Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crisis of Civilization.7

Today I read pages 73-87. In it, Ahmed did the following:

  • put the final nail in the coffin of oil. Peak Oil has happened. Now we get to deal with decreased supply. This will eventually mean lower demand and/or higher prices. And we'll look for other fuel sources, as we have already begun to do. These include:
  • (talked about) coal, which is growing more expensive. It is dangerous. Even the "clean" stuff emits CO2 in its mining. Assuming that demand stays what it is (and it won't - as we run out of oil, we may rely more on coal; and world demand is increasing as the economy expands, albeit more slowly), we're looking at no more than 120 years of coal. Real estimates are far lower;
  • (talked about coal) natural gas - same deal. This one is especially inefficient. The oil inputs to produce natural gas are pretty steep. It's inefficient. And it's unsustainable. We're looking at about 100 years' worth of this stuff, too - maximum. And, like I said, demand is likely to increase one way or another;
  • (explored the question) what about nonconventional sources like tar sands (super inefficient and really tiny dividends - p. 82)
  • (explored) or shale - same thing, not to mention incredibly water intensive and natural gas intensive.
  • (declared) In short, "unconventional oil sources are simply irrelevant" (82).
  • (inquired) Well, what about nuclear? It has several problemsL
    • waste reprocessing costs are in the billions
    • the waste can be easily used for weapons
    • reprocessing is unsafe and inefficient in practice (84). This is based on reproduction in the US, UK, and other countries so far. It's empirical stuff.
    • Nuclear isn't carbon free. Carbon dioxide is emitted at all points in the cycle (extraction, processing) EXCEPT the actual fission.
    • sources - the US Army Corps of Engineers says we'll run out uranium in 20 years at current levels of demand. Yes, that's only the new stuff. We can reuse once-spent uranium, but then it becomes a lot more expensive to extract energy from and less energy is produced. Diminishing returns and all that.
Next up: "Renewable Energy: A Primer" (still in Ahmed's book)
As alarming as this news is, I'm still pretty excited!

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