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A World Without Oil

12/09/2011 9:26 PM

As we're constantly bombarded with the evils of oil and the people that pump it out of the ground, refine and distribute it, while I've been commuting to work this week I've been thinking about what things would be like if oil had never been discovered at all, or had never existed.

The list of accomplishments that never would have been achieved and the things we wouldn't have, seems endless. But what would life be like?

Would the planetary ecosystem be in perfect balance?

Would people all get along?

How would things be better?

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#1

Re: A World Without Oil

12/09/2011 10:27 PM

Doom and Gloom! Doom and Gloom! What's with the negative waves, Moriarty?????

Oil? Coal? Someone would have found another way to power the machines.

Oil made it easy.

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: A World Without Oil

12/09/2011 10:44 PM

It's not doom and gloom. It's actually a fun....................and necessary conversation to have. Three weeks until 100w incandescent bulbs are banned in the US. Whether we like it or not, we need to talk about these things. This is the perfect place to have the discussion.

Someone would have found another way to power the machines.

Really? Give me the condensed version of how we would have made it to the moon.

It's just back and fourth banter lyn, as always, nothing more. If I've got a seat at the table with a bunch of really smart people, I'm going to pick their brains on what they think about stuff......................always have, always will.

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#4
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/09/2011 11:10 PM

"Someone would have found another way to power the machines.

Really? Give me the condensed version of how we would have made it to the moon."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

It may not have been politically feasible, but it was eminently practical.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: A World Without Oil

12/09/2011 11:44 PM

Good idea. So oil wouldn't have played a part?

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#20
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 8:42 PM

Oil did play a part, there is no denying that fact. But IMHO it was only (or should have been only) a stop gap measure until something better came along; and an intellectual stepping stone.

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#22
In reply to #20

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 9:18 PM

Except it flowed out of the ground for free

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#104
In reply to #22

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 2:59 PM

Not in any significant amount. Certainly not enough for national, let alone global infrastructure.

As others have pointed out there are some alternatives, but the ease/cost of oil was the cheapest source.

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#5
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/09/2011 11:28 PM

What makes you think things would have been any different? Liquid hydrogen and oxygen are easily attainable without oil...

Henry Ford used ethanol to power his first automobile, and thought it would be better than gasoline...

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: A World Without Oil

12/09/2011 11:46 PM

I like the way you think!! So everything would probably be the same, just a different fuel source?

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#42
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 8:42 AM

Back in Henry Ford's day, they burned coal and wood to make ethanol. Today they have a choice of using electricity which was obtained from burning oil, coal, nuclear and hydropower and 2% may be from wind, and even less than that from solar. What exactly were you thinking of when you said that hydrogen and oxygen are 'easily attainable', at least in quantities sufficient enough to satisfy the energy needs of the masses, and from which 'inexpensive' source were you alluding (as I cannot divorce the 'expense' from the 'ease' when I consider what it takes to 'attain' an energy source)?

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#92
In reply to #42

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 12:30 PM

The reference was pertaining to rocket fuel to make it to the moon not using oil...you have taken the statement out of context...The inference is that we could have made it to the moon without oil...

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#140
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 4:10 AM

Like renewables what are the alternatives for oil based products like "nylon" etc?.

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#2

Re: A World Without Oil

12/09/2011 10:42 PM

It's easy to take oil out of the equation...Just think what things will be like when it's gone....Cars would all be electric, we would all be smarter, dogs and cats would live together, utopia....LOL

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#7

Re: A World Without Oil

12/09/2011 11:46 PM

I agree with Lyn and SolarEagle both. As far as keeping the machines moving we certainly would've taken a different trajectory to get to today. Steam fired by wood or charcoal fuel would have lasted much longer in mobile power platforms. But what so many people forget is the vast difference we would and will have in the realm of Chemistry. People quickly grasp that we won't have many lubricants and plastics. We forget that without the aneline dyes made from oil we will certainly have a less visually vibrant world. Let alone all of the organic chemistry knowledge we've gained by learning how to take the varied hydrocarbons found in crude oil and converting this to useful products.

Which brings me to SolarEagle's point. Wondering what might have been, easily wanders into unwarranted remorse. Recognizing how versatile and pivotal a vast but finite resource, oil, is to modern society makes me want less oil to be used just so it will last longer.

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 12:04 AM

Me too. We can make it last for 100 more years or 1500, but the bull is out of the cage..................there's no stopping him now.

I just threw this thread up for something to think about. I work alone, so I've got time for that.

When you consider the fact that we used to use whale oil for light, horses for transportation, wood for both building and heat..............................I wonder what our landscape would look like if oil had not come along.

Since oil is most definitely a finite resource, I guess an adequate anology would be.....................If you were stuck in the desert, and you only had one gallon of water, would you guzzle it all at once before trying to get back to civilization, or would you take tiny sips as necessary to keep yourself alive as you walked your way out?

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 1:04 AM

Speculating on future or alternative realities is merely an exercise in self examination...If you think you would better off, then it is a statement about your outlook on your present circumstance....If you think it would be worse, the same holds true...All these things are relative, your situation would, in fact, be the same...You, would be you, in any environment...imo

If we didn't have oil, we would be using probably ethanol or some form of it...the fact that it can be made from any organic substance, means it is universally available, is simple to make, and is pretty much a drop in replacement....oil can be made just as easily...If I had to, and had the materials ready to go, I could switch over in a matter of weeks...We would probably have developed some form of switch grass that grows rapidly and have millions of acres under cultivation by now....

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#11
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 1:18 AM

If it's all so easy, why is making the transition so difficult. Lets just do it.

Right now it requires a lot of oil to get ethanol.

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#12
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 1:35 AM

"If it's all so easy, why is making the transition so difficult. Lets just do it."

We are doing it, in the last several years we have gone from 0 to 10% of our gasoline supply being produced from corn...

"Right now it requires a lot of oil to get ethanol."

10% of that oil is ethanol...Cellulosic ethanol is on the horizon, when this is fully developed it will open up the possibility of growing our entire fuel requirement right here in the good ole USA, on land that is currently undeveloped...This will become a possibility in just the next few years...

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#13
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 1:49 AM

Oh sh*t............................here we go again.

So eventually we will be able to grow enough crops, (using ethanol powered machines), process those crops into ethanol, (using ethanol as fuel), and have enough ethanol left over to power our vehicles? Cool!!!!

Well that was a quick thread.

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#14
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 1:56 AM

Don't we use oil powered machines to remove the oil? What's the difference? There isn't any...

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#15
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 8:54 AM

Like red pointed out, we get a lot of stuff from oil. I didn't want to start another argument. More of a testament to the wonders of oil and what it has single handedly enabled us to accomplish. The fact that the stuff is darned near miraculous seems to have been lost in the ongoing debates.

I did find this very interesting exchange between some professionals:

http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/8/25/221617/881

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#16
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 9:55 AM

I only skimmed that article but its a good one. It shows exactly the debate that goes on behind any scientific presentation. Far too often though, laymen outside of the science community take these heated discussions as proof that science does not work. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is because of these heated discussions that science does work. To put this in business terms, this is the process not the product.

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#18
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 10:19 AM

Similar to politics even at it's best (although the process is different)

In science this wrangling goes on to reconcile differing interests and opinions to get to the truth

In politics this wrangling goes on to reconcile differing interests and opinions to get to the best compromise between conflicting interests

Both processes are frequently misunderstood by the uninitiated who tend to be shocked either by the wrangling in science or the compromises in politics.

Another descriptive phrase is 'this is the sausage making' going on.

At times, both processes have been hijacked by powerful interests who either cared more about being right (winning) or being in control (winning).

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#17
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 10:12 AM

"a testament to the wonders of oil and what it has single handedly enabled us to accomplish... the stuff is darned near miraculous..."

Oil hasn't accomplished anything, it's mankind, and the relentless quest for knowledge that has accomplished all these things...well,,,the pursuit of wealth anyway...

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#19
In reply to #15

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 1:01 PM

This debate you site is nonsensical...It's like saying the machine you're printing money with is less efficient than the older one because you are using more expensive ink...Even though the paper to print the money is being produced locally now instead of overseas...and the ink, even though it is slightly more expensive, does not require expensive disposal fees...

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#206
In reply to #14

Re: A World Without Oil

12/21/2011 2:48 PM

Land mass is the problem. Oil is underground for the most part, shale excluded. Above ground cropping will limit your production ability due to just the space required to handle the simple consumption of the product.

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#113
In reply to #12

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 5:35 PM

Have you ever tried to make ethonal by hand. Some of my family made whiskey in the 1930. Making ethanol by hand is very hard work.

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#114
In reply to #113

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 5:44 PM

But if done properly, the reward is oh so satisfying. I still get a hold of some fine hand made ethanol a couple of times a year.

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#207
In reply to #113

Re: A World Without Oil

12/21/2011 3:13 PM

In the 30s making anything was hard work. Today one can purchase a fractionating reflux column still and make "ethanol" quite easily.

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#208
In reply to #207

Re: A World Without Oil

12/22/2011 10:40 AM

We used to call it "White Lightning"!!!

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#86
In reply to #10

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 11:44 AM

Many reports seem to indicate that ethanol creates a net energy loss in its production

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_17166.cfm

http://www.energybulletin.net/node/5062

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/articles/hof/hofjuly07.html

In other words ethanol creates more greenhouse issues than it solves by being a net user of energy in its production, most of which is probably derived from coal or oil sources.

Considering that without oil many people would have been heating their homes with wood for many more years and at terrible efficiencies, what level of greenhouse gasses would exist today due to the smoke and CO2? And all those horses and manure dropping would have been adding tons of methane to the environment. Certainly that would have had an adverse affect on our lives unless we passed laws to require "horse dropping bags" and methane depositories with manure digesters to capture and burn off the methane.

This site promotes the use of ethanol http://www.energyfuturecoalition.org/biofuels/fact_ethanol.htm#7 but notice it quotes corn at $2/bushel making ethanol at $1.20/gallon. Since it is sponsored by the United Nations it may have a politically motivated agenda. December prices for US corn are closer to $6/bushel so that should make the production costs at $3.60/gallon while gasoline is going for less than that in the New Jersey area.

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#89
In reply to #86

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 12:13 PM

Thats true for corn based ethanol but with other stocks the yields can be far greater with considerably less cost when properly developed.

Cattail ethanol can yield around 8 - 10x as much per acre as corn based ethanol can just as one example.

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#94
In reply to #89

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 12:39 PM

I agree. Switchgrass is another strong contender that doesn't compete with a food source. I couldn't afford to buy a dozen ears of corn this summer at farm markets it was so expensive. And I love fresh corn on the cob.

Surplus corn used to be a major foreign aid item to third world countries. I wonder how much "Surplus" we now have and how much of it is still sent out to people who basically subsist on corn meal.

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#98
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 1:04 PM

Switchgrass does compete with corn and the prices of the food and fuel will be linked. You have to grow it somewhere and there is a finite amount of land. The amount grown fuel crop or food (in a free market) will depend on the relative payback to the farmer from each crop. People love their cars so if you have a young family, it is possible to see the car as another kid (or a second wife) at the dinner table demanding MORE! (whether the car is eating switchgrass or corn or sugar cane or something else)

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#102
In reply to #98

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 1:53 PM

Switchgrass would probably not be grown in areas where corn would be grown. See the following: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/418/418-013/418-013.html

Switchgrass can be grown in areas which would not normally be used for food production since it is much more tolerant and drought resistant. Since it can also be used as herd food on grazing lands the fields can be easily rotated to prevent overgrazing and the manure from one year can act as fertilizer for the next year.

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#103
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 2:57 PM

Well, I have heard of lots of crops that need no fertilizer and are drought tolerant. What that usually means is that they will produce far more if they get fertilizer and water. And if not, you still have to harvest a greater area to get your reduced yield, and transport it to your ethanol still and process it. It is not such a rosy picture as you paint.

I checked the link, and it does not seem to be a cure all. People dream of fueling their cars with ethanol but no matter where you grow your ethanol crop, it competes with food production in some way.

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#105
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 3:18 PM

The corn you purchase in the supermarket is a different kind of corn from what you would use to make ethanol. The corn they'd use to make ethanol would most likely be the feed corn like they grow for feeding livestock which would be a cheaper corn.

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#109
In reply to #105

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 3:40 PM

As it was once explained to me "cow corn" or feed corn as you refer to it has more to do with how you plant the corn and probably the seed you use. Corn for human use is planted in neat straight rows with space between each row to allow for more sun and producing larger, sweeter ears for human tastes. A better strain of seed having been bred for better taste is also involved

Cow corn is spread helter-skelter and a very basic seed is probably used. Taste is not a factor since cows are eating the stalks along with the ears and they just aren't that fussy about it. The ears are smaller and much less tasty and contain less corn oil I'm sure.

As to which type they are using I am not sure. If the ear or kernel is more important than the stalk then I would assume that the food corn is being grown for ethanol. Maybe someone out there can inform us. However, in either case I would think that if they get more money for a bushel of corn for ethanol then for food supply then it is competing for the available space to grow corn and they will decrease the space for food corn and grow the ethanol base instead.

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#110
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 3:49 PM

Farmers have to rotate their crops. Sometimes they don't grow corn every other planting. Sometimes they grow several types. Where I'm at the farmer uses the same field to grow alfalfa and hay, soybeans, cotton, corn and some other crop, I don't remember what that is. If corn became even more in demand and the price is good, they will rotate the corn in more than they normally do.

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#179
In reply to #109

Re: A World Without Oil

12/16/2011 11:54 AM

Cow corn is spread helter-skelter and a very basic seed is probably used. Taste is not a factor since cows are eating the stalks along with the ears and they just aren't that fussy about it.

Not in the USA. The corn is harvested ( either as kernals, ear corn, or silage).

The corn is planted by machine and harvested by machine. Spreading helter-skelter just doesn't occur.

Many farmers consider it a poor year if they don't get 200+ bushels per acre of kernals.

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#180
In reply to #179

Re: A World Without Oil

12/16/2011 3:03 PM

& the seed for silage or feed corn would a patented GMO variety probably as far from basic as you can get,

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#181
In reply to #179

Re: A World Without Oil

12/19/2011 10:02 AM

That explanation was given to me over 50 years ago. I am sure that farming practices have changed over those 5 decades as I am sure that many of the hybrid strains of corn that have been developed over that same period have changed practices. Since you are from our inner farmland area I'm sure you're more current on the practices. There are only a very few of my family members left out in Iowa near the old family homestead in Dubuque.

I can remember when Silver Queen was a relatively new strain of white corn and people were proselytizing against the use of genetic breeding and cross-breeding of our food products. Have eaten many, many ears of it and aside from a strange off my tail bone not much has happened.

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#21

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 9:03 PM

I've just skimmed through posts and links.

Rudolf Diesel designed it to run on peanut oil. It became 'about price' when cheap US oil became available. So no change in that tech, other than cost of 'bio oil'

'Benzine' based spark ignition may not have got off the ground quite so easily - some sort of ethanol/aromatic oil fuel technology would have to proceed it. Meaning powered flight may have been delayed until the light weight diesel, or the gas turbine evolved.

You would also expect distillation from coal to be more advanced and 'filling the gaps'.

Many plastics currently made from 'fossil oil' can be made from 'bio-oil'. Acetate, Nylon 12, PET, come to mind. Latex [rubber], phenolic's, melamine's, would be as is.

So the only real difference is 'price'. Or everyone over 18 is unlikely to own a car.

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#23
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 9:48 PM

Many here have repeated the comment that the only thing different would be the price of energy if oil wasn't really available. People seem to overlook the other aspect of the price of energy being so cheap, its cheap because it is abundant. Without this abundant energy source we certainly would not have had the identical technical progress that have happened over the past 150 years. We certainly would not have stagnated, progress still happens. (Or should I say would have happened. )

I doubt that we'd have a seven billion plus population if we didn't have an abundant energy source. We may have even had more but smaller wars because resources wouldn't be global. Then again, the Sovereign of the Seas held the sailing vessel speed record of 22 knots for a hundred years and she hauled cargo.

Its just so hard to say where we'd be if any pivotal resource never happened, because we did have that pivotal resource.

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 10:13 PM

Back to your comment about population, transportation is only one thing we do with oil; one of the other biggies is fertilizer. We'd never be feeding so many without cheap fertilizer.

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#25
In reply to #24

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 10:35 PM

There would not be as many people on this earth if we did not have fossil fuel for cars.People would not get around as much as they do today and just think how many have been conceived in the back of an automobile!!!

Diesel's experiment with peanut oil was not a success too much carbon produced and he only did it for the French Government as their colonies grew peanuts

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#66
In reply to #25

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 5:45 PM

"There would not be as many people on this earth if we did not have fossil fuel for cars."

This concept falls apart when one considers the fact that people in poorer societies (who do not use nearly as many cars as those of us who enjoy a more affluent life style) have a LOT more babies than their richer counterparts (compare birth rates in the US, Japan, Europe, etc. to Africa, for example)...

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#107
In reply to #66

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 3:22 PM

And those people in poorer countries have more kids because they hope a few of them will survive into adulthood.

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#35
In reply to #24

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 3:41 AM

"We'd never be feeding so many without cheap fertilizer.". This was such a good point by edignan that I thought it was worth repeating. The media / political focus on our running out of oil is very much around transportation. Not sure I'll be more worried about driving to the supermarket than I will be about affording the food that's in it.

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#44
In reply to #24

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 10:25 AM

We'd probably have lots of horse poop.

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#106
In reply to #44

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 3:21 PM

And on that note there would be new jobs created to go around and pick up that horse maneur and use it as...fertilizer.

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#115
In reply to #106

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 7:15 PM

shovel ready lol

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#29
In reply to #23

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 11:55 PM

I don't exactly follow the population linked to "abundant energy" assertion, given where the centers were/are.

Probably less than a billion of the worlds population has/has had, access to has 'cheap abundant energy'.

This is in fact the next/current, problem for those who have consumed and are reliant on such cheap abundance.

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#31
In reply to #29

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 12:14 AM

Probably less than a billion of the worlds population has/has had, access to has 'cheap abundant energy'.

Where food can get transported into and out of cheaply, more population growth can happen. But I did not say that the energy was for transportation. The Haber-Bosch process is energy intensive method of high temperatures and pressures. But it makes a significant amount of the fertilizer the world uses today.

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 12:29 AM

Neither did I say transportation.

How does your hypothesis account for the population of India, China, Africa pre the industrial revolution, or even ICE, or even today?

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#36
In reply to #31

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 5:12 AM

But it makes a significant amount of the fertilizer the world uses today.

And it made possible the first world war to last 4 years - instead of 8 months if only Chilean Nitrate had been available.

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#45
In reply to #36

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 10:37 AM

Precisely my points. While the Haber-Bosch process has lead to more fertilizer and therefore more food in the world, it also permits more explosives to be made. Nothing mankind has ever done is purely good or purely evil for all.

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#67
In reply to #45

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 5:50 PM

Explosives don't kill people,....?

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#69
In reply to #67

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 6:30 PM

Ed,

Of all the people, I did not expect you to misunderstand my point. Did you really think that I considered the explosives made from the Haber-Bosch process the good part of the good versus evil paradox?

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#70
In reply to #69

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 7:12 PM

Sorry Red, I was just playing off a joke about guns don't kill people

On the serious side,

Like a club that was a tree branch, I don't see anything inherently good or evil about either except in their use; which is a choice people make.

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#71
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 7:26 PM

Oh OK.

I agree that both fertilizer and explosives can be used or misused.

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#73
In reply to #71

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 7:57 PM

I'm not sure fertilizer from oil is that big an 'advantage' in the scheme of things.

In general agriculture is turning back to 'zero till' and 'crop rotation' with nitrogen fixing legumes, as soil acidification and microbial decimation is neutralizing the production benefits of the chemical approach.

This is limited to the organic fringe - just in case some might jump on that interpretation of the above.

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#75
In reply to #73

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 8:33 PM

And as the price of fertilizer goes up?

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#76
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 9:38 PM

Stepping away from 'it was never there in our zero oil world' - the price of agricultural lime comes down as vast volumes are no longer needed to counter the synthetic fertilizer effects on diazotrophs.

I guess there our falling oil world, there will be an increase in the bio-digesting of the huge volume of green waste and nutrients, currently going to landfill, incineration (oil fueled) and down sewers.

The digested 'waste' products will be returned to the land as 'fertilizer', much as animals do.

In Asia such fully recycled nutrient systems have existed for eons.

A 'western economic advantage example' of dispensing with fertilizer, is rotating sugar cane with peanuts. They get better sugar % and an oil product. You could look at this as 'fuel and lubricant' growing.

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#87
In reply to #73

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 11:58 AM

"Organic" farming will not produce enough ethanol. Already, in the US, increased corn production to make ethanol has resulted in a 38 per cent increase in fertilizer run-off into the Mississippi River, resulting in a larger dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

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#95
In reply to #87

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 12:43 PM

Cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass requires no fertilizer, is drout tolerant, produces more per acre than corn...Moving to ethanol is part of the solution, not part of the problem....Ethanol from corn is only a stepping stone to switchgrass, and was never meant to be a final solution....

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#26

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 10:45 PM

Lets take a close look at oil, the infrastructure that supports it and the money involved. If time to research and explore an alternative medium at the inception in time with another diverse compound or element that was reasonably available we wouldn't be discussing oil. We ould as a society be more in touch with alternative source of energy and diveristy of materials due to research. Use water, harnness compounds in the air. earth and its organic elements, our wastes etc., Money, collective control, and value based upon need drives the way we move forward.

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#27

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 11:05 PM

All of the whales would be gone.

JoJoba would be a major crop.

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#46
In reply to #27

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 10:41 AM

The whales would probably be gone.

Given human nature, which seems pretty static over time, I can envision some pretty nasty scenarios. Since wood would be the most readily available fuel source, it's not too hard to imagine the US being clear cut from coast to coast by now, which would include a constant noxious smog hanging over us.

I'm just getting back to the thread. I had to make an emergency chain saw purchase yesterday...........................which uses a gas oil mix to run, thicker oil for chain lubrication, and a casing that is made from petroleum based plastic.

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#28

Re: A World Without Oil

12/10/2011 11:18 PM

We'd just be figuring out that we've used up (or are about to use up) all the supplies of corn, and other vegetation that can be used to produce the "new fuel"...yeah the whales would be gone along with all the other high oil production fish/birds/animals and vegetation. So someone would probably dig a hole and discover oil and say they have now saved the planet! We'll never learn to conserve what we have.

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#30

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 12:06 AM

Life would be different but its hard to say whether it would be better or worse.

First point is that "oil" is only "evil" (to some) because it lets people get rich with negative environmental consequences, and we have become addicted to its wide use (because its cheap) at the same time as it is about to "run out" (not entirely true). The truth is that oil will just get more and more expensive.

Second point it that oil is that oil is both a source of energy and a raw material. In respect of it as an energy source, the current "energy crisis" is but the latest of many that the planet has experienced. The ones for wood and sperm oil preceded oil.

It is doubtful that crude Oil is needed as a raw material since most/all it offers could be produced from coal or other oils ??

While most other "clean" (meaning non carbon) sources of energy are more expensive than "oil" they are probably not, when fully matured, so much more expensive that it would effect humanity as a whole - for perspective one should remember that its value increased about four fold in the seventies and solar power is today not much more than about twice the price of the cheaper forms of coal/gas/oil based power.

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#33

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 1:05 AM

We should reduce dependence on oil for power generation and transport in stages by inventing other technologies as well as reducing travel by locating workplaces/schools/hospitals near communities so that after several years oil will be used only sparingly.

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#34

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 3:38 AM

Oil single handedly destroyed the chances of wonderfully benign energy industries, such as whale farming, penguin batteries and seal ranching, from ever taking root.

Evil black crude.

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#93
In reply to #34

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 12:35 PM

That industry is still going in some countries. Japan farms whales, they get around it by saying they need the whales for studies but they are still out slaughtering them. Japan is supposed to be as civilized as the United States.

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#37

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 5:21 AM

Oil or coal does not make much difference as the technology to convert coal to gas and liquid components was existing early.

A bit more clumsy, a bit dirtier - yes.

The question should be: no gas, no oil, no coal: what then.

This is expected in 500 to 1500 years to be reality.

No dense and abundant energy source from the beginning of technology?: From wood and charcoal to nuclear in one big leap? I doubt but may be it is possible.

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#38

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 6:04 AM

We had the Industrial revolution without oil, we had steam power, we had water power & we had wind power along time before oil came along, I suspect that had oil not been discovered in such quantities we may have seen the discovery of better energy sources such as wave power, clean nuclear power & who knows maybe even cold fusion, when oil came along it seems that all thoughts of other power sources were put on hold, even today more money is spent by governments trying to ensure they get more oil than anyone else,it costs billions in cash and millions in lives, if they were to put as much money & effort into finding new power sources we could be free of oil in 10 years.

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#88
In reply to #38

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 12:11 PM

It depends on one's definition of "oil." Oil does not have to come from petroleum, and one can use animal fat as a lubricant, but I really doubt whether an industrial revolution would have been possible without any oil, without even non-petroleum oils.

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#96
In reply to #88

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 12:48 PM

We can also use caster beans.

What animals? How many animals have we driven to extinction already because of commercialization? Animals are finite too, maybe even more so than oil, what kind of demand will be placed in harvesting the fat from animals that there won't be enough to keep up with the demand. The whales are all, already endangered.

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#141
In reply to #88

Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 6:19 AM

We had vegetable oil & corn oil not forgetting whale oil,so we had lubricants.

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#39

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 6:22 AM

Without oil we would have been better off. We would have utilised the solar energy, the wind and wave energy etc. with much less pollution.

P.M.Ramakrishnan

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#77
In reply to #39

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 10:58 PM

We should label energy sources like coal,oil,gas,nuclear etc in terms of degree of pollution and security risk and ban them one by one so that one there will be no pollution similar to banning 100W,60W,45W incandescent bulbs in order.

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#40

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 7:27 AM

Life without Oil would have been peaceful. Humans are surviving on this planet centuries before oil was discovered. Life would have been slow but much peaceful. There would have been no Gulf Wars. Petrol prices would not have made holes in your pockets. War machinery would have not moved so fast. No deaths of millions of persons due to road accidents. There would have been no warming of the due to pollution and no climate changes. World would have been beautiful place to live better than Super Earth.

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#99
In reply to #40

Re: A World Without Oil

12/12/2011 1:30 PM

"Life without Oil would have been peaceful. Humans are surviving on this planet centuries before oil was discovered." Yes, surviving, but life expectancy was short and death by violence was more common. Slaves did what is now done by machines.

"There would have been no warming of the due to pollution and no climate changes."

But there were climate changes, long before petroleum was discovered/developed. It was warmer than now a thousand years ago and much colder than now five hundred years ago.

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#41

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 8:18 AM

Before oil horseshit was a major problem in urban areas

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#43
In reply to #41

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 9:35 AM

Wow, what an opportunity! I think I'll pass though.

Without oil wood would be scarce today. Politics and government would be locally based around city-states and rural areas less developed. Shorelines would be more developed than today with more dependence on local wind and wave power where the trees had been cut down. Local Fisheries would be more depleted for oil and food. Waste would be used as a raw material. Medicine and Technology would not have developed so far, so the efficiencies that preserve life and ease the worker's burden would be less available. Our lives would be shorter due to inefficiency, but employment for the masses would be the reality. The world spins and the laws of thermodynamics rule. In all - good, bad, and the same.

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#57
In reply to #41

Re: A World Without Oil

12/11/2011 2:04 PM

IMHO this is the problem on this site now - Much more horsepucky than clear practical thinking. Utopian dreams are impractical solutions to problems. We likely will be dependent on oil for many years hence - until the successful reverse engineering of extraterrestial vehicles is unravelled and made available for our grandchildren's grandchildren to travel in...(Some my consider this utopian - if so why is Area 51 so closely guarded???)

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#125
In reply to #41

Re: A World Without Oil

12/13/2011 6:30 AM

They could have sent to farms as "organic fertliser" similar to "cow dung".

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#128
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/13/2011 11:51 AM

OK, pick up the horse manure (with what? child labor?) from the streets and ship it in horse drawn wagons to the distant farms, where it is spread and plowed in with steam tractors. The coal for the tractors gets there by...? There were coal-fired steam lorries, but productivity was low. (The famous Stanley Steamer used petroleum)

Historically, the petroleum industry developed to provide fuel for oil lamps, a great boon for civilization, as oil lamps are much better and cheaper than candles. Oil was, of course, useful as lubricant. Those electric street cars used petroleum lubricants. The textile mills and factories used oil to lubricate the labor-saving machines. In Britain, about the turn of the century (1900) they had a commission to decide on whether those new-fangled road vehicles should use petroleum or alcohol as fuel. They decided (wisely, I think) that imported gasoline was better than home-grown ethanol. (And they didn't even think of using switch grass, which still isn't practical a century later. The US ethanol program is not to reduce carbon emissions; it's a subsidy to corn farmers) The first petroleum fueled battleship was in 1912.

During the First World War, the British shipped more tons of fodder for horses than they did of ammunition. Horses died by the millions, mostly from overwork and mistreatment. The German spring offensives of 1918 were stalled for lack of transport (horses). At the battle of Hamel (July 4, 1918), four cargo tanks (petroleum fueled and lubricated) replaced 1200 men with loads on their backs, enabled the front line men to get hot food, and evacuated the wounded under armor, saving lots of lives. The war would have gone very differently with steam powered submarines. (Perhaps diesel submarine engines could have been fueled with powdered coal?) The Red Baron's triplane was produced in very small numbers, in part because the engine required castor oil as a lubricant, and Germany had no good source of castor beans. Aerial combat at 20,000 feet would not have been possible with ethanol powered Sopwith Camels. Synthetic rubber (from petroleum) had not been invented, so German trucks (even if ethanol powered) were unable to get tires, and the lack of rubber for gas masks caused many casualties, as the leather masks leaked. Since Germany had a food shortage (217,000 died of malnutrition in 1918), it's not likely they could have used ethanol for fuel or vegetable oils for lubricants.

Probably WW-1 would have happened even if petroleum was unavailable, but the outcome might well have been different. WW2 was WW-1 renewed for a second season, but it surely would have been more like WW-1 without petroleum, fought by infantry, mostly. The battle of Britain (in the air) or the Battle of Midway (aircraft carriers refueled from tankers at sea) could not have happened without petroleum. Hiroshima and Nagasaki could not have been bombed by high altitude B-29s flying thousands of miles. As it was, a petroleum shortage, even with synthetic fuel plants, was important in the defeat of the axis powers. Germany invaded the USSR in the south to try to capture oil fields. Japan was goaded into war when their petroleum imports were cut off. More currently, would the US have killed a million Iraqis if Iraq had no oil?

Playing historical what-ifs is fun but fruitless, except as one may learn how to do it better next time. I find it difficult to believe that a no-petroleum life style would be better. It is possible that we can find economical ways to get along without petroleum -- I have considered an electric lawn mower. However, if petroleum had never existed, we would not have got to where we are, technologically, and we would not have the options we have now. Africans may live (or not) without petroleum, but a world with 6 or 7 billion people is unlikely IMHO without petroleum. Fortunately, we have enough for the next few hundred years, and by then, perhaps, birth control (or Ruwandan-style genocide with machetes) will solve the problem.

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#133
In reply to #128

Re: A World Without Oil

12/13/2011 5:40 PM

Just a few technical observations;

In the lubricant and lighting context; here is a list of vegetable oils aside from caster. In the list below there is more.

Also; there is synthetic oil - which is not necessarily locked into a petroleum base

"Aerial combat at 20,000 feet would not have been possible with ethanol powered Sopwith Camels" - lack of supercharging [or a Nitrous kit] or pilot oxygen is more relevant.

Rubber comes from trees, so this is just a supply problem associated with a war that was not over in months, as both sides assumed it would be. After all, it was just another spat over who controlled Alsace-Lorraine resources

In refueling at sea; this is just about liquid fuel. Bio-fuel, even pelletized coal, or LPG, would serve as well.

Diesel aircraft engines

But one can certainly argue access to 'cheap oil' not only causes wars, but prolongs them and ends up wasting a lot more of it.

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#134
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/13/2011 6:22 PM

True enough. But we're kind of splitting hairs here. Oil even made getting coal cheaper, safer and easier. Modern day coal extraction is done primarily with petroleum based fuel.

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#135
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/13/2011 6:38 PM

Around here its done primarily with electricity. The mines here take off the overburden with massive electrically powered drag lines and the coal gets taken out with electric shovel units and after that much of it gets transported by electric conveyor too. Diesel fuel is the secondary power source doing the work here no the primary.

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#136
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/13/2011 6:53 PM

I thought that most strip and tunnel mining used ANFO for a preferred explosive because of its relatively slow burn. You can argue about the manufacturing of the ammonium nitrate being not necessarily from oil or not but fuel oil obviously is oil.

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#139
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 2:14 AM

"Fortunately, we have enough for the next few hundred years, and by then, perhaps, birth control (or Ruwandan-style genocide with machetes) will solve the problem."

The next 2 hundred years pushes our CO2 levels to 790 ppm (assuming the oceans continue to absorb massive amounts of the stuff (which they won't) and assuming growth ceases. From wikipedia :"Concentrations higher than 1,000 ppm will cause discomfort in more than 20% of occupants" (This is indoor concentration of CO2), now gentlemen, don't you think that if it is 790 ppm outdoors, it will be more indoors where people breathe and exhale? And 1/5 of the population of the earth will experience discomfort? Just breathing! Isn't that a hell of a future?

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#142
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 6:46 AM

I don't know the numbers, but I believe that burning alcohol emits CO2 as well.

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#144
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 8:19 AM

Quite true but the carbon released from the burning of alcohol came from our present atmosphere. The carbon released from burning fossil fuels was sequestered in the ground.

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#143
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 7:04 AM

Why would you assume growth ceases?

200 years and an extrapolation of aged and emphysema sufferers at another 20% higher?

No logic was harmed in coming up with the above obviously.

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#152
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 2:27 PM

Thanks for answering. Others seem to ignore that little problem. (The rest of the post is not for 34point5, it is for those who refuse to see the problem)

We would be far beyond 790 ppm in 200 years if growth increases. But I think 790 ppm and 1/5th of the world population unable to go indoors (because indoor air makes them puke) would help slow down growth. If taking more oil out of the ground would kill your sister or wife or brother, would you do it?

If she was right there, barely able to take a breadth beside you, would you still pump gas, or would you let her live?

How would 790 ppm affect people in Nepal or at the dead sea?(I don't know, I am just curious).

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#154
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 3:24 PM

gaiatechnician-

Blaming Big Oil, or the use of oil by society to meet their energy "needs", or to focus on the problems of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is very, very misleading, and ignores history.

1. It is only since about 1950 or so that Oil replaced "King Coal" as the number one source of energy.

2. In the 13th century, the King of England banned the burning of coal in London for home heating. Not because of too much CO2, but because of a whole lot of other nasty things in the atmosphere arising from the burning of coal that made breathing (outdoors, even) nearly impossible.

3. It ignores outrageous "zoning" laws that dictate a 60 mile commute between where you are allowed to live and where you are allowed to work or shop.

4. It ignores the fact that we ship the ore that is mined in one region to another region to where it can be refined into materials that can be shipped to another region where it can be converted into components to ship to another region where such components can be assembled into finished goods which can then be sent to yet another region where these finished goods can be sold.

5. It ignores the big brown cloud hanging over Central Asia that results from the use of organics (i.e., wood, cow dung, etc) as a primary fuel in much of Africa and the poorer regions of the Middle East.

6. It ignores the fact that CO2 concentration has been much, much higher in the distant past than it is projected to reach in even the worst-case scenarios. Focusing on the "Post Industrial Era" ignores about 99% or more of earth's climate history.

7. It ignores the fact that, for about 10,000 years (since agriculture has been practiced widely enough to have an impact on earth's climate), the primary effect of human activity on earth's climate has been to STABILIZE the climate, avoiding the wild swings between snow-ball earth and ice-free earth. You can readily see this effect by looking at the paleoclimate history:

The same US Government site that provides the above illustration also provides a zoom in on the Halocene era:

Looks to me like we could use a little more warming to get us up to the "0" point...

If we go back further in the history of the earth, climate swings get even more radical...

But, I do not think we can blame Big Oil for the problem. There are any number of reasons for attempting to reduce our consumption of oil. Controlling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere or mitigating climate change is not one of them.

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#155
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 3:39 PM

I am not blaming oil for anything. Focusing on the problems of increasing CO2 is not "misleading". This WILL happen if we continue our growth for another hundred years at this rate and continue using oil. So what do we do? Order and stockpile gas masks and lime for our grandchildren? Who thinks humans will evolve better lungs in 3 generations? Lets bring in Monsanto and genetically engineer humans with a different type of lung?

Nobody is focusing on the problems. Your entire post ignores them. You can ignore human biology all you like, but your grandchildren will not have that luxury. We are rapidly heading for a future where 1/5 of the human population will have breathing problems caused by the concentration of CO2 in the air. Why should I ignore that?

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#156
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Re: A World Without Oil

12/14/2011 3:52 PM

Some of the problems that are being ignored (and the problem of insufficient water, which is another topic altogether) are pointed out in my Points 2-5 above. Focusing, as our political leaders insist, on "climate change" rather than addressing real problems (like excessive population growth, people living in the wrong places, etc.), diverts limited resources from areas where they might have some hope of improving the situation to areas where those who know how to scam the system can rake in all sorts of subsidies, handouts, and other benefits that do absolutely nothing to address any of the real issues.

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