Long-Term Sustainability Notes Online...
From: Ronald Frederick Greek (fred.greekyahoo.com)
Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2007 12:10:49 -0700 (PDT)


em_genuity [at] yahoo.com posted:  "? Great thoughts? interested in community 
planning and  development and am looking for head programs. Do you or does 
anyone know of  planning programs that consider the wholistic view of 
community, localized resources, community relationships.. More new urbanism is 
guess..  "


"Peak oil" - what to do about it - has been my "hobby" for over a decade.  I 
offer my notes for the consideration of anyone interested.   The information I 
have accumulated is online at several places, with the most "up to date" as of 
this moment in the files area at:




The files should be available to anyone without a need to "join" the egoup.  I 
keep that particular egroup site in place just as a place to hold the files for 
public access.


My notes start from the point of the life support needs of a human, and work up 
thru home, neighborhood, village, and city.  


As my Heinberg quote indicates, population is the "key" factor.  


If we assume the population is going to increase, and act on that assumption to 
reduce the pressure and problems forseen, then we're ENABLING the increase.


Please, find your own information and run your own calculations, but consider 
what the world looks like absent fossil fuels?

  Fossil fuels are merely stored ancient solar power.  We can manufacture fuels 
(biofuels) that would allow modern engines to operate, but not at a rate 
anywhere near the present annual usage.
  Per the CIA factbook, the world has in land: 148.94 million sq km, or which 
humans have planted in permanent crops: 4.71%, or 7,015,074 million sq. km.  
This is an area 2,648 km on a side, or 1,645 miles on a side, or 2,707,299 sq. 
  Expect best biofuel yield per year to be 50 gallon per acre.  Expect each 
person needs 1/4 acre for food.  Expect each person needs 10 acre for wood and 
other long-term durable materials.  
  Recent U.S. use of just oil was 10 billion barrels per year (420 billion 
gallons), divided by say a population of 270 million, we get 1,555 gallons per 
year per person.  In biofuels this requires 31 acre per person. Add the rest 
in, and each person in a U.S. lifestyle needs 45 acres.
  A square mile is 640 acres, divided by 45 = 14 people provided resources per 
square mile.
  If there is currently 2,707,299 sq. mile planted in crops, to NOT further dig 
up nature, a current U.S. lifestyle using biofuels could allow a GLOBAL 
population of 37,902,186.  
  6,600,000,000 - 37,902,186 = 6.5 billion or so must die in the time remaining 
for fossil fuels, AND in the same time we must re-work a global infrastructure 
into one that can be operated with less than 40 million people.  
  As of 2007, a large portion of the global population is 20 or younger.  At 
current consumption globally of 30 billion barrels per year, and the largest 
daydream of 1,200 billion barrels of oil, we have 40 years until depletion... 
MUCH LESS until demand permanently exceeds possible supply, and anyone not 
self-sufficient crashes.  
  It's not that biofuels do not have a place, it's that they cannot power an 
infrastructure like the "first world" of today.  We need a different type of 
  Even if we eliminate fuel powered transportation, we've still got the 
challenge of food.  

In peak oil discussions it is frequently presented that food production using 
hybrid / green revolution crops requires 10 calories[i] of input (in the form 
of pesticides and fertilizers) for every calorie of food produced. The Columbia 
University "Vertical Farm" project raises this estimate to 20:1. 
(Transportation or cooking of the food NOT included in this estimate.)  What 
does this translate to in real world terms?


In general, a human needs 2000 calories of energy per day.  Although they are 
normally spelled the same, a food calorie is in fact 1,000 "heat" calories.  
Posit therefore that a gallon of gasoline contains 144,000 BTU, which equals 
around 36,000 food calories.  If the peak oil commentators are right then to 
produce 2,000 calories of food requires the use of 20,000 calories of oil.  
(55% of a gallon)  


For a projected U.S. population of 300 million, annually it is around 60 
BILLION gallons, or between 15% and 20% of U.S. annual fossil fuel use as oil.  
At $2.92 per gallon almost $178 BILLION in oil just to produce our food.  


As an example, if you eat commercially produced food, you daily meals represent 
a dependency[ii] on oil equal to a 30 mpg vehicle driving 16 miles.  


Absent this un-sustainable input, the food production miracle of the green 
revolution crops, in use worldwide, and upon which the majority of the 6+ 
billion population depends, ends.



"? As for homes, if we assume that the population is going to increase (the 
biggest cause of pollution & carbon use of all!), then more homes will 
inevitably be built.  We might as well build and buy truly green, 
well-insulated homes?. "
      [i] Oil / food - 10:1 is by David Pimentel, Cornell University ecologist. 

[ii] At $2.92 per gallon, your food represents $1.61 of gasoline.   Use the 
formula Food Item Calories times ten, divided by 36,000, times price per gallon 
equals estimate of cost of embedded fuel used to grow the food item 
(Processing, shipping, sales costs not included)

Ronald Frederick Greek
  Moderator (Electronic Janitor)
Sustainable Tucson
  "Stabilization of human numbers is no solution... To speak of an actual 
reduction of human population - exactly what is needed if the world is to avoid 
unprecedented human dieoff through famine, pestilence, and war - is unthinkable 
and unspeakable, at least in polite company.  Not just Catholics and 
conservatives, but liberals as awll become positively apoplectic if the subject 
is broached.  And so the discussion necessary to understanding our econlogical 
dilemma, and dealing effectively with it, never occurs."
  - Richard Heinberg, Power Down


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