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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Linearity and Conservation

Human beings appreciate linearity. We cope with an analog world by applying linearity. For example, most audio systems use principles of linearity to avoid distortion and provide a wide dynamic range. Linearity enables an audio amplifier to range from a whisper to a scream with nary a change in a waveform and allows the use of the same electronic analog filter independent of volume.

The oil shock model exhibits the same properties of linearity. Acting as a response filter on an initial discovery impulse, given the same scaled input stimuli, we should expect the same scaled production profile, assuming that we keep the same rate parameters.

But, in the real world, should we expect this scaling to naturally occur? In short: yes. And the simple reason why: greed.

Say that the USA had a single delta discovery of x GBls of oil in 1930. And that this contributed to a production profile that peaked in 1970. Given the same extraction rates per unit volume, we should expect that the profile would look exactly the same except for the height of the peak, if instead of x GBls we had found an extra 10x Gbls worth of oil in the original discovery.

But truly this only makes sense if we add the greed quotient to the equation. With human greed doing its part, the 10x worth of oil would have flowed like water. Civilization would have used the excess cheap oil for outdoor air-conditioners in Palm Springs and a myriad of other activities that we would consider nowadays as wasteful. For the same reason that we can suck every last drop out of the Colorado River or shoot every last passenger pigeon out of the sky, we would have used up the same fractional volume of oil by now, no matter how much we originally had.

Conservation remains the only route to stem the tide.

What not to do? Act like a JackAssMissile.
This morning, the Democrats gave a news conference on energy independence. It was the usual melange of Bush bashing and fantasy; Chuck Schumer said that $3 a gallon for gasoline is a metaphor for the Bush administration's incompetence, and John Kerry said that we need to invent our way to energy independence. A good idea, as long as we aren't counting on Kerry to do the inventing, and we have a plan for what to do in the meantime.

Dim Dick Durbin had the most concrete suggestion: burn corn!

I'm well aware of the political power of ethanol, and of its utility, at the margin, as an energy source. But the idea that burning midwestern corn can replace burning petroleum is absurd. And there has been, for a decade now, a concrete proposal on the table whereby Americans would work at good-paying jobs to produce energy that would reduce this country's dependence on foreign energy sources. But the Democrats have successfully blocked drilling for oil in ANWR, time after time.

"Energy independence" is one more in a long series of issues on which the Democrats have nothing serious to contribute.
Now let's put the thoory of greed to practice. In this case, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would just continue to feed the greed machine. Pointing out any opposition to drilling there, the wingnuts implicitly suggest that enviornmentalists violate the 'minionist's goal to support the linear law of greed. When all else fails, conservation remains the only negative feedback in the loop to keep the mighty wurlitzer amplifier in check.

Ask anyone who has built an audio amplifier the utility of negative feedback, and you will understand.

Update: Interesting link on linearity.
Here’s the fundamental fallacy of linear thinking: if you think something is good, you just do more of it and pretend that this will make the future even better. Such thinking also can be (and has been) used to justify fantastic levels of inequality that more integrated types of thinking would simply see as absurd. If we really are in it together, over the long haul, then of course what happens to any segment of society at any time has an effect on the rest, just as every element in a closed natural cycle is important to the health of the whole. But unhook the parts from the whole, unhook humans from nature and from each other, and set them each on a separate line towards an ultimate end point, and this is what you get: each against all, a society of parents simultaneously bludgeoned and bedazzled into stealing the future from their children, or their grandchildren.


Professor Blogger Hecate said...


8:39 AM  

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