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Old 21-05-2008, 09:20 AM
TMM TMM is offline
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Default Singapore Government's (MINDEF) Policies To Tackle Peak Oil

Full blog post: http://sgentropy.blogspot.com/2008/0...-policies.html

Last year, I emailed several ministers and my MPs for answers to my peak oil queries. None of them responded except the Minister of Defence, Teo Chee Hean - hats off to him.

Read Mindef's response below and gauge for yourself - Is Singapore prepared for peak oil? Judging from this letter alone, these plans are best described as "symptomatic treatments".

In medicine, a symptomatic treatment is therapy that eases the symptoms of a disease without addressing its etiology or root cause. Likewise, the Singapore government's plans to tackle energy-related threats to our economic growth and national security are just like symptomatic treatments which will only provide temporary relief. Just as you cannot cure a cancer patient with painkillers alone, so are we unable to solve our energy/ecological problems by merely turning to alternative energies.

Quote:
Herman Daly: Environmental degradation is an iatrogenic disease induced by the economic physicians who attempt to treat the basic sickness of unlimited wants by prescribing unlimited production. We do not cure a treatment-induced disease by increasing the treatment dosage! Yet members of the hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-you school, who reason that it is impossible to have too much of a good thing, can hardly cope with such subtleties. If an overdose of medicine is making us sick, we need an emetic, not more of the medicine. Physician, heal thyself.
Here are some of the issues and questions that I have with regard to Mindef's letter:

1. Population levels and growth were not addressed: we can conserve and improve our energy efficiency per-capita, but if population levels are not kept in check, overall energy consumption will still increase.

2. Food supplies were not addressed: peak oil entails peak food production in industrial agriculture. Diversifying our food sources is not a satisfactory solution since they are probably highly dependent on fossil fuels for their efficiency and output. Should we not consider devising a plan to carry out intensive urban agriculture as the Cubans have done? How did the Cubans manage it? Here's an excerpt from Richard Heinberg's latest book, Peak Everything (pp. 56-57):

Quote:
In the early 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost its source of cheap oil. Its industrialized agricultural system, which was heavily fuel-dependent, immediately faltered. Very quickly, Cuban leaders abandoned the Soviet industrial model of production, changing from a fuel- and petrochemical- intensive farming method to a more localized, labor-intensive. organic mode of production.

How they did this is itself an interesting story. Eco-agronomists at Cuban universities had already been advocating a transition somewhat along these lines. However, they were making little or no headway. When the crisis hit, they were given free rein to, in effect, redesign the entire Cuban food system. Had these academics not had a plan waiting in the wings, the nation's fate might have been sealed.

...Cuban farmers began breeding oxen for animal traction. The Cuban people adopted a largely vegetarian diet...Urban gardens (including rooftop gardens) were encourage, and today they produce 50 to 80 percent of vegetables consumed in cities.

Early on, it was realized that more farmers were needed, and that this would require education. All of the nation's colleges and universities quickly added courses on agronomy. At the same time, wages for farmers were raised to be at parity with those for engineers and doctors...

The result was survival. The average Cuban lost 20 pounds of body weight, but in the long run the overall health of the nation's people actually improved. Today, Cuba has a stable, slowly growing economy. There are few if any luxuries, but everyone has enough to eat. Having seen the benefit of smaller-scale organic production, Cuba's leaders have decided that even if they find another source of cheap oil, they will maintain a commitment to their new, decentralized, low-energy methods.
3. Our flawed limitless economic growth model: economic growth is the increase in the production and consumption of goods and services over a certain period. How can we reconcile limitless economic growth with finite natural resources? And without economic growth, there would be large scale financial instability because of our fractional reserve banking system.

4. Peak natural gas: crude oil peaks and so does natural gas. Research from theoildrum and hubbertpeak say that conventional natural gas would peak by 2020 - a mere 8 years after Singapore completes its LNG facilities in 2012; CNG and LNG are not a panacea to our energy woes. Is the government not aware of peak natural gas?

5. Biofuels and solar: They cannot equal crude oil in terms of versatility, usefulness and energy density. There are about 860,000 vehicles here in Singapore and 600 million worldwide. Can we expect to convert even a quarter of these vehicles to alternative fuels by 2030? (the year Energy Watch Group expects global oil production to drop by half to 39M/D).

The development of alternative energies is contingent on a fossil fuel economy and infrastructure. It's a vicious cycle: we need alternative energies to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, but we can't accomplish it unless we have fossil fuels around to develop such technologies.

Quote:
12 April 2007

From: MINDEF SINGAPORE

To: Dear TM

PEAK OIL AND IMPLICATIONS FOR MINDEF

1 . I refer to your feedback addressed to the Minister for Defence.

2. Energy security is a global concern, and more so for countries like Singapore which do not have domestic oil sources. We would like to assure you and other members of the public that the government is keeping a close watch on energy developments such as peak oil projections and is committed to develop robust solutions for the present and future energy needs of Singapore.

3. The Government has put in place policies to safeguard security of our energy supplies and at the same time ensure competitiveness of our electricity costs. Due to the relatively higher efficiency of combined cycle gas turbines, more than 80% of our electricity today is generated using natural gas. To ensure continuity of our electricity supplies, generation companies are required to put in place measures to deal with system contingencies, such as the requirement for these companies to hold 90 days worth of fuel reserves. If natural gas supply is disrupted, our gas turbines can switch to diesel that is stockpiled. MINDEF also ensures adequate fuel stockpiles for national defence needs.

4. The system would be further strengthened with the introduction of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import over time. LNG will also ensure that Singapore has security of supply through source diversification and enable the creation and introduction of competition in gas in the longer term.

5. Concurrently, Singapore is also exploring clean energy. EDB has achieved early success in promoting this sector including attracting solar photo voltaic and bio*fuel players to set up in Singapore. From the perspective of meeting Singapore's energy needs today, renewable energy sources presently have cost and technology limitations. Nonetheless, the Government is keeping a close watch and has committed S$170 million in research funds to develop a clean energy industry, with solar energy as a key area of research.

6. Besides developing new energy sources, it is also important that good energy conservation practices are adopted to reduce our consumption of conventional energy. The National Environment Agency has launched an Energy Efficiency Improvement Assistance Scheme (EASE), which companies can tap on to engage expert consultants to audit their energy consumption and recommend measures to save energy. For households, consumers can also turn to devices such as efficient electrical appliances, in order to use energy efficiently. NEA administers an energy labelling programme to help consumers select efficient air conditioners and refrigerators.

7. We thank you for your feedback.

Yours sincerely

MS LU KAH MIN
for PERMANENT SECRETARY
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
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  #2  
Old 21-05-2008, 09:47 AM
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funGoldSilver funGoldSilver is offline
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I think we will have Electric car in future.
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Old 21-05-2008, 09:55 AM
Pishon Pishon is offline
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We need to go into alternative energy sources such as solar, gas etc. and food production now, not in the future, but have to start developing the infrastructure, knowledge, expertise in these fields now.

Even if solar energy could provide up to 40% of our energy consumption, it will be very good liao, at least its a start.
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Old 21-05-2008, 04:32 PM
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aurictaurus aurictaurus is offline
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Hi TMM,

I've been thinking about this issue for a while now. One reason that I''m concerned about the future is the usual initial reactions to resource constraints always seems to revolve around substitution and improved efficiency - none of which address the counter-intuitive reality of Jevons Paradox. Every response is designed to maintain 'growth' and it's the growth that's killing us. Where that is not true, when people have devised a system of low-energy lifestyle, the resources that they freed up are available to high-energy users who just consume them.

Your ideas about city farming and the conversion of parks to market gardening either by the state, or by a system of allotments could undoubtedly provide a significant proportion of the daily food needs of Singapore. Fresh water Aquaculture and Aquaponics could also be introduced to exploit the reservoirs. Some variation of the Thailand small mixed farm system would probably scale if the inputs were managed on a permaculture model.

Even so, Singapore cannot succeed alone. All the mitigations in the world will eventually fail when confronted with exponential population growth. A Singapore-centric, siege economy model would simply be overwhelmed one day when starving billions came knocking on the door.

Permaculture will be one element of sustainable lifestyle, but we will need permatrade, permapopulation, permabiz models to truly have a future worth looking forward to. I know every initiative has to start 'somewhere', but we are all in a slow bicycle race towards the edge of the canyon and if the early adopters are not careful, they will be swept away by the lemmings on their way to oblivion.

We face a modern-day version of Aesop's fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, where rather than the industrious ants letting the indolent grasshopper starve in winter, their nest is wiped out by a swarm of ant-eating locusts.

It's not really peak oil, peak food, or peak water, it's peak people that is the problem. If we cannot address this issue, all other efforts are just fiddling at the margins.
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Old 21-05-2008, 05:49 PM
Novena Novena is offline
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Mass Vasectomy Plan in place soon? :P scary...
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Old 22-05-2008, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Novena View Post
Mass Vasectomy Plan in place soon? :P scary...
No Need. Just look at this from Wikipedia
Quote:
Today about half the world lives in nations with sub-replacement fertility.[citation needed] Nonetheless most of these countries still have growing populations due to immigration and population momentum. This includes most nations of Europe, Canada, Australia, Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, China, Japan, and many others. The countries or areas that have the lowest fertility are Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Taiwan, Ukraine and Lithuania. Only a few countries have severe enough or sustained sub-replacement fertility (combined with other population factors like immigration) to have population decline, such as Russia[3], Japan, Lithuania, and Ukraine.[4]
Now Google Global demographics ageing population and see 165,000 hits, many of them academic or governments policy papers on how to stop or reverse population decline.

(This is the thing that gets me banging my fist on the table). Are these people nuts? Have they thought through the dangers of an ever increasing population?

The biggest folly in all the studies of the problems of ageing demographics is the straw man argument about fewer and fewer workers supporting more and more retirees. When Bismark introduced the first retirement pension system in Germany over 100 years ago, he set the pensionable age at 65 years when the average lifespan was 45 years. Now people all around the developed world retire around age 60 and live 10 or 20 more years.

If things cannot stay the same, they will change. If pension payments cannot be afforded, they will be scaled back, either in scope, duration or scale. This has to happen. Pension scope will be reduced by means testing, pension duration will be reduced by raising retirement ages, pension scale will be reduced by inflation or direct cuts. Trying to breed or import additional workers to support pensioners merely pushes the problem out into the future. It doesn't go away.

Meantime, all these 'extra' people need food, energy, water....

This reality is my personal show-stopper for any rational mitigation of peak oil. The solution is staring us all in the face. Less people is GOOD, more people is BAD.

Who in government anywhere in the world understands this?
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Old 22-05-2008, 04:44 PM
Novena Novena is offline
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Hi Auric,

I see... so thats what you feared most..

For Singapore case, isnt these imported workers are non-permanent?
They will go out of Spore upon expiry of their work permit dont they?
Which will not burden with more cost on Food Energy Water..

I believe a smaller numbers of imported workers permanently staying here than those who only stayed during the work permit period..

Government can just put a much higher levy to those wanting to work in Singapore.. to cover the potential increase of food energy and water..

else just ban foreign workers and/or immigrants indefinetely..
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Old 22-05-2008, 07:14 PM
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aurictaurus aurictaurus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Novena View Post
Hi Auric,

I see... so thats what you feared most..

For Singapore case, isnt these imported workers are non-permanent?
They will go out of Spore upon expiry of their work permit dont they?
Which will not burden with more cost on Food Energy Water..

I believe a smaller numbers of imported workers permanently staying here than those who only stayed during the work permit period..

Government can just put a much higher levy to those wanting to work in Singapore.. to cover the potential increase of food energy and water..

else just ban foreign workers and/or immigrants indefinetely..
Hi Novena,

You are correct, of course (and I may be one of the unwelcome when the time comes). The problem for Singapore between then and now is the massive mis-allocation of capital that will be mal-invested in the meantime to accommodate an island population of 6 - 6.5 million. Al those extra homes, schools, roads, water treatment plants, airport terminals, factories, shops and offices will form an enormous sunk cost that you will not be able to recover once they are surplus to requirements.

2 million extra people will require a near 50% build out over the existing infrastructure base. It will cost trillions. If you then row back to (say) 3 - 4 million population, about half of your gold-plated infrastructure assets will rapidly morph into wasting liabilities with insufficient throughput to justify maintaining them. They will rot in the sun.

When the Black Death burned through Europe, sweeping away 30% - 60% of the population, the survivors tended to abandon smaller settlements, hill farms and the like, to congregate in the larger towns and cities and re-settle on the most fertile productive bottom lands where farming produced the best returns.

Quote:
Europe and Middle East

It is estimated that between one-quarter and one-third of the European population (35 million people) died from the outbreak between 1348 and 1350.[8] [68] Contemporary observers, such as Jean Froissart, estimated the toll to be one-thirdóless an accurate assessment than an allusion to the Book of Revelation meant to suggest the scope of the plague.[69] Many rural villages were depopulated, mostly the smaller communities, as the few survivors fled to larger towns and cities leaving behind abandoned villages.[70] The Black Death hit the culture of towns and cities disproportionately hard, although rural areas (where most of the population lived) were also significantly affected.
In Singapore, resource constraints, much reduced standards of living and egregiously high energy costs are likely to lead to the abandonment of the higher floors in multi storey dwellings - people will populate up to (say) the 6th floor of an HDB or a condo tower if they cannot afford to maintain or power up the elevators, leaving the upper floors empty. Anyone fortunate enough to have a job will want to live close to work, the rest will tend to settle close to the park or pond they are farming for food. Residential areas with no economic or agricultural hinterland will just wither.

What I'm getting at is if this bleak future really is on the cards for us all, perhaps the capital expenditure planned to expand SG into an island mega-city could be better applied to re-orient the country for a post-peak world.

This is a one-shot deal: If your city planners bet the farm (that they won't actually need any farms) on such a huge build out which they intend to amortise over 20 years of economic growth, and then growth turns negative, they will have shot their bolt and may not have sufficient reserves remaining to mitigate the crash.
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Old 22-05-2008, 09:18 PM
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durian durian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Novena View Post

else just ban foreign workers and/or immigrants indefinetely..
dun forget our gold medals are mostly by foreign talents

and without foreign workers, is Singaporeans willing to work under the hot sun in construction site or some "low down" places?
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Old 23-05-2008, 01:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funGoldSilver View Post
I think we will have Electric car in future.
We've got enough problems with our energy security now that Batam is threatening to block our gas supply. In order to have an electric vehicle fleet we need even more electricity. And the only ways to get more electricity on a large, industrial scale (thousands of megawatts level) is to go nuclear or to go coal. It would be kind of ironic to charge an EV fleet from coal-generated electricity though.
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