Sunday, June 20, 2010

Beyond Oil

Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's PeakBy Kenneth S Deffeyes

As an academic geologist from Princeton who has spent a large part of his working life in exploration, Professor Kenneth S Deffeyes is worth reading on carbon energy sources. 'Beyond Oil' obliges through providing the usual chapters on oil, gas, coal and uranium. It discusses alternative carbon supplies such as tar sands and oil shale. But if you can spare only time for reading one chapter, read the last one 'the big picture'.

With earth formed 4,500 million years ago, geologists 'can't be bothered with stuff that lasts less than a million years', which is incidentally about the lifetime of a mammal species. As there is no reason why Homo Sapiens should be an exception, we may have 900,000 years left before the next stage in our evolution.

Thinking out of the box, an example that we can make deliverate changes to the earth's major systems: digging 2 sea-level canals accross the Isthmus with flap gates could wipe out in a few 100 years the salinity difference between the Pacific and the Atlantic, making the tropics less hot, and the poles less cold. In other words 'San Diego everywhere'.

Beyond Oil offers further musings on population control as an instrument for sustainability. Obviously controversial, the most humane and acceptable method would be to teach calculus to teenage girls.

Its recipe prefers a mix of existing technologies, such as high efficiency automobiles, coal-fired power plants located near to CO2underground storage areas, wind turbines and nuclear power plants. It also pleads for a better use of combined techniques, i.e.:
  • plan coal-fired electric power plants near to oil fields, to use CO2 for enhanced oil recovery
  • nuclear plants supplying heat and hydrogen for processing heavy-oil sands
  • agriculture to produce both food and burnable waste products

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