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Author Topic: Running out of Oil  (Read 11775 times)

Offline Solvay_1927

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Running out of Oil
« on: 27/03/2006 23:13:26 »
What a nice surprise – after a long absence, I return to find that you’ve introduced an Environmental forum. Thanks.

(You've also nicely tidied up the rest of the site, so that stuff is easier to locate.  Will you be moving some of the old - or at least the recent - environment-related threads across to this forum, so that they’re easier to find?  For example, global warming, manhattan project for clean energy, etc.)

Anyway, I have some questions about oil that have been occupying my mind recently.  Maybe someone can help me to answer them (provide some links, etc.) - or if not, maybe I can at least stimulate some debate.

1. When will the world run out of oil?

2. How will we cope when we do run out of oil?

3. Which will be worse – the situation after we’ve run out, or the changes that will happen on the way to running out?

To explain these questions further:

1. I’ve seen estimates that we’ll have run out of oil within the next 50 or so years.  (It’s not that far away – quite possibly in my lifetime, certainly in my kids’ lifetime.)  Some say it will take longer, maybe closer to 100 years; others say it will be somewhat less than 50 years.
Some argue that we’re now approaching (or are already at) “peak production” – which means that production will soon start declining. It will become harder (and more expensive) to extract the remaining oil from current oilfields and to extract new oil from relatively inaccessible, smaller new oilfields.
And at the same time, usage is growing exponentially.  World demand for oil is predicted to grow by over 50% in the next 15-20 years (and by over 150% in China alone).

2.If we really do only have maybe 50 years or so, isn’t that too short a time to completely switch our dependence from oil to other forms of energy?
Will we be able to harness enough solar/wind/wave power to meet the demands of 2050 onwards?
Can we really expect to have developed safe, sustainable, cost-efficient, large scale nuclear fusion within that timescale?
What other energy sources are there that we might develop?
And will we really be able to develop alternative materials to the plastics, lubricants, etc. that currently come from oil?

3.I think the human race will find a way to manage without oil eventually.  What worries me more is the changes that we’ll undergo before we get there.
While oil supply falls and oil demand rises, oil prices can be expected to go through the roof - perhaps within the next couple/few decades.
Won’t that lead to economic (and political) crises?  And to social changes (e.g. fewer and fewer people being able to afford cars, air travel, heating, etc.)?
Will the big oil companies become more powerful than the world’s governments?
Will we see more “intervention” (i.e. military coercion or even invasion) by the US (and China and Russia?) to protect their sources of oil (and their oil pipelines)?

Your views (and any good links to factual websites, etc) would be useful.  Please tell me:  am I right to be worried, or am I being a melodramatic pessimist?

Thanks.


 

Offline ukmicky

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #1 on: 28/03/2006 01:07:05 »
quote:
Will you be moving some of the old - or at least the recent - environment-related threads across to this forum, so that they’re easier to find? For example, global warming, manhattan project for clean energy, etc.)


PAUL
its a good idea and I don't mind doing it but its finding them all.

They will all have be read to be sure of their content which could take sometime as we don't want to fill this lovely new forum with things which would be better left where they are but if you know of any good candidates then start a new post containing shortcuts to them and i will take a look:)

Michael
« Last Edit: 28/03/2006 02:41:48 by ukmicky »
 

Offline daveshorts

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #2 on: 28/03/2006 10:19:34 »
We definitely won't run out of oil in 50 years as there is a lot of the stuff about, however the price of extraction will probably have gone up to the point that there are cheaper ways of running cars...
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #3 on: 28/03/2006 13:13:05 »
Those who say we have nothing to worry about, that we shall find a solution when we need to, are, in a word, dumb.
Those who say we are on the edge of disaster are wrong, but sometimes you have to hit dumb people with a 2 x 4 to get their attention.
[Another way of saying this is that you are a melodramatic pessimist who has every right to be worried.]

It is impossible to accurately predict when we shall run out of oil because of a) gross uncertainties as to recoverable reserves b) gross uncertainties as to costs of production of said reserves c) gross uncertainties as to future growth d) the complex feedback mechanisms between these three and other factors.

We can say that we shall certainly reach peak oil in the next fifty years, and probably before then. Peak oil is the key point on the timeline. By the time we run out, oil will have long ceased to be a significant player in the energy stakes. [As a complete aaside, it has always appalled me that we take this potent chemical resource and burn(!) it. Crazy.]

The coping mechanism will hing upon how smoothly we introduce the alternative energy resources:

1. Fission power - mainly political objections.
2. Fusion power - mainly technical obstacles.
3. Renewable energy - mainly too expensive at present, and often environmentally unfriendly. (Surprise, surprise)
4. Methane hydrates - truly massive reserves, but no methodology for extraction, and it doesn't help global warming
5. Energy conservation - sloth and indifference discourage this, but with a change (not a reduction) of lifestyle we could, in the West, half our energy needs.


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another_someone

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #4 on: 28/03/2006 13:30:33 »
The problem is more complex than simply transportation – don't forget that much of our chemical industry is also petroleum based, including the ubiquitous plastics we now use for pretty much every consumer product.

Ironically, at least in the UK, electricity production in recent decades has been shifted from coal to gas, inspite of their being ample coal supplies left untapped in the ground.

In fact, looking at the history of coal, and the constant dire warning, since the latter part of the 19th century, that we would only have a few decades worth of coal left to power the industrial revolution; and yet, when the switch came from coal to oil/gas, we still had lots of coal that had never been used.



George
 

Offline Solvay_1927

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #5 on: 29/03/2006 01:12:02 »
Thanks for the reassurance, everyone. (Interesting point about the history of coal, George.)

Ophiolite - why do you say that renewable energy is often environmentally unfriendly?

But for all your reassurances, my searches on the web tend to find far more pessimistic sites than optimistic ones - and hardly any "balanced" views (i.e. like Ophiolite's).
Is the predominance of "doom-merchants" just because they're what "sells" best?

In trying to find out more about the "peak" point, I found the following (in case anyone's interested in a detailed discussion):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil
But nearly all the links and references at the bottom of of that page are for pessimists.
Does anyone have any good factual links that counter their arguments?
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #6 on: 29/03/2006 03:22:40 »
I must recommend two books:
"Field notes on a catastrophe" by Elizabeth Kolbert and "The Weather Makers" by Tim Flannery, both brand new. They both make the point that it is not just a matter of when do we run out of oil or coal, it is also a problem of not wanting to use all the remaining oil or coal because it will increase the likelihood of global climate change. Almost every atmospheric scientist out there will tell you that our grandchildren will live in a warmer world, mostly due to our combustion of fossil fuels. We need to use less, but every year we use more.
If you talk to an atmospheric scientist, you will find out that 95 to 99% of them are very worried about the time period of 50 to 100 years from now due to this issue. It is not because they are ridiculously well paid (they are not), or because they enjoy upsetting people. They actually believe this stuff, and they want us all to believe it and do something about it.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #7 on: 29/03/2006 18:14:13 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian
If you talk to an atmospheric scientist, you will find out that 95 to 99% of them are very worried about the time period of 50 to 100 years from now due to this issue. It is not because they are ridiculously well paid (they are not), or because they enjoy upsetting people. They actually believe this stuff, and they want us all to believe it and do something about it.




I would worry less if they were well paid.  The amount of politicking, back biting, and passionate and irrational intransigence, that happens in voluntary organisations far exceeds anything that one could imagine when people are only doing things to get a pay packet to take home at the end of the month.  Don't judge a person by their income, or lack of it.

The point is that if they did not follow the dominant doctrine of their colleagues, they would find it very much more difficult to continue to find colleagues who are willing to give them support, and many will find it difficult to continue to work in the field any longer.  Apart from the issue of project funding, this does not have a great deal to do with money, and more to do with what is acceptable within the group.

Not that this alone means they are wrong, or that they are right; it is merely a caution about not reading too much into democratic percentages.





George
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #8 on: 08/04/2006 03:02:31 »
Aha! Scientists cannot be trusted to do science, because they are all closet socialists leveled to idiocy by peer pressure, huh?
Sorry, another someone, I do not buy that notion. If you do not believe that scientists know anything about science, I suggest that you spend your time on another message board more in tune with your views.

chris wiegard
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #9 on: 08/04/2006 03:12:38 »
In reply to Solvay, yes there are people who do not believe that we are anywhere near the halfway point of our consumption of fossil petroleum. (I use the word fossil because they are not making any more of the stuff down there under the ground so consuming it is by definition unsustainable- it's just a matter of when.)
However most of the people who argue that we are centuries away from the halfway point of petroleum consumption happen to work for oil companies, and they make those statments because they want to continue to work for oil companies. Here in the U.S. we have had former oil company staff people go to work in the White House, editing the phrase "global warming" out of every scientific report that crosses their desk. I do not make this up, it is in the newspapers over here. So who do you want to trust, scientists or oil company people who claim to be scientists?

chris wiegard
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #10 on: 08/04/2006 03:21:31 »
I did read an excellent article in Scientific American this week on the topic of hybrid vehicles, explaining why many scientists view that currently available technology as a more promising way to reduce gasoline use than the use of hydrogen vehicles, which are really not practical and may never be. Extremely accurate material appears in print sometimes- peer reviewed journal material is rarely nonsense, unlike the internet stuff.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #11 on: 08/04/2006 04:48:03 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian

Aha! Scientists cannot be trusted to do science, because they are all closet socialists leveled to idiocy by peer pressure, huh?
Sorry, another someone, I do not buy that notion. If you do not believe that scientists know anything about science, I suggest that you spend your time on another message board more in tune with your views.

chris wiegard



Now you've put words into my mouth that I never uttered.

I never said that scientists were socialist/capitalist/ or any other particular shade of political animal.

What I said was that people who share a common background will naturally come under peer pressure to follow the commonly accepted doctrine.  This does not mean that the doctrine will be one thing or another, only that it will be a very brave man who is willing to argue against the foundation upon which his peers have based their careers.

Does this mean that scientists cannot be trusted?  As much, no more, and no less, than any other group of humans who share a common community of thought, and a common source of funding and power.  If it were not scientists, then it would be some other group of people; but whoever they are, they will still suffer the same human limitations.

This does not necessarily make them socialists, or any other shade of socio-economic philosophy; it just makes them human beings.



George
 

another_someone

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #12 on: 08/04/2006 04:49:48 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian

I did read an excellent article in Scientific American this week on the topic of hybrid vehicles, explaining why many scientists view that currently available technology as a more promising way to reduce gasoline use than the use of hydrogen vehicles, which are really not practical and may never be. Extremely accurate material appears in print sometimes- peer reviewed journal material is rarely nonsense, unlike the internet stuff.

chris wiegard



Indeed, I haver long regarded such an incremental approach to be far superior to the attempt to radically redesign society from the ground up.



George
 

another_someone

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #13 on: 08/04/2006 04:58:21 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian

In reply to Solvay, yes there are people who do not believe that we are anywhere near the halfway point of our consumption of fossil petroleum. (I use the word fossil because they are not making any more of the stuff down there under the ground so consuming it is by definition unsustainable- it's just a matter of when.)
However most of the people who argue that we are centuries away from the halfway point of petroleum consumption happen to work for oil companies, and they make those statments because they want to continue to work for oil companies. Here in the U.S. we have had former oil company staff people go to work in the White House, editing the phrase "global warming" out of every scientific report that crosses their desk. I do not make this up, it is in the newspapers over here. So who do you want to trust, scientists or oil company people who claim to be scientists?

chris wiegard



But is it not somewhat disingenuous of you to try and protect the scientific community as impartial, and then condemn the oil producers because they have jobs to protect.

Both groups are human beings, people who are, for the most part, trying to be honest, but inevitably will have their perception coloured by the background they work in and by the peer pressure they must adhere to.

If the oil industries really did themselves believe that they were on the brink of running out of oil, then would it really make sense for them to make claims to the contrary.  Would it not make much more sense for the oil industries to be pleading for special governmental help to try and help them switch resources away from oil.  That they continue to make such optimistic statements amount their future must imply that they actually feel they do not at present need any outside help to avert disaster.  Ofcourse, this does not mean that they are right in their assumption, I am merely saying that it makes the most sense to believe that their optimism, whether well placed or not, is probably genuine.

We all, whether scientist or oil magnate, have a natural tendency to delude ourselves in one way or another, but that is very different from accusing people of cynical lying.



George
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #14 on: 08/04/2006 19:37:53 »
quote:
Originally posted by Solvay_1927
Ophiolite - why do you say that renewable energy is often environmentally unfriendly?

I shall take a simple example - wind power. Here are the negative aspects of wind power.
1) Consider carbon dioxide generated in extracting raw materials for the wind turbines, manufacturing, transporting and erecting them, as well as the infra structure of roads and buildings required for their maintenance. This is rarely figured into the calculations of wind power benefits.
2) Consider the unsightly nature of wind turbines.
3) Consider the economic impact upon home owners where wind turbines are installed in their neighbourhood.
4) Consider the high mortality rate of birds transiting wind turbine sites.
5) Consider the low frequency noise generated by these turbines which is detectable over great distances and whose long term effects upon humans and other animals has not been thoroughly determined.
6) Consider the resource consumption of valuable materials to construct these turbines.

Don't get me wrong: I was at Yasgur's Farm in spirit, but we have to temper the hippy ideology with a little realism.


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Offline MayoFlyFarmer

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #15 on: 09/04/2006 03:32:56 »
quote:
Originally posted by Ophiolite

Those who say we have nothing to worry about, that we shall find a solution when we need to, are, in a word, dumb.



not dumb.  they just simply undersatnd the laws of economics

Are YOUR mice nude? ;)
 

another_someone

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #16 on: 09/04/2006 04:04:54 »
quote:
Originally posted by Solvay_1927

In trying to find out more about the "peak" point, I found the following (in case anyone's interested in a detailed discussion):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil




If you look at the history of the Hubbert peak theory mentioned on that page, you will see that it has singularly proven to be quantitatively inaccurate in its predictions.

While the notion that economically sustainable oil based infrastructure cannot last forever is self evident, but not only is it important not to pre-empt the end of oil (after all, one day the Sun itself will die, but there is little reason to get panicked over that within the next 5 years), but I also doubt that the simple bell shaped curve predicted by Hubbert and others will reflect the real situation.

If one looks at other resources, what tends to happen is that once the peek is reached, collapse of the industry tends to happen fairly fast, but without consuming the entire extent of the remaining resource (i.e. a lot of resource actually remains in the ground as the industrial infrastructure rapidly moves to the next resource – ironically, this might actually be seen as being wasteful, since it uses more of the new resource sooner than would otherwise be required, while not making full utilisation of the old resource).

The only thing that is fairly unique about oil is that it is used both as a fuel and as a chemical feedstock, and as such, it may well be that one industry will move on to the new resource ahead of the other, and so the overall abandonment of oil as a primary resource may not be as abrupt as it might have been if it was only an energy source or only a chemical feedstock.



George
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #17 on: 10/04/2006 18:33:00 »
Some of my remarks may have been intemperate. Another someone, you are quite correct that the problem is that we are all human. Humans are gullible, opinionated, and also sometimes vindictive and greedy.
Science aspires to objective analysis of measurable phenomena. While it does not pretend to have absolute certainty on everything, it does operate according to rules.
The global climate change and end of the oil age topics arouse more passions than most. To reach a consensus on these two topics requires us to drop all prejudices concerning political opponents, something which I myself find extremely difficult. I am tempted by the Ad Hominem argument to reject everything that George W. Bush proposes, simply because I have not seen him make many good suggestions so far. But the rules of logic compel me to admit that even an ignorant person can come up with a good idea sometimes.
I have to admit that I cannot prove to an absolute degree that the burning of fossil fuels at current rates will result in rising sea levels that will flood half of Bangladesh within a century. A majority of atmospheric scientists believe that it will happen, and that our CO2 contribution will be the cause. But without a time machine, there are plenty of people I cannot convince, partly because they simply do not wish to be convinced. It is very frustrating, because these people will no longer be living in the year 2060, and neither will I. I will never be able to say "you silly ass, I warned you about this and you prefered to plug your ears and go with business as usual". So be it. If the human race is able to change behavior in order to yield a survivable planet to their grandchildren, we will deserve that survival. If we are not willing to adjust our behavior for the benefit of posterity, I am hard pressed to suggest that a benificent Deity should yank us out of a frying pan of our own devising.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #18 on: 10/04/2006 21:45:08 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian
But the rules of logic compel me to admit that even an ignorant person can come up with a good idea sometimes.



That is something one must always be aware of – it is the arguments that are right or wrong, not the people.

quote:

I have to admit that I cannot prove to an absolute degree that the burning of fossil fuels at current rates will result in rising sea levels that will flood half of Bangladesh within a century. A majority of atmospheric scientists believe that it will happen, and that our CO2 contribution will be the cause. But without a time machine, there are plenty of people I cannot convince, partly because they simply do not wish to be convinced. It is very frustrating, because these people will no longer be living in the year 2060, and neither will I. I will never be able to say "you silly ass, I warned you about this and you prefered to plug your ears and go with business as usual". So be it. If the human race is able to change behavior in order to yield a survivable planet to their grandchildren, we will deserve that survival. If we are not willing to adjust our behavior for the benefit of posterity, I am hard pressed to suggest that a benificent Deity should yank us out of a frying pan of our own devising.



And, as you say, I shall not be alive to tell you that you were wrong either :P

But the key difference is not actually one that will be solved by a time machine.  I am not arguing that there is no global warming, or that there are no rising sea levels; all I am saying is that we cannot prevent it by simply stopping our burning of carbon.  Thus, if we continue to burn carbon at the present rate, and sea levels rise, it will have proven neither your nor my position.  It is only if we cease to burn carbon (something that, no matter how much the politicians must argue over, can never completely be achievable), and we were still to get rising sea levels, then I could come back and haunt you with an “I told you so”.

Given that two thirds of the Earth is already covered with water, would it not make more sense to develop technologies that would better allow us to utilise that two thirds of the world, and see the challenge of an expanding sea as an opportunity rather than a threat.



George
 

Offline AlphBravo

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #19 on: 06/05/2006 13:01:39 »
Well oil are getting harder to extract, it is not hard to extrapolate the outcome, we is one selfish lot, and as both the World Wars we have had were about oil and it's supply we therefore know, the next will also be about that but "who" controls the oil will be the Big one.
Ever seen civilised folk acting like animals? just markedly reduce their oil!
 

another_someone

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #20 on: 06/05/2006 19:50:11 »
quote:
Originally posted by AlphBravo
Well oil are getting harder to extract, it is not hard to extrapolate the outcome,



Ofcourse oil is getting harder to mine – the same is true of absolutely anything else that is regularly mined; but getting harder does not mean that we are close to having it run out, although it is inevitable that tomorrow will be two days closer to running out of oil than yesterday was.

quote:

as both the World Wars we have had were about oil and it's supply



I am not at all sure how you come to this conclusion.  In WWI, oil was not yet a major resource, and most power was still produced from coal.

It is true that oil had a strategic significance in WWII, but except in the case of Japan's' attack on Pearl Harbour, I am not aware that it was a cause of any country entering the war (and Japan was rather a late entrant, although there is no doubt that the American oil embargo on Japan was the main motivating factor for its entering the war).



George
 

another_someone

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #21 on: 07/05/2006 00:28:55 »
More gas than oil.

http://www.jsme.or.jp/English/emnews07.html
quote:

(6) Japan Utilize the New Energy Resource: Methane-Hydride

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will start a new
energy project to utilize methane-hydride lying under the sea floor.
The 3-year first phase is to estimate by artificial seismic wave the
amount of deposits existing around Japan, and then by actually drilling
into the sea floor.  Following this first phase, the next step will
start in 2007 to extract methane directly from the frozen
methane-hydride layers. The total deposits around Japan is expected to
reach 7,400 billion square meters, which is equivalent to consuming
natural gas for 100 years in Japan. The METI plans to put this project
into commercial service in 2016.





George
 

Offline JimBob

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #22 on: 07/05/2006 03:55:01 »
quote:
Originally posted by AlphBravo

Well oil are getting harder to extract, it is not hard to extrapolate the outcome, we is one selfish lot, and as both the World Wars we have had were about oil and it's supply



WHAT THE HELL?? Don't people learn history anymore? As stated previously, oil had very little economic importance in WW I. The cause of WW I  is very complicated. It was the reslt of  an arms race among the European powers, a war of empire - Germany had one, too - and of monarchies vs. mostly deemocracies (Serbia and Russia were allies of British and France.) It was a "legacy" war resulting from alliances, hereditary distrust and a chance assasination.

WW II was mostly a result of the harsh terms for Germany and Austro-Hungary of the Treatty of Versailles that ended WW I and a madman.

If any energy resources were a factor in WW I & II it was the coal of the Saar but this land has been fought over for centuries.

What a scientis needs in order to most wisely pursue his or her field is a historical perspective. As George Santana said, those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are bound to repeat them. As human beings we are responsible for our science.

Oil and gas are being used up at an alarming rate, because the scientific world has not learned the lessons of the past. The deforestation of Greece is but one of numerous examples of the results of over-use of natural resources. We have not learned!



The mind is like a parachute. It works best when open.  -- A. Einstein
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #23 on: 14/05/2006 19:19:49 »
JimBob, I agree that petroleum was not a cause of WWII with Germany. It was actually a factor in Japan deciding to attack the USA at Pearl Harbor - because we had started to limit their access to petroleum.
Petroleum was also a factor in the victory over Nazi Germany, because we finally focused on bombing petroleum wells and refineries. The lack of access to fuel for the Germany army in the closing months of the war was one factor in their defeat.  

Your main point that petroleum is a limited resource is of course beyond debate, though many try to debate it. We started running out of oil with the first well that was drilled, insofar as mother nature is not making any more petroleum. It all dates from the time period in which dinosaurs trotted around.

chris wiegard
 

Offline Atomic-S

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #24 on: 15/05/2006 07:06:18 »
quote:

1) Consider carbon dioxide generated in extracting raw materials for the wind turbines, manufacturing, transporting and erecting them, as well as the infra structure of roads and buildings required for their maintenance. This is rarely figured into the calculations of wind power benefits.
 Does this really amount to anything significant (compard to, say, burning coal), per kilowatt-hour produced?
quote:

2) Consider the unsightly nature of wind turbines.
Check. (Although public funds are regularly spent to erect far worse looking objects of "art" as part of public buildings.)
quote:

3) Consider the economic impact upon home owners where wind turbines are installed in their neighbourhood.
Well, what exactly would that be? One thing that comes to mind is that the number of jobs in the area of any power generating industry is likely to increase significantly.
quote:

4) Consider the high mortality rate of birds transiting wind turbine sites.
Check. However, has anyone considered installing wire fan gaurds on these things?
quote:

5) Consider the low frequency noise generated by these turbines which is detectable over great distances and whose long term effects upon humans and other animals has not been thoroughly determined.
I am unfamiliar with the severity of this problem, but might not like to live next to them if they keep me awake at night.
quote:

6) Consider the resource consumption of valuable materials to construct these turbines.
Is there any other power generating technology that does not consume valuable materials? But in any case, this consumption like with all capital infrastructure tends to be a one-time expenditure and then it serves for quite some time, and when decomissioned is often recycled.
 

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Re: Running out of Oil
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