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[This is a tidy little piece on the way EROI - Energy Return On Energy Invested - gets ignored in the mainstream media. That's partly because too much bad news is bad for the DOW, but it's mainly because we all want the good news first. So: the good news is that replacing the world's car fleet with hybrids would make for a much more efficient fleet. The bad news is that the replacement process would consume one hell of a lot of the fuel we'd be saving. - JAH]

Hey US News - You Forgot Something

Michael C. Ruppert

© Copyright 2006, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. This story may NOT be posted on any Internet web site without express written permission. Contact May be circulated, distributed or transmitted for non-profit purposes only.

February 24, 2006 0800 PST (FTW) - ASHLAND: Is this good news or bad news, that US News has started addressing issues like fuel economy and vehicle weight? In my opinion it's bad news. Why? Because, to paraphrase some spiritual wisdom I heard a long time ago, "Half measures do not avail us 50% benefit." National and global thinking about Peak Oil and energy issues is woefully muddled and unclear. It lacks a fundamental awareness of the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that energy only converts in only one direction (from useable to unusable) and the concept of Net Energy, or Energy Return on Energy Invested. The unstated assumptions made by Mr. Kingsbury are many and flawed.

Why does he not figure into his presentation the fact that every new vehicle manufactured requires the equivalent of 12-15% of all the energy it will ever consume just to make it in the first place? Rough calculations show that for a new hybrid with an expected 20-year lifespan (averaging 30 mpg) that figure is between 960 - 1200 gallons of gasoline (equivalent) just for the vehicle's manufacture. Ore must be mined and transported. It must be smelted and formed by heat. It must be transported to factories. Plastics (now heavily used in auto body construction), paint and vinyl all are made from oil. Frames must be moved down assembly lines by electricity and assembled. Rubber must be shipped from overseas to make tires. To the raw rubber, oil and other petroleum derivatives are added. There are 7 gallons of oil in every new tire (National Geographic, June 2004). So, to replace the 230 million vehicles on America's roadways today would consume the equivalent of 230 billion gallons of gasoline.

There is not a 1:1 conversion rate between oil (42 gallons per barrel) and gasoline. But in terms of energy equivalents we're talking about 5.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent to make 230 million new vehicles which are all still fossil fuel dependent anyway. 5.5 billion barrels is roughly what the entire planet consumes every 60 days. For the last three years, not a single new field of 500 million barrels (9% of the required energy input) has been discovered anywhere.

There are around 800 million internal combustion-powered (land) vehicles on the planet. Using the conservative figure (it takes a lot more to manufacture a White Freight Liner or a Lincoln Navigator) of 1,000 gallons of gasoline (23.9 barrels of oil equivalent) to make a new hybrid, produces some scary numbers indeed. To replace all straight internal-combustion vehicles with hybrids would require a minimum equivalent of 800 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent. To put that in terms of barrels of oil that's more than 19 billion barrels. Sure, some of that manufacturing energy comes from coal or natural gas but those are already in increasingly short supply. Given production/demand constraints and the mounting evidence that we have passed Peak, those 19 billion barrels would have to be taken away from other uses. Do I hear any volunteers?

By the way, 19 billion barrels is about 1.9% of all the known oil remaining on the planet, not all of which will ever be pumped. Why? Because when it takes more energy to extract a barrel of oil than one gets from burning it there's no point, is there?

So how much help did US News really give us here?

US News and World Report

Advice for Oil Addicts

By Alex Kingsbury

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

President Bush called on the country to break its addiction to Middle East oil in his State of the Union address last week. Easier said than done, says former Chevron geophysicist Peter Tertzakian, who talked to U.S. News about his new book, A Thousand Barrels a Second: The Coming Oil Break Point and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependent World, and why kicking the oil habit will be a tough slog. Excerpts follow.

Is Bush on the right track?

There was recognition that there is a problem, and that is a first step. Having said that, the solutions that [he] presented were oversimplified. The dependency runs deep, and it takes more than just saying, "We're going to grow more corn" to solve the problem. But we are addicted to oil, and it's nice to finally acknowledge that.

What about plans to develop alternative sources of energy?

In the United States, less than 3 percent of electrical power is generated from oil. When we talk about clean coal, windmills, and nuclear power, we address only the electricity issue, not the oil issue. Those alternatives are not large-scale substitutes, and they cannot push oil out of its largest market, which is transportation.

Oil consumption has always been on the radar. Why are we trying to change things now?

The core issue is the way we live. The most problematic trend for oil consumption to emerge in the past 20 years has been the continued migration to the American suburbs. Twenty years ago, the average American vehicle traveled 10,000 miles per year. Today, it travels 12,000 miles. That's a 20 percent increase, right there. On top of all this, we have larger and heavier vehicles. We came to accept the fact that we would have cheap energy whenever we pulled up to the pump. Finding solutions to these demographic changes and trying to mitigate gasoline consumption is very difficult.

How have other countries dealt with similar pressures?

After the last oil price shocks of the 1970s, the Europeans and the Japanese taxed oil very heavily. The Japanese made it government policy not to consume more oil than they currently were. Indeed, they consume the same amount of oil today. It can be done with smart policy. The Europeans and the Japanese built public transportation, while the U.S. built suburbs.

What about making a full conversion away from a particular type of fuel?

Winston Churchill's decision to move away from coal and fuel the ships with oil, at the turn of the century, was a huge decision. At the time the British had all the coal they needed--energy independence. But they needed the oil-powered ships to compete with the Germans. In order to convert the Navy to oil, however, they had to begin buying it from Iran. In the 1850s and '60s, when whale oil was being used, there was a moment when all the whales had been hunted. Several ships were frozen in the Arctic, which decimated the whaling fleet. At the same time, during the Civil War, the Confederacy blew up some whaling ships docked in Connecticut. Around the same time, "rock oil" was discovered in Pennsylvania.

Did consumption patterns change after Katrina?

Even though the sale of SUVs declined during the hurricane, figures still show that more than half of all cars purchased every month are heavy vehicles, as defined by the Department of Transportation. We learned that $3.25 per gallon was not enough to change people's behavior. It will probably have to go up to $4 per gallon before people start changing their consumption patterns.

Are hybrids the solution to cutting oil consumption in cars?

Buying lighter vehicles is one of the easiest and most logical short-term solutions to this problem. Hybrid technology is a long-term solution. There were over 200,000 hybrids sold last year, but that's a drop in the barrel. Remember that there are 230 million registered vehicles in the U.S. Each year, 17 million are replaced, so replacing the entire fleet still takes about 15 years. What's more, we are moving in the wrong direction--56 percent of the new cars last year were heavier than what they were replacing, so the fleet is getting heavier. We have to change behavior. Oil is a wonderful fuel that needs to be respected, not wasted by hauling around excess weight.

How does one do that?

What message does it send when celebrities drive the ostentatious, gigantic cars? People look and say, 'Hey, I want to be like that.' If we could get celebrities to say it's cool to drive smaller cars, it would go a long way. One of the strongest forces in consuming societies is the power of social mores. The perfect example of that type of thinking is smoking. Oil is a wonderful fuel that needs to be respected, not wasted by hauling around excess weight.

Spoken like a true addict. What kind of car do you drive?

I drive a Smart car. They haven't really made it to the United States yet, but they get about 70 miles per gallon. They are very popular in Europe and Canada.

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