[OPE-L:6033] oil and alternative technologies

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Mon Oct 01 2001 - 07:58:54 EDT

Re Paul C's [6030]:

Previously I wrote:

> > Coal is not a substitute for oil.
> > E.g. oil-heated factories and homes can not converted to coal unless
> > are new furnaces and exhaust systems; cars, trucks, boats, and ships
> > by gasoline or diesel oil can not be powered with coal; kerosene lamps
> > stoves, etc. can not be powered by coal; plastic and fiberglass
> > which are oil-derivatives, can not be derived from
> > coal; etc.

Paul C replied:

> Coal is a potential substitute for oil in electricity generation,

Yes, that's true -- just as horse-driven buggies are a potential substitute
for automobiles.  Similarly, whale oil is a potential substitute for 

Of course, these are not perfect analogies. Yet, in making them I want to
emphasize that coal technology for electrical generation is an older and
less 'eficicient' technology than that of oil.

Solar, wind, and water generation are also potential substitutes for oil
in terms of electrical generation. And all three are more efficient _from
an environmental perspective_ (which leads to the question: are
environmental consequences of alternative technologies an issue
from the standpoint of establishing a *definition* of efficiency? Which
leads to another question: is a trans-historical definition of efficiency
different from a definition appropriate for the CMP? ).  Yet, the
price of these potential substitutes has not governed the price of
oil on world markets.  A major reason for this -- a point I emphasized
before (see above) -- is that  the use-value for oil is not limited
to its potential use-value in terms of electrical generation.

> and in cases
> where oil is in short supply it acts as a feedstock for gasoline and
> production - see germany in the 40s or South Africa in the 70s.

I am reminded of a slogan during WW2 in the US developed by the Coal
Miner's Union (who were at the time threatening to strike and were
responding to a threat from Roosevelt to use federal troops to mine coal):
"You can't mine coal with bayonets!".  Similarly, you can't run gasoline
engines with coal; you can't produce fiberglass with coal; etc. Moreover,
oil-derived energies can not even be used necessarily as substitutes (if
you don't believe this, try putting gasoline in a diesel-powered engine).
Moreover, even if technically feasible the cost to switch to alternative
technologies could be prohibitively high and result in the 'premature'
scrapping of existing constant capital.

In solidarity, Jerry

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