Of Life and Energy

Discussion in 'Blogs' started by fortunateson, May 28, 2010.

  1. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    In my down time I like to explore the topic of free energy. I’m not talking about wind or solar power, but more so the fringe topics of perpetual motion, ether, magnetism etc. I definitely limit these explorations to my downtime because, to tell the truth, they are a great way to waste time. There is no free lunch and no free energy. One example I always fall back upon to prove this is the example of life on earth.

    Every living being uses energy of one type or another – none of it comes from the ether or perpetual motion or magnets. I don’t think God is part of the conspiracy to keep us in the dark about such “technologies”. No, I think God would choose the best most efficient means of energy utilization. What did he choose? Solar. Solar results in the storage of energy in the form of Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats which the rest of us non-vegetative life forms consume. That’s it. Our green friends convert sunlight into food and we eat it. No hocus pocus about it.

    Thinking about it that way, in it’s most primitive form, the earth can support about 1.5 billion people. That’s because you need lots of land and lots of time to produce the energy to support such a population organically. Now this begs the question: “How have we managed to support 6.5 billion people?” The simple answer is “synthetically”.
    Our current food infrastructure relies heavily on providing synthetic nutrients and mechanical irrigation to cultured plants in order to produce abnormally large crop yields. Without these crop yields, life on earth would be very different from what it is today.

    Now there is nothing wrong with using technology to better life on earth as we have done. There is a risk however of becoming a bit too comfortable with it. To give you an example of what I mean, let’s take deer populations. When rains are steady and forests grow lush and green, the deer population explodes. Deer become comfortable and well fed and when they are in good health, reproduce and do so with vigor. Soon the exploding deer population outpaces the forest’s ability to supply nutrients and the results are disastrous. Starvation takes hold and the deer population is decimated. By now, I’m sure that I don’t have to continue this analogy. You can easily connect the dots and see where we’re headed. It’s no wonder that the earth has gone from 4 to 6.5 billion people in little over 30 years. We have it too good.

    But that’s not the only point to be made here. Let’s take a look at where the synthetic support system for our food supply comes from. Almost everything supporting modern farming is based on fossil fuels. Combines and tractors run on diesel fuel. Irrigation equipment is powered by diesel, gas, or electric, which is usually produced by natural gas or coal. Almost all fertilizer is produced from natural gas, with the exception of manure, which is surely derived from animals fed grain, which was fertilized with natural gas derivatives. But what are fossil fuels? As you learned in grammar school, they are the earth-processed remains of plant material. This plant material received its energy from – you guessed it – the sun. And it did so a long time ago. Essentially, the fossil fuels we use are a “savings bank” for energy.

    Connect the dots again, and you’ll see that we’re making huge withdrawals from this savings bank and using it to live well beyond our means. Imagine a man who receives an inheritance. He’s come into more money than he ever imagined. Being a good fellow, he not only buys a larger house, and new car, but invites his 12 cousins to move in with him. Thinking the account is limitless, he continues to withdraw and support his extended family in high style, the result of Granddad’s labor.

    Sadly, the party is almost over. Our withdrawals are becoming harder and harder to make. They’re also becoming more and more costly. The relatives will soon have to settle for Ramen Noodles and the Mercedes will remain parked in the driveway with grass growing high around it. In real terms, life is soon going to be very difficult for about 5 billion people. If you think you’re not one of them think again. The fellow in Vietnam with an ox and an acre rice paddy is better prepared than you are. As you sit there reading this from a backlit LCD screen powered by electricity made by natural gas, the result of some plant giving its life 10,000 years ago, you have a lot to ponder. Your meal card has been punched, the account is dry, now what will you do?
  2. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

    Nice thought provoking column[applaud]. I've been in the "peak oil camp" for years.And believe it will "present" as demand out pacing supply of cheap, readily obtainable crude.
    I have not put any weight into the Abiotic" oil theory until recently . "NASA planetary scientists tell us Titan ( a moon of saturn) is covered in lakes of liquid hydrocarbons ( methane I think) So that lends credibility to the earth producing oil as a natural process; however if it takes billions of years to accumulate in fields to be pumped out it might as well be fossilized rainbow trout.The supply(rate of extraction) still cannot meet demand.
    As a result I personally seeKiunstler's "long slow emergency" being economic strangulation. Long and painfully drawn out before the slurp-p-p-p-p of empty oil fields.
    oilshieks and hedge fund managers will still jet about the country. We will be economically forced to drive and EAT smaller, nearer and generally less.
  3. fortunateson

    fortunateson I hate Illinois Nazis!

    Thanks Tango. Didn't catch the comment until now.
    Yes I see it exactly in this way.
    IMO, It's almost better to set your kids up with land than a college education if the future brings what I think it will.
survivalmonkey SSL seal        survivalmonkey.com warrant canary