Reprinted (and rewritten) from here
First, let me quote an article, verbatim, written most eloquently (and a whole lot more consise than I do) by my dear friend Marcelo. (hi marcelo!) I added some pics to Marcelo’s article, for personal emphasis. After that follows the earlier article from my other blog, about SSPS. I agree – my message is not one most voters or consumers (*or tax payers*) want to hear or can empathize with.
Peak Oil and Climate Change: Between Too Soon and Not Soon Enough
Posted: Jul 26, 2010
We are going to burn all of the oil and coal we have, because their benefits as energy sources are concrete, immediate, and local, while their costs are gradual, delayed, and global.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but when facing similar choices, humankind has never chosen the more long-term view.
There are only three conceivable scenarios in which we stop burning fossil fuels at a massive scale. First and foremost, nobody will use fossil fuels if there’s a more effective energy source available. For that to happen, we need investments in science, development, and infrastructure that are orders of magnitude larger than what we’re doing now, because our technology isn’t there yet, and our energy transport infrastructure is still woefully inadequate.
A second scenario involves the impact of climate change being so harsh and destructive — and impacting directly the developed world in such a way — that the use of fossil fuels becomes an immediate casus belli. Of course, by then the proverbial horses will be out of the equally proverbial barn, but every megatonne of carbon is likely to have an impact, and, besides, this would be a matter of politics, not global climate management.
Finally, and perhaps most likely, we’ll stop burning fossil fuels simply because we’ll run out of them. More precisely, we’ll stop using them when they become so hard to extract that using alternative energy sources becomes more convenient. Given how bad those alternative energy sources are at the moment, by that moment we might also be well into the catastrophic climate change scenario.
What happens afterward will depend on whether or not we have upgraded our energy infrastructure by then. Make no mistake, we can and should try to get as energy-efficient as we can, but to an enormous degree civilization is simply about energy per capita, which is one of the reasons why we no longer have to dedicate 90% of our population to growing food. In terms of quality of life and political freedom, 17th-century Europe, Japan, and China are perhaps the highest you can go without massive non-human energy sources. If we have found a viable alternative to fossil fuels by the time or before we have used most of them, then we will “only” have to deal with climate upheaval of a scale unprecedented in human history. If we haven’t, then we’ll have to deal with climate upheaval of a scale unprecedented in human history… while dealing with an economic depression that will make 1930 look like a Golden Age, and WWII a minor inconvenience. And, needlessly to say, the longer we burn fossil fuels, the deeper the climate catastrophe is going to be.
The time for smooth, convenient solutions was decades ago, when scientists first began to raise the alarm about the greenhouse effect and peak oil, and the twin approaching disasters of a changing climate and an energy crunch. By now, the most we can do, and the least we have to, is to scramble however we can. Yes, even during a global recession, and even during the next ones. If you think upgrading the energy foundations of a planetary civilization is hard during an economic recession, imagine how hard it’ll be with a fraction of the energy available, and climate-related disruptions erupting everywhere.
We need to make extraordinary advances in energy sources, and we have to do if fast, or, to put it simply, the 22nd century will look like the 17th. We need to constrain our use of fossil fuels as much as possible. It’s one thing to have to deal with an oncoming train, and quite another to be running toward it. And we need to become much better at handling our atmosphere and ecosystems, mass human migration and infrastructure development, and political coordination and humanitarian support, because the latter half of the century is shaping up to be one ugly mess. We are in this fix because a few short decades ago we did nothing. If we do nothing, or even if we just don’t do enough, the fix we’re going to be a few short decades from now will be much, much worse.
If we fail, the best case scenario is losing most of what we’ve accomplished in the last few centuries. In the worst case, we also lose everything else.
(here proceeds my earlier article)
The acronym everyone should know – SSPS
I am making a bold statement here. To anyone who reads this. I assert – we are in some serious global problems. And considering the problems we face we are in a nearly impossible situation, in terms of socio-economic paradigms, structures of governments, prevailing convictions, entitlements, motivation, overpopulation to deal with the problems facing us. Worse – most of the people alive (and in charge) today will (assume themselves to) be dead by the time these problems will have the most bite (say after 2040).
I proclaim that we need governments, corporations and the science world to come together, with as many global players as possible, and do whatever it takes to implement solar energy ‘harvesting’ stations, starting with one such “SSPS” no later than 2020, and adding new ones at a geometric rate.
I insist that we need to do this. I insist that we need this source of energy, and we need to start developing it now. To not to do is to invite the most monstrous catastrophy humanity has ever seen and nothing less.
Mike Sneed wrote in a report:
He wrote, if we just take the US – If the US built 70 new one gigawatt nuclear plants ….. if the US were to build and install (and operate) one million large wind turbines across 5000 miles of coast line ….. if the US also add the equivalent of 15 hoover dams … if it was to upscale its geothermal capacity by a factor of times 50 the current … if the US also collect 2 billion tons of biomass and use that per year …. and in addition to all of that if it were to build a staggering 60.000 square miles of solar if all that were to happen, cumulatively, by 2100 the US would not be producing a third of the power it would need by then. Worse, even if the US did this TODAY, it wouldn’t even be able to replace the fossil fuel usage in the US. (video below)
Right now the world consumes, depending on definitions (and inefficient conversion rates) between 15 and 18 terawatts of energy. Most of this energy is used by burning highly combustible substances such as fossil fuels and dumping the resulting waste materials (including radioactive dust, sulphur compounds, nitrogen oxides and CO2) straight into the atmosphere. So aside from the toxic effects of use of these fossil fuels, we also have the inalienable fact that between now and 2050 effectively all known and plausible reserves of oil have run out.
Everyone is welcome denying the atmospheric consequences. Everyone is perfectly welcome denying depletion scenario’s. But as far as I am concerned, if you do this, you’ll do your kids a big favor if you drag them out back and expediently euthanized them with a bullet to the back of the head.
Ok, let’s for now assume I am not a tinfoil alarmist. My concern is we have a highly complex (and somewhat comfortable) society which we cannot ever hope to sustain, unless we find new sources of energy. If we do not act, we will fall back into the 1700s paradigm where ‘most people work in agriculture’ and we ‘can’t feed 7 billion people out of (pretty soon) 10 billion people. That’s right, at best (not counting resource depletion, terrorism, mass migration, war, pollution, global warming, fish/animal/plan depletion, globalization, populists, entitlement, short-term thinking, pension crisis, wealth disparities, politicians, religious fundamentalism, ethnic cleansing, human stupidity, prejudice, mass unemployment, water crisis, shills, collapsing bee populations and idols) our world can ‘somewhat comfortably’ sustain 3 billion human beings – and most of those would be working (manual labor) in agricultural professions, with minimal mechanized tools.
In effect – if we continue down the current trajectory without hard corrections soon, we will have to expediently ‘let starve’ more than 5 billion people between, say 2025 and 2060. WW2 and aftermath (counting Hitler and Stalin’s and American sponsored jolly escapades) killed somewhere like 100 million people. That in effect means that between 2025 and 2060 we’d have to let more people expediently die than died in aforementioned period of, say 20 years (1935-1955). About ten times as much in fact. I propose that idea is blatantly ridiculous and we’d end up triggering a sequence of thermonuclear exchanges from 2030 onwards, at a rate of one per year. By 2060 we probably couldn’t even keep a half billion alive with that schedule.
If you have another interpretation on the impact of fossil fuels, biodiversity and global climates falling away or collapsing to negligible, please let me know in the comments. You are free to elaborate on the concept ‘tin foil’ if you do, but I will call out tirades, denialism (“nooo nooo! NOOO!”) and pointless abuse for what it is. Give me arguments.
So what can we do?
We cannot escape this potential nightmare of not having enough energy by going full out alternative energies, not even if we implement ALL options of alternative energy we have. We will be globally effectively out of oil before 2050, and long for that increasing oil prices will start pushing people who depend on access to oil with their lives, away from the dining table. I say, without oil, we can’t even feed the projected ten billion people on the world, let alone sustain current standards of living.
And I say, that if we face a world were people start dying in all regions of the third world, because they don’t have access to cheap foods, cheap medicines, cheap transport, cheap packaging, cheap electricty – as they do now – then the consequences will not be an expedient massive “correctional die off’, but a firestorm of crime, migrations, terrorism, resource wars and total despair that will pose the most grave of consequences for the sustainability of society itself. Let alone sustainability of anything like current standards of living.
Yah, alarmism and totally exaggerated. Are you sure?
Anyone who has any influence and responsibility over this must start acting based on these premises, and if they don’t I declare them guilty of criminal negligence. If you are in charge, you must take charge now.
That means – any and all politicians must respond to my allegation, and must resond to the basic argument I lay out here and either come up with some pretty solid counter arguments or start acting immediately.
(Or, like usual ignore whatever messages that don’t suit them).
The time that anyone can say ”
* ‘but I am over 40, I’ll be dead before this become a problem‘, or
* ‘my constituents/shareholders did not put me in my position to be responsible for this issue’ or
* ‘i don’t understand what you are saying here‘ or
* ‘i’ll bury this headache in a study comitee‘ is over.
The time for expedient, shill-driven, populist or chair warming incompetent evasiveness is over. We must act at once, and we must have the first SSPS system up and running and producing energy no later than 2020. And by 2035 this industry must grow so fast it can more than keep up with other sources of energy becoming unaffordable or being depleted. To fail these deadlines I cannot interpret in any other way as a sickening apathy towards potentially billions of people dying, and nothing less than that.
Anyone reading this – if you understand what I am stating here – what are you doing to fix this? Fortunately some people are.
Possible Replies / FAQ
Space Based Solar Power Harvesting is far too expensive
SSPS is extremely expensive. It is however cost effective and necessary. And – all alternatives do not scale to a world with ten billion people and no (effectively usable) fossil fuel reserves.
Let’s say that to implement the basic infrastructure to create the first energy winning structures (on earth and in space) would cost about as much as ‘a’ gulf war (as if they come in blister packs). It will probably cost less.
But then we are still talking over a trillion US dollars. After having expended that money, building launch facilities, creating a cheap launch system for light and for bulk launches, an implementing the very first SSPS we have a thing in space that costs a fortune and produces a single Gigawatt of energy. A current nuclear power plant costs something like 10 billion, and also produces a single gigawatt. So why the heck would we consider a structure maybe hundred times as expensive??
“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”
If implemented we have a gigawatt capacity of a single microwave beam station in place – after that first inception the next structure costs substantially less. The issue at hand is we need energy anyway and we desperately need more of it every year – while existing energy reserves have cost consequences that are almost frivolously dismissed. We get our oil from in many cases from psychotic or open slave-keeping states (such as Saudi Arabia) or from a number if other politically dubious petro-dictatorships (Venezuela, Russia) or from completely collapsed regions (western africa) or at a massive cost (from a mile deep in the sea). Well, let’s not remind people that oil is a fairly filthy substance, yes?
We could add coal to the debate but everyone should agree that burning endless reserves of coal, “no matter how alleged to be clean” (=lying) is suicidal on a planetary scale. Solar, Wind, Thermal, Geo, Nuclear all come with environmental, energy scarcity, upkeep cost consequences we can ill afford. Plus neither of them scale up to even remotely to keep up with EXPLODING consumer demands. First world nations can barely keep with demand growth – what if we intend to bring a humane existance to 3 billion Indians and Chinese (and some 5 billion africans, asians, middle easterners, southamericans?)
Right now we can dream we have solutions, but we don’t. No there aren’t any hidden solutions like engines running on water.
Worse, we have LESS solutions every year. We collectively don’t know it, but we are shrinking our options well into a lethal future.
Launching one SSPS in space would give us a Gigawatt – there is no way we can launch the required tens of thousands
The problem of implementing energy sustainability is a matter of wanting it hard enough. Right now everyone is fat and lazy and doesn’t feel any urgency. But fairly soon the heat will go on and we’ll boil to death in a pan like a bunch of frogs. The question is – we can’t be bothered to act now, and our world will be too much of a mess to do it later. So, how intelligent as a species are we. If we are too dumb, billions will die. Do the math. The smarter we are the sooner we find solutions that’ll work.
We have enough oil to last us hundreds of years
In this discussion there are four things important – proven oil reserves, theoretical or probable oil reserves, irretrievable oil reserves and lying. On the demand side there are the following considerations – current consumption, a concept I’d call “attrition depletion” and future consumption – and a concept I would call populist denialism.
For example – the world has of 2010 has enough oil ready to pump and plausibly retrievable enough to last us somewhere into the second half of this century at current consumption rates. If consumption rates go up as they have for anything like we have seen in the last century all known oil reserves are gone and depleted somewhere in the mid 2030s. Doublecheck what I have just said. Now by developing new technologies we can increase the oil reserves by finding and unlocking “some” new reserves, and we can safely anticipate we can add a few decades, assuming current oil consumption (which is silly beyond words), and at most a decade if we continue to expand energy consumption. That means, in the most sensible scenario’s oil is depleted and totally uneconomical long before 2050. Of course some people may very well use oil after then, but if we all believe we will all be doing that, we are certifiably insane.
This is all complicated by the fact that some countries are lying through their teeth when it comes to oil reserves. The Saudi Filth have a habit of claiming their have ‘several big fields’ ready to be tapped -and they can lie because they hide their geological data under their pillows. Fact remains there have been no major finds in Saudi Arabia, and the major Saudi-Iraqi fields are rapidly declining. Here is another scary detail – population growth in some middle east oil exporting countries is so huge that in mere decades some of these countries may be forced to stop exports rather suddenly, to fuel the needs of their own population – Iran is a great example of precisely that being in the immediate future, since they have been consistently breeding like lemmings over there. Not that I blame them – it’s their business how they lemming, but the rest of the world ignores the implications at their own peril. At some point these people will have a choice between migrating and dying.
The concept of “depletion attrition” is something like – as soon as oil prices increase, demand drops as companies go bankrupt or reduce production rates. As a consequence many people make less shareholder money, less wages and demand decreases sharply. It may seem like a solution out of the selfregulatory bible of dogmatic idiots, but the flip side is that a whole lot of people are suddenly caught off from affordable products – and jobs. This has severe potential consequences we only see a glimmer off at this time. LONG before oil depletes, the cost of plastics, transportation, pharmaceuticals, chemical fertilizers, refrigeration and irrigation will push billions of people out of access to food they can afford.
I KNOW that there are a lot of misguided assholes (and I consciously use harsh language) that think this is natural and prudent. I have heard the statement ‘well they should have though of that before, that’s how the market works‘ or ‘nature rectifying overpopulation‘. Aside from the sheer assholeaciousness (dubious ethics) of said people, they are stupid beyond words. I claim there is a causal relationship, soon to become self-evident to everyone, between global misery, and suitcase nukes detonation in major rich nation metropolitan areas. I say – attrition through depletion is not an option on the table, despite the unbelievably arrogant ‘neochristian’ rhetoric of Fox news and the crap that floats around that.
We can not afford to slowly let a few billion people die to reduce demand and leave more oil (and other natural resources) “for us whiteys”. A few billion really desperate people, even when dirt poor, would tear this world apart in chronic thermonuclear terrorism. We’d make the Israeli societal paradigm (apartheid+) a worldwide norm.
I can almost postulate a causal link between starvation (and similar undesirable demographic and societal distress) and terror deaths in rich countries. And point in youir ears that as technologies advance the first these advances will be used for is not world peace and all that, but for crime, payback, repression and death.
And the oil debate doesn’t end there. Let’s not start about global warming. Let’s not start about democracies rotting from the inside with all the oil money poured into corrupt politicians pockets. Let’s not start about China using its atrocious respect for human rights to happily climb in bed with sociopathic dictators. Let’s not look at people displaced from their lands, or bush meat trade. Let’s not discuss he idea of economic hitmen, or occupational wars. The list of oil related misery goes on and on. The day oil goes away (and we can afford to leave the filth in the ground) will be the day everyone is invited for drinks at my house.
We don’t have oil to last us decades, and the ride into inadequate market supply means massive hardship for everyone, even if you have the biggest military in the world.
We have enough natural gas to last us hundreds of years
No we don’t.
We have enough coal to last us hundreds of years
There is enough coal yes, but coal is problematic in terms of sulphur and mercury contamination if used in large amounts. And let’s no mention CO2 emissions. I do not think coal can be a big solution to any energy questions.
Is this some crazy liberal green plan ?
No it is not, by a long shot. I am talking about an industrial revolution potentially far bigger than any we have seen before. Please realize, this isn’t a hairbrained money black hole scheme – space based industrialization is profitable beyond anything we have seen in the previous centuries. There are asteroids out there, not much further than the moon, which have several orders of magnitude more rare earth minerals (such as platinum) than we can ever hope to win from the earth’s surface. Right now if the right investor stepped forward the mining of a NEA would be already profitable far in excess of the investment. That is – with current technology.
However, our current corporation centered paradigms cannot generate the focus, competence, imagination, enthusiasm, scientific understanding or foresight to come up with the required starting capital for this undertaking or any undertaking in space industrialization. This is a disastrous state of affairs. What I advocate is profit, plain and simple, beyond anything we have seen. What I advocate is economic growth, increased abundance and prosperity, unlocking massive new consumer markets, stability, political safety. That vision isn’t a fringe leftist attitude or expectation.
Where would we get the money for such an undertaking?
Money is a fictional device in the macro-economy.
We have enough uranium to fuel society for thousands of years.
Even if true, which it isn’t, nuclear plants cost a lot more than generally assumed. But a far more compelling argument is – we CAN NOT build anywhere near the required plants to power (or feed) the third world. Think about it. The Sudan i starving. It needs energy. Ok, let’s build a few nuclear power plants there. Genius idea right?
Solar energy generated in deserts alone can power society
We don’t need all that energy. We can safely reduce consumption rates and return to nature
Not quite. Obligatory: watch this video first:
I am formulating this answer…
Energy stations radiating energy back to earth can be used as space lasers to destroy cities
No. I will give you a blank guarantee that SSPS by itself cannot be weaponized anymore than any normal satellite sending out CNN or sirius radio. Categorically no. Having industries in space will have the potential to hit targets on earth surface, with great easy, and as such it pays to have infrastructures in space first, before anyone else does.
Space is too dangerous
Space is very dangerous to soft jelly humans. It is also the ideal place to build large industrial structures. (I am formulating this answer)
It is impossible to lift all required resources from the surface of the earth to build these structures
(I am formulating this answer)
This is all just liberal anti-oil propaganda.
(I am formulating this answer)
This would allow the US and its allies to implement an orbital position of total dominance
Yes. Isn’t it great? My conniving plan is to have industries and tax payers invest trillions to implement means of energy production, and while doing so, my political systems (democracy, transparancy, the rule of law, moderate social-democratic market mechanics, transparancy, humanism, scientific analysis) achioeve unchallenged dominion over the planetary surface. That’s right – as soon as the first state has a number of orbital installations like these it has total dominance over the world – it can use focussed laser arrays to shoot any launch vehicle out of the stratosphere. It can rain balls of weighted iron down through the atmosphere in hyperbolic orbits on precise plots of surface, creation impact detonations the size of hiroshima sized explosions. If Luxembourg now had proposed structures in space, the next day Luxembourg would be emperor of the world.
Likewise – North Korea. The day North Korea has orbital SPSS up and running is the day North Korea can dictate terms of surrender to the US, for reasons that are so obvious I shall not repeat them. And this should be an argument NOT to create these structures?
Hell no, it means I want my political entity (The EU) to be the first building them and I want satanic nightmare states like Saudi Arabia to be the last.
You are a lobbyist for space industries.
If that were the case I am still waiting for their cheque. Please, mister space industry, send me money on my moneybookers account ASAP.
Actually no, I am retired, unemployed, living of disability, 100% disabled, not a registered member of any organization, except a local political party (which nowhere in its program has it any interest in space). I do this purely out of idealistic reasons. I see some the big patterns and I am personally convinced that SSPS is by far the only solution to avoid severe and debilitating outcomes to human civilization.
We may decide to do this in a century but not now.
(I am formulating this answer)
If this makes so much sense why are politicians, corporations and organizations doing zilch?
This is Science Fiction and utter nonsense.
The global super powers/Illuminati/Bankers/Big Oil/UN/Rothschilds/Liberals/Neoconservatives/MIC do not want this or they would have done this long ago.
You are an idiot
While at first glance the response ‘you are an idiot, and hence..’ may sound like a superfluous addition to this list, I emphasize that when proposing initiatives a such as SSPS (and I can name you a few dozen other such implausible proposals) about 30-50% of all protests comes down to the ‘you are an idiot’ argument. The fact of the matter is, to the reader the argument sounds so farfetched it strikes him or her as completely incredible – hence the reader confuses his o her own lack of imagination with any expertise in the matter and labels what he or she can’t understand as idiotic. I will not reply to any claims to that effect other than making reference to this answer, and saying, ‘come up with a better line or arguments than that’. If I had any compelling need to be treated with such replies I’d live with chimpansees and had them pelt me with excrement, which would be at roughly the same intellectual level of discourse.
* Hot, Flat and Crowded
* Mining the Sky
* The High Frontier.
* Hardwired ,
* Mitsubishi ,
* http://www.thelivingmoon.com/43ancients/02files/Moon_Rights.html ,
* Riches in the sky ,
* The ethics of off-world mining ,
* The future of space mining ,
* Article on Shizimu Corporation ,
* Shizimu Corporation ,