Part 15: Fossil fuel energy–finite
Every day, you hear companies, governors and newscasters yelping about our emerging ‘green energy’ and ‘green technology’ and ‘alternative energy’.
Let’s look at our self-delusion more closely.
In order to drive cars, boats, planes and fuel industry, Americans burn 20 million barrels of oil daily while the rest of the world burns 62 million barrels. That equals 82 million barrels of oil every 24 hours!
When you multiply 365 days by 82,000,000 barrels of oil burned daily, it equals a whopping 29.9 billion barrels of oil annually.
If you remember your science, it took two billion years to produce all the oil on this planet. In other words, when oil reserves decline, we exhaust the single major energy source that drives our civilization and most other societies on this planet.
To show how much energy oil provides the U.S. annually, Michael Brownlee of www.transitionbouldercounty.org provided an astounding graph of one cubic mile of oil. That’s how much oil humans burn around the planet each year! That equals to the same amount of energy provided by 52 nuclear power plants built every year for 50 years or 104 operating coal-fired electrical plants built every year for 50 years or 32,000 wind turbines built every year for 50 years—and in continuous operation—or 91,250,000 solar panels built every year for 50 years.
In other words, oil produces dramatically incredible amounts of energy that we cannot and will not be able to duplicate in the coming years.
“The United States cannot afford to wait for the next energy crisis to marshal its intellectual and industrial resources. Our growing dependence on increasingly scarce Middle Eastern oil is a fool’s game—there is no way for the rest of the world to win. Our losses may come suddenly through war, steadily through price increases, agonizingly through developing-nation poverty, relentlessly through climate change—or through all of the above.” James Woolsey, US Director of Central Intelligence 1993 – 1995
In his book, Too Many People, Lindsey Grant addresses our energy predicament. You may find his book at www.sevenlockspress.com and www.amazon.com. Grant is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Population Affairs.
“Fossil energy, along with agriculture, is the origin of most of our problems with climate change, soil, water and air pollution,” said Grant. “We are annually pumping petroleum and gas and digging up coal that had been sequestered in the lithosphere over millions of years, and putting them back into the biosphere. This is a fundamental alteration of the carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury balance at which the Earth’s biosphere had arrived. Nature recycles those things; we are injecting them into the system. None of that addition is “natural”. The question is, how long will this go on, and at what level?”
ENERGY AND FOOD PRODUCTION
The factor that allowed the United States to triple its population from 75 million in 1900 to 309 million in 2010: internal combustion engine fed by oil. By 1970, according to the Hubbert Curve, we dropped from self-sufficiency of pumping nine million barrels a day, to three million. Since then, we began importing and today import 70 percent of our oil from other sources.
In other words, we stagger arrogantly forward in an artificial oil paradigm that cannot and will not last much longer.
“A growing population will make the transition from petroleum more abrupt,” said Grant, “as it consumes more and more of the grain it has been exporting to earn foreign exchange for oil imports.”
As Grant states, natural gas, coal, nuclear power, hydrogen and renewable like hydro-electric power cannot keep up with exponential human population growth.
“When it, [transition to alternative energy], comes, the transition will be an immense, expensive and technologically challenging undertaking, and rising energy prices themselves will make it more expensive,” said Grant. “The energy transition will lead to some fundamental shifts in economic relationships.”
“A smaller population demands less energy, which is helpful during our present fossil fuel dependence,” said Grant. “Moreover, a declining population would be helpful during the energy transition, because it requires much less infrastructure investment than a rising or static population. The lucky inhabitants could use the best of the existing physical plant—and the least polluting power plants and factories—and retire the rest.”
But the BIG predicament remains, how will the United States make any kind of a peaceful, civil and successful transition while adding 100 million and more to its population? That remains the most avoided, evaded and ignored issue of our time!
“We underestimate our predicament,” said Dr. Jack Alpert. “And, we overestimate our ability to manage it. We keep thinking our behaviors will be able to handle the problem, but the problem is monstrous compared to the past. And our behaviors to deal with them are pipsqueak!”
Alpert continued, “When oil dwindles, you will hear a sucking sound that will grow louder very dramatically.”
Population decline is part of the solution:
Denver Post Your Hub April 13, 2010 ##