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Smc Newsletter May 06


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Smc Newsletter May 06

  1. 1. Next discussion group: “Is Sustainable Development Possible?” will be held at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, at the corner of Forest and Central in PG, on Thursday, May 11, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. The meeting is free and the public is invited. Sustainable Development? How? It seems that the footprint of development on the land is continually expanding: at any moment, there are always housing developments, shopping centers, industrial parks, office buildings, schools, parking lots, streets, roads, freeways, landfills etc. expanding to cover woodlands, grasslands, farms and deserts. The resources consumed by such development include the plants and animals that live on the land, the open space lost, the energy used to rework the land for development, the materials and energy used in building the development—and the energy consumed by users of the new development. It has long seemed that what is lost in the process of development has been given short shrift, and the cumulative loss of wild lands and farmlands to development is now staggering. However, many don’t see it that way. Regardless, there are now compelling reasons for all of us to care about the costs of development. The looming peak of fossil fuel extraction will change our patterns of development, whether we like it or not. Rising fuel prices and outright fuel shortages will have impacts on agriculture, earth-moving, construction materials and processes, energy costs of using the built development, and costs of getting to and from the development. Food Production and Distribution Productivity of farms critically depends on the use fertilizer. Fertilizer production critically depends on the availability of natural gas. Natural gas production in North America apparently peaked in 2001, and fertilizer is getting more and more expensive. The economics of farming are leaning toward reduced application of fertilizer, which can be expected to reduce food yields per acre. Further, rising oil prices are driving up the cost of transportation, so food grown locally will be relatively affordable, while food grown far away will not. Also, farmland is increasingly being used to grow crops used for biofuels intended to substitute for dwindling supplies of fossil fuels. This means that land for growing food will be precious everywhere there are concentrations of people. Currently, farmland typically doesn’t produce as much income for owners as other uses do, and if it does in the future, it will likely be very expensive to eat. It might be much wiser to limit encroachment of urban and suburban development on farms, rather than waiting for markets to bring farms and development into equilibrium. Newsletter Editor—Mark Folsom, 831 648 1543,
  2. 2. Loss of Carbon Sequestration in Forests The scientific consensus on the reality and human causation of destructive climate change is essentially complete. Clearing of land for development destroys and permanently removes plant life on that land—eventually releasing the carbon in those plants into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Fossil Energy and Other Resources Consumed in Construction All new development consumes energy in excavation, materials extraction, processing and transportation, as well as the local construction. Concrete production involves heating with natural gas (or a substitute fuel) to drive the water out of lime. Wood is dried in gas-fired kilns. Plastics and asphalt are made using natural gas and crude oil as raw materials. Copper for plumbing and wiring is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive, along with many other metals (even zinc pennies, they’re zinc with a very thin copper cladding, now cost more to make than they are worth—soon the zinc itself will be worth more than a cent). All transportation of non-local materials is getting more expensive and will continue to do so as world oil production peaks and then begins its decline. Patterns of Development Drive Transportation Requirements Much of current development concentrates residences together in one area, shopping in a separate area, and professional jobs in still another area, with miles between the different types of development. The resulting communities make it very hard for most people to function without a car. As gasoline and diesel fuel become scarcer and more expensive, as they must, most suburban and many rural communities will create progressively greater hardship for their residents and workers. Living with miles between different parts of our lives will become untenable for many of us in the not-too-distant future. If we are to have a way of life that is sustainable with little or no fossil fuels, most of us will have to live in dense mixed-use communities with our work, food, shopping, residences and schools in close proximity to each other or within walking range of efficient transport. Energy Consumption of Buildings and Facilities Many buildings have been constructed with the expectation that energy will remain as cheap as it has been in the last few decades. As a result, they often use a great deal of energy for heat, cooling and lighting. With energy costs likely to rise permanently to large multiples of the historical average, better insulation, use of natural ventilation, efficient lighting and denser utilization will be much more attractive. Further, extremely high efficiency will eventually become compulsory. Conclusion Development will become sustainable at some level in the future. If we want it to meet our needs and those of our children and grandchildren, many trends of long standing must be reversed. Life will be much more pleasant if we plan and execute this transition with foresight and intelligence. Fossil Fuel Saving Ideas from Our Last Public Discussion Group Transportation Carpool Newsletter Editor—Mark Folsom, 831 648 1543,
  3. 3. Bicycle Hybrid car Telecommute Minimize load weight Reduce driving speed Maintain tire pressure Combine errands & share ride Shop less frequently Food Use knife, not food processor Compost food & garden waste Small oven for small dishes Easy access refrigerator Clean refrigerator coils & fan Farmers' markets Community supported agriculture Electricity Solar panels Don't light unused space Don't leave appliances on standby Switch to LED lighting Heating/Cooling Insulate Lower thermostat Pellet stove Clean furnace filter Catalytic fireplace insert Dress for weather Auto-sealing doorsills Cool with natural ventilation Insulating curtains Fans, not AC Upgrade heater Cleaning Full dishwasher Air-dry laundry Water Low-flow Shower with friend Solar water heater Don’t use bottled water Further information on peak oil and related topics: Books— Newsletter Editor—Mark Folsom, 831 648 1543,
  4. 4. Out of Gas, David Goodstein--a decent little primer for those with a short attention span, with a lot of the basic facts and a summary of our situation. Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage--Kenneth Deffeyes, retired petroleum geologist describes petroleum geology, discovery methods, etc. He discusses forecasting methods Hubbert used to accurately predict peak oil production in the US, as well as using similar methods to forecast the world production peak. Beyond Oil: The View From Hubbert's Peak--Kenneth Deffeyes. In this one he discusses more forecasting and makes a semiserious world oil production peak prediction for Thanksgiving, 2005. He also discusses alternatives to conventional oil and reasons why none of them will replace cheap oil when we reach the downhill side of the peak. The Oil Factor: Protect Yourself and Profit from the Coming Energy Crisis-- Stephen and Donna Leeb, gives advice for investors in the post-peak environment. The Party's Over--Richard Heinberg, gives a summary and background of oil production and use in the beginning, cites some really good data from other people in the middle, and then presents ideas about what to do about it at the end. The Long Emergency--James Howard Kunstler. I think he's a little too glib and a little too gleeful about the collapse of American society. The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World--Paul Roberts, goes into a lot of stories about different aspects of the problem. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change--William R. Catton, Jr. This is a 25-year-old book about our ecological situation, given that we have hugely expanded our population by using a depletable resource. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed--Jared Diamond. Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum—Michael T. Klare Oil Addiction: The World in Peril—Pierre Chomat, Petroleum Engineer and local author. Interesting and original presentation—dramatizes peak oil in a way that is easy to understand. Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy—Matthew R. Simmons. Makes a very solid case that Saudi reserves and production capacity are overstated. High Noon for Natural Gas: The New Energy Crisis—Julian Darley The Empty Tank: Oil, Gas, Hot Air, and the Coming Global Financial Catastrophe— Jeremy Leggett Oil Crisis—Colin J. Campbell. A new book by one of the pioneers on the topic. Videos— The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream Peak Oil: Imposed by Nature Websites— Post Carbon Institute Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) The Dry Dipstick The Energy Bulletin Gas and oil Depletion—Scotland Museletter Oil Depletion Analysis Center Peak Oil and Gas—Global Public Media The Oil Drum Newsletter Editor—Mark Folsom, 831 648 1543,