Math. The scary kind, not the fuzzy kind

I performed a little rudimentary math last week. A little because even a little pushes my limit for math, these days. And rudimentary for the same reason. The outcome was staggering: We’re using oil at the rate of 5,500 cubic feet per second (cfs).


As any river-runner knows, that’s quite a bit of flow.
Thirteen times during the 80 years of record, the perennial river near the mud hut has exceeded 5,500 cfs. It’s a large, well-known river. Last week, several days of abundant rain had it running at about 3,000 cfs, which is more than enough for an exciting ride via canoe, kayak, or rubber raft. And it’s about half the current flow of oil.
Sorry for the redundancy, but that’s simply staggering.
Here’s another shot of perspective: We burn a cubic mile of crude oil every year. The Empire State Building, the world’s ninth-tallest building, towers above New York at 1,250 feet. The world’s tallest building, Taipei 101, is 1,667 feet from ground to tip. Put those buildings together, end to end, and you have one side of a cube. Do it again, and you have the second side. Once more, but this time straight up, and you have one big cube. Filling that cube with oil takes nearly 200 billion gallons … which is about one-sixth the size of the cube of oil we’re burning every year.
Staggered yet? Or is it just me?
I’m starting to understand the many peak-oil deniers out there. It’s tough to wrap our hummingbird-sized intellects around these pterodactyl-sized numbers. Our ability to power down with all the peace and tranquility of Buddhist monks seems a little far-fetched (we are, as pointed out by Nietzsche, “all too human”). It’s easier to deny the impending collapse of empire than to deal with facts. On the other hand, as Matt Savinar points out, you’d better “Deal With Reality or Reality Will Deal With You.”
Actually, reality will deal with you either way. Soon enough, we’ll be using less oil. A lot less, I’d guess, and sooner than most people think.
Many things could accelerate the fall of American empire. Leaders at all levels of government are working on most of them. They are joined by leaders of corporations and most non-profit organizations, stuffed full of themselves and “knowledge” about leadership. They generate bullshit at about 3,000 cfs. That’s a lot, but it’s not keeping up with the lifeblood of empire.

Comments 2

  • I’m being picky, but wouldn’t that be four Empire State buildings laid end to end and stacked similarly? Anyway, the picture gets even worse if you visualize that…as for the new $100 a barrel price, it appears that some of that comes from pressures other than only the simple fall of available resource. It is a complex issue, the price, driven by multiple pressures and speculation. Nonetheless, frightening.