RE: Energy issues, Olduvai ,Seti and End times

Date: Wed Sep 27 2000 - 14:38:43 EDT

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    On Wed Sep 27 07:08:01 2000, "Vandergraaf, Chuck" <> wrote:
    > Where I think Richard Duncan is making a mistake is by linking technological
    > progress with energy consumption.

    In that, I don't think he is making a mistake. The agricultural revolution
    which drew us from the hunter-gatherer way of life was due to the harnessing of
    animal power to pull the plows. Without that extra energy, two men with a plow
    can't plant very much. But with a cow, a plow and a man, acres can be planted
    rapidly. After that point, the population began to grow, forcing early man to
    farm more. Wood was the principle energy source with minor amounts of coal.
    Coal could not be mined very deeply because there was no way to drain the water
    out of the mines effectively. Agricola described a rag and chain pump that was
    able to lift water from as deep as 60 feet but, it was like stiking wet towels
    into the water and then lifting the towel up for squeeging. It wasn't until
    the second energy crisis, when Europe was nearly deforested for fuel, that we
    solved the problem of draining the mines via pumps. They invented the
    centrifugal pump in 1689 which was able to lift water much more effectively.
    AFter that a new energy supply was available and the industrial revolution took
    off. Coal was king. But coal couldn't easily move a personal vehicle. It could
    move trains, but not cars. While a train could carry product at 60 mph, once it
    reached the station it had to go by horse and carriage. I was once told that
    in the Great Plains of the US, the train tracks are about 12 miles apart,
    allowing a horse to carry a load into town and back home in a day. Thus when
    oil came along, it solved that problem and made transporation rapid on all
    fronts. Product could be carried from the train to the home at 60 mph.

     History teaches us that we made a fair
    > bit of progress in science before we started using vast amounts of energy.

    Yes, but we didn't have much of a GNP

    > Many societies developed quite nicely without using vast amounts of energy.
    > Look at the Chinese, for example.

    I am not sure that most citizens of North America would want to live as they
    do. And if you get right down to it from this point of view, the Papua New
    Guineans get along just fine without any energy source. And so do the hunter-
    > My guess (and I'm in the nuclear business) is that, when society is faced
    > with energy shortages, nuclear technology will become more acceptable and
    > that nuclear power should take care of much, if not most, of the industrial
    > and residential demands.

    I would agree, only if we plan ahead. We can't take 20-25 years to bring a nuke
    on line as was the case with Commanche Peak just SW of Dallas. If we take that
    long, we couldn't bring another nuke online until 2025 by which time we will
    most assuredly be having difficulties with oil.

    As for
    > marine transportation, we still have lots of coal and could go back to
    > coal-fired ships.

    That is an interesting question. I heard one guy say that in the US by 2040 it
    will cost more to remove coal from the ground than it will produce in energy. I
    don't know if he is correct, but if so, we can't engage in energy sinks.

    Speaking of energy sinks, I heard one analyst say that the oil that Clinton is
    releasing from the Strategic reserve cost $60 / barrel to buy and store. Thus
    Clinton is using $60 oil to save us from $34 oil.

    > In short, I think Richard Duncan is a bit of an alarmist, but it make for
    > good copy. Mind you, he did paint a scenario for the spring of 2001. We'll
    > see how close he was in another six months.

    I would agree that his scenario won't happen in 6 months. I think he is
    terribly wrong on that. By 2020-2030? Maybe.

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