[extropy-chat] A Grim Vision ...?

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Wed Apr 11 01:07:49 UTC 2007

At 09:18 AM 4/10/2007 -0400, you wrote:

>On 4/9/07, Keith Henson <<mailto:hkhenson at rogers.com>hkhenson at rogers.com> 
>>Virtually all of Saudi Arabia's food is imported, swapped for oil.  Anyone
>>have an idea of how many that part of the world could support without food
>It depends upon whether they invested in desalination plants to grow fresh 
>water crops

I suspect that if it were less expensive to make fresh water out of sea 
water for crops than it is to export the oil, grow the crops in other 
locations with low cost water, and ship them back, people would be doing it 
now.  It takes a *lot* of water to grow food, and it is really expensive in 
terms of energy to make fresh water out of salt.  I am well aware that 
advancing technology could change this picture.

>or invested in solar ponds to grow fish, shrimp, etc. in salt water.  It 
>isn't as if they *lack* sufficient sunlight to feed themselves.  Indeed it 
>is one of the world's richest countries in this respect.  See [1].
>I suspect that the reason there is so much unemployment is that the 
>government simply has not adopted policies reflective of dealing with the 
>situation when the oil runs out.  It isn't like they couldn't afford to 
>build the plants or the ponds -- but I think the culture is set up such 
>that that work would be done by workers imported from poorer countries.

Think about it this way, when the oil runs out how are they going to power 
the desalination plants?


Which indicates that desalination plants produce water for around $1/cubic 
meter.  Given that it takes about 1000 tons of water to grow a ton of 
wheat, that would run up the cost of wheat for the water alone to $1000 a 
ton.  Wheat runs about a $100 a ton, and shipping to the mid east might run 
around $50 a ton.  It would still cost them better than 5 times the current 


Interesting way to look at food imports as water imports, and a certain 
area of the world would be in deep trouble if food imports were shut off.



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