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Fossil fuels

One of the shows on my local radio station has been doing stories
and interviews recently about the problem of non renewable energy
sources running out. I know its not new news, but just a comment
that stuck in my mind - different experts give varying dates, but
the latest date given for the point at which earth’s non renewable
energy sources will be half used up is 2010.

The show has focused a lot on how unprepared we (citizens of the
earth) are for the event - how little headway we have made into
harnessing renewable energy sources. Then, last night there was a
show on the tv that looked at some of the solutions that are being
trialled in various parts of the world.

Anyway, I was wondering what thoughts orchidians have on how the
process of making jewellery and metalsmithing will be affected when
all of the oil dries up… and even before that - when prices become
prohibitive? Would the effect really be felt by jewellers? I know
that humans were working in metal before underground oil supplies
were tapped… but now we are using some very much more modern tools
and equipment - much of it would involve the use of oil in its
manufacture and transportation.

Also, I have heard that the production of aluminium creates a very
high level of pollution - does anyone know if this is true? If so,
should we maybe consider that fact when deciding if we will use it
in our jewellery? What about the mining and refining of gold and
silver - would the pollution levels created be comparable to that of
producing aluminium?

I know that the decisions made by individuals and small businesses
to try to respect the earth have very little effect without heavy
industry making any of the same decisions… but this topic is often
on my mind and I am just wondering what other people’s thoughts are.

R.R. Jackson

Hello R.R.,

Oh my! I’ve turned into an academic lecturer. My apologies. Blame
my passion on the topic. Delete now or read my rant below:

You are not alone in your concern. I maintain that the use of crude
oil for energy production is a wasteful misuse. Petroleum is a
finite resource, basic to production of many plastics,
pharmaceauticals, chemicals, and who knows what else future research
will discover.

There are other renewable sources for fuel - biomass conversion,
fermentation, natural decomposition of organics, to name a few.
Solar energy is available worldwide, if accompanied by the
appropriate technology. Some parts of the planet have other energy
sources to tap such as geothermal, wave action, and wind currents.
Actually, humans have used these planet-based energy sources since
long before petroleum wells were drilled.

If the past is any predictor, research and innovation will develop
replacements, just as whale oil was replaced by kerosene when whales
became scarce and petroleum was plentiful. Economics will drive the
speed of such conversions. Right now, it’s too easy to just keep
"drillin’ fer oil"… as a well-known Texan is promoting. Not
creative or far-thinking, but easy and simple.

A water torch is an alternative to flammable gases, as long as
electricity is available. I learned to draw glass using an alcohol
lamp and a tube through which I blew air across the flame. It gets
plenty hot! In the absence of electricity, my guess is this
technique would be the “fall-back position” for jewelers.

Pollution?? As long as coal and petroleum products are the primary
energy sources, refining will pollute in direct proportion to the
amount of fossil fuel used. Turning bauxite into aluminum is very
energy-intensive. In 1992, it accounted for 2 & 3% of all the
electricity used in the United States! (website
/ This process is
therefore very polluting, and the cost of production should reflect
the increasing cost of energy. When first produced, aluminum was
used as a precious metal because it was so expensive to refine, not
because the element was rare.

I could go on, but hate to bore you folks,

Judy in Kansas, where the frost last night bit back some buds!

Ahh… the debate begins!

Why is everyone so focused on continuing the past? The feal need is
to look at how we can change the present energy situation. So Much
is spent on worthless studies when that same money could build ten
wind generators! Why environmental impact the world when all it takes
is a different bunch of people leading? Why not geo thermal. What
about biodiesel [Georges buddies took care of that when antifreeze
prices started to go crazy]? wave energy generation? Why not make all
electric cars plug into a grid that converts their solar into energy
as they sit unused and have that return as milage for the owner?
There is an idea worth patent! think of all undriven vehicles as a
power source for the population! it would be easy to have meters
than run forward and reverse to determine on a yearly basis how much
energy they have to use for a vacation, ect! sounds win win to me!
there, now I let the cat out of the bag unprotected. I have no funds
to start this so have at it! I have sat on this idea for almost
twenty years hoping it would surface, but maybe nobody else ever
thought of it or were to oil consumed to care and shelved it with
the rest! why not convert all health gyms equipment to generate power
with each effort- Hey, some bang for the buck… OK there ya are
debate on that! More Ideas needed?


Oh dear, now you have me fired up… ;o)

A quick word - I am biased here as my PhD thesis is in power
engineering trying to improve the renewable energy production…


Yes, we are in a rather dire situation. The other thing that limited
oil supplies doesn’t mention is that crude oil is also used in the
manufacture of most pharmaceuticals. Would you prefer to run your car
or live?

Also, yes, aluminium refining is bad for the environment, but they
have actually REALLY improved their methods (at least here in
Tasmania they have). Gold refining is far worse for the environment

  • I am not sure about silver.

As for how will the fossil fuel shortages affect us? Well, the
hybrid fuel cars are very efficient and there is no reason that cars
should not be run on hydrogen and pure electricity drive shafts - of
course this would all be to no avail unless the power used to
develop the hydrogen/electricity was renewable.

Why aren’t we using more renewable energy though? Two reasons -
cost is probably the biggest factor (although it is becoming
less-so). The other reason is the not-in-my-backyard syndrome. Too
often people fight against some new power development without
thinking about the alternatives.

A perfect example of this was a lovely juxtaposition in our
newspapers. One major paper said “WIND WIN” meaning that a group of
people managed to shoot down a wind farm in what looks like fairly
bland countryside, another major paper had their headline as “WE
CAN’T GO ON LIKE THIS” (or something very similar) referring to the
way that we are not only losing our fossil fuel resources, but also
wrecking our environment at the same time.

People are often more concerned about something new, than about
something old they are familiar with (even if that old thing is
worse for them).

Given a choice of a wind farm in my backyard or a fossil fuel
station 100km away, I know that I would choose the wind farm

I’d better get off this soap box before it breaks!

If you want more about any of this stuff, feel free to
email me offlist.


 The other thing that limited oil supplies doesn't mention is that
crude oil is also used in the manufacture of most pharmaceuticals.
Would you prefer to run your car or live? 

Uhhhhh…I’d rather live without ingesting crude oil,
thanks very much. Too many people are dying from these kinds of
pharmaceuticals when botanicals are tried and true assistants in
keeping us healthy in the first place, and the drug industry is
always trying to make it more and more difficult for people to get
access and education about them.


Here Here to that:
I am living proof of natural healing, I was told to die over a year
ago and in 2000 I was told i had 5 years tops! I am feeling better
than I have in years and looking forward to many long distance
motorcycle rides on the harley chopper I am building! My life story
will eventually be engraved in various places and it will go to my
son! I plan on taking several years to complete so got lots ta live



Without attempting to start another horrid row, there was a time not
long ago that the Chemotherapy drug Taxol came from the bark of the
Pacific Yew. The tree died in the process. Fortunately some
biochemist discovered how to synthesize it from hydrocarbons; now
the yews can live and so can the people. There is nothing
inherently wrong with petrochemicals. There is nothing inherently
wrong with any technology, so long as we precede with mindfulness
and mercy.

Columbus, OH