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Out of Gas

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the 9500-miles-costs dept.

Books 1098

Oil -- and energy in general -- has long been a big topic among Slashdot readers. Predictions about The End of the Age of Oil (about which, claims the subtitle, this book provides "all you need to know") certainly are not new -- and if civilization lasts long enough, one day they'll prove true. It's nice to consider that automobiles aren't necessarily tied to petroleum, but mine certainly runs on 87 octane gasoline, and there aren't enough turkey guts or grease to power everything that we use petro-fuels for right now (though places like Iceland are trying hard to tap other sources). Current gas prices (in the U.S. at any rate) are higher than they have been in a decade or so, but in constant dollars, gasoline prices have certainly been worse. How much to panic, and when? Read on below for Arthur Smith (apsmith)'s brief review of David Goodstein's Out of Gas for a rather gloomy look at the future of oil-based energy.Americans have started to notice prices at the pump with an unfamiliar '2' on the sign. Meanwhile, crude oil prices are hitting 13-year records close to $40 per barrel. As the International Energy Agency reports, there is "no relief in sight". All this should come as no surprise to readers of David Goodstein's Out of Gas - the only question is, have we left it too late to survive the inevitable shocks that are coming?

In this slim and subtly illustrated volume Dr. Goodstein, physics professor and vice provost at Caltech, explains in clear and simple terms why the fossil fuel age is coming to an end. A "massive, focused commitment" is needed to develop alternatives, and every year of delay in that commitment adds immeasurably to future human suffering.

In years, or at best a decade, we will reach the global "Hubbert's peak" for conventional oil, when production starts to decline even with rising demand. Such a peak was reached for US production in 1970. "Foreign oil" has sustained us until now, but Goodstein shows why it cannot for much longer.

A number of books on this subject have come out in recent years, some very pessimistic about the future (for example Heinberg's "The Party's Over", which warns of a greatly decreased world population). Goodstein offers some hope in alternatives, substantially based on the analysis of climate scientist and space solar power advocate Martin Hoffert.

Solar-based renewables and fusion are the only long-run energy solutions. According to Goodstein, natural gas and nuclear fission can help tide us over. All of these have problems, with the most scalable (solar power from space) still the least mature. Goodstein's longest chapter discusses thermodynamics and the physical laws that explain usable energy and its relation to entropy. As a physicist, I was pleased and surprised to learn something from Goodstein's clear explanation here.

Goodstein also discusses global climate problems with continued use of fossil energy, particularly an increasing dependence on coal. He concludes: "Civilization as we know it will come to an end sometime in this century unless we find a way to live without fossil fuels."

There were a few minor things to complain about. Transitions between the chapters are too abrupt, perhaps caused by the wide range of discussion in such a short book. A few technical things seemed wrong - for example, it is quite feasible to run transportation systems off grid electricity (electric trains, subways, etc. do this) - would it be so hard to do it for personal transport too?

But Goodstein's book is the clearest explanation yet of our need to get beyond fossil fuels. Is it enough to get the public, and our leaders, actually paying attention?

You can purchase the Out of Gas: All You Need to Know about the End of the Age of Oil from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, carefully read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Inflation. (2, Insightful)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187247)

The fact that, adjusted for inflation, gas isn't at it's higest levels don't matter. What matters is the sudden increase in the cost of gas OVER A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, that short period of time doesn't give us time to adjust and can result in massive inflation.

Milk is up 0.60 cent per gallor
Butter has went from 1.99 to 3.49
Ice Cream has increased in price by 35-45%
Store brand products are increasing in price by 5%-8%.
Namebrand products are increasing in price by 6%-7.5%

As to why none of this is being reflected in the inflations numbers...well, you tell me.

Re:Inflation. (1)

JaffaKREE (766802) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187305)

In PA, 93 Octane is at $2.23. Those numbers whiz by on the gas pump so fast, it makes me break down in tears every time I fill up.

Re:Inflation. (4, Informative)

hattig (47930) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187359)

Please come to the UK, where it is around $5.50+ a US gallon most of the time. Of course, because we are a smaller country and have had this fuel price thing going for many a year, we usually live closer to where we work than many people in the US [do to their place of work]. We aren't as reliant on personal transport.

Re:Inflation. (2, Insightful)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187397)

How would you react if gas went from $5.50 a gallon to $10.00 a gallon over the course of a year? That's the sort of increase that's happening here in the US.

Re:Inflation. (2)

Uerige (206572) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187473)

The same increase is happening in Europe (the oil comes from the same source)...

Re:Inflation. (2, Insightful)

KDan (90353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187487)

I use public transportation, which runs on electricity (the infamous London Underground)... So I wouldn't really care very much.


Re:Inflation. (3, Informative)

b-baggins (610215) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187319)

The dairy product hikes are a result of shortages, not rising energy prices.

Business will abosrb rising energy costs for a short period of time (the market keeps a downward pressure on price increases), but eventually, there will be overall rises in prices if energy prices stay high.

There are a couple of things affecting gas prices:
  1. Environmental regulations preventing the building of new refineries.

  2. Environmental regulations forcing specialized, region-specific formulations across the country.

  3. OPEC fighting against us in Iraq with the one effective weapon they have.

Re:Inflation. (2, Insightful)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187424)

If exxon and the other large oil companies wanted to build new plants, they could. They have enough clout in DC and enough of an ad budget to get it done, but they don't.

You know why? Because they are making too much bloody money on it! It's not just the fault of the Environimental Nuts!

Re:Inflation. (5, Informative)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187451)

3. OPEC fighting against us in Iraq with the one effective weapon they have.

The only OPEC country that isn't pumping at full capacity is Saudi Arabia. This shortage isn't a result of OPEC manipulation.

Re:Inflation. (1)

Geoff-with-a-G (762688) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187329)

Milk is up 0.60 cent per gallon
Butter has went from 1.99 to 3.49

Out of curiosity, since when? I'm not disputing your figures, I just haven't seen them. Is that since this time last week? Last year? 1950? I haven't personally observed this change in my trips to the supermarket.

Re:Inflation. (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187374)

In the past 30-40 days. I keep records of what I buy at the grocery store.

Re:Inflation. (4, Interesting)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187407)

Milk prices are up due to a reduction in dairy cows. I read a good article on that the other day. Basically farmers are going away from dairy to other things that are more profitable and causing milk to go way up.

Re:Inflation. (1)

sprekken (623464) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187464)

I've noticed the change certainly since my sons drink a lot of milk. Just about two weeks ago Whole Milk used to cost a little over $2.00 per gallon (US). Yesterday it was listed at $3.49 or something close to it.

Something is going on to drive up dairy prices so much... though it is more than just dairy products. A lot of other things are more pricey than I remember them being - construction materials for one.

Some people around here say that it is because of the demand of products in Iraq that is driving up the price... could we be exporting that much stuff to Iraq to make such a serious dent in our local economy?

Re:Inflation. (1)

Enry (630) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187510)

I had an addition added to my house last year, just as the US was starting its Iraq rebuilding effort. As a result, the cost of plywood pretty much doubled, and the result was an immediate 10% increase in the cost of the project.

Re:Inflation. (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187501)

Out of curiosity, since when? I'm not disputing your figures, I just haven't seen them. Is that since this time last week? Last year? 1950? I haven't personally observed this change in my trips to the supermarket.

For me, it's since two weeks ago, and the price change is that milk went from $1.79 a gallon to $3.39 a gallon.

Re:Inflation. (1)

somethinghollow (530478) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187333)

Milk is up 0.60 cent per gallor
Butter has went from 1.99 to 3.49
Ice Cream has increased in price by 35-45%
Store brand products are increasing in price by 5%-8%.
Namebrand products are increasing in price by 6%-7.5%

Since when?

That is important as to whether or not the mad cow disease outbreak in the UK have something to do with these insaine dairy product price increases!

Perhaps there is a correlation betwixt mad cow disease and fossil fuel usage? Save the cows to save gas prices! Down with this Mad Cow disease! Our cows need psychiatric help!

Re:Inflation. (2, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187476)

There's a dairy shortage in the US, going back a month or two. Dairy prices had been extremely low, forcing small farmers out of business and causing others to reduce their herds, and the mad cow incident in Canada last year kept dairy cattle from being imported. So prices have gone up, and they were unsustainably low to start with.

Despite the original poster's notion that the prices of milk, butter *AND* ice cream imply some structural macro-economic issue, it's a pretty specific problem that will sort itself out in a year.

Re:Inflation. (4, Interesting)

LPrime (752625) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187340)

I travel around 400-600 miles every week (Usualy drive from LA to SD at least once). Living in Los Angeles, where the price is about .50 higher then what I remember a year ago I spend an average of $15 more each week or about $50 per month. While this sounds pretty bad, I have to add that my rent has increased by $200 in the past year, my insurance is up by at least $100 and my average living cost went up by at least another $100 for the same things I used to buy last year. The $50 doesnt faze me, the $500 does.

Why energy and food are frequently excluded. (3, Insightful)

hagbard5235 (152810) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187361)

Sure. The inflation numbers that most people quote exclude 'the volatile food and energy sectors' because those sectors are deemed to introduce more noise usually than information.

If you are trying to figure out whether you have inflation issues or not you don't want to include a commodity that surges %40 for a couple of months and then drops %50 for a couple of months. The oscillations around the equillibrium price is just noise.

Now if the equillibrium price for energy were to rise in the long term that would be a problem, but as energy is vital to all other economic endevors it would be reflected in price increases in everything else. Same with food. So the better part of valor is to exclude them, and let the rest of the economy smooth out their effects on pricing by reflecting any increases in the equillibrium prices for those commodities.

Re:Inflation. (5, Informative)

br0ck (237309) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187389)

Here's a two year [chicagogasprices.com] chart of US gas prices from the Chicago affiliate of gasbuddy.com.

Re:Inflation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187405)

While I do agree that inflation is inevitable with gas prices as high as they are, the higher prices for milk, butter, ice cream and other dairy products can be more attributed to the latest "low carb" diet craze than anything else.
Dairy cows are getting slaughtered for their meat because its currently worth more than milk right now. Will that last? Who knows?

Re:Inflation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187421)

As to why none of this is being reflected in the inflations numbers...well, you tell me.

Two reasons:

  1. The "fake war for oil" premise has long been in the American conscience, ever since "Three Days of the Condor". The fact that it was just a movie is still lost on many.
  2. The Bush family didn't get rich on dairy products. If they had, then yeah, they'd be marching and chanting "No Blood for Ice Cream."

Re:Inflation. (2, Insightful)

GFW (673143) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187441)

In general I agree with your implication - that inflation, particularly of food, is picking up very quickly and is probably underreported right now.

However, there are a number of other things that are still falling in price - telecommunications, electronic goods, etc. The inflation number that governments come up with depends on what they put in the "shopping basket" measured.

If transportation keeps going up and telecommunications keep coming down, that *should* lead to more telecommuting.

Re:Inflation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187466)

As to why none of this is being reflected in the inflations numbers...well, you tell me.

I'm going to come off as a tin-foil brigade member, but I can't help myself.

Inflation numbers, as posted by the US gov't, are a big fat fucking lie. Inflation has been creeping up on us in a variety of ways. Energy costs are the big one here. They don't get counted towards inflation because they are supposed to fluctuate seasonally.

But it goes past that. Inflation has been happening. Near-zero interest rates pretty much mean that inflation is not an 'if', but a 'when'. Officially, inflation hasn't been happening, which is why interest rates have remained as low as they are for as long as they are.

I just hate to be the one to tell the American economy that the heydey is going to end soon. As soon as interest rates rise, the current bubble will be realized. Inflation will jump in an attempt to adjust the market.

Ever since 9/11, the American economy has been 'recovering.' Listen to every interest rate announcement since then, the word 'recovery' is in there. The way I see it is that the economy actually started to slip, but thanks to massive gov't spending, mixed with low-low interest rates, the economy remained in this magic 'recovery'

Mind you, it hasn't actually been recovering. Think of it as an open wound where the blood doesn't clot. Adding blood (low interest, military spending) keeps the patient alive, but once the blood transfer is complete, recovery will turn into slump.

All that spending has to come out of someone's pocket. It'll be everyone's pocket once the economy tanks.

Re:Inflation. (5, Interesting)

dumpster_dave (706721) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187468)

Another aspect that is overlooked is the proportion of petroleum-based products that are not gasoline.

Take a look around the room your in: --from here I have a desk, vinyl sided windows, two computers w/monitors, picture frames, book covers, folios, CDROMs, waste paper basket [and bag]. It seems that almost everything is made of petrol--people focus on the gas, but if it disappeared, lack of gas would not be the top problem on this list.

I'm curious to know how much petroleum goes to fuels vs products . . . anyone know?

Some related notes:

I believe that Chevron-Texaco posted its most profitable quarter EVER last month.

The process of petroleum use is so refined/efficient that it would be more efficient to simply burn the alternatives [e.g. corn-plastic] to heat the factories that petroleum-based products are fabricated in. [Or, this was the case a few years ago]. There's a long road of process engineering to hoe before we really even have the ability to replace petroleum in a serious manner [better start now!].

Rhetorical question: if the price of oil is not as high now as it was in 1981, why was the price of gas in 1981 about 1/3 of what is is now [adjusted, and from a US perspective]?

Re:Inflation. (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187500)

As to why none of this is being reflected in the inflations numbers...well, you tell me

Price Increase != Inflation.

Re:Inflation. (1)

niko9 (315647) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187509)

Ice Cream has increased in price by 35-45%

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream when it goes up 35-45%!!!

Sorry. I'll go back to my cubicle now.

Re:Inflation. (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187519)

Actually because of various factors in many different states, dairy production is down too.

This isn't all directly attributed to gas prices, or even the economy as a whole. Its not helping things, buts it just that the dairy industry has had high price increases lately too.

These are all lies (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187252)

Our beloved President George W. Bush says that we'll never run out of oil, and since he has been appointed by God to save us from evil, it is truth from the mouth of God. Amen.

Re:These are all lies (3, Insightful)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187346)

"Our beloved President George W. Bush says that we'll never run out of oil, and since he has been appointed by God to save us from evil, it is truth from the mouth of God. Amen. "

Heh. I can't tell if you're making fun of Bush, or if you're making fun of the perception of Bush. Way to make a political joke that means something to both sides!

Damn I wish I had a mod point.

Re:These are all lies (-1, Offtopic)

somethinghollow (530478) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187418)

Our beloved President George W. Bush says that we'll never run out of oil, and since he has been appointed by God to save us from evil, it is truth from the mouth of God. Amen.

He also did cocain.

The End of the Age of Oil (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187267)

Neutrogena, people... you still won't get a girlfriend, but maybe people will at least give you the benefit of the doubt.

yeah (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187276)

I realized with everyone making fun of fat americans, we must be producing plenty of ass so I'm working on a car to run on that.

Let's not forget synthetics...and politics... (4, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187285)

I gotta roll my eyes...the sheep are squealing, led by the glowing pictures of news anchors. Gas prices are not that high...they've been much higher historicaly. If a few cents a gallon is making such a huge impact, you are LIVING BEYOND YOUR MEANS...and you'll get fucked eventually.

Re:Let's not forget synthetics...and politics... (2, Interesting)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187428)

If a few cents a gallon is making such a huge impact, you are LIVING BEYOND YOUR MEANS...and you'll get fucked eventually.

High gas prices are really detrimental to the US economy. For every penny increase in a gallon of gas, something like $1 billion dollars leaves the US to the middle east (please spare me any Iraq commentary.) In addition, that is money that people can't spend elseware so other businesses suffer. Also, think of people like taxi drivers or pizza delivery people. They can't raise their rates to compenstate. And what about people who are just making as is. People need cars to get work.

Re:Let's not forget synthetics...and politics... (5, Interesting)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187527)

I don't think that's quite the point. Gas prices are going up, to be sure, but the real issue is peak production. Sure, we won't absolutely run out of oil in the next few years, but we will probably be peaking in production while demand increases at the same time. You can guess what that'll do to the economy.

We've been led astray by believing the estimates of the OPEC nations with regards to their reserves. Well, the price they get, according to their agreement, is tied to how large their reserves are. There is zero incentive for any of the OPEC nations to provide an accurate estimate if it means lowering the number. In addition, many of the wells are pumping out large quantities of water that was pumped down into the oil fields to force out more oil. They are beginning to go "dry" so to speak.

Check out www.peakoil.net [peakoil.net] for more information.

Tap slashdot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187287)

There's enough hot air here to power half the earth.

Peak Oil Links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187290)

Check 'em out.

http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/index. ht ml#oil
http ://www.dieoff.com/

Any others worth checking out?

Start by banning plastics for consumables (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187293)

There is no way consumables like soda bottles or food packaging should be allowed to use plastic, which is made using petroleum. Not only do these goods cause ecological damage, they also use a strategic resource.

Re:Start by banning plastics for consumables (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187362)

"There is no way consumables like soda bottles or food packaging should be allowed to use plastic, which is made using petroleum. Not only do these goods cause ecological damage, they also use a strategic resource."

OK. So what in your opinion should they use?

Re:Start by banning plastics for consumables (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187503)


Re:Start by banning plastics for consumables (1)

Flabby Boohoo (606425) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187505)

How about glass? Like they used to?

Like beer still does.

Or, how about just aluminum?

Re:Start by banning plastics for consumables (5, Interesting)

pato perez (570823) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187371)

On the contrary: Petroleum use should be limited to producing plastics and other petrochemical products that are harder to replace than gasoline. Alternative energy sources are easier to come by than alternatives to plastics. (Environmental issues aside.)

Re:Start by banning plastics for consumables (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187450)

Plastics are recyclable. Also, plastics don't really take away from the fuel supply anyway - like other petrochemicals such as asphalt, they can't be turned into gasoline without some serious re-jiggering of its internal chemical structure.

Besides, given the stability of plastics, you can mine landfills for it if you need the stuff badly enough.


Re:Start by banning plastics for consumables (3, Insightful)

Rhys (96510) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187514)

So instead we should make them out of metals like aluminum, which requires what sort of power put in to it to get it to a can-like form?

And where does that power come from? Could it be fossil fuels?


Plastics need a lot less heat energy applied to them -- they might actually be cheaper, volume for volume than metals. Less mineing, less hauling, less heat needed... it probably adds up. (note I haven't bothered to search or get any rough numbers, just a gut feeling)

We will never run out of gas (2, Funny)

linzeal (197905) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187294)

Not when we can get DNA from the shroud of turin and clone jesus, than convert our saviours into fuel [amazon.com] .

Re:We will never run out of gas (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187517)

I second this, water into wine, jesus into oil. Makes perfect sense...

except that god doesn't exist, and jesus was just a dude who lead a heap of people from believing one pack of fantasys to a different pack of fantasys.

There is no evidence of god, therefore we should no assume he is there. In fact, odds are (science/hypothesis style) that he... wait for it.... doesn't exist.

The less we hear about god, and locusts and the end of the world, the more people are going to stop being slovenly determinists and actually DO SOMETHING about the state of politics and the state of the environment. The idea that there is a nice little sugar candy mountain after you die causes problems in the here and now. All the christians who drive SUVs because they don't worry about their children are harming ME.... they are harming MY children. And as far as I am concerned I think I have a right to angry at a load of retards ruining the earth under the influence of some fantasy about god and the afterlife. It is time christianity was brought into line with their stated beliefs (jesus was a nice guy, how come 80% of christians are not? and jesus certainly wouldn't drive an SUV or desecrate what god has given us here on earth because he knew he was going to heaven....).

Christian religious zealots are ruining us at home, Israeli ones are ruining us abroad, and Islamic ones have been provoked to try and destroy us too. Fuck religion, it needs to be smashed off the face of the earth. We don't need to send religious loons to the death camps, we need to send them to university. And instill them with a good respect for what counts as evidence and what does not. In fact it should be listed as a mental illness, people who believe they are god are locked up, so why not lock up people who believe in god. That way they will stop breeding.

Sorry, just had to get that off my chest. Well I'm not that sorry....


On a related note.... (3, Informative)

ziggy_zero (462010) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187297)

In case any of you got that "May 19th is Gasoline Boycott Day!" e-mail, here are some articles on why it won't work:

Article by Matt Helms [freep.com]

Snopes Article [snopes.com]

If all the idiots don't get gas tomorrow, just means less of a wait for me!

Re:On a related note.... (0, Offtopic)

CharAznable (702598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187384)

>I belong to the blank generation ...and I can take it or leave it each time...

Re:On a related note.... (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187457)

In case any of you got that "May 19th is Gasoline Boycott Day!" e-mail....

I ran out of gas on the way to their last protest.

I, for one will not be buying gas... (1)

Kulaid982 (704089) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187469)

I won't be buying gas for at least a week!

...Then again, I just filled up today, but it's the principle right? Am I on the bandwagon?
Gimme a break, the only way a "gas out" would make an impact is if it went on for at least a week, and there's NO way you'd get anyone to participate in that.

Re:On a related note.... (2, Funny)

crow (16139) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187477)

What would work is for everyone to carpool one day a week, or otherwise find a way to drive less than you otherwise would have. That would cut demand and have a huge impact on prices.

Of course, even with the high prices, I still see lots of people buying gas at the more expensive station on the other side of the street--even if they have to cross traffic to get there. Obviously they don't mind the prices.

And I laugh at those single drivers in their giant trucks and SUVs.

Big topic? (0, Funny)

sik0fewl (561285) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187299)

Oil -- and energy in general -- has long been a big topic among Slashdot readers.

Uhh.. no it's not. Next article please.

Re:Big topic? (2, Insightful)

Phekko (619272) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187429)

I don't see what's funny about this. To me energy is an issue and very much more interesting than, say, a dupe article about Lindows being now called whatnot or SCO now claiming black is in fact a hue of white. If energy issues are not interesting to you, you don't have to read the article (as if someone here reads them before posting anyway) but to me, energy IS stuff that matters. And yes, I do believe it takes a fair amount of nerds to do something about it, too. So yes, it belongs to Slashdot, IMO anyway.

Next reply, please.

In the land of empty tanks (5, Funny)

adequacy (544972) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187322)

Cyclists are gods.

Fuckin bring it on.

Re:In the land of empty tanks (3, Insightful)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187388)

The manufacturing facilities that make your bike frame, gears, grips, as well as the lubrication for the bearings all requires oil.

Enjoy your bicycle dude, but you'll be in the same position as us, just in a differing way.

Re:In the land of empty tanks (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187417)

heh. Have to almost agree. I bicycled to work for years, until my wife decided to go to vet school in upstate NY. Now, I can't. Why? Well if you can find me a sr unix admin position closer than 40 miles to ithaca, let me know. I'd even almsot do the 40 miles most days anyway, despite the rain, if I had someplace to shower when I got here :(

Re:In the land of empty tanks (1)

Joecuba (736359) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187433)

Oh yeh, and that food you are so keen on (who isn't) that fuels your body that pedels the bike, where you think that comes from? You have ANY idea how much oil resources go into growing, harvesting, processing, transporting, and selling the food we eat?

Great Article: (4, Interesting)

ArmenTanzarian (210418) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187339)

Cold Turkey [inthesetimes.com] by none other than great hero to the geek race Kurt Vonnegut. [vonnegut.com] It compares America to a junkie who's having trouble finding that last fix.

A highly recommended read on what appears to be a similar topic. My favorite line:
There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.

Oil Cartels, just like diamonds. A Horror Story. (1)

kulakovich (580584) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187343)

1. Oil comes from hydrocarbons.
2. Hydrocarbons come from space [google.com] .
3. Ergo, we will never run out of oil, and the value of oil is artificial like the diamond.


Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Use twice as much shampoo. Double company profit.

Where electricity comes from (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187345)

A few technical things seemed wrong - for example, it is quite feasible to run transportation systems off grid electricity (electric trains, subways, etc. do this) - would it be so hard to do it for personal transport too?

Yes, when you think about what the majority of the grid's generators use as fuel.

Re:Where electricity comes from (2, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187508)

In case anything actually thinks that makes sense, consider that if everything were converted to use electricity, then you can always swap out the generators with something better without directly affecting any of the users.

Q: Does your local electricity come from coal or nuclear?
A: That depends on whether your particular part of the grid is running in excess or deficit at this particular instant.

In other words, once you get everyone to use some non-petrochemical source, you can pick the most efficient means of producing it without forcing your customers to replace their investment again.

Remember this about US gas prices (3, Insightful)

paroneayea (642895) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187347)

US gas prices may seem rediculously high... but they actually aren't that bad. In fact, I'd argue that they should be higher. The US government subsidizes oil.
Of course, this concept is almost completely unknown to most people, I find.

How much to panic, and when? (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187348)

For the masses that would be Not much and when its too late.

Gas still too cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187350)

Hopefully people will start to drive more sensible cars...

More Information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187352)

http://www.p eakoil.net/


_The Party's Over_ by Richard Heinberg
_Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage_ by Kenneth Deffeyes

This new fuel.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187354)

...it's people!. This new fuel is PEOPLE! Oh, my god, it's people!

Grmbl... (5, Insightful)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187360)

You guys complain? Bah! In Europe we're worse off. I live in one of the countries with the lowest gas prices in the EU, but we nearly reached the 1€/litre mark last week. That's 4$ per gallon for you American folks. My commute being 16 miles single way (which seems to be the norm according to this slashdot poll [slashdot.org] ) doesn't really help. Yes, I know, I could take the bus, but that would take me 60 minutes instead of 30 minutes with the car.

It would be way worse if the dollar was higher, I guess... after all the barrel is quoted in dollars.

Damn, I should have bought a diesel instead of a roadster that does 10l/100km (25mpg). *sigh*

Nice. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187366)

Glad to see Timothy chiming in with his usual daily dose of dope smoking liberalism. What a refreshing article. Perhaps Ralph Nader and Richard Gere can post a thread on this as well.

Re:Nice. (0, Flamebait)

abigor (540274) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187507)

How come you right wing retards never seem to log in?

3 words: Y2K (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187380)

Ever since living through that, I no longer trust the We Are Living In Dark Days prophets.

What about alcohol? (2, Interesting)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187393)

I don't know why nobody is hyping alcohol as a fuel replacement. Liquor is only expensive because it has to taste reasonable and it is loaded with taxes. If we can get distilled water for $1.00 per gallon, I don't see why we can't get a gallon of white lightning for $2.00 per gallon.

Also, it would take very little to no modification to get a petrol car to run on grain alcohol.

Energy (0, Flamebait)

Joecuba (736359) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187395)

We should be spending all this petrolium energy looking for and creating more sustanable resourses.

Insted more and more people in 'the west' are driving stupid gas guzzling SUV's, and our corporations and goverment are building shorter term infastructure that is bulldozed in 10 years time.

No one in power has any long term goals, especialy the worlds numero uno oil slut, your friend and ours, George 'Dubya' Bush.

It's all rather worrying...

Something good may yet come out of this (5, Insightful)

InternationalCow (681980) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187396)

Most Americans do not seem to realize that they have been paying ridiculously LOW prices for gas for years. FYI, regular petrol has cost around 2 euro over here for the past two-three years. And before that, it wasn't much less. American prices are still much lower (2 dollars a gallon is about .50 euro/liter - most Europeans pay FOUR times that amount). The low prices have resulted in excessive petrol consumption in the US, with people buying ever more and ever bigger SUVs. The average American consumes about 7 times more energy than the average European and I think that the low gas prices have contributed to the fact that most Americans do not seem to be aware that energy actually comes at a cost. So, perhaps, the current rise in petrol prices will serve as an eye-opener and lead to a more conscious use of energy. One can always hope, no?

In a decade? (1)

Nosf3ratu (702029) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187398)

"Current gas prices (in the U.S. at any rate) are higher than they have been in a decade or so . . . "

Actually, current gas prices are higher than they have ever been [cnn.com] .

spend more on energy research (1)

werdnapk (706357) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187408)

The american goverment spends piles of money on military [wikipedia.org] . If they only funneled more of this cash towards research of new energy technologies, we'd be well on our way to a less dependant life on oil.

Gas, oil & the U.S. military (1, Interesting)

joelparker (586428) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187414)

I have heard that the real gas crunch is because of the U.S. military-- that the U.S. needs to ensure a long-term stockpile for tanks and planes, which cannot be converted to electric, solar, bio, etc.

I.e. even if all cars & SUVs were electric/solar/bio, the U.S. would still have a huge demand for gas & oil to fuel the massive military machinery.

Can anyone here comment?

Excellent review of the book (3, Interesting)

dgrgich (179442) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187434)

I picked this volume up after researching the issue myself over the web. There is an excellent Scientific American [dieoff.org] article on this issue from 1998 that serves to provide a similar view from the perspective of another geologist. I highly recommend it.
After reading these materials in early January of this year, as I watched oil prices rise higher and higher, I couldn't help but think about what I read!
The other interesting thing about this book is that it points out how petroleum provides us with benefits far beyond keeping our cars running. Plastics? Herbicides? Fungicides? CD-Rs? Certain medicines? All are dependent on keeping the oil flowing.

The only real answer is to reorganize society. (5, Interesting)

Ricdude (4163) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187438)

Suburbia is the killer. If our lives could be structured such that cars were not *necessary*, we can do fine. Residential infill, cohousing, mixed use zoning are all steps in the right direction. Oddly enough, so are rising gas prices.

Eventually, something will click in someone's head, and they will start to seek alternatives. I started looking at hybrids when my gas pump cut me off at $50.00 without filling my tank ('92 ford bronco, 11 mpg, 32 gallon tank). About a year later, I bought a VW New Beetle with the TDI (diesel) engine. Now it's *possible* to run my car with *no* foreign oil (biodiesel), and to date, about 1/3 of the fuel I've used has been from renewable sources, grown by my local farmers. It costs me $3.00 per gallon at the pump, but thanks ot a rebate program, I'm only paying $1.50 per gallon, net. I'd rather pay $3.00 to the benefit of my local farmer, and local economy, than sending it overseas to support societies that *hate* us. If I get particularly motivated (or more likely, when my warrantee is getting closer to expiration), I can recycle used vegetable oil into fuel at an estimated cost of $0.40-0.50 per gallon.

Not to mention the added benefit of getting 45 mpg without even trying. =)

James Howard Kunstler is my personal favourite "end-of-the-oil-age" critic. He takes the time to posit potential *solutions* to the problem of a transportation-dependent society.

Re:The only real answer is to reorganize society. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187489)

Very good DVD on suburbia and peak oil:


High Prices are Required (3, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187440)

The biggest thing I find interesting in this is that in a free market economy High prices are pretty much Required to spur new invention and alternative sources. Ethanol, people complain, costs more than regular gasoline. But as prices increase this isn't going to necessarily hold (please no lon debates and rants about the cost of ethanol production, its just an example).

With totally alternate technologies, as gas prices increase they become more cost competitive with gas. The extra cost/complexity of hybrid vechicles becomes less of a factor. Savings from using (now expensive) gas and moving to other fuels can be calculated. If you project increase in gas prices into the future maybe starting to invest in hydrogen powered vehicles can have a faster ROI (regarding all the infrastructure required) than before gas prices went up.

Basically, to sum up, I'm saying higher gas prices just show the need for new technology, they actulally are required to make it happen.

Running out of gas (2, Insightful)

Experiment 626 (698257) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187454)

At a 1930's World Fair, there was a "robot" answering people's questions about what life in the future would be like. One of the questions was when we would run out of fossil fuels. This is a topic people have been worried about for a long time.

Thus far, all the predictions of doom have been averted. New techniques for locating oil reserves, and tapping resources in previously unreachable places, through technologies like offshore platforms, have allowed new supplies to keep up with demand.

Of course, the total amount of fossil fuel is finite, even if petroleum engineers become clever enough to locate and extract every drop, that won't keep the world running forever. But much like with Moore's law, new advances have kept us from running into a brick wall so far, and will continue to at least for the near future.

For more on this subject see... (3, Interesting)

GeoGreg (631708) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187456)

Hubbert's Peak [priceowl.com] by Kenneth Deffeyes. I read this book shortly after it came out. If I recall, Deffeyes was a colleague of M. King Hubbert. Estimates of when the peak will come vary (10 to 50+ years), but few doubt it will come (except those who buy into Thomas Gold's hypothesis that most hydrocarbons originate from primordial methane dating from the earth's formation rather than the breakdown of organic material). It will be interesting to see if OPEC is able to lower prices by increasing production. Until now, we've relied on Saudi Arabia to open the taps when prices get too high. If they can't, then that's a good sign the peak is near (or already here).

Oil (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187459)

One of the most annoying problems with using alternative fuels for powering cars is that petroleum has pretty much the highest energy density of any car sized option. Ethanol is an interesting alternative, but a complete conversion would require a 10-20% increase in the amount of land farmed. (The 1 billion acres number hasn't changed much in 80+ years. Machines simply allow more farming by fewer people.)

A pie in the sky idea would be micro-fission reactors. The reality however, is that such a reactor would require more shielding than is reasonable for such a small vehicle.

Hydrogen fuel cells have an energy density of ~1/2 to 2/3 of gasoline. The upshot is that solar and fission power can be used to create more fuel at very cheap rates. i.e. You'll have to "gas up" more often, but you'll pay less. Such vehicles could even be designed to use solar panels to convert water into a little extra fuel for your car. This would make such a vehicle far more cost effective than today's vehicles.

All in all, there's no "better" solution, but there are a few "good enough" solutions.

You want alternative power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187462)

End all subsidies to oil companies. Stop letting oil companies set energy policy by bribing^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdonating money to politicians. Create generous tax incentives for purchasing and using cars with high mileage. Create generous tax incentives for using solar, wind, or hydro (both consumer level and corporate level).

In other words encourage something other than the status quo and things will change.

Cost to society (3, Interesting)

bigberk (547360) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187463)

Americans have long been enjoying underpriced gas. Why the big surprise that the levels are rising to something that more accurately reflects the cost to society? It's not unfair, it's not a conspiracy, it's just about time.

More generally (and more importantly) oil is underpriced, period. Look at the costs to society:
  • Increased CO2 emissions, with decreasing carbon sinks (we're losing all our forests). How is the planet going to assimilate all the extra CO2? It won't happen magically!
  • Petrol-based products, namely plastics, litter landfills and sewege. Every day there is an increasing mass of garbage on earth. You know calculus... what happens to a system when your entry rate is high and your exit rate is low (slow assimilation by nature)
  • I'm sure there are others, but I'm a busy man

Aircar or Corbin Sparrow (1)

funny-jack (741994) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187470)

Yes, I know that moving to cars powered by electricity really only shifts the problem from the pump to the electricity-production facility, but I still think it would be progress.

Does anyone know anything about the Air Car [theaircar.com] ? I read about them nearly a year ago, and haven't heard anything since. Are they dead? Any chance of them making it to mass production?

And while we're on the topic of alternative transportation, I know what happened [google.com] to the Corbin Sparrow [sparrowelectriccars.com] , but does anyone think that there's any chance of the company coming back from the dead? I really thought they had a promising product.

Personal Transport on the Grid (1)

JadeSky (6679) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187471)

A few technical things seemed wrong - for example, it is quite feasible to run transportation systems off grid electricity (electric trains, subways, etc. do this) - would it be so hard to do it for personal transport too?

Actually, I believe it would, at least without coming up with an innovative way to deliver the power through the ground without killing anyone who walks over it. Let alone having to rip up all the roadways to put down the power rails.

Mass transit is easy to run on electricity, because mass transit always takes a known, consistent route. Vehicles are a known size and shape. It's easy to engineer.

How do you do that for personal transports with nearly infinite endpoints?

I suppose one thing you could do is energize the freeways and major thouroughfares, and then let the cars rely on internal batteries for the last mile or so...

if, and that's a big if (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187475)

if we ever truly run out of petroleum, and I mean completely, we can still go back to other transportation technologies.

our ancestors survived well enough with them.

although it might take you a while to get to your vacation destination overseas...

Penty of oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187480)

This is a lie to justify high prices and wars.

Research abiotic oil.

Regardless of the abiotic issue oil is everywhere.

The saudies recently re-estimated their reserves in the trillion barrel range and said they could double output and sustain it for 50 years.


Wake up folks. The vested interests are manipulating your minds..



Adjustment is tough (2, Interesting)

Geoff-with-a-G (762688) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187484)

Yes, we are of course running out of oil, and we of course need to find new energy supplies. People have been beating this drum for years. If it has taught you anything, it should be that scolding people and chanting predictions of disaster doesn't actually make people change their behavior. If you believe it's morally reprehensible that not everyone sold their SUVs and bought a Prius, that's fine, that's your viewpoint, but whining about it hasn't really changed much.

On the other hand, what will change things is the rising price of gas. This is a big news item lately, and the reactions kind of freak me out. People everywhere are outraged, and want to know when this will be "fixed". Like maybe they'll go back down next month, or if we boycott ExxonMobil for 24 hours. This is crazy. In the long run, they're gonna go up, forever. It's a resource we have in finitie quantity. It's running out. As it runs lower, it will get more expensive, until eventually nobody is using it to power their cars.

In the short term, the US has far lower gas prices than European countries. It's not like "they're screwing you" with crazy, unjustifiable markup. If you really think that "Big Oil greediness" is to blame, I suggest you start your own gas company and sell for $1.25. You'll certainly have plenty of customers, if you can sustain that profit margin.

www.dieoff.org - depressing news for you (4, Insightful)

xtal (49134) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187488)

Has all you need to know, and it's not crackpottery - just thousands and thousands of pages of studies and data from the Horses's mouth - Congress and the US Petrochemical industry. The people in power know what the deal is and it's not pretty. We will fight wars over oil in the future.

Ignorant people think gasoline is unlimited. I'll see the end of it, and the inevitable disaster is not going to be pretty. People think the government should lower prices - that's called communism, and it means shortages. Next time you gripe about the price of gasoline, wonder what you'll do when there is none.

I really hope those stories of the oil companies keeping free energy devices suppressed are true - because the oil companies aren't going to be oil companies for much longer.

Oil is far too valuable to be burning at the TREMENDOUS rate of consumption worldwide currently. There will be NO industrial revolution for most third world countries because of the lack of oil available to build infrastructure.

Green energy sources are a bad joke compared to the amounts of energy we consume from oil. The only long term solution is a 0 growth economy combined with population decrease. The alternatives long-term are not pretty.

Unless, of course, cold fusion works or a feasible technology for extracting energy from the ZPE is found. I sure hope something happens.

Sounds like FUD to me. (1)

ctime (755868) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187494)

Don't get me wrong, Oil IS a finite resource. I just find it a problem that we still don't even know where the heck it came from, fossil fuel? WTF, who actually thinks this makes any friggin sense? Your telling me millions of dinosours crawled up into a hole an died, which subsequentially turned their decaying organic bodies into hydrocarbons? Not to say this couldn't happen, but it's an unnacceptable answer to this question. We need to find out the fundemental way's that oil is created so we can synthesize it (granted, this might take a million years as well).

Bottom line:

Build out the biggest friggin nuclear reactor ever created, stick it a few hundred miles in space, microwave that power back to earth. What's wrong with this? Nuclear power plants explode? who cares? Microwave power not beeming correctly? Have some friggin sense and build in error correcting and clear to send windows(eh, yeah im a network guy).

This isn't a flame bait, I just think the world energy crisis is so lame, because their's so many way's we can get around it NOW, yet nobody seems to care.

Personally, I think these high oil prices are just to jack up the profits for the oil company. Who would have thunk it!

Try prize awards for breakthroughs. (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187495)

Read Robert W. Bussard's submission of my fusion energy legislation to Congress, and his admission of subterfuge in the fusion energy program [geocities.com] for an idea of what went wrong with energy policy in the United States. Basically its set up enormous prize awards for meeting objective milestones in fusion energy techology.

Basically when you have an entrenched bureaucracy receiving huge amounts of money to solve a technical problem, they have an incentive to not solve it and indeed to make sure no one else solves it.

Price of a gallon of... (1)

gorbachev (512743) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187513)

gas: $2.xx
milk: $3.xx

That gallon of gas sure is expensive...

Good News/Bad News (3, Insightful)

occamboy (583175) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187515)

I've been hearing about the near end of fossil fuels for most of my 40+ years. It hasn't happened yet, and I have no reason to believe that it's about to happen. We keep finding new reserves, and whatnot.

On the other hand, fossil fuels cause astonishing trouble. Most of the bad craziness in the Middle East and Africa is fueled by petrodollars. Does anyone think that we'd be quagmired in Iraq if it weren't for oil? Certainly, we'd end more suffering by going into Sudan, or other places. Why do we coddle the House of Saud after they financed al Qaeda, if it isn't for oil and the promise of growing wealth for the House of Bush and the House of Cheney?

There is also a growing body of evidence that pollution is bad (prior to recently, it was purely conjecture).

It would be great to switch from fossil fuels, and to do it quickly. A Manhattan-Project-like effort for fusion reactors would be appropriate.

Unfortunately, the average SUV-driving American pinhead will keep this from happening for a long time.

there ARE enough turkey guts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9187521)

The Discover article claimed we could make enough oil from agricultural waste alone to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. Since we can also make oil from sewage, old tires, and basically everything you throw in the trash, we oughta do just fine if we pursue that.

This is high-quality oil, perfect for making gasoline. The process is 80% energy-efficient, so for that last 20% we'll need some extra source of energy...our existing nukes and hydro, maybe some of those nifty new solar panels, and we'll be in good shape.

If I had my way we'd be spending those hundreds of billions on thermal depolymerization subsidies instead of war in Iraq.

It's only a matter of time (3, Insightful)

Mr. Neutron (3115) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187522)

Oil production is going to peak, then slowly decline over half a century. According to the most alarmist estimates, this peak has already occurred. But even the most optomistic estimates have the peak happening in 2030 at the latest.

This isn't a matter of giving up our SUVs for hybrid cars. That isn't going to matter one bit. The fact is, we've spent the last 100 years building an entire economy around absurdly cheap energy. This energy is going to run out. If we do not find a way to run our world without petroleum and coal, we are doomed. What's really going to be fun is, when this peak occurs, the powers of the world are going to fight more and more visciously for the remaining scraps. We will face war, poverty, and social upheaval which will grow ever worse as the lights slowly dim... and then burn out.

The only way around this is some serious technological advances. We need to develop a sustainable energy economy, and we need to do it yesterday. Lifestyle changes, solar panels, wind farms, and hybrid cars won't do a damn bit of good without massive new technology.

Boys and girls, we have about 25 years. I suggest you study physics and chemistry. Hard.

Another "Beyond the Limits" (5, Insightful)

sjwaste (780063) | more than 10 years ago | (#9187529)

For those that have read it, you know what I'm talking about. Any of these titles disregard markets as a means to force the hand of technology. Believe me, markets reflect scarcity, and new solutions arise as a result. Read back to the timber crisis in the early 1800's during the railroad boom, or the rubber crisis which led the way to synthetics and recovery/recycle programs. If we're running out of oil, it WILL get damn expensive and we'll find a better way of doing things. Many of these books seem to ignore this, making them very aggrivating to read. For a change, I suggest "The Doomsday Myth". For the record, I have a degree in economics and I've done a lot of environmental economic research. I'm tired of turning page after page of text basically written to shock the public.
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