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We will NOT find an alternative to energy dense, easily transportable conventional oil in time to sustain indefinate economic growth.

All alternative energies have one or more disadvantages that do not let them compete with cheap conventional oil.

Given our industrial civilization depends on massive amounts of cheap energy, the reliance on conventional oil is enormous.

The only quick solution I see is a drastic downscaling of economic activity.

Topics: energy

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  • Feb 22 2013: After I read all the comments here, I believe that the solution of energy resources shortage, as well as as the hot topic of greenhouse effect for global warming, really hinges upon the "use" of the earth capacity for the survival of the human kind. In my view, the earth will not be possibly support the human population if we keep on multiply many fold as of the present size. Remember that the ecological load of one person at the present time with respect to consumption of food, in broad sense, and other resources in addition to the dwellings and roads, is at least 10 times larger than that of one man 3000 years ago. So the basic problem is not only the energy shortage but also whether we will reach a limit that the earth can no longer support the ever increasing load of humans on earth. It is true that the increase of human population, at least in percentage, is slowing down, but still increase in number. And we have added on more load due to the ever increase the use of resources, including the oxygen-in-and-CO2-out in the atmosphere by various human activities..
    essentially we should look at this head on as soon as possible. Yes, downscaling the economic activity is part of the solution, and reducing the use of limited resources including energy AND forestry and, perhaps, drinking water. But all of these will heavily depend on the limiting the population growth as well, or at least the increase of human population will not destroy the "population" of plants in forestry. Of course, use of renewable resources is helpful, but if this activity involves destroying large acres of forestland, than this won't be "cost-benefit" effective.
    Let me also comment on the current government policy of greenhouse gas control or taxes. That's just too little and too late for the global warming theory in comparison to the suggestion above.
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      Feb 22 2013: You have hit a "nerve". All of this conversation has been based on the sustainment of people and their continuation of civilization which could be measured by economic growth. I have stated that the planet earth is not effected by the "commotion " on it's surface. That global climate. volcanic activity, plate movement, solar radiation, etc. are all pretty much out of our control and adaptation is the only method of survival.
      I believe we have the technology to adjust our environment; purify water, manage waste, devise energy sources, etc., before we get to the society of "Salient Green". (One of the most terrifying films ever made)
      What concerns me is a phenomenon I found in history I don't fully understand. Where did the Mayans go?
      That great civilization that was to have existed in Central Africa. A number of large communities of North American and South America, Incas, Aztecs? Some have said that the civilizations are gone, but the people are left and have blended into other societies. OK, but too much leftovers from those civilizations and not enough leftover peoples when you do the counting.
      So, is there some instinctive switch in man that limits his existence in an overcrowded environment? We know that mice in an overcrowded cage will stop reproducing and turn to cannibalism. Or, will Planet earth and cosmic forces cause a global extinction as happened about 65 million years ago? Will there be some disease that sweeps the world? Will our greed or survival instinct involve us into horrific wars that annihilate great numbers of us? I know it's a long shot, but I hope Ray Bradbury had a vision and in 500 years, we'll have the means to travel and warp time to resettle new worlds.
      Hey, I am allowed wistful thinking.
      • Feb 22 2013: Thank you for your response, and I appreciate you additional explanation of the contention of the original topic. I agree wholeheartedly that there have been previous views of the disappearance of human cultures before our time. Heck even some quite credible history of the disappearance of the dinosaurs too. That possibility is exactly what my previous comment was based.
        Referring to your citation of space travel and settlement of humans on some remote planets. This is quite possible but that depends on the race of which comes first between the 2 events; the destruction of the earth ecology or the perfection of the time-warp space travel. However, even if the latter becomes reality in the future, my computing about the probability and the size of .such out-migration should be no more than a few thousand human passengers, so that's still the end of the remaining existing human civilization on earth anyway. That's still a sad story, Isn't it?
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          Feb 23 2013: If I were to see the future, I would see a mass exodus of few thousand people to a distant planet as the mass extinction event occurs. That's the good news. the more likely event of a mass extinction of mankind can come at anytime and we are not prepared. A super volcano eruption, a large meteor strike, a new virus, another world war?
          What I don't see is a all the hype about "global climate change:" that is todays popular crisis. I've survived the generational global destruction scenario for the last couple of generations.
          And in each case the scientists were really sure that they were correct.
          Having said that, there are regional areas that we've crowded into and really trashed the local environment.
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      Feb 23 2013: I actually addressed this above...
      "Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year." - http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/world_footprint/

      People do not understand the concept because when they look around they do not readily see the problem.

      I'd like a dollar for every time I've heard on discussion panels, etc, the preposterous notion that development fixes the pollution problem, because the people end up in clean cities.

      This is stated by people that live in the "nice" parts of cities, work in the pretty CBD,etc.

      Yep, it looks squeaky clean and hunky dory, but when you look in poor areas, like impoverished villages and squatter cities, you can see the dirt and squalor that people endure. So the false logic follows that if they were to be elevated to a life as rich as ours, then they'd live in squeaky clean cities too! This is also applied to the poorer neighnourhoods in our cities!

      The illusion is created by "out of sight, out o mind". The dirt and waste from our environment has been moved by such services as garbage collection services and street sweepers, and moved somewhere else. Somehow, they don't notice the industrial areas, etc.

      It is just like sweeping the dirt under the carpet.

      However, any study will show the opposite to be true. Those in affluent societies consume far more per capita of every resource and produce far more "dirt" than the poor do, and the rates rise with income.

      Landfills hide waste, but it is common for regulators to not allow residential areas to be built on previous landfills. They are zoned as "toxic" for a reason!

      We need to reduce consumption and start treating "waste" as resources.

      Semantics are funny. A new term, "mining landfills" arose because "recycling" has become associated with frugality, and we like to think we are richer and richer!

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