Monday, 29 November 2010

Oooops! Yet another substitute: this time Plastics.

So according to the main reason we are about to dieoff is that global oil production is about to go into a precipitous and imminent decline and that since there are NO viable substitutes and every single product made out of oil is necessary to our very existence we are therefore doomed to a massive population crash.

I have diligently debunked this theory by means of pointing out that not only do we have substitutes but also that some of the products currently made by oil are not even necessary.

Here's yet another one:
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts have just come up with a zeolite catalyst that can be produced cost effectively leading to a process to create plastic feedstocks (such as bezene, toluene, xylene and olefins) from renewable biomass which is on par economically with current production methods using petroleum based feedstocks.

The new catalyst is an add-on drop-in piece of technology which can be used with no change in current infrastructure.

What's interesting about this is that it increases the net worth of existing cropland since currently low-value waste products can now be converted into high value chemical feedstock with an end-value higher even than fuel.

Given that we use about a million barrels a day in North America for chemical feedstocks this is great news.


SG said...

Or how about turning waste plastic back into oil?

DB said...


Thanks for the comment.

While I suspect that your idea can easily be implemented, again it comes down to the value of the end-product, which is something the doomers forget continually in their quest to try to debunk economics.

In the case where oil prices zoom to the moon I would have no doubt that this process could and would be used to convert waste plastics to oil.

SG said...

Production Volts roll off the assembly line:

Weren't we suppose to run out of oil before any electric cars could be built? It takes oil to build cars right?

Anonymous said...

Plastics were unnecessary to begin with, because we can use silicones instead.

Silicones are plastic-like substances made out of silicon and oxygen. Silicones can be hard or soft, firm or rubbery, transparent or opaque, conductive or non-conductive, and so on.

The element silicon is directly below carbon on the periodic table and so has some of the same properties. It can be combined into large molecules of almost any complexity, which have almost any attributes you would wish. Many, many different kinds of substances can be made out of silicon, just like carbon.

Unlike carbon, however, silicon and oxygen are extremely plentiful. Silicon and oxygen together form silicate rocks, which constitute about 75% of the Earth's crust by weight. We could cover the entire earth in one mile thick of pure plasticky silicones and not run out of basic materials. Unlike carbon, silicones are not burnt and are not being "used up" at any rate.

The curst of the earth is mostly made up of silicate rocks, aluminum, iron, and calcium (used for cement). As a result, we have nearly limitless quantities of computer chips, glass, steel, fiber optics, concrete, and plastic-like substances. Out of those things we could build everything necessary for civilization. We could build skyscrapers, cars, airplanes, computers, power plants, factories, electrical cables, and everything else, in almost unlimited amounts.

We will never, ever run out of materials with which to build things. We'd run out of farmland a billion years before we'd run out of materials.

When it comes to building materials, this planet really is a cornucopia.

DB said...


Yup. Building a volt *allegedly* uses more energy than it saves through use of electricity in it's functional lifetime.

If you believe the critics that is.
Fortunately the critics tend to be hippies, English teachers and druids among other things. So I don't really rate their ability to do math or even look for technological solutions.

Really good news about the volts. Also that almost every single car manufacturer has an electric vehicle or plug-in-hybrid on the drawing board, I think that though things will continue to be rough here in North America (due to fiscal problems) for the next decade, I suspect that globally the transition will be well underway. The Chinese for example, will be *forced* to go unconventional because their economy will continue to boom.