"System change is now inevitable. Either because we do something about it, or because we will be hit by climate change. '...

"We need to develop economic models that are fit for purpose. The current economic frameworks, the ones that dominate our governments, these frameworks... the current economic frameworks, the neoclassical, the market frameworks, can deal with small changes. It can tell you the difference, if a sock company puts up the price of socks, what the demand for socks will be. It cannot tell you about the sorts of system level changes we are talking about here. We would not use an understanding of laminar flow in fluid dynamics to understand turbulent flow. So why is it we are using marginal economics, small incremental change economics, to understand system level changes?"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Scary Peak Oil Video

Thanks to Dennis at Samadhisoft, here's an Australian TV piece on peak oil.

I think it's an excellent example of communication of complex issues to a mass audience.

I like how the rich imagery is interwoven with interviews with major players and with various versions of an actually informative infographic. This is good public communication of bad news*.

* = (Except that "Houston, we have a problem" is sort of getting a bit trite around these parts, but I guess we Texans weren't the taaaget odience, roit?)


adelady said...

The whole of that episode of Catalyst was terrific.

Oil was the centrepiece, but the shorter items on nuclear, algae, geothermal in the Rift Valley and sustainable housing were all pretty good.


Magnus Westerstrand said...

when does coal to liquid kick in? It should already start to be economically sound?

amoeba said...

We need to build out renewable generation and associated infrastructure while there's oil to be had.

What's not not clear is whether the calculations of available reserves include or ignore the fictional increase in claimed reserves in the middle-east.

amoeba said...

It also underlines the fact that unless Western Governments get their acts together, that the fact that 1 kg of food requires 1 kg of oil (at the farm gate - that's no packaging, transport to the shops or processing). Many people are going to go very hungry.

Michael Tobis said...

Amoeba, that is far too gloomy of a picture.

First, it is a calorie of fuel per calorie of food, according to Vaclav Smil as reported here (by Rust I think) in a recent food thread.

Second, it doesn't have to be liquid fuel. Indeed, some of it has to be natural gas (the nitrogen fertilizer part).

Converting tractors & combines to run on electricity or gas may not be easy and will continue the process of driving smaller operators out of business. But it isn't impossible in principle.

For good or ill there's plenty of coal. And this is really what's wrong with the peak oil picture. After all, to the extent that liquid fuels are necessary, coal to liquid (CTL) tech can step in, albeit at a higher price than we are used to.

So, no, we aren't going to all start starving next week for want of oil. I haven't seen much decline in the amazing bounty of the typical yuppie supermarket except perhaps in the seafood section.

The relationship between energy, money and food needs some serious thought. Stuff will happen, and of course the poorest people in the poorest societies will suffer the most. But if oil were the only problem, I do not think we would end up with a food crisis.

That said, there are not four more Saudi Arabias to meet foreseeable demand; there probably isn't even one. And the more we pretend otherwise, the harsher the shift and the more it starts butting up against all the other things that shift now that there are no more untapped frontiers.

byron smith said...

Michael - Good summary. I am becoming more worried about what peak oil will do to carbon emissions than running out of oil per se. Coal and unconventionals, seen as inevitable and necessary replacements for declining oil, are what will really kill us, or rather, get us to the point where we manage to enjoy the worst of both worlds: declining access to energy in an increasingly unstable climate system taken beyond various points of no return.