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A world without oil....

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I was listening to Jethro Tull's 1978 album 'Heavy Horses' this morning, when a line in the title track jolted me out of autopilot as I walked to work:


Heavy horses

And one day when the oil barons have all dripped dry

And the nights are seen to draw colder

Theyll beg for your strength, your gentle power

Your noble grace and your bearing

And youll strain once again to the sound of the gulls

In the wake of the deep plough, sharing.

The lyrics evoke a long gone and no-doubt over-romanticised pastoral age, with the implication that when the oil finally runs out, we'll return full circle to the old and less materialistic ways. This is an optimistic view that humanity will cope with whatever problems it is faced with. However, will we have to face the apocalypse before we reach this enlightened phase?


I thought this link was interesting and worth posting:




and here's a quote from it I thought worth highlighting:

We cannot drive cars and boats or fly planes using electricity produced by wind or nuclear

power. The whole of our transportation system is, in effect, dependent on liquid fuel.

Converting all 500 million cars on this earth to run on some other form of fuel, for instance

electricity from batteries, brings us up against tremendous problems, not least having to

produce the material to make the batteries. The world economy and industrial production –

the manufacture of alternative engines and batteries, as well as wind power stations etc. –

will suffer serious damage when the oil shortage has taken its stranglehold on our


John Attarian, Colin Campbell and other experts imply that there actually is nothing else

that we can use to replace oil at short notice. We know that synthetic oil can be produced

from coal but, for all that, its significance will be little. Instead, it is believed that all of us

will be forced to get used to a dwindling production of liquid fuel. This will lead to huge

changes – changes that are considered unimaginable by most of us today.


The implication being that nothing at the moment can come close to touching oil energywise in terms of rate of extraction, or ease of refinement. Long distance travel may also become a thing of the past. It's also worth bearing in mind that plastics, pesticides, drugs and paint are also all derived from oil.


Will we have an end-game of global muggings as the most powerful countries seek out the last drops of oil followed by a retreat, (or some may say an advance), to smaller and more localised self-sufficent agronomy based communities, maybe subsidised by alternative energies? One point that struck me was that we probably need to develop these technologies whilst we are still relatively oil rich. We need this efficient source of energy to develop our alternative energies now. This different link echoes the previous sentiments:




which gives a summary of "The Long Emergency" by James Howard Kunstler who argues that the end of cheap oil will lead to decreased mobility and the return to a 19th century way of life. Don't know anything about the book, but it's had good reviews:




I particularly like this line from the synopsis:


"My father rode a camel; I drive a car; my son flies a jet; his son will ride a camel." --Saudi saying


We may eventually emerge into a less materialistic utopia, but what price will we pay along the way to get there?



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Stronger and more noble, maybe.


But such energy will feed only a much smaller population.

What will become of the people to get us there?

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Whats wrong with Hydrogen?


some problems discussed here:




Unfortunately not much free hydrogen lying around, except in the sun, or interstellar space. If we could harness and store the sun's energy output for one second, we'd have enough energy for the next million years at current rates of use - how to get to it, though...


In reality that probably means electrolysis of water, or reformation of existing fossil fuels. With inherent inefficiencies you'll be putting more energy into the process than you get out. Obviously more viable with renewable energy source or nuclear, but currently ony 20% of US energy is produce this way. This has to be scaled right up - hydrogen production is reliant on electricity.


Then there's storage and transport problems, hydrogen is bulky stuff, and compressing requires energy. Even when compressed, it still contains less energy than an equivalent volume of petrol. Still, necessity is the mother of invention....



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