[ExI] Whatever happened to peak oil by 2020?

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Wed May 8 15:54:53 UTC 2013

On Wed, May 08, 2013 at 08:29:59AM -0700, spike wrote:

> I am watching a football stadium being built a couple miles from my yurt for
> the 49ers.  If we can build a structure of that magnitude in a couple years
> (the stadium, not my yurt), then we can build Fischer-Tropsch plants in a
> similar timespan.  Yes I know that line of reasoning is as loose as a bucket

If you have friends who are chemical engineers, then they will likely
tell you where the 10-20 GUSD price ticket for a city-sized industrial
installation comes from. I personally prefer something much smaller,
which is water electrolysis, Sabatier, and methanol (electro)synthesis
under mild conditions. They can keep their diesel. I'd rather have
hydrogen and methanol economy instead.

> of bolts, but I do fail to understand why anything like this would
> necessarily take a long time to do, assuming we get the hell on it now, when
> conventional energy is cheap and abundant.

Unfortunately, the conventional energy is no longer cheap or abundant.
For some reason people don't understand how unconventional oil is
different from conventional oil. They don't understand that net energy,
not volume is relevant. Etc.
> I will buy into part of Eugen's reasoning, the part that would wipe the
> Alfred E Newman grin off of even my own optimistic face: if we wait too long
> to start, then there isn't enough energy to build the energy conversion

This is known as falling off the net energy cliff. That cliff should have
started growing in 2012, so peak (or plateau) is not telling you the
whole story.

> facilities.  The results will be horrifying.  But I would suggest we do a
> lot of stuff that is extravagantly wasteful now, such as football stadiums.
> Then as energy becomes more scarce, we let those go first.  This calls
> attention to shortages, perhaps far enough ahead of the crisis to avert
> catastrophe.  For instance, in a coming age of shortage, the audience for
> football becomes small enough that the enterprise fails to break even.  Then
> we have the stadium as a source of raw materials: we can take it apart and
> recycle the steel rather than mine iron ore for instance.

Completely different design space. Does not apply. Once you're fucked, getting
unfucked again takes a huge effort. 

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