The situation with energy

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The United States, like many countries, have been dependent on fossil fuels since the extraction and use of it was invented. These energy-dense and economical forms of energy have dramatically increased the quality of life for the world at large.

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( early cotton picking machine, circa 1886 )

Fossil fuels enabled the mechanical automation of dull, repetitive work such as farm labor, which was the primary reason that we were able to eliminate slavery in the western world earlier than most of the globe. ( notice that after the civil war, cotton was still available at prices everyone could afford? we had invented many machines to automate slave labor at a more economical price before, during, and after the civil war – slavery was outmoded by technology – not morality, unfortunately. )

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Fossil fuels also literally saved the whales. Whale oil was used for heating and transportation for a long time; it was also used as a lubricant for all types of machines. Once it was discovered that whales could be used for this reason, there was no going back. It was not until we discovered petroleum that we stopped murdering whales en-masse. Kerosene from oil was also superior to whale oil in many ways; it did not spoil nor not smell nearly as bad. Kerosene was so energy dense, that it was also what enabled us to launch into space, early on.

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( tropical fruits for sale in a Canadian supermarket pictured above )

Fossil fuels enable us to ship a variety of goods from around the world – they are the reason you can buy tomatoes, coconuts, papayas in a supermarket in the middle of winter in North Dakota. You could live anywhere in the United States, no matter the climate, no matter the season, no matter the fertility of the soil, and have a variety of food year round – all due to fossil fuels.

The majority of fertilizer we now use is produced from oil – which is how we manage to feed 7 billion human beings through an industrial food system. Notice in the below graph that population correlates with the widespread use of oil, starting in the 1800’s? The ironically named ‘green revolution’ – when we figured out how to produce fertilizer from oil around the 1950’s – also shows a huge population growth afterwards. This is no coincidence.

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Fossil fuels also heat our homes, cool our homes, keep the lights on, get us to work, enable us to casually & easily travel long distances without worry as well. How many people would be living in places such as Canada, Texas, Nevada, North Dakota, et cetera without them?

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( robotized, energy dependent modern manufacturing of automobiles )

Fossil fuels are also critical for mass manufacturing of goods. Without them, many things would be made by hand. Almost everything you own has required sizable energy inputs to produce. This energy is necessary to create affordable plastics and process and form metals at rock bottom prices. Otherwise, we would still be making many things out of wood and bone still. Imagine what life would be without plastic, steel, aluminum, et cetera?

The list goes on and on. Highly dense, transportable, and abundant energy are necessary to our way of life today. Without this energy, we revert to a subsistence lifestyle that offers little human comfort, which the majority of the population are unwilling or literally unable to do. Whichever country has copious amounts of energy on tap at cheap prices will do very well. It almost entirely makes the difference between being a first or third world country.

Energy ( and technology ) is the opiate of the masses

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Karl Marx once stated that religion is the opiate of the masses, and as despicable as the man was, he was correct on that point at the  time. Religion is highly useful for comforting human beings who are undergoing significant amounts of suffering – promising a better life later, as long as you live this one in a certain matter.

But energy promises a better quality of life today, rather than later. Today, religion is not nearly as useful or attractive and runs the risk of becoming extinct. Copious amounts of energy and technology it produced have provided us a level of comfort and security beyond the wildest dreams of our parents. When you are injured or diseased, you do not pray to god, you call 911 and are hauled off within minutes to be treated with the most high tech means available. If you are lonely or destitute, praying to google.com may provide better answers in a faster manner. Crop in your region doesn’t do so well this year ? don’t worry – your supermarket will ship in all the food you need without even knowing that you need it!

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We are completely hooked on fossil fuels for energy today for comfort, just as we were with religion in days of yore. Some people even go so far as to worship or create conspiracy theories about people like Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, the Rockefeller family, et cetera. Okay – so it’s not a religion – but it’s a dependence on the level that religion once provided, for sure.

Most wars today are fought over fossil fuels & who gets to use it, sell it, and buy it

Just as with religion, the new source of comfort seems so critical that we must keep it coming at costs that we can all afford. Most people are willing to go as far as murder millions of people to keep this energy coming, and the reason for most incidents of mass murder after the 1980’s indicates that these wars boil down to control of this who gets this energy and the wealth it creates.

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Wikipedia has a list of wars revolving around war here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_war

If you dig into these links, you will find that a majority of wars in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iraq, Iran, Kurdistan, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and now even some parts of Africa ( Chad, Nigeria, etc. ) revolve around controlling oil. You will also find that the USA and the UK are big fans of usurping Middle eastern and African governments whenever the current leader does not favor exporting oil to the USA. This has happened multiple times in Iran and Iraq, amongst other countries. Also, said governments are fans of supporting opposition groups to get their way, if it is not feasible to simply murder the folks in charge.

What does big spooky ISIS do when they first take a region? yes – take control over an oil field. Why did the USA and Russia fight proxy wars and fund religious extremist groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda ( see operation cyclone ) in Afghanistan? because they wanted a pipeline built to their country! The Gulf war was ENTIRELY based around who gets what oil, and where it goes to.

In some candid moments, warmonger John McCain even admitted that most of our modern wars revolve around oil:

Even warmonger Hillary Clinton has admitted that Al Qaeda was a creation of our meddling with Russia over oil multiple times on camera.

The same statements will be repeated in the future in regards to the current situation with Iraq, Syria, and the other handful of countries that the USA has their hands in: we are still funding “terrorism” today.

https://consortiumnews.com/2015/06/26/neocons-urge-embrace-of-al-qaeda/

These issues with energy – just like with slavery, whale oil, deforestation, will repeat until we find a better way of meeting our needs.

If you came to the liberty movement because you despise war…

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Many people, including myself, trend towards the libertarian/anarchist spectrum because these ideologies are firmly against war, viewing it as the most egregious violation of the NAP ( non-aggression principle ) one could possibly conceive. Many, but not all socialists and progressives share the same feeling, but they do not come primarily from a principle of non-violence and non-aggression, as the libertarians and anarchists do. Democrats are certainly fond of mass murder when it suits them, same as with republicans.

( Democrat Madelyn Albright justifying the death of half a million children )

If piles of dead bodies and incredible costs as a result of war make your skin crawl, congratulations, you’re not a sociopath! you may be interested in a way to end these wars for oil at the very least. Many of us supported candidates like Ron Paul, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Ralph Nader, and so forth to no avail though. Many of us showed up at anti-war rallies. We have made videos, documentaries, long articles like these.. to no avail, why hasn’t it worked?

Politics are not the solution

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Anyone who worked to elect an anti-war candidate in the past remembers how things went. Their candidates simply were not receiving any attention, not saying the right “sweet words”, and not getting the funding. On top of that, our electoral system is designed to work against third party candidates, making the effort even more futile. Millions of people have attempted to elect these politicians without any success many times.

War is not actually very popular in the United States. The truth is that people elect candidates based on what they say, not what they do. And the opposite goes for large monied interests – candidates receive funding based on what they WILL do for them, understanding that what comes out of the politician’s mouth is an act to get votes ( and it is ). The media is partially funded by those who profit off war, such as weapons makers like General Electric, who at one point in time, owned NBC. These media outlets, in conjunction with the United States’ federal government and many large monied interests frequently push pro-war propaganda at the American public, producing what is known by MIT’s Linguistics professor, Noam Chomsky, as manufactured consent.

Let me provide you two examples of campaigns by warmongers:

Good ol’ boy from Texas who doesn’t want to intervene in foreign countries and be the nice guy.

The well-spoken progressive Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan war ender who promises to close Guatanamo.

These are the sociopaths who end up getting elected, no matter how hard you try to elect an honest man ( or woman ). Their pro war rivals ( Al Gore and John McCain respectively ) lost significantly. Obviously, war is not popular – it loses you votes when you speak in favor of it. Any presidential candidate that wishes to win the election typically resorts to lying about his or her position.

So just as abolitionists failed to end slavery until we had machines to do slave’s work, just as the anti-whaling advocates failed to end commercial whaling until an alternative was found, anti-war advocates are have also been fighting the same uphill battle for many decades. The solution is obviously not going to occur at the ballot box – it never has and never will.

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So we have a resource  we need. If we don’t have it, a large portion of the populace will either accidentally or intentionally support or endorse killing others to get it. Unfortunately, the human race is not moral, but amoral and will continue this pattern of behavior, not unlike how a heroin addict will probably go and commit some crimes to get his fix..

The solution

If you read this far, you probably have an idea of what i am about to say. The solution to end these wars is obviously an alternative form of energy that can supply our demands. When our demands for energy can be met by this alternative, it will be pointless to point nukes at each other over the liquid remains of dead plants and animals sitting in the ground ( aka oil/petroleum ).

The solution must be able to replace:

  • Fertilizers
  • Plastics
  • Energy for heating, transportation, cooling, manufacturing, etc.
  • Lubricants
  • Synthetic fibers
  • Vitamins
  • Cosmetics
  • Detergents and solvents
  • Synthetic materials

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( that has you feeling like this, doesn’t it? )

Hold up! Don’t be dismayed, this is a daunting task – we obviously cannot replace fossil fuels instantly; what we can do is bite at it’s heels like an angry chihuahua , or deal it death by a thousand cuts – beating the giant oil problem over time.

Fertilizers

Oh gosh, this one’s too easy. We are only dependent on petroleum fertilizers because our agricultural system does not work with nature in the slightest. Our monocrop agricultural system basically destroys soil’s nutrients, does not regenerate it,  and then requires fertilizer from elsewhere ( petroleum ). Then, it requires a wild array of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides to keep the bugs away. I won’t doubt that this is a hyper-efficient way to grow food, but it is similar to a ponzi scheme put upon nature – time is running out for it.

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The Native Americans had a system of planting things down pat. They would plant things next to each other that would be symbiotic. The ‘three sisters‘ shown above is one example. Another example of their wisdom was to plant the remains of fish in the ground – seem strange? this was a form of nutrient-rich compost. Other cultures also engage in similar practices that are foreign to us, and do not use petroleum to grow anything. A modern term for this would be permaculture – where you are working with nature within it’s boundaries. The end result is always food with higher nutrient qualities. Would you prefer nutritious food grown the way evolution designed it? i would.

Since the oil has been cut off from Cuba for so many years due to the fall of the Soviet empire, Cuba figured out how to grow food organically on a massive scale without petrochemicals. If this isn’t an example of what can be done in modern times, i don’t know what is.

Another exciting new ( okay, it’s old, but new to the USA ) technology is aquaponics.

Unlike hydroponics, this does not require any fertilizer input. Aquaponics is an almost entirely closed loop system which is self sustaining. In addition to this, it uses FAR less water than current agricultural practices. Watch the video above, produced by Purdue university, for more info on this.

Also, Aquaponics can make for an excellent DIY project for the world’s laziest, nerdiest farmer.

Plastics

Remember Henry Ford’s hemp/soybean car?

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Plastic-like materials can be readily made from many plants, such as soybeans and hemp. Some automakers such as modern day Ford are currently producing interior panels using soybean material. If flexibility is not required, good ol’ fiberglass can also be used. There is still a lot of research being done to produce plant-based plastics in the future. The positive part about plant-based plastics is that many of them are biodegradable, unlike current ones, which all too often end up in the pacific garbage patch:

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We throw away  the majority of plastic items we produce. If plant based plastics are 50% higher in cost, we could easily afford the increased price if we were to simply stop throwing 90% of it into the ocean, essentially.

Energy for heating, transportation, cooling, manufacturing, etc.

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Solar panel and battery technology is evolving at a pretty rapid rate. Year by year, solar panel prices continue to drop at a good rate.

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Battery prices and battery technology has been improving at a steady rate – not as fast as we’d like – but we are making progress. The first generation of mainstream electric cars started at around $30-$40k purchase price and only provided around 75 miles of range. The second generation of electric cars will offer 150-200 mile ranges at the same price. This should tell you something about battery prices and technological advancement.

I don’t have a graph for that at this time ( most graphs found on the internet tend to be outdated ), but in 2010 when electric cars became mainstream, the price of lithium batteries was around $600/kw-hr or above. With the advent of Tesla’s gigafactory, and Panasonic and LG’s cell price drops, these prices have dropped to $150-$250whrs/kg price ranges. Tesla Motors already sells a ‘powerwall’ whose cells end up costing $300/kw-hr or less.

Electric cars, batteries, and solar panels are still out of reach for many middle-lower class Americans at this point, but in the next few years, we will see these alternative forms of energy and energy storage begin to compete with gas. Solar electricity is already 1/3rd the cost of gasoline – the only problem is the upfront investment – but that picture will change in the future.

Ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen are also probable sources for energy – but i’m betting my cards on solar as the next best thing.

Lubricants

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Oh, this is easy. Synthetic, plant based lubricants already best oil-based lubricants. They may be expensive, but they tend to last longer in machinery. Very high performance applications tend to use synthetic lubricants already. Electric and hydrogen-powered machinery has very little use for lubricants as well, unlike internal combustion-powered machines, which require large amounts of lubrication, changed regularly.

For, ahem, other uses, there is always propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. Both of these can be readily produced from plants. Currently, propylene glycol is produced as a side-effect of oil production, but it need not be.

Synthetic fibers

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I think we could survive without nylon and polyester. I believe that Kevlar could, or is already produced without petroleum. Hemp produces a very strong fiber and could be a great substitute. What about good ol’ cotton and wool?

Vitamins

Oh yes, those things we are told to take because we lack nutrients in our food. Yup, some of these are synthetically produced from petroleum. We shouldn’t need these at all if our food system was producing enough nutritious food for us.. Refer to my fertilizers section above.

Cosmetics

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Petroleum-free cosmetics and skin care already exist and are produced by brands such as Revlon, Clinique, Neutrogena, etc. No problem there.

Detergents and Solvents

Some of the best solvents ever invented/created already come from plants: ethanol, acetone, turpentine, toluene, et cetera already come from plants.

Synthetic materials

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That’s a hard one. Many synthetic materials come directly from plants, but not all. I’m no chemist – you will have to do your own research here.

What you can do now in your life to end war

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I hate to say it, but the hippies are right in many regards. Our unnatural, petroleum fueled  lifestyles are to highly implicated in these wars for this precious, but wasted and misused resource. The inconceivable amount of suffering ( notice that they don’t show it on TV – unless they’re trying to provoke us to get involved with yet another war? ) we produce is completely our creation as a result of our consumption.

If mass murder puts a sour taste in your mouth, your best and only real option to end this is to reduce your use of oil and encourage others to follow along.

But one not need be a hippie or absolutist. You can start today, and little by little, nip at the heels of big oil and big war in a variety of ways:

  • If you own a large car and don’t need it, get a smaller car or a wagon. We have a 1999 Suzuki Esteem ourselves; it carries as much as a small SUV, seats 5, and easily gets 34mpg. I see people driving around 5,000lb. trucks and SUVs everywhere to get to work – why? that’s highly detrimental to their pocketbooks. And then these same people complain about the price of oil as it fluctuates up and down as it will.
  • If you do a lot of commuting, consider a hybrid, electric, or alternative fuel vehicle. These cars can save you cash. We own a Honda Insight and regularly see 50-60mpg figures pop up on the MPG-meter. Some savings in gasoline goes to replace batteries every 100,000 miles – yes. For our car, the cost is $2,000 every 100,000 miles. We also save on brake wear and oil changes too. In the end, you do save money with these cars. Similar things can be said about an electric car – the upfront cost and battery cost is counterbalanced by the fact that electricity costs about 1/3rd as much as gasoline. You may not come ahead in total cost – but you’ll be funneling a hell of a lot less money to the oil sheiks and war makers as well. Vote with your dollars! As battery prices continue to fall, replacement batteries will go down in cost, leading to a net positive on the cash bit. Also, electric drivetrains are incredibly reliable – you won’t be looking at a $4,000+ motor or transmission build when you hit 200,000 miles – you’ll be looking at a new battery instead.
  • Buy local produce and consider doing some growing yourself. There are all sorts of ‘kits’ available for complete newbies with no green thumb. Miracle-gro sells a hydroponics kit, back to the roots sells a small aquaponics kit, and earthbox sells a traditional garden planter for dummies that fits into a windowsill. These are all great places to start.
  • Consider solar energy for your home. Prices of solar energy continue to drop, year by year. An investment in solar can indeed pay off over the long run at this point, and the picture continues to get better.
  • Swap your gas-powered lawn tools for electric ones. Gas powered lawn tools are loud, noisy, and stink like hell. Electric equivalents are now reasonably priced, quiet, and very powerful. Better yet – grow food in your lawn instead of useless, allergy promoting grass!
  • Ride a bike, walk, or even better. Try an electric bike – they’re incredibly fun, cheap to buy, cheap to build, and cheap to operate!
  • Stop showing up at the ballot box and endorsing these crooked liars who only make our situation worse. That is a complete waste of your time.

You can do something about it!

Thanks for reading! -N

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