Guest Post: The Really, Really Big Picture

Tyler Durden's picture




 

Submitted by Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity,

[Many longtime followers of the Crash Course have asked Chris to update his forecasts for Peak Oil in light of the production increases in shale oil and gas over recent years. What started out as a modest effort at clarification morphed into a much more massive 3-report treatise as Chris sifted through mountains of new data that ultimately left him more convinced than ever we are facing a global net energy crisis despite misguided media efforts intended to convince us otherwise. His reports are being released in series over the next several weeks; the first installment is below.]

There has been a very strong and concerted public-relations effort to spin the recent shale energy plays of the U.S. as complete game-changers for the world energy outlook.  These efforts do not square up well with the data and are creating a vast misperception about the current risks and future opportunities among the general populace and energy organizations alike.  The world remains quite hopelessly addicted to petroleum, and the future will be shaped by scarcity – not abundance, as some have claimed.

This series of reports will assemble the relevant data into a simple and easy-to-understand story that has the appropriate context to provide a meaningful place to begin a conversation and make decisions.

Since completing the Crash Course in October of 2008, much has gone as I anticipated in the way of money printing, official neglect of the main predicaments we face, and generally higher petroleum costs (2012 was the record so far on a yearly basis).

What has not changed is the general trajectory of liquid fuels becoming increasingly expensive and more difficult to produce.  I know that this runs counter to virtually every news article that has come out recently.  It is time to separate the data and facts from the hype.  Much has recently been either muddied or presented so far out of context as to be more distortive than helpful.

This entire body of analysis is so large that it will be broken into three pieces. 

The first is a general world outlook for petroleum that presents the macro picture, provides some necessary clarifications on definitions, and illustrates that all of the data is consistent with the idea that the world is on a plateau of oil production.  Here we note that exactly zero of the major energy outlooks provided by the IEA, the EIA, PB, and especially the inexcusably sloppy piece put out under the auspices of Harvard (the Maugheri report of 2012) all failed to make any mention of the declining net energy provided by any of the new unconventional oil finds.  This is a crucial oversight.

The second report will focus on natural gas in the U.S., with a particular emphasis on shale gas, the supposed game-changer that we have read so much about.  There are some very important elements to this story, but the punch line is that there's nowhere near "100 years" of this magic fuel, it costs more to produce than it is being sold for at present here in early 2013, and – once we include the idea of future increases in consumption – there may only be in the vicinity of 20-30 years of proven and probable reserves. And that is if and only if prices rise by a factor of 2.5x or more from the current $3.30 per therm market price. 

The third will focus on tight oil, often called shale oil (not to be confused with oil shale, a very common mistake), and make the case that, while it may have some modifying effect to the Peak Oil story, it lacks the ability to return the world to anywhere near its prior glory years of ~2% per year growth in global oil output. 

The summary of all three reports leads to the conclusion that all efforts to cram the world full of fresh rounds of new debt lending are going to end in failure because the requisite net energy is simply not there to support continued debt accumulations running several-fold faster than actual economic productive output.

Enormous risks are continuing to build in the world's financial landscape, and the continued unwillingness to confront the truth about our global energy predicament is both puzzling and frightening. The conclusion is that our future resilience as individuals, corporations, or countries will hinge to a very large degree on whether or not we heed the warning signs and adapt our lives and habits to the actual circumstances.

The Really, Really Big Picture

The really big picture goes like this:  Humans discovered about 400 million years worth of stored sunlight in the form of coal, oil, and natural gas, and have developed technologies that will essentially see all of that treasure burned up in just 300 to 400 years. 

On the faulty assumption that fossil fuels will always be a resource we could draw upon, we fashioned economic, monetary, and other assorted belief systems based on permanent abundance, plus a species population on track to number around 9 billion souls by 2050.

There are two numbers to keep firmly in mind.  The first is 22, and the other is 10.  In the past 22 years, half of all of the oil ever burned has been burned.  Such is the nature of exponentially increasing demand.  And the oil burned in the last 22 years was the easy and cheap stuff discovered 30 to 40 years ago.  Which brings us to the number 10.  

In every calorie of food that comes to your table are hidden 10 calories of fossil fuels, making modern agriculture and food delivery the first type in history that consumes more energy than it delivers.  Someday fossil fuels will be all gone.  That day may be far off in the future, but preparing for that day could (and one could argue should) easily require every bit of time we have.

What galls me at this stage is that all of the pronouncements of additional oil being squeezed, fractured, and otherwise expensively coaxed out of the ground are being delivered with the message that there's so much available, there's nothing to worry about (at least, not yet.)  The message seems to be that we can just leave those challenges for future people, who we expect to be at least as clever as us, so they'll surely manage just fine.

Instead, the chart above illustrates that on a reasonably significant timeline, the age of fossil fuels will be intense and historically quite short.  The real question is not Will it run out? but Where would we like to be, and what should the future look like when it finally runs out?  The former question suggests that "maintain the status quo" is the correct response, while the latter question suggests that we had better be investing this once-in-a-species bequeathment very judiciously and wisely. 

Energy is vital to our economy and our easy, modern lives.  Without energy, there would be no economy.  The more expensive our energy is, the more of our economy is dedicated to getting energy instead of other pursuits and activities.  Among the various forms of energy, petroleum is the king of transportation fuels and is indispensible to our global economy and way of life.

To what do we owe the recent explosion in technology and living standards?  To me the answer is simple: energy. 

(Source)

Because a very large proportion of our society was no longer tied up with the time-consuming tasks of growing their own food or building and heating their own shelter, they were free to do other very clever things, like devote their lives to advancing technology.  

When energy starts to get out of reach either economically or geologically, then people revert to more basic things, like trying to stay warm – such as this fellow:

Greeks Raid Forests in Search of Wood to Heat Homes

Jan 11, 2013

EGALEO, Greece—While patrolling on a recent cold night, environmentalist Grigoris Gourdomichalis caught a young man illegally chopping down a tree on public land in the mountains above Athens.

When confronted, the man broke down in tears, saying he was unemployed and needed the wood to warm the home he shares with his wife and four small children, because he could no longer afford heating oil.

"It was a tough choice, but I decided just to let him go" with the wood, said Mr. Gourdomichalis, head of the locally financed Environmental Association of Municipalities of Athens, which works to protect forests around Egaleo, a western suburb of the capital.

Tens of thousands of trees have disappeared from parks and woodlands this winter across Greece, authorities said, in a worsening problem that has had tragic consequences as the crisis-hit country's impoverished residents, too broke to pay for electricity or fuel, turn to fireplaces and wood stoves for heat.

I think it is safe to assume that all of the people in Greece who are chopping down trees to stay warm are not simultaneously working on the next generation of technology.  Energy first; everything else second.  In other words, our perceived wealth and well-being are both derivatives of energy. 

Like every other organism bestowed with abundant food – in this case, fossil fuels that we have converted into food, mobility, shelter, warmth, and a vast array of consumer goods – we first embarked on a remarkable path of exponential population growth.  Along with these assorted freedoms from securing the basics of living, we also fashioned monetary and economic systems that are fully dependent on perpetual exponential growth for their vitality and well-being.  These, too, owe their very sustenance to energy.

It bears repeating:  Not just energy is important here, but net energy.  It's the energy left over after we find and produce energy that is available for society to do all of its complicated and clever things.

Not only is the world struggling right now to increase global oil production, but all of the new and unconventional finds offer us dramatically less net energy to use as we wish. 

Where We Are, in Three Simple Charts

One narrative that is being heavily marketed right now is that the shale plays are true game-changers and there's really nothing to worry about for the foreseeable future.  Heck, the story says that the U.S. will soon exceed Saudi Arabia in oil production and become energy independent, that it has so much natural gas that it might as well build export terminals, and that there's 100 years of natural gas just waiting to be used.

Unfortunately, none of this is really true.  Here's how I can make the case for that assertion using just three charts. 

This first chart comes to us from the EIA courtesy of one Mr. Sweetnam, a former director at the EIA who was promptly reassigned to a distant position when his superiors discovered that this chart revealing declines in existing conventional oil fields had been released to the public.

What this graph shows is the projected decline of all known projects in 2009 (so this does not have the U.S. shale 'revolution' baked into it, but I'll get to that shortly), and it shows that those projects are going to slip from delivering 85 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to just 45 million bpd between 2012 and 2030.  In other words, 40 million bpd will go missing.  But it's worse than that, because demand is expected to grow, leaving a gap of more than 60 million bpd by 2030.

If that sounds like a lot, it is, but that's just an assumed rate of production decline of 4.8% per year, which is right in the midzone of expert estimates.  Some estimate decline rates as high as 6.5%, which would really amplify the drop and the resulting gap.

The top line is showing how much oil demand would grow if it was going to expand at the usual historical rates.  The gap between those two modeled states is 43 million barrels.  To put that in a U.S. shale context, the EIA projects that the domestic shale plays might deliver as much as 3 million barrels per day by 2020, which is nothing to sneeze at, but even with that there's a projected 40 million bpd shortfall

The second chart I want you to look at is this one which shows total world crude oil production over the past 12 years:

Between 2004 and 2012, the total supply of global crude oil + condensates (a definition which excludes the non-transportation fuels known as natural gas plant liquids and biofuels) has just flopped around in a tight band with only 5% wiggle.

It bears noting here that the 2004 average spot price for crude oil (using the Brent contract, as that better defines the 'world oil' price) was $38.35/bbl, while the average 2012 spot price was $111.63, or 2.9 times higher than the 2004 price. 

Despite this near tripling in price, the global supply is just sitting there stuck on a plateau.  Economically speaking, this is not supposed to happen.  What is supposed to happen is that suppliers will react to these higher prices and deliver more to the market, and then prices will settle down.  But that hasn't happened, which indicates that global oil supplies are, as expected, constrained by something other than market forces.

This brings us to the third chart of global spending on oil projects:

What also happened during the time that global supplies of crude oil were undulating along that 5% plateau?  Global expenditures on oil projects jumped by 100% from $300 billion per year to $600 billion.  With a 100% increase in capital spending by the petroleum industry, we saw petroleum supplies remain more or less stuck in the exact same spot. 

I am of the impression that $600 billion a year is a lot of money and that the people dedicating that capital are applying it to the very best projects available.  I make the further assumption that when a project is identified and pursued, it is brought on line as rapidly as possible.  There are not that many ways to look at this data other than noting that we are spending more and more to get the same...for now.

If you want to know why oil costs over $110 on the world stage, the last two charts above give you the answer:  There's just not that much of it to go around.

Despite all of this effort and expense, the world is basically treading water with respect to overall production.  The reason for that is contained in the first chart out of these three:  The race is now on to bring new projects on line quickly enough to offset the losses from existing fields. 

Petroleum is neither a U.S. issue nor any other specific country's issue, but rather a global commodity of immense importance. While the development of the shale plays in the U.S. is of domestic importance, it has not altered the global dynamic of static oil production – at least not detectably in the global supply charts. Not yet.

Conclusion (to Part I)

In Part II: How Energy Woes Will Trigger Financial Crisis, we look at the latest global petroleum supply and demand data and see clearly that cheap oil has become extinct. That era is over for humankind. 

My prediction is that the underlying rates of depletion will continue to fight the recent production gains in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world until they soon come to a standstill, eventually swamping even heroic efforts. 

Steadily rising energy costs and decreasing net energy yields will simply not be able to fund the future economic growth and consumptive lifestyles that developed nations are depending on (and that developing nations are aspiring to). In fact, the persistent global economic weakness we've been experiencing over the past years is an expected symptom of the throttling constraint decreasing net energy places on growth.

If you care about the future of the economy, your standard of living (or that of your children), and/or your quality of life, you need to fully understand this relationship between growth and net energy. Your individual future (and our collective one) depends on it.

Click here to read Part II of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access).

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Wed, 01/16/2013 - 14:49 | 3158801 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

Two words: Thorium LFTR, just to start.

Oil won't likely be depleted... ever, but oil may certainly become uneconomical to burn in a car. At some point in price it becomes economical to simply synthesize it.

Energy is not the issue, we can make energy pretty easily in almost an infinite amount of ways. The true problems we face are the top-down structure of society rather than bottom-up structures, (politics, banking, monetary theory, etc.).

Let people innovate, and create systems that encourage tinkering (bottom-up) and humanity will be fine.

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine the can design.”
? Friedrich A. von Hayek

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 14:53 | 3158834 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Ah yes, remind me.  How many households get their electricity from these reactors again?  Where are we storing the waste?

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:23 | 3159022 FrankDrakman
FrankDrakman's picture

I don't care about thorium, but here in the Great White North (Ontario specifically), electricity from nuclear provides more than half the power consumed by our 13 million people. And we've never had a medium, let alone major, incident. And the waste thing is BS - they produce less than one railcar worth of waste in a year, and we have plenty of exhausted mines up in the Canadian Shield to bury it in.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:33 | 3159065 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

don't ruin a good thing.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 18:53 | 3160040 Matt
Matt's picture

"And we've never had a medium, let alone major, incident. "

Um, you consider Chalk River meltdown a minor incident? Bonus: Jimmy Carter came to save the day!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalk_River_Laboratories

As for nuclear waste, by 2020 we will hopefully be able to use 10 Megawatt lasers to break down the waste: 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-25/world-s-most-powerful-laser-bea...

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:00 | 3158835 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Remind us about how many thorium fuel cycle reactors are currently operating...

And to top things off, you are proposing a massive statist solution, unless you are so fucking stupid as to let profit driven private concerns build reactors (because we just know how well that is turning out...)

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:03 | 3158900 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

The net of humanity will not allow the entire world to go into the 12th century. If some governments decide that's what they want to do, and they have the means, they could do it, but history is a bitch. Those leaders generally don't last long-term.

It doesn't matter who makes the first one, or who innovates it, or what specifically they innovate. It will happen, and it will be copied/pasted. It's like trying to prevent fire by government decree. Innovation will happen. It always has. Barring some catastrophe that destroys the entire planet, energy will become cheaper over long term charts. That's just economics.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:07 | 3158920 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Unfortunately, it very much does matter when it is developed and that development will require real energy and commodity inputs.  If the latter isn't available, it doesn't happen.  Pretty simple really, unless of course you still believe that "ideas become real without any real inputs" as you posted on an earlier thread.  Another unemployed MBA posting on ZH.

I can think of several catastrophies in the making when it comes to delivering food right now.

FYI, the laws of physics and Nature really don't give a shit about eCONomics.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:22 | 3159019 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

It does require real energy and real inputs, but those are economically conserved. Computers went from entire floors of a building, to ones orders of magnitude faster that fit in your palm. Commodities are conserved. Conductors and material is conserved with lighter cheaper materials, and less material (nanostructures).

Food is not produced currently in efficient ways, it's produced in the interests of the fascist companies that have captured the regulatory structure over the last 100 years, under the fairytale of massive economies of scale (doesn't really exist).

Most people, with a little work, can feed themselves using combinations of old and new techniques from their backyard. Just watch some of the food documentaries out there, and check out this guy: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

I'm not an MBA. I'm self taught in economics, and I don't work anywhere near that field. The laws of physics and nature are the laws of economics. It's the same. Charles Darwin actually borrowed many ideas and concepts from Adam Smith and John Locke.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:39 | 3159107 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Will not feed 7+billion, see my post above troll.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:49 | 3159159 Nothing To See Here
Nothing To See Here's picture

Calling "troll" people you disagree with is the best way to discredit yourself in a flash. But you are already doing fine in that regard with your economic illetteracy painted all over your posts...

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:58 | 3159207 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

And claiming pixie dust solutions is a sure fire way to advertise that you are not a serious thinker with a grasp of basic facts...

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:40 | 3159712 Jack Burton
Jack Burton's picture

"Magical Thinking" at work. I have seen it all before. Lots of magical solutions, we are all just too stupid to see them.

A case of "Magical Thinking" was Steve Jobs and his cancer. He did not get it treated, choosing instead to take vitamens, somehow he got the idea that the power of his brain could overcome cancer cells. Wrong! When he chose treatment, it was too late. He believed, but his belief was a useless exercise.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 22:25 | 3160856 trav777
trav777's picture

they already produce modular LFRs.

LFR is a good technology and actually proven.  It can burn down transuranics and other wastes and is pretty failure-tolerant.  Just combine with SCW...there are some promising mitigation technologies and there is a chance to make it to that other platform before this one collapses.

But again, "tough decisions" will have to be made and 3rd rails will have to be stepped on, including yours.  I know certain aspects of the truth simply don't sit well with you and that's something you've got to fix.  Everyone gotta face their demons

Thu, 01/17/2013 - 16:25 | 3163637 Going Loco
Going Loco's picture

If you are referring to the suggestion that above all agriculture must be changed if we are to survive, there is a better chance of success using the Polyface approach than we are offered by industrial agriculture.

(I have a sneaky desire to see the USA continue its industrial agricultural system so that it poisons even more of its own citizens, and thereby eats away at the 7b problem)

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:55 | 3159786 trav777
trav777's picture

physics is economics?  Wow...here I thought you weren't stupid.

Brayton cycle, Rankine cycle...learn it, b!tch.  There are HARD physical limits to things which don't change over time no matter how much we'd like them to.  Reality doesn't REQUIRE YOUR CONSENT.

Evolution is not physics.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 18:22 | 3159888 Five8Charlie
Five8Charlie's picture

"physics is economics?  Wow...here I thought you weren't stupid."

That's way beyond stupid....

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 18:59 | 3160069 Matt
Matt's picture

That is a tad disingenous restatement of the previous poster's comment. I believe the intent was to say that real economics are driven by the laws of physics.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 20:39 | 3160471 steve from virginia
steve from virginia's picture

 

 

 

"I believe the intent was to say that real economics are driven by the laws of physics."

 

No they're not!

 

The purpose of economics is to convince the public that 2 + 2 = 22.

 

Don't believe me, ask Bernanke. That's why they ('They') invented the Phillips Curve.

 

 

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:46 | 3159142 Nothing To See Here
Nothing To See Here's picture

"FYI, the laws of physics and Nature really don't give a shit about eCONomics."

There's a good keynesian talking. Any Austrian knows that a free economy does operate like nature : self-organization, spontaneous order, unplanned adaptation, all the result of millions of free interactions among the agents of the system.  It takes a Keynesian to figure that economics are a mere mechanical thing that can be modelled with mathematical equations on a degree paper.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 16:00 | 3159221 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

It is also clear that Austrians don't have a fucking clue about the concept of entropy and the role of energy if they ascribe to the above nonsense...

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:22 | 3159632 Nothing To See Here
Nothing To See Here's picture

Don't you love it when some coffeehouse blogger called Flakmeister calls Austrians "clueless", those guys who have accurately foretold all the major economic developements of the past 100 years and whose advice, if we had followed it, would have us today in an economically stable and peaceful world?

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 19:26 | 3160182 Matt
Matt's picture

Darn it, the Austrians held the keys to Utopia, I knew we should have went with door number 2.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:56 | 3159789 trav777
trav777's picture

so the free market can violate the laws of physics? That is what you appear to be implying.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:00 | 3158883 centerline
centerline's picture

See Travs comments on this.

I stand in agreeent with him on this.  There is potential for us to avoid a calamity.  But exponential growth is simply not possible.  Unfortunately, the current systems in place (economic, social, etc.) are predicated on perpetual (exponential) growth.

Likewise, to avoid a calamity, we have to start talking about real problems like adults.  Chances of that happening right now are nil.  We are more than likely pushing way beyond the point of avoiding a calamity.  We should have thrown science full force into solving various "real" problems decades ago... instead we worship actors/actresses, thug athletes, and invest technology into new and creative ways to spy on and kill one another.

 

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:02 | 3158899 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Chances of that happening at the Hedge or Congress for that matter are nil... In other places there are dialogues on going...

In all fairness, this site has come a long-long way on energy matters from the time I first showed up...

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:13 | 3158951 centerline
centerline's picture

Yeah.  I do recall being far more outnumbered a long time ago.

 

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 16:02 | 3159232 Almost Solvent
Almost Solvent's picture

They're all over on the Obama gun thread.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 16:08 | 3159271 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

You are likely correct...

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:59 | 3159800 trav777
trav777's picture

let this be a lesson to you:

do not EVER question the manner in which I do my work.  Ever.

The thing you cretins do not know about me is that I do know what I am doing.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 20:51 | 3160508 steve from virginia
steve from virginia's picture

 

 

 

Actually, the worst places are Naked Capitalism and Roubini's site, Econmonitor.

 

Dudes over there are true believers ... that fiddling with monetary policy will lead us all to the promised land. Serious economists are simply a reality death sentence: Matthew Pettis, Ed Harrison, Mark Thoma, Dean Baker, Bill Mitchell, James Galbraith, even James Hamilton. Keen discusses energy but subordinate to monetary strategies. 

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:06 | 3158912 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

I'm not arguing there won't be a seismic shift, likely very painful, likely resulting in widespread war the likes of which we haven't seen. I'm saying that humanity will survive, and the end to cheap oil will not be the end. Society will have to develop new stable structures, city states, whatever (bottom-up). I don't expect the nation state to survive what is coming. Humanity however, will.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 16:09 | 3159274 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

There, that was not too hard, was it?

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 20:54 | 3160518 steve from virginia
steve from virginia's picture

 

 

I can't believe I saw what I just saw ... an Austrian turning in his rifle and steel helmet.

 

You'll never get my samurai sword, Flakmeister! I need it for when i meet Warren Buffett.

 

 

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 22:28 | 3160870 trav777
trav777's picture

"we can do this the easy way or the hard way.  In about 30 seconds, me and my 3 friends are going to unleash upon you your worst nightmare.  You're going to wish the earth opened up beneath your feet and swallowed you whole."

"What's the easy way?"

"heh...that was the easy way."

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 14:44 | 3158755 LongSoupLine
LongSoupLine's picture

Yep, just the other day I had a huge breakthrough on my Twinkie-fueled prototype car, now I can finally...oh wait...

 

 

 

Fuck.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 14:44 | 3158764 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

We're sorry, but the capital and resources you need for the type of innovation required to keep this ponzi (humanity) alive in it's present form has been mis-allocated and mal-invested.  Your quality of life will decline.  Let us know when you are all disarmed and we will come back from our private islands. - 

Signed,

The Bankers and other members of the corporate/financial sector who own your representation and your ass.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 14:52 | 3158825 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

read my post above. You're on the right track. The root cause is societal structure, not lack of energy. It will self correct in time, and there's nothing we can do about that. The new state will be beautiful, but the phase transition could be unpleasant.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:03 | 3158901 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

not quite.  There is a huge energy input required to accelerate a number of biological cycles and provide food for 7+ billion people.  Nature requires a delicate balance and there are limits to how far you can push elements to a certain oxidation state in order to allow a singal species to grow in numbers.

Thermodynamically, energy is pretty limitless, but it takes many forms and here in this "closed system" of earth many biological cycles must continue to turn (most still poorly understand and catalyzed by bacteria that have yet to be fully characterize).  No doubt life will continue should you interupt any one of a number of these cycles, however, it simply won't involve humans.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:11 | 3158938 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

Just to feed people in the US could be accomplished using old methods by turning dead space into gardens. The Polyface farm guy has talked about this at length. Just from the medians and green space between freeways in this country, we could feed the entire population.

We can't get there by continuing to do things the way we do, but it certainly can be done, and it will. Farming will fundamentally change, monetary systems will fundamentally change, government will fundamentally change, but people will survive. The world is about to be turned on it's head, but it's not the end, just the beginning of something new.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:19 | 3158992 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

" The Polyface farm guy has talked about this at length. Just from the medians and green space between freeways in this country, we could feed the entire population."

-------------------------------------

Wrong, you still need reduced nitrogen as well as sulfur, potasium, fresh water, and a whole host of other elements in the correct oxidation state.

You seem to be clueless as to the significance of the oxidation state.  No doubt there is plenty of nitrogen gas in the world, unfortunately, it is useless to plants.  reducing it to a useable oxidation state requires a tremendous amount of energy.  "dead space" is dead for a reason dipshit.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:27 | 3159044 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

There's fucking grass growing there now dumbfuck, as well as most cities in the US because it's "PRETTY". You've obviously never stepped foot on a farm or understand the first fucking thing about agriculture. Feeding people isn't a problem, we just can't do it the way we're doing it now.

You don't need fucking fertilizer, you don't need chemicals, you can do it completely organically if you just follow nature's rules. You need naturalish rotation of the appropriate animals and crops over the same ground to keep the soil, worms and dirt happy.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 15:37 | 3159090 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

You are beyond stupid, flux matters, that grass doesn't amount to shit in terms of biomass to support anyone.

 

The fact that you keep making ignorant statements like "you don't need fertilizer" has confirmed you as a troll.

You don't get plant mass from nothing and plants very much require chemical inputs in the correct oxidation state (whether or not the source is organic is fucking irrelevant).  

I have been in agriculture of 30+ years, our family manages over 30,000 acres.  Thanks for confirming you are a troll. 

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 16:02 | 3159212 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

Oh, one of you mega farmers, makes sense, I should have known. A Fascist pig suckling from the .gov teat driving your new John Deere Starship sized tractor off the lot every year, getting your daddy gubmint mailbox money check, and having daddy gov knock off all the little farmers. Fuck you mega farmers. You are just as bad as the jack booted thugs that launch drone strikes, you just have other people do violence for you. You've killed the farming industry, saddled up to Monsanto, Syngenta, and Conagra to push out the little guy. You will have untold blood on your hands of those that go hungry when supply chain disruptions start.

There is a natural ceiling to how many animals can naturally live on an acre of land, but you people have shoved your fist up natures ass to turn her into a puppet for your abuse. There's plenty of land to grow things on, and support the population, and your monopoly will soon end.

Fascists are pigs, and I will not converse with fascists. Fuck you very much, fascist.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 16:14 | 3159284 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Most of those in my operation are former military, like myself.  When the supply lines break (and they will) we will have food, and the blood on our hands will be yours.  Bring it.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 16:26 | 3159358 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

Good for you! You win a gold star! I'm military too! And I wasn't some supply clerk for a public affairs group. Don't worry though, I'm not interested in you or anyone else. It's too bad you forgot your oath, so not only are you a fascist, but a traitor. Good for you.

Thu, 01/17/2013 - 16:42 | 3163732 Going Loco
Going Loco's picture

And there we have it. Laws of Physics is a real, honest-to-badness, unadulterated dyed-in-the-wool American badass gun-toting piece of Big-Ag worhlessness. He wrecks his 30,000 acres of the planet (note: doesn't own it, he "manages" it) and threatening to shoot anyone who challenges him. Poisoning the earth with his mad science. He doesn't know or care that agriculture was and will be again practised successfully without the ghastly nonsense that Big-Ag depends on now: artficial fertilizer from non-renewable finite eneregy-consuming extraction systems; genetically modified patented seeds with no seed saving allowed; intensively-farmed animals whose shit has no value because the food inputs and rearing conditions are so devalued; bulk shipping of almost worthless food products to remote food processors who process any remaining goodness out of it.... I don't have to list all this garbage, anyone who knows anything about carrying capacity will already know what I am talking about. 30,000 acres sounds like a lot of land to me. I only have 20 acres but I bet my land is in better heart than yours, you gun-toting American land-eater. I can live off my land when things go wrong. Your land probably couldn't grow a blade of grass if you stopped feeding it the garbage you call oxidants, and you will have to stop when the semi-trailers stop arriving, won't you?

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 19:40 | 3160229 Matt
Matt's picture

The Nitrogen is the easiest to solve, the bacteria in the roots of legumes can properly afix the nitrates, which is why the native Amerindians or MesoAmericans or whatever they want to be called today, planted crops together in complementary forms - three sisters, four sisters.

Keep in mind, this is talking along the lines of the previous posters small scale gardening, not 30,000 acre centralized farming production.

It is the sulfer that I don't know where to naturally source in useful form. We have tons of potassium nitrates here in the form of Giant Pacific Kelp, but they are getting loaded with radioactive iodine from Fukushima. 

Does volcanic ash have the right sulfer to be useful for growing crops?

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 14:47 | 3158782 SelfGov
SelfGov's picture

Malthus was right, just way early.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 14:54 | 3158845 SgtShaftoe
SgtShaftoe's picture

Malthus was an alarmist political twit, just like Keynes. Anyone who is Austrian in their economic world view, or Austrian leaning should be highly suspect of these top-down engineers of humanity.

Again:

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine the can design.”
? Friedrich A. von Hayek

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