What’s Next?

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

There has been much talk about a possible collapse of the American “empire”, or in more concrete terms, a likely economic collapse with all of the horrors that might be associated with such a collapse.

Virtually all scenarios for such a thing happening are predicated upon the exhaustion of oil and fossil fuel reserves around the world – the loss of the cheap energy needed to keep the US economy humming.

Pluto talks this morning at SanchoPress  about some of the things we’ll have to deal with if replacement energy sources cannot be developed in Ten Ways to Prepare for a Post-Oil Society + My Spin.

The “Washington Consensus”, both Democratic and Republican, seems to be narrowly focussed on only finding ways to appropriate remaining existing supply sources around the world, even on stealing and killing for them – witness the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the resulting deaths of more than a million Iraqis if the 10 years sanctions war is included, which in my view it should be.

So what do we do about it?

What economically and technologically realistic options exist for replacing fossil fuels as the energy base of society?

I’ve been doing a little bit of web searching this morning – only about ten minutes of it, as I was interested not only in what ideas are being worked on, but even more interested in how quickly I might find realistic options with a casual search.

I stopped searching after ten minutes because I was astounded at the range of possibilities I found, and also astounded at the fact that I’ve read virtually nothing about these in any mainstream media.

What follows is a series of quotes from sources that were all found with only ONE Google search on the words “replacing oil”.

I’ll leave any further commenting on them for the comments, rather than try to evaluate each one myself – except to say please keep in mind that these were all found in less than ten minutes, again with ONE google search – to my mind that leaves us with no excuses.

I’m sure many of you will have more ideas. I’m counting on it, as a matter of fact. 😉

What Can Replace Cheap Oil–and When?

Richard A. Kerr and Robert F. Service

Science Magazine, July 2005

The road from old to new energy sources can be bumpy, but the transitions have gone pretty smoothly in the past. After millennia of dependence on wood, society added coal and gravitydriven water to the energy mix. Industrialization took off. Oil arrived, and transportation by land and air soared, with hardly a worry about where the next log or lump of coal was coming from, or what the explosive growth in energy production might be doing to the world.

Times have changed. The price of oil has been climbing, and ice is melting around both poles as the mercury in the global thermometer rises. Whether the next big energy transition will be as smooth as past ones will depend in large part on three sets of questions: When will world oil production peak? How sensitive is Earth’s climate to the carbon dioxide we are pouring into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels? And will alternative energy sources be available at reasonable costs? The answers rest on science and technology, but how society responds will be firmly in the realm of politics.

There is little disagreement that the world will soon be running short of oil. The debate is over how soon. Global demand for oil has been rising at 1% or 2% each year, and we are now sucking almost 1000 barrels of oil from the ground every second. Pessimists–mostly former oil company geologists–expect oil production to peak very soon. They point to American geologist M. King Hubbert’s successful 1956 prediction of the 1970 peak in U.S. production. Using the same method involving records of past production and discoveries, they predict a world oil peak by the end of the decade. Optimists–mostly resource economists–argue that oil production depends more on economics and politics than on how much happens to be in the ground. Technological innovation will intervene, and production will continue to rise, they say. Even so, midcentury is about as far as anyone is willing to push the peak. That’s still “soon” considering that the United States, for one, will need to begin replacing oil’s 40% contribution to its energy consumption by then. And as concerns about climate change intensify, the transition to nonfossil fuels could become even more urgent (see p. 100).

If oil supplies do peak soon or climate concerns prompt a major shift away from fossil fuels, plenty of alternative energy supplies are waiting in the wings. The sun bathes Earth’s surface with 86,000 trillion watts, or terawatts, of energy at all times, about 6600 times the amount used by all humans on the planet each year. Wind, biomass, and nuclear power are also plentiful. And there is no shortage of opportunities for using energy more efficiently.

Of course, alternative energy sources have their issues. Nuclear fission supporters have never found a noncontroversial solution for disposing of long-lived radioactive wastes, and concerns over liability and capital costs are scaring utility companies off. Renewable energy sources are diffuse, making it difficult and expensive to corral enough power from them at cheap prices. So far, wind is leading the way with a global installed capacity of more than 40 billion watts, or gigawatts, providing electricity for about 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

That sounds good, but the scale of renewable energy is still very small when compared to fossil fuel use. In the United States, renewables account for just 6% of overall energy production. And, with global energy demand expected to grow from approximately 13 terawatts a year now to somewhere between 30 and 60 terawatts by the middle of this century, use of renewables will have to expand enormously to displace current sources and have a significant impact on the world’s future energy needs.

What needs to happen for that to take place? Using energy more efficiently is likely to be the sine qua non of energy planning–not least to buy time for efficiency improvements in alternative energy. The cost of solar electric power modules has already dropped two orders of magnitude over the last 30 years. And most experts figure the price needs to drop 100-fold again before solar energy systems will be widely adopted. Advances in nanotechnology may help by providing novel semiconductor systems to boost the efficiency of solar energy collectors and perhaps produce chemical fuels directly from sunlight, CO2, and water.

But whether these will come in time to avoid an energy crunch depends in part on how high a priority we give energy research and development. And it will require a global political consensus on what the science is telling us.

And the Post Carbon Institute provides this goldmine of links:


These three companies are producing power from waves.




http://www.nanosolar.com/.    “Nanosolar’s PV at  improved cost efficiency.


http://www.greenandgoldenergy.com.au/   SUNBALL SOLAR ROOF $1500


http://www.physorg.com/news7499.htdrml   A car that makes its own fuel



Australian companies are looking to harness hot rock temperatures to unleash green energy.



Massachusetts Institute of Technology built a prototype power source that generates up to 1,000 times more heat than conventional fuel from water and w/o waste!






There is enough geothermal energy to supply the world’s needs for the next several hundred thousand years if not for millions of years by electrolyzing water to produce hydrogen.


Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition



Water-driven Car



Mass-produced, Meltdown-proof Nuclear Energy



Free Energy Machine



http://www.changingworldtech.com/what/problems.asp#energy   Energy alternatives





World’s First Solar Hydrogen Production Station Using Landfill Methane


Toyota 250 miles per fill-up


Remineralize soil with Volcanic Rock Dust


Cute as a button French car that runs

( IS running) on AIR.

I’ll stop here and turn over the rest of this to be expanded upon by the rest of you. My point was to show how easily information can be found, which is something all of us here know, but something that very few in the larger society seem to be aware of, perhaps as a result of the confusion sown in the population daily by corporate media?

Granted, few of these options will do much to save the oil companies or any of George Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s friends, but… so?


Skip to comment form

    • Edger on January 17, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    • Edger on January 17, 2008 at 5:15 pm
  1. for what feels like years now…It’s so painfully obvious that we’re only using oil because it’s making some people very very rich.  

    I always thought the hydrogen fuel cell (essentially water powered cars) were really interesting.  When I first heard of them there wasn’t much information about the technology, a year or two ago I did some research on the specifics for a class and I’m not as enamored with the idea as I used to be.  The biggest concern being of course not having a hydrogen bomb driving around….They were trying to work around it by having a permeable membranes separating the basic ingredients and mixing only when needed but there are a lot of details to work out.  The developments in nanotechnology and solar cells is really exciting though and could certainly be an easy transitional power source.    

    A co-worker of mine actually just bought a car a few months ago that runs on biodiesel and used vegetable oil.  He got it from a guy who got a kit to mod the engine.  Apparently it’s fairly easy.  It starts running on biodiesel then kicks over to the vegetable oil when the engine is warmed up.  You need to filter down the oil (he uses old jeans) but most restaurants will give you their old oil for free.  He hasn’t had to pay anything since he’s owned it to fuel the car.  It drives fine and except for the faint smell of french fries and a bumper sticker you can’t tell the difference.  

    I agree with Pluto on the urban sprawl, manufacturing, infrastructure problems but this comment has gotten way too long so I won’t go into all that now…Thanks for all the info!

  2. Yes, the technogods will save capitalism and meet all our energy needs so that we, the bourgeois, can continue to exploit cheap labor into the indefinite future, overturning the Second Law of Thermodynamics if necessary… I’d like to know where Kurtzweil gets his statistics on poverty, since they seem to have nothing to do with the statistics here or with those given in Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums…  Who is this “we” that needs to consume 85 million barrels of oil every day?  It’s definitely not that half of humanity that lives on less than $2/day…

  3. Very good effort with a most complex issue.

    I think there is much that can be done, individually, corporately, etc.  The problem is will it be done?  And, if so, will it be done in time?

    Europeans still have their little stores and boutiques and people do a great deal of walking, instead of driving, to their little stores.

    Huge corporations have destroyed the “little corner stores” here in this country.

    As a kid, I remember walking to the little corner store for candy or for errands for the family. Most everyone walked to just about everywhere — albeit, it was a smallish city.

    Anti-trust laws are worthless, as is well demonstrated.

    This, of course, is just one tiny speck of why we consume so much oil.  

  4. but what we need are

    1) much smaller communities/systems

    2) small localized agriculture, and

    3) [go on laugh] a return to using horses and other livestock.

    No one will improve on animals which reproduce.  This puts finance based capitalism to shame.  If I own five goats and three years later they have mulitiplied to twenty, I have capitalized on them.  Same with horses.

    I’m not saying NO mechanized transportation, but this is also a beautiful, naturally recycling creation.

    Mankind in his attempt to eliminate the horse (and kids, 50 years ago horse-drawn vehicles made deliveries of all sorts in our major cities) have resulted in ruining the planet.

    Nuff said.

    For someone more acerbicly, bracingly current on the issue, try James Kunstler:

    I shudder to imagine how things will play out now as we turn the corner into 2008. Not to put too fine a point on it, but my little walnut brain can’t imagine any scenario in which the US economy doesn’t end up on a gurney in history’s emergency room.


    One thing the public doesn’t get about the housing debacle is that it is not just the low point in a regular cycle — it is the end of the suburban phase of US history. We won’t be building anymore of it, and those employed in its development will have to find something else to do. Now, unfortunately the whole point of the housing bubble was not really to put X-million people in so many vinyl and chipboard boxes, but rather to ramp up a suburban sprawl-building industry as a replacement for America’s dwindling manufacturing economy. This stratagem ran into the implacable force of Peak Oil, which not only puts the schnitz on America’s whole Happy Motoring / suburban nexus, but implies a pervasive trend for contraction in everything from the daily distances we can travel to the the very core idea of regular economic growth per se — at least in the way we have understood it through the age of industrial capital.


    One is the growing oil export problem, soon to be a crisis. It now appears that exports, in nations with surplus oil to sell, are going down at an even steeper rate than production declines. Why? They are using more of their own oil. The population is growing robustly. The Saudi Arabians are building the world’s largest aluminum smelter and many chemical factories. This takes a lot of oil. Russia, another big exporter, saw its car sales jump by 50 percent in 2007. Mexico is depleting so rapidly, and using so much more of its own oil, that it might be out of the export game altogether in three years. That will be bad news for the US, since Mexico is tied with Saudi Arabia as America’s number two leading source of oil imports. Remember, the US now imports close to three-quarters of all the oil we use.

    The second new factor on the Peak oil scene is “oil nationalism.” It is prompting countries like Norway and Russia to husband more of their own resources as the awareness hits that they are past peak and might want to keep their own motors humming further into the future. Oil surplus nations are also trending more toward selling their oil on the basis of long-term contracts with favored customers rather than just auctioning the stuff off on the futures market. This makes oil a much more important element in geopolitical power politics. Note that the US may not enjoy “favored customer” standing among many of these nations.


    Highly recommended weekly column, free for the logging in every Monday.

  5. amazing that there are so many alternatives being neglected while we kill people to keep those Hummers on the road.

    Just one little footnote: in a comment over at Kos I mentioned that a friend was running her car on vegetable oil and someone asked how she converted it, etc. So I called her to find out and she explained the whole process and then said, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this because it’s illegal.” At first I thought she was kidding, but nope.  Apparently, it’s a law that’s really not enforced, but still …      

  6. pretty close to the river. You don’t need a car, biles work fine, the neighborhoods are just that they have clusters of stores and you also are saving fuel by buying locally. My buying decisions have drastically changed. I now figure out, especially food, where goods are produced and buy local if possible and if not the one with the least shipping distance. I find I spend less money if I’m carting stuff home.  

  7. think Back to the Future.

    I want my flying car.

    Eugene Mallove, RIP.

Comments have been disabled.