Friday, December 28, 2007

 

Fertilizer, Again

Here is an interesting item on a law passed by the US Congress to “make sure ammonium nitrate does not fall into the wrong hands.” Ostensibly, the purpose is to keep the compound out of the hands of would-be terrorists because it can also be used in explosives. But considering the worldwide surge in fertilizer prices and declining availability, why couldn’t it be just to control fertilizer? That would seem to make more sense in the current economic context. Surely, we can expect people to steal ammonium nitrate for fertilizer, either for their own use or to sell.

Readers will recall that I have been saying farmers will begin falling back on organic inputs as artificial fertilizers become more expensive, and here is a recent article that recommends doing that very thing, for that very reason. This marks the beginning of a trend that will put farmers in direct competition with biofuel producers — the former seeking organic inputs for their fields, and the latter seeking feedstock for their biofuel plants. And since, when push comes to shove, people will choose food over car fuel, the farmers are going to win.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

 

Fuel Subsidies — Beginning of the End

In Japan, petroleum fuels have reached the price level where people are screaming bloody murder and the government had to do something. That something has come in the form of massive fuel subsidies. This is a watershed development, because it marks the point where Japan’s petroleum economy is no longer economically self-sustaining, and has to be propped up with tax money.

Cheap and plentiful oil energy developed Japan to the point of over-development. It has a vast network of roads, sea ports, airports, and populous oil-run cities. And the population — far greater than could be supported by Japan’s ecosystem alone — lives by eating oil.

But now oil is too expensive for low-income people and small businesses, and subsidies are needed. The handwriting is on the wall: the petroleum economy is beginning to crumble. In time oil will be too expensive to maintain existing roads, let alone build more. Airports will shut down. Food imports will grind to a halt.

How long will it take for Japan’s leadership to see that fuel subsidies aren’t the answer?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

 

Al Gore’s Home Improvements

Al Gore supposedly made some improvements to his mansion to make it more energy-efficient. Efficiency is fine, but this doesn’t let Al off the hook. The question we should be asking is, why does Al live in a mansion in the first place? An energy-efficient mansion is still an energy hog by virtue of its very size. What’s more, Al’s pad has a heated swimming pool.

With millions of people around the world living in filthy shanties, you’d think a man who has pretensions to being one of the world’s biggest environmental campaigners would set a better example by living in a modest home.

According to the article, the Gores paid $2.3 million for their home. I can’t even imagine what $2.3 million looks like. I guess people with gobs of money think differently.

Friday, December 14, 2007

 

Fuel Taxes and Road Construction

Here is an item that illustrates the Catch-22 between fuel taxes and road construction. You need to levy fuel taxes to raise funds for traffic infrastructure maintenance and construction. But doing that will punish people for driving and keep them off the road. On the other hand, if you don’t raise funds for road maintenance, the roads will just get worse, more bridges will collapse, and people will be kept off the roads. We’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. This situation is going to kill off motorized transportation even faster than high fuel prices alone would do it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

 

Surging Fertilizer Prices

Prices of fertilizers are going through the roof. Keep watching this situation. You’re going to see farmers start falling back on organic inputs. Overpopulated Earth = insane demand for fertilizers, which will be very hard to meet adequately with organic inputs alone. There will be heavy competition for biomass, effectively shutting out biofuel producers and shutting down the industry.

Friday, December 07, 2007

 

Sucker-a-Minute Wishful Thinking

In an imaginative scam, a man bilked people out of money by telling them his wife was a CIA agent who could arrange for satellite scans of their bodies and treatments administered by secret agents in the dead of night as they slept. Incredibly stupid? Yes. But how would anyone fall for such an obviously contrived story? Because wishful thinking clouds their judgment.

How many people will laugh this news story and shake their heads in disbelief, but at the same time believe in a Glorious Technological Future where we will all be zipping around in hydrogen-powered cars, taking our vacations among the planets, and living in undreamed-of luxury, even by today’s extravagant standards? Likewise, wishful thinking clouds their judgment. They are no more realistic than the victims of the aforementioned scam.

The “global” economy is rotting at the foundations, the Earth is being gobbled up day by day through consumption on steroids, the US dollar is badly frayed, and energy and food supplies are strained. But wishful thinking still preserves our faith in that Glorious Technological Future.

Monday, December 03, 2007

 

Fertilizer Shortage

Ha! What did I say in the last post about the future difficulty of getting chemical fertilizers? Well, the future is here already. Demand is outstripping supply. For various reasons, prices will continue to climb.

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