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Economic collapse. Peak oil. Population spikes followed by immediate drops. Survival in a world without oil. Have you guys seen this documentary? It's on instant netflix, or all parts (1-9) can be watched on youtube. I'd love a discussion on this. This documentary is LOADED but it hits on a lot of things I've been thinking about lately. Honestly, it makes me depressed, but should we continue to ignore the warnings? Should we get prepared? Is this guy just a conspiracy theorist alarmist? Here's a couple of clips from it:


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
I've been through a collapse-panic phase and though I haven't gone all the way around into the "global warming is a lie" camp, I have been able to find a little hope.

Is this guy just a conspiracy theorist alarmist?

I actually dislike the label "conspiracy theory," which is usually used to pretend that anything that is not mainstream knowledge is stupid and obviously wrong, when from a scientific POV we can see that lots of (most?) things that are mainstream knowledge are only superficially correct, but fall under the first skeptical inspection. So, how about "is this guy unnecessarily worried about all this?"

On the issue of oil, I'll say that yes, I think he is.

From the video:

That's not some feat of Nostradamus communicating with some entity. It's math, it's science, it's simple.

First of all, it's not math. Math creates perfect proofs that cannot be ever found to be wrong. But when you are modelling the universe, even though your math might be right, it can lead to perfectly correct results which have absolutely nothing to do with the real world, simply because your model is wrong and your axioms did not correspond to the real world. I get a bit annoyed every time science, and especially math, get used in arguments of authority.

Now, to address the issue of peak oil, let's look at wikipedia:

Optimistic estimations of peak production forecast the global decline will begin by 2020 or later, and assume major investments in alternatives will occur before a crisis, without requiring major changes in the lifestyle of heavily oil-consuming nations. These models show the price of oil at first escalating and then retreating as other types of fuel and energy sources are used. Pessimistic predictions of future oil production operate on the thesis that either the peak has already occurred, that oil production is on the cusp of the peak, or that it will occur shortly.

Notice that no one thinks that the (global) peak occurred decades ago anymore. There's one very non-simple thing about predicting peak oil, and it is that we cannot predict the amount of undiscovered oil reserves. So yeah, we are fairly certain that oil extraction will not last forever, but we are not very sure about when and how it will come to an end.

On the issue of the collapse following the peak, I'd like to point out a few things:

  1. The collapse would come from soaring oil prices. We've seen this happening during at least two wars, and no collapse followed.

  2. We actually have plenty of alternatives to oil, such as coal, natural gas and renewable energy sources. Some people attack these alternatives saying that they cannot move cars, but cars are not the sole consumers of oil, nor are they the most important ones, economically speaking (because they also have alternatives themselves, like trains, bicycles, working from home, etc).

  3. Electric cars seem not to be mainstream already simply due to government intervention all over the world, in favor of the oil industry. Electric cars can be moved by any alternative energy source.

  4. I have never seen economic collapse due to the disappearance of a production good, only from superinflation started by central planners with bad money policy and/or bad resource allocation. I don't know any form of economic collapse that cannot be prevented by the free market.

[to be continued; went past char limit]
Mar. 8th, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC)

Ethanol is an absolute joke. (...) and he concluded (...) that it takes more energy to make ethanol than you get from burning it (...)

The second statement is obviously true because you don't burn all of your vegetable source of ethanol. He's omitting the fact that most of this energy is coming from the sun, not from oil. Now, if you ignore the energy from the sun and count only the energy you spend running tractors and the like, then not even corn spends more than it stores in the fuel. That is actually the case with hydrogen production, which makes it quite clear how the oil industry has been blocking the development of substitutes for oil through the US government, at least during the Bush administration.

Now, ethanol is a poor substitute for oil when it is made from corn, which is the case in the US due to lobbying from the farmers, but we've been making it from sugarcane over here for decades, and not only has it been competing beautifully with oil, it has been capturing more CO2 than what gets released by its burning, and it currently only covers about 7% of our arable land (IIRC), leaving plenty of land left for growing soy for the first world meat eaters. It is true that you guys can't grow sugarcane in the US, but you can certainly buy it from us and you can grow other alternatives that are still much, much better than corn (of course this cannot happen while corn is being subsidized, so you guys should look into that).

I wish I could go on, but my internet time is coming to an end. Let me just conclude with the following proposition, which I believe to be true: the market can easily take care of the end of all oil; our biggest problem might actually be regarding global warming in case oil does not peak in the near future. Give that some thought.
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
I do think he assumes impending doom and complete loss of technological advances from the last 100 years if oil is to deplete.

As far as seeing oil prices soar over the last few years with no collapse following, I guess it depends on what we define as "soaring" like going from 2.30 and gallon to 4.10 like it did in 2008, which is still within a relatively affordable range, or seeing it go to 25.00 a gallon. That would have a much harder impact than what we've seen so far.

What I don't understand is how he could ignore other possibilities to harvest bio-diesel, like creating technology in tractors so that they run on solar power to harvest these crops.

I don't like "conspiracy theorist" either, it's just what he's been called.

What I think he is most concerned with is the exponential population spike since the 19th century, which he credits almost entirely on oil due to the 96% correlation between use of oil and the population increase. Because the trend has always been "what goes up must come down" in population spikes (or spikes in anything, really), he thinks the population is doomed to drop 90% eventually, because "it's math."

As far as subsidies go, yeah, I'm aware. I feel what the people want (investing in new alternative energy technologies) and what the people get are two completely unrelated things. The politicians here are more than happy to let these huge corporations control what gets invested in (their product) as long as they take care of the politicians and their families financially. We are completely under the thumb of these corps and because we are a "free country", they will continue to donate to politicians to make sure it stays that way for as long as possible.
Mar. 14th, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
The thing is that we saw oil prices tripling during a small period of time, which is the sort of thing that can lead to the collapse. A tenfold increase that takes a century to take place is likely not gonna have a huge impact on the rest of the economy, it will just drag out the substitutes to completely replace oil over time.

Tractors don't even need to run on solar power, they can already run on bio-diesel with no new technology needed.

The population spike thing is exactly the sort of thing that can come from perfect math based on completely false axioms and therefore have no validity whatsoever. If he is able to explain why it has to happen and then show the evidence supporting this explanation, then I'll take a look at it, but just saying "I think it will happen because it has happened before" does not qualify as science. :|
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