Archive for January, 2022

Peak Oil and Global Warming

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

I Just had a interestingly cynical thought about why we might not hear more about peak oil in the USA.

One of the most destructive Big Industries is Big Politics. I’ve talked about how the USA carefully keeps people divided on hot button topics while making very little progress on them so it can continue to donation farm the suckers. (Lately this has been combined with the right out and out selling total falsehoods to their constituents, who are apparently not bright enough to figure out they’re being lied to or even remember that the past has changed over and over and over so that whatever’s Pravda now can be Pravda. )

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been deeply puzzled by is why people don’t talk about peak oil more, because while we might be arguing over the science of global warming it’s just about impossible to argue about the fact that Earth’s oil wells are going dry at a prodigious rate and that subject matter experts estimate 35 years of economically recoverable oil remain.

I think the reason global warming is pushed is because Peak Oil is something that there’d be bipartisan agreement about. Like infrastructure renewal, we carefully have to keep peak oil off the table to discuss because we’d all agree something needs done – and even worse, the things that we’d all agree need done are for the most part the same thing those global warming nuts want anyway! It’d be a very bad day for Big Politics.

(One consistent distraction from all this is the bullshit hydrogen economy. A few reminders, just to get them out of the way

1) There are very few metals that can catalyze hydrogen and oxygen to make electricity i.e. make a fuel cell for hydrocarbons. They’re all *very* rare and very expensive. There’s no way we have enough of them to put a FCV vehicle in every driveway in america
2) Hydrogen has a much lower energy density than any other hydrocarbon. This is a problem for several reasons. The first is that if we wanted to burn it in a conventional engine that engine would need enormous displacement per horsepower output. This makes using conventional engines to use hydrogen impractical
3) ALso because of the lower energy density, combined with the fact that it is a cryogenic gas (cannot be liquefied at room temperature, requires significant refrigeration to maintain in a liquid state), hydrogen is very difficult to store. Absent some sort of catalytic storage system (and it is possible such a thing could be found, ammonia seems tempting) storing hydrogen requires storing it at hundreds of atmospheres in order to get usable energy densities. Such a container is fantastically dangerous if it is ruptured because everyone near it will freeze to death – and that’s before we talk about fires etc.
4) Because hydrogen has to be compressed to hundreds of atmospheres, there’s some significant challenges in making it energy efficient because of the Boyle’s Law impact of compressing a gas to hundreds of atmospheres. Various challenges ensue to try to recapture all the waste heat of the multistage compressors required.
5) Hydrogen is very slippery. IT’s a tiny molecule that likes to leak – in fact many of the Los Angeles based hydrogen fueling stations have burned to the ground because of such leaks. It’s not the easiest material to work with.
6) It is not practical to have a fuel cell battery big enough to provide for the peak power (100kW) required during acceleration of a modern car. Therefore a FCV by definition is also a BEV, with all the complications that implies plus the complications of moving energy between the fuel cell and the battery pack. Even if it were possible to make fuel cells big enough, fuel cells must go offline from time to time to purge the water they are generating from their membranes.
7) Oh, yes, as well as being stupidly expensive (and if you thought having your catalytic converter stolen was bad, wait till you get your fuel cell stolen) fuel cells also *wear out* much faster than batteries do. Expect to change your fuel cell every 100k miles, as opposed to 200k for battery packs. (oh, yes, and expect to change your battery pack too, see above about how a FCV is a BEV)

Fuel cell vehicles may well be the answer for very large things, like trains, boats, and possibly tractor-trailers. But they are not a good candidate for everyday drivers and therefore using “let’s wait for the hydrogen economy” as a excuse for not settling the issues surrounding peak oil now is bullshit. Naturally the republicans love it.)

Anyway, all that said, Global warming *will be inconvenient*. It’ll cause crop failures, bad weather, heatstroke, etc. Peak Oil *will kill us*. Our entire food network runs on oil. It takes us more than a calorie of petrochemicals to *make* a calorie of food (counting fertilizers) and that’s before we even start to talk about moving it around. And it will kill us *soon*. If you are my age and have children, *they will starve to death* unless we change our ways.

What are the solutions? Well, for crops, Monsanto could stop being assholes and start working on crops that need less fertilizer and do less damage to the soil. For cars, battery electric vehicles – there’s plenty of lithium in seawater and for many of us nickel metal hydride would be adequate to our needs. For trains, overhead or rail fed power – although that’s less of a desperate need because trains are very efficient. For airplanes, BEVs for small ones and biofuels for big ones. Many different solutions exist – but we should begin transition *now*. We don’t want to wait until we have 5 years of oil left – among other things, humans are such idiots that we will spend the last of the oil fighting wars over the last of the oil. Also, almost all of this stuff is going to have bugs. None of it is going to work right immediately. We need to kaizen the designs (iteratively and slowly improve them)

For energy – the obvious big winners here are wind, solar, and nuclear. Not just because they’re carbon neutral, but because they’re the cheapest per kwh options in terms of deaths per kwh. Nuclear probably will also become the cheapest in terms of dollars per kwh as we design better plants. We’re already well on our way to replacing our peaker plants with wind and solar. Now we just need to slay the baseline load dragon – and if you all *really* hate nuclear even after you understand it, I guess we can talk about pumped storage, mechanical storage, and battery storage. We will come up with something.. if we try.

One thing we do need to figure out what to do about is republicans out-and-out lying about technologies to try and block them. I’m sure you’ve all heard the *absurd* claim that a wind plant or a solar array takes more power to make than it generates. We really do, as a side note, need to figure out how we can possibly survive as a country *at all* with one side willing to *lie repeatedly* about *everything* in order to try and make a few billionaires richer.

God and infinity

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

(Note: This is going to go some places that most folks are not equipped to follow.)

So, I had a thought the other day – as you know, I’ve debated whether or not God is (or has) a neural network, whether or not God is static and unchanging, and talked about how even if God is static and unchanging our experience of God can change in much the same way that when you move a static and unchanging tape past a play head you experience dynamic and changing music. And, I know there are people who declare that God is spirit.

However, one thought that came to me on facebook the other day is that infinity – the infinite set of sets – must perforce be bigger than God, unless God is in no way a individual or self aware at all. The infinite set of sets also by definition displays a limit to God’s omnipotence, because no one can remove anything from it. You can remove data from the world, but you can’t make 3 not be between 2 and 4 on the number line no matter how hard you try – and this idea can be expanded multidimensionally in all sorts of ways. For that matter, I still believe God can’t change the value of pi – it’s defined by the relationship of two lines at 90 degree angles to each other, and nothing you can do will change it.

Nor can true infinity – the infinite set of sets – be a self aware individual, because it cannot exlude or remove or rearrange *anything*. This would seem to even exclude awareness as we understand it, although I won’t go as far as to assert that is true (after all, many native Americans speak of everything as being aware and I’m not in a good position to say they’re wrong)

Nor can any one entity claim ownership of the infinite set of sets. One of the sickest and most disturbing parts of capitalism is in order to make the system work we’ve got people claiming to *own* ideas, even though clearly other entities in other parts of the world or galaxy or universe or multiverse might be having those ideas at the exact same time, or had them long before. “Intellectual property” shouldn’t be property at all – this represents a fundamental phoniness, fundamental way of lying about the universe to ourselves and each other.

In any case, surely any “God” couldn’t know there wasn’t another “God” in another frame with access to the same set of sets. In a multiverse, you might have parallel Gods next door to each other thinking the same thoughts – or different ones. That the bible doesn’t speak of these things is part of how I know it isn’t really divine inspiration by a creature more advanced than humanity was when it was penned. These are thoughts that are much easier for people like me who have been immersed in everything from set theory to quantum mechanics, and even tried to accept and grok Copenhagen, MWT, and PWT to grok than they would have been for the folks wandering around 2000 years ago. But a religious text that was truly inspired by a diety would already know these things. I think part of what’s most annoying to me about the bible is that it’s so clearly a lie. Any *real* God would know these things.

(Of course, if God *isn’t* aware and *is* static – that is to say, God’s just a tape – this could fit the Christian bible in that a non-aware God would have no need to be ethical. It would make less sense though in that a static God certainly has no need to be jealous. Of course, the best explanation, by far, of God’s jealousy is it’s actually the jealousy of the priests, who need people to keep believing in this particular set of fictions if they’re going to keep getting paid.)