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  1. #1
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    Gas prices & "unsustainable" lifestyle

    This is a long article from the NYT. The argument is compelling, implying that even much higher gas prices will not deter our car culture in the long run.

    The $10,000 Question
    By JOHN TIERNEY
    New York Times
    August 23, 2005
    I don't share Matthew Simmons's angst, but I admire his style. He is that rare doomsayer who puts his money where his doom is.

    After reading his prediction, quoted Sunday in the cover story of The New York Times Magazine, that oil prices will soar into the triple digits, I called to ask if he'd back his prophecy with cash. Without a second's hesitation, he agreed to bet me $5,000.

    His only concern seemed to be that he was fleecing me. Mr. Simmons, the head of a Houston investment bank specializing in the energy industry, patiently explained to me why Saudi Arabia's oil production would falter much sooner than expected. That's the thesis of his new book, "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy."

    I didn't try to argue with him about Saudi Arabia, because I know next to nothing about oil production there or anywhere else. I'm just following the advice of a mentor and friend, the economist Julian Simon: if you find anyone willing to bet that natural resource prices are going up, take him for all you can.

    Julian took up gambling during the last end-of-oil crisis, in 1980, when experts were predicting a new age of scarcity as the planet's resources were depleted by the growing population. Julian had debunked these fears in "The Ultimate Resource," the bible of Cornucopian economics, which showed how human ingenuity had kept driving down the price of energy and other natural resources for centuries.

    He offered to bet the pessimists that oil or any other resource they chose would be cheaper, in real terms, at any date they picked in the future. The ecologist Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb" and "The End of Affluence," took up his offer and chose copper, tin and three other metals worth $1,000 in 1980.

    When the famous bet was settled 10 years later, the value of the metals had declined by more than half. As usual, people had found new ways to get the metals as well as cheaper substitutes, like the fiber optic cables that replaced copper telephone wires.

    After collecting his winnings, Julian expanded his challenge, offering to bet anyone on any other resource price or measure of human welfare. Julian, who died in 1998, never managed to persuade Mr. Ehrlich or other prominent doomsayers to take his bets again. But now we have a braver prophet in Mr. Simmons.

    I proposed to him a bet using what Julian considered the best measure of a resource's value: how it compares with the average worker's wage. I offered to bet that the price of oil would not rise faster than the average wage, meaning that future workers would be able to afford oil more easily than they could today.

    Mr. Simmons said he favored a simpler wager, based on his expectation that the price of oil, now about $65 per barrel, would more than triple during the next five years. He said he'd bet that the price in 2010, when adjusted for inflation so it's stated in 2005 dollars, would be at least $200 per barrel.

    Remembering a tip from Julian, I suggested that we use the average price for the whole year of 2010 instead of the price on any particular date - that way, neither of us would be vulnerable to a sudden short-term swing as the market reacted to some unexpected news. Mr. Simmons agreed, and we sealed the deal by e-mail.

    The first person I told was Julian's widow, Rita Simon, a public affairs professor at American University. She was delighted to see Julian's tradition carried on and thought the bet sounded so good she wanted a piece of the action herself.

    With Mr. Simmons's approval, we arranged for Rita and me to split the wager, with each of us putting up $2,500 against Mr. Simmons's $5,000. (Note to accounting department: I'm aware that my expense account doesn't cover gambling. I'm using my own money.) All the money is being put into escrow in a joint account; the winning side will collect the $10,000 plus any accrued interest on Jan. 1, 2011.

    I realize this isn't a sure thing, because the price of oil has risen before - it quintupled in the 1970's. But then it dropped, thanks to new discoveries and technologies, validating the Cornucopians' optimism.

    So I figure the long-term odds are with me. And while I'm at it, I'll extend Julian's challenge and consider bets from anyone else convinced that our way of life is "unsustainable." If you think the price of oil or some other natural resource is going to soar, show me the money.

  2. #2
    Banned. FXjohn's Avatar
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    The typical NYT chicken little article, nothing more, nothing less

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by FXjohn
    The typical NYT chicken little article, nothing more, nothing less
    Maybe. But car culture is so deeply ingrained in our society that the only way we will get a significant change is if the economics of owning automobiles becomes too onerous for people and they have to seek alternative transportation. If you accept Tierney & Simon's premise, that the cost of gas will continue to go down over time, then we can expect cars to continue to dominate and living car free will be a minority lifestyle.

  4. #4
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    I don't think society will change much. Maybe a little....a few people here, a few there. Most of the people I talk to say two things (since the rise in the price of gas). 1) "I see you ride your bike a lot. I should do that".
    2) "I can't wait until the GOVERNMENT makes the car manufactureres produce more efficient cars".

    They still don't get it. I just sigh, get on my bike, and ride home.(smiling)
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  5. #5
    如果你能讀了這個你講中文 genericbikedude's Avatar
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    Tierney and this Simmons guy are both wrong.

    First, we know that there is a fixed amount of oil, and that there have been no major new discoveries in 35 years.

    The price of oil will only go down after we stop using it. Until then, it will go up. Given the massive fossil-fuel infrastructure that humanity has created, the one-off costs for converting this infrastructure (cars, tankers, gas stations, refineries, power plants, generators, etc) to hydrogen-or-whatever will be immense.

    Furthermore, these changes will need to occur in a global economic environment that is in the process of being screwed by the high price of oil. That is to say, we will need to burn oil to build infrastructure for hydrogen-or-whatever. This oil will be expensive to burn, and it will be difficult for companies or governments to finance these huge invenstments on new infrastructure in the face of dwindling revenue due to oil-recession.


    If oil becomes so expensive, massive outlays for other forms of energy (esp non-electricity needs, such as transport) could become profitable in the medium to long term, as energy prices will be high enough to finance this infrastructure.

    BUT this will NOT HAPPEN because if gas prices get too high, whoever is in office will get voted out. Thus, there is political pressure to keep prices low. These low prices will delay investment in new energy infrastructures (its happening now, esp in the US), until the bottom drops out and the US (and many others) get caught with their pants down, unable to continue to subsidize the rising price of oil, and with no economically viable alternatives in place to take pressure off of energy prices.

    Simmons is wrong because that's a dumb bet. Five years? Please. Prices will drop if Iraq ever cools down, olnly to continue to steadily rise based upon SHRINKING SUPPLY, INCREASING DEMAND, and NO INVESTMENT IN VIABLE ALTERNATIVES.

    There will be no cataclysm. This will just slowly get worse.




    Quote Originally Posted by cedo
    This is a long article from the NYT. The argument is compelling, implying that even much higher gas prices will not deter our car culture in the long run.

    The $10,000 Question
    By JOHN TIERNEY
    New York Times
    August 23, 2005
    I don't share Matthew Simmons's angst, but I admire his style. He is that rare doomsayer who puts his money where his doom is.

    After reading his prediction, quoted Sunday in the cover story of The New York Times Magazine, that oil prices will soar into the triple digits, I called to ask if he'd back his prophecy with cash. Without a second's hesitation, he agreed to bet me $5,000.

    His only concern seemed to be that he was fleecing me. Mr. Simmons, the head of a Houston investment bank specializing in the energy industry, patiently explained to me why Saudi Arabia's oil production would falter much sooner than expected. That's the thesis of his new book, "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy."

    I didn't try to argue with him about Saudi Arabia, because I know next to nothing about oil production there or anywhere else. I'm just following the advice of a mentor and friend, the economist Julian Simon: if you find anyone willing to bet that natural resource prices are going up, take him for all you can.

    Julian took up gambling during the last end-of-oil crisis, in 1980, when experts were predicting a new age of scarcity as the planet's resources were depleted by the growing population. Julian had debunked these fears in "The Ultimate Resource," the bible of Cornucopian economics, which showed how human ingenuity had kept driving down the price of energy and other natural resources for centuries.

    He offered to bet the pessimists that oil or any other resource they chose would be cheaper, in real terms, at any date they picked in the future. The ecologist Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb" and "The End of Affluence," took up his offer and chose copper, tin and three other metals worth $1,000 in 1980.

    When the famous bet was settled 10 years later, the value of the metals had declined by more than half. As usual, people had found new ways to get the metals as well as cheaper substitutes, like the fiber optic cables that replaced copper telephone wires.

    After collecting his winnings, Julian expanded his challenge, offering to bet anyone on any other resource price or measure of human welfare. Julian, who died in 1998, never managed to persuade Mr. Ehrlich or other prominent doomsayers to take his bets again. But now we have a braver prophet in Mr. Simmons.

    I proposed to him a bet using what Julian considered the best measure of a resource's value: how it compares with the average worker's wage. I offered to bet that the price of oil would not rise faster than the average wage, meaning that future workers would be able to afford oil more easily than they could today.

    Mr. Simmons said he favored a simpler wager, based on his expectation that the price of oil, now about $65 per barrel, would more than triple during the next five years. He said he'd bet that the price in 2010, when adjusted for inflation so it's stated in 2005 dollars, would be at least $200 per barrel.

    Remembering a tip from Julian, I suggested that we use the average price for the whole year of 2010 instead of the price on any particular date - that way, neither of us would be vulnerable to a sudden short-term swing as the market reacted to some unexpected news. Mr. Simmons agreed, and we sealed the deal by e-mail.

    The first person I told was Julian's widow, Rita Simon, a public affairs professor at American University. She was delighted to see Julian's tradition carried on and thought the bet sounded so good she wanted a piece of the action herself.

    With Mr. Simmons's approval, we arranged for Rita and me to split the wager, with each of us putting up $2,500 against Mr. Simmons's $5,000. (Note to accounting department: I'm aware that my expense account doesn't cover gambling. I'm using my own money.) All the money is being put into escrow in a joint account; the winning side will collect the $10,000 plus any accrued interest on Jan. 1, 2011.

    I realize this isn't a sure thing, because the price of oil has risen before - it quintupled in the 1970's. But then it dropped, thanks to new discoveries and technologies, validating the Cornucopians' optimism.

    So I figure the long-term odds are with me. And while I'm at it, I'll extend Julian's challenge and consider bets from anyone else convinced that our way of life is "unsustainable." If you think the price of oil or some other natural resource is going to soar, show me the money.
    economically viable

  6. #6
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    With so many commuters living hours from work. Gasoline going to $5 a gallon..It is not just the automobile being the problem. but, with urban sprawl our whole life style..We are in for a big bust, with our whole lifestyle being unsustainable.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclezealot
    With so many commuters living hours from work. Gasoline going to $5 a gallon..It is not just the automobile being the problem. but, with urban sprawl our whole life style..We are in for a big bust, with our whole lifestyle being unsustainable.
    The sad truth.. like many good things, it simply can't last forever. We've become a society hung up on more and better, instead of enough and good enough.
    It's either old age or I need more suspension...

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    $3 this summer (happening) $4 next summer, $5 the one after that. It will still be underpriced.

    Cheap gas and universal car ownership is the bread and circuses that's keeping this Empire propped up. We even have "ay-rabs" throwing rocks vs. helicopter gunships on the news as our version of Christians vs. lions.

  9. #9
    如果你能讀了這個你講中文 genericbikedude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilHinault
    We even have "ay-rabs" throwing rocks vs. helicopter gunships on the news as our version of Christians vs. lions.
    Good line

  10. #10
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    I don't think it will take two years to get to $5 a gallon..news sources said a barrel of gas would likely hit $140 within the year..We are presently a little over $70. Do the math?

  11. #11
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    It currently affects living choices and migration patterns. I read that a lot of people have decided to starve through lunch, not eat out or adjust other parts of their life -- cutting out certain luxuries. All in the name of driving to work. Some simply decide to quit their commute job and move somewhere more affordable.
    One must live the way one thinks or end up thinking the way one has lived.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclezealot
    We are in for a big bust, with our whole lifestyle being unsustainable.
    Tierney and Simmon's point, however, is that everytime people have predicted a bust in the past, human ingenuity has come up with a solution. This school of thought would assert that our society is not going to eschew driving cars. Rather, necessity and creativity will generate some novel solution -- perhaps an alternative to gasoline, that will fuel the cars. Time and again doomsayers have been proven wrong and Tierney (and other Simmonites) are willing to bet their own money on it. Personally, I would like to see the price of oil and the ultimate shortage decrease car usage but if similar circumstances in the past prove valid in the future, we will still be living in a sustainable "car culture" in fifty years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cedo
    This is a long article from the NYT. The argument is compelling, implying that even much higher gas prices will not deter our car culture in the long run.

    The $10,000 Question
    By JOHN TIERNEY
    New York Times
    August 23, 2005
    I don't share Matthew Simmons's angst, but I admire his style. He is that rare doomsayer who puts his money where his doom is.
    etc, etc.
    C'mon guys, that wasn't what was said at all.

    First of all, that is not an ARTICLE, it is an OPINION about an article, raised by one of the NY Times columnists, in this case a conservative Libertarian. Op-ed columnists give OPINIONS, vs. fact-based articles, and the NYT has several Op-Ed columnists that cover the political spectrum.

    Secondly, it is not compelling at all, seeing as it is just one possible viewpoint, based on a general belief in Libertarian economic theory, and a few outdated examples, not technical facts.

    Thirdly, his OPINION does not discuss car culture at all, but prices of natural resources. And he is in disagreement with Simmons, not agreement.

    In his OPINION quoted above, Tierney DISAGREES with Mathew Simmons, quoted in the original NYT article (Sunday), who believes the Saudis are hiding the fact that their reserves are declining and the most productive fields are becoming increasingly difficult to extract from. If this is the case, Simmons believes that we will definitely see declining production and significantly higher prices soon, over $100/bbl. He has written a book about it called Twilight in the Desert, did two years research, and seems to have some credibility in the oil & gas industry. After reading the full article, it seems very plausible.

    Tierney, like all good Libertarians, seems to think that the market will solve all problems, through market-driven alternatives, better exploration, etc, and is betting on it, to make a stronger point, and to better drive home his OPINION with the readers. But it is just that, an OPINION, and by his own admission, he "knows nothing about oil".

    Lastly, the reason I point all this out is that if you read the article published on Sunday, or the book, you will likely come to a completely different conclusion than simply reading and reacting to an opposing OP-ED piece, no matter how convincing he seems. I read the original NYT article, intend to get the book, and have read several other recent books including one by a prominent oil geologist - they all say the same thing - we're running out of oil and demand is growing. To the OP, this WILL undoubtedly have an impact on our car culture, and arguably, already is.
    Last edited by mtnroads; 08-26-05 at 06:58 PM.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by FXjohn
    The typical NYT chicken little article, nothing more, nothing less
    Uh, the original article or the Op-Ed piece that was quoted? Did you read them?
    Last edited by mtnroads; 08-26-05 at 06:59 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cedo
    Tierney and Simmon's point, however, is that everytime people have predicted a bust in the past, human ingenuity has come up with a solution.
    That is Tierney's point not Simmons. Simmons, quoted in the original article simply believes Saudi reserves are declining and that we are headed for significantly higher oil prices. They disagree, and have a bet with each other over this.
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    There are many other types of alternatives available, including ethanol (check out this website www.ethanol.org), liquid natural gas, electric, etc. The problem has been in the past that oil has been so cheap, there hasn't been much of a need to explore other possible resources. However, now that oil is going up, other possible avenues are being explored.

    For example, if gas were less than a dollar a gallon, who would spend the extra money to buy a hybrid? But now, I have several friends that have bought Prius's in the last few months. They are getting between 50 and 60 mph, so they don't seem to care if oil goes up to $5 a gallon - it just helps them justify their purchase.

    Same with ethanol - there are close to 20 new ethanol plants being planned or built in the US. Plus, right now most ethanol is E10 (10% ethanol and 90% gas), but there is also E85 availabe (85% ethanol and 15% gas) that flexible fuel cars can burn. If we were burning E85, our dependency on oil would start to decline (plus it's cleaner burning).

    I think over time, we'll see flexible fuel hybrid cars getting over 70 mph burning E85. So, I believe the article is right. Humans have tended to adapt to changing times and learn how to cope.

  17. #17
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    I was just up near Medford, Oregon..I saw an outlet for biogradable diesel..(Wonder it's octane.) I was on bike the whole time, so had little interest to stop..But, noticed it's price was $3.99 a gallon..
    Yes, there are alternatives..For a long time now, I have been receiving an electronic newsletter from "Brainfood'.One of their presentations dealt with petroleum supply..Unfortunately, much of the oil rich countries have peaked and production will soon be falling..Whenever, alternatives are available, I feel sure it will not be until significantly after the downside of petroleum's peak.

  18. #18
    如果你能讀了這個你講中文 genericbikedude's Avatar
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    ETHANOL=HUGE MONOCROP CORNFIRELS=MONSANTO

    Ethanol will likely play a role in the future, but there is no way that we could grow enough ethanol crops to feed our current ridiculously profligate lifestyle.

    Biodiesel depends on grease. If we are ever to seriously rely on that, we are all going to have to eat nothing but deep-fried food morning noon and night. Plus our cities will smell like french fries.


    Quote Originally Posted by CTBiker1001
    There are many other types of alternatives available, including ethanol (check out this website www.ethanol.org), liquid natural gas, electric, etc. The problem has been in the past that oil has been so cheap, there hasn't been much of a need to explore other possible resources. However, now that oil is going up, other possible avenues are being explored.

    For example, if gas were less than a dollar a gallon, who would spend the extra money to buy a hybrid? But now, I have several friends that have bought Prius's in the last few months. They are getting between 50 and 60 mph, so they don't seem to care if oil goes up to $5 a gallon - it just helps them justify their purchase.

    Same with ethanol - there are close to 20 new ethanol plants being planned or built in the US. Plus, right now most ethanol is E10 (10% ethanol and 90% gas), but there is also E85 availabe (85% ethanol and 15% gas) that flexible fuel cars can burn. If we were burning E85, our dependency on oil would start to decline (plus it's cleaner burning).

    I think over time, we'll see flexible fuel hybrid cars getting over 70 mph burning E85. So, I believe the article is right. Humans have tended to adapt to changing times and learn how to cope.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Metieval's Avatar
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    I don't see gas companys losing money!!!!!

    If half of the people stopped buying gas because they can't afford it. Gas prices will go up to make up the differance. Thus rich people will pay the price just because they can. I am sure they will *****, moan and complain. But they will buy it at any price just because they can afford it.


    my thoughts without any research to back it up. so I could be totally off base. but it is my own opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by genericbikedude
    ETHANOL=HUGE MONOCROP CORNFIRELS=MONSANTO

    Ethanol will likely play a role in the future, but there is no way that we could grow enough ethanol crops to feed our current ridiculously profligate lifestyle.

    Biodiesel depends on grease. If we are ever to seriously rely on that, we are all going to have to eat nothing but deep-fried food morning noon and night. Plus our cities will smell like french fries.

    Yes, I totally agree with you. We can't continue to drive cars that get 15 to 20 mph and we can't continue to be wasteful with energy. I guess that's my point - there will be change. However, I don't think the sky is going to fall or that the world as we know it is over. There is just going to be change, just like there has been throughout human history. Change is inevitable. So, you might be right that we can't grow enough to produce ethanol at the current rate of consumption, but it will provide another resource that will help balance out the reduction in oil supplies.

    As another example, I put in a high efficency wood burning stove in my house last year that heats the entire house much better than the oil furnace. My oil bills went down to just about nothing. Did my life change? Yes, a little, it means I have to cut, chop and stack wood. Did my standard of living change? No, not at all (except maybe for the better) - I just have to plan a little bit more and think about cutting wood off my property. Not a big thing at all. The nice thing is I have enough wood on my property to easily last the rest of my life (and the next tenant's life) and I get a nice, free workout.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metieval
    I don't see gas companys losing money!!!!!

    If half of the people stopped buying gas because they can't afford it. Gas prices will go up to make up the differance. Thus rich people will pay the price just because they can. I am sure they will *****, moan and complain. But they will buy it at any price just because they can afford it.


    my thoughts without any research to back it up. so I could be totally off base. but it is my own opinion.
    I think you may be right to an extent, but this goes against the old "supply and demand" of Economics 101. If people stop buying gas, then there won't be as much demand and the price should drop. Right now, there's lots of demand (especially with emerging markets like China) so the price is going up and, unfortunately, there will probably be a high demand for energy in the foreseeable future.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Metieval's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CTBiker1001
    I think you may be right to an extent, but this goes against the old "supply and demand" of Economics 101. If people stop buying gas, then there won't be as much demand and the price should drop. Right now, there's lots of demand (especially with emerging markets like China) so the price is going up and, unfortunately, there will probably be a high demand for energy in the foreseeable future.

    Yeah it don't fit into Econmics 101 "old school" but it does fit into the modern day business ethic of "Get it now while you can and then get out"


    *shrugs* I think the oil industry is crooked. I guess I like the changes they brought to my life with my driving and I enjoy my commutes. But at the same time I worry about when businesses on a general level breaks because of the gas prices.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by genericbikedude
    ETHANOL=HUGE MONOCROP CORNFIRELS=MONSANTO

    Ethanol will likely play a role in the future, but there is no way that we could grow enough ethanol crops to feed our current ridiculously profligate lifestyle.

    Biodiesel depends on grease. If we are ever to seriously rely on that, we are all going to have to eat nothing but deep-fried food morning noon and night. Plus our cities will smell like french fries.

    Ethanol from corn is a net energy LOSER, in other words, it costs more in energy to make than you get out, it wont work.Switch to sugar beets, sugar cane or some other better choice and it will work, sort of.Takes alot more ethanol per volume of air versus gasoline to run an engine.We are drinking 20 million bpd of crude in the US daily, about 1/2 that is for transportation.If we switched to just ethanol just for arguments sake, we would need to produce more than 20 million bpd of ethanol just to maintain the status quo, and that would be for transportation only, doesnt address the massive petroleum inputs needed for farming so we can eat. In an engine like cars use, 1 gallon of gasoline is like 3-4 gallons of ethanol, ethanol doesnt scale as well nor does it provide anywhere near the energy output per gallon that gasoline does.The air fuel ratio for gasoline in an engine is roughly 14-15:1, with ethanol its about 4-5:1 I believe.Alcohol also has to be preheated so it will vaporize and mix with air, so cold weather can be a problem, fuel injection fixes most of that.

    The US has huge companies actively lobbying against changes that will lead to a better future for the US, until that ends or the govt quits listening to them, things are gonna get bad, real bad.The new energy bill is a classic, the corn lobby won bigtime, ya lets make more ethanol from corn that costs more to make it than you get back out.

    Another issue and its the real killer here, this is what will be the big problem.Limited and declining energy input means an end to unlimited growth.Once that happens and is realized alot of other issues come up.The govt and citizens base our whole lives and budgets on never ending growth, we plan on growing our way out of debt, what happens when that no longer becomes possible?Kiss SSI goodbye, the govt goes insolvent, and the US becomes yet another debtor nation ike the South American countries the US has exploited with its hegemony and pillaging of their natural resources.The fractionalized margin banking system quits working cause without growth, it doesnt work either.

    All the technology in the world cannot and will not solve social problems, delays the inevitable for awhile or creates new problems, and thats about it.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by pedex
    Ethanol from corn is a net energy LOSER, in other words, it costs more in energy to make than you get out, it wont work.Switch to sugar beets, sugar cane or some other better choice and it will work, sort of.Takes alot more ethanol per volume of air versus gasoline to run an engine.We are drinking 20 million bpd of crude in the US daily, about 1/2 that is for transportation.If we switched to just ethanol just for arguments sake, we would need to produce more than 20 million bpd of ethanol just to maintain the status quo, and that would be for transportation only, doesnt address the massive petroleum inputs needed for farming so we can eat. In an engine like cars use, 1 gallon of gasoline is like 3-4 gallons of ethanol, ethanol doesnt scale as well nor does it provide anywhere near the energy output per gallon that gasoline does.The air fuel ratio for gasoline in an engine is roughly 14-15:1, with ethanol its about 4-5:1 I believe.Alcohol also has to be preheated so it will vaporize and mix with air, so cold weather can be a problem, fuel injection fixes most of that.
    Right now, yes Ethanol is an energy loser, but they are improving the process. Brazil did a great job using sugar beets, which you mention, and are now energy independent and growing economy. Despite the problem with Ethanol, there is some validity to all this in that the US at one time burned mostly carbohydrates (plant products) for fuel vs. fossil fuels as we do now. Then oil took off due to the greater energy potential. Your ratios are incorrect on Ethanol. It is not 3 or 4 to 1. If using E85 (85% Ethanol blend), a FFV (Flexible Fuel Vehicle) like a new Ford Explorer gets 12mpg vs 16mpg overall so the difference is about 33% more fuel required for same output.
    The US has huge companies actively lobbying against changes that will lead to a better future for the US, until that ends or the govt quits listening to them, things are gonna get bad, real bad.The new energy bill is a classic, the corn lobby won bigtime, ya lets make more ethanol from corn that costs more to make it than you get back out.
    Yes, this is one of the ugly consequences of capitalism, and corporations in general. Usually the sytem has some checks and balances, but this particular administration takes the side of big business in most arguments, and even goes further in trying to remove or influence those organizations responsible for oversight, such as editing EPA reports. Bad, bad, bad.
    Another issue and its the real killer here, this is what will be the big problem.Limited and declining energy input means an end to unlimited growth.Once that happens and is realized alot of other issues come up.The govt and citizens base our whole lives and budgets on never ending growth, we plan on growing our way out of debt, what happens when that no longer becomes possible?Kiss SSI goodbye, the govt goes insolvent, and the US becomes yet another debtor nation ike the South American countries the US has exploited with its hegemony and pillaging of their natural resources.The fractionalized margin banking system quits working cause without growth, it doesnt work either.
    In general, some growth is desirable due to population growth, and economic tradition of improving the standard of living (more goods per capita). What needs to happen is rampant population growth needs to be contained worldwide, as well as resetting material expectations to be sustainable. Unfortunately, our current administration is also on the wrong side of this fence too, especially with regard to population control. No administration I know of has ever dared take up the topic of reducing consumerism, although the Green Party has some thoughts on the matter. Doubtful that will go anywhere as most people just don't get it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnroads

    In general, some growth is desirable due to population growth, and economic tradition of improving the standard of living (more goods per capita). What needs to happen is rampant population growth needs to be contained worldwide, as well as resetting material expectations to be sustainable. Unfortunately, our current administration is also on the wrong side of this fence too, especially with regard to population control. No administration I know of has ever dared take up the topic of reducing consumerism, although the Green Party has some thoughts on the matter. Doubtful that will go anywhere as most people just don't get it.

    This is exactly one of the changes that I think will occur over time. People will have to take a hard look at having 2 or more kids. It may just become economically impossilbe over time to have lots of kids.

    And I agree there are currently issues with Ethanol, Liquid Natural Gas, electric cars, etc. But a lot of the problems have been because not much research has gone into improving these technologies due to cheap oil. I'm not saying that a resource like Ethanol is the final answer to our energy needs, but it's just one of many different resources that will probably be researched in more depth as oil continues to rise.

    In the short term, I think people will slow down on their car use. I still own and use a car, but I make "car-free" days (like today) were I just don't use it at all, mainly because of the expense.

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