Life After The Oil Crash
I have placed some of the text from the Life After the Oil Crash Website so that I can reply in detail and receive public comments from our members. Our comment feature will be opened to visitor opinions and feedback in the near future. It is very important that Matt's errors and wrong assumptions are corrected and that our Open Eco Community will be encouraged and empowered to progress with positive action in the face of the bankruptcy of and hopelessness of our leaders and the technical authorities and experts on whom they rely. At the grass roots we, ordinary people, will need to take responsibility to work together to build a sustainable future.
My responses will be added throughout the text of this page gradually over the next days and weeks. Your comments on what I write can be inserted at the same point or can be placed at the bottom of the page. Anyone is welcome to make new page(s) if they plan to make a detailed critique.
Matt Savinar wrote:
Biofuels: Biofuels such as biodiesel, ethanol, methanol etc - are great - but only in small doses. If we wanted to replace even a small part of our current oil supply with farm grown biofuels, we would need to turn most of Africa into a giant biofuel farm.
Obviously many Africans - who are already starving - would not take kindly to us appropriating the land they use to grow their food to grow our fuel. Any attempt to turn Africa into a large-scale biofuel farm will likely result in a continental-sized insurgency. As George Monbiot points out, such a project would be a humanitarian disaster.
Some folks are doing research into biodiesel producing pools of algae. As with every other project that promises to "end our dependence on foreign oil," perhaps some day the project will produce a commercially available barrel of biodiesel. Twenty years after that - if by some miracle our economy is still intact - maybe we will have scaled production of algae derived biodiesel up to a level where it will make some type of small difference in the life of the average American.
But until that miraculous day comes, we had better prepare as though these projects will make as much of a difference as every other project that confidently proclaims - always within the earshot of its potential investors/benefactors - that it "can replace all oil and gas imported from other nations/used in transportation/etc, while improving the economy, cleaning up the environment, and in just a few years to boot!" Again, should we be investing in such projects? Absolutely yes. But for the average person to expect a project still in the research and development stages to prevent the collapse of a global economy that is currently consuming 30 billion barrels of oil (that is 1.2 trillion gallons) per year is as naive as anything Neville Chamberlain uttered in the years leading up to World War II.
For a comprehensive discussion of other alternatives to oil, click here.
What about biodiesel?
The good news is biodiesel may be the best alternative we have. That’s also the bad news.
A diesel-powered machine can be adapted to run on biodiesel with relative ease. This does not mean, however, that biodiesel can provide us with enough affordable energy to do more than slightly soften the coming collapse. As with all the alternatives, the issue is not one of technical feasibility, but rather scalability.
US biodiesel production currently has a ceiling of 100 million gallons per year. This is the equivalent of about 2.5 million barrels of oil, or the amount the US currently consumes in less than 3 hours.
Although the ceiling is 100 million gallons (or about 2.5 million barrels), only 25 million gallons (or about 600,000 barrels) were actually produced last year. This was enough biodiesel to power the US economy for about 45 minutes.
By 2020, US demand for oil may be pushing 30 million barrels of oil per day. Even if US biodiesel production is scaled up by 40,000 percent, it will not provide us with more than a week’s supply of fuel.
Unfortunately, it is not physically possible to scale up biodiesel production enough to provide us with even this comparatively meager amount.
Typically, biodiesel is typically produced from vegetables such as soybeans. This is problematic for two reasons:
1. As explained previously, the US population will soon outstrip our ability to produce food. Within a few decades, we won’t have enough arable land on which to grow food, let alone fuel.
2. Given the petroleum-intensive nature of modern agriculture, the use of vegetable oil as fuel is typically an energy loser, although according to some studies, a positive EROEI might be achievable if certain plants are used.
One proposal making the rounds on the Internet involves building 11,000 square feet of shallow concrete pools in which to grow biodiesel-producing algae. The amount of energy required by such a project is truly breathtaking. To pave 11,000 square miles with concrete four inches deep would require 3,785,955,556 cubic yards of concrete. This is enough concrete to build 25 cities the size of San Francisco. To make matters worse, acquiring this amount of concrete would require massive investments in fossil fuel-powered construction and transportation. The plan is rife with numerous other problems of scalability such as the logistics of maintaining 11,000 square miles worth of plastic or glass roof sheeting.
Keep in mind this mammoth project would have to be completed in the midst of ever-worsening oil shortages and rapidly deteriorating economic conditions.
Amazingly, many intelligent people actually feel such a plan is a pragmatic solution to the coming oil shocks. This is a startling indicator of the degree to which many people are unable to appreciate to complex and mammoth relationship of oil to the world economy.
As usual, however, most people don’t want to be bothered with facts. Consequently, you can expect to see more and more articles in the mainstream media about the wonders of biodiesel. The peasantry is easily duped by such puff pieces, as we desperately want to believe alternatives like biodiesel can allow us to continue business as usual.
We’ve got 700 million internal combustion engines on the road. The world uses 30 billion barrels of oil per year. By 2020, the world will need as much as 45 billion barrels of oil. Converting a few thousand, or even 50-60 million, vehicles to biodiesel is not going to stop the collapse of petrochemical civilization.
01 February 2005
- 01:50 by LucasGonzalez
- "what i've found is all there is". This is ignorance of initiatives and should be corrected.
- "trends will go on". This is an assumption of linearity.
- ... etc
- How many vehicles are easily convertible to diesel?