Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Extraction...and Ultrarunning

Via Boing Boing, always a great read, we see this post about how natural gas will not be our salvation.

Over the past few years, I've heard several people in the natural gas industry estimate that the United States is sitting on 100 years worth of natural gas. Every time I've heard the 100-year estimate batted around, it's been presented as a positive thing, a shorthand way of saying, "We've got tons of home-grown energy, people! We don't need to worry about the future of energy at all!"

It's an interesting example of the fundamental disconnect between short-term and long-term thinkers.

All things considered, 100 years is not really a very long time.

All our extraction approaches sorta gloss over the fact that there is just a finite amount of xxxxx in the ground, and once it's gone, it's GONE.  

Petroleum is a wonderful case in point.  Since, say, 1900 or so, American infrastructure has worshipped at the throne of the internal combustion engine.  We've literally paved over a vast chunk of our land to support a mode of transport that is finite and probably doomed.

Even if we successfully move to electric vehicles, where do you think the electricity comes from?  Coal, anyone?  It burning coal really better for the environment than oil?  Oh, and someday the coal will run out, too.

Of course the only rational long-term solution is renewable energy such as solar, wind, tide, geothermal.  But I sure don't see the full court press--like the putting a man on the Moon mission of the1960s--that we need.

Better to kick the can down the road and let the kids and grandkids solve it.  Or not.

Another example--I've been watching Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel.  There's something arresting and compelling about these naive miners trying to strike it rich in Alaska.  Anyway, what really strikes me is how they literally have to excavate and wash TONS of gravel just to get a couple of flakes of gold.  The scale of rape-and-pillage-the-environment is absolutely stunning.

I've quite familiar with strip mining sites here in my home state of Pennsylvania, and it's awful.  What is happening in Alaska to extract gold is worse.

And the link to Ultrarunning?  Better enjoy the back country now, because when push comes to shove in a few years or decades, when wilderness is weighed against the precious minerals or oil or gas it contains, guess what'll  come out second best?

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