peak oil how quickly will itinfluence our lifes?

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by hedwig, Aug 3, 2007.

  1. hedwig

    hedwig Junior Member

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    I didn't read too much about peak oil some basic things.
    The predictions say that we have reached peak oil yet or it will reach us in 20 years. If it has reached us yet, it should hav e an remarcable influence of our life. What do you think wil expect us the following years?

    Anyway peak oil has reall it's positive side if oyou think on climate change.
     
  2. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    Saying that oil running short is good for climate change is like saying that at least the alcoholic will eventually drink the bar dry. Probably not.

    Remember that oil isn't it all. There's also gas and coal. I did a blog post about this sort of topic, but here are some relevant excerpts:

    The EIA puts peak oil at 2012, other institutions are more optimistic (for example, they assume the conflict stops in Iraq, allowing exports from there) and tell us 2020. Peak natural gas and coal are less clear, and might be as late as 2040, but given that so much of the gas and coal will be coverted to the oil in one way or another, and that most new power stations in India and China are coal-fired, 2025 seems the latest before we feel the crunch there. So we can say that the 2015-2025 period will be when we start really feeling the fossil fuel crunch.

    Now of course the fossil fuels will not run out then, they'll just become more scarce, and supply will fall far short of demand. When there's not enough fossil fuels for all sectors of the economy, priorities will be set. The priorities will be,

    1. Government & military
    2. Food, fertiliser and pest/herbicides
    3. Fuel for transporting imports & exports
    4. Plastics & other synthetics
    5. Domestic power
    6. Public transport
    7. Private transport

    These priorities may be set by a government rationing scheme (as in WWII, and as was planned in the oil shock of the 1970s), or else may be left up to the whims of the market. Either way, as the fossil fuels become more scarce and expensive, the lower priorities will be almost entirely abandoned.

    About 2015-2025 these priorities start being set, but the middle and upper classes of the world will generally carry on blindly oblivious. Large and poor mileage vehicles will become more of a status symbol than they are now, like Versailles being built amidst peasants in famine. Someone will develop a Wonder Car which can get 100mpg, but costs $250,000 and uses a lot of some scarce resource, like platinum or ruthenium. Several million of these will be built, while the rest of the world continues to build regular old cars using heaps of fuel.

    As the world peaks in fossil fuel production and consumption, the strain between demand and supply will bring resource conflicts. If we're lucky they'll just be trade wars, if we're unlucky, real wars. I think that by about 2015 the USA's worsening financial position will cause OPEC to use the Euro instead; this would be the kick to the man already down. China's reaction will be important. Currently they're the world's largest foreign holder of US Treasury bonds, if that continued they might oppose OPEC somewhat, but most likely the 2010-2015 period will see them unload that and replace it with more diversified interests; this is in line with their current pattern of investing heavily in the development of various Third World countries.

    While China's unloading of US currency will mean that the USA can no longer import so many Chinese products, by 2015 this won't be as important to China, more important will be other markets like Japan, the EU, and Africa. The USA won't be ditched entirely, it just won't be the main focus of Chinese exports as it is now.

    As the beginning of the peak is hit in 2015, with a worsening financial situation, that's a delicate time for the United States. Like all historical Great Powers, its greatness is expressed in having X% of world population, but 6X% (or so) of the world's resources. Without the inflated debt, and with other countries with better credit to buy the world's products, this position will drop, it'll decline from being a Great Power to being merely a major one. All Great Powers do decline, but some go quietly like Britain did, and some go noisily and messily like Spain and France did. US history suggests their decline will be messy. Expect continued involvement in Iraq, and expanded involvement in other countries.

    About 2020-25 the peak in fossil fuel production becomes undeniable, and the world's focus moves from trying to produce or gain access to more fossil fuels, to making best use of what is available. That's when the priorities lower on the list start being abandoned - again, either by official rationing or by pricing. If a barrel of oil costs $300, then you're going to use it for food before transport.

    By 2025, climate change will be undeniable even to the most obtuse political and economic leaders. But it'll mostly be in the form of extreme weather events, like Hurricane Katrina and the recent British floods, or the lengthy drought in sub-Saharan African countries. While the loss of life is terrible, a few thousand in a day, what's more important in the historical and "do we have a future?" sense is the loss of legitimacy of governments because of their poor response to the crises. Consider how much legitimacy the Bush administration lost because of Katrina: Americans, not trusting in their government to be willing or able to help them, are returning to the Bunker Mentality of the worst of the Cold War years, stocking up on food and firearms. While this is not a big deal at the moment, over time this loss of legitimacy of government can contribute to the destruction of a state.

    Somewhere about when 3-5 are being set aside or having problems, the first priority - government & military - will start being seriously questioned by the public. It's at this stage that we could see large states breaking up. The Soviet Union collapsed because it could not fuel, and then could not feed its people, thus losing it legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Resource collapse alone does not cause state collapse, but can do so if combined with the strain of a losing war, obvious and blatant government corruption, natural disasters and so on. The period after 2025 is thus a very dangerous one for the world.

    I stress - states are not going to all implode on January 1st, 2025. It's just that roughly after that time is when they'll come under serious strain and risk of collapse. The current story being passed around in the developed West is that we just have to put booze in our cars, or hydrogen or whatever, and we can continue with Business As Usual. I've described in earlier posts why I think that's impossible - there's just not enough fuel. Currently we in the West use 7-15 barrels of oil equivalent per person annually (excluding the wasteful example of the USA with 25), and 5-12 of that is in transport alone. But we can get at most 1bbl equivalent from biofuels, and another 1bbl equivalent from batteries. That gives us 2bbl oil equivalent for travelling around, and transporting goods across land and sea. That's not enough for a modern Western lifestyle, though it is enough for a Cuban or Ghanan lifestyle.

    The optimistic story of Business As Usual is actually very dangerous for the elites to promote, because the greater the space between the promises and the reality, the greater the disappointment and anger. Today's optimism risks tomorrow's collapse.

    But most likely the energy won't be evenly spread about, with 2bbl per person worldwide, and just as we engage in trade and real wars for oil, we'll engage in trade and real wars for biofuel and electricity; just as today there are people who consume 50bbl equivalent, and others who consume none or one, so too tomorrow. The rich-poor gap today is also an energy gap, and will be an energy gap tomorrow, too. But because the overall pool of energy available will be smaller, the gap will be more noticeable. The CEO stands out in the unemployed suburbs, but the king stands out in the muddy fields even more.

    So that is why I don't think India and China are ever going to have two cars per family. We'll run out of the fuel for them, and be overtaken by more serious problems, before they can build that many cars.
     
  3. Loris

    Loris Junior Member

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    We could get excited about the actual amount of stuff left. But I know that if petrol goes up any more, it will affect my life. Thats my personal take on the peak oil picture.
    Of course, I have to take it on faith that the petrol is going up due to peak oil and not due to other market forces. But the price it adds to commuting, to transport of food, to our relaxation and entertainment have all begun to affect our life. This will only keep happening if the price continues to rise.
     
  4. hedwig

    hedwig Junior Member

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    hi Jim , you're right the sad thing is that peak oil will probably not have much influence on climate change as there is still a lot of coal to burn.

    I don't know were you are from, but petrol is still incredibly cheap in australia as well as other forms of energy. When I bought our second hand car I always asked for the petrol consumption and nobody knew it!

    I didn't realize that prices went up we are living in Australia only for two years. And in Europe prices went up due to the Euro. Until now I do not see any clear indication. Will the peak oil shock maybe come very quickly?

    Australia will be hit very serously because it is importing food and everything.

    What are you expeting for the following years? Will things get really serious in 3,5,or ten years or not at all?
     
  5. blinkblink

    blinkblink Junior Member

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    There is a fair amount of evidence that we have already hit peak. This occurred on May 2005. Since then we have been on a plateau where oil production has been just below peak.

    If this is correct then over the next couple of years we will begin the slide down the other side. A depletion rate of 5% would mean in 14 years the world would need to get by on 50% less oil per day than it does now. Saudi Arabia production was down 8% last year and the North Sea has been in a 15% annual decline since 2000.

    Everything about are economy is based on cheap readily available oil.
    Almost everything you own is an oil derivative. All other forms of energy including coal, ethanol, solar and wind are derivatives of oil too.

    Very importantly, for every calorie of food we consume we burn 10 calories of energy to get it.

    It will get very serious.

    The question really is whether we will have a "long emergency" or a quick collapse.
     
  6. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    Just one quick thing to clarify:

    The sagging price of the US dollar has shielded us (and Europe) a fair bit from higher prices - oil is priced in US dollars and our Australian dollar is buying a lot more of a US dollar than it used to only a year or so ago.

    If the US dollar was as strong as it was not so long ago we'd be paying $1.60-70 a litre for petrol ATM. If it was as strong as it was 5-6 years ago, we'd be paying maybe as high as $2.50 a litre.
     
  7. hedwig

    hedwig Junior Member

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    Hi Jez, this is the general problem: you don't realize if there is peak oil or not because it mixes with other things like strong dollar or EUR or drought raising prizes.

    There are some things which I find highly attractive: we could easily cycle allt the big roads of Brisbane with our children. NOt that much noise and car pollution. My children playing on the road like I did when I was a child.

    I don't want to think too much of the negative sides like wars on oil etc.
     
  8. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    Peak Oil is definitely a reality Hedwig, unfortunately, as JimBob said earlier, the oil business is far too complicated to set a date that would be even close to a perfect estimate.

    As Blink said, conventional oil production volume hasn't surpassed (on a month to month basis) what it achieved in May 2005. So we may well have already 'peaked' - I strongly suggest this may well be true. Even if it isn't and we get a production surge, the important thing to remember is that it will be only a very small way above the May 2005 record. Perhaps more importantly, it will come at a greater cost, because oil companies are spending 4 times the amount they were only a couple of years ago to find oil, and the technical stages after that are now also much more expensive.

    To put it bluntly and more simply - all the cheap and easy to get at oil is pretty much gone.

    At the moment, as I said earlier, we are paying less for fuel because the US dollar has weakened so dramatically.

    The other thing protecting the prices we pay for petrol (and many other goods and services) is a thing known as 'demand destruction.'

    It's a bit like an auction; once the price of oil reaches a certain point, a certain number of people will be forced to drop out. In this case, millions of African's and Asian's have had to 'drop out' over recent years - they simply can't afford to pay for petrol when a barrel of oil is $60-80.

    But in the Western world, our demand for oil continues to rise - we have gobbled up all the 'spare' oil the poorer countries can no longer afford. So soon we will be standing at the 'oil auction' bidding against countries as rich as ourselves - and that's when the trouble will really strike and prices will get much worse.

    And at any time a natural disaster or major political event which disrupts a major oil supplier could send the price up much higher. This fact is why there's been good cause to be alarmed for a few years now. Fortunately, we've been very lucky - apart from Hurricane Katrina, the pipeline closure in Prudhoe Bay (Alaska) and a little bit of civil unrest in Nigeria, world oil supplies have been barely interrupted at all.

    As you say, I also think there is much to look forward to in a post-oil world where we have significantly reduced consumption. I think eventually we'll see a day when no country can afford to go to war with another. I think many of us will lead much richer lives.

    I'd rather focus on positive ways to focus on using less energy, using energy more wisely and productively - 'Powerdown' as Richard Heinberg calls it - and helping in some way to prepare for the transition to a post-oil world, but I'd be a liar if I said that I wasn't also expecting major social upheaval to come in one form or another.

    Still, I feel there's no point worrying about things we have no power to alter and which may never happen, or happen much differently to what we expect. :wink:
     
  9. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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  10. hedwig

    hedwig Junior Member

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    the link is quite good.
    Anyway like all industry products are based on oil it'l be good be prepared:
    by bycilcles, PV pannels etc. now to be as independant as possible.
    The sad thing is really that coal and nuclear power is likely to be stronger.
    I think that anyone can make a change. And I try to integrate this topic in our local group.
     
  11. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    And even if we didn't burn the coal and gas or they didn't exist, it may be that the oil's enough to have very significant climate effects.

    Australia here as well - don't you recognise the terrain in the picture at left? It's typically Aussie. ;)

    Yes, our energy is too cheap. So is our water. We're told the typical water use for our two-bedroom place with small garden is 340lt/day; we use 151lt/day. Our water bill is $22 a quarter, and would be $40 or so if we had the "typical" use. $1.50 a week is not really much of an incentive for us to use less.

    Much the same goes for petrol, electricity and so on. Things need to be priced according to their true cost, and everyone needs to pay the same. You and I will pay about 13 cents a unit for electricity, the big store down the road pays 6, and the iron foundry will pay 2 or 3. The same goes for water. And we wonder why bg companies aren't that interested in achieving efficiency...

    Remember that "peak oil" is simply when supply falls far short of demand. So for example nowadays we produce about 75 million barrels of oil a day in the world, and another 10 Mbbl of equivalent in LPG, ethanol, biodiesel and so on. 85 Mbbl in all. Let's suppose we could keep that level for all eternity.

    But then, the USA is using 25bbl per person annually, and China 2bbl. What if China wants to live like the USA? Well then China with 4 times as many people as the USA will use four times as much oil as they do. The USA uses 22Mbbl daily, so China would use 88Mbbl - woops, that's the world's entire production. Add in India and sub-Saharan Africa and other Third World places, and for the whole world to live like the USA we'd need 460Mbbl of oil each day. But we've only got 85Mbbl.

    So even supposing that we could keep pumping out that much oil forever, we're still going to see a shock as supply can't keep up with demand.

    It's much the same as your own personal budget. When your spending exceeds your income, you're in trouble. It doesn't matter whether your income can go up or stay the same or is declining - the important thing is that your spending is exceeding your income. You can't keep that up forever. And your personal stress is going to rise as the gap between spending and income widens.

    Oil is our energy income. Whether it'll be 85Mbbl forever, or rise to 130Mbbl, or drop to 2Mbbl, doesn't really matter. What matters is that our demand is rising, so the demand is eventually going to greatly exceed the supply. Our world's stress is going to rise as the gap between energy spending and income widens.

    Your money income and spending determine your lifestyle. Likewise, the world's energy income and spending determine its lifestyle.

    Now, if your money income doesn't match your spending you do one or both of: increase income, or drop spending. It seems we can't really increase our fossil fuel energy income, simply because there's not enough out there - even if there were no global warming, even if coal dust gave us vitamin C, there just isn't enough of the stuff to fulfill world demand. So we have to find other energy incomes. And if we can't do that, we have to reduce our energy consumption.

    Will reducing energy consumption be that painful? Our political leaders tell us it will be. I'm not so convinced. One measure of the quality of life is the Human Development Index that the UN came up with. Some people have done some interesting studies comparing this to things like income and energy use. What they find is that at very low levels of money and energy, increasing them gives you a big payback in improving the HDI. For example if you put an electric light in a hut in Tanzania, that leds people study at night, and improves literacy, which helps them get better jobs and buy better food and medicine - that 75 Watt globe, just about 100kWhr of electricity a year, that really improves their life. Whereas if I put an extra lamp in the corner of my loungeroom, that extra 75 Watts there doesn't improve my life much at all.

    [​IMG]

    Looking at that graph, we find that we in Australia could halve our energy use and it wouldn't necessarily make our lives worse. Italy manages the same HDI with 4,000kWhr to our 8,000. Can you imagine a political leader saying, "let's halve our energy consumption"? He'd be shouted down as saying we're going back to grinding medieval peasant misery. Yeah - like Italy. Miserable place, that. Halving it again takes us to Chile. Not so great, but not so bad.



    The foods we import are luxuries, not necessities. Australia could shut itself off from the world today and still be fed tomorrow. Our worst year this century was FY2002-3, when we produced 17 million tonnes of grain. That can keep alive 92 million people. In FY2005-6 we produced 37Mt of grain, enough for 201 million people. So even if we do worse than our worst year of a long drought, and produce just 8 million tonnes of grain, we can still feed about 40 mllion people. Or we can have all that bread and those weet-bix, and still continue eating the 103kg of meat we consume annually (which takes 2.78kg of grain for each 1kg of meat).

    It's not Australia who has to worry about not being able to transport food in and out of Australia, it's the other countries we export to.

    I don't think it's possible to predict. When speaking of the weather or the economy, we can predict the longer-term picture with greater accuracy than the short-term picture. It's like when you put a ot of water on to boil, you see the little bubbles forming on the bottom waiting to rise - you can predict that when it all reaches 100 deg C, it's going to start boiling. But you can't predict what's going to happen to each bubble you see. So, "it boils at 100C" is the climate and the economy, and "that bubble is about to pull off the bottom and rise up" is this month's weather or the price of fish.

    All we can really do is to reduce, reuse and recycle, while trying to build the communities and skills we need to deal with a time when we're forced onto lower energy incomes. Just as if you live frugally even when you've got a good money income you can cope more easily if your money income drops, so too with energy.

    Like me, I never hosed down my pathway and always put greywater on my garden, so I didn't feel it a hardship when the government told me I had to do it. Nowadays I take public transport, so if some day they ration petrol for driving, what will I care? I buy fresh fruit and vegetables unpackaged and unprocessed, so if the cardboard fish patties and frozen peas disappear from my supermarket, I won't care. And I eat 1kg of meat a month or less, so if the price leaps to $50 a kg because of long-term drought, I'll not be troubled.

    If you live one way by choice, it won't hurt if some day there's no choice. In this case, the environmentally-friendly choice is also a money-saving choice. We spend $45 a week on food and are healthy from all the fresh fruit and vegies we eat, we have utilities bills 1/4 those of other couples we know, I don't have the stress of traffic jams, etc. We save money and have nicer lives.

    Would I be happier with a $45,000 SUV and $4,000 plasma screen tv? Sure. But not $49,000 happier. It's a cost-benefit thing. We're on that flattening-out part of the graph, above. When you add in the environmental concerns, that probably everyone in the world could have 1,000 or 2,000kWhr of energy, but not everyone could have 8,000 or 16,000kWhr, and if they tried it'd trash the planet, well...
     
  12. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    The majority of it is run on fossil fuels though JB...the possibilities of future fuel rationing, the extra cost of grain for consumers, and viability of large scale grain producers being jeopardised by a fall or total decline in exports, will all likely play a role.

    I really don't think we can say we're capable of producing 'x' amount of anything in a post-peak situation.

    I also don't think we can say that we'll be able to produce food anywhere near as affordably here compared to the cost for which we are currently importing it. I think a lot of institutions, low-income people and isolated people rely heavily on a lot of imported things to be able to live within a tight budget. Simple staple foods like canned tomatoes for $0.50, canned fruit or imported pasta and noodles for much cheaper, or canned fish from Thailand...I'm sure if we take the cheapest supermarket items we'll find that most of them have an overseas connection.

    While there's often an Australian alternative, it's invariably more expensive, and that's under today's pretty much ideal circumstances. When the average low-income or mid-wage earner is really under financial stress in the future, and when the producer is faced with a declining market plus hefty added costs, the fact we can ideally produce 'x' amount of food means little if many people can't afford to pay the price it takes to put only Australian produced food on the shelves.

    So estimating potential production volumes is one thing, but fitting the whole thing into a workable market frame is entirely another IMO - and arguably the more difficult part to enact solutions for.
     
  13. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    Worldwide, fossil fuel inputs (fertiliser, pesticides, etc) account for about 20% of our agricultural production. It's about 40% in Australia and the USA, but only 0-10% in most of the Third World. That means that absent fossil fuels and any substitute, we could achieve 80% of current food production. However, depleted aquifers in already marginal areas like around Beijing in China, or in the Wimmera and Mallee here in Australia, or in California, that will give us a strong decline. The most pessimistic estimates take us to 50% of current production.

    I made it more pessimistic still, and said, that 50%, adding in the worst drought we've ever had, to give us 25% of current production. That gives us the 8 million tonnes of grain I mentioned. Again, that's plenty for Australia - it's other countries who need worry, not us.

    Transporting food can be achieved without fossil fuels. It was done in the 19th century, after all - the wheat belt around Perth fed most of Australia and a good part of England, too. Absent fossil fuels, we'll certainly still transport grain - we just won't be transporting fancy cheeses and flying refrigerated bananas from the Caribbean to New York in winter. Or we will, but in the same way we transport caviar or truffles today.

    Feeding ourselves is not really a problem, even without fossil fuels and with climate change. Sufficient calories, protein and nutrition are quite achievable sustainably by almost every country in the world from its own territory.

    It's the fancy food, and new clothes each week, and tv on 24 hours a day, and holidays around the world, and so on and so forth - that we can't keep up.

    Sure, the expense of food will go up. But other prices will fall. That's the way the market works. In the late 1940s a house cost you 2-3 years average income, but food took up 1/3 of that income. By the 2000s a house costs 6-8 years average income, and food 1/10. Much of the world is more like we were in the 1940s. As fossil fuels run down and our energy income drops, we'll return to that historical standard.
     
  14. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    Some more on food production... in Britain, a typical winter wheat production using conventional methods is 8t/ha, organic is 4.5t/ha. This occupies the fields for half the year only; the rest of the year they can be devoted to lying fallow, other crops or whatever you wish.

    184kg of grain will supply a physically active adult (not in manual labour, but not entirely sedentary) with all their calories and protein each year.

    Thus, conventional farming in the UK can feed 8/0.184 = 43.5 people/ha, while organic farming can feed 24.5 people/ha. Britain devotes about 6 million hectares to crops (and 12 million ha to grass and pasture), so that their conventional farming could feed 260 million people in just half a year's growth, and if they were entirely organic they could feed 147 million people. Britain has a population a bit under 61 million. They could, then, either feed another 86 million people, or else divert that grain to feeding livestock.

    Australian tests by agricultural institutes have obtained lower yields for fossil-fuel-free farming. However their typical test is artifical fertiliser vs nothing at all. True organic agriculture does not mean "no fertiliser" just "no artificial fertiliser." We might consider, for example, the yield of four hectares planted with wheat, vs the yield of four hectares half planted with wheat, with one-quarter pasture for a cow, and one-quarter left fallow (the quarter that the cow grazed on last year).

    In Australia, much of the land farmed is marginal. As pointed out by Jared Diamond, 80% of Australia's agricultural profits come from 0.8% of its land, most of it in the corner around Perth, on the south coast near Adelaide, in the southeastern corner, and in eastern Queensland. The other 99.2% of the land farmed is extremely marginal, and couldn't be farmed without heavy inputs of fossil fuels, irrigation and so on. We could abandon 99.2% of our agricultural land and only lose 20% of the current money value of our production, and also stop contributing to most of our agriculturally-caused environmental problems - salinisation, poisoning and depletion of rivers and so on. If farmers were to pay themselves a wage, then we'd find that 2/3 of the land (mostly sheep and beef cattle pasture) would operate at a loss.

    Even with a much-reduced world food production, we'll still have plenty to feed the world, if it's distributed evenly. The problem is that food is not distributed evenly, and much of it is diverted to livestock and increasingly to biofuels. So for example we produce 307kg of grain per person in the world, and people need 184kg if they eat nothing else. But 125kg of it goes to livestock giving us 42kg of meat, 46kg goes to "other use" (mostly biofuels), and only 147kg is directly consumed.

    Then in Australia we consume 150kg of grain annually, but also 103kg of meat, which requires 286kg of grain to produce; so our effective grain consumption is 436kg. 436kg is more than an equal share of the 307kg. But this of course can change.

    This is discussed in more detail in my old blog post about feeding the world, but suffice it to say that really it's not a problem for us to produce enough food for everyone. The problem is making sure everyone gets a decent share. Keeping people hungry are a number of things,
    • Market forces, since we meat-eaters in the West can pay more for grain to feed our beef cattle and poultry than the nearly-vegetarian Third World can pay. So we eat burgers but they go hungry.[/*:m:jwes6x7o]
    • Bad government in places like Zimbabwe prevent their producing enough food for themselves; few people have secure control of their land and property, so can't produce much. [/*:m:jwes6x7o]
    • Conflict in places like Iraq also prevent the locals from producing their food.[/*:m:jwes6x7o]
    • Climate trouble stops food production in places like the Sudan (too dry) and Bangladesh (keeps flooding, destroying crops).[/*:m:jwes6x7o]
    One of these things by itself won't produce a famine, only two or more of these factors. In general, what is needed for a decent and sustainable level of food production is for people to be just left alone, not troubled by government interference, or gangs of bandits (whether government or private), or foreign "help" (see for example the USA in Iraq), etc. generally people will plan ahead for climate troubles, setting aside some of their food and money surplus for bad times.

    In some countries, food production reaches physical limits - the USA and Australia are examples of this. But more common are social and economic limits. Mexicans, for example, are not importing corn from the USA because their land can't provide it organically - ten years ago, it did. They're importing corn because the US government heavily subsidises it, and that subsidy led to low prices which forced Mexican farmers off their land and into shantytowns. Again, people went hungry because someone wouldn't just leave them alone to do their thing.

    As the Western countries start to reach physical limits to food production due to fossil fuel depletion, what we'll see is that the social limits in Third World countries will start to be removed. Mexico will either put tariffs back up, or else the government will collapse. Old Mugabe in Zimbabwe will eventually die, and whoever succeeds him will either reverse his mad decrees or else be overthrown by someone who will.

    I think the social limits will also be removed in our Western countries. In parts of the USA, it's against local council laws to hang your clothes outside to dry. A woman in the USA was fined for not watering her lawn, and then arrested when she got angry with the cops. Here in Melbourne, a Thomas St house had a permaculture food garden which they'd put over a lawn, and the landlord successfully sued them to get them to "repair the loss and damage" to his property. These sorts of laws are going to be set aside in time. It's happened before. In the 1960s Queensland and Western Australia had laws making farmers clear their land; now they have laws prohibiting them from clearing their land. Again, it would have been better just to leave the farmers alone to do their own thing in the first place.

    Food production will suffer more from social limits than physical limits, even with climate change. Most people can adjust. What we need to do in Australia is to stop propping up farmers who have unsustainable practices - if a farmer is going bust because his over-irrigation has brought salt to the land, then let him go bust, just like any other business. And if someone rents a property and produces all their own food from their own backyard, or if they want to clear some land or plant some more land, then let them do it. If it's unsustainable environmentally, then they'll go broke after a bit, and the land they'll then have to sell cheap to someone smarter than them.

    People will sort it out if they're left alone to do so.
     
  15. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    That's raw food production on the farm, it doesn't account for the fuel to transport it or the energy to process it. Wheat doesn't turn itself into pasta or bread.

    As for transportation being easy to fix going back to old methods, no doubt it will go back in time to some degree, but for at least some time we'll be in a clash of cultures...can you see bullock teams and horse and carts effectively sharing the highways with cars and road trains?

    Enough ships being built of timber (or plastics) and sail, and enough people quickly trained to build and sail them, to supply the whole nation with food and replace fossil fuel transportation? England had barely more people in the late 19C than Australia does now (and much less in the mid-19C), and we sure weren't feeding a majority of them, while we ourselves had a much smaller population who were much more self-sufficient due to an abundant land to people ratio and a far greater abundance of wild food sources.

    I really don't think we can just assume that because something was once done on a smaller scale, it can still be done without the same skill/knowledge base which once served and created it, without the abundance of raw resources (steam/coal/timber/steel), and on a much bigger scale.



    How? Are you asserting that banks are going to absorb massive paper losses on many people's property and go under so those properties can go back to 1/3rd of the value they are now?

    That builders with rising costs for everything and no raw resources (i.e. commonly owned forests) to exploit will magically start working for 5-10% of the cost they do today, so houses can be built for 1/3rd of the cost they are today?

    How can any other services or goods fall in price to offset rising food costs, when the cost of fuel and all raw resources which back goods and services are rising?





    But we're not talking about monetary value are we? We're talking about feeding people and virtually not exporting anymore.

    Your use of Diamond's 0.8% stat is misleading because it focuses to a fair degree on vineyard areas which are not predominately about feeding local people as their major source of income. The most profitable 'corner' around Perth is Margaret River type country - wine and specialty value added products. The patch around Adelaide is the barossa - again, wine country, albeit with much fruit growing as well.

    Interestingly, your example includes very little of the wheat belt as the 'profitable' part of our agriculture - even when farmers rely on overseas markets and massive economies of scale.

    A large part of the 80% from your 0.8% is coming purely from 'frills' - the wine, fancy cheese and tropical fruits etc hauled massive distances to cashed up buyers...and every step of the way subsidised by cheap fossil fuels.
     
  16. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    Yes, Jez, the world is going to starve to death when the food industry runs out of fossil fuel inputs. Just like Cuba did! Just like the Soviet Union did! After all, there are no countries in the world now which feed themselves but use very little fossil fuels. Well, except for... um... most of west Africa and south Asia. No, wait... um...

    And house prices will rise forever. The banks will never collapse, and debts will never be written off, because they never have been. Except when they did, during the Depression, and a good chunk of the loans used to build US railways and its prosperity in the 19th century, and after WWI, and after WWII, and... But apart from when it happened, it never happened.

    Doom! Quick! Get your assault rifles and tins of spam! Doom!

    I do not say the change will be smooth or without pain and chaos. But it will not lead to worldwide famine, or a Mad Maxian mastubatory fantasy.
     
  17. blinkblink

    blinkblink Junior Member

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    Where did you get these figures?

    Modern agriculture requires oil at every stage. Plowing, sowing, spraying, fertilising, harvesting, transportation, packaging and production all have significant oil inputs.

    [​IMG]

    Harvest this by hand? Transport it by oxen?

    You're kidding, right? People left alone will continue to buy iPods and big TVs not go out an learn out to feed themselves until it is far too late.


    Cuba has never had a highly mechanised or modern agriculture industry. Going from a small amount of oil required to feed a country to a very small amount of oil is much easier than going from massive amounts of oil to very little.


    The Soviet Union was always able to afford to import food. Especially with the subsidised agriculture produce from the EU and the USA.


    Yup, they're getting along just fine.

    [​IMG]
    link


    Even with fossil fuels the world is struggling to meet demand for grain.
    Global Grain Production Falls Behind Demand


    We have got maybe 10 to 15 years before we will have only 45 million barrels of oil a day to play with instead of the current 85 million barrels a day.

    Currently, nothing is being done to prepare for this.

    How many people in Australia could within a few years learn enough to grow their own food?


    The greatest transfer of wealth from the lower and middle classes to the rich was during the depression. It was foreclosure city.

    We're in trouble. Serious trouble.

    Chris
     
  18. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    Cuba and the Soviet Union didn't have banks and mortgages, which put them in a dramatically different situation to what we will face. There is also a number of other key differences - you can read about some of them Here (Click to view) if you're interested.

    I didn't say the world was going to starve to death, that's just a strawman argument you've invented...apparently so you can carry on sarcastically and mockingly - instead of answering what I actually said. :lol:

    What I did say was that I really don't think we can make assumptions about 'x' production levels or 'x' workable solution which we don't currently have (including old technologies), and I gave you some perfectly reasonable facts to support what I'm saying.

    Yes, there are parts of the world which feed themselves with a low input of fossil fuels, but there are notable major differences between Australia and them - though you seem to want to avoid the inconvenience of this fact.


    Another strawman argument... :wink:



    Oil (and energy in general) or expansionism has pulled every economy out of every rut it's ever been in - if it got out at all.

    If many banks stay afloat, that means the value of housing will not plummet as you have theorised. As Chris rightly said, it will just transfer wealth 'upwards' (as it did in the Great Depression), which means far less people will be able to afford much higher living costs - including much higher food prices. This has been one of my central points throughout this discussion.

    If 'the banks collapse' (as you assert above), your predictions are looking far less likely IMO - they realistically DO end in doomerism:

    If banks collapse, housing will not have conveniently reduced value, it will have NO VALUE and money itself will very quickly become an irrelevance. Before that happens, the government will step in, so if the banks collapse, you can be assured that's because the government itself has collapsed to some degree.

    At that point, we'll either have some sort of official martial law or perhaps even descend into a crude form of anarchy or petty feudalism.

    Very few people go to work for reasons other than to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and their family.

    No banks? No economy left to go to work for. The whole shebang is built on and around the banking system.

    Plenty of people will have been evicted from their homes before banks would crash fully...no piece of paper from a defunct organisation with no legal backing will protect anybody's right of ownership when the policeman who was only working to pay his mortgage and feed his kids is home defending his house.

    I don't know about you, but that's my definition of 'chaos.'

    If banks do collapse, they'll take a major number of our primary food producers with them. Many of our primary producers are in debt up to their eyeballs and need perpetual extensions of credit to stay afloat and continue operating.

    No credit - no production.

    Perhaps more importantly...

    No creditor - none or significantly less production.

    These people work their arses off primarily because of the debt hovering over them, on the gamble that one day they'll get ahead. They can't produce without credit, and without a creditor and the need to constantly service massive debt, they would need to produce far less.

    I'm not arguing the case of 'doomerism' here (however you decide to paint me with your strawman arguments :D), I'm simply pointing out what I see as flaws in your thinking. ATM, elements of your theories coming to reality are the very definition of 'doomerism' and 'chaos.'

    You seem to enjoy painting me as some sort of moron survivalism advocate, which - if you knew me at all - is highly ridiculous.



    I genuinely wish you could discuss things without resorting to unnecessary rudeness and unwarranted ridicule. Unfortunately it started on your very first post here, and tends to reappears whenever you feel challenged or just strongly about something. It does nothing to advance your arguments.

    You have some good ideas and do some good analysis, but that doesn't mean your ideas are perfect of flawless - and I'm sure mine are not either. But I'm not about to mock you or get all rude and arrogant if you're trying to point that out to me through a bit of rational discussion. :D

    If you can't extend the same basic courtesy, then we're probably better off discussing nothing, which would be a shame really.
     
  19. MonteGoulding

    MonteGoulding Junior Member

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    I think we can all agree that there won't be anywhere that is a safe place to be over the next 50 or so years. The lone survivalist is as unsustainable a concept as the suburbanite with a mortgage. The only thing that will retain any sanity will be a major effort to redevelop our local communities that supermarkets, cars and garage remotes have stolen from us. However there's little point putting in the required effort if the locality is significantly over-populated based on it's natural resources like I believe Adelaide is.
     
  20. blinkblink

    blinkblink Junior Member

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    As I mentioned earlier, the world is having trouble keeping grain production with demand.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     

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