Buddhism and Peak Oil

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:01 am

kirtu wrote:We can push energy costs to next to nothing as solar furnaces and abundant wind and solar power are brought online worldwide over the next century.


Unlikely given that alternative energy sources don't pack the same power punch as fossil fuels. You also need fossil fuels to build and maintain alternative energy sources.



However we will also find that we still need nuclear power and will think through safer nuclear design. Additionally we could also revisit Dr. Gerald K. O'Neil's ideas on large solar arrays in space.


Nuclear power's by-product unfortunately has to be isolated from people and the environment for spans of geological time. Not a wise source of energy.

You also need fossil fuels to build, maintain and decomission nuclear power plants.


Oil production: over the next century we will begin synthesizing critical materials using micro and nanotech technology. So energy will be tight for a while relative to our past abundance but by the end of the century these specific problems will essentially have solutions.


Almost the entire world is gambling on solutions appearing that will allow the privileged part of the world to maintain a comfortable middle-class lifestyle with enormous quantities of consumption.

This is called the religion of progress. There are ecological limits and we've overshot them already unfortunately.
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:57 am

Huseng wrote:This is called the religion of progress.


The nail on the head, you've just hit here.
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby Malcolm » Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:06 pm

Huseng wrote:The whole global infrastructure depends upon oil and even with alternative energy sources online they still won't pack the same power punch.

With declining standards of living we're likely to see a lot of social problems arise. The utopian ideas of some Buddhist thinkers in the past century will prove infeasible and this will visibly be demonstrated, too.


We agree.
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby KeithBC » Sun Jan 01, 2012 3:33 am

Peak OIl, like Climate Change, is just one symptom of the bigger problem. The problem is unsustainability, and our civilization is quite determined to deny it until the end. In fact, our civilization depends on denying it. All things are impermanent, but when something is unsustainable, the manner of its demise is predictable, if not the timing.

The official definition of sustainabilty is a model of bureaucratic double-speak that allows anyone to rationalize driving a Hummer as long as their kids drive one too. When I talk about sustainability, I mean something different, and much simpler. I mean zero net consumption of resources.

As long as a resource is, in the net, consumed, that consumption cannot be sustained beyond the exhaustion of the resource. That is why all mines eventually run out, and why most ghost towns are former mining towns. The larger problem is that there is not a single natural resource on the planet that is being used sustainably.

Oil is not the first resource to be harvested to exhaustion. Peak Oil theory suggests that it may be the first whose depletion will have a catastrophic effect on civilization. But whether it is oil or some other resource, or some combination of resources, a civilization that depends on the consumption of resources cannot survive their exhaustion.

Life will go on after civilization collapses. Perhaps it will include human life. There will be suffering. And, where there is suffering, there will be the need for a path to end it. The Dharma will survive.

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby kirtu » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:27 am

Huseng wrote:
kirtu wrote:We can push energy costs to next to nothing as solar furnaces and abundant wind and solar power are brought online worldwide over the next century.


Unlikely given that alternative energy sources don't pack the same power punch as fossil fuels.


That's true but they are also vastly underutilized currently. Germany went from virtually no solar and wind power usage to wind generating 6% of total electricity and solar generating 3%. They are shooting for total renewable production by 2050 with solar generating 25% of that total. And they are not using solar furnaces (because they really don't have enough sunny days).

While the US probably can't make such a commitment (in large part because it is the country of can't do having sacrificed it's future to a extremely cynical view of "practicality" completely dominated by very short term thinking) total renewable energy right now accounts for 14% of total electricity production. Even such a visionless, leaderless society has stumbled in the right direction.

It is not a big technological problem to take the majority of the world and switch them to 25% solar electricity generation within a 20 year period. It's just a matter of leadership.

Currently the world produces 20 TW of electricity per year, 6 TW more than in 2000. The large jump is most likely due to 1/3 of China being pulled into the 20th century. Renewables in China account for 17% of it's electricity generation.

Current world electricity production is 11% of the energy that falls on Earth from the Sun every hour. We can actually harness that energy for real (as in, for real from an engineering perspective) to eliminate energy production problems. Kurzweil has also noted that solar power production seems to have begun to grow exponentially a la Moores Law. In this case every 2 years world solar power doubles. However this observation only goes back 20 years whereas Moores Law goes back to 1965 (but it's observations go back to the 50's - so we have a 60 year history of exponential growth in computer memory and processing power).

Of course right now we do need petroleum to power machines. This is because it used to be plentiful and we built machines to run on processed oil. However we have produced machines that just run on electricity in the past (mostly in the early part of the 20th century). Secondly we can also produce synthetic oil now (the Germans had to do so toward the end of WWII). Well beyond that dirty oil from coal production, we can in the next scientific generation (20 yrs) really begin to use large scale synthetic oil directly from constituent chemicals. The basic work has been done for some time but is not commercially viable yet.

Kurzweil has also noted that parallel to Moores Law human utilization of mechanical power also seems to exhibit exponential growth. However I cannot find Kurzweil's documentation of this (it's in one of his books) an d specifically I can't find a reference to the period involved.

You also need fossil fuels to build and maintain alternative energy sources.


Currently because our entire world was built on fossil fuels. But we can wind them down if we make the commitment.

However we will also find that we still need nuclear power and will think through safer nuclear design. Additionally we could also revisit Dr. Gerald K. O'Neil's ideas on large solar arrays in space.


Nuclear power's by-product unfortunately has to be isolated from people and the environment for spans of geological time. Not a wise source of energy.

You also need fossil fuels to build, maintain and decomission nuclear power plants.


I am talking about inherently safe designs that cannot result in another Fukashima or Chernobyl. As for spent nuclear fuel, we can either store it or send it into the Sun. It's a matter of commitment. We can really move to a completely electrical driven economy for this with the vast majority of electricity generated from renewable energy and the rest generated from nuclear sources. Over time electricity costs actually drop to 0.

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby kirtu » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:41 am

Huseng wrote:This is called the religion of progress.


No - the problem is that a privileged few have secured technology for themselves and restricted it's use bu the vast majority of the world's population. We take technology back and use it to solve human problems for all the people. We can begin to do this on an individual and community basis.

There are ecological limits and we've overshot them already unfortunately.


That's true but the degree to which they are overshot is a matter of debate. Certainly without serious leadership we are in for a series of regional wars over resources. However this can actually be avoided if we aggressively change how we consume resources and produce goods.

The only thing that is certain right now is that 1/4 of Earth's current animal species will unquestionably become extinct over the next 100 years if we do nothing. However even the Chinese have noted the one beneficial use of biological engineering - in this case to save the panda. We can save these species even now (we just can't avoid their natural extermination mostly due to climate change).

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby kirtu » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:12 am

Additionally hydroelectric power has not been maximized and hydroelectric power generation and potential is enormous (although I'd like to see some numbers - there is a plan to dam the Mekong that would result in about 32 GW - the Three Gorges Dam, the dam that make the Yangtze River dolphin extinct, is supposed to generate 200+ GW).

There have been plans to dam the Gibraltar since the 1920's and I saw plans to dam the Being Strait many years ago. Such enormous projects have the potential to eliminate power issues for quite some time. Of course they also pose environmental risk.

As far as the militarial occupation of Tibet goes, it doesn't take that much of a military force to occupy a vastly underpopulated region esp. where the population is basically concentrated around cities and towns and where the people will not take up arms and where passive resistance is met with a bullet (or a disappearance). The history of totalitarian regimes shows that they will eventually be defeated but the PRC shows no evidence of engaging an exit strategy. They seem to think that they can wait until the Dalai Lama has died and trust in the material progress that they have (in their minds) benignly showered upon the region.

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:28 am

kirtu wrote:
I am talking about inherently safe designs that cannot result in another Fukashima or Chernobyl. As for spent nuclear fuel, we can either store it or send it into the Sun. It's a matter of commitment. We can really move to a completely electrical driven economy for this with the vast majority of electricity generated from renewable energy and the rest generated from nuclear sources. Over time electricity costs actually drop to 0.

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Nuclear is one of the least efficient and most polluting energy sources.

N
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby Josef » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:15 am

I like campfires.
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby kirtu » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:10 am

Nangwa wrote:I like campfires.


Campfires are nice but they won't provide the energy needs of 8-9B people by 2050. We are locked into that.

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby kirtu » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:45 pm

Namdrol wrote:
kirtu wrote:
I am talking about inherently safe designs that cannot result in another Fukashima or Chernobyl. As for spent nuclear fuel, we can either store it or send it into the Sun. It's a matter of commitment. We can really move to a completely electrical driven economy for this with the vast majority of electricity generated from renewable energy and the rest generated from nuclear sources. Over time electricity costs actually drop to 0.

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Nuclear is one of the least efficient ... energy sources.

N


Nuclear fission exceeds all other power sources in terms of potential energy by at least 1M times. So how is it the least efficient energy source? Your statement is wholly unsupportable.

Now, given that nuclear fission exceeds other power sources by at least 6 orders of magnitude, why are individual nuclear power plants not generating electric power on the order of 10^15W (the Hoover Dam for example produces 2GW of electricity per year)? And the reason is that we have not tapped nuclear power's vast capability and in that sense nuclear power is currently a less efficient utilization than hydroelectric power.

However in terms of the discussion over Peak Oil, with a possibility that the lights and machines will go off permanently, nuclear power as an energy source can save mankind. Currently France generates 79% of their electricity from nuclear power. We will see if Germany can actually hit their ambitious goals using renewables.

But the discussion is also about China's occupation of Tibet and the consequences of Peak Oil on that occupation. And the Chinese over the next 50 years are going to maximize their power capacity from all sources no matter what. We can live without the massive oil that we have been accustomed to since the 1850's and we can transition to a non-oil centric industrial base. This will not pose a real problem for the Chinese and Peak Oil will have no effect on the occupation.

But here's a prediction: the Chinese will develop practical fusion or possibly cold fusion (the real one that operates at about 700 F). And they will then export this technology to the rest of the world making them the dominate power on the planet by the end of the century. Again.

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:10 pm

kirtu wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
kirtu wrote:
I am talking about inherently safe designs that cannot result in another Fukashima or Chernobyl. As for spent nuclear fuel, we can either store it or send it into the Sun. It's a matter of commitment. We can really move to a completely electrical driven economy for this with the vast majority of electricity generated from renewable energy and the rest generated from nuclear sources. Over time electricity costs actually drop to 0.

Kirt


Nuclear is one of the least efficient ... energy sources.

N


Nuclear fission exceeds all other power sources in terms of potential energy by at least 1M times. So how is it the least efficient energy source? Your statement is wholly unsupportable.


Because of the total amount on energy that goes into mining and refining fissionable material, in addition to the costs of disposing the waste (the sun, really? you have any idea how expensive that would be in terms of energy cost?), constructing the plants, etc.

Nuclear is totally unteneble.
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:32 pm

kirtu wrote:the Chinese will develop practical fusion or possibly cold fusion (the real one that operates at about 700 F). And they will then export this technology to the rest of the world making them the dominate power on the planet by the end of the century. Again.


Speaking of fusion power: how come it's been more than half a century since we performed the first fusion reaction, and we're not even an inch closer to developing fusion-based power plants? Is it the influence of the nuclear and oil lobby, or the the question of practicability, or the costs alone, or something still different?
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby kirtu » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:45 pm

Namdrol wrote:...in addition to the costs of disposing the waste (the sun, really? you have any idea how expensive that would be in terms of energy cost?)


Yes I do, my undergrad degree is in mathematics and I always have basic engineering scoped out.

We launch spent nuclear fuel into the Sun from an orbital railgun (beating swords into plowshares - an adaptation of the proposed Star Wars railguns) or solar sails. Initially we launch spent fuel in small amounts in survivable hardened payloads to orbit although this is mostly for show. We develop a space elevator by the end of the century that takes real payloads for very little cost to low Earth orbit. It's all just engineering.

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby kirtu » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:51 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:
kirtu wrote:the Chinese will develop practical fusion or possibly cold fusion (the real one that operates at about 700 F). And they will then export this technology to the rest of the world making them the dominate power on the planet by the end of the century. Again.


Speaking of fusion power: how come it's been more than half a century since we performed the first fusion reaction, and we're not even an inch closer to developing fusion-based power plants? Is it the influence of the nuclear and oil lobby, or the the question of practicability, or the costs alone, or something still different?


Those fusion reactions were uncontrolled and that's easy to do.

We have advanced fusion technology but governments have not decided to back it as a full in research project. Some still doubt whether fusion power can actually be commercially exploited.

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:52 pm

kirtu wrote:However in terms of the discussion over Peak Oil, with a possibility that the lights and machines will go off permanently, nuclear power as an energy source can save mankind. Currently France generates 79% of their electricity from nuclear power. We will see if Germany can actually hit their ambitious goals using renewables.


The lights will still stay on. Alternative energy sources, particularly small-scale wind, can be simple technology made with hand tools and easily setup anywhere on the planet. Lightbulbs are also easy enough to produce. However, that model assumes people use far less energy and more or less just have one or two power sockets in their houses. The present North American middle-class lifestyle wouldn't be possible for all but the super rich.

In any case, civilization will probably keep those nuclear plants running as long as possible no matter how many meltdowns and screwups we have in this century. Still, if things go the way Greer predicts as outlined above, there will come a time when we simply won't have the resources to build and maintain those nuclear plants. They can't generate enough electricity to replace a whole infrastructure based on finite fossil fuels.

But the discussion is also about China's occupation of Tibet and the consequences of Peak Oil on that occupation. And the Chinese over the next 50 years are going to maximize their power capacity from all sources no matter what.


Right, but internally China could just as easily fracture (it already is in some places) and this could lead to a replay of what occurred in Chinese history before: generals staging mutinies and factions claiming territories for themselves in spite of whatever the central state tries to do. Right now things are going well economically, but that could just as easily change. You already had one major mutiny that got global attention in the last few weeks. The central planning might be working reasonably okay for the moment, but things could look mighty different in fifty years.

We can live without the massive oil that we have been accustomed to since the 1850's and we can transition to a non-oil centric industrial base. This will not pose a real problem for the Chinese and Peak Oil will have no effect on the occupation.


Really? I imagine it takes a lot of fossil fuels to maintain the garrisons in Tibet.

How is it that China, let alone the rest of the world, is going to transition from an economy and infrastructure that is based in its majority on fossil fuels to something that isn't? There are token attempts to adopt alternative energy sources, but they are but a small fraction of the infrastructure. Everything from planes to trucks to agriculture to this computer I'm using use essential fossil fuels, not solar power.


But here's a prediction: the Chinese will develop practical fusion or possibly cold fusion (the real one that operates at about 700 F). And they will then export this technology to the rest of the world making them the dominate power on the planet by the end of the century. Again.


Fusion has been in the works for decades and nobody has produced a system that actually generates more power than what goes into it.
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:42 pm

Huseng wrote:
How is it that China, let alone the rest of the world, is going to transition from an economy and infrastructure that is based in its majority on fossil fuels to something that isn't?


Yak shit!
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby catmoon » Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:16 am

Fusion power passed the breakeven point years ago. It's still not commercially viable though. The basic problem is confining a hot dense plasma with electromagnetic fields. The confinement is horrendously unstable (think of picking up the soap in the shower) and the mathematics visciously difficult. The intense radiation environment around the plasma slowly degrades nearby steel and concrete structures, meaning you have to reline the reactor periodically, and wouldn't you just know it, the material removed is radioactive. Lastly, I can't see how the laws of thermodynamics would allow such a reactor to run without generating massive amounts of waste heat, so you'd need a small river to cool one.
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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby kirtu » Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:25 am

Huseng wrote:
kirtu wrote:However in terms of the discussion over Peak Oil, with a possibility that the lights and machines will go off permanently, nuclear power as an energy source can save mankind. Currently France generates 79% of their electricity from nuclear power. We will see if Germany can actually hit their ambitious goals using renewables.


The lights will still stay on. Alternative energy sources, particularly small-scale wind, can be simple technology made with hand tools and easily setup anywhere on the planet. Lightbulbs are also easy enough to produce. However, that model assumes people use far less energy and more or less just have one or two power sockets in their houses. The present North American middle-class lifestyle wouldn't be possible for all but the super rich.


That's true. The world has to scale back energy consumption. However take a look at the energy consumption in Western Europe. It's lower than the US (and I think Canada) but this is not obvious to the visitor. We will continue to improve the efficiency of devices, esp. electronic devices and not suffer terribly as a result. Furthermore these improvements will be adopted from the start by the Global South.

They can't generate enough electricity to replace a whole infrastructure based on finite fossil fuels.

We can live without the massive oil that we have been accustomed to since the 1850's and we can transition to a non-oil centric industrial base. This will not pose a real problem for the Chinese and Peak Oil will have no effect on the occupation.


Really? I imagine it takes a lot of fossil fuels to maintain the garrisons in Tibet.


No it doesn't. China has used fossil fuels because the entire world's transportation and military equipment maintenance and use is currently based on oil. The point is that we can transition to [url=http://www.gizmag.com/go/5859/]electric use even of military equipment[.url] rather than oil esp. in an occupation of a passive populace. Now what Peak Oil does do is ensure low intensity conflicts punctuated by the use of wonder weapons. So more terrorism and conflicts like we saw in Afghanistan, West and Eat Africa, Myanmar and Thailand. The era of large scale maneuvering militaries will slowly wind down (but wait - there's still about 300 yrs of oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels to waste in warmongering) until fossil fuels are totally replaced (but please note that I said from the outside that by the end of the century we will be synthesizing critical materials like synthetic oil directly from constituent molecules using a combination of nanotechnology and biotechnology).

How is it that China, let alone the rest of the world, is going to transition from an economy and infrastructure that is based in its majority on fossil fuels to something that isn't? There are token attempts to adopt alternative energy sources, but they are but a small fraction of the infrastructure. Everything from planes to trucks to agriculture to this computer I'm using use essential fossil fuels, not solar power.


As I said we will replace the oil based infrastructure with a combination of synthesized materials and a reconstructed industrial base. The world was built on oil because it was cheap (from whales and the ground). Now it's a limited resource and humans have to reconstruct the infrastructure from the ground up. Again this is just an engineering problem but is not insurmountable.

Esp. if Germany hits their 80-100% target (or even 50% or 60%) for electricity production from renewables this will take off in Central and Western Europe and will change the Global North and provide a path for the Global South to leap in the 21st Century after 2050.

The Chinese have some time and will watch and learn from this transition. And probably tighten their grip on ethnic minorities.

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Re: Buddhism and Peak Oil

Postby Kai » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:50 pm

Huseng wrote:Fusion has been in the works for decades and nobody has produced a system that actually generates more power than what goes into it.


Under the constant pressure of various oil companies (Who love more money and apparently see the development of nuclear fusion as a threat) and the political plays of their powerful friends in the government, the nuclear fusion research is being undermined and with no serious attention (except lip services) given to it for past few decades but with the threat of rising oil prices, all this might change soon......(hopefully)

Although I think that either Japanese or Europeans are the ones that will make a breakthrough in nuclear fusion research instead of China.
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