Thursday, July 03, 2008

Eat this Malthus

I get criticized by some folks for having a large family (4 boys, 1 girl).


OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

I'm glad to know, however, that I could easily handly 15 more!

(P.S. Click here if the Malthus reference didn't ring a bell.)

(P.P.S. Click here if Malthus and his claims do make sense to you. This is why I'm not an greenieweenie.)


Doug Hagler said...

Where do I click if I don't believe in Magical Infinite Fairy Oil?

Chris said...

Big families were abundant before Big Oil, Doug. My point was to criticize people who advocate for abortion as population control.

But to answer your question: I think we need to get off of a hydro-carbon based economy ASAP. Unfortunately, we'll have to use hydro-carbons to get us there. The people most likely to develop efficient means for getting us off the HC wheel are the same people who have brought technological and scientific and medical advances to the world for the last 80 years - the USA Our economy (and thus our ability to keep on investing in solutions for the world) is severely threatened by the energy crisis. If the whole world is to move ahead, America is its best bet at doing so without reverting to the 18th century technology the world over.

What's my take on the answer to peak oil?
1) Go nuclear. If the environmentalist movement hadn't curtailed the development of nuclear power in our country, we might have already made breeder reactors economically viable.
2) Oil shale. Old methods required extraction and caused huge problems in terms of water usage. Current technologies allow for heating the rock in place (in situ) and could bring oil back to $30-40/barrel.

Heck...combine thermal nuclear plants with oil shale, using the heat of the plant to heat the shale!

I think that our energy crisis is in large part due to short-sighted environmentalist efforts within the Democratic Party. I'm sure you find that as no surprise. However, I'd like to add that my a big part of my gripe with them is not just the economics. (Our economy is bigger than the next 4 largest combined - CA alone is bigger than France!) It's the terrible venture of energy-shrink fueling war. If we had been allowed to do what free markets do best (re-invest capital for the purpose of getting more done with less resource consumption), then Iran could have been defanged a decade ago.

Instead, eager to save a nuthatch or shrew subspecies, we've potentially endangered far more species - including Homo sapiens sapiens - due to nuclear war. (Yes, the next global conflict will be exceptionally hot - especially if BHO gets elected and refuses to do what must be done with Iran.)

If you're looking for a simple one-click, you can try here. If you're over the age of 4, I'd be careful...

Kevin said...

You get criticized for the size of your family? Wow. As a father of four boys myself, I probably would not take well to such remarks. I have prayed (but have hitherto been let, as the KJV says) for the opportunity to respond to a population control type with something like, "Listen, if your so concerned about it, why don't you go shoot yourself?" Perhaps it is best that Providence has not provided such an opportunity. I enjoy your blog.

Doug Hagler said...


Man, I'm not worried about your big family. You're making up for filthy selfish liberals like me who have no children, and your altruism shines like a beacon to a benighted world as always :P

I agree with you generally. For efficiency, Japan has been the world standard for about 30 years now, and Germany is at about 30% solar power, so I can't agree that the USA is the best option as a broad generalization, but I definitely agree that getting off of a non-renewable-energy economy is our top priority long-term. America is actually held back by the abundance of our natural resources compared to Europe or Japan, for example. We can find cheap energy that is filthy and destructive a lot more easily, and that's a big problem here in terms of economics.

For nuclear, the proposals will have to be more specific. Breeder reactors will have to be built around self-regulating coolant systems that shut down the reactions to prevent Three-Mile-Island type disasters. We also need a way to deal with the waste products - they're preferable to coal-burning, which is 50% of America's energy right now, but a half-life measured in the thousands of years is still a problem. Burning coal leads to more radioactive contaminants than nuclear energy per kilowatt, so we should get off of that ASAP. Oil shale might be a stopgap with modern technology, but I'd like to see renewables take more of a piece of the pie, coupled with the likely necessity of nuclear. I actually think Germany is a superb example of how to do this with government subsidies, which we have always used historically to promote new technologies.

In a world with spray-on photovoltaics already developed, I think we can come up with some hardcore tech in this area, but we need to stop subsidizing wasteful industries (a Republican habit I'm afraid in the area of energy). If we gave solar 1/5 the free ride we give hydrocarbons, we'd have long since become solar-powered in my opinion. Its long past time to give people tax credits and rebates for solar panels. As you point out, increased demand will lead to increased efficiency. We've got solar technologies that are exponentially better than a decade ago that we're not even using on a large scale yet.

I would dearly love to see a leapfrog in Africa, skipping the Industrial Revolution technologies entirely and going straight to renewables. You see this beginning in fits and starts (they largely skipped over telecoms to cellular for example already) and there is no end of indigenous innovations, but we're more willing to invest in Saudi Arabia, a nation that is clearly opposed to everything we supposedly stand for, than democracies in Africa that could frankly just use a break or two after 500 years of exploitation. I'd actually love to see some massive microlending go in that direction. Solar ovens alone would be a huge boon, and are a proven technology.

Your comment was interesting and surprising to me because it seems to fly in the face of...most of what you've said in the past. But then again, its impossible to tell how much of that is sarcasm.

Dave Moody said...

I'm curious to hear what sort of criticisms you receive. Care to share? I've read a few editorials critiquing families say, over one but never been confronted myself. If it'd happen I'd probably point out the economic dilemnas facing Europe today. Barb

Chris said...


My answer was serious. We do need oil right now because it fuels our economy. We need our economy to get us to the next stage of scientific development. It's like tulips in 17th c. Holland. You can't base your market on'em forever, but you have to deal with what works right now.

I do like your ideas about leapfrogging Africa, but wouldn't that violate the Prime Directive?

As far as having a big family, I've found a way to use that to my advantage and still reduce our overall carbon footprint. Tell me what you think about it (solution here).