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A nationwide blackout lasting 1 year could kill up to 90% Americans

A nationwide blackout lasting 1 year could kill up to 90% Americans

Preface. What follows is the testimony of Dr. Pry at a 2015 U.S. House of Representatives session. I have cut, shortened, and rearranged the order of the 30 page original document.  And hey, the truth is, the electric grid is coming down one way or another.  Without natural gas, wind and solar can’t be balanced (no energy storage is in sight), and the electric grid is falling apart.

Related articles:

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Testimony of Dr. Peter Vincent Pry  at the U.S. House of Representatives Serial No. 114-42 on May 13, 2015. The EMP Threat:  the state of preparedness against the threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event.  House of Representatives. 94 pages.

“The EMP Commission estimates that a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill up to 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse”  

A natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a geomagnetic super-storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, or nuclear EMP attack could cause a year-long blackout, and collapse all the other critical infrastructures–communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water–necessary to sustain modern society and the lives of 310 million Americans.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Permafrost will limit natural gas, oil, and coal extraction

Permafrost will limit natural gas, oil, and coal extraction

Preface. For many people, it’s comforting to know that about 25% of remaining oil and gas reserves (we have the know-how and economics to get it) and resources (beyond our technical and monetary capability) are in the arctic. They assume we’ll get this oil and gas when we need to, and delay oil shortages for a decade or more.

But  they haven’t considered the difficulties of trying to drill for oil and gas or mine coal in permafrost.  It buckles roads, airports, buildings, pipelines, and any other structures placed on top.

A Greenpeace report published in 2009 said thawing soil in Russia’s permafrost zones caused buildings, bridges and pipelines to deform and collapse, costing up to 1.3 billion euros (nearly $1.5 billion) a year in repairs in western Siberia.

Although there are ways to build roads that can withstand melting and freezing permafrost for a while, it is terribly expensive, and it is why we haven’t developed much oil or natural gas in Alaska besides Prudhoe Bay, as far north as you can get, with fewer permafrost issues.

The cost and energy of production in permafrost may mean that reserves are much less than estimated.  Especially if they are developed when oil production begins to decline, since the price and declining availability of oil will mean there’s less energy to build roads, towns, platforms for drilling rigs and oil pipelines. And for agriculture, transportation supply chains, and all the other myriad ways oil and gas keep us alive.

As it is, climate change continues to exceed past engineering standards, and every year Alaska and Canada spend millions of dollars trying to fix roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How much oil left in America? Not much

How much oil left in America? Not much

If you think no worries because we can get arctic oil, think again. We can’t because icebergs knock the drilling platforms down, and massive amounts of new infrastructure — roads, rail lines, platforms, buildings — are needed to set up drilling in Alaska, since the permafrost soil heaves and sinks like a bucking bronco trying to shake them off.

It’s kind of dumb to be in this situation. In the first two oil shocks in the 1970s, many intelligent people proposed we should buy oil from other nations to keep ours in the ground when foreign oil declined. But hell no, Texas, Oklahoma, and other oil states said we need jobs and huge fat profits for shareholders more than national security as long as possible. I would guess this makes war a likely outcome in the future, which wouldn’t have occurred if we’d kept our oil in the ground.

The source material for this post is: Jean Laherrère, Updated US primary energy in quad (April 30, 2019) https://aspofrance.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/updateduspe2019-3.pdf

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Philippe Gauthier. May 3, 2019. US Oil Exploration Drops by 95 Percent. Resilience.org 

It is well known that oil discoveries are in continuous decline worldwide in spite of ever-increasing investments. What is less known, however, is that spending on oil exploration is fast dropping in the United States. Exploratory drilling has been decreasing year after year and now stands at only five percent of its 1981 peak. In other words, once the currently producing shale oil wells are gone, there won’t be much to take their place.

According to figures derived from US Energy Information Agency (EIA) data by French oil geologist Jean Laherrère, oil exploration has already peaked twice in the United States. The first time was in the mid-1950s, with just over 16,000 wells drilled in a single year. The second major peak dates back to 1981, with 17,573 exploration wells. This number fell to only 847 in 2017.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

California’s central valley aquifers may be gone in 2030s, Ogallala 2050-2070

California’s central valley aquifers may be gone in 2030s, Ogallala 2050-2070

Preface. Clearly the human population isn’t going to reach 10 billion or more. California grows one-third of the nation’s food, the 10 high-plains states over the Ogallala about a quarter of the nations food, and exports a great deal of food other nations as well.

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December 15, 2016. Groundwater resources around the world could be depleted by 2050s.  American Geophysical Union.

Human consumption could deplete groundwater in parts of India, southern Europe and the U.S. in the coming decades, according to new research presented here today.

In the U.S., aquifers in California’s Central Valley, Tulare Basin and southern San Joaquin Valley, could be depleted within the 2030s.

Aquifers in the southern High Plains, which supply groundwater to parts of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, could reach their limits between the 2050s and 2070s, according to the new research.

New modeling of the world’s groundwater levels finds aquifers—the soil or porous rocks that hold groundwater—in the Upper Ganges Basin area of India, southern Spain and Italy could be depleted between 2040 and 2060.By 2050, as many as 1.8 billion people could live in areas where groundwater levels are fully or nearly depleted because of excessive pumping of groundwater for drinking and agriculture, according to Inge de Graaf, a hydrologist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado.

“While many aquifers remain productive, economically exploitable groundwater is already unattainable or will become so in the near future, especially in intensively irrigated areas in the drier regions of the world,” said de Graaf, who will present the results of her new research today at the 2016 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.

Knowing the limits of groundwater resources is imperative, as billions of gallons of groundwater are used daily for agriculture and drinking water worldwide, said de Graaf.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

March 28, 2019 Book review of Bryce’s “Power hungry: the myths of green energy and the real fuels of the future”

March 28, 2019 Book review of Bryce’s “Power hungry: the myths of green energy and the real fuels of the future”

Preface.  This is a book review of: Robert Bryce. 2009. Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future.

This is a brilliant book, very funny at times, a great way to sharpen your critical thinking skills, and complex ideas and principles expressed so enough anyone can understand them.

I have two main quibbles with his book.  I’ve written quite a bit about energy and resources in “When trucks stop running” and this website about why nuclear power and natural gas cannot get us out of the peak oil crisis (after all, natural gas and uranium are finite also).

This book came out in 2009. As far as his liking for nuclear power, perhaps Bryce would have been less enthusiastic if he’d read the 2013 “Too Hot to Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste” by W. A. Alley et al., Cambridge University Press.  And also the 2016 National Research Council “Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants: Phase 2”.  As a result of this study, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Science Magazine concluded that a nuclear spent fuel fire at Peach Bottom in Pennsylvania could force up to 18 million people to evacuate. This is because the spent fuel is not stored under the containment vessel where the reactor is, which would keep the radioactivity from escaping, so if electric power were out for 12 to 31 days (depending on how hot the stored fuel was), the fuel from the reactor core cooling down in a nearby nuclear spent fuel pool could catch on fire and cause millions of flee from thousands of square miles of contaminated land.

Bryce on why the green economy won’t work:

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Venezuela collapse: looting, hunger, blackouts

Venezuela collapse: looting, hunger, blackouts

[ Venezuela is experiencing a double whammy of drought and low oil prices, which has lead to blackouts and inability to import food.  It just keeps getting worse and worse.  Related posts:

December 17, 2018 Planet money podcast: Bonus indicator: the measure of a tragedy

It’s hard to understand how bad a country is doing with figures like inflation rate, unemployment rate, and their minimum wage. A better way to understand a nation’s living standards is how many calories a person could afford to buy a day earning a minimum wage if they spent all of their money on food — that is — the food with the most calories, which in Venezuela has sometimes been pasta or flour, and today is the yucca plant.

Venezuelans could by 57,000 calories in 2012 with one day’s wages, and several dozen eggs.

But today a person can afford just 900 calories or 2 eggs. It would take a Venezuelan 6 weeks to be able to afford one Big Mac earning minimum wage.

Since the average person needs 2,000 calories a day, as well as calories to feed their family, and also housing, clothing, medicine, and so on, it’s not surprising that the average Venezuelan lost 24 pounds last year, and that Venezuela probably has the highest murder rate in the world.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Book review of Dirt: the erosion of civilization

Book review of Dirt: the erosion of civilization

Preface.  On average civilizations collapsed between 800 to 2,000 years before ruining their soil. Industrial agriculture is doing this far faster – in most of the United States half of the original topsoil is gone and industrial farming techniques erode and compact the land much more than men and horses in the past, further aggravated by large monoculture crops and business owned farmland leased out to farmers who want to make money far more than preserving the land, since they can’t leave the farm to their children.

The bedrock of any civilization is food and water.  So you’d think the top priority of nations throughout history would be ensuring farmers were taking good care of the land right now because this history of erosion is well-known and has been for centuries.

The typical pattern is that at first, only be best soil in the valley bottomland is farmed, then population grows so the slopes are farmed, but the soil washes away into the valley.  Now the bottom land is even more intensely cultivated, which uses the soil up as it keeps growing thinner and depleted of nutrition from continuous farming. And in the end, civilization declines and fails.

Related article: “Peak soil: Industrial agriculture destroys ecosystems and civilizations. Biofuels make it worse“.

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David R. Montgomery. 2007. Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations.  University of California Press.

Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson commented on how poorly American farmers treated their land.  Washington attributed it to ignorance, Jefferson to greed.  Since the principles of good land management were known for hundreds of years previously in Europe, Jefferson’s harsher view is no doubt the correct one.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why aren’t there battery powered airplanes or flying cars?

Why aren’t there battery powered airplanes or flying cars?

Preface.  Batteries are too heavy for airplanes to get off the ground. These two articles explain that in further detail.

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Viswanathan, V., et al. 2018. Why Aren’t There Electric Airplanes Yet? It Comes Down to Batteries. Batteries need to get lighter and more efficient before we use them to power energy-guzzling airplanes. Smithsonian.

“…for a given weight, jet fuel contains about 14 times more usable energy than a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery….the best batteries store about 40 times less energy per unit of weight than jet fuel.  That makes batteries relatively heavy for aviation. Airline companies are already worried about weight – imposing fees on luggage in part to limit how much planes have to carry.”

So what about a flying car (e-VTOL)?  

We looked at how much energy a small battery-powered aircraft of 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms, including a passenger) capable of vertical takeoff and landing would need.  While actually flying, the air vehicle would need 400 to 500 watt-hours per mile, about what an electric pickup truck would need, which is twice as much energy used as an electric car.

But taking off and landing require a lot more power, at least 8,000 to 10,000 watt-hours per trip, or half the energy in a compact electric car such as the Nissan Leaf.

So for an entire flight of 20 miles you’d need 800 to 900 watt-hours per mile  — half as much energy as a fully loaded semi-truck.  Using that much energy means these aren’t likely to take off.

“Aircraft designers also need to closely examine the power – or how quickly the stored energy is available. This is important because ramping up to take off in a jet or pushing down against gravity in a helicopter takes much more power than turning the wheels of a car or truck.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How United Nations scientists are preparing for the end of capitalism

How United Nations scientists are preparing for the end of capitalism

Source: arabisouri, The Inevitable End of Capitalism, steemkr.com

Preface. The article below was written by Nafeez Ahmed, who wrote one of my favorite books  “Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence“.

Ahmed writes: “Most observers have no idea of the current biophysical realities – that the driving force of the transition to post-capitalism is the end of the age that made endless growth capitalism possible in the first place: the age of abundant, cheap energy. We have moved into a new, unpredictable and unprecedented space in which the conventional economic toolbox has no answers.  Capitalist markets will not be capable of facilitating the required changes – governments will need to step up, and institutions will need to actively shape markets to fit the goals of human survival.

I seriously doubt that governments have any plans now, because I just finished the book Raven Rock.  If the U.S. government abandoned plans to build bomb shelters for the 160 million in cities to survive in for two weeks (and then the radiation would supposedly be low enough to emerge), they certainly aren’t preparing for the Permanent Emergency of the energy crisis.  But governments may be forced to step up the the plate at some level of social disorder, and the best possible action they could take is rationing, which really ought to be thought out ahead of time. Oh well..

The solutions proposed in this article may slow down the Great Simplification a little — such as the promotion of walking and biking, self-sufficient food production and fewer imports, more public transport, and electrification of transport (though natural gas and coal are also finite). 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

From Horsepower to Horse Power. When Trucks stop, Horses start.

From Horsepower to Horse Power. When Trucks stop, Horses start.

Preface. Before the industrial revolution there were only four sources of mechanical power of any economic significance. They were human labor, animal labor, water power (near flowing streams) and wind power.   Work done by animals, especially on farms, was still important at the beginning of the 20th century and remained significant until mid-century, when trucks and tractors displaced horses and mules (Ayres 2003).

Just as horses were indispensable the past millennia, so have the cars and trucks of the 20thcentury become essential to our way of life.  If one horsepower equals the power one horse can generate (this is roughly true), then the 268.8 million cars and trucks in the United States, let’s say with an average horsepower of 120 HP, then that’s nearly 32.3 billion horses.  If each needs an acre of pasture, then that’s over 50 million square miles of land. But the U.S. is only 3.5 million square miles.  Clearly we can’t go back to horses – except we have to at some point because oil is finite (I’m assuming you’ve read my book When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation to understand why biofuels, CTL, batteries, overhead wires, natural gas, and hydrogen can’t replace petroleum powered internal combustion engines).

Eric Morris. April 1, 2007. “From Horse Power to Horsepower”. Access Magazine, University of California.

The horse was the dominant mode of transportation for thousands of years. Horses were absolutely essential for the functioning of the 19th-century city—for personal transportation, freight haulage, and even mechanical power. Without horses, cities would quite literally starve.

From 1800 to 1900, US per capita GDP rose from $1,148 to $4,676 (in 2000 dollars). This meant greater trade, and virtually all goods were, at some point in their journey, transported by horse.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

238 academics call on the EU to plan for a post-growth future

238 academics call on the EU to plan for a post-growth future

Preface. We know there’s going to be no growth soon due to peak oil and limits to growth, and ought to be planning for it so that the financial system doesn’t “freak out” and crash like Humpty Dumpty, beyond repair.  We will eventually be forced to reach a steady state economy, but the landing when civilization snaps from resource shortages could be softened by evolving to a non-growth society, which would also hugely help the environment and reduce biodiversity loss.

September 16, 2018. The EU needs a stability and well-being pact, not more growth. 238 academics call on the European Union and its member states to plan for a post-growth future in which human and ecological wellbeing is prioritised over GDP. The Guardian.

This week, scientists, politicians, and policymakers are gathering in Brussels for a landmark conference. The aim of this event, organised by members of the European parliament from five different political groups, alongside trade unions and NGOs, is to explore possibilities for a “post-growth economy” in Europe.

For the past seven decades, GDP growth has stood as the primary economic objective of European nations. But as our economies have grown, so has our negative impact on the environment. We are now exceeding the safe operating space for humanity on this planet, and there is no sign that economic activity is being decoupled from resource use or pollution at anything like the scale required. Today, solving social problems within European nations does not require more growth. It requires a fairer distribution of the income and wealth that we already have.

Growth is also becoming harder to achieve due to declining productivity gains, market saturation, and ecological degradation.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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