A bowel-loosening long-term geopolitical weather report


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If ‘long term’ means 500+ years, sure, but don’t kid yourself: it’s going to take a while for everything to be converted in such a way that alternative fuels can be used for everything. Coal is dirty enough in so many ways that phasing it out in power stations, etc. has been relatively easy – both physically and politically – and even that isn’t anywhere near complete.


Coal can also be converted to liquid fuels with relative ease. Germans did it during WW2 in fairly large scale.


Plus, the only way to amke steel still requires coal.


relative is the keyword here - Fischer-Tropsch is energy-intensive


Not according to, for example, an article in Scientific American magazine.


Still not that much, and the energy comes from the coal itself.


I’m curious — if the author is right and we’re in for something like a “replay of the 1930s,” what are your plans? Are you going to shake your fist at it, or quietly seclude yourself (and your family) in some remote homestead? We see a lot of material on here suggesting that things are about to take a scary turn, but other than the usual clicktivist stuff, we don’t really discuss how it’s best to go about living in an increasingly closed, paranoid society.


Invest in water.


compared to your scream
the human dream
Doesn’t mean shit to a tree

“Eskimo Blue Day,” Jefferson Airplane


It seems to me that glorious isolationism is dead as a strategy. We’re living in a prisoner’s dilemma situation, and the idea that we will be better off alone only benefits the powerful. This means we have to support our neighbours around us as well as our “neighbours” in other countries. It may seem like it damages our own chances, but I don’t think any of us has much of a future otherwise.


I’m amazed that you think this. We’ve had electric arc furnaces in the UK for decades, and they had been some of the most productive furnaces in the world (back when we had a steel industry).


These are for converting raw iron and scrap steel. For reducing iron from the ore, carbon in the form of coal is still usually needed.

The electrolytic method applied to iron is new to me. Interesting one.


Whoa! Why is it so HOT?!!?! And what am I doing in this handbasket?


As someone who grew up in the Appalachian Coal Regions and has seen “Coal Gassification” plants come and go, I beg to differ.


And the people I work with, who all have graduate degrees and most of whom probably consider themselves “liberal,” will continue to make no effort to recycle. And Americans will continue to buy huge vehicles and vote for idiots. And Conservatives will never read articles like this since they are not in their bubble.


Ah, yes - that’s mainly true. What about the Swedish Electric Blast furnace? I don’t know how that works. The Flodin process still needs coal for smelting although it uses an arc furnace to provide the energy - more economical with the coal used? I dunno.


To get metal from its oxide you need to reduce it. For that you need either electrolysis (the molten salt electrolysis systems) or a chemical reduction agent (most commonly carbon/coal, with some metals it could be aluminium, magnesium or calcium, for high purity metals it can be hydrogen, and there are other options).

Coal, or often coke, is cheap, so it is often the first choice.


Outer space is a reducing atmosphere. Maybe we could just do it up there?


Outer space is vacuum. Wouldn’t do much good, except driving out various volatiles out of the melt (which is good, and which is why vacuum-remelted metals are purer).

You still have to add electrons to the oxidized atoms of metals. Doesn’t matter if they come from elemental carbon, another elemental metal, hydrogen, cathode immersed in molten salt, or whatever, you have to add them.

In some cases you could have situations when the oxide can disproportionate at high temperature to metal and oxygen, but I can’t remember any oxide where this would really work and the metal was not enough volatile so the oxygen removal in vacuum would drive the reaction.

You also always have to add the energy that makes the difference between the metal and its oxide.