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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Woodwork: Crawling out of the

Apuleius posted a Peak Oil trial balloon to the popular juro5hin techno discussion board.
The free market can drive people to try all sorts of things. But whether they succeed depends primarily on the laws of physics, which the free market cannot defeat. It cannot drive new discoveries of oil if there isn't any left to discover. It cannot get people to invent impossible technologies, but it can certainly get people to try. And people are already trying. Anyone who develops new solutions to our energy problems stands to gain such astonishing rewards, that it is ludicrous to think that if these rewards are increased by X amount, our savior will pop out of the woodwork.
A large percentage of the commenters in this thread have taken the attitude that a combination of market forces and technical advances will pull us out.
With low oil prices, what is the incentive to develop alternative energy sources? Who would invest in such an endeavor? Only governments, and ecologically driven individuals.

The thing about capitalism is that there is a limited amount of capital available for investment. That capital goes to what its holders feel is likely to turn the highest profit, quickest and with the least risk.

Until recently it was pretty certain that if anyone developed an alternative energy source that was cheaper than gas, OPEC would just open up the spigot, and lower the price of gas, thereby putting the alternative out of business.

This is what OPEC is all about. OPEC holds prices just low enough to inhibit the development of alternatives. Obviously, when the spigot is wide open, OPEC has lost its power. And for every dollar oil rises, investments in alternatives are that much more attractive.

So, increasing the rewards by X may be exactly what is needed. Because, the investment is Y, and if X/Y is not better than other investments, nobody is going to invest Y. The investment is potentially huge, like the infrastructure for distributing hydrogen.

Finally, I fail to see how this presents a major challenge to humanity. In the US most of that energy is just going to our convenience, luxury and leisure. It is hardly a catastrophe if our lives are suddenly somewhat less convenient, luxurious and leisurely.
and it also attracted the delusional techies who know a few BS buzzwords:
This is not about energy or the availability or oil or any other energy source. This is about greed plain and simple. It is possible to make practically unlimited qauntities of oil very cheaply using thermal depolymerization. Thermal depolymerization uses waste products to create oil including plastic, turkey offal, medical waste, and sewage.

But every technical discussion board needs it's requisite share of devil's advocates:
"not many long chain hydrocarbons in sh*t."

Update: To get the geeks and impressionable youth interested, Stirling Newberry describes "how hunting for pizza money is like oil."


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