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[GreenYes] World Oil Peak / Carbohydrate Economy
While I am referencing below Don's and David's messages from the plastic
lumber discussion thread, I am referencing it by a different subject line
for message discussion thread / archiving reasons.

I agree with David's opinion about the need for our world economy to
transition away from our near total reliance on fossil oils (and any other
Greenyes subscriber expressing a similar past opinion). For those of us who
continue to hear that "we are not running out of oil" I would like to
suggest reading "Hubbert's Peak - The Impending World Oil Shortage" by
Kenneth Deffeyes (Princeton University Press, 2001). M. King Hubbert was an
oil geologist who predicted in 1956 that US domestic oil production would
peak in 1972 (it peaked in 1970).  Prof. Deffeyes was a colleague of Hubbert
at Shell Oil and basically applied an update of Hubbert's methodology to
estimate that world oil production will peak between 2005 and 2010.  This
book is not an easy read.  The author insists on leading the reader through
a discussion of oil and oil industry practices before he unveils the book's
punchline.  Still worth reading.

If Deffeyes is correct, then we certainly need to accelerate our efforts to
develop a Carbohydrate economy.  However, my concern is that, if crops for
fuels and chemicals are grown and managed the same way as most of our food
and fiber crops are currently, we will have a different environmental
disaster on our hands.  I am sure that everyone on this list will exclaim,
"of course, it must be done on a sustainable basis" but in the US we have a
history of hearing only one part of the message.  I am particularly afraid
that the sustainability message will be completed ignored if the transition
to "renewable" energy sources occurs in the form of a panicked stampede when
the fossil oil pricing crisis commences later in this decade.

The dilemma I see now is that if we wait till market pricing force marches
our economies into relying on non-oil alternatives, it will be done in panic
mode as mentioned above.  Not relying on market forces to begin our
transitioning will require government action which I don't see happening
under the present administration based on the energy plan issued last year.
Therefore, we must somehow convince the "Bush" states, many of which have
large agricultural constituencies, that the future lies in sustainable
industrial agriculture.  Many of these same constituencies are embarrased
that while they are politically for smaller government, they are also
significant receipients of big government aid in the form of farm subsidy
payments (see the Environmental Working Group web site (
for their farm subsidy database to see who's getting these payments).
Perhaps we should work politically at converting these subsidies from
payments for not producing ag. commodities such as corn or soybeans to
producing sustainable industrial ag. crops.  As they say, grab them by their
checks and their hearts and minds will follow.


Roger M. Guttentag

----- Original Message -----
From: don hughes <>
To: Muna Lakhani <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2002 11:12 AM
Subject: Re: [GreenYes] plastic lumber

> I cannot help laughing (and of course, i do NOT mean this personally) at
> David Wollner's comment "If plastic can be made from renewable resources
> and in a non-polluting way, then by all means lets make lumber."
> Lumber--the real thing--is made of cellulose, a polymer, made by Nature in
> as non-polluting and renewable way as can be imagined, namely
> photosynthesis.  If humankind is to embrace sustainability, as it MUST,
> then much of our effort should be focussed  using renwable resources like
> trees and crops, in place of petroleum and coal.  Before WWII, many
> products were based on carbohydrates:  glue from soybeans, rayon fiber
> cellulose (probably wood), etc. Linoleum derives its name from linoleic
> acid which cames from either corn or soybeans.  The list goes on.  In
> making chemicals from petroleum we, with the help of the chemical
> have become chemically dependent--addicted to a never-ending flow of oil.
> In addition, we have created monstrosities like PCBs, dioxins,
> chlorobenzenes, etc. which persist in the environment, and are toxic.
>     Are carbohydrates a panacea?  No. Are there complicating issues like
> genetically modfied crops? Of course.  But overall, we have to get off our
> addiction to oil.
> --Don
> At 10:45 AM 01/07/2002 +0200, you wrote:
> >David Wollner wrote:
> >>
> >> Making post consumer plastic into lumber doesn't wipe away the
> >> depletion of non-renewable resources nor the environmental hazards
> >> posed by plastic. Sure, we have all this stuff and let's do something
> >> with it, but, if that's the extent of our conversation regarding
> >> plastic, that it is an immutable fact of life like the sun rising and
> >> falling, then we are not doing our job. The evidence of the harm that
> >> plastic's creation has unleashed needs to be addressed first and
> >> foremost. If plastic can be made from renewable resources and in a
> >> non-polluting way, then by all means lets make lumber. Until then,
> >> lets figure out how to clean up the planet.
> >
> >hear, hear!
> >
> >regards
> >Muna
> >
> >
> >******************************************
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> >
> -----------------------------------------------------------
>         Don Hughes      Dept. of Chemistry
>         315-470-6597    431 Jahn Lab
> SUNY-College of environmental science & forestry
>                         SYRACUSE, NY 13210
> -----------------------------------------------------------
>  "If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a
> conclusion."
>             George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
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