Untitled - April 22, 2006

The other night, I got more depressed than I have in a long time by merely listening to a radio show. Tom Ashbrook, in a show titled America's Oil Addiction was interviewing, first, David Morris, Vice President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and author of "A Better Way: Driving Without Oil" and "The Carbohydrate Economy." It was great to hear a voice hopeful that, despite the task in front of us, we have a chance at being able to alter our course and, as a nation and planet, switch from petroleum to carbohydrate (biomass) based fuels.

But then came "the skeptic" -- Tadeusz Patzek, Professor of Geo-engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and author of "Give Up Now: Why We're Doomed."

Okay, I made up that book.

Patzek essentially said that Morris' is a pipe dream, and that it will never happen. Not because of politicians or society, or a bunch of things that, at least theoretically, we can turn around, but because of The Laws of Nature. While he didn't spell out precisely how he has figured it out, he's basically saying that in terms of how much energy can be produced by photosynthesis on the planet as a whole, it's just physically impossible that biomass could produce enough energy to fuel our planet.

He started by saying that for Morris' future to be possible, we'd still only be able to drive our biomass-assisted electric cars once a month to be able to live with that kind of energy output. He went on to predict the collapse of the suburbs (guess we picked the wrong time to buy a house) and cities.

What Patzek was saying was grim indeed. I had heard him before though, and now with him in the same "room" as it were with someone with a different outlook, I was waiting with baited breath for Morris to soundly refute Patzek's argument. Hopefully to specifically refute his calculations.

His rebuttal was less than compelling. And that's what made me depressed. I desperately want to believe that there's at least an actionable plan to switch from oil and still have a sustainable economy. Questions about whether to bring children into the world would seem to depend upon the answer.

And I don't know who to believe. After all, Paul R. Ehrlich was predicting a similarly apocalyptic future back in the 70's with "The Population Bomb." And if I understand correctly, that did not come to pass (as revealed by today's population).

But frankly, I'd like not to wait for the proof to reveal itself empirically.

I think I need to read up on this... and buy a hybrid.


The problems I have with a lot of the counter arguments to making attempts to fix things, much of it being that the economy will collapse, generally by the energy/ oil companys, is when it comes down to it we don't have to be so excessive with our use of fuels, be it oil or coal etc.

Our Government here is refusing to sign the Kyoto agreement on some pretense of the economy collapsing and that all that green science is fooyi.

Interstingly there has recently been a coalition of business leaders formed to try and force the populace and the government to start doing something. They are using data that says unless we do something soon to stop the problem in the long term the cost to society will be much bigger and the world would be looking at serious economic collapse. Without a well running society and economy they cannot make money, it's all very orientated around ensuring that in the long term their business makes money but it may just be the ticket to turn things around.

In fact, I think it will make a huge differance to government policy, they only like to listen to the big end of town and when the banks, insurance companys etc start pushing for reform, and start putting their political donations towards the party that acts in their best interest...

Yeah, hybrids are the way to go.

Posted by: Jeremy on April 22, 2006 11:31 PM