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"Peak Oil and the Fate
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when oil production will no longer keep up with demand.
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The main purpose of this web site is to inform the general public about issues surrounding peak oil, the oil peak, the after oil peak and especially, the consequences of the oil decline that will inevitably follow. Since the oil peak or peak oil will probably be the first limit that humans will come up against, it is very important that we understand all the surrounding issues or peak oil or oil peak, the main ones being resource depletion, water issues, fisheries, agriculture and forestry. That is why after having discussed the reasons why oil and the peak oil or oil peak is so important, especially to Canadians and to Canada, the presentation provides clues as to why it is likely that the peak of oil or peak oil or oil peak is near rather than decades away. The author has put together several convincing arguments to support the view that peak oil or oil peak is just around the corner. The PowerPoint presentation is divided into 13 chapters.
Chapter 3A describes the main non-renewable sources of energy, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, important to peak oil or oil peak. It answers the question "What about the Canadian Queen Charlotte oil fields in Canada?" And of course, the main point is that the total amount of oil, peak oil or no oil peak lying there, should it all be scooped out in one fell swoop, would only delay the oil peak by a few days. The author talks about the advantages and disadvantages of coal with regard to the oil peak or peak oil and the most potent argument against bringing more coal-fired electricity generating plants on line is coal's high contribution to greenhouse gasses. The little Martian with whom the author is exchanging then asks what about the Athabaska tar sands? Again, the advantages and disadvantages are discussed and of course, since the oil peak is close at hand and since the world is having difficulty providing the 85 million barrels a day that we are actually using, the Tar Sands are an important supply of oil, albeit, very dirty oil derived from a very dirty process.
A discussion follows about natural gas. The most important point about this source of energy is that natural gas has peaked in Canada and North-America and will peak world wide about ten years after the oil peak. There is a good argument against Canadians relying too much on trans-oceanic transportation of this hazardous product. Then the web site talks about methane hydrates. The main problem with this yet-to-be mined product is that the technology to mine and handle it hasn't been invented yet. The next topic is nuclear. Once we reach the oil peak, or peak oil, the annual rate of natural decline will be in the order of 2% while the demand in order to maintain a viable world economy is 3% per year. The costs of using this source of radioactivity is very high in dollars and risk for future generations. Probably the biggest drawback is the very fact that we have no clue as to what to do with the radioactive waste that accumulates year-to-year. The best solution so far is to store the wastes in swimming pools next to the power plants, which are right next to large agglomerations of humans. The author then looks at an interesting but disturbing idea. He supposes that the US decides to replace 3% of the declining oil per year with new nuclear plants. The answer of this back-of-the-envelope calculation is 40 nuclear plants per year, year after year. The purpose of this exercise is to give the reader a sense of just how huge a 3% decline will be once peak oil sets in. The following question from our little visitor from outer space is what about nuclear fusion? After all, Canada is a leader in this field of research. The gist of the answer is that fusion has been known as the energy of the future and probably always will be.
Our little interlocutor then asks why not change all the world's cars for hybrids. This brings up the question of Jevon's Paradox. The answer is that it would simply take too much oil to accomplish this and if an extraordinary effort were made accomplish this within the next 5 years, it would send the world into an oil crisis worse than the one in 1973.
The following chapter, 3B, deals with renewable energy sources. First he deals with the question of what some refer to as The Coming Hydrogen Economy. The presentation firstly deals with the difficulties of handling hydrogen gas or liquid, and then the transportation problem to bring the hydrogen to the filling stations, in view of the fact that it requires 21 times more space than gasoline per unit of power. It explains that hydrogen is not a source of energy, but an energy carrier. The main point of the discussion is that it takes much more energy to produce hydrogen that what hydrogen contains in energy. If hydrogen were to be used in automobiles the fuel cell would have to be greatly improved, which is not very likely in view of the paucity of success to date. The conclusion is that rather than turning to hydrogen as a means of transportation fuel, it will always make more sense to buy a smaller gasoline powered car, to cycle or walk or take public transit.
The renewable fuel very much in the popular sight in view or the oil peak, is ethanol and this subject is discussed. The biggest drawback is the low eroi, energy return on energy invested of ethanol. And of course, the fact that it will take food out of the mouths of starving people makes it all the more ridiculous. Following this is a brief look at biodiesel from algae, which is probably pie in the sky. The next renewable source of energy that could offset the difficulties that will be brought about by the oil decline is photovoltaic. The advantages are mentioned and then some discussion about the difficulties of storing electrical energy. The author calculates the losses of energy that would result from producing hydrogen during the day when the sun shines and using this carrier of energy at night to produce electricity to run the cities. The end result of the calculation is that your $100 hydro bill would climb to $2700. The web site has been on the www for more than two years now and no one has disputed this conclusion. Next in the way of renewables, wind energy is studied. In the final analysis, wind energy is the most sensible financially and technically and the author suggests that offset peak oil we should invest massively in wind farms. A brief look at compressed air as a way to store energy is peeked at. Then the author talks about the downside of hydro power that nobody talks about: siltation of holding basins.
The we turn to Chapter 4. The presentation here changes tune completely and turns back in time to the year 500 DC to the lonely spot in the Pacific Ocean, known as Easter Island. He talks about how the Rapa Nui colonized the island, a sub-tropical paradise and over the next centuries, decimated the trees that were essential for the maintenance of all life on the little island. He wonders what the elders were thinking when they might have noticed that during their lifetime half the trees had been cut down. This is the reader's introduction to carrying capacity and what are the factors that determine how many organisms a certain territory can support indefinitely. The reader is then presented with another example of a population that has exceeded the carrying capacity of its territory, the St. Matthew Island reindeer. A good demonstration of the difference between carrying capacity and area is given. Probably the most important lesson in this chapter is the notion that modern agriculture depends entirely on oil and gas as a source of inputs, for running machinery and for transportation of the inputs and the outputs. The author ends the chapter by asking if we have to resort to 19th century technology following peak oil, will we be able to feed Canada’s growing population?
The next chapter, chapter 5, looks at parallels between the Easter Islanders and modern humans. The question of modern day deforestation is considered, as the author shows photographs he took himself depicting clear cutting in Northern Québec and British Columbia. He looks at the effects of an abnormally large human population is having on the very soil and water that we depend on for growing our food and on fisheries. The impression that he leaves is that we, the human race in general and Canadians in particular, are doing worse than the Rapa Nui in all respects. He underlines the fact that our technology contributes to exacerbating the pressure we are exerting on the planet.
Chapter 6 is about an important concept that is essential if one is to have an understanding of the grave situation humans have put themselves into: exponential growth. The essence of this chapter is that humans have overshot the carrying capacity of the planet. He uses analogy with a fictitious experiment where a scientist inoculates a Petri dish with a bacterium that will divide repeatedly until the entire surface of the dish is covered with bacteria in exactly one hour and the nutrient is exhausted. He shows that five minutes to the hour, there is still 97% of the space available. He then, without going into peak oil, talks about different outcomes that could occur depending on which actions humans decide to take. He is concerned that we are adding two and half times the population of Canada to the Earth's population every single year, that the foundation of all agriculture, the soil, is diminishing in all parts of the world, aquifers are being pumped dry, biodiversity is being extinguished, forests are disappearing, fisheries are being decimated and rivers are drying up. An important point is that by adding all these people to the population every year, we are dividing the resource pie into 200,000 additional pieces every day. The chapter ends with the question "Is there still time?
Chapter 7 is entitled: How We Got Ourselves Into this Situation. We are close to peak oil and we're in a predicament. The author states that humans in general aren't familiar with the concept of I-TAP and he goes ahead and explains the meaning of the four terms and their relationship. The important point is the one that most environmentalists tend to overlook or downplay, the P factor, population. He gives an example of the T factor, technology: television. He relates that in 1960 there were 3.6 million TV sets in Canada and that the number increased to 24 million by 2003. Therefore more technology results in more impact on the environment. In 2003 it took 11 times less of a Canadian's income to buy a TV set. When people have more money (affluence, factor A), they buy more TV sets, so affluence has an impact on the environment too. And finally, there were 18 million people in Canada versus 32 million in 2003. The extra 14 million people are all TV buyers, therefore more people means more impact. He explains that technology isn't just TV, but every innovation since the invention of fire in prehistoric times. He doesn't mention the words peak oil, oil peak or petroleum peak in this section. He reminds the reader that all the organisms in an ecosystem interact to form a web of life that is self-sustaining, that the destruction of one of the links of the chain can have serious effects on the entire chain and on other parts of the web, and that humans have been breaking chain links without understanding the impact this might have on the whole web of life. He then mentions that changes occur too slowly for us to recognise them. Humans are like the frog in a pan of cold water. The pan is placed on the stove burner. As the water warms up the cold blooded animal doesn’t feel the incremental heat. The hapless thing will stay in the pan until it boils to death. The growth of a city, with its crowding and pollution, is imperceptible from one day to the next. We don’t notice that the easy resources to extract are gone and only the harder-to-reach ones are left. Some important changes, such as mercury pollution cannot be detected by the senses and we must trust the scientists’ instruments and knowledge. However, like the frog, we fail to notice incremental changes. Therefore the “T” part of the equation keeps on increasing, thanks to our rich endowment of petroleum. He goes on to say that we have not adequately assessed the risk of global warming for example. He points out that everybody lives up to their income, the guy who earns $30,000 a year like the one who earns $200,000. Affluence is not just being able to afford an expensive SUV. It's buying a house, a computer or going on a holiday, all activities that have a negative impact. We are opportunistic and seek self advantage and the author invites us to read Garrett Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons." He talks about our powerful reproductive instinct how this force is difficult to counter. Humans are naturally divided into groups whether based on religion, language or race. Where there exists no natural difference, they create artificial ones and every group seeks to increase its numbers, thereby contributing to the P factor of the equation. The I = TAP formula requires that we cut back on all three factors. But it goes against the grain for humans to voluntarily reduce ANY one of these three factors. Harsh measures would be required to reduce our technology, to earn less money and to exercise population control. Intellectually we know this to be true. On an emotional level we can’t bring ourselves to make any but very superficial changes.
Chapter 8 deals with the consequences of Peak oil and overpopulation. This is a look at the future with the purpose of looking at some of the possible outcomes and probabilities. It is estimated that once peak oil takes place the oil decline will occur at about 3% per year. Demand is increasing at about 2% per year and if we add the 3% of natural decline, then every year there will be 5% less oil than necessary for a growing economy, which amounts to 40% less in a decade! Extrapolating from the 1973 oil crisis, we can deduce that there will probably be high inflation, that high mortgage rates will cause foreclosures, that the price of crude will skyrocket along with the price of gasoline. This would probably result in rationing as the only fair way of distributing the increasingly rare resource. The high price of oil after peak oil will exert a double whammy: Increased cost of materials will reduce manufacturers' profits, with the consequence that bankruptcies would be commonplace. Workers would lose their jobs, and how would we solve that problem? How would the unemployed pay their rent? How would homeowners afford to heat their houses? Outsourcing has decimated Canadian industries, transportation would be much more expensive than now. Therefore empty store shelves might be the norm. We would have to cope with power failures and utilities would be frequently interrupted. Everything will be more expensive including day-to-day maintenance of city infrastructure. The author asks the reader to look at Cuba for an example of a country that has suffered a severe cut in energy after the departure of its Russian supporters, a sort of artificial peak oil. He shows photos of a man filling jerry cans on a Havana street and a 45 barrel of water in the kitchen of a Cuban couple he met. The author spent two nights in B & Bs and both nights he had to shower crouched in the bathtub with a goblet and bucket of water, because the water is frequently shut off. One of the results of Peak oil will be security. With unemployment more commonplace, there will be more desperate people and more crime. Driving a car will become very expensive, therefore life in the suburbs will become more and more problematic. People will more out of the suburbs into the city core, so suburbian houses will become worthless. People will have to give up luxuries and things they consider as necessities today will become luxuries then. The presentation then describes a doomsday scenario, and it goes like this: One day, after several years of decline, investors might realize that the economic downturn is due to declining oil supply and not the other way around. They’ll know things could only get worse next year. The realization that there is no way of making a return on investment could drive money away from the stock market. Banks would probably stop lending money if there was no expectation of a return. The entire economic system could collapse. We might see a return to the Great Depression. The author says: "Maybe if we can inform enough Canadians so they realize what Peak Oil is all about, that we’ll move the government to take appropriate action. Then we could live well, but at a much reduced standard of living. But who knows? -- bad things could happen within my lifetime or maybe only during my children’s lifetimes, after I’m gone." He says he thinks that what happens will depend on whether or not you and I can involve a critical mass of people so we can influence the social choices that will be necessary.
Chapter 9A describes actions that individuals can take to mitigate the effects of the post peak oil decline. The author doesn't think it is possible for individuals to prepare for the worst, that is, a total societal breakdown or global war. But we might prevent those disasters from happening in Canada if our government acts in time to mitigate the effects of the energy downslide. If our government does do what is necessary, my bet is that Canada will only suffer a gradual, worsening recession. And maybe we’ll manage to establish a stable economy, but at a considerably lower standard of living after peak oil than at present. For such an eventuality, individuals can plan for their personal survival. Individuals who want to protect themselves after peak oil might want to move closer to downtown or to their workplace, within walking distance to amenities. When suburbanites find themselves unable to dump their McMansions, we’ll be glad to have a smaller place close to all conveniences. Cultural and sport activities will have to be located closer to home. If possible, build a super-insulated house. Failing that, retrofit an older house with abundant quantities of insulation and seal it as well as possible against air infiltration. Fit a Heat Recovery Ventilator for fresh air. The prices of heating fuels and electricity are bound to increase astronomically when the downturn is under way. More important than the price, will be the availability. Energy shortages will result in occasional long blackouts in winter’s worst cold. When frequent and long power failures become the norm, our super insulated house will keep the pipes from freezing and us from being miserable. Once the post peak oil decline is well established, people will inevitably move in together, as the suburbs are abandoned. So why not build a small apartment in your basement or attic now while materials are available? This would be an added source of revenue to help offset the high energy costs of the future. Equip our houses with an airtight woodstove. Keep a minimum two-week supply of wood in a locked area. Make all the updates now (flooring, bathroom, kitchen, etc.) Make our homes as maintenance-free as possible: maintenance-free siding, windows and soffits. These are luxuries we may not be able to afford in the middle of the oil crash following the oil peak. Or, the materials to do these things might simply not be available. Most people would be well advised to learn gardening and to allow at least a small garden on their property. Produce from warm climates may no longer be available. If it is, the average family will likely not be able to afford it. Although we might not be able to live off our city garden, it will provide us with the pleasure of the special little luxuries that bring comfort in hard times. Learn food preservation techniques: Canning, salting, smoking and Drying. And if at all possible, build a cold cellar in our basements. Fresh produce will only be flown into our cold Canadian cities for the rich. For those who are not rich and want to eat well, learning how to preserve the locally grown fruit and vegetables available at local markets would be a blessing. Equip our kitchens with energy efficient cookware: Perfectly flat bottomed pots and pans, electric frying pan, pressure cooker. Those who’ve never learned how to cook might be wise to do it now. Learn how to knit and sew and buy a sewing machine now while they’re dirt cheap. We’d be wise to learn how to repair things. Take a small appliances repair course and a mechanic’s course. Also, buy all the tools we will need now while they are affordable. When times get tough, we will be amongst the survivors if we can fix things and if we can make things ourselves. Get onto a solid financial footing: get rid of all debts, pay off your mortgage, never buy consumer goods on credit. It’ll probably take oil at $100 a barrel for tourist facilities like ski centres, cruise ships and theme parks to take a beating. Those who own shares in anything related to this field, would be wise to keep an eye on those stocks and get ready to phone their broker. If you own shares in the airline industry, plan on divesting yourself of them before the peak oil decline begins. Those who need to lose weight might consider doing it now so that they’re in better health when the going gets tough. This should include eating a healthy, balanced diet with less emphasis on meat and more on beans and grains. Those who are advanced in age: Would do well do move into a house or apartment that is wheelchair equipped. Those living alone might move in with another person, preferably younger and in better shape than they are. Because of high unemployment and bankruptcies, governments will be unable to collect the taxes required for the increasing demand on health and social services. The presentation then give deals with high-rise buildings and apartments and explains why they will become non-functional after peak oil. Likewise with powerboats. The author then asks the reader to learn as much as possible about the peak oil issue and to inform his acquaintances and family about the issue. He then provides a long list of trades and professions that will be in demand after the oil peak.
Chapter 9B deals with what can be done at the local and municipal level. During the energy down slope, community cohesiveness will be an advantage for everybody, especially from the aspect of security. Neighbors would gain by getting to know each other. Everybody would benefit from getting involved in neighborhood activities like sports, neighborhood watch, energy efficiency groups. In order to prepare for the energy decline, we must absolutely reverse the process of globalization before an oil crash imposes it on us. For the average person like you and me, we can start at the neighborhood level. It means living more locally, by traveling more on foot, and by buying locally made goods and services. Efforts must be made to support neighborhood restaurants, hardware stores, bookstores, grocery stores, clothing stores, etc. This enables the money to remain in the neighborhood, therefore increasing employment, thus making the neighborhood economy more robust and reducing crime. The author suggests following Richard Douthwaite's advice and for a Local Exchange Trading System (LETS).
To mitigate the post peak oil difficulties: We could start a gardening plot cooperative, an organic food cooperative, and energy efficient housing cooperative, and to get involved in local politics. Build more bicycle paths and public transit instead of widening roads and denounce the blindness of our leaders. Resuscitate the old streetcar. Stop building shopping centres and superstores. Ban all Walmarts from the face of the Earth. Redesign cities to make them more walkable and cyclable. Join workplaces and living spaces so people can walk to work. Change zoning laws to allow mixed use. Ban building anything more than seven stories high. Revert to closing stores on Sundays to change the consumer mindset. Recycle, recycle and recycle. Allow home businesses such as dry cleaners, hairdressers, shoe repair shop, small appliance shop. Ban new housing developments.
Chapter 9C deals with what the Federal government should do. Individuals won't make great sacrifices if they feel others are not doing their share. Therefore changes have to be dictated from top down. Canada is in a special position because it is rich in resources, especially the Tar Sands. The author would like to see Canada becoming a safe zone, a lifeboat and then suggests what he thinks are important things he wishes to preserve. This is his list: ØArt and music; Literary masterpieces; Knowledge of anthropology and history; Acquired scientific knowledge in astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, ecology, medicine, etc; The Canadian rule of law; The Canadian parliamentary system; A health system that is sustainable with respect to the environment. The problem, he points out is that our involvement with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has committed us to hawking our resources at firesale prices. Even our renewable resources (forests, water, soil) are being drawn down. When you extract renewables faster than their replenishment rate, you’re making them non-renewable. We have re-established ourselves as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the global marketplace. And now, to top it off: we’ve become pumpers of oil. The best illustration of this is the frenetic pace at which the American government is pushing Canada to develop the Alberta tar sands…a desperate attempt to push back world peak oil as far into the future as possible – perhaps a year or two. The Americans want Canada to quintuple her production of oil from the oil sands, from 1 million barrels a day to 5 million barrels a day. Do they care about the environmental cost? The author thinks that as Canadians we must re-examine the assumptions upon which our international trade policies are based: Growth is good for its own sake; Growth is essential for the economy; Anything that stifles growth is bad; Companies’ first duty is towards shareholders; Money is the only bottom line; Canada’s population can grow forever. Canada has the necessary attributes to be one of the few places on Earth to escape catastrophic societal collapse and depopulation. This requires reversal of our involvement in globalization. He thinks self-sufficiency is a question of survival, not only for Canadians but for the human race. Backing out of NAFTA is an absolute necessity. We have to adopt the notion that oil in the ground is money in the bank (earning interest in a manner of speaking, as it will only increase in value as we pass the oil peak). Likewise, a tree in the forest is a breath of fresh air for our grand-children. Likewise, minerals left in the ground will ensure that future generations of Canadians will be able to sustain our technological civilization. We should do what is necessary to bring our industries back home:Ø End our participation in NAFTA and WTO is the first step in bringing our industries back home; The second step would be to re-establish the “Buy Canadian” campaign of the 1970s; Third would be to subsidize manufacturing in Canada; Then to impose tariffs on imported goods that are available from Canadian companies. This reduce the hardship that peak oil would bring.
The most important source of Canada's increasing population is through immigration. Although immigration has contributed to Canada's richness, the environment simply cannot absorb any more. Unfortunately, we have no choice but so restrict immigration. The author then explains the counterproductive effects of a rising population and how this negates any effort we might undertake to reduce our impact on the environment. He looks at the next 30 years. At the present rate our population would increase by 33% in spite of peak oil in Canada. He looks at all the added infrastructure that will be needed to house, transport, educate, heal the added 11 million people and asks where will we get the energy to accomplish all this construction? And how will we feed these people without fertilizer and pesticides? It turns out that municipalities have to bear the brunt of the Federal government's misguided population policy in Canada. He points out the difficulties in achieving a change of policy in this regard. He brings up arguments to counter the notion that Canada helps poor nations by taking a small number of their excess population. He says we must direct our compassion with our reason. We can be of no use at all to poor countries if we destroy ourselves through overpopulation, environmental degradation and resource depletion. He suggests other ways the Federal could mitigate peak oil: Improve the railway system, institute tolls on highways, increase insulation standards in the construction code, a variety of energy conservation schemes, teach survival skills, create a steady state economy, not based on growth, reverse urbanization, build a fence along the US border, beef up our patrol capabilities along the coasts, deploy forces in the far north, get out of Afghanistan, adopt a carrot and stick philosophy, stop all oil exports, ban advertizing, tax gasoline much more. before the Feds will do this they will have to be pushed into it by a population that is informed about peak oil and carrying capacity.
Finally, Chapter 10 provides conclusions. The author feels that if all countries decided to invest massively in renewable energy, it would put so much demand on oil that it would precipitate the onset of peak oil.. If every country invested heavily in renewables, it would further increase the Earth's carrying capacity temporarily, allowing us to deplete more resources and biodiversity and pollute more, resulting in a more severe overshoot and a more catastrophic population crash. Reiterates that Canada could become a post peak oil safe zone, or a lifeboat. He has reflected a long time on this and feels sad that it has to be that way, but making Canada a safe zone is the only chance we have. He then explains why he is doing this web site and this presentation. It is because he has children and a beautiful grandchild he would like to make a better world for. He then muses about how we made ourselves dependent on oil. He bemoans the lost opportunities that we had back in the fifties. He states the three methods Nature uses to control population and regrets that humans don't take population control in their own hands instead of waiting for Nature to do it for us in her violent ways. He urges the reader to read more on the subject and to make his/her acquaintances aware of the importance of preparing Canada for the post peak oil decline.
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