Split from YOU: Fix the US Energy Crisis

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In summary, the conversation discusses the need for international regulation to address the human impact on the planet's climate. This includes legislation to increase energy efficiency in vehicles and buildings, promoting local food production, discouraging trade that relies on fossil fuels, and emphasizing the importance of simplified living and environmental education. It also suggests nationalizing energy resources and limiting foreign involvement in the energy industry. The conversation also touches on the negative effects of industrialization and the need for a shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious society.
  • #36
Efficiency is measured in the price. If the price of food is relatively lower now than in the past, then farming is more efficient. ANd that is why I call BS on organic farming.

I always have to laugh at the discussion of whether or not it is more efficient to farm today as opposed to 50 to 60 years ago. Efficient to whom? Look at all the work and processing that goes into manufacturing the tools that farmers have at their disposal today compared to years ago. Many people act as if that one farmer with 10,000 acres is doing all that himself.

You could say the same about automobiles. Look at all the tools that go into auto manufacturing today than fifty years ago. Does that mean auto manufacturing today is inefficient? Far from it.
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  • #37
Well, both agriculture and auto manufacture are a lot more efficient today than they were in the past. If they are not perfectly efficient according to some absolute standard, that just provides more room for improvement in the future. Abstract efficiency doesn't necessarily result in improved profitability, because of transaction costs.
  • #38
Averagesupernova said:
I always have to laugh at the discussion of whether or not it is more efficient to farm today as opposed to 50 to 60 years ago. Efficient to whom? Look at all the work and processing that goes into manufacturing the tools that farmers have at their disposal today compared to years ago. Many people act as if that one farmer with 10,000 acres is doing all that himself. Even if only a handful of people help him actually do the work he still has a tremendous amount of people behind him supplying him with the things he needs to go over 10,000 acres. Back when horses were used to farm with a farmer could pretty much survive independently while needing to purchase very few consumable supplies as opposed to today. So what's the difference? More people were farming and less lived in the cities supplying ag with the supplies needed today.

Don't blame those farming the way they are today because you or your ancestors decided to move to the city and make it more profitable for those who stayed in it to do it the way they are doing it now.
I haven't read all of the meandering of this thread, but I need to point out that farming efficiency has never been about bushels (or whatever) per man-hour, but bushels per acre.

Bushels per man-hour matters to those in the farming industry because its what is driving the move to bigger farms. But bushels per acre is what determines how big of a population the US (or the world) can sustain.

HERE is a random Google'd graph showing the tons per hectare yeild of wheat and barley in the UK in the past 50 years: both have more than doubled. I think for the west, efficiency will probaby start to level off soon (you can't do much beyond genetic engineering), but its a long time before modern farming techniques penetrate the 3rd world.
Dayle Record said:
People are starving all over the world. Growing organic in the USA has nothing to do with people starving in the world.
True, people are starving because of economics and politics, not because we can't grow enough food to feed them. But GM food is a big issue for that. The US as part of an aid package tried to give some GM drought-resistant grain to a country in Africa (Etheopia?) and it was rejected because of an unwarranted fear of GM crops. They chose to let their people die instead of feeding them.

Of course the economics of GM food are favorable toward pharmaceutical companies. That's capitalism and there is nothing wrong with it. But it is also fact that the economics of GM food is favorable to most farmers. Flat out - GM food is better than so-called organic food.
The world needs to get on the same page regarding food supplies, and energy use, and human rights, and the life of the planet. When the US didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol, we proved that we do not have the interest of the world, at heart.
Kyoto wasn't about "getting everyone on the same page", it was about punishing the US for our prosperity. It was heavily lopsided and unfair. I'm in favor of improving our pollution situation, but Kyoto wasn't the way to do it.
All of the heat that the biomass creates counts, all of the heat that we generate, counts, everytime a plane takes off, everytime we heat up the ionosphere, everytime we turn on a light, it counts, because this is heat created in side our relatively small, closed system. There are ways to deal with the methane produced by feedlots, there are ways to deal with everything, but this kind of tuning is overwhelmed by the other huge planetary moves we make. In a closed system everything counts. So getting ballistic with me over the heat created by nuclear, vs the heat of the sun, is just how you have fun on the web. In a closed system, everything counts. As random as the output of the sun may seem, or as many variables may be noted in the fluctuations of our fluid planet it is still a closed system. We inhabit a very rare niche, of a universe that we are currently combing for signs of other habitation.
Ok, I thought that's what you meant. I wasn't making fun of you, you simply have no idea what you are talking about - correcting you is not making fun of you. You simply don't understand the thermodynamics here. Yes, it is a closed system, but the term "closed system" doesn't mean what you think it does. "Closed system" means energy is not coming in or going out. You can say the system (the earth) is closed except for solar radiation (and the corresponding earth-radiation), but the rest of the system is closed and the things we do (with the exception of screwing with that solar radiation balance) do not add heat to the system.

For example, People give off about 70w of heat - is that new heat to the biosphere? No. We get the energy for that from the sun via the food chain as does every other animal in the biosphere.

Four caveats though:
-Oil and coal are energy from the sun stored for millions of years. So that's solar radiation that the Earth got a millions of years ago, being released today.
-And nuclear power is nuclear energy that is currently being released faster than it would if it were left to decay naturally. But as the calculation I suggested you do would show you neither of these account for even a hundreth of a percent of the energy added to the Earth by the sun.
-The Earth also gains energy due to tidal forces.
-And fourth (and most importantly), the Earth is still radiating energy faster than it receives it from the sun.

Dayle Record, I have no idea where you got the idea that humans were actively heating the Earth - maybe you just misinterpreted global warming - but its just not correct.
Check this out, chemical vs organic. The chinese use twice as much fertilizer on their new fruit and vegetable crops and the land is dying, the water quality is rapidly declining, and so forth...
That's twice as much fertilizer as we do in the US. You left that part out. That means that its not the fertilizer that's at fault, its the Chinese farmers that are using it wrong. That's why the Chinese are having a problem and we are not.

Dayle, as always, my biggest complaint with you is that beyond just being ignorant of the facts (mostly regarding science) that support/refute your opinion, you seem to be purposely ignorant. That quote above seems like a purposeful deception. I'm not suggesting you are lying - indeed, it appears you may not even be aware of it - but your bias is clouding your understanding of the issues you feel so strongly about. You are coming to the wrong conclusions because of your preconceptions.
  • #39
MORE on efficiency and GM:
Domestication of plants is done in order to increase yield, disease resistance, drought tolerance, ease of harvest, and to improve the taste and nutritional value and many other characteristics. Centuries of careful selection and breeding have had enormous effects on the characteristics of crop plants. Plant breeders use greenhouses and other techniques to get as many as three generations of plants per year, so that they can make improvements all the more quickly. Extensive radiation mutagenesis efforts (i.e. primitive genetic engineering) during the 1950s produced the modern commercial varieties of grains such as wheat, corn and barley.

For example, average yields of corn (maize) in the USA have increased from around 2.5 tons per hectare (40 bushels per acre) in 1900 to about 9.4 t/ha (150 bushels per acre) in 2001, primarily due to improvements in genetics. Similarly, worldwide average wheat yields have increased from less than 1 t/ha in 1900 to more than 2.5 t/ha in 1990. South American average wheat yields are around 2 t/ha, African under 1 t/ha, Egypt and Arabia up to 3.5 to 4 t/ha with irrigation. In contrast, the average wheat yield in countries such as France is over 8 t/ha. Higher yields are due to improvements in genetics, as well as use of intensive farming techniques (use of fertilizers, chemical pest control, growth control to avoid lodging).
Of note, most people don't realize it, but direct genetic modification has been going on since the 1950s - and, of course, this is in addition to hybriding, which has been going on for centuries.

I'm looking for longer term efficiency numbers. I found one source that says efficiency about doubled from 1300-1800, but I want something more comprehensive...
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  • #40
The most interesting thing in your comment is something I've thought about to. The mass of infrastructure laid across our planet in this short amount of time. That represents a huge amount of energy in a very short time meaning we are POWERFULL!

But, what you're saying has really no numbers, which would give us some quantified sense of things. Do you really know all the major pollutants, how much are going in the environment empirically, and how much will disbalance things? When I began to think about these things, I found the complication factor getting very big and the information very hard to find to atleast come to a general conclusion about the real state of the planet. I've heard many arguemtns like yours, but where are your numbers and verifiable sources of test of those numbers? More importantly, how can I do simple enviromental tests myself to know and understand things and verify things myself? I heard Bush took away a ban that limited the level of arsenic in American drinking water. How do I know that the level isn't low enough? How could I test for arsenic?
  • #41
Since things like how much arsenic is in your water or how much of certain pollutants is in your air isn't all that easy (or even relevant) for you to test for, you're going to need to trust the research of the real experts (and I don't mean us here in this thread, I mean real researchers on these subjects). The info is easy to find though. Google is your best friend. For example,

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/env_pol_car_dio_per_cap one, for example, and you see why I don't like the Kyoto treaty.
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  • #42
I talked to some farmers last night. I went to a field because there was a block long, double row of hot peppers poking up at the sky and I wanted to take pictures. Here was a guy just pulling over, and I asked if I could take pics, he said sure the field belongs to his oldest friend, I could see the friend a ways off. So I took pictures, and then I asked if I could pick tomatoes, they thought it was going to freeze possibly. So in discussion, and with this thread in mind, I asked him about farming in general, and discussed that I was writing an article about organic farmers in my area. He immediately held the tomatoes up in his hands and asked me if I thought these weren't as good as organics, and told me that he thought that the chemicals and pesticides didn't do enough harm to offset the good that they accomplish. I mentioned Parkinsonianism being a new disease associated with pesticides, etc. He said that the reality was that, he couldn't get people to weed, or hoe or hardly even pick his produce. He had to automate to make it, and that farming was the most thankless work ever. He said he has it all now, but it is too late. His Greek grandfather came to America with eleven dollars and came to Utah and farmed. His grandmother had died at one month short of one hundred years old. He had as a boy, spent his afternoons hoeing beets, topping beets, weeding beets, and I interjected that didn't leave a lot of room for boyhood dreams, and he said no. He worked thirty seven years on an airbase nearby and had farmed 150 acres nights and weekends. He lost one knee clutching his tractor, and people offered to run him off the road, driving that tractor, and both his shoulders are ruined, and he is seventy five years old. He had just sold 100 acres for $60,000. per acre for development, so now he has it all, but it is too late. He was driving a mini pickup, beat up, and was in his farm clothes, and we were looking at a flatbed of onions going by, and he didn't think that the farmer made very much on them, even in that quantity. This was a delightful gentleman, who carried on a great converstion, and had a lot to tell me directly about things. He said that we have tons of arable land not in use in Utah, and in the US, so the loss to devlopment is not as bad as one might think.
I took seven big tomatoes, and three big red peppers to his old, bent over, friend, I couldn't find him easily then he came out, and I offered him four dollars for the lot, since that is what I had. He felt that extravagant on my part, and I said, "Well you have to take it". He asks," Well, do you like eggplant?" "Sure, I say", so he picks five big eggplants, and a pocketful of hot cherry peppers, and pulls up two huge onions. He wants my card, and thinks my name is unusual, and I tell him I will be back, and I thanked him, so his day wouldn't be thankless. Four dollars, I can see how it is hard to make it small farming.

I am not deliberately ignorant, in these matters. I am always interested in what both sides have to say, and try to obscure. There are two sides to the issues, if not 6 billion as to how we will keep this world tuned, so we can live here, and prosper, not at the expense of the Earth, or other inhabitants.

The farmer said one other thing, they used to be organic, but the dairies all moved out, so there wasn't manure easily available, any more, and they had to go chemical.

He had some other things to say, about things in general, he despairs at the state of things, he won't shop at Walmart, and the other mega industries, that drive off the small businessmen, and he knows that giant agro industry is getting bigger, but he pointed out his own life as an example of why that is happening.
  • #43
Here is an article from today's Salt Lake Tribune, regarding apomixis a property of some plants that asexually produce seeds, eliminating the need for costly hand fertilization of hybrid seed crops. The potential for energy savings is huge, and the potential for organic fuel sources is also huge. This will fly in the face of those that profit from the hybrid process, holding patents and selling seed. It has great promise for the third world. There are many facets to fixing the energy crisis, and this is a big one. The article discusses the potential for better feeding one billion of the humans on earth.


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