Reading The Long Emergency left me completely freaked out about the world’s energy situation. Kunstler predicts a catastrophic collapse of all the world’s social, economic, and political systems as the it moves past the current peak oil production into a period of continuing decline and uncontrollably rising costs.
While I agree with Kunstler’s fundamental premise — we’re all going to have to learn to live with less in the very near future as oil prices begin rising — today’s Treehuger post on switchgrass gives me some hope that it might be a softer landing than Kunstler predicts:
Here are the highlights: it grows eight or nine feet tall, native to the US. Generally, it’s very hearty and will grow in nearly any climatic variation, from the Gulf Coast into Canada. As a crop, it has a very high yield per acre (five to tens tons) with little use of pesticides, and a low production cost, which are two keys for economical production of alternative fuels. Switch grass can net up to 100 gallons of ethanol per ton, which is more efficient than corn, it’s better-known counterpart, and switch grass also uses the whole plant for making fuel, whereas corn uses just the grain. Sounds almost too good to be true, but we like what we’re hearing so far.
In the comments for the Treehugger post, Odograph points to the Dell-Point pellet stove, which can cleanly burn wood pellets, corn or wheat to heat a home for less than half the price of natural gas. Combined with the Alberta oil sands and a possible 9000 megawatt build-out of Ontario’s nuclear power capabilities, the future doesn’t seem nearly as dismal as I was dreading.