Yet another argument for human innovation and ingenuity. Ladies and gentlemen, look no further than Japan for a realistic perspective on human innovation for the last 30 years.
Moreover, if there have been wars over salt, why be so quick to rule one out over oil? Granted, there are far more NWO/secret-society complications with the onset of the current nation-state arrangement, but the pattern of the rape and pillaging of defenseless countries and their peoples continues, doesn’t it?
found at Energybulletin: http://energybulletin.net/19220.html
by Stephen L. Sass, NY Times via International Herald Tribune
In the wake of the closure of a BP oil field in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, oil prices shot up to $77 a barrel on Wednesday, and the chorus of doomsayers concerned about the dire consequences of our fossil fuel dependency has reached a crescendo. If oil hits $100 a barrel, the impact on the economy could be catastrophic, the handwringers warn. But while such a specter seems novel and terrifying, it is in fact familiar and useful.
Throughout history, shortages of vital resources have driven innovation, and energy has often starred in these technological dramas. The search for new sources of energy and new materials has frequently produced remarkable advances that no one could have imagined when the shortage first became evident.
Consider the transition from the use of bronze to iron in making tools and weapons, which occurred around the 12th century B.C. Early in the second millennium B.C., iron was known as the stuff of meteorites. It was rare and highly prized: if you wanted to give a gift to a pharaoh or a king you didn’t give a gold dagger but an iron one. But when the eastern Mediterranean fell short of tin from which to make bronze, a technological revolution occurred. Artisans learned to extract metallic iron from iron-rich materials by heating with charcoal (a process called smelting), which caused the price of iron to fall by a factor of 80,000 over 1,200 years. The Iron Age had begun.
Later, in Britain in the 1600s, another shortfall would drive still more invention. As the British Empire expanded, demands increased on the island nation’s natural resources, particularly its forests. The British used so much wood for heating homes, building the ships of its mighty fleet and making charcoal to smelt iron and to fuel other industrial processes that there was eventually a shortage that has been called a “timber famine” in England.
Wood shortages drove the use of coal. But coal had never been the choice fuel for smelting iron because it contains sulfur, which renders iron brittle. Indeed, King James II of Scotland was killed in 1460 by an exploding cannon fashioned from brittle iron. Abraham Darby, the owner of an iron foundry at Coalbrookdale along the Severn River in the west of England, solved this problem when he developed a process to drive the unwanted impurities from coal, producing coke in 1709. Coke was so cheap that Darby could sell cast-iron pots and kettles at prices accessible to common folk.
The story goes on. In order to dig for coal, deep mine shafts were sunk, and these tended to flood. The steam engine was first developed to pump out the mines. The steam engine in turn became the primary new source of power for the Industrial Revolution. All of which came about because of a shortage of wood. Eventually, this cycle of shortage and invention would lead to the canal system in England, railroads and thermodynamics.
The bottom line is that the very process of developing alternative sources of energy to replace fossil fuels may yield benefits beyond our imagining. But if instead we fail to innovate, the consequences could be devastating.
On a recent drive across the United States, my wife and I visited a 1,000-year-old Indian village that is being unearthed slowly in Mitchell, South Dakota. The village existed for less than 100 years, because its inhabitants ran out of the wood they used for fuel and to construct their homes. Forced to migrate to the Missouri River, these Indians became the Mandan.
If there is anything to be learned from history, it’s that we need to face the harsh reality of fossil fuel scarcity and begin something like a Manhattan project to develop clean, economical and preferably sustainable new sources of energy. Just as important, we need to innovate on the side of conservation and efficiency. The Indians of Mitchell were able to move to the Missouri, but if we use up, or more realistically, greatly deplete, the resources of this earth, we have no place to go.
Stephen L. Sass, a professor of materials science and engineering at Cornell University, is the author of “The Substance of Civilization: Materials and Human History From the Stone Age to the Age of Silicon.”