A Careful Look at Issues

There are a three elements to economic recovery: people must need to buy things, they must have the money to buy them, and they must be believe that that the future is worth investing in. Every economic downturn leads to people postponing purchases of new cars, new homes, and new consumer goods. After a while, we expect people to be compelled to catch up with purchases; the old car cannot be fixed and must be replaced, and so forth. What’s remarkable about the current poor economy is how little of the automatic bounce back we’ve seen. We look to the factors of money and confidence to explain the lack of recovery.

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Wind and solar power are expensive, realistically four to six times the cost of conventional energy sources. If we are going to convert to electric cars we will need lots of energy to make the batteries for the cars as well as to charge them. In a separate category, the global warming scare tries to impress upon us the need to avoid fossil fuels immediately for fear we all fry by 2010, or whatever the current date of doom. Underneath these discussions is the question of how much oil is left. When the oil equivalents like oil shale are counted, we have about 300 years.

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Peak oil theory is that oil production will not just peter out, it will fall catastrophically starting right now, and that no alternative energy source will arise to take its place. The result will be inevitable disaster, so they say. A book advocating peak oil theory starts by erroneously begins with a false application of the concept of a closed system. It’s worth setting straight.

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Fred arrives home and goes into his heated TV room. He switches on two lamps that consume 60 watts of electric power each. He switches on his wide-screen TV that draws 300 watts. The environment outside the room stays precisely the same, which is typical of quiz problem weather. … When the room stabilizes again, how much electric power will be flowing into the room, counting all the devices?

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