The Wheel Moves On
When we speak of mobility, the concepts of energy whether that of thermodynamics, combustion, mechanical, rotating and electrical topics will be addressed. We hear of “new energy”, often and perhaps exhaustingly so. Energy is by modern definition “Capacity for performing work.” In earlier times this concept was addressed more humbly. Energy was spoken of in a more delicate manner. Although the term monad was already in use by Greek philosophers, meaning “the smallest units of matter,” or in other contexts meaning “God” or “first being,” it’s perhaps best known as a concept of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), a German scientist and philosopher.
Leibniz stated that the universe is made up of monads, which are basic, individual, and immaterial substances, lacking spatial extension, and with their own inherent Life Force. This is a substantial change in the definition of “energy” over several hundred years, but even in the 19th century, if we look at the civilization, it is hard to dismiss this mindset. Perhaps there is more to “energy” than what we imagine. If previous civilizations were constructing and delivering energy, is it not hubris to imagine it must have been inferior to what we have today? Where in modern time do we see such beauty of architecture as this:
If, then the previous definition of energy was more humble, displayed more reverence, who am I to question a civilization which had that definition of “energy” and produced beauty like the above structure? Consider this as we discuss “energy” more in depth.
Yes, I am asking the question and we will come back to this, but for now lets move forward toward the interdependence of energy and sustenance, yes food. As a reminder, our modern flourishment has been relatively rapid. This flourishment of people, of things and of abundance of energy, one may may argue, a result of demographic and knowledge of an exponential increase. The changes in quality of soil amendments happened slowly then suddenly. Fertilizers are an efficiency mechanism, they increase a plant’s ability to use and store energy. Guano and Caliche we are told were the primary sources of fertilizer until the late 1800s.
Lets Talk About Food and . . . Guano
What is “guano”? This substance refers to the natural mineral deposits consisting of excrements, eggshells and carcasses of dead seabirds found in almost rainless, hot-dry climatic regions and the corresponding fertilizers created from them. Guanos are classified according to age, genesis, geographical origin and chemical composition. Main types are nitrogen-and phosphate Guanos. Phosphate Guanos require a calcareous subsoil for the development, while nitrogen Guanos are formed only under the special climatic conditions of the subtropical-edge tropical high pressure belt with coastal deserts. The most significant nitrogen Guano is the Peru-Guano, which has been used over 2000 years as agricultural fertilizer in Peru. In Europe the application of Guano as fertilizer emerged in the 1840 as “Guano boom” and lasted until the early twentieth century when Guano was replaced by industrial manufactured fertilizers. Guano was one of the most highly sought substances in the world for fertilizer. Guano is a store of energy.
Caliche was utilized In the Atacama desert of Chile, the largest natural reservoir of fixed nitrogen exists. The material is called Caliche, rich in sodium nitrate. By the 1800s this was one of the greatest money making areas of the world. Today, the vast factories and process systems stand dormant and the towns like Humberstone, are ghost towns.
Fritz Haber & Carl Bosch; The Haber-Bosch Process
The significant process responsible for the increase of population is the Haber-Bosch process. In 1999 in the journal Nature, author and scientist Vaclav Smil writes:
What is the most important invention of the twentieth century? Aeroplanes, nuclear energy, space flight, television and computers will be the most common answers. Yet none of these can match the synthesis of ammonia from its elements. The world might be better off without Microsoft and CNN, and neither nuclear reactors nor space shuttles are critical to human well-being. But the world’s population could not have grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to today’s six billion without the Haber–Bosch process.
In 1909 Fritz Haber became, we are told, the first person to synthesize ammonia. The process in quite simple; n the Haber process, “the atmospheric nitrogen (N2) is converted to ammonia (NH3) by reacting it with hydrogen (H2)”. Here a metal catalyst is used and high temperatures and pressures are maintained.
The “feed stock” or raw materials for the process are
- Air, which supplies the nitrogen.
- Natural gas and water supply the hydrogen and the energy needed to heat the reactants.
- Iron is the catalyst and does not get used up
Fritz Haber is also known for his other inventions, utilized in chemical warfare. I will not digress into these topics, but suffice it to say that Fritz Haber was prolific in the number of patents ascribed to him.
Carl earned a Doctorate in Organic Chemistry at The University of Leipzig in 1898. Carl’s uncle Robert invented the spark plug and the company in existence today, Bosch. In 1908 Carl met Fritz Haber and began to work out the designs for creating the pressure vessels to industrialize Fritz Haber’s work on a massive scale. In modern times many like to believe that refining is very new, beginning a few decades before the second World War. The fact is that the very first refinery, according to our records, is the Rafov Refinery in Ploiesti, Romania. So contrary to the what many believe, Carl Bosch had decades of metallurgical advancements to build on.
Carl Bosch and BASF
BASF hired Carl Bosch in 1899. Then from 1909 until 1913 he transformed Fritz Haber’s tabletop demonstration of a method to fix nitrogen using high-pressure chemistry through the Haber–Bosch process to produce synthetic nitrate, a process that has countless industrial applications for making a near-infinite variety of industrial compounds, consumer goods, and commercial products. His primary contribution was to expand the scale of the process, enabling the industrial production of vast quantities of synthetic nitrate. To do this, he had to construct a plant and equipment that would function effectively under high gas pressures and high temperatures.
There were many more obstacles as well, such as designing large compressors and safe high-pressure furnaces. A means was needed to provide pure hydrogen gas in quantity as the feedstock. Also, cheap and safe means had to be developed to clean and process the product ammonia. The first full-scale Haber–Bosch plant was erected in Oppau, Germany, now part of Ludwigshafen. With the process complete he was able to synthesize large amounts of ammonia, which was available for the industrial and agricultural fields. In fact, this production has increased the agricultural yields throughout the world.
It has been 171 years since J.C. Nesbit’s lectures on guano. There have been a number of changes, but one thing has not changed. People require a caloric intake in order to survive. Since that time we have seen population increases the world over. In 1850 the world population was estimated (not sure exactly the method) to be 1.2 Billion. By 1950 the world population was 2.5 Billion , by 1970 3.5 Billion, by 1990 5.3 Billion and in 2022 the estimated world population is 7.8 Billion.
In December 1974 The National Security Study Memorandum 200 was published and classified in a formal memorandum to the government of The United States of America. The study mentions a number of manners in which population may be reduced.
What are the stakes? We do not know whether technological developments will make it possible to feed over 8 much less 12 billion people in the 21st century. We cannot be entirely certain that climatic changes in the coming decade will not create great difficulties in feeding a growing population, especially people in the LDCs who live under increasingly marginal and more vulnerable conditions. There exists at least the possibility that present developments point toward Malthusian conditions for many regions of the world.
Lets talk about Energy 2002 — 2022
The ‘End of Oil’ Meme
In October 2003, the Economist published the above issue. Following the 2003 article, a series of articles would be written essentially echoing the Economist meme. I am going to list (not exhaustingly, I’ll be kind) a number of articles mentioning this “end of oil” mind virus, which makes no sense in 2022 because we know that the E&P finds in the past 10 years have been tremendous to say the least. North Africa, the Gulf of Mexico, The Permian basin, Marcellus basin, the Bakken in North Dakota and so much more. There is plenty of energy, so what the heck is The Economist talking about?
Interesting that in 2002, a white paper outlining many of the shocking conclusions of The Economist were delivered at a conference, the IECEC ’02. 2002 37th Intersociety conference:
A key focus is to phase-out and ultimately terminate our reliance on petroleum supplied from OPEC middle Eastern sources, to reduce the political and military price American citizens now pay for continuing our dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf. An anamnesis time-series study of Western fuel energy sources shows a transition about every 50 years to the next generation fuel source. Nuclear fusion will complete this 50 year technology maturation cycle by the first quarter of the 21st Century. With a shift to nuclear fusion will come unlimited electrical energy, which offers the possibility of unlimited hydrogen and oxygen from electrolysis of water.
Recall that as early as 1989, the prolific Stan Meyer, had already invented this technology. Mr. Meyer was the inventor of the water-powered vehicle we brought forth in article 2 of this series, “On Mobility”. Stan Meyer had been granted so many patents that the US patent office decided to put him on a fast-track programme, reducing the scrutiny on his applications to save office resources. I guess the multi-national funded IECEC had never heard of this.
In 2008 The Economist needed to underscore the article and noted:
“THE Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.” This intriguing prediction is often heard in energy circles these days. If greens were the only people to be expressing such thoughts, the notion might be dismissed as Utopian. However, the quotation is from Sheikh Zaki Yamani, a Saudi Arabian who served as his country’s oil minister three decades ago.
Also in 2008 we have articles like The End of Easy Oil: Estimating Average Production Costs for Oil Fields around the World. In the article Christine Jojarth, Ph.D wrote:
The climate change related increase in more extreme weather
events and related natural disasters will further rise the floor of structurally determined production costs . . .
Note that Jojarth is a London School of Economics graduate, lecturer at Stanford in California and much of her work is almost a carbon copy of World Economic Talking points, interesting.
In 2015 Thompson-Reuters columnist Anatole Kaletsky in the midst of a temporary downturn in shale oil wrote:
Now that oil prices have settled into a long-term range of $30–50 per barrel (as described here a year ago), energy users everywhere are enjoying an annual income boost worth more than $2 trillion. The net result will almost certainly accelerate global growth, because the beneficiaries of this enormous income redistribution are mostly lower- and middle-income households that spend all they earn.
In October 2019, Rob Carlson a previous Microsoft connected professor at Paul Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, wrote:
The end of petroleum is in sight. The reason is simple: the black goo that powered and built the 20th century is now losing economically to other technologies. Petroleum is facing competition at both ends of the barrel, from low value, high volume commodities such as fuel, up through high value, low volume chemicals. Electric vehicles and renewable energy will be the most visible threats to commodity transportation fuel demand in the short term, gradually outcompeting petroleum via both energy efficiency and capital efficiency. Biotechnology will then deliver the coup de grace, first by displacing high value petrochemicals with products that have lower energy and carbon costs, and then by delivering new carbon negative biochemicals and biomaterials that cannot be manufactured easily or economically, if at all, from petrochemical feedstocks.
By 2014 the writing was on the wall, the USA was closing in on Saudi Arabia, to become FIRST in OIL:
The development of shale production in the US has reduced the country’s traditional reliance on energy imports from Africa, leaving countries such as Angola, Algeria, and Nigeria (as well as numerous smaller producers) exposed to damaging trade shocks. A recent report by a UK think-tank, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), on the impact of fracking on developing countries calculates that the total estimated effect of a reduction in US oil imports from African countries amounts to US$32bn since 2007 — including US$14bn in Nigeria, US$6bn in Angola and US$5bn in Algeria. The report goes on to show that exports to the US from those three countries have dropped to their lowest levels in decades, declining by 41% in 2012, mainly on the impact of shale oil production.
All of this “End of Oil” was absolute bollocks, and by 2019 the United States was a net exporter of oil. So what happened? Was it “the pandemic”, was this downturn in stored energy production in the form of gasoline, diesel and natural gas just coincidental, was it planned? As industrial workers, we can observe and report what is going on. The political aims of world powers are another thing altogether. We can say one thing, this is total bollocks.
Planned Destruction or Market Economics
How does the United States of America go from a net exporter of oil to a supply bottleneck and complete mess in such a short time? In April of 2020 during “the pandemic” the commodity price of oil went negative. Yes essentially you would be PAID to take delivery of oil, not PAY for oil.
So we have two elements above.
- Humanity requires food for survival and uses fertilizer to exponentially increase crop yields to support the exponential growth.
- Fuel is required to supply this process, mainly in the form of natural gas. Oil and coal are also used to supply the raw materials included in the refining process which contributes to fertilizer production.
The above are complimentary and work in synthesis to maintain a balance of peace, equilibrium and relative tranquility for nations which have the ability to access the feed stock for the production of fertilizer.
Without (2) fuel energy in the form of natural gas and oil the (1) fertilizer cannot be produced in adequate supply to maintain the status quo, or general equilibrium.
Recall the NSSM 200 paper, mentioned at the beginning of this article. It was co-authored by Henry Kissinger.
So several observations may be made regarding the above information and it is not the intent to guide anyone to these observations. One may encourage others to continue to “observe and report” as we say in the Quality Assurance industry. We “do not direct work”, only provide the information. If you, your family, friends and acquaintances have lost confidence in institutions, authority figures and past ‘idols’ . . . welcome to the club. Now it is time to gather the tools for survival, lets take a look at those components.
Destroy and Rebuild . . . or Prepare
We are not the ‘Kissingers’ of the world. As George Carlin said:
Humor is truly a tool for mental survival, this axiom has real standing power in 2022 as we are up to our necks in lies. I have my own saying,
Politics is like bad weather, when it turns to shit the best thing you can do is get out of the way, build shelter.
The best way to find shelter is to build shelter. What do I mean by ‘shelter’? What is meant is a “risk off”, a manner in which to de-risk from the tail risk of total destruction. In order to de-risk we’ll need to know the risks. In order to know the risks, we may require ‘scouts’ or a manner in which to gather information. Fortunately in 2022, all of us have this ability and if we use it we are not caught unaware.
There are many ways to become anti-fragile as Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes in his work and you don’t have to be an incredible power lifter and mathematics professor at an Ivy League University . . . but it helps.
- Food — if you do not have access to caloric intake the following will happen, there is no avoiding it. Without food, none of the following may be maintained.
2. Skills — no one can take these from you. Period. Full Stop.
3. Modes of Production (a.k.a. tools) — without these you are dependent on others, securing tools is a way toward independence
4. Mobility — a manner of expediting travel, taking less time and increasing productivity.
5. Self Defense — a means of protecting items 1 thru 4
6. Family & Friends — people like you able to perform the above(food, skills, tools, mobility and self defense), who are of the same mindset toward survival.
7. Faith — essential tool of survival according to those who have endured the very worst.
As I have stated, some of the events coming our way are out of control. The ones that are within our control will help us focus on “what can I do”, build confidence and pave the way toward freedom. Mobility is limited when we are controlled physically or mentally, when resources are scarce, when war is ongoing, when crime is rampant, when fear within the population is prevalent and freedoms are subrogated to Government. We have to work with the reality around us and build operational security. Lets discuss this further and create resiliency.