Monday, August 06, 2007

I was right, darn it.

It's one of those things where you're happy to see that you were right, but unhappy to see that you were right. Here is a comment to the next installment of Adam's adventures, authored by John Michael Greer (The Archdruid, link below right in "blogs"):

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Bill Pulliam said...

Hmmm.... so the NYSE doomsday clock already reads 1929? Spooky...

I remember not long ago when the biofuels fad was really starting to ramp up, I did one of my little back-of-the-envelope order-of-magnitude calculations that I have gotten a bit notorious for over in those woodpecker circles. Being a systems ecologist by formal education, the question of whether biofuels were indeed energetically a realistic "substitute" for fossil fuels lept to my mind immediately. So I plugged in my order-of-magnitude numbers about primary production per square meter, effiiciency of crop yield, and US energy consumption. The number that dropped off of the back of my envelope for how much land area would be needed to support the US energy habit was about equal to the entire acrege of arable land in the continent, intensively managed for nothing but oil or ethanol crops. "Interesting," I thought, "so I guess we'll all just drink everclear and eat corn sillage and rapeseed hulls, since there won't be any land left for anything else. But we'll still have our cars, that's the most important thing." Since then of course I've seen many real analyses that use far more detail than fits on the back of an envelope, which have pretty much come to the same conclusion: another of those many "Inconvenient Truths" that average citizens and policy makers just really don't want to think about.

12:07 PM

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I was using very, very rough figures and I thought I was exaggerating a bit when I have written that it would take every square inch of arable farmland in this country to make enough ethanol or biofuel to run our personal automobiles. Unfortunately, it's not an exaggeration. So if anyone tries you sell you that pipe dream, class, please decline.

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