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Energy, Infrastructure & Standard of Living

General discussions of the systemic, societal and civilisational effects of depletion.

Re: Energy, Infrastructure & Standard of Living

Unread postby Subjectivist » Thu 20 Aug 2015, 13:32:11

I hope this is considered on topic. I have been watching Dr. Alley videos all week and today I watched his presentation to Albion College in 2014. He does a great presentation explaining how climate and infrastructure weave together and then relates it to peak oil, fossil fuels, droughts, whaling, too much to type it all here. I would love to discuss how this relates to energy, infrastructure and standard of living if anyone is willing to watch it.

https://youtu.be/pI8QJ7-XnW8

http://www.albion.edu/about-albion/them ... ate-change
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Re: Energy, Infrastructure & Standard of Living

Unread postby Tanada » Thu 01 Oct 2015, 01:10:19

Newfie wrote:Well maybe it is for the votes, but maybe it is something deeper.

The events outlined above took place over many centuries, until the advent of the oil age which Tanda puts at around 1840.

Going out on a limb here to see how it sounds.........

Earlier things were constructed with the future in mind. Not everything, there were terrible hovels that soon returned to the dirt, but there were also the Roman roads, via ducts, cathedrals, etc that were built to stand the test of time. Folks had a sense of continuity. Things will be tomorrow as they are today. What I build today will be useful for a long time. People will remember I built this.

That sense of permanence is gone now. One wonders how long a stick built McMansion will last. I've been watching a 1960's era complex be razed, many acres of offices, to build a new complex. My home town is essentially gone, the name exists but it is otherwise unrecogniable

Among the things that have changed for us, including our anatomy and sheer physical strength, is our sense of time and permanence. We have adapted to a new pace, a new sense of inpermanence, things change, we move, family comes and goes.

But this also means we no longer have a sense of place or future. The 18th century peasant, as noted, was not mobile and had many generations behind him to reflect upon. He had no reason to believe that his great grandson would lead a different life than he.

A 21st century person looks to a different future with no certainty. Or worse with the certainty of change, for better or worse. Why SHOULD we build great roads and buildings if they will be inundated with water? Why should we worry how history will treat us if the future is likely to be one of mass depopulation and retrenchment?

Are we truly as stupid as we seem, or do we have some common unspoken understanding of the coming dark ages and wish to dissociate ourselves from it?

I don't know the answers. I do have a sense that many common folk have a good sense that things are seriously amiss, but are completely flummoxed about what to do.
......
Anyway, many years ago I worked at Amtrak after it was broken away from Conrail, and got to see first hand the devistation of deferred maintenance. Then again at SEPTA when we took the Regional Rail network from Conrail. In the mid 80's we still had crank phones. One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy, etc.


Excellent observations about permanence vs mobility. I have six siblings in my family, all still alive as of the current date. Between the seven of us we live in six different states of the USA.

For a person living in Europe in the 18th century or earlier as far back as ancient Rome, if you were part of the agricultural system you built cities and occupied territory for as long as you could, knowing that you had to take care of the land because your grandchildren and their grandchildren would be likely farming or herding on the same land for as far into the future as you could imagine. Very few average people ever went more than 20 miles from the spot they were born, which in the era when most people traveled on foot meant your home village plus the next two over in whatever direction you walked. Your spouse probably came from your home village or a very near neighbor village and your marriage was arranged by your parents, grandparents, village elders and influential members of the community to provide a bond between your family/village and your spouses family/village. Love had very little if anything to do with the arrangement.

When canals began to become wide spread farmers could haul their crop/livestock to the 'big city' usually the town where the local nobility lived, but even so most goods were moved by the merchant class, the only common folk who traveled a lot. Well lets make that merchants and entertainers. If you were a farmer you really couldn't travel too much, your crops and livestock had to be looked after rain or shine, spring, summer and fall for the crops and all four seasons for the livestock.

When the first Erie Canal was completed in the early 1800's trade town sprang up all along its length around the draft animal changing stations. Docks went in and businesses were built next to them to take advantage of the lighting fast transportation. You could go from Albany, New York to Buffalo, New York in just 6 days, and from there you could reach Cleveland, Toledo, Monroe or Detroit in less than a week. In a month you could be in Chicago starting out in Albany, and even better a canal spur to Pittsburgh connected you to the Three Rivers where the Ohio River went south west all the way to the Mississippi.

As hard as it may be for us to believe those canal boats moved at a steady walking pace as well, the difference was they moved as close to 24/7 as was possible changing draft teams and drovers every few hours. A healthy person can walk 20 miles easily within a day, a canal boat would travel 60 to 80 and haul 50 passengers and 25 tons of cargo with the labor of one drover and two or three boat crew and a team of mules or oxen.

America happened to develop right as the human species was discovering and making use of fossil fuels on an ever increasing scale. Add in the fact that in Europe every tree you could point at as potential lumber or fuel had an owner who had to be compensated for that tree while the eastern geographic third of what became the USA was covered in relatively dense forest loosely managed by the First Peoples to support their preferred lifestyle. Pennsylvania literally means Penn's Forest, and when Philadelphia was founded you could pass from the Atlantic to the head waters of the Ohio River staying in the woods the entire time. Between 1700-1900 the entire area was basically clear cut, partially for crop and pasture lands but mostly for fuel after the steam engine came along. Contrary to the Hollywood image for the first few decades of industrialization most steak engines ran on fire wood, not coal, lignite or peat. The same was true for the paddle wheel steam boats that plied the canal and river networks until about 1875. By then the price of firewood was becoming more expensive than coal pulled out of the ground by over worked and under paid miners with a terrible life expectancy and nothing resembling safety rules. So long as the forest was free for the cutting teams of lumberjacks did just that, clear cutting everything in sight for lumber and firewood.

You can see the transition from primary fuel wood to coal in this graph,
http://archive.unu.edu/unupress/unupboo ... 24ee0p.gif
Image

Burning coal to replace expensive fire wood, and burning Kerosene from Petroleum to replace spirit lamp fuel that was heavily taxed and whale oil that was rare and expensive for lighting were early steps, but they were only possible because the infrastructure had been developed to the point where that level of complexity was supported.

Without Canals and the Railroads that came soon after it was prohibitively expensive to move goods from point of manufacture to distant market. Canals supported new towns, and then Railroads did the same a generation later. Eventually paved expressways displaced even the Railroads for much of the transportation of goods.

It is said that if the Government builds a new expressway or licenses a new Toll Road every town and city within a 50 mile wide swath will benefit, while the towns and cities more than 50 miles away will whither and decline. Why? Because if you can drive for an hour to get onto the high speed road network your city or town can become a suburb or exurb of the nearest large city.

However, and this point is well worth stressing IMO, that is only true because when America was developing its infrastructure motor fuel was abundant and very cheap. Take away the cheap fuel and the distance you are willing to drive to get to the highway network shrinks from the 50 mile range of the 1990's to something less. How much less? We don't have a solid answer yet because prices have fluctuated too much over the last decade to give solid information.

People forget motor gasoline/kerosene/diesel was at a virtually level price from 1946-1972 when the first two phases of the expressway network were built. People had a good idea how much it would cost to drive a certain distance because prices barely fluctuated even as other goods slowly rose from inflation. Personally I drive a 16 year old car that probably still has a year or two of useful life in it baring accidents. If I had bought this exact car in 1947 and drove it until it died around 1957 my fuel costs every year would have been about the same as the year before. My car is a 2000 model year, manufactured when gasoline was around $1.80 a gallon. I have driven it since 2003 during which time gasoline has fluctuated from about $1.68 at the lower end to $4.20 at the high end. That is a 250 percent variation in price and really both the low and the high were in the first ten years the car existed so it is comparable to the 1947-57 example.

Not only is the infrastructure of our civilization falling apart, what does exist was designed for an era of stable fuel prices and predictable expenses. Neither of those predicates remain true today. Without a functional infrastructure standard of living can only go one way, downward. In the USA we went from a 1950 situation where one working adult, usually the man in two parent households, could earn enough working 35-40 hours a week to support themselves, their spouse and 5 or more children. That covered all expenses, house/apartment, car, food, medical care, a handful of home appliances, some athletic equipment for games for the family, recreational books. In 2015 almost all two adult households have two adults who work, or wish to work, outside of the home. There are often two cars with two car payments, a high mortgage or rent payment, a home filled with appliances of every shape and sort bought on credit and often zero, one or maybe two children. In 1950 if you bought anything on credit like a house or a car you paid simple interest, not the massively compounding interest you pay to the banks in 2015. Compound interest was what you had to pay loan sharks if you were desperate, not what you had to pay every lender because financial laws and regulations made it legal.

The worse the infrastructure and the higher the costs associated with day to day living the lower your standard of living becomes.
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Re: Energy, Infrastructure & Standard of Living

Unread postby ennui2 » Thu 01 Oct 2015, 07:12:26

There's actually a lot of road construction going on right now. Is it enough to offset the lack of maintenance of the last decade or so? I don't know. Also, asphalt is heavily recycled:

"asphalt is already America’s most recycled substance. More than 76 million tons of it was scraped and chopped from the nation’s roads in 2013, with 1.3 million tons of it coming from Massachusetts. But only a 10th of the total ended up in landfills. Most was reused or stockpiled for future use."

http://www.betaboston.com/news/2015/07/ ... recycling/

Maintaining the road-system shouldn't require the same amount of embodied energy that was used to create it.
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Re: Energy, Infrastructure & Standard of Living

Unread postby Subjectivist » Thu 28 Jan 2021, 22:33:22

I hope someone has a good answer to this. Where can I find a neatly gathered compact data source for the current world energy situation? For the last few years I have been using this link, http://mazamascience.com/OilExport/ but I realized a little while ago that it is all stats from the 2017 report. IOW it has not been updated in 3-4 years so the stats are becoming less and less accurate to todays situation as time goes on. I remember Pstarr posted the link to this data set way back when but as he has dropped out of the site he can't post an updated link. So does anyone have an updated link using the 2019 or 2020 BP statistical report instead of the 2017 which ends in 2016 in terms of solid data points? A lot has happened over the last half decade but without an easy to display set of graphs it is hard to show people how things are changing over time.
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Re: Energy, Infrastructure & Standard of Living

Unread postby Pops » Fri 29 Jan 2021, 12:55:45

Tanada wrote:Infrastructure improves standard of living. Cheap energy enables better infrastructure. Expensive energy causes infrastructure to fall into disrepair and as a side effect lowers standard of living. Since 1973 the infrastructure in USA has been undergoing progressive decay resulting in a stagnant or declining standard of living.


I realize this is an old thread but it is actually very timely. Skimming it I wonder at all the "reasons" given for declining infrastructure. Certainly the oil shocks of the '70s and the stagflation that followed hurt mightily.

But the reason for the extended decline seems pretty obvious to me: you get what you pay for, and increasingly, since Reagan we've been convinced we don't have to pay. We've been duped into thinking we already pay too much and some evil "other" (welfare queen) is syphoning off or wasting our hard earned taxes. So: Prop 13, Trickle-Down, Grover Norquist, welfare reform, blah, blah, trump.

Fact is our taxes are low:

Image

We spend half the discretionary budget on a for profit military...

Image

... and for no apparent reason:

Image


Blame Marxists, politicians, "modern life" or what have you, but those are all excuses for not simply paying for better infrastructure. A majority feel like their taxes are fair (duh, they're too low) and want the rich to pay more. But enough have been bombarded by the trickle-down lie since Reagan that they believe they are tax victims (along with so many other victim-hoods they claim) and they vote for representatives who vow to eliminate government. It should be no surprise that we've recently endured 4 years of the lyingest government in our history, look at the spectacular success of that one Trickle-Down lie to the people who own the government:

Image


Turns out infrastructure spending is a joke to people who want to drown the government in a bathtub—and privatize all that potential profit—who knew? But hey, it looks good to tweet about Infrastructure week! whenever you're about to get impeached. It is actually amusing that there hasn't been a post in this thread since trump promised 2 trillion in infrastructure spending. His big infrastructure project was the wall and his big infrastructure week speech had this graphic— "infrastructure" as a wag the dog distraction.

Image

Now we have the green new deal, and yesterday, Biden's plan for trillions in infrastructure spending to a) mitigate GW, b) transition to a renewables economy, c) reduce offshoring, d) provide a living wage, d) protect labor and —GAH!— various social goals.

And what is the consensus of the trickle down zombies?
—after consulting FOX— Ohhhh, Socialism!
Murdock is afraid HE'LL have to pay more so he tells the zombies their taxes will rise, and Oh Gawd! the have-nothings might catch up to the have-nots. And worst of all, the owners might shrug and piss off to Galt's Gulch.

5 years ago people on this thread were lamenting all the philosophical reasons that our built world is falling apart, then many voted for a party intent on dismantling the state. The State, which per Honest Abe in my sig, whose legitimate object is to do things citizens can't, like infrastructure

.
The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves -- in their separate, and individual capacities.
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Re: Energy, Infrastructure & Standard of Living

Unread postby GHung » Fri 29 Jan 2021, 13:57:59

Yeah, Pops, and it's not just how much is being spent but how it gets spent. There are two road projects underway in our tiny county that involve an idiotic overbuild of what is (or likely ever will be) needed. One involves a lot of property purchases to straighten and widen a highway that only needed minor upgrades. Further, a sewer line project along that road that was only completed two years ago (9 miles, cost millions) has to be completely redone. And that sewer line was run for basically one reason (wait for it): to service a small public campground. The county commissioners rejected a proposal to install state-of-the-art composting systems at a fraction of the cost. Of course, these are hard-core republicans who constantly bitch about how tax dollars get wasted. Few people question their hypocrisy, or that a couple of the commissioners owned property along that highway, which the state bought for a premium. Nothing at all new there, but that's what I think of every time some politician squawks about infrastructure. Jobs?? The contractors came from another part of the state.

The other project is even more astounding; turning what was a decent highway, again needing only minor upgrades, into a full-blown 4-lane divided highway with medians and turning lanes. Traffic was never a problem on either highway.
Meanwhile, the highway into the next county where most people here go to shop is often a nightmare. Plans to upgrade that road have been put on hold for years because a relatively small bridge needs to be replaced.

Anyway, hoping you are doing well. This covid thing hasn't changed our hermitish lifestyle much. My wife chose to retire last year, mainly due to the company she worked for not taking the pandemic seriously, and that she is fairly high risk. Good call since they've had two outbreaks, one death and several really bad cases. They are still packing employees into cubicals.

Me? I'm just a fly on the wall of the asylum who buzzes in now and then to disturb the inmates. We miss seeing the kids and grandkids as much, I need to go to a dentist but can wait, and my wife, who was scheduled for hip surgery last May, has had to put that on hold. So much of this sort of thing was predicted, back in the TOD days, maybe for different reasons, but the big picture was, and remains, the same. Pretty much a Tainteresque collapse of complex systems. Vaccines won't cure that.
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Re: Energy, Infrastructure & Standard of Living

Unread postby Pops » Fri 29 Jan 2021, 14:26:23

Hey GHung, I'd wondered about you all, glad you're hanging in.

No doubt there are boondoggles and graft and corruption and self-dealing. And the polarization ensures it continues. Pols can act with impunity because many times their only challenge comes in the primary from the extremes As long as they are the most extreme they'll be OK. After all who is going to vote for the other party... the party of the Others?

The left drifts left promising more social spending — that would be infrastructure, actually; and the right drifts right: promises deconstructing government and cutting taxes and no wasteful bridges to nowhere.

Of course they are all bridges to nowhere if they aren't on the way to MY QuickSac

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Re: Energy, Infrastructure & Standard of Living

Unread postby AdamB » Fri 19 Feb 2021, 15:26:17

US power outage leaves millions in the dark

Bloomberg) -- The energy crisis crippling power grids across the U.S. showed no sign of abating on Tuesday morning as blackouts left almost 5 million customers without electricity during unprecedented cold weather.
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