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Author Topic: Running out of Oil  (Read 11812 times)

Offline Atomic-S

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #25 on: 15/05/2006 07:37:33 »
quote:
1. When will the world run out of oil?
At 10:18:23 AM Coordinated Universal Time, July 17, 2063
   Actually, of course, that is only a guess, as are many other estimates.

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2. How will we cope when we do run out of oil? 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?
Well, it all depends. There are many possible scenarios.
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Will we be able to harness enough solar/wind/wave power to meet the demands of 2050 onwards?
Who knows? My own thought is that solar, wind, and wave will not do the job by themselves; something else will be needed also.
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Can we really expect to have developed safe, sustainable, cost-efficient, large scale nuclear fusion within that timescale?
Probably not. Nuclear fusion still remains largely in the realm of science fiction.
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What other energy sources are there that we might develop?
Fission.  Especially the breeder reactor. The breeder reactor utilizes nuclear fuel much more efficiently than conventional ractors, and produces less final radioactive waste. The only thing standing in its way is the politics of plutonium.
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And will we really be able to develop alternative materials to the plastics, lubricants, etc. that currently come from oil?
We may not have to. For these things we might rely upon vegetative crops, which can form the starting material for many organic chemicals.

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3. Which will be worse – the situation after we’ve run out, or the changes that will happen on the way to running out? I think the human race will find a way to manage without oil eventually.
We may not  have to. Even if fossil petroleum be exhausted, there are ways of producing these things from modern resources. One process generates crude oil by cooking almost any organic waste with water at high pressure and temperature -- basically a speeded up process of fossilization.
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What worries me more is the changes that we’ll undergo before we get there.
that could be an issue, especially as pertains to possible convulsions of international politics, war, and the rise and fall of nations.
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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.
Assuming that no other forces enter the picture. Among the things that might happen is the serious use of ethanol as a fuel, which is now looking as though it could become economic at today's oil prices; also the possible expansion of refining capacity (the present petroleum crisis is in part due to the failure in the U.S. at least to expand petroleum refining capacity for many years, so that it is now inadequate). Also, new supplies may come on line due to exploration; and who knows what direction politics will take in the Middle East?
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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.)?
It is anyone's guess; however necessity tends to beget invention.
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Will the big oil companies become more powerful than the world’s governments?
Perhaps they already are.
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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)?
A definite possibility. Such things should be of concern; however it is  important to remember that armed conflict between nations may have many causes, and we must be careful, if possible, not to oversimplify the nature of world tensions. This is difficult, of course, for a person who does not have access to adequate news sources, or does not understand the inadequacy of the news sources he generually uses, which is the case with far too many people. We must also understand that conflict between nations must not be viewed simply as an environmental question -- that is, that we should evaluate a possible outcome solely in terms of what it will allegedly do to the physical environment. Other serious issues also are at stake in conflicts, such as in the American Revolution, which was not about the environment primarily, but other things primarily. We need to remember that other values also exist, and must be carefully guarded. Narrow, inadequately informed thinking about such things may lead to much support of foolish policies.

 

Offline Atomic-S

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #26 on: 15/05/2006 07:49:07 »
quote:
...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.
This may also encourage the growth of plants such as corn, which can then be fermented into ethanol.
 

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #27 on: 15/05/2006 13:04:09 »
quote:
Originally posted by Atomic-S
quote:
Can we really expect to have developed safe, sustainable, cost-efficient, large scale nuclear fusion within that timescale?
Probably not. Nuclear fusion still remains largely in the realm of science fiction.



I suspect the answer is never.  It is rather like the search for immortality and eternal youth, it sounds nice, but is not there for the taking.

Sustainability is not dependent upon the source of our energy so much as confining our energy demands to that which can readily be replenished.  In the pre-industrial world, we were quite satisfied with taking wind and hydro power, but the human population was much smaller, and we were willing to accept lower standards of life (including lower life expectancy, spending several months on our travels, much less warmth in our houses, and tolerating the heat of tropical climates without air-conditioning).

The fact is that evolution (not merely human nature, for humans are merely a child of evolution) is greedy; so as we learnt to utilise ever more energy to our benefit, we exceeded that which could be replenished in the same timescale.  What we have done with energy, we did with land usage before, and food supplies before that.  Ofcourse, to a substantial extent, the application of energy was actually utilised to mitigate limitations of space and food (intensive farming, and high density housing, are all energy greedy).

As I said, in the past we were quite happy to utilise small amounts of wind and hydro power.  Then people started to scale up hydro power (just as they earlier scaled up the small amount of coal and mineral oil that had always been burnt), and suddenly hydro power was seen as environmentally damaging.  We are only just beginning to scale up wind power, and although the controversy is only just beginning, I would fully imagine that as the developments continue to expand, the negative aspects of extensive wind power usage will become ever more apparent.  The same is true, no matter which energy source one uses – if one scales it up, you will have to accept the problems it will bring.  The notion that you can gain any advantage without having to pay a price somewhere is just foolish.

I am extremely dubious that large scale nuclear fusion will ever be 'safe' in any absolute sense.  I am not saying that it is not a worthwhile goal, only that people at present seem only to be stary eyed about the potential benefit, but have yet to find the downside (the only reason why people are so afraid of fission power is because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – before then, all the attributes of nuclear research were seen as positive, and radioactivity was seen as a positive advancement that came without risk).

Maybe it is a necessary part of human nature that we should always dream of a utopia tomorrow, and when we then become disillusioned by the imperfections of our instruments of a utopian world, we then turn on them and call them the devils creations.  They are neither of these things, and tomorrows creations will be no different; it will neither be the answer to all of our prayers, nor as demonic as we will portray it as being when we have become disillusioned with the technology.

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quote:
And will we really be able to develop alternative materials to the plastics, lubricants, etc. that currently come from oil?
We may not have to. For these things we might rely upon vegetative crops, which can form the starting material for many organic chemicals.



I don't see crops as being the answer to everything, or even the answer to most things.  Crops are very inefficient at producing single products because they need to create such a complex mix of products, so unless you have a need for that complex mix, then they are inevitably inefficient.  There may be some benefit if you can create crops that will supply a whole range of raw materials at once, but if you are looking to extract only one major product, and discard the rest, then it is inefficient.

More seriously, crops are very inefficient in their usage of land, which is a very scarce resource.

The major advantage to crops is that they are relatively well understood, and the technology for growing them is well established.  All we are using crops to do (from and industrial perspective) is to absorb solar energy, and utilise it to extract carbon from CO2.  In the long term it would make much more sense to do this directly; whether using solar, nuclear, or other energy sources, to develop industrial technologies to extract carbon directly from CO2 and convert it into industrially usable substances.

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quote:
3. Which will be worse – the situation after we’ve run out, or the changes that will happen on the way to running out? I think the human race will find a way to manage without oil eventually.
We may not  have to.



All things come to and end some day.  Whatever technology we use, today, yesterday, or tomorrow; it is naïve to believe that the technology will last us in perpetuity.




George
 

Offline Atomic-S

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #28 on: 19/05/2006 06:12:40 »
quote:
I don't see crops as being the answer to everything, or even the answer to most things. Crops are very inefficient at producing single products because they need to create such a complex mix of products, so unless you have a need for that complex mix, then they are inevitably inefficient. There may be some benefit if you can create crops that will supply a whole range of raw materials at once, but if you are looking to extract only one major product, and discard the rest, then it is inefficient.

I was thinking of crops serving as a general-purpose feedstock for the chemical industry, much as petroleum now does. Mow down an entire field of corn, feed the whole thing into a chemical process, which forms the base for subsequent conversion into innumerable chemicals. Such a use seems to me efficient.
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All we are using crops to do (from and industrial perspective) is to absorb solar energy, and utilise it to extract carbon from CO2. In the long term it would make much more sense to do this directly; whether using solar, nuclear, or other energy sources, to develop industrial technologies to extract carbon directly from CO2 and convert it into industrially usable substances.

Well, with crops you don't need (to a first approximation) the other energy sources discussed; although admittedly some other technology for extracting carbon from the atmosphere may occupy far less land. Be that as it may, have you any idea how the latter might be accomplished?

 

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Re: Running out of Oil
« Reply #28 on: 19/05/2006 06:12:40 »

 

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