Reality Blind - Vol. 1

difficult and unpleasant task? Even at minimum wage of $8 per hour it would cost you over $6,000 and a month of time (and probably several friendships). This is a helpful way to understand the condensed, liquid, fossil carbon you put in your gasoline tank for $50 is mighty special. This “specialness” has transformed the way we inhabit our world. There are only 95,000 route miles of railway tracks in the USA (down from 380,000 miles in 1920), but 4,000,000+ miles of roads (mostly made of asphalt, which comes from….oil)., So 80% of communities in the US are laid out in fractal- like high-density grids, totally dependent on oil-powered trucks to keep goods and components moving to where they are used. 117 This doesn’t even c onsider oil as a concentrated power source which may be tapped at a high-enough rate to do things otherwise impossible. For instance, how many friends would it take to push a jetliner to cruising altitude? Those energy helpers are the next best thing to legendary genies, and when flying in such a jetliner, you’re using energy more rapidly in that single vehicle on one trip than the energy that was originally sequestered by the entire planet in an entire day! This concentrated energy storage is incredible in its density and utility. We can now build machines that do things that are literally impossible to do with human or animal labor. We don’t even have to consider that oxygen is the necessary additional substance for combustion. Since we travel in an oxygen-rich atmosphere, we, in effect, only take half the fuel along, grabbing oxygen en route, everywhere. Oil has been around for a while and seems old- fashioned, but don’t be fooled: science has not come up with anything nearly as effective, as storable, as compact, as easily manipulated by small mechanisms, or with better energy quality than refined crude oil. We price it based on the cost to extract it, rather than its actual value. In so doing, we vastly trivialize its amazing utility - and its long-term scarcity. If instead of stumbling upon it seeping out of the ground 150 years ago, we had to synthesize it ourselves, it would be an extremely high-priced substance. TaaL: If you imagine an energy-carrier which may be stored without degradation for 100 million years, and then used in a twelve-pound hand- carried chain- saw to give a single human the abilities of Paul Bunyan, you’re talking about superhero juice. If you compare it to any “alternate” source of stored energy, you’re gonna be looking at a very lon g extension cord powering a heavier chain saw with a fraction of the power, made of far rarer elements, even assuming you can make solar panels without using oil, which is a very big “if.” And you’re using up the oil very quickly: perhaps half of what your species will ever use has already burned, most of it since


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