away from a charger) become practical.  Our rail system can be converted to electrical overhead feed, removing locomotives from the diesel consumption bucket.  Between
aquaculture and a massive upgrade of our electrical plant brought about
by nuclear generation we can move 50% or more of our transportation
energy use from fossil fuels within thirty years.

Karl Denninger 

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DrKrbyLuv
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Re: what if... hemp?

Hemp is the number one biomass producer on planet earth: 10 tons per acre in approximately four months. And, hemp is the only biomass resource capable of making America energy independent. And no, you could not smoke hemp to get high, unless one would be willing to smoke it in a the large garbage bag size pipe. 

"Hemp is gaining a lot of respect around the
world for its amazing versatility and environmental benefits.
Naturally, products made from hemp are 100% biodegradable, recyclable,
and reusable. Also, the speed at which hemp grows can provide benefits
regarding the resource requirements of the end product. Unfortunately,
widespread acceptance of hemp still has a long way to go."

"Here are some key reasons why hemp should become much more widely used than it currently is.

* Fast and robust growth: Hemp grows extremely fast and can be grown in any climate, in any agronomic system
* No herbicides/pesticides required: Hemp can be grown with no (or
little) herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, or other biocides.
* Suppresses weeds: Hemp is a natural weed suppressor due to the fast
growth of the canopy. Actually, hemp is a weed. Because it grows so
fast and densely, it blocks out sunlight to other weeds that are trying
to grow.
* Improves soil structure: Due to it’s long roots, hemp replenishes
soil with nutrients and nitrogen and helps control erosion of topsoil.
Also, once harvested, any residue can act as an eco-friendly manure.
* Hemp produces lots of oxygen: Hemp produces the same amount of oxygen
while it’s growing that it would use in carbon dioxide if burned as a
fuel. Also, due to it’s leaf/root ratio (this can often be 10% roots vs
30% leaves), hemp can produce between 20% - 40% more oxygen than will
be polluted.
* Cleans up pollution: Hemp can actually clean up toxins from the
ground. This process is called phytoremediation. A good example of this
is when hemp was used to help clean up the Chernobyl nuclear disaster
site to remove radioactive elements from the ground."

"Some quick facts about hemp and the environment:

* There is no tree or plant species on Earth capable of producing as much paper per acre as hemp.
* Hemp grown for the production of biomass fuels can provide all of our
gas, oil and coal energy needs and end dependency on fossil fuels.
* An acre of land will produce 2 to 3 times as much fiber as cotton, about 1,000 Ibs. of fiber per acre.
* Hemp produces the strongest, most durable natural soft-fiber on
earth. Until the 1820's, up to 80% of all textiles and fabrics for
clothes, canvas, linens and cordage were made principally from hemp.
* Hemp paper is suitable for recycle use 7 to 8 times, compared with 3 times for wood pulp paper."

Hemp can also be used to formulate plastics...check this old Ford movie:

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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

What kind of fertilizer does hemp use? Is that fertilizer renewable? I ask because I grow wheat on a 1200acre farm. To do that we need Super Phosphate and Urea in large quantities. I looked at getting Organic fertilizers but they simply aren't practical at that kind of scale. We already do crop rotations. We worked out by growing canola for bio-diesel we could supply our own fuel needs. It would take about 20-30% of our farm to do it, but it could be done. Fertilizer on the other hand is another matter. There is nothing we can replace it with. Not hopeful of algae as it needs nutrients to grow, nutrients which typically come from fertilizers.

I am confident we will solve the energy problem over the next ten years. People will slowly move to plug in hybrids at first and then fully electric cars later. Trucks, Trains and Ships will be stuck with oil, bio-diesel and nat gas. So transport costs will rise which will act like a tariff on anything imported. That might not be a bad thing for your local economy in the long run. However in the short term I fully expect peak oil to create a severe economic shock over the next few years which will probably be masked by the financial crisis at first. Peak oil will increase the cost of fertilizers but it is when those fertilizers physically start running out that the real problem begins.

I am not confident that we can solve the food/fertilizer problem. Peak Fertilizer = Peak Food = Peak People. I don't want to see what is on the other side of that peak. The only good news is that Peak Fertilizer isn't here yet.

Basically we have dozens of options for energy production. Food production on the other hand is more limited.

As for OP about Methane Hydrate I think it will take at least 10+ years to figure out how to extract it safely and how to use it safely and then another 10 years for it to penetrate the marketplace. I would expect other technologies to be ready long before Methane. 

 

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ckessel
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Re: what if... something new besides oil came around
hewittr wrote:

There are visionaries in this world and they ain't environmentalists.

One
form of energy, however, is both excellent from a base load perspective
and is not subject to the vagaries of nature – nuclear power.  If
we are serious about energy and infrastructure you should commit to
building 100 new nuclear plants in the next 10 years, and 100 more 10
hence, or a total of 200 new facilities.  Fuel
supply is an issue, which mandates that we have a mixture of advanced
designs such as pebble bed units and fast breeders that can produce
more fuel than they consume, making the installed base of plants
fuel-cycle positive. 

Karl Denninger 

Mr. Hewittr,

Please study the crash courses 17a,17b and 17c and revisit your opinions supported by the mathematics to verify Karl Denningers numbers.   Failing that I suggest you post your material on any of the other "anti-environmentalist" websites where they support careless unsupported opinions rather than facts.

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ckessel
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Posts: 465
Re: what if... something new besides oil came around
Sabco wrote:

Peak Oil is not the main concern for me. Peak Food is. Globally we are reaching hard limits on how much food we can grow. Limits imposed by lack of fertile soils, land to grow on, fertilizer, climate change, fresh water... the list goes on. Diesel needed to power the farm vehicles is only one of the problems facing the production of food. If we found a replacement for Oil we would quickly run into peak fertilizer (Urea made from Nat Gas/Oil and more importantly Super Phosphate which is currently being mined at rapidly diminishing yields.) or Peak Water or Peak Soil.

The simple fact is the real problems are Over Population and lifestyles that are unsustainable. Solutions we need to be looking at in my view are global population control. Maybe not like China but something needs to be done. And an end to the consumerist lifestyle and a return to the older values of sustainable living ie Permaculture.

Well said Sabco. Your farming background lends valuable insight into the problems we face as regards food production.  I recently posted a thread regarding the declining water in the Colorado River. It's impacts are being felt here in California as rural lifestyles (water consumptive) compete for water used to produce food.

The big variable I continue to return to is Peak Greed and what the megabucksters will do on the downside of the curve to protect their interests. I think constant vigilance will be vital if we are to keep our course.

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DrKrbyLuv
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Posts: 1995
Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

Sabco,

I don't know what fertilizers are used for hemp. I'm not a farmer and have a difficult time keeping the trees and bushes in my yard alive. Here is a link you might be interested in:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/01/hempfingerprint.php

"A North Dakota man aims to be the first hemp farmer in the United
States. That is, the first one since the practice was made illegal in
1938 and only allowed again temporarily as part of the WWII war effort.
After 10 years of recent effort by North Dakota lawmaker David Monson,
he is now poised to receive a license to grow the crop beloved by
sustainability advocates -- as long as he gets fingerprinted first."

"Monson turned in an application Monday to the state Agriculture
Department to become the nation's first licensed industrial hemp farmer
along with a set of his fingerprints, which will be used for a
background check to prove he is not a criminal. Hemp, a cousin of
marijuana, does not have the drug's psychoactive properties however the
federal Drug Enforcement Administration still has to give its
permission before Monson, or anyone else, is allowed to grow industrial
hemp. Law enforcement officials fear industrial hemp can shield illicit
marijuana, although hemp supporters say the concern is unfounded with whom we agree. We’ve told you about all things sturdy, sexy and hemp, so we hope such state legislative initiatives do not remain purely symbolic."

_______________________________________

Here's another video that espouses the dietary value of hemp:

Hope this info is helpful...best of luck, please keep me updated!

 

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DrKrbyLuv
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Posts: 1995
Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

Sabco,

One other good resource for hemp:

http://www.votehemp.com/index.html

It loooks like this is more of a farmers and advocate site so it should have the inormation you seek.

Ray Hewitt's picture
Ray Hewitt
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Posts: 458
Re: what if... something new besides oil came around

Please study the crash courses 17a,17b and 17c and revisit your
opinions supported by the mathematics to verify Karl Denningers
numbers. 

I have and that's one reason why I think energy and resource stocks are at the bottom of a long term up cycle. This planet has more resources than you can imagine. It's been argued before and there is no sense rehashing.

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