[ExI] Oil will never run out

hkhenson hkhenson at rogers.com
Mon Jun 30 04:16:15 UTC 2008

At 01:45 PM 6/29/2008, Kevin wrote:


>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.

Unfortunately history has examples, Greenland Norse, Easter Island, 
and Mayans where things fairly well went down the drain.  I happen to 
be an engineer who is used to being given a problem and marching 
orders to solve it.  But there are problems, backwards time travel 
and FTL travel that are probably in the "can't be done" 
category.  Others such as diverting an asteroid collision on short 
notice can't be done if we don't have enough time.

But the energy problem is one I think could be solved without massive 
population collapse *if* we get started quickly.  SPS on a crash 
program, under ten years, is a solution that's been understood for 40 
years now.  There may well be other ways, a vast scale up of nuclear 
power of a new design, the pebble bed reactors, might to it for long 
enough to reach some kind of singularity where we or our machine 
offspring or some combination get smart enough to get more power or 
run on less.

>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.

You may be right.

>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.

It's impossible to get as much performance out of batteries as you 
can get out of hydrocarbons.  If you think of them in battery terms, 
65% of the battery come out of the air and you don't have to carry 
it.  Trucks on batteries?  Not likely.  Trains can be 
electrified.  Aircraft are being taken out of service by the 
thousands because of high fuel cost.

>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.

You can make liquid fuels from electric power.  It just takes a lot 
and then the problem is where do you get the electric power?

>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.

A lot of them don't scale up.  That was the point of the exposition 
on converting trash to oil, there just isn't enough trash.  There 
isn't enough land do grow bio fuels.  The storage and transmission 
problems are extremely hard to solve on solar power from deserts.

>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.

True.  For some bizarre reason the Norse didn't fish (you can see 
this in the isotope levels of their bones).

For all with an interest, I suggest going here 

and take the link to his book.  He knows the physics of energy.


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