Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Monday, August 22, 2005

Elementary Calculus and Peak Oil

According to Steven Levitt, capitalist civilization should be able to adjust to the predicted decline in oil production. Some of the commenters are dubious on the grounds that any adjustment will take time. If oil production reaches a maximum next decade and if it follows a smooth curve, elementary calculus tells us that it will not change much near the maximum. In other words, the nuclear-power plants and methanol-fueled cars will be produced in a world where oil production is dropping very slowly, not the chaotic world where oil production is plummeting. (The scenario of “unrest in Nigeria or Venezuela” is unlikely to be important. Any war-making capability able to keep the US from taking over in an emergency will have to be paid for oil sales. Why do you think the Gulf Wars had little effect on oil production?)

One of the commenters was dubious about oil shale:

Oil shale is not oil. Oil shale is rock that has a relatively high concentration of organic carbon compounds in it. Geologists call this “source rock”. If you heat this “shale” to 700 degrees F you will turn this organic carbon (kerogen) into the nastiest, stinkiest, gooiest, pile of oil-like crap that you can imagine. Then if you send it through the gnarliest oil refinery on the planet you can make this shit into transportation fuel. In the mean time you have created all kinds of nasty by products, have polluted the air and groundwater of western Colorado, and have created an enormous pile of superheated rock that will take hundreds to thousands of years to cool off.
There's a very simple way to heat large amounts of oil shale to high temperatures. Explode a nuclear bomb underground in oil-shale country. After the oil has been extracted, the nasty gooey by-products can also be used to tar and feather anti-nuclear activists and the superheated rock (a feature, not a bug) can be used for geothermal power.

It won't even be necessary to hire expensive physicists to design the nuke. A boy scout can do it.


Blogger Vader said...

It won't even be necessary to hire expensive physicists to design the nuke. A boy scout can do it.

I resemble that remark.

10:55 AM  

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