[ExI] Oil will never run out

Kevin Freels kevinfreels at insightbb.com
Sun Jun 29 20:45:51 UTC 2008

----- Original Message -----
From: hkhenson <hkhenson at rogers.com>
Date: Saturday, June 28, 2008 16:50
Subject: Re: [ExI] Oil will never run out
To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>

> At 10:02 AM 6/28/2008, Kevin wrote:
> snip
> >So the price of the gas could be related to the price of 
> electricity 
> >and NOT based on the amount of oil in the ground. So the 
> solution 
> >here is more cheap electricity which I think is a much simpler 
> >solution than developing an entirely new infrastructure to 
> support 
> >new technologies for transportation.
> That's what I have been talking about here for months.  But 
> making 
> huge amounts of cheap electricity is not a small problem.  
> Even if 
> the cost per kWh is low, setting up to manufacture (for example) 
> space based solar power plants is on a par with the Iraq war.
> >Here's some links to efforts that are up and coming...
> >
> ><http://www.ls9.com/>http://www.ls9.com/
> >http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1979Sci...206...57W
> ><http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11653571/>http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11653571/ 
> >Gasoline from cattle dung.... Hope my car doesn't run like crap!
> >
> >There are a lot of companies working on this and I think it's 
> just a 
> >matter of time before it happens. And it's not 10, 20, or 30 
> years 
> >into the future. It's a few years away. By 2039 when some 
> suggest 
> >we'll be out of oil, people most companies won't want to waste 
> the 
> >money it costs to drill, pump, transport, and refine the "real" 
> stuff.>No doubt the development costs will keep these people 
> from releasing 
> >their gen en bacteria to the general population for my "open 
> source 
> >gas factories" but never underestimate the the ingenuity of 
> human 
> >beings. Espionage, the balck market for trade secrets and other 
> such 
> >things will cause this little germ to eventually venture out 
> into 
> >the world. Trade Secrets tend not to remain trade secrets for 
> very 
> >long. I do hope they make their money back and a decent profit 
> >before this happens though.
> The energy problem is dominated not be trade secrets, but by 
> hard 
> chemical and physical laws.  Oil is energy dense.  In 
> the best cases 
> it takes little processing before you can use it for 
> transportation 
> fuel.  I know about this, not only from studying chemistry 
> since 
> junior high school, but from having worked in a refinery that 
> processed several percent of the oil the US was using around 1980.
> Take that 400 ton per day trash to energy plant.  How much 
> does 480 
> MWh amount to in gasoline?  There is about 38 kWh in a 
> gallon of 
> gasoline.  At 100% you could make 480,000/38 or about 
> 12,600 gallons 
> a day.  That's enough for a 15 gallon fill up for 840 
> people every 
> day.  Because there are about 840,000 people in Ottawa you 
> could get 
> one fill up per person about every 3 years.
> Another way to look at it is US gasoline consumption of 386 
> million 
> gallons a day.  386,000,000/12,600 is around 30,000.  
> At 400 tons per 
> day, these plants would process about 4,500 million tons of 
> waste a 
> year--which is about 18 times the trash we actually generate.
> I hope these numbers gives you a feel for the scale of the 
> energy problem.
> Keith
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I fully understand the enormity of the problem but that doesn't change my opinion of the direction of things to come. I am insulted that some of you would simply reply with links to definitions of "wishful thinking" or state that I don't understand rudimentary thermodynamics or physics.  I understand just as well as anyone the hurdles that need to be overcome. I understand that there is no "easy" solution either. But I also have great faith in human ingenuity and a firm grasp on history. History is filled with naysayers and doomsayers. People have said "It can't be done" so many time I wonder why people continue to use that phrase. 

People who can't solve a problem often assume that solution doesn't exist. I assume that everyone here is aware that scientific theories and facts are often being refined and occasionally changed as new discoveries are made. Often things that we think we know are partially wrong and it's silly to think that somehow we are immune to this.

So I have to work from the position that in a few years we will learn some things that we don't know now. We will find some things we thought we knew wrong. 

As many have pointed out to me, the problem here is indeed enormous. But that is not an argument against what I have proposed. In fact, it's an argument in FAVOR of it. Here's why:

I am going to go on a leap of faith and assume that the problem will be solved. If it isn't, the only real alternative is economic collapse of the world and a reversal of hundreds of years of progress and the singularity pushed off indefinitely. 

So with the problem enormous and the civilized world at stake, and a free market ruling, I can only assume that the solution will follow the path of least resistance.

So the alternatives are:

1.) Replace everything that runs on gas with stuff that runs on batteries
2.) Replace the entire infrastructure with an alternative fuel
3.) Find a better way to get the fuel we're already using.

There are just too many devices out there owned and operated that use gas. Replacing them with batteries that offer the same range, power, and abilities, or some kind of alternative fuel will require all kinds of infrastructure changes. Not just new manufacture techniques, but everything to get it from the plant to the customer has to change. And that's just for the fuel side. Then there's the manufacture of the devices themselves. We're talking about retooling every machine shop that makes any part for any device that previously used a biofuel or that used parts that were made from machines that used biofuels to run. As if that weren't enough, we're talking about the loss of billions of dollars of assets that run on biofuels. How much to replace all the jets? The trucks? The trains? Am I just going to accept that my cars that cost me thousands of dollars will just sit and rot? I know we're talking about the future, but there are still cars on the roads now from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Is everyone going to accept that they just can't get fuel for them anymore? Are people going to park their 69 Stingrays in the garage and never drive them again? Even if we had thousands of nuclear power plants with plenty of electricity, a change to an electric replacement for gasoline would be very destabilizing unless it happened over a long period of time - longer than we have.

Unfortunately, I think this is the only end result of any direction other than remaining with gasoline for at least the next 50-100 years. Since there is not 50-100 years of gasoline left, and no one is going to accept the above, and because failure and economic collapse is not an option there is only one solution that will really work. A replacement for gasoline that does not require oil out of the ground.

Now how this is accomplished I admit, I am not sure. I see many promising concepts. Many may not scale up easily, but when the choices are economic collapse, a completely replaced infrastructure and manufacturing base with devalued assets for everyone, or overcoming a problem with scaling up, I put my money on the ability to find solutions to scaling up. 

So if you disagree, that's fine. But don't insult me as if I'm a fool. I understand the problem. I just wanted it on record so that when it happens I can look back and laugh at a the fearmongers. No doubt many of you who are so much smarter than me were the same people that have been proposing high-speed rail in the US for many years and still don't understand why it hasn't happened. The real world isn't just about efficiency. It's about people and understanding the power of the status quo.

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