Vegetarian Saints vs. Hummer-Driving Idiots

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The NY Times gets hep to what Reason's resident anti-Cassandra, Ronald Bailey has been saying for years now: The population bomb effectively has been defused.

Yet Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich keeps the faith, says the Times. Faced with a world of 6.3 billion people (far lower than he expected) who are living in generally improving circumstances,

Dr. Ehrlich still argues that the earth's "optimal population size" is two billion. That's different from the maximum supportable size, which depends on the consumption of resources.

"I have severe doubts that we can support even two billion if they all live like citizens of the U.S.," he said. "The world can support a lot more vegetarian saints than Hummer-driving idiots."

Whole thing here.

Link via Arts & Letters Daily.

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  1. “The world can support a lot more vegetarian saints than Hummer-driving idiots.”

    Few things better demonstrate that politics is for many the secular equivalent of a religion then the continued acceptance of Paul Ehrlich has a serious researcher. He has been proven wrong in all his major predictions over the last 30 years but many still worship at his feet. They believe his predictions to be true because on an emotional level they want the predictions to be true.

    His model of how technology, economics and human welfare interact is fundamentally broken. The world has no fixed or even optimum human population. It all depends on the level of technology that the humans can use. In point of fact, the earth can “support” more “hummer-driving idiots” than “vegetarian saints” because a civilization that can build hummers has the technology to make a wider use of the available matter and energy sources.

    Elrich and his ilk use the “flour barrel” model of “natural resources.” In this model “natural” resources are just setting there like a flour in a barrel. To use the resource you scoop out some flour. When the barrel is empty, the resource is all gone and everybody stands around staring at the empty barrel until they starve to death. This model has two major political implications and you see them all the time. (1) A flour barrel is a zero sum resource. If I use a scoop of flour that means their is one scoop less for everybody else. (2) You can keep scooping at floor at a constant rate until you suddenly and without warning hit the bottom of the barrel and all then wham no more flour.

    But back in the real world, “natural” resources don’t exist. All resources come into being by human action. All resources are actually “artificial” resources that we create more or less on demand. One generations vital natural resource is the next generations recreational area or petty annoyance.

    Elrlich’s ideas helped create the political conditions that lead to the Energy Crises of the 70’s an event that killed millions across the world. It’s a great tragedy for the world’s poorest peoples that Elrich still has any influence at all.

  2. There are few vegetarian saints with the strength to support even the lightest halo.

  3. What about those of us who favor zero population growth because we hate people?

    I’m not suggesting that we kill people-just sterilize them. Yes, all of them.

  4. You have to love the Times, they still have to give ehrlich the final word- a weak parting shot.

    I also like how they explicity claimed that “the Population Bomb” frightened ‘everyone’. There were a whole bunch of people that weren’t frightened at all, and simply laughed. The Times couldn’t find it within itself to quote, or even mention one of those skeptics?

    While I appreciate the Times’ honesty in even printing the article, I still find it frustrating that they just can’t bring themselves to say that mr. ehrlich and his ilk were and are the wrongest ‘scientists’ on the planet.

    And pleasantly surprised? My ass… he’s still stinging from the cheque he had to write Julian Simon.

  5. Shannon Love,

    Few things better demonstrate that politics is for many the secular equivalent of a religion then the continued acceptance of Paul Ehrlich has a serious researcher.

    Erlich’s opinions have nothing to do with “politics.”

    He has been proven wrong in all his major predictions over the last 30 years but many still worship at his feet. They believe his predictions to be true because on an emotional level they want the predictions to be true.

    Which again, has nothing to do with “politics.” There is a lot of psuedo-science in the world; its not dependent on “politics” to be followed.

    This model has two major political implications and you see them all the time.

    Whether it has political implications doesn’t mean that its about politics.

    Elrlich’s ideas helped create the political conditions that lead to the Energy Crises of the 70’s an event that killed millions across the world.

    Erlich’s ideas were a response to said “crisis”; the crisis itself had its foundation long before Erlich was even born (e.g., see natural gas regulation going back to the 1930s, etc.).

  6. i know a few vegetarian saints. they’re generally nice folk. some are pretty badass. a few are weak as girls (being girls).

    i know we all like a heaping slice of culture war to go with the plate of evil salad that is erlich and his devotees, but sometimes it’s a bit much.

  7. dhex,

    What? We can’t call vegetarians names? 🙂

  8. dhex,

    What? We can’t call vegetarians names? 🙂

  9. I think that we are forgetting the most important thing here, that being calling the French names. If there are any French vegetarians (I doubt that, what with all their frog-eating and bearnaise sauce and all that), then those people are deserving of nothing but scorn and derision.

  10. Gary G.

    While I agree with your technical assertion that Ehrlich had nothing to do with politics, I disagree with the broad implication.

    Every now and then, a scientist comes along and doesn’t just produce science, but produces science (be it good or bad) and follows up with suggestions and policy proposals for law makers. ehrlich was one such scientist.

    It would be like suggesting that the science of global warming has nothing to do with politics. Your science becomes politics the INSTANT you as a scientist suggest a policy proposal for law makers- or further suggest that the ONLY way to ‘fix’ something that has been scientfically determined to be a problem is through legislative effort.

    I agree, science is just that, science. But there are a lot of scientists that are very effective media hounds. It’s one thing to say “The world is getting warmer”, or even “The world is getting warmer due to a discernable human influence”, but another thing to say “this warming can be stopped by passing these series of laws banning the use of ‘fill in the blank’.

    You’re no longer a scientist, but now an advocate and even an activist.

    Paul

  11. You better get some stronger coffee, GG, your comments on this thread were the dumbest waste of electrons I’ve seen all morning.

  12. Save the planet! Kill yourself!

    Church of Euthanasia

    My favorite enviromenatalists.

  13. Douglas,

    I think it has more to do with his need to trash Shannon Love than weak coffee. 🙂

  14. Google “peak oil” sometime. We have 50 years of oil left, probably less. We have found about 90% of the earth’s supply. China and India are now learning to guzzle oil like us good Americans.

    We can have a soft landing or a hard landing, depending on how far in advance we prepare for a world without oil. Their will be a landing, though, probably within our lifetime and certainly in the next generation’s.

    Pass the spinach, please.

  15. “We have found about 90% of the earth’s supply.”

    Anybody else get why this is so funny?

  16. The rate of technological change is an often forgotten component when talking about the future.

    “There will be a landing, though, probably within our lifetime and certainly in the next generation’s”

    It’s certainly possible we will never touch the ground. Most alternative energy tech is limited by the current state of material sciences(solar, fuel cell, thermal/vibration to electricity devices). With the constant advances in material science and nano science it seems ridiculous to think we won’t be using alternate energy soon. Remember we went from horse and buggies to jet airliners in 50 years and the rate of technological change is much faster now.

    – Anyway, how could anyone think life would be better with 3X the current population?

  17. “Google “peak oil” sometime. We have 50 years of oil left, probably less.”

    Isn’t that what some folks have been saying (often with more imminent exhaustion dates) for considerably more than 50 years? I don’t claim to have an expert opinion, because I don’t know anything about how they estimate oil reserves, how they take into account technological advancement, etc. But I’m pretty skeptical of these statements about how we’re just about to run out, since depending on who you ask we’ve apparently been about to run out since near the start of the industrial revolution.

    Not that I don’t think oil consumption is a problem – I just see the problem being on the pollution end of things, not the supply end.

  18. Pass the spinach, please.

    Can’t anymore. We’re not wasting another drop of crude oil farming that stuff. You’ll have to grow your own… you know, the traditional ‘organic’ way. Hopefully you live in a place where you have enough trees to cut down to make your farm tools, otherwise you’re gonna have a lot of dirt under your nails.

    🙂

  19. Shannon Love,

    I think Erlich’s analysis is actually just an attempt to use issues of population, resource depletion and the environment to rationalize his political agenda.

    So what? Your argument was he turned politics in a “religion.” Nothing you’ve said substantiates this.

  20. Paul,

    While I agree with your technical assertion that Ehrlich had nothing to do with politics, I disagree with the broad implication.

    There is no “broad implication”; I took issue with Shannon’s “politics as religion” comment and that is all.

    Every now and then, a scientist comes along and doesn’t just produce science, but produces science (be it good or bad) and follows up with suggestions and policy proposals for law makers. ehrlich was one such scientist.

    How is this “politics as religion” again?

    It would be like suggesting that the science of global warming has nothing to do with politics.

    I am not suggesting that politics and science do not intermix; indeed, any remotely controversial science is going to intermix with politics (see genetic engineering for example).

    I agree, science is just that, science.

    Well, I didn’t state that; science is a human activity, and is prone to all the biases, etc. that are common to all human endeavours.

  21. GG,

    Seriously, start back on the Prozac, or cut down, whichever is appropriate.

  22. JDM,

    Seriously, make an argument or shut up. 🙂

  23. If I were to make an argument it would be that you are an unbalanced loon, and my evidence would consist of your posts here. I wasn’t making one, though, I was performing an online intervention.

  24. It seems to me the statement,

    “Few things better demonstrate that politics is for many the secular equivalent of a religion then the continued acceptance of Paul Ehrlich has a serious researcher.”,

    can stand on its’ own without further explanation. There are many issues out there that people religiously follow.

    “We have 50 years of oil left”
    This is a well known exaggeration. It is really 50 days.

  25. There really is something to that “Peak oil” business. We’re not in danger of running out of oil anytime soon; what we’re running out of is oil that can be cheaply and efficiently extracted and produced. Imagine what would happen to our economy if wages stayed the same but gas went up to ten bucks a gallon, say.

    If the only ones shouting about peak oil were Paul Ehrlich/Michael Moore types I wouldn’t be too worried, but when Michael Moore agrees with right-wing guys in the Pentagon, and environmental groups agree with oil industry executives, THAT’S when I start to worry, and that’s what’s going on with Peak Oil.

  26. Stupendousman (I love that name) says: “With the constant advances in material science and nano science it seems ridiculous to think we won’t be using alternate energy soon. Remember we went from horse and buggies to jet airliners in 50 years and the rate of technological change is much faster now.”

    This is the precise definition of hubris, an attitude adopted by all of the past empires before they fell.

    Please think of all the energy alternatives available – wind, solar, nuclear, hydrogen (joke), wood, whatever. Now think of what we are investing in their development today – practically nothing. Forget about how they’re gonna make a solar airplane, just remember that none of the alternatives are portable and you can’t make plastic out of them.

    And remember, it takes oil to develop the alternatives. A solar panel system takes as much energy to produce as an SUV. Once we hit peak production and start to drop off the price of oil will go out the roof. Some pretty good minds believe that’s happening now. (Watch Shell and BP scramble as they’ve been caught lying about their reserves.)

    That means the cost of changing from oil power to something else is going to be enormous. Not to mention the wars we will continue fight for the last drop of it.

    I’ll just have vinegar on my spinach – hold the oil.

  27. To add to what Gadfly said, when I first learned about peak oil I tried Google searches on things like “peak oil fraud” or “peak oil debunked” tp hear the opposite point of view. Those who dismiss peak oil usually use one of the following two arguments:

    1. Oil is an infinite resource constantly pushed up from the earth’s mantle. (Wishful thinking, no evidence for this.)

    2. Oh, c’mon now! We’re Americans! Nothing that bad could happen to us! (See also: ‘The mighty Roman Empire could never fall,’ ‘the sun will never set on the mighty British Empire,’ ‘Germany would never descend into barbarism and murder its Jewish citizens.’)

  28. Gary Gunnels:

    Uhm, ok…presto chango- while you may have taken issue with her ‘politics as religion’ statements, your response to Shannon very clearly and concisely suggested that mr. ehrlichs opinions had nothing to do with politics. Nowhere did you mention the word religion in your 1:53pm post. And I quote:

    Erlich’s opinions have nothing to do with “politics.”

    And again:

    Which again, has nothing to do with “politics.” There is a lot of psuedo-science in the world; its not dependent on “politics” to be followed.

    And once more:
    Whether it has political implications doesn’t mean that its about politics.

    Now, I mean, I’m occasionally wont to jump to conlusions, or make the wrong ones. But to me, your post couldn’t be any more clear in its implication. If you you still insist that what you meant was ‘religion’ everytime your fingers typed ‘politics’, then, uhh, ok. We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Is it possible that “politics” means “religion” in Yiddish?

    Just wondering.

    Paul

  29. Gadfly,

    from Google: define: hubris

    The Greek word for “insolence” or “excessive pride”
    lms.thomsonelearning.com/hbcp/glossary/glossary.taf

    (sometimes spelled Hybris): A Greek term that is difficult to translate directly. It is a negative term implying both arrogant, excessive self-pride or self-confidence, and also a hamartia (see above), a lack of some important perception or insight due to pride in one’s abilities. It is the opposite of the Greek term ar?te, which implies a constant striving for perfection and self-improvement combined with a humble awareness that such perfection cannot be reached. As long as an individual strives to do and be the best, that individual has ar?te. As soon as the individual believes he has actually achieved ar?te, however, he or she has lost that exalted state and fallen into hubris, unable to recognize personal limitations or the humble need to constantly improve.
    guweb2.gonzaga.edu/faculty/wheeler/lit_terms_H.html

    To assume that people will be able to improve their technology or themselves doesn’t seem at all to me to be hubris. Although I don’t believe the kind of advances necessary for drastically reducing our dependence on complex hydrocarbons will occur “soon,” I don’t believe it will be as long as fifty years, either.

    …Please think of all the energy alternatives available – wind, solar, nuclear, hydrogen (joke), wood, whatever. Now think of what we are investing in their development today – practically nothing…

    As the readily available supply of oil goes down, the price of the said oil will go up, and other energy generating technologies will start to look more attractive. Heck, I remember back in the early/mid-70’s a gallon of regular (not unleaded) self-serve gas going for $1.219. This was at a time when the only cars in wide distribution costing more than $6,000 were new Cadilacs and high-end (foreign) sports cars. That relatively high price of oil (as indicated by the gasoline price) made it worthwhile for people to risk looking into other, previously too expensive, oil fields and energy technologies.

    Jennifer,

    I agree, argument 1 looks downright silly to me, considering that I don’t see how the complex molecules that make up oil would survive the pressures and temperatures found in the mantle. Argument 2 looks like a non-sequitur.

    But again, I truly believe (perhaps without basis) that if the price of oil gets high enough (maybe $200/bbl.,) solar, wind, natural gas, even geothermal, will start to look like attractive possiblities. What oil prices like that will do to our economy will probably be comparable to what happened in the 70’s–20% prime interest rates, 15% annual inflation, 9% unemployment (I’m not at all sure about the last number.) It would suck, but I don’t think it would destroy us.

  30. Wonderful stuff, guys. Ronald Bailey just has to mention Paul Ehrlich and the libertarian right falls over itself calling for the complete and final elimination of Goldsteinism, er, I mean Malthusianism. Don’t ever change; the world needs its independent, iconoclastic, rational echo chambers.

  31. I’d say the solution to the evils Ehrlich complains of is to stop subsidizing the consumption of energy, and stop subsidizing distribution costs. When people and business firms fully internalize the cost of the energy and transportation factors they consume, they’ll consume a lot less of them.

    Pollution and energy shortages are just another form of irrationality that results when the state intervenes in the market and disrupts price signals. It’s yet another instance of government subsidizing the operating costs of big business.

  32. Shawn-
    I hope you’re right, but somehow I doubt it. First of all, the 70s were an artificial, politically motivated shortage, and indeed, some non-Arab oil sources helped pick up most of the slack. Psychologically, I think it’s one thing to bear hardship when you expect things will get better soon; it’s another thing to deal with hardship when you know things will only get worse. To make a bad analogy, the stress I feel when I get the occasional temporary zit is nothing compared to the stress I’ll feel when I start getting permanent wrinkles.

    Also, society is even more car-dependent now than it was in the 70s. Suburbs stretch far further away from the cities. A couple of weeks ago I read in the Washington Post about how some people working in Washington are now commuting from West Virginia every day, in order to find affordable housing. Folks in New York commute from as far as Pennsylvania. How many Americans live in homes where NOTHING is within walking or bicycling distance–jobs, stores, even neighbors?

    As for your suggested alternatives, yes, I believe we’ll make use of them, but still, even after the price of creating and installing them is taken care of, energy still won’t be as cheap as oil is now. There’s still no way to store solar or wind energy–a solar panel on the roof will give you electricity on a sunny day, but at night and on a cloudy day you’d be screwed. Natural gas supplies are only expected to last about thirty years longer than the oil supplies.

    I am not saying that the loss of oil will destroy our civilization (though we might destroy it ourselves in an oil war); I just think that, at best, we will see a dramatic reduction in our standard of living. Plus, oil isn’t just used for energy; it makes plastics, most chemical fertilizers, and all sorts of other things. We could survive without cheap plastic if we had to, but without chemical fertilizers I don’t see how it would be possible to feed all of the people currently on the earth. I think I read somewhere that if farmers went back to using all-organic methods we could only feed about three or four billion people, tops.

    Seriously, all of you–Google “peak oil” and “oil crash.”

  33. Thank you for your hubristic explanation of the term “hubris”.

    Remember, fifty years is when we are OUT of oil – bone dry. Right now consumption is going up and production is flat. Reserves are overestimated by up to 30% to keep shareholders off the companies’ back. Today we consume 4 times the amount being discovered. When we do discover it, it is thousands of feet under water or really fucking cold, making it very expensive to retrieve.

    Today there is no discussion of this, much less a movement to address it. The price of oil will go up drastically, as you acknowledge, which will make the cost of transforming to another source huge, since it will take oil energy to do the transformation. Solar panels, wind farm machines, nuclear plants all take oil and its derivatives to make. The very poor and the very wealthy will be unaffected. Us in the middle will be VERY affected.

    In short
    ? Conventional oil peaks around 2005
    ? All hydrocarbons around 2010
    ? Gas around 2020
    ? Gas liquids peak a little after gas, as extraction rates increase
    ? The decline after peak is about 3% a year
    source: http://www.hubbertpeak.com/de/lecture.html

    Your belief without a basis for it is called “hope”. I share it but, as we found in Iraq, hope is not a strategy. The oil supply is finite. We need to have a discussion and get prepared to change without resorting to fear, finger pointing or war. We must become self sustaining and self sufficient to accomplish this.

  34. “So what? Your argument was he turned politics in a “religion.” Nothing you’ve said substantiates this.”

    Anything to quibble over, I suppose . . .

  35. Jennifer,

    About dealing with hardship, I would say that people will generally adapt to the situation they find themselves in, or do their darnedest to change the situation. Maybe I’m being a pollyanna on this point, but I have quite a bit of confidence that most people won’t go to pieces if their life gets more difficult. Like the Randolph Duke character in Trading Places, I think we would have to heap quite a bit of misfortune on someone’s narrow shoulders before they resort to really drastic, antisocial behavior.

    Yes, we as a society are more dependent on cars now than in the 70’s, but it only took a few decades for our society to change to this point. I’m sure if you had told anyone in 1975 that in thirty years many people would be driving fifty miles each way to and from work they would have probably asked for whatever it was you were smoking. In the time we have before oil is prohibitively expensive, I believe our society will adapt. Here in the Las Vegas metro area, for instance, there is already talk of developing a “smart community” on 2000 acres (about 3 sq. miles) which specifically provides for pedestrian-friendly instead of car-friendly neighborhoods.

    When it comes to energy not being as cheap as oil is now, I believe that is dependent on battery technology. It has been progressing much more slowly than other technologies, but there is progress. Las Vegas is a VERY good location for solar energy production, mainly because it receives about 1kw / sq. meter of energy from the sun, and even on overcast days, of which there aren’t that many, it still gets about 0.75kw / sq. meter. For nighttime electricity generation we might have small wind turbines on rooftops, like the old TV antennas. I know–that sounds outlandish, stupid, maybe pipe dream stuff, but I’m not by any stretch the sharpest mind here. Maybe it just comes down to the fact that I put a lot of trust in our (humanity’s) ability to overcome adversity, whether through nanotech, genetic engineering, or just plain being good to one another and helping each other out.

    The drastic cutting back of chemical fertilizers would be a big problem, which might be ameliorated somewhat by generating our food under greenhouse conditions. Such large construction projects would need lots of lead time, of course, and probably increase the number of people engaged in farming activities. Gosh, this sounds like the 1930’s. Yes, Great Depression times that needed a World War to stop. But from what I remember my Grandmother telling me about it, it really did bring people together. (Unless you were one of the undesirables, of course)

  36. For the peak oil, a simple but very convincing read is “So what’s with the price of oil?” by Steve Dutch. It is available at

    http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/PriceofOil.HTM

    Everything else by prof. Dutch is also pretty great:

    http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/pscindx.htm

  37. Gadfly,

    Sorry for sounding hubristic, it was certainly not my intent. 🙂

    I grant you most of your points (mainly because I don’t have the time to check on all of them now), but I would contend that there is a discussion going on right now. It might not be the high-level, report on the Evening News kind of talks, but there are efforts under way now, here in the U.S. and abroad, about finding alternatives to oil-based energy generation. Iceland currently has at least one hydrogen pumping station in Reykjavik set up for fuel-cell powered cars. The fact that we are talking about it ourselves I would say indicates that discussion is taking place. So what if it isn’t the president saying it? The complete change in attitudes toward smoking that I’ve seen in my lifetime indicates people can adapt to changing situations without blowing each others’ heads off.

    Seriously, thank you for your information. I’ll look it up when I can get the time.

    I need to go home now, it’s getting late, and close to my bedtime.

  38. what we’re running out of is oil that can be cheaply and efficiently extracted and produced

    even after the price of creating and installing them is taken care of, energy still won’t be as cheap as oil is now. There’s still no way to store solar or wind energy.

    It seems to me that you are forgetting that technology improves over time. We are “running out of oil that can be efficiently extracted”… with today’s technology. We have no way to store solar or wind energy… with today’s technology. But keep in mind that, in 1920, we had only 10 years worth of oil left. In 1960 we had 40 years’ worth of oil left. In 2004, we have 50 years left. What has changed is that we have found new sources of oil and new ways of extracting the oil we know is there.

    And as for having a good way of storing electricity — we really don’t *need* a good way of storing electricity. Not much effort is being spent developing one because even if we had one there wouldn’t be any need for it for decades. But there’s no physical reason why power can’t be cheaply and efficiently stored for long periods of time. The idea doesn’t violate any physical laws.

    Also, society is even more car-dependent now than it was in the 70s. Suburbs stretch far further away from the cities

    The reason why people live far away from where they work is *because* gas is cheap. There isn’t a general store in every neighborhood *because* gas is cheap. If gas was expensive, workplaces and businesses would be located closer to where people live. Cities would dissolve and disperse; things would become less centralized. More people would telecommute. Etc, etc.

  39. Remember, fifty years is when we are OUT of oil – bone dry

    Fifty years is when the known reserves of oil extractable with current technology run out. Saying “we will be out of oil in 50 years” is like saying “we will never find a cure for AIDS”; it might be true, but it’s not a provable statement.

    Right now consumption is going up and production is flat

    This has happened many times in the past, such as from 1960 (when we had 40 years of oil remaining) to the late 1960s (when we were down to 30), and from the mid-1970s (when we had 37 years left) through 1980 (when we 28). Now we have 50 — you say production is flat and demand is increasing? Ok. But if you’re saying it’s doomed to stay that way, you’re making claims you can’t back up.

    Reserves are overestimated by up to 30% to keep shareholders off the companies’ back

    Strange that you somehow have proof of this and yet the shareholders, who have billions of dollars at stake and thus a strong motivation to find out if they’re being lied too, aren’t aware of it.

    Today we consume 4 times the amount being discovered.

    And in the late 80s we discovered four times the amount being consumed. Why do you assume that the bad times will be the ones that last?

    When we do discover it, it is thousands of feet under water or really fucking cold, making it very expensive to retrieve

    We’ve been retrieving oil from inhospitable climates for decades. The inflation-adjusted price of oil is the same as it was two decades ago.

    Today there is no discussion of this, much less a movement to address it

    There was no “movement” to convert from wood-burning to coal-burning, or from wind to steam, or from farming to manufacturing, or from steam to internal combustion, or from radio to television, or from horses to cars. The shifts happened naturally as more cost-effective alternatives became available.

    Today we are discussing alternative energy sources (it’s simply wrong to say we aren’t). What we aren’t doing is wasting trillions of dollars converting to alternative energy sources while cheaper energy sources are still available. We will shift from gasoline to electricity when it becomes cost-effective to do so. The government will not need to mandate it.

    Solar panels, wind farm machines, nuclear plants all take oil and its derivatives to make.

    No, they don’t. Solar panels, wind farm machines, and nuclear plants are made with oil derivatives because oil derivatives are cheap. They do not have to be made from oil products. Technology shifts over time as alternatives become available.

  40. “The world can support a lot more vegetarian saints than Hummer-driving idiots.”

    How many vegetarian idiots can it support, I wonder? Or what about vegetarian Hummer-driving saints?

    One wonders just what Dr. E’s final solution for reducing the surplus population would be.

  41. One wonders just what Dr. E’s final solution for reducing the surplus population would be.

    Soylent green?

  42. Sorry, the vegetarian saints I’ve known were total slackers. Somebody is going to have to grow the food for them, they’re too lazy (or just weak from an insipid diet) to do it themselves.

  43. The really annoying thing is that Ehrlich is still peddling a false claim and that nobody in the media ever bothers to take a second to look at the stats. Ehrlich, like many others, insists that the reason world population is not growing as quickly as he and others claimed is due, in part, to China’s one-child policy.

    Forget the fact that total fertility rate has fallen pretty much everywhere, but this claim isn’t even true for China. China’s massive drop in fertility occurred in the 1970s, before the one-child policy. China’s fertility has been relatively stable since the institution of the one-child policy. The sex distribution of those births have been markedly changed by the one child policy, but on the whole the policy’s actual outcomes are extremely modest given how totalitarian a policy it is at least in principle.

    Ehrlich trumpeting the one-child policy would be a bit like Carter claiming credit for the fall of the Soviet Union.

  44. Anyone care to bet?

    Hell no.

  45. So from this thread it appears the war IS about the oil. Seems like the logical thing to do is to take the oil for outselves, then kill everybody else who might want to use it so it’ll last longer.

    Hmmm. Too bad the Saudi’s pissed away 40 years of profit on palaces instead of dumping it all into anti nuclear weapon technology!

    Too bad for them, I mean, not for US.

  46. Of course it is. What the hell else makes the place strategic? Take away the oil and the place looks like Sudan, whom we leave for a UN solution.

  47. Where are you guys getting the info about previous bad predictions on the oil supply? Maybe they refer to the US oil supply.

    I don’t have a URL. The book I used cites US Department of the Interior estimates of the world oil supply. And they weren’t bad predictions, any more than the DoI’s current 50-year estimate is a “bad prediction”. You just don’t understand what’s being predicted. They’re saying “available sources accessable with current technology will run out in 50 years given projected increases in demand”. You’re reading that as “holy shit! we only have 50 years of oil, tops!”. No. 50 years is the minimum amount of oil left, not the maximum — the maximum could be 100, 500, or 50,000 years. We have no idea.

    In fact, US oil production peaked in 1973.

    Yes, because it’s cheaper to produce it elsewhere using current technology.

    We now produce about the amount we did in the 1950’s. We are down to squeezing it out of rocks with water or steam.

    A century ago Great-great-grandaddy Gadfly was saying “we can no longer gather enough oil from surface seepage! we’re down to drilling deep underground to get it!”. You say “we’re down to squeezing it out of rocks” like it wasn’t cost effective to do it that way. It *is* cost-effective to do it that way, of course, which is why it’s done at all. Besides, it’s inaccurate to say that we’re “down to” using those techniques, because there are still active oil fields (e.g. off the west coast and in Alaska) where those techniques aren’t needed. We use steam to extract oil because we can get the oil that way cheaply enough to sell it at a profit.

    The leftover water is so saline they call it killer water.

    And yet in spite of that, our waterways are significantly cleaner today than they were in the 1950s, when the oil and chemical content of rivers was so high that “burning rivers” were a routine phenomenon.

  48. Where are you guys getting the info about previous bad predictions on the oil supply? I can’t find the source or the science the predictions were based on.

    Maybe they refer to the US oil supply. In fact, US oil production peaked in 1973. We now produce about the amount we did in the 1950’s. We are down to squeezing it out of rocks with water or steam. The leftover water is so saline they call it killer water.

  49. JDM,

    If I were to make an argument it would be that you are an unbalanced loon, and my evidence would consist of your posts here. I wasn’t making one, though, I was performing an online intervention.

    Ahh yes, the psycho-babble argument. Here, I will sum up your argument: “I don’t agree with you, thus, you must be insane.” Apparently Erlich’s claims aren’t the only example of psuedo-science in this thread; they include your statements as well. 🙂

    Paul,

    Uhm, ok…presto chango- while you may have taken issue with her ‘politics as religion’ statements, your response to Shannon very clearly and concisely suggested that mr. ehrlichs opinions had nothing to do with politics. Nowhere did you mention the word religion in your 1:53pm post.

    Well, if you had actually read the comments that I was responding to, you would understand the context of the statements.

  50. Shawn wrote:

    I’m sure if you had told anyone in 1975 that in thirty years many people would be driving fifty miles each way to and from work they would have probably asked for whatever it was you were smoking.

    I would never had made that comment, Shawn. of course, I grew up in Suffolk County, NY, 60 miles from Times Square on Long Island, where I had numerous classmates whose Dads commuted to the city every day. As the 60’s progressed, service on the increasingly rickety, union-strangled Long Island Railroad became ever more expensive and unreliable, leading more and more Dashing Dans to turn in their monthly passes and start piloting their cars into work via the eastward marching L.I. Expressway. The L.I.R.R. became unsustainable as a private enterprise, and was conglomerated with the city’s subways into a Metropolitan Transit Authority. The L.I.E. has made it all the way to the crotch of the forks, at Riverhead.

    One could still take the train, but we don’t work strict 9-5 hours anymore, and commuter rail like that just isn’t flexible enough for many employees, let alone professionals, managers and entrepreneurs.

    Now, maybe the New York suburbs were on the leading edge of this trend, but it isn’t all that new.

    Kevin

  51. Kevin,

    Thanks for the info. Growing up in isolated Las Vegas, NV, has no doubt colored my impression of what’s acceptable. It was from that perspective that I made that statement.

  52. Remember, fifty years is when we are OUT of oil – bone dry.

    With present technology. We’ve had fifty years of oil or less left since at least the 1950’s. When the price of oil goes up, it becomes economical to exploit sources that were before uneconomical to exploit. For example, the oil shales and oil sands of the world could give enough oil to last for a couple of centuries at least, and we know how to extract the oil now — it’s just too expensive to do so. When prices go up enough, then we’ll start exploiting those resources, and I’ll bet you a lot of effort will go into finding cheap ways to do so when the time comes (if it comes to it).

    As many, many people have pointed out, alarmism about oil shortages is similar to alarmism about coal shortages in the nineteenth century. What will displace oil as a fuel is something better, like hydrogen extracted from water by nuclear or solar energy, or even hydrocarbons made by the same sort of energy, if hydrogen proves just too much of a pain in the ass to use as a motor vehicle fuel.

    In short
    ? Conventional oil peaks around 2005
    ? All hydrocarbons around 2010
    ? Gas around 2020
    ? Gas liquids peak a little after gas, as extraction rates increase
    ? The decline after peak is about 3% a year

    Gimme a break. How many times have we heard this before? When was it ever true? What makes this time any different?

  53. Anyone care to bet?

  54. Oil Peak? Short answer: Oil Shale.
    High gas prices? Short answer: Europe.
    We already know that the tar sands contain enough oil at current rates of usage for centuries and some estimate millenia. You want to know what will happen with oil prices at $100 per barrel? It’s already here in Europe, gas at $7 gallon. Smaller cars, shorter commutes, higher gas efficiency. Sure, it’s not the US but it’s not the end of civilisation either.
    “Peak oil” and Hubbert’s Peak mean nothing, nothing at all, just vapid posturing from those who do not understand either economics or technology.

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