X-Message-Number: 21945
From: "Mark Plus" <>
Subject: Observations on energy and survival
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 23:11:54 -0700

If civilization gets to the point where it can't keep the electricity online 
and affordable food moving to market, progress is effectively over, 
regardless of how much technological knowledge the survivors can save from 
the ashes.

Most of the protein in our bodies incorporates artificially fixed nitrogen. 
(That's one of the reasons why we've been able to build up a world 
population of over six billion, well beyond the amount of human biomass 
Earth can support from naturally fixed nitrogen.) American companies use 
natural gas to manufacture nitrogen fertilizer. Many of them are closing 
operations this year because gas prices are rising so rapidly that they 
can't pass their costs onto their agricultural customers and still make 
money. The increasing scarcity of nitrogen fertilizer will reduce 
agricultural yields down the line, causing food prices to increase.

Despite wishful scenarios to the contrary, nobody with any authority is 
saying that the price signals from the natural gas market are telling us to 
transition over to a sustainable hydrogen economy, if that's even possible. 
Instead the authorities (e.g., Spencer Abraham and Alan Greenspan) are 
reading the signals as saying, "Go find more natural gas." But finding more 
natural gas doesn't solve the crisis; it only postpones it for a few years.

At least since the 1970's people have been warning that we are going to run 
out of fossil fuels within our lifetimes. Even if North America isn't 
experiencing the apocalyptic exhaustion of natural gas, the news coverage, 
price trends and economic devastation are indistinguishable from what we'd 
be seeing if it were.

A high-power industrial society is ancillary to cryonics. If the power 
system collapses from the exhaustion of fossil fuels, there's not going to 
be any more liquid nitrogen to keep the dewars full.

Mark Plus

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