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The Asylum  > Columns > Jin Rui Gaku > CaliforniVindication

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CaliforniVindication By Nutrimentia - 03/21/01 - 00:00:00
For those who havenít read my earlier article on this topic, you can read about it here and the resulting discussion here.

Since I live in Japan, I am not privy to a lot of current US news. I did however get to keep track of the recent Californian power crisis. I donít know the current status of the their power grid, but I hope that you were all scared shitless by it.

I argued earlier that humanity has messed up the environment so bad that we are not going to be able to pull ourselves out of the tailspin we have gone into. I donít think that the end is entirely inevitable, but since there is not a massive immediate effort to switch into a sustainable mode of living and producing, I am pretty sure that we will end up running the system into the ground.

Opponents of my first article claimed that human ingenuity would bail us out. Humans are incredibly adaptive and technologically adept, they said, and therefore will be able to surmount any challenges that may arrive. My contention is that the types of solutions needed in the current situation cannot be remedied overnight. Fundamentally our energy use is destructive and finite. We are quickly approaching the end of this finite limit. When that day arrives, there is no more power, anywhere. As California illustrated, new energy cannot be quickly produced.

California serves as a perfect example. When they began to run out of energy, they couldnít just flip a switch and start generating solar power or geothermal energy. Even traditional power plants take time to build. California was able to survive by leeching power from neighboring regions, and still had to have rolling blackouts. What happens when the neighboring regions cannot fill in the gap?

The West is a bit better off than the East because of nuclear and hydroelectric power. The East is primarily coal-fueled, as far as I know. When the coal runs out, they are screwed.

The answer is to begin building a new renewable energy infrastructure RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately, that isnít happening. People seem to think that we can just wait until the last minute and then begin to develop these alternative energy sources. Hell, even if we donít go solar or geothermal, it still takes a long time to build new dams or nuclear power plants.

It is also disturbing to me to hear the Bush administration blaming environmental policy for the Californian energy crisis. It seems that they are going to use that as an excuse to relax some of the environmental limitations on energy procurement, in effects polluting the whole system even more while doing nothing to remedy the inevitable crash. Pure capitalistic irresponsibility.

In 1997 (I think), there was an international conference in Kyoto, Japan about global warming and emissions. The United States agreed to reduce emissions to something along the lines of 10% below 1991 levels. Since that time, emissions have increased by 4% or so. The European Union has decreased their emissions, but the U.S. has actually increased their amount of pollution. My details may be wrong here, but the gist is correct. (By the way, the United States has 5% of the worldís population, but uses 25% of the worldís energy.)

It has been argued that it would be economically impossible to achieve these levels of emissions in the United States. My perspective on it is that if we were really committed to cleaning up the environment, reducing global warming risks and developing a sustainable energy base, we would have at least began a concerted effort to develop alternative renewable non-polluting energy sources. But we didnít. And with Dubya in the Oval Office, we wonít. Thatís at least another 4 years of fiddling while Rome burns.

Unless the whole world immediately begins the switch to renewable/ sustainable energy sources, there is a very ugly crunch waiting in the future, probably in the next few decades. Rising population, global warming, and decreasing resources all point in the same direction.

I donít relish the idea of having our entire energy grid collapse, but I really think that it will. California showed us that it can. Unfortunately, I suspect that utility companies will not seek to improve the quality of the energy they produce, but rather seek to increase quantity by whatever means possible. The problem with this is that it generally contributes to global warming and depends on resources that are fast dwindling. Pouring gasoline on the fire, canít you see? They will temporarily reduce the pressure on the energy grid, but this remedy is doomed to fail sooner rather than later because it hastens the overall speed of pollution and consumption of non-renewable resources. A responsible solution would be to force modern society to live within current energy production while we develop and build clean renewable energy sources.

There will not be time to play catch up when the system starts to fail.

I am not predicting the end of humanity; people will survive. There will be a lot of pain, suffering, and death, but people will endure. Current society will not.

 
CaliforniVindication by Nutrimentia - 03/21/01 by T H E A S Y L U M - 2001-03-21 20:56:00
CaliforniVindication «
 
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RE: CaliforniVindication by Paint CHiPs - 2001-03-26 00:31:00
Bullshit.

People seem to think that we can just wait until the last minute and then begin to develop these alternative energy sources. Hell, even if we donít go solar or geothermal, it still takes a long time to build new dams or nuclear power plants.

So what, one day we'll all be living comfortable pampered lifestyles and the next day we wake up and find no electricity of any kind anywhere in the world and that society has reverted to being hunter/gathers living in the woods?

 
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RE: CaliforniVindication by Goatboy - 2001-03-26 08:28:00
Whis was an 'I told you so' article.

Please don't ruin it by posting in it.

Philistine.

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A closed mouth gathers no feet.
 
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RE: CaliforniVindication by Nutrimentia - 2001-03-26 19:26:00
Ah, paintchips. You poor deluded soul.

I am not suggesting *quite* the scenario you posit there, but pretty close. Instead of one day, imagine an extremely hot summer followed by an extremely cold winter, worldwide. Instead of one state suffering from power shortages, the whole world runs into this problem. Economies begin to falter as productivity cannot be sustained.

It is possible to imagine a really perverse scenario. In the case of a massive power outage, perishable food disappears due to lack of refrigeration. Once the shit starts to hit the fan, panic breaks out. People freak and society basically falls apart for a little bit. Eventually people get it put back together, but its tenuous with an overall air of panic. In the meantime, power plants are built and the energy crisis continues. Due to the panic though, the public isn't willing to tolerate the development of alt. source; they want power now! Traditional energy generators are built, which consume our dwindling stocks of fossil fuels. Eventually these run out and the energy grid collapses.

Remember what happened during the oil shock 1970s? Think about what it would be like if it was electricity, not oil, and worldwide, not just in the US.

When I consider rising energy use, 3rd World development, and population expansion, I don't see how current energy production can stand up. The infrastructure for alternative sources is not there. We will not be able to make the transition without a lot of problems.

I need to find out what percent of our current energy comes from fossil fuels, hydro, nuclear, and other.....

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All Hail Eris!!
 
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RE: CaliforniVindication by Paint CHiPs - 2001-03-26 20:57:00
And you don't think that at this very moment, there are scores of scientists and engineers and what not researching into alternative energy sources?
 
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RE: CaliforniVindication by Nutrimentia - 2001-03-27 00:05:00
How many is a score anyway? I hope a lot, because they have a lot of work to do to take up the slack when fossil fuels drop out.

In 1999, the United States consumed about 100 quadrillion Btu of energy. (This is a great number, btw, because it makes percentage comparisions a snap.) Of this total, 81.557 (81%) was fossil fuel, either oil, natural gas, or coal. This incidentally is about 25% the world total for fossil fuel consumption.

The other 19% went came from nuclear power (8%), hydroelectric (3.5%), and renewable (7%). Only problem is that the breakdown of renewable energy by type doesn't add up to that total. Either they neglected to mention about half of the renewable energy sources (outside of geothermal, wind, solar, and wood&waste) or their total number is off. In that case, renewable energy only accounted for a little more than 4%.

On a slightly encouraging note, BP reports that worldwide energy consumption only grew by .2% in 1999. This is due in large part to the state of the Russian infrstructure and the Asian economic meltdown that year.

Hopefully you are right Paint, and the scientists are waiting in the wings with a renewable resource that will replace 80% of our current power needs without a corresponding change in infrastructure, etc. I also concede that my pessimism is based on looking at American energy use. I don't know where it all goes, but if everyone else is striving to attain an American style/ standard of living, there is no way that energy resources can support that.

(I got this info from http://www.nef1.org/ea/eastats.html and http://www.bp.com/centres/energy/wo...consumption.asp and from http://www.bp.com/centres/energy/wo..._in_review.asp)

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All Hail Eris!!
 
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RE: CaliforniVindication by Feral Automaton - 2001-04-03 02:30:00
And you don't think that at this very moment, there are scores of scientists and engineers and what not researching into alternative energy sources?

Actually Paint, if you don't mind my jumping in, there is next to zero funding for any science and research for alternative fuels. The government won't give any for two reasons:

First, and most obviously, the government is made of oil money. Oil people aren't about to destroy their own industry to save the planet because they're all too comfortable living above we the scum of these united states.

Second, nuclear power was a big government project back in the 70's. After three mile island, chernobyl, and people's general distaste for anything atomic post WWII, americans refused to support nuclear as an alternative. So we let the programs die, we cut all funding for it, and demonized (and still demonize) it as the great bringer of death rather than an efficient and potentially safe power source alternative.

I say potential because many prominent scientists argue that had we been pumping an equal amount of the original funding into researching a safe nuclear energy, then we would have a fucking fantastic power source right now. Nuclear works, is almost totally safe, and all the bugs that we were so affraid of back in bell bottom days would have been weeded out by research and development. Instead though, we've totally removed the potential to fund nuclear programs, and what could be a sollution to our problem is still dressed as a devil from our past.

Oh, and Nutrimentia, you rant with a flow and consistency that marks a good writer/aesthetic. Cheers, and keep up the column.
 
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