Is It Our Responsibility to Finance Saudi Arabia?

I think everyone should take a moment to read this 60 minutes article posted by CBS News on their website.

Saudi Arabia talks about this new oil field that production costs will be under $2/barrel; yet, they need to sell oil at least at $55 to run the Saudi Government. And who is their largest customer? US, as in United States.

So now that the world economy is screwed, and the US economy in particular; they’re going to cut production 1.5 million barrels in order to drive prices back up.

Anyone who isn’t bright enough to realize that we can’t keep running on oil for environmental reasons, ought to realize that we can’t allow our country to be held hostage in this manner, regardless of environmental issues.

We’re financing people that don’t like us at all, and they’re putting their own country in jeopardy out of greed. This situation isn’t sustainable for us, and it’s not sustainable for the Saudi’s.

If the Saudi’s were smart, they’d be using their huge income to build sustainable energy sources for themselves and export sustainable energy instead of going to extreme ends to tap remaining deposits.

We can’t keep depending upon Canada or Mexico either. Sooner or later Canada is going to tire of bulldozing their forest to feed our SUV fleets and Mexico’s huge disparity of income as well as that in the US is going to create a great deal of civil unrest in both countries.

Our ability to pay for imported oil depends on our ability to produce something of value and export it; but weather pattern shifts threaten to our ability to produce food for export, while warmer climates up north promise to make Canada the new bread basket. When that happens there goes our one major export.

We need to achieve energy independence and we need to do so in a sustainable and growable manner. Being able to feed ourselves in the future, let alone grow enough food for export, is going to require tremendous amounts of fresh water, and that’s going to require even more energy. The longer we wait to address these issues the more difficult it is going to be, and at some point difficult will cross the threshold into impossible.

Right now we’ve got 12% of our population or more unemployed. Oh yes, I know official Republican figures put that at less than 7% but that’s because they changed the formula to exclude “discourages workers”, those who have been unemployed long enough that unemployment benefits have run out, back in the Reagan era.

So why not put those 12% to work building a sustainable energy infrastructure that will make it possible for agriculture to survive weather pattern shifts by supplying necessary water when nature does not, as well as one that provides energy cheaply enough that we can once again build and have a competitive manufacturing base?

Unless we all relish the idea of living in impoverished third-world conditions, this is something we need to do now.

And speaking of third world conditions, our planet today is no longer one that is large enough that we can isolate ourselves from the plight of human beings in other regions and pretend nothing is wrong in the world. Disease knows no national boundaries and today even oceans provide no real barrier. AIDS and West Nile virus are here, African killer bees are here, and if the weather warms up and what is now temperate climates in much of America become what was formerly tropical climates, we can expect to see Malaria and other such maladies follow.

When people in Africa or elsewhere aren’t allowed to reach their human potential, then all of humanity isn’t able to reach it’s potential, and if you look at the realities of our medical and education system, we are rapidly joining the ranks of these poorer nations.

Right now our planet is approaching a population of 7 billion human beings. One thing we know, populations increase in impoverished destitute regions, developed affluent nations have neutral or negative population growths excluding immigrants. So if we want to address the world population in a human way, rather than through starvation, disease, and war, we need to address poverty on a global level.

It takes energy to do create economic growth and eliminate poverty; and we can’t increase our energy production to the necessary levels without completely ruining our environment if we continue to depend upon burning hydrocarbons. In fact, even if we’re willing to completely ruin our environment, hydrocarbons give every indication of being incapable of being scaled to the required levels.

The only thing that we know of today that can provide the energies we need are atomic sources, nuclear fission or fusion. Either combining light atomic nuclei into heavier nuclei, or splitting very heavy nuclei into lighter nuclei, to release energy.

This can take the form of utilizing natural fusion and fission reactors (the Sun is a natural fusion reactor which fuses approximately 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second producing a power output of approximately 4×10^27 watts. In the Earth, radio active elements decay and produce heat, natural reactors have occurred in the Earth’s crust where concentrations of Uranium were sufficient, and there is some evidence that a natural reactor still exists at the core.

Nature provides us with these already in place operating reactors and for the most part handles the safety, waste disposal, and fuel production issues for us.

But nature also provides us with the fuels, and the laws of physics with the means, of building our own fission and fusion reactors, allowing us to scale energy production and the location of that production to our own needs, however, going this route we also have to deal with safety, waste disposal, and fuel production issues.

My own belief is that the best route is to exploit those reactors nature provided to the fullest, but because the density of the energy provided by nature is low and some applications, primarily transportation, require high density energy; we also need to develop our own reactors. Between fission and fusion, the latter is both more scalable.

Fusion produces approximately 7x as much energy per gram of fuel than fission assuming a deuterium-tritium fusion fuel and Uranium-235 fission fuel, 1-in-2000 atoms of hydrogen in seawater are deuterium and deuterium can be bred into tritium with a lithium blanket catching neutrons from a fusion reactor, and there are other (better and cleaner not involving neutron production) fuels for fusion as well. Where as Uranium-235 constitutes only .7% of naturally occurring Uranium which is far far more scarce. In addition fusion produces helium waste, an inert and commercially valuable gas, fission produces both highly radioactive fission products as well as long-lived transuranic radioactive elements so dealing with fission waste products is more difficult.

Putting too much fissionable fuel in one place yields a chain reaction, which makes safety an issue and also makes it an attractive terrorist target. Putting a lot of fusable material together makes oceans, which have demonstrated long term stability on the planet, so both the fuel and waste products of fusion are infinitely more manageable.

However, at this point fission technology is developed to the point of being already commercially applied, fusion is not; and fission for all it’s problems and safety issues still is much better than burning coal for energy.

There are new promissing fusion technologies, in my opinion the Bussard Polywell looks to be the most viable, but there are dozens of potential competing technologies and I feel all of these should be explored to the fullest and a crash program developed to bring fusion power production online in the very short term, not 25-50 years from now as the oil company lobbiests would like.

The bottom line is we can’t keep doing what we are, or perhaps we can but misery and suffering will be the inevitable consequences.

4 thoughts on “Is It Our Responsibility to Finance Saudi Arabia?

  1. Until the USA and the world for that matter runs on something other than oil our best interest is in exploiting USA resources.

    BTW your thinking is not clear. The Saudis require a certain amount of MONEY. That is bbls shipped X price.

    There are 250 million autos in America. To replace them takes 17 years at an average production rate of 15 million a year. So you are talking about a 25 or 30 year roll out for just PHEV vehicles because there are none on the market today and the technology has to be ramped up. It is starting but don’t expect first deliveries until 2012. And even then it will be less than 200,000 vehicles a year. That will increase as manufacturing efficiency brings down costs with experience.

    I am always amazed at the people who “know” what to do who can even run the simplest of numbers

  2. My thinking is clear. Your thinking is incredibly narrow.

    MONEY is only a medium of exchange, and it’s value, in terms of goods and services it will buy varies with market conditions.

    The Saudis calculate this based upon current and predicted export levels as well as market conditions, but these things change.

    Secondly, you make the assumption that PHEV’s are the only way to get away from oil. This is an incredibly narrow and unimaginative view.

    There are many solutions available to us, PHEV’s is just one of them. You are wrong with respect to roll out dates as well, there are already PHEV’s available but they are expensive. With all things early adopters always pay more.

    Toyota hybrids are also easily converted to plug-in hybrids. Although there are companies that will do so for a hefty fee; the vehicles already have a place for a second battery pack, and a switch that disables the gasoline engine referred to as “Stealth Mode”, but in US models this is disabled. Reconnecting it is trivial.

    But the bottom line is that this is only part of the solution.

    Our power grid looses as much energy as all the oil we import. Reducing that loss from the present 17% to around 2-3% could be accomplished by converting long distance transmission lines longer than 300km to DC transmission. This would save the equivalent of nearly all the oil we import while greatly improving reliability and capacity.

    We generate more than 20% of our electricity from natural gas and more than 48% from coal. Both of those can be made into liquid hydrocarbons that can be made into gasoline and diesel fuels.

    So by modernizing the grid, we can free up these fuels to be converted into transportation fuels.

    Many vehicles can be converted to run on natural gas fairly easily.

    And those are just some options for vehicles.

    North America is the only continent in the world that hasn’t electrified it’s railroads. Our trains are pulled by diesel engines.

    Electrifying our railroads would allow us to use any energy source to power our trains.

    Many urban light rail systems are already electrified, expansion of those would provide alternatives to the automobile for the daily commute of many people. That is something that is happening where I live. A couple of years from now I’ll be within walking distance of a light rail station. I’m looking forward to that.

    I’m amazed at people that buy the oil company propaganda and think they know “numbers”.

  3. If there was cheaper energy available government would not be needed. Business would supply it.

    And yeah. Money is only a medium of exchange. And if we print up a gazillion dollars and put it into energy supplies that cost more than current supplies we will all be rich.

    Carter tried that. We got stagflation and Ronald Reagan. If Obama is as smart as Carter he won’t last past his first term. Fortunately he is the Smartest President Elect Ever™. So I’d say the odds are very good.

  4. Carter was left with a huge Viet Name war debt.

    Despite that, Flex-Fuel cars that exist today do because of legislation he pushed during his term which provided auto manufacturers with a tax break if they manufactured them.

    The Freedom of Information Act which gives us some degree of insight into our government is also a Carter initiative.

    He also championed many renewable and environmental concerns and if it hadn’t been for Reagan and Bush Sr and Jr undoing much of his work, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today.

    However, Jimmy Carter was politically naive. He was honest and well intended but not bright enough to avoid getting eaten by the right wing greed machine.

    Obama is bright, but he is also straddled with the largest national debt in history and a weak economy that makes recovery more of a challenge.

    But I agree, he is the brightest president elect we’ve ever had, and he’s also good at communicating, and has a much better grasp of history and conflict resolution than anyone we’ve had in office during my lifetime.

    So in spite of everything, I do feel somewhat optimistic that things will turn around.

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