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Depleting Natural Resources; A One Way Dead End Street - Mike Folkerth - King of Simple

Mike Folkerth - King of Simple

Western Colorado

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Depleting Natural Resources; A One Way Dead End Street


By Mike Folkerth and Greg Chadwick

Finite, non-renewable, forever; these are absolutes; once non-renewable resources are gone, they are gone forever; absolutely. However, most Americans never consider that they are burning massive quantities of non-renewable resources every minute of every day.

This is a one-time endowment folks, all of the tickets are sold. These resources that make our lives possible took tens of millions of years to accumulate and we are consuming it in just over 200 years (the majority in just 60 years)! Yet we use non-renewables for everything, in spite of their finite nature. Ain’t we something?

 We “modern” humans are sometimes characterized as Petroleum Man. All that we have and all that we are is only possible because of fossil fuels. Our society will cease to exist without them, yet we take it for granted and will leave nothing behind. Well, nothing other than a resource depleted and polluted planet with mountains of garbage and debt. Quite a legacy we bequeath to our Grandchildren, huh?

Sitting in my office, here’s what I see – oil!  Much of what I see is made from petroleum distillates, and what isn’t is only here because of cheap oil, coal and natural gas that is used to mine, manufacture and transport it.

The list is long; my laptop computers, the monitor, the mouse, mouse pad, telephones, tape player, blood pressure monitor, plant containers, the pills on my desk; yes, pharmaceuticals contain petrochemical feed stocks. That’s not all!  All of the cords, surge protectors, the paper shredder, printer case and components, the base and moving parts of the leather chair, my cheap flute and one piece of art that looks like wood, but like everything else, are actually made from petrochemicals. 

There are even petrochemicals in the carpet and the padding and the picture frames. The laminates on my desk and file cabinets are made with petrochemicals. Never mind the amount of plastic and other petrochemical by- products in cars, garden hoses, household cleaners and detergents.  I have missed as many items as I have listed, so follow this link to see what else is made with petrochemicals.                                                                     

http://ezinearticles.com/?Petroleum-Based-Components-Used-in-Products-You-Never-Realized&id=815584

In addition, all of the energy used to manufacture and ship these items to our homes comes directly, or indirectly, from fossil fuels. Even nuclear plants are built and maintained with fossil fuels.  Without fossil fuels, nuclear power plants, photovoltaic panels, windmills, electric and hybrid cars, you name it; none of this would be possible.

And yet, you can go to any coffee shop in America and listen to someone rear back and with their best impression of divine wisdom say, “Don’t worry, they’ll come up with a substitute for oil.” To this, I ask them, “What’s your idea?” The response to that question is deathly silence.

When fossil fuels become too expensive or population rises to the point that there is simply not enough to go around, we will slowly revert to a pre-industrial life style. At that point, we will have what little timber is left, hydro, geothermal, wind, solar power and our own labor and that of our animals.  Unfortunately, all of this combined can’t match the energy density, ease of use, portability and versatility of oil.  Nothing is even close.

Oh sure, “They,” could come up with a brand new form of energy that can be used in place of oil and save us all from our collective stupidity, but remember, the Department of Energy was formed to do just that in August of 1977! After 32 years of spending billions upon billions of tax dollars to find a solution; nada. In fact, our energy dependence has grown every year during that period.

If this all sounds insane, consider that our goal is to increase consumption of these non-renewable resources, each and every year. We have to ask ourselves, at what point does ignorance become stupidity?

We have another underlying problem of monumental proportion that is just now rearing its ugly head. American’s built the largest and most complex infrastructure in the world using cheap fossil fuels and plentiful mined materials. That infrastructure is now aged and needs replaced, but there is a problem. Ya see, we didn’t take into account that these fuels and materials were of the no-deposit, no-return, sort of goods. 

The cost of gasoline in the west has risen from around 25 cents per gallon in 1971, to more than $3.00 today (nearly $4.00 at one point). That’s 12 times more. So if a person were making $5.00 per hour in 1971 (about average) that same person would have to be making $60 per hour today or about $120,000 per year to remain even. Medium household income for 2009 (not yet officially available) is expected to drop below $50,000!

So to cut to the quick, we can no longer afford to maintain our infrastructure. The cost of fuel and materials has far outpaced wages. We could build it, but we can’t replace it. This is called poor planning.

Add to this the very real fact that world demand will no longer allow our 4.8% of world population to utilize 25% of global fuel and 30% of world materials.

The combination of the above is why nearly every state, city, town, and county in the nation is putting infrastructure construction and repair on the back burner. Sure, they can conveniently blame it on recession, but that dog won’t hunt.

 
Comments
1.
On February 1st, 2010 at 9:03 am, Mike Folkerth said:

Kenneth Boulding was right, “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world, is either a madman or an economist.” ~Kenneth Boulding, Economics professor …
Take a look at this clip. If you think the delusional are not amongst and making money, think again.
http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/obama-could-have-%22his-cake-and-eat-it%22-u.s.-poised-to-create-3m-jobs-says-bob-barbera-416155.html?tickers=spy,dia,^gspc,^dji,MAN,KELYA&sec=topStories&pos=3&asset=d0261e4fbe88077252c6c27ac037408a&ccode=rd

2.
On February 1st, 2010 at 9:04 am, ClydeB said:

Although the population explosion has increased the problem exponentially - you like that word, don’t you?- our pundits and leaders keep expounding on the benefits of further growth.

The oil situation is getting critical enough that none should be used for heat. We should save it for those “only oil works” products and at least stretch the finite supply as long as possible.

How do we make the point beyond forums such as this? I write my representatives and talk with friends, neighbors, relatives, etc., but it does not seem to have any effect.

3.
On February 1st, 2010 at 9:15 am, Mike Folkerth said:

Clyde,

Excellent perspective and observation on your part.

I was having a long discussion with a friend last week regarding our collision course with reality. About an hour into the discussion I stopped and said, “Ya know Mick, the vast majority of people would have walked away from this discussion within three minutes.”

The average human mind is incapable of dealing with reality when that reality is not pleasant. Therefore, we elect and follow those who promise the “easy button.”

I’ll be writing some examples of our delusional minds in the next few days. Trust me, you’ll recognize them and laugh; to keep from crying.

4.
On February 1st, 2010 at 9:54 am, George45-70 said:

Mike,

The “Easy Button” is also made from petrochemicals!

5.
On February 1st, 2010 at 12:17 pm, Billyb said:

With the huge increase in consumption of natural resourses over the past few years (U.S., China, India, Japan, etc.) Hubbert’s prediction for peak net energy (2032) could shrink to 2025 or even 2020. Ten to fifteen years is not a very long time. And the effects of peak net energy will not wait to be felt at the precise time that the event takes place. Dramatic, unmistakable effects will begin to surface 5 years or more ahead of peak net energy.

This is important, because for us to discuss nuclear power as a way out of our energy crisis is nothing more than a placebo; a feel good exchange with the American people in an effort to ease anxiety, and to begin spending their remaining savings, since the silver bullet has arrived to save the day.

The finest minds on our planet, in1974, spoke to Hubbert’s presentation at a congressional hearing, indicating that if we began aggressively developing ALL known energy sources at that time, it would take a minimum of 50 years for those developments to equal the energy that oil was currently providing.

We have used up 36 of those years to date. And as you can witness every day on the news, we are still simply applying lip service (nuke plants) to the core issues that will push us, no, boot us back to pre-industrial living conditions. And at that time, since we did not act and are still not acting, we will not have the energy or oil based products and technology to EVER recover to a standard of living even close to what we have experienced over the past 70-80 years.

Obviously Hubbert understood that oil would not be our only concern (just the most important) in resource depletion for future generations. That is why he also studied hundreds of other resources and there uses. We need to grow, that is true, but only in a sustainable manner and this does not mean we can keeping letting our population go unchecked, or to keep consuming just for a profit. It would make no sense to come up with a replacement for this or that natural resource to prolong our survival, just to run into the next wall and the next, until we end up in the heap we are pointed at right now.

Exponential growth of anything, cannot go on long term. And it won’t. Our nation’s leaders, at this point, have no intention of doing anything except to continue our exponential growth policies. All for a buck; a simple buck and the power tied to that buck, that is so embraced by a population of very greedy individuals. -bb

6.
On February 1st, 2010 at 12:43 pm, whenry912 said:

http://www.mnn.com/transportation/cars/stories/cash-strapped-towns-ponder-return-to-gravel-roads

Seems we are already on our way down the long slide… First the small towns, then the cities, states, and eventually the Federal government will not be able to afford keeping the infrastructure that we have in place.

On a bright side, when folks made $5 an hour, a TV was $400, and it still is!

Just put on American Idol, it’s all ok folks…

7.
On February 1st, 2010 at 1:11 pm, WmA said:

RE: returning to gravel roads..

I thot pavement was cheaper to maintain than gravel roads.?? Of course, maybe that is assuming they would maintain the gravel roads.. wma…

8.
On February 1st, 2010 at 1:36 pm, Mike Folkerth said:

Billyb,

I’m going to take one thing from your comment that should fly in the face of everyone…but doesn’t. “…or to keep consuming just for a profit.”

We consume massive resources, not because we need them, but simply to make a profit. That would be equal to being stranded on the desert with one gallon of water and agree to sell to the highest bidder for a shower!

Whenry,
Thanks for the news clip, I knew it had to be happening somewhere, there is just no other way.

Wma,

It’s not maintenance that they are looking at in this case, pavement is made with oil and replacing the same is no longer possible. Crude was selling for about $3.50 per barrel in 1970. Today, we are looking at $80.00 per barrel and wages have stagnated.

9.
On February 1st, 2010 at 2:37 pm, hutch8of9 said:

I do believe that they will find a means to replace a modest but significant percentage of fossil fuels. I also believe we are in for hard times and significant pain before we begin to change our wasteful ways.
Nice to be considered an optimist for a change.

10.
On February 1st, 2010 at 2:42 pm, Les said:

I’m a cycling enthusiast and I love using antique wood working tools. I can easily get by on $15 worth of electricity a month. Solar panels can easily cover my needs if I installed them. I would love to see the world run out of oil. Nothing would make me happier than seeing 80% of the cars off the road.

But, even I think we are years, possibly generations, away from a peak oil type of situation. I think when this worldwide credit ponzi scheme collapses within the next few years, the world will probably fall into a state of negative growth for a decade if not longer. Plus, I don’t underestimate people’s inability to make sacrifices to their comfort. We will strip mine the National Parks and put oil wells on all the beaches just to keep our cars running.

And, has anyone recycled a pickup load of scrap steel or newspaper/cardboard lately? It’s not even worth the gas to haul that stuff to the recycler. If there is a future shortage of resources, it’s not priced into the market.

11.
On February 1st, 2010 at 3:02 pm, Mike Folkerth said:

Les said,

“If there is a future shortage of resources, it’s not priced into the market.”

I certainly agree Les. The cost of resources in general does not consider the fact that they are finite, let alone the recycling markets.

If we paid the fair price of oil, we would be stopped dead in our tracks by tomorrow. Once again, we’re here for a good time not a long time.

I

12.
On February 1st, 2010 at 4:32 pm, Hotrod said:

Mike,

I shutter to think about the food supply when it is almost entirely dependent upon fossil fuels for its very existence. From diesel for tractors, to transportation and manufacture of fertilizer and petrochemicals, to harvesting and transporting the raw product to processing, to hauling the finished product to distribution. Wow. The whole agri-business paradigm is threatened.

Probably a good thing, but another painful adjustment to the already long list of painful adjustments we will be forced to swallow soon.

13.
On February 1st, 2010 at 11:00 pm, Greg C said:

Les, regarding peak oil, it looks like we passed it in 2005, at least what most people would consider oil. Another figure called total liquids, which includes everything that can be converted into oil, such as tar sands, coal and gas to liquids, bio-fuels such as ethanol -everything, that peaked in 2008.

This isn’t speculation, there are numbers to support the statement. In spite of record high prices, producers could not increase production above 2005 levels.

Most people in the oil industry no longer dispute that peak oil has come and gone. We have been on the plateau of Hubbert’s Peak for the past couple of years. However, that won’t last much longer. Once the decline begins, it could range anywhere from 3-4% a year, to as high as 7-8% a year.

Unfortunately all of the unconventional sources like oil sands and the ultra-deep water reserves aren’t enough to offset the declines in our aging Super Giant oil fields. Worse yet, all the cheap, high quality oil is gone and what’s left are the heavy, sour crudes that are more expensive to extract and refine.

Also the net energy is lower. This is the crux of the problem. We built our entire society on cheap oil, that’s gone now and what remains can only be extracted at a much higher price. We are currently around $80/bbl. We never would have been able to build our current infrastructure with oil that was that expensive.

The trouble is we can’t even afford to maintain it at that price.

If you get a chance, go to The Oil Drum web site. It is one of the best on energy related issues that I have found. Be prepared, it can be a bit technical, however, they know what they are talking about.

14.
On February 2nd, 2010 at 8:15 am, hutch8of9 said:

Markets are not as ’supply and demand’ rational as the experts would have us believe. There are thoughtful arguments to both sides of whether we have reached or passed peak oil. Nations are indisputably far beyond rational levels of debt, liabilities, and risk.

15.
On February 2nd, 2010 at 8:25 am, Billyb said:

2032 is when Hubbert estimated that we would reach peak net energy. This is not when the planet no longer can provide us with oil. This is when it takes more energy to extract a barrel of oil from the ground, than the energy we can produce with that barrel of oil. Another thing to remember is that the estimate was based on consumption rates in 1989.

We are getting close; and as Les pointed out, this is not a drill. -bb

16.
On February 2nd, 2010 at 8:31 am, Mike Folkerth said:

Hutch,

You certainly said a mouthful my friend.

“Nations are indisputably far beyond rational levels of debt, liabilities, and risk.”

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