free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 286. COAL AND THE EROEI OF CORN ETHANOL

Saturday, April 15, 2006

286. COAL AND THE EROEI OF CORN ETHANOL

The EROEI of corn (maize) ethanol is one of the "hot button" issues of peak oil, and a source of endless debate. On one side, you've got the partisans of David Pimental who say corn ethanol has an EROEI less than 1, and thus takes more energy to make than it actually contains. On the other side, you've got folks citing a variety studies showing Pimental to be in error.

This debate crops up again and again, and in fact, we had a little outbreak in the comments of this blog the other day.

The topic is boring in the extreme, and guaranteed to give you a migraine headache, so let's save ourselves a lot of time and misery by short-circuiting the entire fruitless argument.

My thesis: The poor EROEI of corn ethanol doesn't matter if you use a cheap, non-liquid form of energy (like coal) to do the distilling and synthesize the fertilizer etc. If you proceed that way, then ethanol can be regarded as a form of "coal liquefaction", and the low EROEI doesn't matter. The question is whether coal liquefaction via ethanol is more cost effective than coal liquefaction via other routes.

It turns out that this is exactly where the future of corn ethanol is going -- a fact I learned from Robert Rapier. Robert is a chemical engineer working in the oil industry, and has an outstanding new blog (R-SQUARED) which I will be adding to the POD sidebar. He is definitely the source to turn to for the best information on biofuels. In a great post on the future of grain ethanol, he describes a number of work-arounds for low EROEI and covers the coal strategy:
The final option is one that most environmentalists probably will not embrace. However, it is the one most likely to take place in the short-term. The natural gas input into ethanol production is a serious long-term threat to economic viability. Since natural gas is a fossil fuel, and supplies are diminishing, it will put upward pressure on the price of ethanol over time. However, if the energy inputs could be produced from coal, ethanol prices would be insulated from escalating natural gas prices. This might also end the EROI debate. I have heard the argument go something like this. "If I have 1 BTU of coal, who cares if I only get back 0.8 BTUs of ethanol? I converted the BTUs into a readily usable liquid form." This argument may be valid from both an economic and EROI point of view, but it ignores the fact that coal is still an inherently dirty energy source. If coal remains abundant and cheap, coal economics will beat natural gas economics, but coal will increase the rate at which we put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If we come up with a viable method of sequestering the carbon dioxide produced at the power plant, then we might finally have a viable economic solution (although we are still using up a non-sustainable fuel in the process).Source
Robert also happened to find this article from the Christian Science Monitor which describes how coal-based ethanol is catching on in Iowa. From the article:
Late last year in Goldfield, Iowa, a refinery began pumping out a stream of ethanol, which supporters call the clean, renewable fuel of the future.

There's just one twist: The plant is burning 300 tons of coal a day to turn corn into ethanol - the first US plant of its kind to use coal instead of cleaner natural gas.

An hour south of Goldfield, another coal-fired ethanol plant is under construction in Nevada, Iowa. At least three other such refineries are being built in Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.Source
Cleaner options in the same vein include using nuclear or solar process heat.
-- by JD

54 Comments:

At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 9:09:00 AM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

"If I have 1 BTU of coal, who cares if I only get back 0.8 BTUs of ethanol?"

We can see this concept as another energy refinement step where naturally there are energy losses in the process. This happens all of the time. There are energy losses in the burning of gas to make electricity, refinement of oil to make gasoline and the Fischer-Troppe process of coal to make synthetic liquid fuel. So the idea of turning coal into ethanol with only a 20% energy loss would seam reasonable.

Except, there is one big problem with whole idea. We would have to tie-up agricultural land and take much of it out of food production to produce fuel for cars. That's not only stupid, it is immoral and unnecessary. It's stupid because hungry people don't drive ethanol burning cars, it's immoral because starving people die, and it is unnecessary because the Fischer-Troppe process converts coal into liquid fuels without taking nearly as much land in the process.

I can't help but think about how much our car addicted society is sick when hear about the so-called promise of corn ethanol for powering traffic jams. We are like the desperate gambling addicted father making plans to sell his children to prostitution when the consequences of the unhealthy lifestyle come to bear.

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 10:06:00 AM PDT, Blogger Lonath said...

It has been said that using sugarcane for production of ethanol will cause reduction of acreage used for production of food.
In the United States, the Dept of Agriculture information is that in excess of 36 million acres of potential crop land is not in crop production as it is being held in the Dept of Ag "Soil Bank" program.
This is not desert land, nor swamp land, nor untillable land. It is land which the owners have enrolled in the program in order to receive a subsidy from the Gov't.
Ethanol can be produiced from a great variety of vegetation, not just corn nor sugarcane. If all of the 36 million + acres currently in the soil bank was put into crops for ethanol production, it would not reduce the present food crop acreage by even one acre.
However, it would create many thousands of new jobs, and save a great deal of our outflow of cash to foreign countries, some of which are not our friends.
Think about it! From "soil bank acreage" to "motor fuel" producing acreage!

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 11:15:00 AM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

Lonath,

If we do have this "soil bank" then why should we not save it for a later date when we are going to need it for food production? Whether we will need it for a growing population, or because our current practice of industrial agriculture degrades our current soil base, or because climate change makes some productive areas useless-- it seams to me that squandering our soil piggy bank on cars is even more stupid than squandering cheap oil on cars.

Anyway, like I said earlier, there is already a viable way to turn coal into liquid fuels. So what's the point? To create a few jobs until we really do fuck-up the future carrying capacity of this nation?

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 11:54:00 AM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

How do you produce industrial scale harvests?

1. Machines using petroluem.
2. Using fertilizer produced from natural gas.
3. Distributed using trucks run on petroleum.

All the coal in the world won't make a shred of difference. With a low EROEI, all bets of are off from ethanol.

This is not a deus ex machina. Sorry.

Buena suerte,
PD
peakoilworld.blogspot.com

PS. It's funny to note that the long "feedback" my posts received ended with a sound victory for "reality."

I was asked, what DO I advocate? Well, for starters:

1. Making food systems sustainable using permaculture. (DOABLE)

2. Localizing food systems, so we don't get most of our food from CA, Mexico, and South America. (DOABLE)

3. Rebuilding our heavy and light rail systems (DOABLE).

4. NOT engaging in resource wars in the Middle East and elsewhere.
(Mmmmmm.... not doable right now)

5. Constructing communities in which essential services are within walking and bicycle distance, and if not by public transport.

All of these solutions, combined with a focus on renewable energy sources represent a great start.

By the way, ethanol is not really that sustainable precisely because of its strong dependence on mechanized argriculture, fertilizer, and the resultant soil depletion.

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 12:04:00 PM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

PPS: Not caring that EROEI is below 1 is insane. It's like saying: Well, I'm going to invest $1000, because I'm going to earm $800! Sweet deal, right? Hardly, but that's just what government subsidized argribusiness in the Midwest want to to believe.

Buena suerte,
PD
peakoilworld.blogspot.com

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 3:37:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...

Patrick,
You're more than welcome to express your opinions here. You are not welcome to spam the comments with your link.
Thanks,
JD

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 4:31:00 PM PDT, Blogger Freak said...

Patrick David,
I'm not sure you are actually disagreeing with the best intentions here. I think most folks here would think that your suggestions about sustainability are not really out of line for the theme of this blog. I guess If you didn't know, It has always seemed to me that the point here on POD was to explore our options, try to figure out ways to save the good parts of civilization, and debunk the Malthusian mentality of dieoff and pestilence. I consider myself, an enviromentalist and a futurist. There would be nothing wrong with shifting our civilizattion more towards a sustainable agrarian base. But, I also believe that we have to continue to develop technologically, Intellectually, philisophically, and psychologically. I can't susbscribe to the fatalism that suggests we will become cannibals, and we will burn what's left of old car seats, and toxic waste just to keep from freezing to death as we succumb to plagues, barbaric violence, and rape gangs.

I think, in all honesty that the solutions to our problems are scattered like puzzle pieces on a kitchen table, just waiting for the greedy and ignorant intrests to get out of the way and some smart, strong and resourceful people to put it all together and make it work of which people like us must. It won't be overnight, and it may not be as pretty or elegant, or comfortable of a soulution as we might think, but ultimately somehow, humankind will learn how to adapt and prosper, and advance.

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 5:28:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

PPS: Not caring that EROEI is below 1 is insane. It's like saying: Well, I'm going to invest $1000, because I'm going to earm $800! Sweet deal, right? Hardly, but that's just what government subsidized argribusiness in the Midwest want to to believe.

Try fueling your car with coal, idiot.

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 5:37:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

Patrick,
Freak said it nicely that most of the people on this blog would find the solutions you advocate quite good. In fact, you've almost perfectly echoed the general sentiment of POD, such as "rebuilding our heavy and light rail systems", and "constructing communities in which essential services are within walking and bicycle distance, and if not by public transport."

However, by continually repeating the name of your blog and reiterating how much you know better, you just come across as arrogant and unhelpful. Go to the top of the page and read what dub_scratch said: "I can't help but think about how much our car addicted society is sick when hear about the so-called promise of corn ethanol for powering traffic jams." If you agree with most of the people on this site, why have you made your very own scary black peak oil blog just to insult the "dumb americans" who frequent this one?

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 5:40:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

How do you produce industrial scale harvests?

1. Machines using petroluem.
2. Using fertilizer produced from natural gas.
3. Distributed using trucks run on petroleum.


Two things:
1. That's irrelevant if the ethanol still has a postivie EROEI because the processing energy comes from coal.
2. That's irrelevant if you can power the machinery on ethanol. Once you have started the process it can be self-sustaining.

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 8:39:00 PM PDT, Blogger allen said...

Patrick David said:

PPS: Not caring that EROEI is below 1 is insane. It's like saying: Well, I'm going to invest $1000, because I'm going to earm $800! Sweet deal, right? Hardly, but that's just what government subsidized argribusiness in the Midwest want to to believe.

No, not caring that EROEI (Energy Return Over Energy Invested?) is below 1 is not insane. It's a choice you don't approve of but evidence of clinical insanity it is not.

What your amature psychiatry is evidence of is a point of view you're incapable of defending. So, you roll out the psychiatric diagnosis, the specious comparisons and the invitation to join the society of intellectual giants that can see right through the schemes of (insert boogeyman du jour here) the way you do.

But, you've provided some debateable goals so let's take them, one at a time.

1) Making food systems sustainable using permaculture.

Oh, just a negligent flip of the hand and food systems will immediately be made sustainable via permaculture? Any plans to consult with the people who are supposed to survive on the products of that permaculture what their preferences might be or is a lack of enthusiasm evidence of mental illness thus rendering any disagreement inherently valueless?

2) Localizing food systems, so we don't get most of our food from CA, Mexico, and South America.

I don't know. Call me crazy - you already have - but I like to have an orange in the depths of winter. Any chance of that happening in Michigan in December in Patrick David Land?

3) Rebuilding our heavy and light rail systems

Harry Potter not using his wand right now or should I take some time out from converting the entire agricultural base to sustainable permaculture to rebuild our heavy and light rail systems?

4) NOT engaging in resource wars in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Wonderful advice but in case you missed it, no nation except Japan has been interested in acquiring resources by war since World War One. And even World War One was fought not to acquire resources but to prevent a resource embargo from being used as a weapon. Turns out that as a means of acquiring resources wars suck. Yeah, you might get them but even if you win the war the value of those resources is miniscule compared to the cost of the military required to obtain them via force. A check is a quicker, easier, more economical and more efficient way to acquire resources then a war.

By the way, if you want to take a swipe at the current administration be a bit more forthright about it. All this archness is tedious and not particularly persuasive evidence of cleverness.

5) Constructing communities in which essential services are within walking and bicycle distance, and if not by public transport.

Harry Potter's wand is getting quite a workout and, I notice that there doesn't seem to be much time to consult with the people who are supposed to live in your Patrick Davidvilles. By the way, how are emergencies supposed to be handled? I just don't see the fire department waiting for a trolley no matter how energy efficient and cute it is.

 
At Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 10:48:00 PM PDT, Blogger DC said...

Not caring that EROEI is below 1 is insane.

And with that you belie that you are a friggin' dilettente. Do you think auto gas has an EROEI over unity? Here's a surprise, bumpkin: producing 1 unit of energy in the form of auto gas requires 1.23 units of fossil fuel inputs. In contrast, producting 1 unit of energy in the form of corn-based ethanol requires 0.78 units of energy inputs. Wait! It gets better: the number shrinks to 0.2 when considering cellulosic ethanol. reference: www.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/program/2005_ethanol_brochure.pdf

So how to reconcile this with the shit-job of Pimentel's infamous publications? For starters, Pimentel unustifiably included solar energy in the energy inputs. Pimentel also cherrypicked outdated numbers in his accounting of the energy inputs. In short, his bunk has been hacked apart and dismissed since its publication. Thus the "EROEI" issues as it pertains to ethanol are moot.

The next strawman I often read is that producing ethanol will come at the expense of food production. In short, the drive or starve fallacy. Amory Lovins writes: Research by Oak Ridge National Laboratory shows that dedicated energy crops can be grown without competing with food crops because they can be grown in marginal areas unsuited for food crop production, or on about 17 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program land that is currently being withheld from agricultural use. JD, I'm dissapointed that you didn't mention Lovins at all in this post.

Finally, ethanol does not need to replace 100% of the gasoline required to power the bloated US vehicle fleet. It will be one part of a diversified portfolio of different energies that we will use in the 21st century, in the process mitigating the risk premium we pay to consume oil.

In short, get your head out of your ass Patrick and do some real research before you throw around your unearned sense of superior knowledge and privelege.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 7:52:00 AM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

It is clear that many (not all)people get very angry when faced with FACTS and EVIDENCE that shatter their basic beliefs. The same happened to me when I caught my parents putting presents under the tree.

Well, here are some responses.

1. Freak, you and I basically are in complete agreement about the need to explore alternative fuels and sustainable lifestyles. However, there IS a good chance that without fossil fuels, food production will not be able to sustain 6.5 billion people. When Cuba lost its Soviet petroleum subsidy in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuban agriculture fell into rapid disarray. Caloric intake plummeted and malnutrition was common. The only thing that saved the Cuban people was organic permaculture and other sustainability measures.
Dieoff IS a possibility, but I agree with you that amid much suffering and chaos, there can emerge a solution-- albeit one that involves a drastic change in our own lifestyle. Nor will it be easy.


2. Hi Roland. I don't own a car. Calling me an idiot just shows how limited your thinking is.

3. Does the existance of another blog threaten people? Apparently so. So much for diversity of ideas, right? Okay, JD, I won't post it. Roland, mabye you find the black color of my blog scary is because you yourself are scared that I might be right. Finally as to why I created my own blog, I'll answer in a way that an inmature mind can understand: "'cause I wanted to."

4. Roland said:

Two things:
1. That's irrelevant if the ethanol still has a postivie EROEI because the processing energy comes from coal.
2. That's irrelevant if you can power the machinery on ethanol. Once you have started the process it can be self-sustaining.

#1 has no logic at all because why would you invest $2 so you can make $1? Why would you use energy to drive 20 miles to create energy to drive 10 miles?

#2 Ethanol is not self sustaining because, you can't create fertilizer from ethanol, but from natural gas. And any crop on that large a scale needs heeps of fertilizer. Sorry.



5. Allen, I admit that I'm being judgemental. Please don't confuse that with arrogance. Again, sorry to be so judgemental, but investing 2 units of energy to get 1 unit back is absolutely CRAZY. As for being an amateur psyciatrist, those are your words, not mine! Here are some other responses to your comments!

A. I never said that switching to permaculture would be easy. You're putting words in my mouth out of frustration with the validity of my arguments. On the contrary, switching to permaculture in today's economy, today's society, and today's environomental values WILL BE HARD. By the way, as we have seen with Cuba in the 1990s, switching to permaculture won't be a choice, it will be a necessity.

2. Oranges in December? I don't know. Mabye, but that requires a lot of energy to move it. Will we have that much energy? I don't know. Was that a contructive comment, or just one meant to insult? Mmmm-- the latter!

3. Again, rebuilding heavy and light rail will be HARD, not EASY. When the F did I every say the coming years will be easy??????

4. You said "Wonderful advice but in case you missed it, no nation except Japan has been interested in acquiring resources by war since World War One."
Uhhhh, so if we're in Iraq for humanitarian reasons, why aren't be in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Congo, and Burma? Don't tell me: we're there because the terrorists hate our freedom?
PLEASE!!! It's about the oil. Not stealing it, but to keep our access to it. Are we really debating this THREE years after the invasion?

5. You said: "Harry Potter's wand is getting quite a workout and, I notice that there doesn't seem to be much time to consult with the people who are supposed to live in your Patrick Davidvilles. By the way, how are emergencies supposed to be handled? I just don't see the fire department waiting for a trolley no matter how energy efficient and cute it is."

I believe I've already answered all of these comments. See above!!



Wow! Thanks for all the comments!
I think we've ALL learned a little something today!

Buena suerte,
PD

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 8:30:00 AM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

Hey DC, you said

"In short, get your head out of your ass Patrick and do some real research before you throw around your unearned sense of superior knowledge and privelege."

Hey, thanks for the intelligent words: Here's a little rebuttal:

1. Do you think land reserved for soil conservation is reserved for a REASON??? Or do you advocate using every free acre of arable land for food and ethanol production. That is today unsustainable. We are ALREADY detroying massive amounts of soil each year.

2. You're link does not function. This one does:

http://www.energybulletin.net/5062.html

Petroleum provides many, many, many times the amount of energy that is required to produce it, almost by two orders of magnitude.

3. Of course ethanol will not replace all our energy needs. Still, it won't even make a dent.

4. You're immature comments are honestly very sad, because 1. you are misinformed and 2. because you show little tolorance for diverging points of view.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 9:18:00 AM PDT, Blogger Joe said...

sorry PD wrong again - you said
"#2 Ethanol is not self sustaining because, you can't create fertilizer from ethanol, but from natural gas. And any crop on that large a scale needs heeps of fertilizer. Sorry."

As with most of your other "FACTS" this is wrong as well. You might want to do a little more research. For instance the International Fertilizer Industry Association has this:
http://www.fertilizer.org/ifa/statistics/indicators/ind_reserves.asp

"The entire fertilizer industry uses less than 2% of world energy consumption, and this is overwhelmingly concentrated in the production of ammonia. The ammonia industry used about 5% of natural gas consumption in the mid-1990s.

About 97% of nitrogen fertilizers are derived from synthetically produced ammonia, the remainder being by-product ammonium sulphate from the caprolactam process and small quantities of natural nitrates, especially from Chile. The production of anhydrous ammonia is based on reacting nitrogen with hydrogen under high temperatures and pressures. The source of nitrogen is the air, the hydrogen being derived from a variety of raw materials, including water, crude oil, coal and natural gas hydrocarbons. The hydrocarbons provide the energy for the energy-intensive process. The high-temperature catalytic synthesis of ammonia from air is by far the main consumer of energy in the fertilizer industry. Nitrogen and hydrogen are universally available and the issue is the availability of energy.

For economic and environmental reasons, today natural gas is the feedstock of choice. The use of natural gas is accelerating rapidly, because of economic factors but also and increasingly due to environmental pressures, which work against other fossil fuels. Natural gas is expected to account for about one third of global energy use in 2020, compared with only one fifth in the mid-1990s. However, processes for ammonia production can use a wide range of energy sources. Thus, even when oil and gas supplies eventually dwindle, very large reserves of coal are likely to remain. Coal reserves are sufficient for well over 200 years at current production levels, and their location is geographically diverse. 60% of China's nitrogen fertilizer production is currently based on coal."

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 9:27:00 AM PDT, Blogger Dom said...

Hi P.D.,
have you ever heard of a bull in a china shop?

If you like being the object of ineffective argumentation, keep up the good work!

BTW, would most of us agree that peak oil is *primarily* a liquid fuels crisis (challenge) and only secondarily an energy crisis? Although peak natural gas will certainly compound the energy crisis part of it...

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 11:31:00 AM PDT, Blogger allen said...

Patrick David wrote:

Allen, I admit that I'm being judgemental. Please don't confuse that with arrogance.

I'll try not to be but you might want to provide some evidence to the contrary. So far, all I've seen are broad edicts for all of humanity based on your opinions about the future without much in the way of consultation with those who'll be effected or evidence that the necessity for your draconian prescription exists. That seems like a pretty good working definition of arrogance to me.

Again, sorry to be so judgemental, but investing 2 units of energy to get 1 unit back is absolutely CRAZY.

No, it's not and labeling it as crazy doesn't make it so. Investing 2 units of energy to get back 1 unit is a decision that someone makes based on their own perceptions of value. Referring to such a decision as crazy is more a measure of your intellectual laziness then it is of the irrationality of the action.

If I convert 2 units of energy in the form of natural gas into one unit of energy in the form of a steak have I just crossed the line into clinical psychosis? Somehow, I just don't think so and repetition on your part isn't particularly convincing.

As for being an amateur psyciatrist, those are your words, not mine!

Actually, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. The alternative to practicing amateur psychiatry is idealogical rigidity that doesn't allow for contradictory views. Since you're not in a position to send your opponents off to a gulag and don't really have anything other then your certainty of correctness, your fallback is to label contradictory opinions as CRAZY. That way you don't have to deal with them.

I never said that switching to permaculture would be easy.

See, you didn't have to. I already know that. In fact, you didn't touch on it at all as if it's an unimportant consideration against the overwhelming need to immediately embark on a campaign to convert all agriculture to permaculture. But hard work requires a pretty damned good reason and so far all you've done is deal with those reasons as if they're so obviously correct that they don't require debate or examination. They do.

By the way, as we have seen with Cuba in the 1990s, switching to permaculture won't be a choice, it will be a necessity.

Cuba's your example of the crying need to convert to permaculture? Cripes, a socialist economy, run by a brutish thug with as little regard for the population as being an absolute dictator allows and that's the place you find the rationale for the conversion to permaculture? Well, at least that's out in the open.

Oranges in December? I don't know. Mabye, but that requires a lot of energy to move it. Will we have that much energy?

What do you mean "we"? Got a mouse in your pocket or did I miss the event that made you the decision-maker for humanity?

If you've got some reason to place your desire to impose energy poverty on the human race, please, let's hear it. Until then, my desire to eat an orange while the snow's flying is precisely equal to your desire to prevent me from doing so.

Again, rebuilding heavy and light rail will be HARD, not EASY. When the F did I every say the coming years will be easy?

You didn't even bother addressing the difficulty of the chore. You simply presented it as an alternative to some unnamed catastrophe so enormous that the difficulty of rebuilding the heavy and light railway systems will be inconsequential by comparison.

Uhhhh, so if we're in Iraq for humanitarian reasons, why aren't be in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Congo, and Burma? Don't tell me: we're there because the terrorists hate our freedom?

Now who's putting words in who's mouth?

PLEASE!!! It's about the oil. Not stealing it, but to keep our access to it.

No, but that's a valuable ancillary benefit. After all, oil is the lifeblood of international commerce and having a significant portion of it under the control of a short-sighted tyrant just doesn't seem like a good idea even disregarding the sorts of mischief that tyrant would put all that oil wealth to.

I believe I've already answered all of these comments. See above!!

Be a little more explicit. I plowed through the entire thread and found no reference any motorized transportation but rail. So, will the fire department have to wait for a trolley or not? If not, how will they get to the fire? Bicycle?

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 12:48:00 PM PDT, Blogger DC said...

Patrick spewed:
1. Do you think land reserved for soil conservation is reserved for a REASON??? Or do you advocate using every free acre of arable land for food and ethanol production. That is today unsustainable. We are ALREADY detroying massive amounts of soil each year.

You continue to talk out of your ass and demonstrate that you have done nothing to research the issue beyond what Heinberg, Kunstler, et. al. have to offer. Silly rabbit, did you not read the part about raising ethanol crops on marginal land? No, I think you were too busy with your little red herring on conservation land.

I hate to put a damper on your doom fetish, but the concerns over soil erosion have already been considered:
"Stover" refers to the plant parts remaining in the field after harvesting corn. The corn stover ethanol byproduct has three times the concentration of nitrogen as the original cornstalks. ...Applying this byproduct to the land may partially offset the risks associated with harvesting crop biomass for conversion to biofuel.

Reference: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/
pr/2004/040924.htm

Oh but things get rosier with cellulosic ethanol, particularly switchgrass:
Many farmers are already experienced at raising switchgrass for forage or to protect soil from erosion. Besides showing great promise for energy production, switchgrass also restores vital organic nutrients to farmed-out soils.

Reference:
http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers
/misc/switgrs.html

In other words, the concerns over soil erosion due to ethanol crops are moot.

2. You're link does not function...
Petroleum provides many, many, many times the amount of energy that is required to produce it, almost by two orders of magnitude.


www.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/
pdfs/program/2005_ethanol_brochure.pdf

Oops. Looks like someone has a little egg on his face. Don't kid yourself: it takes more fossil fuel inputs to produce a given amount of energy in the form of gasoline. As I wrote, pick up your skirt and do some research. You're either clueless about the fact that oil needs to be refined into distillites or you are purposely limiting the lifecycle boundaries.

3. ...Still, it won't even make a dent.

Really? Evidence please. Because all of the research that I have dug up points to the conclusion that it will make quite a dent. You might also want to let the Brazilians in on your expert knowledge. After all, it would appear that they are just tossing money and resources into a fruitless endeavour. I know! It must be some sort of conspiracy...

4. You're immature comments are honestly very sad, because 1. you are misinformed and 2. because you show little tolorance for diverging points of view.

Have you read Pimentel's paper? Have you read any of the published rebuttals? Have you researched Brazil's ethanol industry? I think it's safe to assume that you haven't. In fact, your continued claims that gasoline has an EROEI above unity demonstrates just how clueless you are. As far as my tolerance is concerned, suffice it to write that I don't suffer fools gladly. The time is coming when a serious dialogue needs to take place concerning energy. The last thing we need is a bunch of hysterical, misinformed idiots mucking up the debate like what occurred with Nuclear Energy in the 1970's. Stop regurgitating nonsense. It's obvious that you've just found out about peak oil. Congrats. If you want to discuss these issues in earnest, then start doing some research and engage in some critical thinking. Spare us the salvation of your uninformed gibberish.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 12:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

Allen,
Motorized emergency services are not dependent on individuals driving cars. If someone advocates the reduction or elimination of car dependancy they are not necessarily calling for fire fighters on bicycles. Don't erect that strawman, OK.

No, but that's a valuable ancillary benefit. After all, oil is the lifeblood of international commerce and having a significant portion of it under the control of a short-sighted tyrant just doesn't seem like a good idea even disregarding the sorts of mischief that tyrant would put all that oil wealth to.


Are you now admitting that oil is so important that it even matters whether or not it is under the control if tyrants? A true cornucopian can point to all kinds of alternatives to ME oil and even oil in general. What's wrong with Canadian tar, Colorado shale and CTL that can make a tyrant's control over oil such a threat to the lifeblood of the "international economy." Your beginning to disappoint me as a cornucopian.

Anyway, the Rotten Republican government said that the invasion had nothing to do with oil and everything to do with Saddam Bin Ladden's aim to attack us and kill us all. Is the story changing and our mercenary army are now protecting the economy of the whole world? How nice it is for the Rotten Republicans to rob my paycheck to save the economy of the poor soles in Papua New Guinea.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 2:08:00 PM PDT, Blogger DC said...

Are you now admitting that oil is so important that it even matters whether or not it is under the control if tyrants? A true cornucopian can point to all kinds of alternatives to ME oil and even oil in general. What's wrong with Canadian tar, Colorado shale and CTL that can make a tyrant's control over oil such a threat to the lifeblood of the "international economy." Your beginning to disappoint me as a cornucopian.

Oh come now, you know that's a strawman. Has anyone on here made the claim that any meaningful amount of substitution will be available instantly? So yes, in the interim, many countries' national interests lie in the Middle East. What's your point?

By some accounts, there already exists a $20 risk premium on a barrel of oil, not including the speculative premium that such risk induces. Care to venture how much of an impact that has on global GDP right now?

In short, you hedge your bets as best you can, be it via the development of alternatives and/or nixing the source of said risk premium (according to some). The real issue is whether meaningful substitution can be achieved in a suitable time frame. For example, can we produce enough ethanol to lower our demand for imports and thus, reduce that speculative premium in the process? Can we achieve a substantial degree of energy independence through a combination of sources and efficiency measures? These are the real questions.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 3:11:00 PM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

Okay, well here we go:

1. Joe: your link doesn't work.
Also, you said: "The hydrocarbons provide the energy for the energy-intensive process." So you admit that hydrocarbons are necessary. My case in point.
Also: "hydrogen is universally available and the issue is the availability of energy. "
Where? Where is isolated hydrogren universally available on Earth? Planning a trip to the sun?

Also: Coal? How is coal mined? Shovels? Donkeys? Not only is coal's quality rapidly declining, but it's use it totally dependant on fossil fuels for mining. Why are so many precious metals stocks stagnating, even when gold is $600/oz? Hegding is one reason, but HIGH PRODUCTION COSTS is another.



Dom: you said:
"have you ever heard of a bull in a china shop? If you like being the object of ineffective argumentation, keep up the good work!"
Thanks for you support in my efforts to help intelligent people see the errors in their arguments!


Allen,

I think a wonderful source of evidence is a website run by a group of concerned petroleum geologists: peakoil.net.

Also, this is my last attempt at making you see logic:

You have 1 liter of oxygen left in space and I say: "Hey, I have a process that will let you produce more oxygen. It only takes 1 liter to make 1/2 a liter." Of course this is crazy, insane, and ridiculous. You can insult me all you like (which is what you've been doing), but that FACT remains that EROEI MATTERS!

You said: "But hard work requires a pretty damned good reason and so far all you've done is deal with those reasons as if they're so obviously correct that they don't require debate or examination. They do."

Uh, Allen, I've been referencing my comments all along. But if you insist:

www.beyondpeak.com/cuba-beyondpeak.html

www.energybulletin.net/5721.html

www.energybulletin.net/4273.html

Yes, the Cuba experience is a great reason why we should BEGIN the LONG process of converting to permaculture. No economy, capitalist or communist would be able to withstand the shock of fossil fuel shortages. Can you set aside your tirades against Castro for a few seconds? Cuba DID lose a large percentage of its fossil fuel imports in the early 1990s. Cuba DID switch to organic food production successfully.

You seem to like to portray me as an angry person with a dictatorial personality. This is YOUR portrayal. Again, this is not going to be a CHOICE, its going to be a matter of survival. Ug!

Also you said "If you've got some reason to place your desire to impose energy poverty on the human race, please, let's hear it."


I'm impressed that you assign me so much power over humanity. Rather, I am an observer. And what I OBSERVE is production beginning to exceed supply and major changes will soon be FORCED on us . Yes US, because sadly I share this land with people like you-- this means that while I'm concentrating on real solutions, you'll still be touting the tech-fix that doesn't exist. It's really so sad, because I really in fact hope that YOU'RE right. But I don't think that will be the case.

Also Allen, if you want to name the catastophe, you can call it:
"I Should Have Listened" or "Why Didn't I Take Some Steps to Improve my Personal Energy Situation"?

You said "So, will the fire department have to wait for a trolley or not? If not, how will they get to the fire? Bicycle?"

I don't know. Why don't you google it? Thanks for bringing up firefighting because that truly represents the KEY to this entire THREAD!!


Hey DC:

You said "Stover" refers to the plant parts remaining in the field after harvesting corn. The corn stover ethanol byproduct has three times the concentration of nitrogen as the original cornstalks. ...Applying this byproduct to the land may partially offset the risks associated with harvesting crop biomass for conversion to biofuel. "

The key word is partially. This isn't a doom fetish. Just a reality fetish.
Also considering how wrong the USGS and Dept. of Ag. has been on peak oil and biomass so far, excuse me that I don't quite give their numbers much weight.

Your quote hardly confirms that my concerns about soil erosion are moot. You've made SOME points, but hardly ones that relieve all my concerns.

Beside, when did I EVER say that ethanol will NEVER contribute to a solution? I'm just saying that it will be a drop in the bucket and if it IS more than a drop in the bucket, the fact that it is a net energy LOSER makes it little more than a bandaid.

Finally DC, I've been reading and researching peak oil for years, including Pimentel's paper and the rebuttals. If you're going to rely in the US government for statistics, then may God protect you and yours after 2010.

PS. You're link STILL doesn't work.


I am SO, SO glad that this debate is occurring. I am so, so glad that people are hearing the reality and not just hoping for some sort of Star Trek tech-utopia. Scotty would definitely be a peak oil realist.

Buena suerte
PD

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 3:50:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

Roland, mabye you find the black color of my blog scary is because you yourself are scared that I might be right.

No, I've just seen endless Peak Oil blogs (and sites like LATOC) with the same gloomy colour scheme. I guess it just fits with the whole sense of doom. It gets really repetitive after a while. :-)

I am SO, SO glad that this debate is occurring. I am so, so glad that people are hearing the reality and not just hoping for some sort of Star Trek tech-utopia.

Right, and I guess you think you are the "prophet of reality" who has come to convert the barbarians here at POD. It might help if you stopped making out like you are "the only person who OBSERVES the situation". We do to. You are free to debate us, but we'll listent to you more when you drop the tone of superiority.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 3:56:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

Also: Coal? How is coal mined? Shovels? Donkeys? Not only is coal's quality rapidly declining, but it's use it totally dependant on fossil fuels for mining.

Yes, fossil fuels like ... um ... coal. As far as I know mining machinery in coal mines is mostly coal powered. It just makes sense, they've got so much of the stuff. :-)

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 3:58:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

One more thing — what annoys me about your writing Patrick is quotes like this:

You've made SOME points, but hardly ones that relieve all my concerns.

You sound like a teacher or something. It's not just your concerns; it's all our concerns. We live on the same planet. The onus here is to prove our points to each other, not to you. You may have lots of good points to make, but personally I'm going to ignore them until you stop trying to dominate the discussion forums.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 4:07:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

#1 has no logic at all because why would you invest $2 so you can make $1? Why would you use energy to drive 20 miles to create energy to drive 10 miles?

Because you can't fuel a car with solid coal!!!!!!!! Ethanol is a liquid fuel! That's the entire point of the post. Reread what JD said right at the beginning: "The poor EROEI of corn ethanol doesn't matter if you use a cheap, non-liquid form of energy (like coal) to do the distilling and synthesize the fertilizer etc. If you proceed that way, then ethanol can be regarded as a form of "coal liquefaction", and the low EROEI doesn't matter. The question is whether coal liquefaction via ethanol is more cost effective than coal liquefaction via other routes."

You've completely missed the point.

#2 Ethanol is not self sustaining because, you can't create fertilizer from ethanol, but from natural gas. And any crop on that large a scale needs heeps of fertilizer. Sorry.

That's incorrect. You can create fertilizer from coal as well. They do it in China.

Nitrogen + hydrogen + energy = fertilizer. The nitrogen can come from anywhere. Gas is only used because it's more convenient. But if you have energy - coal, ethanol, nuclear, it doesn't matter - you can make fertilizer.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 4:36:00 PM PDT, Blogger byofoels said...

This is such a moronic thread. I am sorry I was not here earlier to debunk all the technotopian crap that flows like sewage down a bung hole. Oh well. next time. :(

Oh, by the way, has anyone here noticed my logon, "by o fools?" That's appropos of this discussion :)

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 4:56:00 PM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

dcwrote:
Oh come now, you know that's a strawman. Has anyone on here made the claim that any meaningful amount of substitution will be available instantly? So yes, in the interim, many countries' national interests lie in the Middle East. What's your point?

My reference is to the Julian Simon school of resource economics, and it is not a strawman argument at all. It is an explicit claim within this "Ultimate Resource" theory, which states that in an unfettered free market, there are absolutely no resource extraction limits other than a limit on human population needed to go get the stuff. Time to develop alternatives-- which existence the Simon cornucopian does acknowledge-- is not a limiting factor either because the market is not myopic and can head off any shortfall in resource with an adequate price signal.

I disagree with Simon on much but not the core idea in statement above. The maket can react and make-up for resource shortfall with both alternatives and with curtailment & efficiency.

By some accounts, there already exists a $20 risk premium on a barrel of oil, not including the speculative premium that such risk induces. Care to venture how much of an impact that has on global GDP right now?

By all accounts, the cornucopian should be ecstatic about this $20 risk premium. That's the price signal that is needed in order to insure it is early enough to get the ball rolling on alternative and non-conventional energy sources. If the bulk of conventional-regular-ordinary oil left is under the control of tyrants-- and that creates a risk premium-- then we should not let the government intervene with aggressive invasions of these countries in order to keep the price low artificialy. This risk premium has a purpose for a meaningful market based healthy transition in which we make our economy more energy efficient and develop alternatives.

The cornucopian should be the most anti-Iraq war people out there.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 5:50:00 PM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

1. Roland: YOU believe that black signifies doom. I honestly think white letters on black look cool. Talk about projecting your own feelings onto me!! I'm NOT all gloom and doom-- Jesus Christ!

2. Roland: YOU are the one calling me a prophet! Sheessh! When did I ever say that I am the only one observing here?

3. Roland: massive coal mining machines are run on gasoline, not coal.

4. Roland: I am PARTICIPATING in this discussion forum. I am NOT antagonizing. I AM, however, stating my points, backing them up, and conversing with others who agree and disagree with me. Perhaps you are threatened by my points of view? Perhaps you are questing your own ideas? Is that the source of your anger and frustration? Also, my comments seem to have sparked meaningful conversation. Isn't that what a blog is about? Gee whiz!!

5. Roland: of course ethanol's negative / poor EROEI matters! The entire point of my posts has been that ethanol will NOT allow us to "keep on truckin'" just like we are now. Nor is coal a viable long term alternative. Using coal to power ethanol production works but generates a poor return on the energy invested and is an environmental disaster! Americans might use more and more ethanol in the future, but its not a long term fix. The REAL fix is to create communities and economic networks the de-emphasize trucks and automobiles. (And, yes, this is vastly easier said than done.)

6. Roland, yes okay, you can make fertilizer using a variety of energy sources, but NONE are even close to as efficient as natural gas.

7. Byofuels: This indeed has been a moronic thread! It's moronic to have to repeat over and over that the Earth is round!!

Buena suerte a todos!
PD

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 6:31:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

YOU believe that black signifies doom. I honestly think white letters on black look cool. Talk about projecting your own feelings onto me!! I'm NOT all gloom and doom-- Jesus Christ!

I think that black signifies doom because I've seen dozens of try-hard blogs and websites about Peak Oil with exactly the same black colour scheme. Be original, for god's sake. Get some yellow polka-dots or something. :-)

I didn't say that you didn't have any good points. However you seemed to come onto this blog in a domineering sort of way telling everybody how wrong they are and how you know better.

I'm still not sure you've grasped the point of JD's article. He was saying that we can sidestep the whole debate about the EROEI of biofuels by viewing them as another (more environmentally-friendly) method of coal liquefaction. With or without big traffic jams we still need some liquid fuel — for ambulances, police cars, boats, farming equipment, and people in rural areas. Peak Oil is a liquid fuel crisis more than an energy crisis. Coal is one solution, possibly one day providing cheaper petrol than conventional oil. In that case, what we need to do is compare Fischer-Tropsch liquefaction with ethanol produced with coal-based fertilizer and coal-powered distillation — instead of getting hooked in the old debate about EROEI. Gasoline's EROEI is negative, but we use it because you can't fuel a car with crude oil. Similarly, the absolute EROEI of biofuels is not what's important; it's about how that EROEI compares to that of liquefied coal. That was the point of the post, and some people didn't seem to get it. Oh well.

Roland: massive coal mining machines are run on gasoline, not coal.

Yes, it's only tiny little toy machines like these that run on electricity.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 6:40:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

One more thing —

Patrick, you can't deny that you subscribe to the "doom" school. After all, you began your blog by describing how Heinberg's book changed your life, and reiterate all its points about permanent economic meltdown and resource wars, etc. etc. As you say, you believe that "Peak Oil represents nothing less than a turning point in human history comparable to the beginnings of agriculture and the Industrial Revolution."

That's the key difference — I don't. I think it's just another future issue that will affect civilization, possibly a little, possibly a lot, but isn't justified to dominate your worldview or your life. Many people, as the title of your blog suggests, live in a "peak oil world"; I don't.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 6:56:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

PLEASE!!! It's about the oil. Not stealing it, but to keep our access to it. Are we really debating this THREE years after the invasion?

You don't need any better proof than Iraq that resource wars suck as a means of acquiring resources.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 7:01:00 PM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

Hi Roland:

1. Please provide proof that gasoline is a net energy loser.

2. I'd be very interested in seeing a list of the "dozens" of blogs that use black on white. I like the scheme. Sorry you don't.

3. Using coal to power ethanol production would make it even more of an net energy loser that using petroleum. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

4. If you read my blog, you'd realize that I very much DO NOT belong to the doom and gloom school. I believe that there are many courses of action that can mitigate peak oil. I DO believe that we're in for a very rough ride in the next 15 years. That does not make me a "doomer". Indeed, as my blog states, Heinberg's book DID change my life, because he pointed me toward the many SOLUTIONS that are out there. As a professor in sustainable studies in California, Heinbergy is quite proactive. Believing that peak oil will cause major problems does not mean I'm going to move to the hills of West Virginia, buy a shotgun, and await the apocolypse. If that were the case, I'd call my blog, Peak Oil Megadeath.

Peak Oil WILL be revolutionary, because it will totally change how we live our lives and go about our business. Mabye that's where we disagree. I'm sorry that we don't agree. I guess we'll have to see whether peak oil will be revolutionary and just an economic shift. I believe it will be the former.

PS: I won first prize at a university essay contest with the first entry in my blog. I'm doing my second master's degree and YES, Roland, I AM a school teacher: History and Spanish!! It's really true!

PPS: JD, hey: I'm not trying to tout my blog, dude. It came up this time without me starting it!

Peace and buena suerte,
PD

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 7:42:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...

It's moronic to have to repeat over and over that the Earth is round!!

I'll say. That's especially true since nobody here is claiming that the earth is flat. What exactly are you trying to say by repeating "The Earth is round!!"?

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 7:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

Hi JD,

What I'm refering to is that corn ethanol has poor / negative EROEI. You and I seem to disagree on this AND THAT's OKAY. My agrument has failed a convince some and I'm sure I'm right. That's what I mean by repeating that "the earth is round" is that there is a lot of evidence backing up my point of view and some people choose not to listen. AND THAT'S OKAY. Unlike others here I have a high tolorance for differing points of view. I can only try to convince!

Buena suerte,
PD

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 8:21:00 PM PDT, Blogger DC said...

Patrick ignorantly spewed:
Also considering how wrong the USGS and Dept. of Ag. has been on peak oil and biomass so far, excuse me that I don't quite give their numbers much weight.

Evidence please. You are all bluster and no substance. Excuse me if I take anything you write as uninformed, biased crap. Sorry.

Also, those numbers originate from a number of independent sources of research. In fact, if you would cease from sticking your head in the proverbial sand just long enough to do some research, you would find that many of these studies demonstrate a clear trend apropos the viability of ethanol as a substitute for auto gas. The only outliers are Pimentel and Padzek (sp?)...and their results are way out of the mainstream. You claim to have read their work. Care to elaborate on the reasons? I think I already addressed those points, but it would be nice to see if you really have any new perspective or insight to offer.

Your quote hardly confirms that my concerns about soil erosion are moot. You've made SOME points, but hardly ones that relieve all my concerns.

Then how about a rebuttal? Post a study, publication, etc. Something. ANYTHING. What rates of erosion are we dealing with? What about switchgrass? You conveniently ignored the fact that switchgrass actually regenerates soil with nutrients.

Beside, when did I EVER say that ethanol will NEVER contribute to a solution? I'm just saying that it will be a drop in the bucket and if it IS more than a drop in the bucket, the fact that it is a net energy LOSER makes it little more than a bandaid.

Now you're on the ropes and trying to dance your way out of the corner. You continue to ignore my peer-reviewed source demonstrating how ethanol production actually requires less fossil fuel input to produce than auto gas. Oh yeah, that's right: the link doesn't work. Funny, it works fine for me in the subsequent post.

Ethanol has a chance to be much more than a drop in the bucket. It can be scaled up enough to wean ourselves off of expensive imports. It can even feedback into the price of those imports by putting a dent into their risk premium. Do you need a case study demonstrating the viability of an ethanol industry? Research Brazil.

Finally DC, I've been reading and researching peak oil for years, including Pimentel's paper and the rebuttals. If you're going to rely in the US government for statistics, then may God protect you and yours after 2010.

I love when a doomer reveals his/her true colors. Call them out on their crappy analysis and all they can do is retort with ad homs and other fallacious reasoning. You are a fool. If you've been reading ANYTHING except for the filtered "hand me downs" offered up by the likes of Heinberg, Simmons, Kunstler, et. al. then perhaps you would have made a single cogent point by now.

PS. You're link STILL doesn't work.

I rest my case: Corky can't even navigate the internet.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 10:13:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

Please provide proof that gasoline is a net energy loser.

It's the laws of physics, people. You can't get more energy out of a conversion than you put in. There is less energy in gasoline than in the same amount of crude oil. But nobody cares, because you can't fuel your car with crude oil.

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 10:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger popmonkey said...

we could really use slash style comment moderation

e.g. Patrick D. (Troll -1)

that's all we have here folks; why bother wasting energy (heh) arguing with guys like that. he's just pimping his blog and is an attention whore.

allen, i loved the gulag bit. brilliant :D

 
At Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 11:15:00 PM PDT, Blogger Robert Schwartz said...


Randal Parker Says
:

"Corn is not the solution or even on a top 10 list of solutions."

RTWT.

Burning coal sounds like a good idea until you start to think about the details. Problem is coal is nasty stuff to burn. It releases tons of polutants such as sulfur and mercury and creates lots of particulates. The utility industry has been fighting these problems for years, but they have run out of grace and time. The next generation of coal fired electric plants will "gassify" coal, which is expensive and resource intensive. Having to jump through that hoop destroys the case for using coal to boil corn liquor.

If you gassify the coal, you can just use some of the syngas to create methanol or other fuels. No need to plow uphalf the country.


Ethanol can work in Brazil
, because they get an EROEI of 8, but it is a nonstarter for the US, unless practical, non-food crop processes can be identified.

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 12:20:00 AM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

Patrick said:

If you read my blog, you'd realize that I very much DO NOT belong to the doom and gloom school. I believe that there are many courses of action that can mitigate peak oil.

Well christ Patrick, if you basically agree with us why do you accuse us of being out of touch with reality? This blog periodically attracts people like Lemming and Nukengineer. Eventually they either settle down or go away. Proves a lot about the intelligence of the negative camp, doesn't it?

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 12:33:00 AM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

By the way, I just realized that both Matt Savinar and Richard Heinberg live in Santa Rosa, California. What is it about that town? Must be on an Indian burial ground or something.

Come to think of it, California seems to produce a huge number of Peak Oil doomers. Seems to be in line with Wildwell's theory that the doomerism of a country is proportional to how car-dependent it is.

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 4:32:00 AM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

I have ALREADY linked many, many sources, so if you can't find them, read again. Also, I won't be scared away by insults. I'm going to keep right on defending my point of view.

We'll let time tell whose right. In the meantime, try to be a little less angry when someone disagrees with your views. Frustrated people tend to age faster.

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 7:32:00 AM PDT, Blogger allen said...

dub scratch wrote:

Motorized emergency services are not dependent on individuals driving cars.
If someone advocates the reduction or elimination of car dependancy they are not
necessarily calling for fire fighters on bicycles. Don't erect that strawman,
OK.


All I read from Patrick David is about the rebuilding of the light/heavy rail
system. Not a word about any other form of motorized transport. I just want to
know if there's any room for internal combustion/non-rail vehicles? Doesn't seem
like that big a deal as a question. But both you and Patrick David reflexively
shy away from answering. I wouldn't mind getting a straight answer from either
of you but I know that won't happen, I know why and I don't want to spend to
much time in worthless pursuit of the excessively clever so here's the
inevitable answer:

Of course there'll be fire engines. And ambulances. And police cars. How
could there not be? Some tasks just won't wait for the most energy efficient
solution. They have to be done right now. Anyone who isn't crazy/stupid knows that.


Of course, the fire chief, the police chief and the mayor will all need cars as
well. No telling when some civic emergency will occcur. There'll be tow trucks
and delivery trucks - can't have a railroad spur running to everyones home any
more then you can expect the milkman to lug everything aboard the trolley.

Then there's the military. I'm pretty sure no one expects soldiers to ride into battle on trains if there's some less vulnerable and more responsive, albiet less energy-efficient, alternative.

The police chief's wife will probably get the use of the official vehicle every now and then. About the time the police chief gets tired of listening to the whining about having to lug the Christmas present all the way from the bus stop. The mayors biggest campaign contributor will undoubtedly welcome his appointment to the city job that gives him unsupervised access to a city car.

And doctors! Doctors can't be expected to stand around waiting for the next bus when there's a kidney that needs transplanting.

See how that goes? Without exerting myself unduly I've uncovered a significant population who have a legitimate need for quick, convenient, presonnal transportation. With more effort I'm sure I could find quite a few more people who could make a convincing case for their need for a car.

Any plans on how to decide who does and who doesn't get a car? Probably we'll need a dedicated beauracracy that handles the requests to make sure that only those who have a valid need for a car will have one. Of course those beaurocrats will have to have cars. Of course.

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 8:40:00 AM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

Any plans on how to decide who does and who doesn't get a car? Probably we'll need a dedicated beauracracy that handles the requests to make sure that only those who have a valid need for a car will have one. Of course those beaurocrats will have to have cars. Of course.

You seam to like the beaurocracy that builds roads and forces developers and businesses to provide free parking.

In the former Soviet Union, planning ministries were responsible for setting prices and supply, obviously without letting supply and demand set the price in the market. With this they created 5 year plans where items like wheat and bread production was ramped-up and the price was set low by beaurocrats. It was considered a great triumph of the socialist system to flood the market with artificially cheap bread.

But the reaction by the people was, however, unexpected and relieved the flaws in the system. Russians simply developed an insatiable appetite for cheap Soviet bread without the ability with a market to create a price to get the supply/demand balance. This is why their were the famous bread lines in the Soviet union. And the more bread that was supplied at incredibly cheap prices, the longer the lines at the stores got.

Now everything about that model for bread in the Soviet Union is EXACTLY the same with the way our beaurocrats deal with driving. You can simply substitute the words 'bread' for 'roads' or 'parking spaces', the word 'Soviet' with US, and the term 'bread line' for 'traffic jam'.

So Allen, you ask which beaurocrat is going to decide who drives and who does not? This assumes that fuel prices are going to be sufficient in rationing fuel without killing the economy first. So who might ration gasoline and driving? I don't know but it may be the same American Soviet planners who subsidize the over-supplied/under-priced car system today.

Somehow, I see the Rotten Republicans and the car interest will cry foul when this time as big government goes from friend to foe.

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 9:06:00 AM PDT, Blogger Patrick David said...

Honestly, who ever said NO ONE will drive? Allen, you desperately extrapolate my legitimate views into something that I did not say. YES we need light rail and NO it will not arrive to everyone's doorstep. That is precisely why the burbs with their 4000 sq foot homes and car dependence will be in so much trouble. Also, communities will have to arranged differently than they are now. MOST essential services might need to be provided without cars. Who ever said NO ONE will have a car? Settle down and try not to exaggerate. Drink a cup of tea.

Buenta suerte,
PD

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 2:35:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

Any plans on how to decide who does and who doesn't get a car?

Yes, those who can afford a car. The more expensive oil gets the more people who cannot afford to drive as they used to are likely to seek out other transport options. It's called "capitalism".

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 5:05:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...

allen, obviously the issue lies between the two extremes: total car dependence vs. 100% mass transit with no cars/trucks. You're correct that a world with no cars/trucks is ridiculous, but I agree with dub that that is a straw man. Even the most extreme anti-car people (like myself and dub) admit the need for work vehicles.

What we don't know here is your position on mass transit. Are you opposed to it in principle? Do you advocate 100% car dependence in all human activities? Do you believe that mass transit should be vigorously opposed? If not, to what degree do you think mass transit should be deployed? Give us an idea where you stand.

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 8:11:00 PM PDT, Blogger allen said...

Cripes Chris, I don't know where you get your information about the Soviet Union but you might want to consider changing sources.

You don't have to twist yourself into a pretzel to understand why lots of Russkis had to stand in line for something we in the United States had mountains of. Socialism always fails. Big socialism, little socialism, it always falls on its face. Sometimes immediately, sometimes it takes a while but it always fails. If you want the dirty details I'll share them with you but if you keep that thought in mind - socialism always fails - you won't ever go wrong.

And no, I don't like any kind of bureaucracy. Sometimes though it's an unpleasent necessity, like an outhouse. But like an outhouse, bureaucracies ought to be kept a decent distance from dwellings and bureaucrats ought to be kept on short, tight leashes that are given a sharp, educational tug at random intervals.

Your comparison of the Soviet economic system to the petroleum industry is so basicly goofy that I won't expend any effort on it.

patrick david wrote:

Honestly, who ever said NO ONE will drive?

I don't know, why are you asking me? I just want to know who'll be driving in the future that you posit and how they'll be selected? Is that too tough for you? Or, is nothing going to change?

That is, in your permaculture, localized food system, heavy and light rail, resource war-free future, will private car ownership be restricted, as it is today, to those who can pay for the car?

Settle down and try not to exaggerate.

Thanks for the advice now how about letting us in on the status of automobile ownership in the future you prescribe? Or are you going to continue to entertain everyone with your tap-dancing?

roland wrote:

Yes, those who can afford a car. The more expensive oil gets the more people who cannot afford to drive as they used to are likely to seek out other transport options. It's called "capitalism".

I understand capitalism roland. I don't think patrick david does and I'd like him to think beyond the end of his neatly encapsulated designs for the future to see how quickly the comforting assumption of infallibility lets you down.

If patrick david responds with something approximating your first sentence then we can all be friends and go out and have a beer. If not, then I'd just like him to admit it and reveal himself as another tedious saviour of humanity.

jd wrote:

Even the most extreme anti-car people (like myself and dub) admit the need for work vehicles.

That's a relief. Now I can take your name off the list that us Vast Rightwing conspirators are maintaining against the day we take over.

Seriously though, there are absolutely idealogues who'd roll human society back to the Stone age with untroubled assurance that they were doing the right thing. Pol Pot isn't the only person who's discovered that you need to break a few eggs to make an omelet. He was just one of the few who acceeded to the power necessary to implement that sort of solution. I just want to know if I'm dealing with that sort of imperial pretension or not and a total ban on privately-owned cars would tell me I am.

What we don't know here is your position on mass transit.

Oh heck, that's easy. I'm viscerally opposed to anyone who, for any reason, wishes to impose their will on anyone else. That doesn't mean I can't be persuaded of the necessity but I set a pretty high standard for my aquiesence.

What that has to do with mass transit is that if me and a few hundred thousand of my close friends think hopping a train or bus is a pretty good way to get to work and someone starts a business to do just that, at a price I find reasonable, then I'll use their service where and when it suits me. No persuasion or mandate required.

If, on the other hand, you, JD, or patrick david or dub_scratch manage to accumulate enough political power that you can implement your obvious dislike of privately-owned cars into law, then we can't be friends and I'll probably shoot your dog.

The way to save your dog is to convince me, and a few hundred thousand or million of my close friends, that the course of action you espouse really is the only way to deal with whatever problem needs to be dealt with. I might grumble but I'd probably be willing to go along.

What all that stem-winding means is that I'm opposed to what I see of the various schemes for mass transit. My unscientific view is that no mass transit system ever comes in on budget, none is ever self-supporting and all of them, necessarily, impose the limitations and necessities of the mass transit system on the ridership in particular and the public at large. To me, that seems like a pretty poor bargain.

 
At Monday, April 17, 2006 at 10:49:00 PM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

Your comparison of the Soviet economic system to the petroleum industry is so basicly goofy that I won't expend any effort on it.

Allen, I thought I was clear that I was comparing the Soviet system to the American highway & road system-- not the petrol industry.

I'm actually a bit of a defender for the oil industry. Most people bitch about "evil" Big Oil, yet still drive their car like there is no tomorrow. I don't drive yet I am the first to acknowledge how the oil industry provides an essential product.

I am, however, a hater of Detroit and the auto industry. They have had the huge benefit of the largest government intervention in the market ever and it has ruined this nation. You cannot claim the success of the auto over mass transit is due to he free market when there is no free market in either transportation or urban development.

Oh heck, that's easy. I'm viscerally opposed to anyone who, for any reason, wishes to impose their will on anyone else. That doesn't mean I can't be persuaded of the necessity but I set a pretty high standard for my aquiesence.

Allen, go to your local planning department and tell them you want to build an apartment building without parking. Believe me, you will be persuaded with threats of fines and imprisonment to build that parking lot.

 
At Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at 12:15:00 AM PDT, Blogger JD said...

If, on the other hand, you, JD, or patrick david or dub_scratch manage to accumulate enough political power that you can implement your obvious dislike of privately-owned cars into law, then we can't be friends and I'll probably shoot your dog.

Well in that case, you probably better go buy some bullets, hombre, cause that's exactly the plan. The American motorist is the very root of the peak oil problem, and we're going to come after your car like the French peasants came after Marie Antoinette.

You see, allen, we don't have to convince you and your friends in order to get you on the bus. We just have to convince the 3rd world peoples whose oil you depend on, and the numerous disgruntled nations/individuals who are being priced out of the gasoline market, what an oblivious, spoiled rotten asshole you are. The people whose oil you are wasting will not give a flying fuck whether you are opposed to coercion.

 
At Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at 11:14:00 AM PDT, Blogger allen said...

dub scratch wrote:

Allen, I thought I was clear that I was comparing the Soviet system to the American highway & road system-- not the petrol industry.

Then you thought wrong, Chris.

Beside, the purpose of the American highway system is embodied in the full name of the system: National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. The key word being "defense". The DOD is still involved in routing and upkeep decisions because the highway system is critical to national defense, then as now.

By the way Chris, there wasn't any such critter as "cheap Soviet bread". There was insufficient Soviet bread. That's why they had rationing, because the supply of bread was stretched very thin and the only way to prevent an outbreak of capitalism was to make sure that there was no market in bread. Those "5 year plans" where, I believe, uniformly failures and agricultural goals were met only rarely.

The triumphant socialist system didn't flood the market with artificially cheap bread, the triumphant socialist system flooded the market with an insufficiency of bread.

One thing worth considering is that in the classless society there was always one class of citizen who didn't ever have to stand in line for their bread. That's another inevitable feature of socialism: the development of a caste system.

You cannot claim the success of the auto over mass transit is due to he free market when there is no free market in either transportation or urban development.

Sure I can. The purpose of the highway network is embodied in its name but that doesn't mean it can't be put to other uses. That expenditure of government money certainly has an economic effect but that's not the purpose of the expenditure and there isn't any other way to achieve the defense benefits of a highway network without a highway network.

Rail, light or heavy won't do it. A guy with a crowbar and ten minutes can bring rail transport to a halt, if he's clever or lucky for a couple of days. What's it take to shut down a freeway similarly?

Once the freeway's in place, what rationale is there to prevent its use by civilians and commercial carriers? There is none. Its use for the movement of military necessities isn't encumbered in time of need so why not get some benefit by allowing unfettered access by citizens and commerce? Society gets some return on a defense expenditure, a relatively uncommon phenomenon, and the facility remains available for its original use.

Mass transit, by comparison, is inflexible in routing, scheduling and use.

Want to haul a matress back from the store? Not on the bus you won't. Got ten bags of groceries you want to bring home? Better figure out some way to carry all of them because the trolley isn't going to wait while you load every last bag on board. They've got a schedule to keep.

The only thing light rail will haul is people and heavy rail imposes numerous restrictions on the haulage of anything other then people.

Allen, go to your local planning department and tell them you want to build an apartment building without parking. Believe me, you will be persuaded with threats of fines and imprisonment to build that parking lot.

Thanks Chris but I understand all about planning departments although the case you site is humorously unsupportive of the need for planning departments.

If I've got enough money to build an apartment building and I'm dumb enough to do it without providing reasonable parking then the situation will resolve itself. The building will stand vacant until someone buys it for the cost of the land less the cost of tearing down my poorly thought out investment to replace it with something a trifle better thought out. Where's the necessity for the planning department?

jd wrote:

Well in that case, you probably better go buy some bullets, hombre, cause that's exactly the plan.

Why? Plans are one thing, execution another and currently it's the execution that's looking none too certain. I do feel sorry for your dog though, putting the poor critter at risk so cavalierly.

The American motorist is the very root of the peak oil problem, and we're going to come after your car like the French peasants came after Marie Antoinette.

Have we established that the peak oil scenario is reasonably certain? I must not have been cc'ed on the memo. And who's "we"?

We just have to convince the 3rd world peoples whose oil you depend on, and the numerous disgruntled nations/individuals who are being priced out of the gasoline market, what an oblivious, spoiled rotten asshole you are.

Why should those people care one way or another if I'm an oblivious, spoiled rotten asshole? They can't hold me any more responsible for the price of gasoline then they can for the price of a good piece of steak which they also can't afford. I understand that people can be whipped into a frenzy of greed and hatred but frenzies are tiring and tend not to last all that long. Frenzies make long-term planning more difficult then it has to be.

The neat thing is though, that I can preclude those 3rd world people taking action on their disgruntlement by waving the tantalizing prospect of buying what they have to sell on a mutually agreed upon price. Commerce implies a sufficient degree of gruntlement, otherwise there's no commerce. A few more commercial entanglements and suddenly the venue of the next Olympic games becomes important enough to put disgruntlement resolution on the back burner.

The people whose oil you are wasting will not give a flying fuck whether you are opposed to coercion.

Yeah, but they'll never get to the point of not giving a flying fuck whether I'm opposed to coercion. They've already made it clear that, as long as the checks clear, they don't give a flying fuck if I waste their oil.

 
At Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at 6:58:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...

And who's "we"?
That would be the roughly 6 billion people on the earth who don't have a car, plus the greenies, and the global warming worriers, the Kyoto Treaty advocates, the gas tax promoters, the defense-oriented "oil addiction worriers", the geo-greens, and of course the vanguard intellectuals of car hatred like myself. Lots of room for pandering there.

Have we established that the peak oil scenario is reasonably certain?
The geological peak isn't a threat, but the political peak is. So it's good to know that you're so willing to fork over your cash for oil. Why pump quick and sell oil cheap when you can pump slow and sell oil expensive? It's a whole new ballgame called "Rape the consumer at the pump". Chavez and Putin are doing a great job. Nationalize the oil, put a bloated bureacracy in charge, kick out the free marketeers, drag your feet, hoard, go on strike, blame it on "peak oil". Ka-ching$$$!

Yup, after arrogantly lording it over the rest of the world for 50 years, the U.S. has burned a lot of bridges and pissed a lot of people off. And now they've got you right where they want. Out of gas. So please keep bragging about the delicious fat-encrusted steaks you are eating, and all the gasoline you are wasting. You can be the poster boy for why we love to hate America, and need to take you down a notch.

 
At Wednesday, April 19, 2006 at 8:06:00 AM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

Beside, the purpose of the American highway system is embodied in the full name of the system: National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. The key word being "defense". The DOD is still involved in routing and upkeep decisions because the highway system is critical to national defense, then as now.

Please Allen, explain how is critical for defense to have giant multi-lane highways X-crossing through town. And please explain why having the public jam pack these roads is necessary for national defense.

This argument is nothing more than a relic of pro-highway/pro-car propaganda of the 50s. It is total bullshit.

You are on record here as admitting that the Iraq invasion is justified because we you don't want a tyrant controlling the lifeblood of your motoring. If the Iraq invasion was about preserving the flow of cheap oil into American fleet, then it seams that the highway/defense argument is backwards. We don't need highways for national defense, we need our national defense to protect our highways. In this case the term 'defense' is a misnomer. What we see is an offense of a thug army killing people overseas for people to drive cars here. And then the tax payer money to support this action is nothing more than another subsidy for the national highway system.

 
At Wednesday, April 19, 2006 at 1:32:00 PM PDT, Blogger allen said...

jd wrote:

That would be the roughly 6 billion people on the earth who don't have a car, plus the greenies....

I'll grant that you probably speak for, or at least use the same words as, the greenies and the rest of that crowd but the evidence suggests pretty strongly that the 6 billion people on the earth who don't have a car are far more interested in acquiring a car then in preventing the onset of Peak Oil. I assume that means they have their hatred of cars safely under control as well.

Also, hatred of cars sets a pretty low standard for evidence of intellectual distinction. At most, it might be evidence of good taste although I'm not willing to grant even that.

The geological peak isn't a threat, but the political peak is.

The same could be said of any important industrial resource. World War I was started, in part, over access to bird shit and what was learned from WW I pretty much put an end to resource acquisition as a cause of war. Not that various tyrants haven't used resource acquisition as an excuse for war but a tyrant's excuses are just that and one excuse is largely as good as another since the goal is war, not resource acquisition.

Why pump quick and sell oil cheap when you can pump slow and sell oil expensive?

Indeed. But history's proven that it's easier to frighten people with cartel talk then to build, and maintain, a cartel. As the '72 oil embargo proved, given an opportunity to cheat, cartel members cheat and vigorously, pumping all the oil they can while prices are high.

It's a whole new ballgame called "Rape the consumer at the pump".

Then it's a new ballgame that keeps turning up.

Every time the price of gas spikes it's the oil companies that are colluding and rigging the market blah, blah, blah. Problem is, it isn't that profitable a business so if all this collusion is occurring to boost profits then the oil companies, and Chavez and Putin, are pretty pitifully bad at it.

Yup, after arrogantly lording it over the rest of the world for 50 years, the U.S. has burned a lot of bridges and pissed a lot of people off.

Maybe there's more the one United States then. The one I'm familiar with has been, head and shoulders, the most generous nation in the history of the world and done more to fight tyranny, at no small cost, then any other nation in the history of the world.

Of course, given the competition, that may not be all that much of a distinction.

And now they've got you right where they want. Out of gas.

Oddly enough, "they've" had us where they want us for about forty years and it hasn't done "them" all that much good. Turns out that for all the good that oil has done the governments who sit on much of it, they could stick it up their collective asses. It's only when the oil gets turned into the almighty dollar that it becomes something other then nasty, black goop. And up until recently, the U.S. was the place you went to turn that oil into something a bit more portable and convenient.

So please keep bragging about the delicious fat-encrusted steaks you are eating, and all the gasoline you are wasting.

Was I bragging? I don't think so though I'll plead guilty to jerking greenie chains. But the only thing I mentioned about steaks was to use them as an example of the fact that energy efficiency isn't the only measure of value.

You can be the poster boy for why we love to hate America, and need to take you down a notch.

As long as your hatred consists of saying and writing mean things, knock yourself out. You'll pardon me if I don't tremble with fear at the imminence of the U.S. being taken down a notch. Familiarity really does breed contempt and I heard that particular promise for as long as I can remember and by more formidable promisers then the greenies.

dub scratch wrote:

Please Allen, explain how is critical for defense to have giant multi-lane highways X-crossing through town.

Read some history, Chris. The U.S. highway system was modeled on the German autobahn system which was the adjunct to the German rail system.

Turns out roads are much more difficult to interdict that railroads. Like I wrote in the previous post, one guy with a crowbar can block a railway, for days if he's smart and/or lucky.

After WW I and the effective use of bombing aircraft, it was clear that some more robust transportation technology was necessary. The only alternative was road travel which, with the advent of the internal combustion engine, was a viable alternative to rail. But the road system wasn't up to the job so the Germans diagnosed what was wrong with roads and came up with autobahns - freeways - and the idea worked very well.

Even though the Allies bombed the living shit out of the rail system the road system was never inconvenienced. There just wasn't much point to bombing the roads since a truckload or ten of gravel would fix almost anything the bombers could do to the roads and while the repairs were going on the trucks could just detour around the damage. But the railroads were a different story. One five-hunderd pounder could shut down a rail line for several days and there were a lot of planes capable of delivering five-hundred pounders.

And please explain why having the public jam pack these roads is necessary for national defense.

You're confusing cause and effect. But I forgive you.

This argument is nothing more than a relic of pro-highway/pro-car propaganda of the 50s. It is total bullshit.

I guess that tells me, hey? Too bad I've read a bit more then Mother Jones and Noam Chomsky and am not even slightly impressed by your dismissal or vulgarity.

You are on record here as admitting that the Iraq invasion is justified because we you don't want a tyrant controlling the lifeblood of your motoring.

No I'm not. That's just a nice benefit of the invasion.

If the Iraq invasion was about preserving the flow of cheap oil into American fleet, then it seams that the highway/defense argument is backwards.

If that's the way it seems, that's fine but you can't hold me responsible for your misconceptions. I've explained the genesis of the national highway network. If you're unwilling to check the historical record that's not my fault or responsibility.

We don't need highways for national defense, we need our national defense to protect our highways.

That's a pretty good slogan. You might want to see about having it printed up on bumper stickers. You could make a few bucks peddling them to like-minded people.

Heck, I may have them printed up for the same reason. Nothing wrong with making an honest buck and I'd enjoy the irony of helping the idle rich indulge their fantasies of relevence, courage and intelligence. You think Micheal Moore feels the same way?

 
At Tuesday, September 25, 2007 at 1:29:00 PM PDT, Blogger jonathan said...

Allen,

Nice to see a reasonable voice from the Right. Thanks for fighting the good fight. I'd help, but you seem to be doing fine on your own.

 

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