Skip to main content

For people who aren't sufficiently skeptical yet about Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and his "technology will always succeed" claims (combined with a stiff double shot of Montana economic boosterism) that the Fischer-Tropsch coal-gasification process, combined with Montana's abundant coal, will solve all of America's transportation energy problems, read here for another view.

Short story: To reduce America's imported oil usage (not total, just imported) by 1/12th, or 8.33 percent, by using Montana coal in the Fischer-Tropsch process, would require two and a half times as much water as the entire annual flow of the Tongue River.

If it's wrong for Dick Cheney-sponsored coalbed methane to suck dry the watershed of the neighboring Powder River, then it can't be right for Schweitzer to want to do even worse to the Tongue River, can it?

Environmental problem details below the fold.

Some talking points from the Northern Plains Resource Council PDF (the link to which I e-mailed Kos himself a couple of weeks ago):
The only commercial-scale coal-to-liquids plants in the world are operated by Sasol, a South African corporation with its roots in the apartheid era. Sasol's coal-to-liquids plants emit huge quantities of a long list of airborne, liquid, and solid wastes. Sasol is converting its operations to produce liquid fuels from natural gas rather than coal to reduce environmental impacts.

Sasol officials outlined the environmental benefits of switching from coal to natural gas at Sasolburg:

  • Elimination of hydrogen sulfide emissions.
  • Sulfur dioxide emissions lowered by 15,000 tons per year.
  • Nitrogen oxide emissions lowered by 10,000 tons per year.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions lowered by 47%, or five million tons per year.
  • Particulates lowered by 25%.
  • Fine ash reduced 73%.
  • Solid waste reduction of 50%.
  • Water consumption reduced 27% - 30%.

After that comes an excellent reference chart noting just how much water would be needed for a one million barrel/day of oil offset industry and 20.000 and 80,000 barrel/day individual plants.

One million bpd of Fischer-Tropsch industry would require half again as much water as the entire Tongue River annual flow. Not to mention all the pollutants listed above.

And, what will the cost be for scrubbers for all the airborne pollutants? The land reclaimation cost for the rock/soil byproduct pollutants?

Originally posted to steverino on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 10:31 PM PST.

Poll

Is Schwietzer's Fischer-Tropsch plan a real hope for the energy future or not?

31%28 votes
68%61 votes

| 89 votes | Vote | Results

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I agree (4.00)
    This is slightly pie in the sky.  As you said at most we might be able to use FT for a smaller % of our diesel use.  Probably about as much as bio-diesel.
    Every little bit helps, and this is not the silver bullet some are making it out to be.
    Which I think was the same position that J Paris takes, whether his has changed or not I don't know.

    "Pre-1776 mentality" - Russ Feingold

    by OregonCoast on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 10:39:31 PM PST

    •  You don't have all the facts (none)
      read http://www.businessweek.com Sasoil in South Africa just made $2 Billion US dollars in operating profits (so much monet SA wants to charge them a windfall tax) they onw 28% of the SA oil market. Sasoil is switching to Nat Gas because Venezuala, UAE, and Russia all have large Natural Gas reserves and they want to capitilize on them. They are not switching because their coal process doesn't work, the Natural Gas conversion process is happening in countries with large Natural gas export potential (the Nat Gas Diesol can be reconverted into Nat Gas).

         The carbon emision problem will be fixed in 5 years. The next step is to pump carbon emisions back into the ground into the sme rock formations that hold Natural Gas or into salt beds. Natural gas is stored in salt beds in the summer TODAY. This is how there is enough Nat Gas in the winter durring peak demand.
          The article in question is a hit peice on Sasoil because there is a fear of competition.  Remember gasoline was said at one time to never be a viable replacement for Diesol how did that work out?

      -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power"

      by dopper0189 on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 06:13:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the 1st 2 problems, more (none)
        1- water is more valuable than liquid fuel alts.

        2-Natural Gas is more valuable as a fertilizer construct.

        3-Once mined, land cannot be reclaimed.

        4-EROEI excludes these hidden costs.

        5-CO2 output into atmosphere is doubled.

        6-we don't need more energy.  We must go back
        to 1910 levels of energy output immediately to
        stop CO2 Runaway.  

      •  You really believe this? (none)
        The illogic in your own post is huge.

        You say other countries have big NG surpluses (which would drive prices DOWN) and then cite that as a reason for why Sasoil is switching FROM gas to NG.

        And, you would trust BusinessWeek to provide environmental insight?

        "There is no god, and I am his prophet." SocraticGadfly

        by steverino on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 10:43:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  CAFE STANDARDS (none)
    Increasing the CAFE standards would cut America's gas usage by a lot, CUT pollution, and it would require ZERO new technology (at least to get to the level of today's hybrids...)

    •  do you understand (none)
      simply changing driving habits can save as much as this diary discusses? every 1 MPG is approximately 5% of our personal vehicle gasoline demand. you can get 2-3 MPG from simply slowing down and accelerating less rapidly.
  •  I don't watch TV (4.00)
    so I missed the show, but I've followed along here.

    I'm not big on any new non-renewables (esp. fossil fuels) initiative. For the money and effort we could probably tip some tipping points in renewables.

    Sounds like you have a good arugment against; a candid, impartial summary of the estimated inputs and outputs of the system (not to mention damage to land and waterways etc. via mining) is needed.

  •  Is anybody else sick of seeing (none)
    how these...well, whatever, are always trying to dream up ways of utilizing 'old guard' energy sources in new ways?

    Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. The problem is none of the powers that be owns a 'hydrogen mine' (sic...hydrogen is a readily available gas of which water is the most abundant contained source.)

    This being the case we could concievably fill up our hydrogen powered vehicles at home via a small still with a condenser unit.

    If we all drove hydrogen powered vehicles who'd need oil and that's the rub.

    Parties divide, movements unite.

    by Gegner on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 11:00:19 PM PST

    •  A still? (none)
      How do you propose to distill hydrogen?

      From what feedstock?

    •  But hydrogen isn't an (none)
      energy source, it's a "battery", that is the rub.

      "Pre-1776 mentality" - Russ Feingold

      by OregonCoast on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 11:09:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hydrogen and Water (none)
      On Scientific American Frontiers the other night on PBS, the show Alan Alda hosts, they visited some model homes built by college students I believe that used solar energy and other renewable energy sources. It looks like it was a re-run from last February, 2005. http://www.pbs.org/...

      One of the things that ONE of the houses had was a way to STORE excess energy produced during the day from the sun.

      They somehow pumped it through a tank of water, and split the H2O into Hydrogen and Oxygen, and then stored the Hydrogen in a tank. Then, when they needed the energy back again, they simply exposed the Hydrogen to the outside air, and made water again, and that released energy.

      I don't remember the exact mechanics of it, but it seemed reasonable, and is about 10 years away from being usable by the average Joe Homeowner. It looked fairly simple to collect hydrogen for home use - not sure it would be suitable for cars. But it was quite interesting how self-supporting a home could be as long as the community is not too cloudy.

      ...but not your own facts.

      by slouise217 on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 12:49:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's a stupid idea (none)
        you would get higher efficiency pumping water into an elevated tank for energy storage.  You would get higher efficiency using a flywheel.  you would get higher efficiency using a bank of lead acid batteries.

        The problem with hydrogen is that while it works, other things are much more efficient.  Unless you are in a situation where you have excess electric generation capacity coming out of your ass, you would never look at hydrogen.  If you do have excess capacity, feed it back into the grid to supply other people (it is a much more environmentally sound approach).

    •  Hydrogen transportation more pie-in-sky (none)
      Go to Amazon and read my review of "The Hype About Hydrogen."

      Hydrogen fuel cell transportation is just as much "just around the corner" as nuclear fusion power plants are.

      "There is no god, and I am his prophet." SocraticGadfly

      by steverino on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 10:48:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The power of the sea (none)
    There must surely be a way to use the energy of our oceans, its eternal.

    The new clean coal seems to be old coal. We have had coal for centuries, you can tart it up but its still coal..with emmissions.

    Suplhur content matters,its still coal. I am a non convinced non scientist.

    Wind, solar,oceans, the only thing missing is desire and the word conservation.

    •  Heresy! (none)
      the only thing missing is desire and the word conservation

      You're suggesting real change! Challenge the endless "growth" model? How can we frame that? - since that's all that really matters, not outcomes. You must be french-canadian or something.

    •  " is desire and the word conservation." (none)
      Unfortunately, the world economic model is based upon debt expansion and growth of energy usage.  The model does not work in a world of economic contraction (example, the depression which only ended by massive growth in oil usage from world war II.  Without the oil, the depression would never have ended).

      While I would love to see a new economic model, it will not work in a world of 6.5 billion people.  Maybe in a world of 2 billion.

  •  I don't know what the flow of the Tongue River is (4.00)
    Nor do I know the implications of it going dry.

    So I can't comment on this diary in an informed manner.  It sounds bad, but not enough information was presented for me to estimate a cost/benefit.  

    And - what's with the guilt by association of stating "The only commercial-scale coal-to-liquids plants in the world are operated by Sasol, a South African corporation with its roots in the apartheid era?"

    Get real - anything that began between 1910 and 1989 could be characterized as having "roots in the apartheid era."  

    That would be like describing my oldest brother-in-law, who was born in Minnesota in 1942, of having "roots in the Nazi era."

    •  Agreed (none)
      that is a stunningly dishonest little piece of rhetoric.

      Je suis Marxiste, tendence Groucho.

      by gracchus on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 12:56:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  maybe clumsy rather than dishonet? (none)
      Don't know what they had in mind, of course, but the only reason that the Sasol plant was built was that, due to apartheid, the South Africans found it very hard to buy oil on the world market. There was an international boycott - because of apartheid. They could, in fact, buy oil, but often it was unofficial, supplies were spotty, and it could get very expensive. In other words, if they hadn't been boycotted because of apartheid, they wouldn't have built the Sasol plant.

      Incidentally - or maybe not so incidentally - the technology of turning coal into diesel was developed on a large-scale in Nazi Germany, again because of their trouble in buying oil on the world market. Germany has a lot of coal but no oil itself.

      •  Exactly (none)
        In both cases, the country in question found that it had forced itself, by its own politics, into diesel creation that was quite inefficient and never would have been done on the free market.

        Did a revived 1950s Germany try oil-diesel generation? Hell, no.

        Is a post-apartheid South Africa going to continue it? Hell, no.

        So, Mr. Bass, gracchus, maybe think this through a bit more.

        As for your other post, Mr. Bass -- without providing exact $$, I can tell you some things that will happen with a dry Tongue River.

        1. Lower flows on the Missouri, influencing dollar-producing sport fishing in some lakes, barge traffic and more.

        2. That would also affect electric output of any electric-generating dams, thereby partially shooting the whole project in the foot.

        "There is no god, and I am his prophet." SocraticGadfly

        by steverino on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 10:54:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  not enough information was presented (none)
      But that dictum is beginning to change as the West changes. In the nation's fastest growing region, leaving water in streams and rivers and not diverting it for traditional purposes such as farming and ranching is increasingly being viewed by policymakers and environmentalists as a "beneficial use." Some farmers and ranchers, including a group that supported changing the law in Montana, are going along.

      This year, the Colorado Legislature broadened state authority to acquire water rights to improve the environment. The move came a year after the Legislature decreed recreation a "beneficial use" of water.

      "I believe it will result in healthier rivers and streams," says Colorado state Sen. Ken Gordon.

      Water Wars Worldwide.

      The most efficient use of water is to drink it, just as the most efficient use of corn is to eat it.

      Eliminating the Montana Cattle Industry would yield
      immediate benies in both.

      •  Of course in-stream flow is a beneficial use (none)
        That's not in dispute here.  The question is: is destroying the Tongue River as a natural resource and habitat worth the payback in energy?  

        Some would argue no amount of energy would justify destroying a stream.  I'm more ambivalent - in my view, it depends on the benefits of doing so.

        •  And there it is (none)
          One more resource use/National Sacrifice Area created and for what, to continue the Status quo which is
          beneficial to oh the top20% Max.

          And another part of Planet Earth turned into Moonscape.

          Like we've got another Planet to go to.

          It won't wash, pun intended.

           No attention is being paid to what is necessary. Neither the White House nor Congress gives more than lip service to issues upon which our future depends. Energy, transport, global warming, education, health care, subsidies, scientific research, sustainable agriculture, infrastructure upkeep and modernization, state-of-the-art communication, manufacturing capacity - at the federal level you will find almost nothing concrete, nothing useful, nothing that addresses root problems.

          I keep thinking that the Uber rich have this plan
          but the facts show that their offspring are going to get just as fucked as the rest of us.

          The Planet's going to kick us off.  Thanx for getting rid of the old growth and all those hydrocarbons.  Good bye.

          James

      •  Amen to that (none)
        And a nice link, too.

        On BLM land, raising grazing fees to real-world levels would do a lot toward moving cattle off marginal land.

        "There is no god, and I am his prophet." SocraticGadfly

        by steverino on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 10:56:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  coal gasification? (none)
    IMHO, the problems can be solved IF we've completely given up on fixing global warming.

    It's conceivable that the CO2 pollution problem from burning coal in central station power plants and factories can be dealt with by storing the CO2 indefinitely, though I regard it as a stupid idea.

    Once the stuff gets converted to synthetic gasoline or diesel fuel, it gets burned in vehicles... and there are good reasons why AFAIK, nobody is talking about recovering CO2 from vehicle exhausts.

    The only "green" solution that's compatible with motor vehicles as we know them is to grow stuff that can be converted into liquid fuel. This is a carbon neutral solution, the CO2 for growing plants either comes from the atmosphere or is intercepted from smokestacks before it goes into the atmosphere.

    Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

    by alizard on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 01:35:55 AM PST

    •  Except for one tiny nasty little detail. (none)
      In order to convert organic matter (including coal.)to producer-gas, which then can be converted to practically anything from H2 to plastics, you need to apply energy in some form or the other unless you go the route of the environmentally objectionable direct use of the producer-gas.(You can easily run a car on it, but it's a 'stinky' solution.).
      Besides that, that same organic matter has to be collected, transported and processed (chopped, dried, compressed) and safely stored under strict and controlled conditions prior to being gassified and then the residue (ash, captured CO2 and such)transported again for proper disposal. That costs energy too.
      That energy has to come from somewhere and using the organic matter itself creates a whole new, not to mention expensive, can of worms.
      With the exception of coal, I'd have to say that the massive logigistics problem that arises from using 'energy-crops' or grown organic-material for that purpose is cost-prohibitive on its own.
      Besides that that organic-matter simply has too low mass-to-energy ratio to become part of a sustainable solution to our energy problems.

      I have tinkered a lot with that on a small scale and I do operate a back-up generator fueled by garden-variety organic material, but man, It's a HUGE hassle to prepare and store the stuff that I put into it in order to make it work. And for what? For something that still spews out CO2 and CO at prodigious amounts.

      I'm also presently working on feeding producer-gas into a fuel cell generator. It works fine in theory, but then there's all this left-over stuff that is toxic in varying degrees after you catalyse the H2 out of it. Once you have the H2, then the thing works swimmingly.
      On a moderately sunny day I get a better energy return out of my model steam-engine heated by Fresnel-lenses without anything more than water-vapor as a waste-product.

      I can tell ya: It ain't easy!

       

      •  Growing crops for fuel is not (none)
        sustainable.
        Ethanol from switchgrass

        Of course, if you do harvest switchgrass for ethanol and cart it away to the factory instead of letting it grow, die, and add biomass to the soil, you are simply mining the soil of matter and nutrients which will eventually cause soil loss and counteract all of the positive effects of planting it in the first place.
        <snip>
        I would add to this discussion the amount of human labor that's going to be involved just in feeding ourselves without fossil fuels is going to be staggering. I've been attempting to grow a good portion of my own food for several years now using manual bio- intensive methods, and it's not easy! The idea that we're going to be growing crops to make ethanol during the energy decline is really preposterous. Maybe if the wealthy want to keep their cars they will have human slaves to plow and harvest their energy crops for them, like in the plantation days.

        •  while you might have a case, (none)
          the linked article doesn't make it. A religious certainty that civilzation is going to end, that nothing should be done about trying to prevent it, and where the writer evidently hasn't done his homework does not constitute proof.

          At best, the guy's trying to use ethanol as a strawman case and isn't aware that the single study that shows ethanol as a net energy loser has been massively debunked.

          I'll bet you take Kunstler seriously, too. My critique of Kunsler is that his projection is way too optimistic in the case where nothing is done and he hasn't bothered to research alternative energy technology, from the evidence of his site, because he doesn't enough enough about alternative energy tech to comment intelligently about it.

          Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

          by alizard on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 05:38:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Perhaps you haven't read (none)
            Matt Savinar's Life After the Oil Crash yet. For me, and many in the 'civilization' business, his exposition is highly credible. He explores most alternative energy proposals quite thoroughly.

            As for Kunstler, I haven't read his book yet. There are those who predict a hard crash, and those who predict a soft one. Who you go with is an individual choice.

            I'd like to point out that the attitude palpable in your comment was derisive, rather than inviting a reasoned discussion.

            •  Luddites (none)
              who want us all to buy into the end of technological civilization without even seeing if it's possible to fix it deserve derision, and that's what they'll get from me.

              People who assert that there are no solutions, not because they've researched them, but because they don't like technological civilization aren't the people I look to for answers, or even intelligent discussion. Kunstler is a very good example of that, and I don't even respect him as a human being. If I want disinformation, I know where the White House website is.

              I like the idea of people dismantling centralized infrastructure to build useful tools for their own communities.

              The site you linked to talked about how wonderful it is that people are stealing copper by getting it off HV power distribution lines. This is hardly something I feel the need to be respectful about.

              After reading through the page, I've concluded that they're tinfoilers.

              Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

              by alizard on Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 01:43:10 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  More agriculture requires more petroleum (none)
        Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is made from natural gas. That's the biggest drawback from trying to make biofuels from commercial agricultural products.

        "There is no god, and I am his prophet." SocraticGadfly

        by steverino on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 10:58:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Is it heresy to say (none)
    we need to build smart, safe nuclear plants?
    •  Yes, nuclear is the solution ... (none)
      ... The United States should start right now to build smart, safe nuclear plants (we've had a safe nuclear reactor operating in downtown Atlanta now for more than 40 years) with the goal of generating 100% of our electricity needs (minus the part we now get from hydro) within two decades. We also need to start switching to hydrogen-fueled personal vehicles, and bio-fueled commercial diesel vehicles. This would mean a drastic change for the better in the way we live in this country. The oil binge would be over. The degradation of the environment could begin to be reversed. We might even begin to feel human again.
      •  One of the strangest (none)
        changes of mind I've had at dKos is on this subject. Couple years ago, I was kneejerk anti-nuclear. Now I'm cautiously pro. All 'cause of dKos, too, that festering left feverswamp ...

        Let there be sharks - TracieLynn

        by GussieFN on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 05:58:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Too late (none)
          Since we have passed the peak without initiating major corrective measures, we now have to rely primarily on methods that we have already engineered. Long-term research and development projects, no matter how noble their objectives, have to take a back seat while we deal with the short-term problems.

          With no new net energy, competition for energy inputs
          escalate.

          Ex-the Pentagon has the wherewithall but crushing the Pentagon's Budget means the end of cheap oil.

        •  Anti-nuclear liberals (none)
          never made sense to me. I've always been a staunch liberal, AND a staunch nuclear energy supporter.

          People claim that nuclear "isn't safe". How many lives have been lost in (US) nuclear power plants in the industry's history? Zero (direct, anyway). How many coal miners have lost their lives underground, JUST in North America, JUST IN THE PAST MONTH? Almost 100. And mining is NOT going to get any safer - as the coal is mined, miners must go deeper to get more.

          By it's very nature, ANY source of energy involves some volatility, and, hence, risk. Gasoline, liquid hydrogen, propane - these are ALL extremely volatile energy sources.

          Propane is probably the most dangerous of the lot. 7 years ago, I stood 30 feet away and watched an idiot in the trailer park I lived in at the time (accidentally) break off the valve of a full, 5-gallon propane tank. We all just froze for the 20 or 30 seconds it took to finish spewing, too afraid to move, knowing that ANY spark within 30-50 ft would've meant death to us all (not to mention obliteration of the trailer park). It emptied and dispersed (as did I, anyway) without incident. Propane is the most common source of heat for cooking in the developing world - if they can handle a volatile fuel such as propane individually, there's no logical reason or historical evidence to indicate the US can't continue to safely operate nuclear plants. Yes, over a 100-year period, there will likely be a fatal accident at some point (most likely utility employee(s)) - but nothing coming close to the number of coal miners lost annually.

          Conventional nuclear reactors are one of the few rational, ready-to-go sources we have. IMO, it's insanity NOT to use nuclear power aggressively.

          - cdn

          "For the first time ever, everything is in place for the Battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ." -- Ronald Reagan (Methinks he miscounted)

          by grndrush on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 01:02:17 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm with you (none)
            What we really need on this is nationalization of the industry, rather than private utilities doing many different things.

            Nationalization would lead to a simple, standardized design, kind of like Southwest flying just one type of plane.

            Nationalization might also override NIMBYism, especially on waste issues.

            Well, as Jerome has pointed out in one of his diaries, France has already been there for 20 years.

            "There is no god, and I am his prophet." SocraticGadfly

            by steverino on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 11:02:55 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  While I agree with you (none)
        The switch would be more than painful.  That model will only work in a world of drastically reduced energy usage.  How do the people survive that currently live off of the trillions of dollars spent in high energy consumption around the world?
        •  They adjust ... (none)
          There is nothing that says a person or family is entitled to unwise use of energy or having more than their fair share of resources. Those fossils of the fossil-energy age are just Madison Avenue concepts that push consumption (and, as a byproduct, what is called "growth" in the economic models, another way of saying consume without thought to the consequences). I wish that we had the same commitment to changing our consuming society to a society that values being over having that we had for reaching the Moon. It would be exciting. We could all still have plenty, but the overall effect would be living in balance instead of conquering the planet. America needs to lead the way in this change, imo.
          •  I am not talking about Americans (none)
            To start with, how do the billion or so people in oil producing countries survive?  Maybe Saudi Arabia can sell sand to feed it's people.

            Saying that we must reduce consumption and live in balance with the planet sounds great, but it will condemn billions of people to an early death.  Think long and hard about what the world looks like and how it supports 6.5 billion people.  We mine the energy stored up over 100's of millions of years in order to artificially support a population beyond the carrying capacity of the earth.  When, and if, we go to a balanced energy usage, equal to the amount of energy entering the earth, the world population will drop back its carrying capacity.

            It is not just oil.  It is all resources.  We consume the storehouse of the earth.  While horribly inefficient, this mass consumption is what allowed the earth's population to soar.  When we stop plundering the earth, it will get real bad, real fast.

            •  If we keep consuming ... (none)
              ... i.e., trying to have more things for more people forever, that won't work for much longer, either. The Earth cannot sustain thateconomic model.

              It's going to get really bad for most of the world's population no matter what, so we might as well adopt a policy that we are all in this together, spread the wealth equally, and find a way to exist peacefully until the new equilibrium is achieved.

              •  Good luck with that (none)
                When everything collapses and the starving hordes are at your door, be sure to give them your families food so the wealth can be spread equally.

                I, personally, will give them the business end of my shotgun.

                The level of overshoot, and human nature in general, pretty much guarantees that the next 20 years are going to be very, very bad.

                •  As a Christian, I will share ... (none)
                  ... because that is what I have done all of my life, and, even if the worst happens, that's the way I will choose to live out the rest of it. I don't expect the world to do likewise, but it would work better if everyone did. With proper leadership, America could change its consuming lifestyle and, in the process, show the world how to change to a more responsible use of the planet. As long as we remain the biggest consumers, though, nothing good will begin to happen. :)
    •  Diversified strategy (none)
      We should be pursuing a diversified strategy. We should be pursuing more than just nuke plants--hydro and geothermal plants where possible, wind power generation, solar, etc.
  •  grasoing straws (none)
    I'm afraid thet we are all guilty of grasping at straws for "the answer" to our energy problems. The plain fact is that we are going to have to adapt to an entirely different way of ding things.
    We have become entirely to accustomed to the idea of cheap, universal transportation. We buy 50 cent doodads made half way around the world, expect fresh vegetables in the midst of winter at low prices, and routinely vacation at places thousands of miles away.
    There is just no viable alternative to oil out there which is going to allow us to continue living this way. That's not to say we are headed for apocolypse, but we are just going to have to get used to buying more things, especially food, locally. We need to start designing communities that are no longer so dependent on automobiles for every aspect of life.
    •  I think apocalypse is inevitable. (none)
      Why? Just a hunch based on what goes on in D.C. The GOP is hell-bent for apocalypse, and I don't see any force, domestic or foreign, able to stop them. They'd rather fight than switch. They're in a self-reinforcing state of denial about the global future without cheap energy. They also probably think they, personally, will make out okay by escaping to a plantation of plenty while the rest of us die off to a sustainable level.
  •   Please provide link to this piece (none)
    It looks like a hit-piece.

    I would like to see the numbers and meaningfulness of Tongue river water flow (?). How does that compare with current coal mining operation water useage, available surface (Missouri, Yellowstone rivers etc) and subsurface water in eastern Montana , or estimated water irrigation useage needs for comparable biofuels agricultural production?

    Also the piece seems to be alarmist and ignores the  current recovery technology/processes for sulfur especially, which does not involve aqueous scrubbers, but rather a 2-stage oxidation of S to sulfur trioxide (sulfuric acid anhydride). This is what is used quite routinely in the US for recovering a salable  by-product (sulfuric acid) from the concentrating and refining of  metal(Mo,Ni,Cu) sulfide ores.

  •  A must read (none)
    from Wendell Berry:

    So ingrained is our state's submissiveness to its exploiters that I recently heard one of our prominent politicians defend the destructive practices of the coal companies on the ground that we need the coal to "tide us over" to better sources of energy. He thus was offering the people and the region, which he represented and was entrusted to protect, as a sacrifice to what I assume he was thinking of as "the greater good" of the United States. But this idea, which he apparently believed to be new, was exactly our century-old policy for the mountain coalfields: the land and the people would be sacrificed for the greater good of the United States--and, only incidentally, of course, for the greater good of the coal corporations.

    The response that is called for, it seems to me, is not a vision of "a better future," which would be easy and probably useless, but instead an increase of consciousness and critical judgment in the present. That would be harder, but it would be right. We know too well what to expect of people who do not see what is happening or who lack the means of judging what they see. What we may expect from them is what we will see if we look: devastation of the land and impoverishment of the people. And so let us ask: What might we expect of people who have consciousness and critical judgment, which is to say real presence of mind?

    It is written about Kentucky. Just repalce "forests" with "grasslands" as you read.

Click here for the mobile view of the site