DKos: Is Peak Oil A Myth ?  

Posted by Big Gav

Lawnorder at DailyKos has a diary up examining the question "is peak oil a myth" ? The author decides it isn't, and gives a new (to me) example of post oil crash agricultural failure - North Korea.

Agriculture in DPRK requires approximately 700,000 tons of fertilizer per year. North Korea used to manufacture 80 to 90% of its own fertilizer... Since [the Soviet Union stopped giving them Oil in 1995] DPRK has had difficulty producing even 100,000 tons per year... The DPRK fertilizer industry relies on coal as both an energy source and a feedstock. They require 1.5 to 2.0 million tons of coal per year to produce 700,000 tons of fertilizer. To obtain this coal, the fertilizer industry must compete with the steel industry, electricity generation, home heating and cooking needs, and a host of other consumers. Flooded mine shafts and broken down mining equipment have severely cut the coal supply. Likewise, delivery of this coal has been curtailed by the breakdown of railway infrastructure. Furthermore, transporting 2 million tons of coal by rail requires 5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity while electricity supply is diminished because of lack of coal, silting of dams and infrastructure failure. So once again, we have another vicious positive feedback loop. Finally, infrastructure failure limits the ability to ship the fertilizer--1.5 to 2.5 million tons in bulk--from factories to farms... The result of this systemic failure is that agriculture in DPRK is operating with only 20 to 30% of the normal soil nutrient inputs... [furthermore, ] North Koreans turned to burning biomass, thus impacting their remaining forests. Deforestation led, in turn, to more flooding and increasing levels of soil erosion. Likewise, soils were depleted as plant matter was burned for heat, rather than being mulched and composted.. Agriculture has been further impacted by the limited availability of diesel fuel... The result is an 80% reduction in the use of farm equipment... Observers in 1998 reported seeing tractors and other farm equipment lying unused and unusable while farmers struggled to work their fields by hand. The observers also reported seeing piles of harvested grain left on the fields for weeks, leading to post-harvest crop losses.

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I find it interesting how prominent coal figures in the post peak scenario. The upside to peak oil seemed to be that, at least, we'd be dumping less carbons into the air. But actually we'll be dumping more as there's still a fair amount of coal around and there's just not enough natural gas to go exclusively down that route. Who is going to impose environmental regulations at coal mines in places like Indonesia? Nobody. Venus here we come...

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