Category Archives: Conservation

“Overpopulation is not a problem”

snipshot_b2ofat1784n.jpg“…Despite many doom-and-gloom predictions, explosive growth in the world’s population isn’t something to panic about says Nicholas Eberstadt…”

So starts a WSJ opinion article from Friday February 23, 2007 discussing overpopulation and how the planet has not reached it’s limits.  How all the previous naysayers regarding population expansion have been wrong.  How the predictions for the future are dubious at best.    

“Mr. Eberstadt says the strains that Malthus and others predicted from a surge in population haven’t materialized.  Instead, as population has increased so has most people’s standard of living.  The world’s population quadrupled to more than six billion people during the 20th century, a time when per capita gross domestic product almost quintupled.  Similarly, while a shortage of resources would be expected to drive up commodity prices, costs actually fell in the 20th century…” 

He is correct.  Projections for practically all matters into the future are difficult to pin down and really count for something.  But here are some statistics you CAN count on.


Currently half the people in the world live on less than $2 a day, almost 3 billion people.  (So much for an increased standard of living.)  And don’t forget about those books out there like Nickel and Dimed or Morgan Spurlock’s reality series discussing how people try to live on minimum wage in America.  They are making a lot more than $2 a day and they are not getting by.    

Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are chronically malnourished, while most Americans are severly or grossly overweight.   

Almost 11 million children under the age of 5 die every single year from poverty.   

From a survey published in 2000, 47% of the world’s agricultural land is considered severely degraded.china.jpg  In China in fact, 900 square miles of land is converted to desert each year.  (If our agricultural land is degraded and disappearing how do we feed this endless supply of humans?)   

For 6 of the last 7 years the annual grain harvest has fallen below the annual grain demand.  And even more scary, that doesn’t even take into account all the demand from the enthanol plants that are coming online.  That means less and less of our grain will be exported to other countries for their consumption.    

Mr. Eberstadt forgets the one thing that most everyone who isn’t concerned about the population levels of our world forget.  Oil.  Oil makes the world hum and he is forgetting the bonanza that was the Petroleum century.  This stored energy allowed humans to way exceed the carrying capacity of the earth by using millions of years of stored energy to generate more food and feed more people.  Oil allowed countries to ship excess food all over the world and allowed many, many countries to dramactically exceed their carrying capactiy.  We’re all aware that oil is already running out, and with it our ability to produce copious amounts of food will run out.  Oil allowed some countries to subjugate other countries and extract their natural resources and exploit their populations.  Oil is the thing that makes it all possible.  What happens when there is less oil?

It’s time to start talking and thinking about this forgotten bogeyman hiding in the closet because sooner or later it’s going to rear it’s ugly head.       


Poverty Facts and Stats

China’s desertification

Soil degradation

Cross posted on Groovy Green



There’s a new site out that tracks the amount of CFLs sold by location.  So you can see how many bulbs have been sold in your specific location.

Check it out.

They even have a tool where you can display a running counter for your city on your sidebar.  (If you have WordPress and can figure it out let me know.  I couldn’t.)


Train ad

You remember in my post a while back that I stated that trains can pull more freight for their fuel load than trucks?

Well in my recent Fortune magazine there was an ad from Norfolk Southern railway that stated that their engines get 410 MPG. Now this caught my attention, so I read the ad. (I have tried all over the place to find the ad or get it scanned onto here but haven’t been able to make it work) Basically they are stating their trains can pull one ton of freight 410 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel. I’m curious what trucks can do.

I tried to find the mileage on trucks but it doesn’t seem they really put that information out there, so I’ll be very nice to semi trucks and say they get 10 mpg. That seems fair don’t you think?

How much weight can a truck carry? I really have no idea. Perhaps 5 tons on average? Maybe more? What constitutes a “heavy load”? Let’s just assume they haul 5 tons. Some probably carry less. I imagine a truck full of Fritos weighs very little while a truck load of cars or Pepsi’s would be very heavy.

But if a truck holds 5 tons and it gets 10 MPG then wouldn’t it be able to go 50 miles on one gallon of fuel if it only had 1 ton?

So, a train is 8 times more efficient per ton of freight in its use of diesel fuel.

Now, I know that this is a seriously simple exercise and there are plenty of variables here and we don’t even know how accurate the train company’s number is, but it still bears weight about showing how much more efficient trains are than trucks.

You know what else is cool about trains? They pay for their transportation needs as part of their business. Yeah trucks pay use taxes and tolls, etc, but that doesn’t come anywhere close to covering the cost of the roads they travel on. But trains bear the cost of their rail system completely. They might get some tax breaks here and there on it (and I bet trucks do too) but that is a huge difference to our society from trucks. One maintains its own system for its use and the other acts like a parasite on a system funded by tax dollars.


Review of the energy expo

I showed up at the IRenew Energy Expo 2006 at around 8:45 or so. The main reason I came to this was to hear Steve Andrews speak about Peak Oil as the keynote speaker at 1:00 on Saturday, but there were some other workshops that interested me as well.

I attended 3 workshops that I’m going to just mention I attended them so I can save space for the 2 that held some merit. I attended Me and Mother Earth, Energy Efficient Strategies and Financing your RE investment.

I went to a solar hot water heating workshop next. This workshop at least mildly covered its intended topic. (I won’t address whether or not the speaker did a very good job of conducting the workshop) The speaker started with some discussion about how much money he had saved using solar hot water heating since 1977. It has been quite substantial and was enough to pay for his system 4 times over. He explained that he now has expanded his system so that he also heats up his domestic hot water for his hot water heating (a darn good idea) so that he barely uses any natural gas in the winter to heat his house or to heat up his water.
He then went on to explain how the solar water heater works and how it would be schematically laid out in a house. I thought this was great because while I had a picture in my mind I wasn’t sure if it was completely accurate or not. At this point our hour was up. I had a few problems with his presentation though.

He basically poo poo’d anyone doing anything other than a complete hot water system that relied on antifreeze to heat up water in a completely separate water heater from the main water heater. These are commonly referred to as “Drain down” systems. These systems range from $3,000 to $5,000. He wasn’t interested in Thermosyphic systems or batch systems, both of which are considerably cheaper and still pretty darn efficient. He didn’t think that they were good options as they were mostly warm weather choices. I figure, who cares? If they work most of the time and your cost invested it less than you can still get an acceptable payback. If you are trying this for the first time and just want to test it before you really sink a bunch of capital into it I think these options are perfectly acceptable. Besides, some people use these as their only systems and are quite pleased with them. Why is the most technological way always the preferred way in America? Well, that doesn’t work for me. I don’t just go along with what people tell me. I have to understand all the other options before I’ll make a decision about what other things to do. That kind of turned me off to this guy and I wasn’t sad when the workshop was over.

During lunch I walked around and looked at a few things. They had a lot of biodiesel exhibits set up, along with some information about other local places you can work with for your renewable energy needs. I was interested in the solar oven so I spent some time talk to the gentleman about that. I’ve spent a lot of time researching these ovens online so it was nice to see them up close and personal. Good use of technology to free people from the demands and expense of fossil fuel based cooking. I’ll probably get one of these someday.

The real reason I was there was for the key note speaker, Steve Andrews from ASPO-USA. Unfortunately they only gave him an hour to talk because he could have held the floor for at least 3 or 4 in my book. I’m just going to give a few highlights that I scribbled down from his speech.

He started off discussing Natural Gas and the peak in Natural Gas. He mentioned that it experienced its first peak in 1973 and its second peak in 2000 and has been declining since, even though there are 3X as many NG wells now as there were in 1973. He talked about how the government put out statistics in the early 90s about how NG production was going to steadily increase by about 15% from then to now, when in actuality it was decreased by 4%, even accounting for the run up to 2000 for the peak. (This is why all the utilities built NG plants. They had bad data from our own government.)

In the battle for our declining NG supplies the fertilizer companies have lost out and they’ve bad to shift production overseas to be closer to the supplies. Right now we have enough NG to feed our power plants and fuel our needs for home heating. As it continues to decline which one will start to be used less?

After that he talked about the new Jack 2 well that was found in the Gulf and how it would only supply America for 21 months if it really did have 15Billion barrels in it and they were able to extract every single ounce of it. If you have read any Peak Oil information you already knew this information. These new discoveries aren’t the answer folks.

After these two topics he spent his time discussing Peak Oil. He had a ton of great graphs; I wish I could have captured some for here.

Did you know that Exxon Mobile is the 11th largest oil company in the world? Yes, 11th. The Saudi company (nationalized) is the largest at 11.0 million barrels per day, followed by the Iranian Company at 6.0 million barrels per day. Exxon Mobile pumps 2.5 million barrels per day. Yes, Exxon Mobil is basically 25% as large as the Saudi company.

Can you figure out now why those people in the Middle East have so much money now?

He stated that the US uses 21 mmb of oil per day, 14 mmb of that in transportation and 9.5mmb of that makes gasoline.

The last chart he gave us that I wanted to share was his projections of where we will get our “oil” from in 2015. By this I mean all the means other than actually buying barrels of oil. So if you think some of these great technologies will be our savior, here are the hard numbers.

Efficiency increases: 1.5-3.0 mmb
Oil Sands: 1.0-2.0 mmb
Gas to liquids .5-.75 mmb