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Alice Friedemann: When The Trucks Stop Running

The modern trucking fleet is living on borrowed time
Sunday, August 21, 2016, 11:59 AM

Alice Friedemann is a transportation expert sounding the alarm on the unsustainable nature of our modern trucking system, which is critical for delivering goods where they need to be, when they need to be, in our just-in-time economy.

The world's trucking fleet is remarkably dependent on petroleum and, for a number of reasons she outlines in this interview, is not feasibly able to shift over to electricity or other alternative fuels.

To warn of the risks and consequences of a collapse in trucking, she founded EnergySkeptic.com and authored the book When The Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation. And while unlikely, her projected aftermath of a sudden complete shutdown of the trucking fleet is sobering, revealing just how dependent we are:

Within a week, in roughly this order, grocery stores would be out of dairy and other items that are delivered many times a day. And by the week, the shelves would be empty.

Hospitals, pharmacies, factories, and many other businesses also get several deliveries a day, and they’d be running out of stuff the first day.

And the second day, there’s be panic and hoarding. And restaurants, pharmacies would close. ATM’s would be out of money. Construction would stop. There’d be increasing layoffs. Increasing enormous amounts of trash not getting picked up, 685,000 tons a day. Service stations would be closed. Very few people would be working. And the livestock would start to be hungry from lack of feed deliveries.

Then within two weeks, clean water supplies would run out. Within four weeks to eight weeks, there wouldn’t be coal delivered to power plants and electricity would start shutting down. And when that happened, about a quarter of our pipelines use electricity, and so natural gas plants wouldn’t be fed natural gas and they’d start shutting down.

It’s a big interdependent system. That’s part of the problem. It’s like Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. A plant needs about 20 different elements to grow, and you take one away and the plant can grow less or stop growing. 

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Alice Friedman (44m:27s).

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson, and it is August 16th, 2016.

Hey, can we talk energy again? I know the price of oil has a lot of people confused about where we really are in the energy story. But price is hiding the true story. I’ve often said that we’re so immersed in energy on a daily basis, it’s really difficult to detect just how much it does for us. It’s like water to a fish.

So, we’re surrounded by energy each day, energy slaves really, silently doing our bidding, whether we’re aware of them or not. And these slaves give us the easiest possible daily lives compared to people of times past.

Some say we live like kings, but that doesn’t really go far enough. Henry VIII may’ve had complete mastery over his many wives, but even he could not click a mouse, buy a plane ticket, and be halfway around the world the next day. You and I can do that.

So, we really live like ancient Greek gods, able to command the forces of nature and get ourselves from point a to point b really quickly if we choose. So, let’s not take this moment in human history lightly. Let’s have gratitude for the immense abundance in our lives, and let’s also be clear about where we really stand in this story.

To gain that perspective, we could do no better than to focus on the lowly truck, the true workhorse of modern times. And to help us bring that breed of stock vehicle into focus for us is Alice Friedman, the creator of EnergySkeptic.com and the author of the new book When Trucks Stop Running, Energy and the Future of Transportation.

And she really knows trucks and transportation through a 22-year career in American President Lines, where she developed computer systems to keep cargo seamlessly moving around the globe and just in time between ships, rail, trucks, and customers.

Welcome, Alice.

Alice Friedman: Good to be here.

Chris Martenson: So, where should we start in this story? I’m thinking how about we start with the really big picture. We kind of live in an exponentially defined world, don’t we? And I’d like to start there. What does that really mean? Why is that important?

Alice Friedman: Well, I know your listeners are familiar with exponential growth, but I think it’s an important part of the puzzle to remind everyone about to understand the crisis we’re in.

Garrett Hardin once wrote that if you had two grams of gold growing at five percent compound rates for 2000 years, we’d have 800 trillion gold in planet Earth right now. When you hear there’s 100 years left of oil at current rates of consumption, that’s not true if we use five percent more oil every year. It will only last for 36 years.

So, it’s really astounding that oil consumption doubled every ten years from 1900 to the 1970’s. That means every ten years as much oil was consumed as all the previously consumed oil. At that rate, even if the planet was a giant gas tank, oil would run out in 340 years.

This clearly can’t end well. We’ve been consuming more oil than we’ve found for five decades, and last year we only found 12 billion barrels, which is a third of what we consume every year.

Chris Martenson: Yeah, and it’s gotten even worse than that. The most recent statistic is we’re closing on two point six gigabarrels of finds for the trailing 12 months, so really just out of 31 billion consumed so less than a tenth. And most people are really still unaware of this. So you have these startling statistics that I love.

Exponential growth is really critical to understand. And we look at...here’s a number that really worries me, as well, is that three billion. That’s the number of people who are projected to be in the middle class by 2025. So, less than ten years from now, starting from one billion in the year 2000. So this extraordinary herd of people, of course wanting to come into the middle class, defined by having a car, a house, much higher levels of consumption.

And all of those take resources, and of course oil is the master resource in this particular story. Most people still don’t get that. So just how do we get...Alice, how do you go about telling/getting people more aware of this water that we swim in, the oil that surrounds us so daily?

Alice Friedman: Well, the information is out there. There was a really interesting United Nations report that came out this month. 200 pages, mind you, but it’s full of interesting graphs and charts about how from 1970 to 2010 we used 78 billion tons of stuff, up from 22 billion tons 40 years ago.

And they say that to accommodate everyone and the billions more expected by 2050, we’re going to have to triple that again, which is just insane. The people who deny limits to growth say we’ll just miniaturize and use less material and get more efficient.

But the UN report flatly states that in fact the opposite is happening. We’re using more material and getting less GDP out of it while dramatically increasing our damage and pollution of ecosystems.

Chris Martenson: Yeah, now this is something I...this is such an important point to get across, and the ecological destruction is something that causes a lot of grief. And that’s really hard for me to look at personally.

I think one way to get straight to the heart for a lot of people, though, is to say look, our current way of life is defined by the way we have things organized. So, the way we currently have things organized...and this should be obvious. Here’s why it’s obvious to me. I go places and I watch what’s happening.

So, whether I’m in Lima, Peru or Dallas, Texas or anywhere on the globe, I see cars. I see lots of cars. I see internal combustion engines. I have a very sharp eye looking out for hybrids and pure electric vehicles, and they are still by my eye confirming what the statistics say; far less than one percent of the vehicles on the road. So we are still heavily addicted to petroleum for transport at this point.

Alice Friedman: Yes, and I don’t see that changing, because the vehicles that matter the most, that make civilization possible, are trucks, locomotives, and ships, and they all run on diesel fuel. And as much as I love cars, they’re not absolutely essential. And we’ve got trillions of dollars invested in them.

And the diesel engines are as much responsible for civilization as the fuel itself, according to Vaclav Smil. He thinks diesel engines are more important than computers as far as the levels we’ve reached.

And they last 40 years. Those can’t be replaced overnight. Even the most optimistic person has to surely admit that there’s going to be some hardship even if you do believe that there’s a solution.

Chris Martenson: Now, before we get to that, let me unpack this. So, the idea that the diesel engine is possibly more important to our current lives than computers; a lot of people aren’t really going to have a frame of reference for that.

We talk to people. I’ve talked to people who actually think gasoline comes out of the nozzle at the gas station. That’s literally where it comes from. They haven't mentally connected the supply chain to go all the way back. But it’s easy to...I’m not blaming people. It’s easy to not notice when you pick jeans off the rack at Walmart for twelve dollars. They just magically showed up.

But you have the background to know how they showed up. Help us understand what the global transportation system really involves at this point in time.

Alice Friedman: Well, I worked in transportation many years, as you mentioned earlier. And the goal was to try to move goods from point a to b just in time, as quickly as possible, and as seamlessly as possible.

So you might have...but it’s so complicated. Let’s just take a supply chain where you have hundreds of trucks arriving with bits and pieces where they’re assembled in China. And then fewer trucks can take it to the port, load it onto the ship with other kinds of trucks, including cranes, shipped over. And then even if it goes on a railroad when it gets off, the containers get off, they’re going to need to go by truck to their final destination.

So, even though ships and rail are orders of magnitude more energy efficient, you still need trucks because you have four million miles of roads in the US. But you only have 95,000 miles of rail and 25,000 miles of ocean, navigable rivers and lakes to deliver goods on.

Chris Martenson: So trucks are critical; A for moving it all, but B for the last mile, because I don’t happen to live on a canal myself.

Alice Friedman: Yeah, and they’re also logging, mining, constructing, lifting, digging, planting crops, harvesting crops. There’s hundreds of kids of different trucks keeping civilization going.

Chris Martenson: All right. So, let’s do this by trying to poke some holes in this whole idea. I had a number of people recently send me a very happy story about electric trucks now running in Sweden. So, of course, when I click on the links and follow the story, I found something different than what was being implied by people, which was hey, look we now have electric trucks. That part’s been solved.

But what I discovered was the story was referring to a two kilometer stretch of electrified road, two kilometers. And it’s not unlike the trolley overhead wires of the 1930’s. There’s some wires up there, and the trucks make contact with the wires, and they have an electric engine. This is great, but it’s two kilometers out of many tens of millions of kilometers of global roadway. So, in a percentage term, I wouldn’t even dare to calculate it.

By these numbers, it seems to me is what Sweden’s doing is they’re really running an experiment, and possibly a quite good one to run, but a tiny experiment, none the less. So would it be unfair for me to say we’re nowhere in the electrified truck story yet?

Alice Friedman: Yes. In fact, California’s ahead of Sweden. The Port of Los Angeles and Sand Pedro lowered emissions is further along and a mile stretch of catenary wires, overhead wires, for trucks.

And I recently found...using information published by CALSTART and other entities that are doing this; I worked out that if you electrified that 23 mile stretch of roadway to keep 10,000 drayage trucks moving between the port and inland warehouses, it would take almost one percent of all of California’s electricity generation.

And then you’ve got 7600 more 23 miles to electrify the rest of the 175,000 miles of roads. I mean, that’s just clearly not doable. And you’re assuming that trade along that path will continue. You’re putting a lot of money, it’s very expensive, whereas perhaps someday you’ll wish you’d done that in the Central Valley to deliver food to the cities along the coast.

Chris Martenson: Twenty-three miles would require one percent of current electricity production?

Alice Friedman: In California, yeah.

Chris Martenson: In California, yeah. And that’s just because this is a pretty heavily traveled 23-mile chunk here, I guess. But that’s just to show that these trucks are actually consuming a lot of energy doing what they’re doing, right?

Alice Friedman: Yes, and they have to go up some steep grades, which further drains the...takes more energy.

Chris Martenson: All right. So. here’s the idea I’ve been running into a lot. And this is what I think gets to the heart of it. So there’s two big pieces we need to discuss. One is where we really are in the energy story so, I’m going to start there. Let’s complete that.

But then the second piece I want to get to is what really is involved in trying to get to an energy transition. And both of those pieces are really hinted at by that one percent of total electricity consumption...production being consumed for a 23-mile stretch.

But let’s unpack this a little bit. In the last few years, Alice, you’re aware, peak oil has been declared dead multiple times by the mainstream press. Where do you stand on peak oil at this point in time?

Alice Friedman: Well, I think it’s interesting that people have forgotten and even denied it. Because apparently they didn’t hear former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger speak at a Senate hearing way back in 2006, where he said “by about 2010 we should see a significant increase in oil production as a result of investment activity now underway. There is a danger that any easing of the price of crude oil will once again dispel the recognition that there is a finite limit to conventional oil.”

Also, many people who study this predicted decades ago that one of the signs of peaking would be price swings, because there is this inevitable cycle of scarcity, putting more money in, maybe going too far, and the price drops from that. Or, it goes so high that you have a depression and demand drops as businesses fold.

And more and more of the middle class is driven into poverty. I know people who can’t afford to have a car anymore. So, this cycle - we’re in the low part of the cycle, but inevitably, there’ll be some scarcities again to remind people.

Chris Martenson: Now, this is something I’ve been sort of beating my drum around. and talking with people like Arthur Berman and Gail Tverberg and other people who study this. Increasingly, we’re seeing mainstream analysts come online with us, which is looking ahead a few years and noting that the trillion and a half dollars of delayed first investment decisions, F.I.D.’s or FID’s, delayed FID’s, for the big oil companies is going to have a real impact on downstream production at some point.

Because not only are we not maintaining infield drilling nor are we exploring and finding and bringing onto line new production of oil, all of those things got delayed because all the oil that’s left is really expensive. Deep water, Orinoco Belt, heavy oil, tar sands, even shale is very expensive on average, starting at a minimum of 60 a barrel and progressing as high as 120 or more depending on what we’re talking about. So the era of cheap oil is over in terms of finding it and getting it to market. Whether it’s high or low in the market is subject to other forces.

But this idea of evermore expensive oil is really hiding a much more important argument, which is about the energy return we get out of that oil. How do we begin to understand the...how do you go about explaining to people the energy return on energy invested?

I’m always fascinated to hear how people convey this, because to me it’s the most important idea out there. If I had just one that I needed to arm myself with, it would be this one.

Alice Friedman: No, I agree. That should be the focus of scientists, to truly determine that and use it as a basis for where we would best spend our money on projects to soften the hard landing ahead.

But the problem has always been, since the concept was first invented partly at Stanford in the early 1970’s and by Charles Hall, is everyone disagrees on the boundaries. So you end up with quite a wide range, and there have been attempts to standardize how studies are done to get around that problem. But it’s still not agreed upon, and it makes it confusing for people who don’t specialize in it to make any sense of the results.

But obviously that’s what’s the most important. If it takes more energy to make something than you get out of it, then it’s dead in the water. It’s an energy sink.

Chris Martenson: Like hydrogen. Most people still will tell me that hydrogen’s the way of the future, and I say well, it’s an energy sink. That’s great. Where does the primary energy source come from? Fossil fuels have been this extraordinary, once in a species bequeathment. It’s been astonishing.

As you mentioned, because of the exponential doubling times, we are chewing through... Every time we double our use of something, be it oil, fossil fuels in the form of natural gas or coal, we’re actually in that period consuming as much in that doubling period as was consumed in all of history prior.

So anybody can work out, children can work out, that that’s a finite substance that’s being chewed into exponentially - runs out. Even if it isn’t being chewed into exponentially, it’s finite. It runs out.

So whether or not we really understand the micro story at the micro level, the macro story has to be indisputably that oil finds today are smaller, deeper, and more difficult to get to than they were just 50 years ago.

Alice Friedman: Yeah. That’s another part of what people need to understand, is that we get 60 percent of our oil from just 500 really large oil fields that we found over 50 years ago. And the ones of those that are in decline are declining on average at six percent. And that will accelerate to nine percent a year.

And other fields decline much faster. Giants are the slowest. This means by 2030, oil could be declining at nine percent a year, and we’d have to replace half to two-thirds of our oil. I just don’t see how unconventional oil can make up the difference.

One scientist looked at a crash program to ramp up tar sands and concluded that they would peak in about 2040 at just a quarter of what America consumes today. Arctic oil, which we don’t know how to get, would take decades of development before a single drop was produced. And the tight fracked oil that’s bumped the numbers up a bit since conventional oil peaked in 2005, is expected to peak by 2020. And it will decline quite rapidly after that.

Chris Martenson: Yes, and this all seems really...well, for the people like us who look at the numbers, this is fairly obvious. And so, what’s less obvious though is, any individual, any company, any country that really wants to end up in a more favorable place in the future has to run a strategy. And the strategy...there’s lots of complicated ones. But they always boil down to this simple thing, you know where you’re going and how you're going to get there. That’s a strategy. It’s a vision and the resources you have to get there.

Now I want to turn part b of the story which is about how we get there. So, here’s what I’m concerned about, Alice. We’re busy selling F-150s and SUVs because, why, car companies make money doing that and gas is currently cheap. So that’s the total decision factor. But we clearly have a finite amount of fossil fuels to use, and we’re using them perpetuating the status quo, which is what the F-150 and SUVs represent to me. Just a continuation of business as usual.

But if we only have so much energy in the ground, it makes sense to me that strategically we ought to be using some dedicated portion of that to build out to whatever the new energy future’s going to be. So insert your favorite fantasy over here, people.

So do you want a whole electrified future and the electricity comes from wind and solar and we have a smart grid and there’s distributed cogeneration? Beautiful future. I love it. But let’s be clear that it’s going to take a lot of energy to get there. And it’ll take time, and it’ll take money. So time, cost, scale, all of those things get involved.

How big is this challenge really, Alice? I mean, are we going to get there with market forces like some people think? Or would it require something far more dedicated, we should say, like a national program that would rival any of the largest national programs that have ever been run?

Alice Friedman: Well, I’m afraid that in my book, When Trucks Stop Running, I don’t see a solution to keeping trucks running on biofuels, coal, natural gas, hydrogen, or electricity.

I don’t see how you can scale electricity up. Part of that is because you’re going to mainly need to have energy storage batteries in order to capture excessive wind and solar, which will be the main sources of power for times when there’s not enough wind or solar to go around. Europe has looked at this, and they estimate you’d need six to 30 days of energy stored if you had a national grid encompassing all of Europe, the Mediterranean, and North America.

Now energy storage batteries are critical, because they are very few places to put pumped hydro and compressed air energy storage. Charles Barnhart at Stanford University found there simply isn’t enough material in the world to store four to 12 hours of global electricity for all batteries but sodium sulfur. However, at this stage, and I used the Department of Energy Handbook, a sodium sulfur battery that could store one day of US electricity would weight 450 million tons, cover 923 square miles, and cost 41 trillion dollars.

So, we’re a long way from the energy storage devices that we would need. And then it’s such a complicated topic. It’s at least ten hours to explain how the electric grid works and why it would be hard to have a renewable grid, which Europe and especially Germany have researched extensively.

And the materials to make alternative energy are staggering. Just one two megawatt turbine, wind turbine, needs 1300 tons of concrete, 300 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, 24 tons of fiberglass, four tons of copper, and so on. And you need about a million of them to provide half our power. And then after 20 years, you’d have to replace them all over again.

So, I don’t see how it can happen for many, many more reasons I can’t really go into.

Chris Martenson: Well, that does being to get us a sense really of the scale involved. And I’ve run the numbers for my audience, and they are silly. We’re installing something crazy good, several thousand windmills a day across the world, but we would have to run that up to 38,000 windmills per day, per day, in order to begin to meet the sustainable energy goals of the UN just by 2030. So it’s...

Alice Friedman: And remember...yeah.

Chris Martenson: It’s an astonishing number. And it’s just like really? Where would they all come from, and how would we install them that quickly? It’s a staggering sort of a piece. And that’s assuming that the wind blows and it’s not intermittent and that you have some storage devices.

And by the way, I trunked over to the DARPA site, because they are investing in alternative battery technologies. And it’s a really nice list. They’ve got Quinone, ion reduction batteries, flow batteries with Vanadium. They’re doing compressed air.

They have all these really creative things, but when I was looking at the award amounts, Alice, they were anywhere from fifty thousand dollars to three million dollars, which I consider to be chump change when we’re talking about what you just described, batteries that are best measured in the millions of tons and tens of square miles.

It feels like we’re just not really serious about this yet from a resource standpoint or a political priority standpoint.

Alice Friedman: If you can’t run trucks on electricity, what’s the point? That is the nub of the problem that we face. This is a liquid fuels transportation crisis. And electricity does absolutely nothing to solve that problem. If you can’t electrify trucks, then game over.

Chris Martenson: So how much of the transportation fuel is used by trucks? What’s the number?

Alice Friedman: It’s only 20 percent. And so we can get by for a long time by rationing and distributing it to agriculture. I’m sure the military will want to grab some of that. And whatever’s leftover can go to other important services. But at some point, it’s going to be hard to keep trucks running.

And I think the best thing to do is to assume we’re going back to the age of wood, which was our energy resource for most of human history. And if a miracle happens, great.

But fusion is really they only thing that could replace oil, and that is nowhere in sight. It is a mess. They’re talking about closing the Lawrence Livermore facility down.

I don’t see...and Robert Hirsch, who wrote a peak oil study for the Department of Energy in 2005, said you’d want to plan 20 years ahead of time. But oil peaked ten years ago, conventional oil, which provides 90 percent of our oil. We don’t have the time. We can hope a miracle happens, but we should be preparing to go back to the past.

Chris Martenson: Well, now that’s a...I happen to agree that the correct moment to have really begun to take a different turn was during that April 1977 speech by Carter. I think he had it right. That would’ve been a great time to go hey, we’re really going to have to do things differently.

So, when I really talk about what I want to do with a timescale cost to try and talk to people or, if I could, convince them about something, it would be that we’re not going to continue on the same trajectory we are, meaning we’re not just going to have a future that’s just larger and more of the same because we figured out how to electrify the grid and store electricity. Because when you really run the numbers, the time, the scale, the cost says we’re not getting there.

So, what I’d love to do is get people to that point, which is not a hopeless point. Well, it’s hopeless if you want the future to look like today only bigger. That’s a hopeless point. Sorry. If you have that dream, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

But we still are going to be existing in the future. So this is where the conversation gets interesting, because I think there are lots of things that individuals can do, should do, to both be responsive to the predicament as it exists. So to me that means using less energy today if you can and figuring out how to do that. And, by the way, almost everybody can.

But secondarily is to become more resilient and to really understand what’s likely to unfold. So, in that energy constrained future, from the transportation standpoint, I would guess you would say we’ll have fewer trucks moving from point a to point b. What would that really mean to somebody’s daily life?

Alice Friedman: Well, the oil is so essential that it’s going to also...it already has caused probably peaked food because nearly all of the food we eat...Nature Magazine two years ago has a story about how nearly all the food we eat that provides our calories peaked before 2010, and most of them around 2006. That means achieving sustainability will be far harder than anyone thought.

And some of the food items that have already peaked are fish, meat, milk, eggs, dairy, wheat, corn, rice, and soy, as well as cropland, irrigated areas, peat, and nitrogen fertilizers. And it’s interesting that those peaked around the same time conventional oil peaked.

So, obviously I think people should learn how to grow their own food in their backyard or a nearby community garden. The younger you are, the better it would be to move to a sustainable region of your country. Charles Hall and John Day wrote a book about just that recently that came out this year on where the most sustainable regions of the country would be.

Chris Martenson: Totally agree with all of that. And I would go further for people who have investments, a lot of people do. You’ve got your 401k or you’re tied into a pension of some kind. You’re a teacher. You’re a fireman, somebody hoping for a pension or maybe a corporation. Or let’s say you run an endowment for a college or for a non-profit of some form.

Well, all of the returns that we’ve come to expect out of our financial portfolios are based on the idea of growth. And so, this is a really interesting thought experiment, Alice. When I run this with people who do manage money, I usually get blank stares. It’s kind of like dogs listening to white noise. They tip their heads sideways and they don’t understand what I’m saying.

Because, from my perspective, when we look at the roll of energy in being the master resource that fosters all economic growth, if we take the energy away in term of as a growth driver, we’re only left with productivity. But productivity is hard to come by when you’re in a long emergency or in crisis, or otherwise not flush with all the surplus energy that funds the investments that allow us to improve our productivity.

Some will, of course, always be happening. We’ll get better things. But this idea that we’re going to have growth in our financial claims on things, which is just...financial things are just claims on real stuff, which would be all the things you can see and touch. The idea that we’re going to have that sustained growth really needs to be challenged, because so many people’s hopes and dreams are riding on that personally.

But also as a nation, I think we have this collective delusion, if I can use that word, which is that well, when or if, Chris, we finally see oil become pinched in the way you think it’s going to be pinched, then we’ll start to get serious about it and we’ll do X, Y, and Z.

And my point would be that an energy constrained moment in history is an incredibly poor time to try and begin doing things differently. I can’t solve that at the big level, so I do shows like this and I talk to individuals, Alice, where I say well, that’s why you need to get started on doing this yourself. Don’t wait. Because you can take control of this. And by the way, if you do, I’ve got a garden and I love it. It’s a big source of joy and quality of life for me.

So, these are all changes that people can make that I think will improve their quality of life. At the same time, they’re being responsive to what is clearly an approaching emergency that I think has actually already started.

And we would detect it, if we had the right lenses on, in stubborn unemployment, in declining opportunities for whole broad classes of people, the wild gyrations in the energy industry. These are all to me signs that actually I talked about years ago when I put The Crash Course together. This feels reasonably like we’re in the wheelhouse of what the predictions would be for this period of time.

So yeah, I would tell people very broadly, you’ve got to examine everything that you assume and take for granted. Take a good, hard look at it and don’t take anything for granted anymore.

Alice Friedman: Oh, I so agree with that. You know, I feel sorry for all the people who lost money in the 2008 crash, and now they’re investing in really, really risky things that have supposedly high returns, to try to make their money back, one of those being high yield bond and stock funds.

So they inadvertently got scammed yet again by Wall Street, like the mortgage bubble, by unknowingly investing in shale fracking oil and gas companies who are 300 billion in debt now. But they kept on drilling as long as Wall Street kept giving them the middle class money from their 401k’s and IRA’s.

I’ve gotten out of the stock market for many years now, because I don’t know when it’s going to crash again. And I believe it’ll be deflationary, and in a deflation, cash is king. It’s better to preserve your capital than lose it.

But I see few around me doing the same thing. And I also think people would be wise to invest it in real things like Dmitry Orlov and Gail Tverberg and others recommend, as a way to invest wisely in the future.

And that book I mentioned by Hall and Day is America’s Most Sustainable Cities and Regions, Surviving the Twenty-First Century, to see where you might want to invest what money you have in real goods, like homes and farmland and whatever.

Chris Martenson: Absolutely. Same advice I give all the time for people in the US. And as well, it turns out that local mileage will vary in this story. There are other places in the world that seem to have more of a clue about these sorts of things.

Sweden actually is one of them. They had a plan to get off of all imported by 2020. By all standards, they seem to be well on their way. So, at least there’s a group of people that have looked at the issue and, politically, were able to get both movement and traction on what seems to me to be a fairly obvious set of data.

So there are other places people, I think, can look if they’re of a mind to really understand that there are better ways to do things that exist out there. You know, for me it was kind of stunning that the United States looked at its educational system and came up with common core as a response to that rather than just trundling their way over to Finland and saying hey, what are you guys up to over here, you number one people in the world at educating.

So, there are other models that exist out there, and this is the part where I do personally have some excitement and hope of seeing the bright, shiny young people who are coming out, not engaging in industrial agriculture; attempting the hard work of figuring out how to make a business model out of permaculture, out of soil farming, out of doing things in a more relational, regenerative way rather than the isolationist extractive ways of their parents and grandparents.

So there are lots of things out there that are being done. When I read your book, what I find is that reconfronting the large scale numbers of all of this where we’re talking billions of people and trillions of BTUs if not quadrillions of BTUs, just giant numbers and the scale of all that, Alice, just says there’s...really the only possible way we can match things up at this scale would be to be very clear eyed, very sharp, have people taking real political risks to take us in a whole new direction.

And those are the things I just don’t currently see happening, pretty much anywhere on the global landscape.

Alice Friedman: No, and you’ve got the right-wing going the opposite way, trying to prevent women from controlling their lives through birth control and abortion, and we desperately need to get the population down.

Energy efficiency has a lot more we can do. It frustrates me everything’s based on greenhouse gases when more energy efficiency would also accomplish that. We could lower the road speeds. The conservatives fought off fuel standards for over 30 years, which went away when President Reagan took office.

And Americans aren’t much better, because as soon as oil prices began dropping a couple years ago, they went out and bought SUV’s and trucks again. And it’s been lowering the miles per gallon, not raising it.

It’s interesting that back when civilizations rose and fell when they used up their forests...maybe it’s because oil is underground and we can’t see it, but it was obvious to everyone that the timber was disappearing. And without them, you couldn’t have war ships and trade ships to get more wood or expand and conquer nations that still had wood. And it was considered treasonous to cut the wood down.

And yet it’s not considered treasonous that Congress never mandated better fuel standards ages ago and kept them and increased them. It’s a pretty crazy system.

Chris Martenson: So, just to round this out, because it is a crazy system, what would happen if the trucks stopped running? And by the way, they could stop running for a variety of reasons. War breaks out and seriously pinches off oil imports, which takes us to rationing right away. Or there could be a grid down event for a variety of reasons, ranging from natural to unnatural or human made. And so on and so forth.

But just for context, what happens if trucks stop running?

Alice Friedman: Well, within a week, in roughly this order, grocery stores would be out of dairy and other items that are delivered many times a day. And by the week, the shelves would be empty.

Hospitals, pharmacies, factories, and many other businesses also get several deliveries a day, and they’d be running out of stuff the first day.

And the second day, there’d be panic and hoarding. And restaurants, pharmacies would close. ATM’s would be out of money. Construction would stop. There’d be increasing layoffs. Increasing, enormous amounts of trash not getting picked up. 685,000 tons a day. Service stations would be closed. Very few people would be working. And the livestock would start to be hungry from lack of feed deliveries.

Then within two weeks, clean water supplies would run out. Within four weeks to eight weeks, there wouldn’t be coal delivered to power plants and electricity would start shutting down. And when that happened, about a quarter of our pipelines use electricity, and so natural gas plants wouldn’t be fed natural gas and they’d start shutting down.

It’s a big interdependent system. That’s part of the problem. It’s like Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. A plant needs about 20 different elements to grow, and you take one away and the plant can grow less or stop growing.

Chris Martenson: Absolutely. So this huge interdependent system is part of the reason that I think once people really look at it, it’s normal, I think, as a prudent adult to say wow, that would be really a nightmare if that really shut down. And it could.

Of course, the systems like this have a lot of nodes. They’re fairly redundant for a variety of reasons. And they’re very cost efficient, but they’re also not terribly resilient when you get right down to it, because in terms of Liebig’s Law, there’s just a few nodes where, if things broke down, the trucks might stop rolling.

Here’s an odd one a lot of people don’t think about. If the banking system tips over because there’s some big derivative accidents and banks can’t clear with each other, so they just have to shut the thing down until we figure it out, letters of credit don’t issue. And if letters of credit don’t issue, a lot of distributors and importers, exporters can’t operate. It just doesn’t work. So, there’s a whole bunch of things out there that really could impact.

But I think the summary I’d like to leave with is this. This is an unsustainable current operating model. Therefore it’ll stop. Someday it’ll change.

So in anticipation of that change, my advice is for people to begin changing on their own. Plenty of time, resources, the emotional adjustments that need to be made are perhaps among the most important. But there’s some physical adjustments that also will take time.

Lots of things people can do, but it starts with having the right information. You have to know the territory. Context is everything.

And so, we’ve been talking with Alice Friedman, and her latest book is When Trucks Stop Running, Energy and the Future of Transportation. And in there Alice has done a fabulous job of just running the numbers, and they’re really important.

So, once you have those numbers, I think you should come to the conclusion of well, this is unsustainable. And then how you answer that question for yourself is obviously a very personal decision, and it depends on a lot of factors that are beyond our ability to understand here on this end of the microphone.

So, with that, I hope you get the book and read it.

And Alice, I want to thank you for your time today. I will note that I could find this book on Amazon. Is there any other place people can locate this book?

Alice Friedman: I think Springer has it, Barnes & Noble, and perhaps if you’re near a university you can find it there, as well.

Chris Martenson: Fantastic. Well, Alice, thank you so much for your time today.

Alice Friedman: Oh, thank you for having me on.

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98 Comments

davefairtex's picture
davefairtex
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Posts: 4451
smart grid transportation

aggrivated-

I think you have something on the smart grid work transport thing.

Other countries use vans and trucks as "bridge" transport to and from public transit stops.  US could use a driverless version - get off a train, board a driverless van or truck that goes along your route - or direct to your work.  Van dispatch knows when the train arrives, knows who is on the train, where they need to go, communicates with everyone's app, roughly schedules the vans (based on history) and more finely based on realtime info.  Uses a more interactive/personalized variant of "nextbus".

It could be pretty seamless.  It would probably chop energy use and traffic by 50%, and increase public transit use too.  Suburbs could get a life extension, much to the dismay of JHK.

I think tech can definitely help mitigate.  It can't create energy, and it won't "fix" the problem, but it can certainly facilitate using our existing energy a lot more efficiently, both in reducing the number of cars built, as well as really encouraging sharing transport in the normal commute case.

I don't think taxes are required.  If hand-driven vehicles are limited to the slow lanes, that's probably good enough.  :)

And a follow-on thought.  If you thought intersection camera tickets were no fun, how about camera tickets issued by evidence collected from driverless cars when you do something bad near one of them?  They have enough sensors to be 24/7 monitoring/recording devices.  Internet-connected, able to sense who is nearby...able to measure speed very accurately...they're walking, talking highway patrol.

Heck, why not have them BE highway patrol.

Boy I'm glad I'm not driving that much these days.

energyskeptic's picture
energyskeptic
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so-called fusion project really for nuclear weapons: true

When my husband was a science writer at Lawrence BERKELEY laboratory.  He and his colleagues saw the fusion program as a tremendously expensive boondoggle not about fusion but making sure our nuclear weapons would still explode. 

energyskeptic's picture
energyskeptic
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Why microchips will be among the first to fail post carbon

In Peak oil and the Preservation of Knowledge I make the case that microchips are the most vulnerable to energy and other resource shortages, supply chain failure, interdependencies, rare earth and other mineral shortages, etc.  The pinnacle of our technical achievement also means it will be the first to fail. 

http://energyskeptic.com/2014/preservation-of-knowledge/

http://energyskeptic.com/2012/fragility-of-microchips/

http://energyskeptic.com/2013/microchips-detailed-description/

http://energyskeptic.com/2014/interdependent-chip-fab-electricgrid-finan...

http://energyskeptic.com/2014/high-tech-cannot-last-rare-earth-metals/

Cornelius999's picture
Cornelius999
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Pyranablade, your're probably

Pyranablade, your're probably right. I may be pushing the envelope too much in expecting useful amounts of energy for terrestial  purposes from electro-gravitic drives and temporal drives. These are two of the reported propulsion methods of interplanetary/intergalactic  spacecraft. And intergalactic cargos of copper and rare earths are  optimistic even if LENR takes off. 

The fact that so many countries are still committing billions to problematic nuclear power stations has to cast a big cloud over alternatives. And googling Stephen Greer raises doubts about his free energy schemes. Hitching a ride from aliens could also be like playing Russian Roulette according to Professor David Jacobs.

That leaves me back cultivating energy flows in the semiconductors I know best - the brain and body.

 

Cornelius999's picture
Cornelius999
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Pyranablade, your're probably

Pyranablade, your're probably right. I may be pushing the envelope too much in expecting useful amounts of energy for terrestial  purposes from electro-gravitic drives and temporal drives. These are two of the reported propulsion methods of interplanetary/intergalactic  spacecraft. And intergalactic cargos of copper and rare earths seem optimistic even if LENR takes off. 

The fact that so many countries are still committing billions to problematic nuclear power stations has to cast a big cloud over alternatives. And googling Stephen Greer raises doubts about his free energy schemes. Hitching a ride from aliens could also be like playing Russian Roulette according to Professor David Jacobs.

That leaves me back cultivating energy flows in the semiconductors I know best - the brain and body.

 

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Posts: 2189
Excellent interview, Chris and Alice

Alice's knowledge and "substance" was evident throughout the interview.  It was interesting (and a little scary) to hear someone from her background and experience arrive at the same conclusions that Chris has expressed here, that our current way of life is unsustainable, and that there is no solution at this point (it is a predicament vs a problem that can be solved). Even though I was already familiar with many of the concepts that were discussed, I found the alignment of Alice's experience and perspective with Chris's to be sobering.  But that's ok; I don't mind a splash of cold water on the face now and again to regain alertness!  Thanks Alice and Chris!

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
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Energy Skeptic, microchips not that fragile

You may well be correct that new microfabrication will stumble quickly; I doubt it, but I do consider it possible. But first of all, the factories that exist will continue to be able to output MOSFET technology; the tolerances are better.

Moreover, the infrastructure is not likely to disappear for decades. As it does begin to disappear, people are likely to transcribe the most important information to forms that will last better.

Yes, we well may lose a lot. However, I don't expect the destruction of knowledge to even come close to the rate of destruction of knowledge caued by political events.

It's an intereting question, how to bet tore knowledge to be retrievable later. Use cast stone? Publish the compression algorithm in plain math language, give the mathematical key, and then go from there?

It's a good question, indeed.

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Heavy current transformers

Large transformers are sensitive to large ground currents from solar charged particles.  Replacement times are in the order of 6 months,  assuming a well-oiled manufacturing infrastructure. Maybe in Africa?

I take back my le Grange point solution.  O'Neal was unaware of something that his superiors understood. The moon has been colonised. We were warned off. 

We can have Mars, it's at the bottom of a mile deep gravity well. Not good for anything except for disposal of garbage. 

 

JK_Pebworth's picture
JK_Pebworth
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Sustainability

Can anyone inform me on the name of the book that the speaker references in the latter half of the interview in regards to the most sustainable areas of the country?  I believe she said the author was Charles Holland?

thc0655's picture
thc0655
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America's most sustainable cities and regions

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2016-02-08/does-your-city-have-a-future

Readers hoping to find their home town rated in America’s Most Sustainable Cities and Regions may be both disappointed and enlightened.

Disappointed, because the book doesn’t provide a systematic listing that covers all American cities – either the most sustainable or the least sustainable. Enlightened, because the authors do provide a systematic way of looking at sustainability, which can be applied to cities across the USA and around the world.

The authors are counted among the pioneers of ecological economics, and their new book is a lucid introduction to the fundamental concepts of this viewpoint.

While a textbook of ecological economics might lose some readers in abstraction, this book moves fluidly between abstract concepts, and easy-to-follow application of these principles to the past development, and possible futures, of twelve cities and ten regions...

While the book is a strong addition to the literature on sustainability, I do have a few quibbles. First, a reader expecting discussion of the sustainability of average citizens’ lifestyles in various cities will be disappointed. It gradually becomes clear that current per capita ecological footprints are not the subject of this book, nor are Hall and Day ranking the degree to which the economies of various American cities are sustainable in their current configurations. Rather, they elucidate the degree to which these cities will be sustainable as they cope with 21st century megatrends. A clear statement early in the book, explaining what the authors mean and what they don’t mean by “America’s most sustainable cities”, would have been helpful.

Finally, the book’s predictive usefulness is weakened by a lack of any mention of either large-scale migrations or political factors on future sustainability.

The authors note that the resources in the area around Cedar Rapids could likely support the current population (though not their current lifestyles). On the other hand, the population of the megalopolis from Washington DC to Boston, including New York City, is far too great to be supported by local resources. In theory, then, the current Cedar Rapids could become sustainable, while the current New York City cannot.

Eventually that which cannot be sustained, will not be sustained. However, suppose a severe resource crunch hits rapidly. Assuming the millions of people in New York City don’t just ascend in The Rapture, many will move to someplace that can provide the necessities of life. A large outflow of people from cities like New York, and an inflow into the smaller, theoretically sustainable cities like Cedar Rapids, would quickly alter the sustainability calculus.

Likewise, if sustainability is threatened for large numbers of people on a short time-line, political leaders could force through desperately short-sighted measures to feed populations. Thus regions which currently have relatively strong ecosystems may not be able to maintain those environments, as more populous and more powerful regions exert their demands.

In summary, John W. Day and Charles Hall have provided a great overview of the factors that can make a city and a region sustainable, even in the face of restricted energy shortages and the challenges of climate change. If we move quickly enough in adopting an “economics as if reality matters”, then this book may also serve as a road map to a reasonably prosperous future.

Based on this review, I chose not to get the book.  I would've eagerly gobbled it up if I was teaching/writing in this field or getting a degree in it, but all I'm trying to do is test the thinking and choices I've already made about a place to which to retire.  I'm satisfied with my choices and am thinking that sustainability in that location will largely be an issue of individual adaptations (alternative energy systems, gardening, extreme home insulation, etc).

Cornelius999's picture
Cornelius999
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I now discover in "Covert

I now discover in "Covert Wars and the Clash of Civilizations" that:

     " ....if ( Norman ) Bergrun is correct...mining itself could already be a multi-trillion industry, for it appears  that someone with some pretty advanced technology might be mining Saturn and it's moons, that is, if Bergrun is correct in his analysis of his blurry pictures." P 331.

He also suggests that gold could even have been traded to off planet destinations. P 344, and recounts that equations for a "warp drive" were formulated in 1994 " around the time of Ben Rich's now celebrated statements about finding an error in the equations". P 332.

 It would seem that one of the very best investments the mega-rich could make are a few of those one and a half kilometer long spaceships, Bill Tompkins says he designed for the US Navy. Surely Bill Gates and Elon Musk have booked theirs?

Cornelius999's picture
Cornelius999
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To see why Physics as we know

To see why Physics as we know it may need severe revision see John Lear's (son of the Lear Jet Inventor) Amazon.com's review of " The Gravitational Force of the Sun ".  This seems to be why warp drives etc. are thought to be possible. The author revises Kepler, Newton, Gallileo, Einstein !

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Thanks Cornelius. That's nectar to a bee.

There are those who lean heavily on the "Appeal to Authority " or " Incredulity" arguments. I was prone to it too and I found it very liberating to ditch them. 

(Nod to  Stan. Yes, I know the Climate Thing. That's where the sacred over-rules the profane. No one touches my planet.)

I love the delicious irony of an Iranian housewife and mother sticking it to Einstein and Newton. Einstein would love it too. But not Newton, he was awfully prickly.

You show me yours and I'll show you mine. Here's Pari Spolter. 

 

http://www.thelivingmoon.com/47john_lear/02files/Pari_Spolter_000.html

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Further Creative Destruction.

Further to my missive on Pari Spolter, I offer you Dayton Miller.

The entire edifice is under threat. It is being propped up with  kludges. Dark energy, Ha!

 

http://www.orgonelab.org/miller.htm

aggrivated's picture
aggrivated
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America's Most Sustainable Cities and Regions

This is a good read. The senior author, Charles Hall, developed the concept of EROI. Chris uses this a lot in the Crash Course analysis of Peak oil. The six contributing authors are all academics, but the book is an easy, interesting read.

An excerpt is in the Aug 21, 2016 Scientific American if you want to get the gist.

Chris and Adam, what are the chances of an interview with Charles Hall or JH Day?

Mark Cochrane's picture
Mark Cochrane
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Posts: 1214
Two cents

Great podcast and terrific discussion. It is great to get so many insights from people engaged in reasonable discussion from many points of view.

Having finally returned from my latest trip 'halfway round the world', I had to chuckle with regard to Chris' comment.

Chris Martenson:

"Some say we live like kings, but that doesn’t really go far enough. Henry VIII may’ve had complete mastery over his many wives, but even he could not click a mouse, buy a plane ticket, and be halfway around the world the next day. You and I can do that.

So, we really live like ancient Greek gods, able to command the forces of nature and get ourselves from point a to point b really quickly if we choose."

The experience may rely on godlike powers but it feels like more of an Odyssey when traveling to the places I go - 5 planes each way! That said, Dave Fairtex speaks truly about the ability of people to live quite well on much less energy and to live more modestly on dramatically less energy. Many countries can provide many models of how to accomplish this. The problem is that societies are energy addicts that can never seem to get enough. Do we really 'need' more? No. However, few get rich marketing ways to use less energy in a consumption driven economy. And people hate to change if they feel it is inconvenient. If you 'have to' garden you will hate it, if you 'choose to' garden you will love it.

Clearly what we should and in fact need to do is consciously make the effort to use less and less energy, per capita and in aggregate as populations rise. What we will do however is probably try to avoid changing the way in which we live unless there is literally no choice. Our current energy models are failing for any number of reasons from declining EROEI to decaying infrastructure. There will be Herculean efforts made to prop up our existing system, however, be it from money printing to finance failing energy plays (fracking) or attempts at providing alternative energy sources.

One thing I try to keep in mind is that although we cannot imagine how we can live with reduced energy that this is not the same as saying that we cannot live under those conditions. It is true that we cannot live the same way but we will not just give up and die either. Given the need we will find ways to get by if we cannot thrive. There is a lot of adaptability and creativity that will be employed if push comes to shove. It won't be the 'solution' but it will buy time as social and living structures work to adapt. As someone else said, there are many solutions not just one. For now though there can be no solutions (adaptations) because as a society we refuse to even admit we even have a problem/predicament.

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
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Cornelius, I would doubt the validity of his source photos.

Let me begin by saying that I do strongly believe we put men on the moon; the energies involved make it likely.

However, more recently, I consider anything that JPL has touched to be tainted, and of questionable value.

Why?

Because of this:

http://www.google.com/url?q=http://c3po.barnesos.net/list/AnalysisTitanP...

And because at a symposium elsewhere, more than a year later, one of their speakers knew our unnamed astronomy professor well enough to attack him as being "from that nut case college JMU", when he stood up to ask a question at the end.

in other words, JPL was pissed enough to study the faculty and seek-and-destroy.

That to me, is circumstantial evidence of systemic guilt.

Unacknowledged's picture
Unacknowledged
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The trucks do not have to stop running.

Human mind, senses, and machines are nowhere near capable of fully perceiving or comprehending reality. The filtered subset of reality we perceive and comprehend is just our limited version.  By expanding our comprehension, we can literally change (our perceived) reality.

 

youtube video DmKx7Btacvg

http://fuel-efficient-vehicles.org/energy-news/?page_id=925
 
Unacknowledged's picture
Unacknowledged
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Existing cars can be converted at low cost to run . . .

There are one billion existing internal combustion engines in service globally today which could be inexpensively converted to run without fuel as demonstrated by Stanley A. Meyer (1941 - March 21, 1998) in 1996. He demonstrated a practical solution which could be inexpensively mass produced as an add-on kit for existing gasoline and diesel engines. The materials in his device were 500 grams of stainless steel per spark plug, 500 grams of copper wire in a bifilar toroid coil, and assorted simple standard electrical and electronic components. The controller logic is no more complicated or expensive than what is found in a typical car today. The material are less than $200. Large scale production design could reduce the per unit engineering and labor cost to $10, and $30 respectively. The details can be debated, but his is very doable.

I came across the following (below) description of a revealing exchange between Brillouin executive R.W. George and Wall Street bankers that hints that banks may fund this type of venture, if there is enough money in it for them, otherwise, they have no interest.

Brillouin exec Robert W. George II, said: "When we took it (our need to raise capital) to Wall Street they looked at the upside potential of this kind of technology and said it is worth $Trillions. You’re only trying to raise $15-20 million. It makes no sense (for us to fund you), we can't do that."

Given the above narrative, the solution is to offer Wall Street a more profitable deal. Ask to raise a billion dollars and they will eagerly raise the funds, since they get to keep more for themselves. This is really all they are interested in. As for Wall Street funding new energy technologies, the lesson learned here is: think big or go home.

Source: Youtube video G09LRbDXGy8 at time 42:39 mm:ss

I think the time is ripe for (a thousand) someone(s) to start a company to mass produce Stanley Meyer add on kits. If the funding terms allow bankers to make a huge fortune, they may go for it. After all, even the bankers know the Petrodollar is terminal.

http://www.theorionproject.org/en/research.html#technology_papers

 

Cherihuka's picture
Cherihuka
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Adam Taggart says this outcome is unlikely

Sometimes when a thread seems to go off-topic (or gets mired in one topic), I go back and re-read the article. At the top, where this whole thing is outlined, you will read:

"...And WHILE UNLIKELY, her projected aftermath of a sudden complete shutdown of the trucking fleet is sobering." 

I didn't listen to the podcast thoroughly this time, so maybe Chris has an argument that Adam is mirroring in that statement.

I know sudden collapse would come from trucks stopping, but I don't think gas/oil is the catalyst to a sudden stoppage. I think there are several other things that could cause trucks to stop, but not that (especially now that there's such a glut in oil supplies).

An electrical outage surely would be, since financials are behind our JIT commerce and everything is on a computer now - from accounts to vendors, and even transactions - so that would cause a quick unraveling to everything.  There are a whole lot of studies and reports that outline massive vulnerability, and the risk of societal disruption & calamity, from SUDDEN (and sometimes irreversible) electrical outages. 

I can see there is a lot of research going on for alternative energies, but whatever they come up with, it's not like the car replacing the horse. Mass transit (trolleys and buses) might work for rural areas, but who has the funding for it? There are currently many projects on the table for mass transit (trains) in highly populated areas and they aren't happening either. Mass transit means more taxes, and unless states follow Colorado's lead (and 2 other states), legalizing marijuana for the immense tax revenue it generates... there is no more money to fund these projects. VAT taxes won't be enough. I think legalizing drugs for tax revenue only works for a while, then the black market moves in (remember all the illegal liquor trade/stills during prohibition?)

A few people see massive unemployment coming down the line. The boomers are the only ones who own/will own their homes and will have money to pay rising taxes.... but all the pension funds are underfunded and who knows when that will all blow up. I heard that Millennials are going to move up into high-paying science and tech jobs, and become the new middle class (lol), but for now their lives are throttled by student loans, keeping one or two part time minimum wage service jobs, while they live in someone's basement.

I don't hear either of our presidential 'con'didates advocating for a 'new deal' of jobs to fix the fix we're in. I don't hear any innovative ideas at all. 

So, one way or another, there will be fewer jobs and less money for everything- and less traveling. Maybe they'll lay more tracks for long-distance travel...and supply routes. If I could invest, I would invest in trains. If I could begin a dream hobby toward resilience in the future I see, it would be raising cart horses and building carts. 

I know we all have different views on what current events portend in the near future, but this article is basically preaching to the choir. We all know none of the possible calamities will be mitigated in time. There isn't anyone in power who can or will do the right things, and we don't have the money or the power. Things are not getting better, not going in the right direction, and not going to change for the better except at personal/ family, community levels. 

If people don't grasp their own dependence and vulnerabilities to the fragility of our 'system' by now, then they are suffering from cognitive dissonance and won't be coming around to a proactive state of mind until it's too late.

 

 

 

Cherihuka's picture
Cherihuka
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This is an empassioned response to a flippant 'answer'...

Climber99... 'no problem'? Why did you even post that response? Are you a rock climber, per chance? (by your name). It sounds like you are young and in great physical condition, so these possible upcoming problems don't feel challenging to you. (Maybe you don't know anyone over 55 or who is handicapped, so you don't know the challenges they may already face).

I see a few problems that are insurmountable to many (in case of a 'sudden' stoppage to trucking). 

First, I think Cuba's result of a mass response to desperation (caused by sudden financial -scarcity- changes, did not come without much suffering. I haven't studied that country/culture, but I believe they had soil that was not ruined by pollution or big-ag soil-stripping practices, they have a population that became resourceful over time, and being in the tropics, they didn't need irrigation over large areas in a continuous drought with water shortages. I imagine trucking produce around took/takes a lot less cost because there is simply less mileage to cover.

Americans will have several seasons of hard learning curves, as well as weirded weather to contend with.

Public transport... bikes are great for young people, and people who CAN physically bike. Security issues abound with it, as well as distance issues. There is a well-known problem for city and urban people (the poorest areas) enduring food scarcity (except 7/11's)- and an unsafe environment (that surely won't go away). Will the towns and cities pay for the group vans and drivers for those who can't walk or bike, when public services are no longer being funded? 

-mass transport? Cities will just magically have money for that, and be able to 'truck' in all the supplies to the Nonexistent manufacturing plants to be built? 

I tried to imagine having trolley-electrified trucks, using wind machines on each line, for the current. Huff Po says it's the fasted growing job segment already, but those wind machines may have sustainability problems of their own. 

Also, if the financial or electrical systems break down, or for the outlook on energy limits- if the trucks stop, so will most of the jobs and banking activities... and likely all int'l trade, so where will the steel and copper (et al) come from to suddenly get on the ball with these projects? 

I just finished listening to the entire podcast and visiting Alice's website. Some good articles there on the future of transportation. I started with this one to get a good idea of how impossible electric trolley-line trucking would be: 

http://energyskeptic.com/2016/all-of-california-electricity-per-year-to-...

Looks like we're going to be locked into trains, maybe some gas-conversion buses (for a while anyway), some expensive and rare battery/elec. vehicles, drone deliveries....  and eventually horse power. But in the meantime MUCH SUFFERING. No trucks, no medication making, or delivery...no jobs to pay for it, no tax revenue for cities or gov't to pay for it... and the list of our national needs is longer than just that.

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Fascinating Dayton Miller

Fascinating Dayton Miller article Arthur. It's nice to see that the Chi/ Orgone/ Prana that I feel every day has had such scientific attention. Thomas Townsend Brown did most of his work under a cloak of secrecy.

See also Paul LaViolette: Secrets of Anti-Gravity Propulsion. Youtube.

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The Secrets of Anti-Gravity

The Secrets of Anti-Gravity video is literally mindblowing. B-2 bomber, Mars in 5 days, Alpha Centauri in 2 1/2 months - 5yrs. Star-Treak Rays,  Artifical Pulsars.  We are imprisoned in a cage of corrupted science!

 ....the very evident indications of human technologies that could be far in advance of public knowledge, change entirely the complexion .....of events especially when one considers the missing "hole" in modern historiography - the UFO and extraterrestrials - and the missing" hole" in geopolitics and finance: the whole system of hidden funding elaborated since World War Two...P 342  " Covert Wars and the Clash of Civilizations."

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Electric Power and Local Economies

Let's use our resources to immediately build enough fission nuclear powered electric generation plants to eventually be the primary source of electric. This would be on a regional/national level.  Require energy use reduction through legislation in the name of national security. As available oil continues to diminish, local economies will begin to naturally flourish, but it should be encouraged through carbon tax on distance of deliveries. I know this sounds pie in the sky but we have to do something to transition future generations back to a 19th century lifestyle in the future.  

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Re: Fission Power

Edwardelinski Wrote:

Let's use our resources to immediately build enough fission nuclear powered electric generation plants to eventually be the primary source of electric.
 

1. Insufficient Uranium Supplies. Most of the easy Uranium has already been extracted. Costs for extraction would be significantly higher.

2. Pollution: There isn't too much more polluting that mining for radioactive materials. Refining Uranium is also creates an abundance of pollution.

3. Increase chances of Reactor meltdowns causing wipespread contamination. Fukashima was the final nail in nuclear power. Countries like Germany, France, UK, US and Japan are either downsizing or have put expansion on Hold. 

4. lack of funding. The Industrialize world is insolvent. That's why all of the industrial nations have ZIRP OR NIRP. Already many operating reactors have serious problems and should be shutdown. The problem is that the utilties lack the capital to decommission or replace them. In the USA, the Nuclear Regulator Commission has an Extend and pray policy, which sooner or later will end in disaster.

Nuclear Power does nothing to fix the Trucking problem. 

 

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A Joke Michael?

I do so wish that the brainiacs  at NASA who exercise their wit at our expenses would stop. It is just tedious and has the aesthetic appeal as latrine wall humor

Unless of cause they are throwing dust in the air to obscure our vision. In which case one should consider what it is they are trying to conceal.  And that thought peaks my curiosity. They may not be as clever as they think they are.

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The Solution Cornelius

The solution to a disruptive event is an even more disruptive Paradigm shift, Cornelius.

We are the proverbial drunk searching for  his keys in the lamplight. The solution is to grope around in the dark, and to go over everything that we think we know. Perhaps the drunk should check his pockets. 

My ancestors didn't get me this far for me to just give in. They deserve more respect than that.

And besides, I have found the perfect outlet for my destructive urges. Can you think of a better Trolling than to undermine everyones' precious Models?

What a hoot! If I am to go down, then I go down giggling like a Hyena. 

I have McKenna's authority that this is what it's like when a species prepares to depart for the stars. 

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Paradigm Lost.

Well, if you can get through an hour of Paul's  excruciating talk you  will emerge with a completely  brand new paradigm. 

And you will see why the discovery of the aether is so important. 

Your horizons will have expanded and all the little pieces of the jigsaw will fit most satisfactorily. 

(I blew through  $10 worth of data, and it was worth every penny.)

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Who needs trucks. We've had telportation since 1968.

Who needs trucks. We've had telportation since 1968.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPV8lPvDsFA

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One possibility - Thorium
TechGuy wrote:

Edwardelinski Wrote:

Let's use our resources to immediately build enough fission nuclear powered electric generation plants to eventually be the primary source of electric.

1. Insufficient Uranium Supplies. Most of the easy Uranium has already been extracted. Costs for extraction would be significantly higher.

My only possible ray of hope in this regard is Thorium.  I totally agree that Uranium has been essentially mined out already.

Kirk Sorenson and I had a great conversation over what's possible with Thorium a while back.

There are massive quantities of it, and the fuel cycle is not especially dangerous, and it makes not useful bomb materials, and a "runaway event" would lead to reactor plug melting out so the Thorium salt mix could drain into a pool where it would rapidly harden and cool into a benign mass.

What's not to like?

I mean for citizens...the US government turned away from it a long time ago because it was not nearly dangerous enough for their taste.  No useful bomb materials...*ugh*  how unfun for them.  So they dropped it.

But China is going full bore on the technology as is India (to a lesser degree as I understand it, but still a light year ahead of the US which invented the technology back in the late 1950's)

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My father assumed it was a joke

In the paper, my father assumed it was a joke. That said, either it was a joke, and should have been admitted, or it was fraud and should have been disciplined, or it was systemic fraud for profit, and the whistleblowing institution (jmu) should have been hit as hard as possible in order to protect unjustified incomee

Since they picked option 3, I start to lean toward systemic fraud.

If that's the case, then I view ANYTHING that comes from JPL as questionable. Doesn't mean it's falsified -- quite probably most of it isn't. But it raises doubts about anything they do being falsified: I take everytting they pro.uce with a grain of salt, therefore.

Thirty or a hundred years from now, if we want our science to go forward, we need to throw out the bad data.

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If it's that easy to make a Meyer, please make ONE.

Make one, and use it yourself. For myself, I find the 2nd law of thermo to be in force.

Even if it works, though, such a device would be terrible for the environment.

Anyone manages to make a free energy source, without making a free energy sink, is going to rais the surface temperature of the Earth to the point that it exterminates the life, and destroys the machines.

There's a reason that the seceond law of t_ermo needs to be in effect.

That said, you will spend your money forever trying to get it, and always ALMOST get there, but never quite. The second law of thermo is actually a mathematical limitation. The same principle also shows up, for example, in the mathematical limits of lossless data compression for generic data structures.

Just as there are limits to what you can do with energy transformation, there are also limits as to what you can do with mathematical transformation: you can't stuff an infinite amount of random information in a finite amount of data space.

In addition to there being a reason the second law of thermo needs to be there, there is also a reason the second law jf thermo IS there.

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Fragile Models and Robust Hatchets.

I have slept on the subject of Paul leVioletts ideas and have two niggles. 

1 Electric charge doesn't behave as he says on the surface of a conductor . Like charges repel and so I don't know how he gets them to separate. 

2 His single line diagrams that integrate gravity with charge are as clear as mud. But perhaps that is due to my ignorance.

As to the second law of thermodynamics. The proof of that, as Asimov pointed out, is Inductive. It is an assumption that has been sacrificed to support the main stream science idea of the Big Bang. The assumption has to be violated in order for  our reality to come into being . Another Kludge.

There are other models beside the Big Bang. Here is Paul Marmets Newtonian physics.

http://www.newtonphysics.on.ca/info/author.html

But my favourite  hatchet is still the Quantum Erasure Experiment.  Our Models of Reality are supported by robustly ignoring the Empirical evidence. This is called Willful  Ignorance.   

I am watching a young (to me) Phd Student of Quantum physics try to get on top of his game with the Erasure Experiment.  He is far cleverer than me and is floundering.  He is finding out what its like to step off the edge of the cliff into the Void of our ignorance. It is discombobulating  and exciting. 

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Stable Salt Reactor?

check this out.  Sounds promising.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-31/how-new-nuclear-could-...

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not selling it. . .

peak energy is a tough sell when gas prices are at $2 a gallon (NJ prices). 

I don't think the author sold it .

 

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She Sold Me

But then I lived through the Great Alaskan Earthquake. The second largest earthquake in world history, with a magnitude of 9.2 and lasting 4 minutes 38 seconds.  Life circumstances can change quickly.  If Ms. Friedmann didn't sell you maybe it was because you don't want to buy her message and that's not her responsibility.    If someone shouted from the roof tops the a Titanic was at risk of sinking how many would have listened?  More likely they would have been labeled "conspiracy theorists" and became the butt of jokes.

If only a tiny handful of people heed Ms. Friedmann's message she will have saved lives. IMHO

AKGrannyWGrit

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no, I"m not adverse to the

no, I"m not adverse to the idea of peak oil.

In fact, I have a difficult time understanding just how we've been able to go so long on the oil we have!

I'm always like "there apparently are/were OCEANS of black fluid under the earth?!?!" If kind of defies my imagination.

And yet, every time I pull up to the pump, gas comes out. 

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Oceans or Puddles?

pdaly,

pdaly wrote:

I'm always like "there apparently are/were OCEANS of black fluid under the earth?!?!" If kind of defies my imagination.

This Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_proven_oil_reserves) claims that there are approximately 1.5 trillion barrels of proven petroleum reserves. The world currently uses about 30 billion barrels of petroleum per year. If we don't find any more and if we don't increase our usage, we've got about 50 years of proven reserves left. 1.5 trillion barrels is about 56 cubic miles. Assuming we've used about half of all the earth's oil endowment, we originally had around 115 cubic miles of petroleum.

This Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lakes_by_volume) shows Lake Erie (the 18th largest lake by volume) having a volume of 120 cubic miles. Assuming that the estimates are off by a factor of 2, Lake Titicaca in Bolivia/Peru is 15th on the list at 214 cubic miles. Instead of OCEANS, you should be thinking the equivalent of LAKES. That is still a mind boggling amount for most folks.

Unfortunately (or fortunately,) our oil reserves aren't all contained in an easy-to-pump lake. It is distributed in underground pockets of various sizes. The big pockets (super giant oil fields) have lots of interconnecting pockets in a porous substrate (think of a limestone cave as an illustrative example.) The super giants are the easiest to discover and produce the highest EROEI (energy returned on energy invested.) Ghawar in Saudi Arabia is the biggest super giant oil field ever discovered. One estimate had 170 billion barrels originally in place (about 6 1/2 cubic miles of petroleum which is still a good sized lake. The rest are all smaller.) That is about 6 years of current production in a single field. It was discovered in 1948 and has been commercially pumped since 1951. To enhance production, Aramco pumps millions of gallons of sea water per day into the field. Oil is less dense than sea water, so sea water fills the lowest levels of the reservoirs and forces the oil to the upper levels to be pumped out. (Aren't humans clever?)

Because we've literally explored all over the earth already, and we've used all the knowledge obtained by exploring to concentrate efforts in likely locations, the chances of finding another super giant are exceedingly slim. I'd be surprised to hear that another giant oil field was discovered.

M. King Hubbard was a geoscientist who worked for Shell Oil. In the 1950s, he noticed that every petroleum field in existence went through a similar pattern of increasing oil production until about half the recoverable oil was extracted. Then, the fields became increasingly stingy and went into long term decline. In other words, it peaked its production. Using statistical analysis, he proposed that the US (which was the lower 48 at the time) would peak in the early 1970s and begin the long slow decline. That continued until recently when fracking was discovered and implemented rapidly to tight oil formations. (Aren't humans clever?) The graphic shows Texas production, but total US production is similar.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil#/media/File:Texas_Oil_Production_1935-2012.png

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil#/media/File:Texas_Oil_Production_1935-2012.png

Note the peak of production in the early 1970s and the long decline until the mid 2000s decade. Then, around 2010, production increased in hockey stick fashion. Why is that? The only thing that changed was widespread fracking of tight oil formations. This was suddenly seen as profitable as the price of petroleum went up. Petroleum prices peaked in '08, plummeted in '09, then rose again to a plateau from '11 to '14, and since then have plummeted again.

Fracking needs high petroleum prices to be profitable. It is unknown how many operations are profitable at these relatively low prices. Fortunately, the federal reserve has kept borrowing rates suppressed since '09. That drives down all interest rates - including junk bonds. As a result, frackers are able to access cheaper funding to maintain operations. They have to pump as much as they can to get enough money to make payments on their operations and existing debt. It doesn't matter if they are profitable at current prices. If they don't pump to capacity, they go under.

So, is this current day miracle of expanded oil production and cheaper pump prices sustainable? It may be for a while, but eventually geologic limits will announce themselves. there are economic limits in play as well. Fracking needs high oil prices to be profitable (think of that as the floor of a room.) The economy needs low oil prices to maintain itself and actually grow (think of that as the ceiling of a room.) As long as the ceiling is above the floor, there is room for commerce to continue. When oil is too expensive for the consumer or too cheap for the producer, we've got a problem. Can producers make a profit at current prices? Can the economy handle oil prices over $100/barrel? Something has got to give.

Enjoy these low prices while they last. Use them to prepare for the inevitable time when prices increase again. That's my advice.

Grover

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peak oil explained

Go to Gail Tverberg's site, Our Finite World. She does a great job of explaining how cheap oil and peak oil are from the same barrel.

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Bull hockey!!!

That hockey stick of oil production is positive for the economy, right?

So when I see that as proof that everything is fine, I just have to say: "Bull Hockey!"

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that's helpful, Grover.  but

that's helpful, Grover. 

but on the other hand, since i was a child in the 1970's I've been hearing about how we are going to run out of oil "soon"-ish. And there's a bit of chicken little to this. 

If there's 50 more years of oil (based on current technology), well, that's a pretty long time in technology world. 10 years ago there wasn't even a thing called an iphone.

I believe in a lot of the theory to Peak Prosperity, and that a lot of their advice is good advice even if gas stays at $2 a gallon. But I just don't buy the "end is near" rhetoric. I've heard it too many times. 

 

 

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Thats Okay pdaly

There are those of us that count on clients and customers continuing to spend their money as if tomorrow will be just like today.  If ever they realize the future will not be like the past they might behave differently and then they wouldn't be copiously spending money on "wants".  Sometimes I think "thank god" not everybody "gets it" or I wouldn't be in business.  So by all means buy a big SUV, eat out, keep the cable companies in business and spread that money around on all those wants.

PS - one of the young men who mows my grass was mountain biking this summer and even though he had heard "wear you helmet" ever so many times before with out any problems what-so-ever he respectfully obliged his parents request.  His front tire hit a deep rut and he went flying over the handle bars at great speed breaking his clavicle and scapula in the accident.  No head or brain damage though.   A smart young man who was glad he headed advice "he heard before"!

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Trust Actions Rather Than Words

pdaly,

I agree that we've heard it all before. I remember reading a "Weekly Reader" in the mid '60s about all the coal we have in the US. The article said that we have 525 years of coal left. In the mid 2000 decade, I read that we had 325 years of coal left. In about 40 years, we used up 200 years of coal. Both articles were correct, based on the usage and remaining quantity. As it turns, both articles were wrong. It has to do with projecting exponential growth. People just don't get that.

Frankly, I'm not too worried about oil running out. I think our financial mess will get us first. I concur with "aggrivated" that Gail Tverberg has a good handle on the narrative. I tried to paraphrase her work with my floor and ceiling analogy.

You noted that 50 years is a long time in the technology world. I hope you can see from my first paragraph in this response that 50 years of oil really isn't going to happen. It is a number based on remaining quantity and current usage. The remaining quantity is a "best guess" (that is likely inflated) and the daily usage will change over time. Also, simple equations like that assume that each unit is just as good as every other unit. We should be talking about net oil energy rather than barrels in the ground. It takes energy to drill, pump, ship to the refinery, refine, then ship the gasoline to your gas station. Also, governments tax it every step of the way. Let's not ignore all the environmental and infrastructure damage that will have to be repaired someday in the future.

As an example, look at the Peak Prosperity Tree Logo. Assume that it is a real tree that you stumbled across. It is laden with perfectly identical fruit. Is all the fruit equivalent? You can reach up and pick the low hanging fruit easily. Higher up fruit requires a step ladder. The fruit at the top requires a much taller ladder, but you have to lace it through all the branches. Not all identical fruit has the same net energy.

To be honest, my estimated quantity of oil remaining didn't include tar sands, oil shale, shale oil, or other unconventional sources. (Some experts say that conventional oil is only 30% of the total.) None of the unconventionals have the same net energy as conventional oil. We've already pumped oil from deep water, in the arctic, and in tight formations that require fracking and other unconventional techniques. If we've really got as much oil left as they claim, why wouldn't these companies just focus their efforts on the low hanging fruit that is far more profitable?

Grover

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faulty logic

It's not time that wears out cars, it's use. There will be little savings from self-driving cars. They'll wear out proportionally faster based on miles driven.

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EROMI

Alice touched on a concept that has been little explored: Energy Return On Materials Invested. Renewable energy systems are more energy intense and material intense than fossil fuel energy systems.

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aggrivated
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EROMI vs embedded energy

I always purchase as many 'used' things as possible because of the embedded energy saved. As energy costs increase in the future this factor will become more apparent. Recently purchased a 2004 Prius with low miles. My understanding is that the embedded energy for hybrid and electrics is a big offset against the improved 'burn rate' of fossil fuels they have, so keeping one on the road is a much better use of energy.

Energy returned on materials invested is a different idea than embedded energy. I would like to hear more about it. Mr. Google is clueless.

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Achilles heel of technology

Grover,
The inhabitants of Easter Island got to the island in deep water canoes. They thrived for many years by fishing in deep water canoes. When the trees of Easter Island were eventually all harvested to build new deep water canoes and those canoes wore out, the culture collapsed.

Many think that electricity and the fragility of its distribution is the weak link in the present world, others cite oil. Since the financial system is a result of energy flows, it is like the electrical grid, not a primary source of our prosperity. Distributions however (or flows) are critical. Like basic machines they convert primary energy into usable forms. Will the Achilles heel of our present civilization turn out to be a primary energy source or a distribution problem? What is your thought on this?

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Too Many Candidates
aggrivated wrote:

Grover, The inhabitants of Easter Island got to the island in deep water canoes. They thrived for many years by fishing in deep water canoes. When the trees of Easter Island were eventually all harvested to build new deep water canoes and those canoes wore out, the culture collapsed.

aggrivated,
Interesting. I always thought the inhabitants cut their trees in order to move and erect their statues. Once the trees were all gone, they perished. I never considered that the ancestors likely used ocean going canoes to get to the island. Perhaps, over time, they lost the cultural memory to allow them to escape while they had the chance. Perhaps they had other motives for remaining.

aggrivated wrote:

Many think that electricity and the fragility of its distribution is the weak link in the present world, others cite oil. Since the financial system is a result of energy flows, it is like the electrical grid, not a primary source of our prosperity. Distributions however (or flows) are critical. Like basic machines they convert primary energy into usable forms. Will the Achilles heel of our present civilization turn out to be a primary energy source or a distribution problem? What is your thought on this?

That's a complicated issue. If I had to choose between a source or distribution problem, I suspect a distribution problem would be the Achilles' heel. We'll never pump the last drop of oil. By the time we get to that point, the economy will have faltered. The distribution system needs a sound economy to provide incentives for work to be accomplished. (How long would you continue to work at a job you hated if the monetary incentive disappeared?)

This picture, from Wikipedia, shows a catenary formed by a chain. If any of the links break, the chain fails. That to me is a simple visual for our situation. We have many interconnected links (energy sources, energy distribution, finance, government, environment, Just-in-time logistics, etc.) If any of these links break, the chain fails. It really doesn't matter which link breaks first. The end result is the same. Our system rewards quarterly economic performance, not resilience. Why have a warehouse with lots of spare parts that soak up profit when any part can be flown in the next day?

Many of the individual links are under considerable stress. Which one will break first? When will it happen? I really don't know the answer, but I'm sure the end result will look the same. In 2005, with the housing bubble expanding, I was sure we'd have a financial comeuppance at any day. The system limped along for another 3 years. If it weren't for everyone's heroes, Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson </sarc>, the system would have failed then. Thanks to their efforts, the banks got bailed out and are now too big to bail.

Look at the political animosity in the USA. Hillary won the popular vote, but Trump won the electoral vote. A sizable minority would do almost anything to make Trump fail, even if it destroys our country. I've actually lost what I considered a dear friendship because I said that Hillary belongs in jail.

Look at all our vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks. Look at all the surreptitious spying by every G20 government. Look at the plight of the lowly bumblebee. They are all links that are being stressed. There are many more. Which one will break the chain?

Since you mentioned Easter Island, I'm wondering if people will actually try to escape the self-cleaning ovens that our cities will become once the food trucks stop coming. I'm expecting that most will consider it a temporary condition and will trust the government assurances to remain calm. Just like on Easter Island, these people won't try to escape until they have used up their critical resources. They won't have trees to cut to make canoes and they wouldn't know how to do it without Youtube instructions.

Grover

 

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