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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • First of all the ethanol thing is not because it makes economic sense. It is because the US government subsidizes ethanol. And then demonstrates its true priorities by putting a tax on ethanol imports. (It is much cheaper for Brazil to make ethanol from sugar than for us to make it from corn.)

    Secondly I'm not convinced that prices past $100/barrel are sustainable indefinitely. The issue is that when prices pass $60/barrel, it becomes economic to mine oil sands. We have bigger reserves of oil sands than
    • > First of all the ethanol thing is not because it makes economic sense. It is because the US government subsidizes ethanol.

      Subsidies like this are normally (and legitimately) meant to bootstrap industries or counteract temporary imbalances.

      You might subsidise ethanol to boot up an ethanol industry quickly, and you can gradually remove the subsidies later, once industry has improved their methods and can support itself.

      Other examples in a number of countries are subsidies for solar panels or wind generat
      • Subsidies like this are normally (and legitimately) meant to bootstrap industries or counteract temporary imbalances.

        Thank god that some people still realize this. All those people out there beating free trade drums and getting erections every time they hear "Adam Smith" like to ignore history. The US still has plenty of industries which have become the size they are due to protectionism (witness the rise and fall of the US steel industry). And anyone who naively thinks that tiny and immature African economies can blithely adopt "free trade" on a level footing with major Western powers needs to pay a little more atte

      • While I agree there can be legitimate reasons for subsidies, I really think that the ethanol subsidy is because of the strength of the agricultural lobby in the government, and not for any nobler policy reason.

        On the rest of it, I see there being two alternatives. In one the cost of oil drops. In which case the gamba grass is not cut by people, but some of the other bad things don't happen. In the other the cost of oil stays high in which case it will be worth someone's while to cut that grass. Either a
  • Of course, even wind power isn't a particularly brilliant power source.

    When was the last time (when was the first time?!) you saw anyone ask how harvesting the energy from atmospheric pressure differentials will affect downwind weather systems?

    • It would be interesting to see some research work on that, but I would hazard a guess that the reducing the energy of surface winds in the first 100m of atmosphere would not make a sufficiently large difference to the other 100km of atmosphere.

      When we start erecting wind capture arrays a kilometre high, that could all change.
      • I would hazard a guess that the reducing the energy of surface winds in the first 100m of atmosphere would not make a sufficiently large difference to the other 100km of atmosphere.

        Plenty of living things really like the first 100m of atmosphere -- many more than like the other 100km of atmosphere.

        • Huh? Living things? You were talking about weather patterns...
          • That's the thing. I don't know if enervating the kinetic energy of the densest 100m of the atmosphere will have any effect on living things or weather patterns or both. I'm not a climatologist, and I've never read or heard a climatologist's expert opinion on the subject.

            Then again, I don't call telephone psychics either.

    • Of course, even wind power isn't a particularly brilliant power source.
      When was the last time (when was the first time?!) you saw anyone ask how harvesting the energy from atmospheric pressure differentials will affect downwind weather systems?
      I asked that once. But then I realized that if it were a real problem, surely THEY would have thought of it already.

  • some notional 50% efficient solar panels

    Possibly [johnsonems.com], I guess [popularmechanics.com].

  • I read something similar about to what you are saying about five years ago regarding the real estate market. The big push there was for yurts and housing abodes built into the earth to save cost on construction. Now the yurts are too expensive, and the housing is almost affordable again after the bubble popped.

    I'm not saying oil is the same type of bubble, but it wouldn't surprise me. Things never turn out the way one would expect.

  • Food has been linked to petrochemicals for a long time. Natural gas is cracked to make fertilizer which is used way too much in US agriculture. I don't know about other countries' ag inputs.

    This shift to use food for robot fuel just makes things worse.
    • Indeed, but the conversation to this point has traditionally only been in one direction, oil to food. That helps keep the food prices lower...

      Going both directions is a new development.