Fossil Fuels

Responding to Collapse, Part 10: the future of the power grid

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool on July 17, 2019

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In this series of posts I've been advising my readers that moving to a small town remote from large population centres, in an area that can supply the basic necessities of water, food and firewood, is a prudent way of coping with the ongoing collapse of BAU (Business as Usual). With the caveat that some advance preparation will be needed to ensure successful use of those resources.

 

 

In the next few posts in this series, we'll look at some of the details of how BAU will collapse and how you can prepare to weather that collapse. In the immediate future infrastructure breakdowns will get more frequent and longer until finally it's no longer practical to rely on BAU for the necessities of life. It seems to me that supplies of electrical power, diesel fuel and money will be at the heart of many of the troubles that lie ahead, so I'll concentrate on those areas.

And while I'll mainly be talking about infrastructure breakdowns we should remember that interruptions of service can occur for a couple of other reasons.

The first has to do with the way our economy is organized and how we choose to provide vital services such as power, water, sewers, housing, food, communications, transportation, education, health care and so forth.

Today most of the world's nations are capitalistic, with a distinct neo-liberal flavour. Under such conditions, companies are operated to make a profit and other goals, such as the public good, are strictly secondary. So when a "for profit" company finds its business becoming less profitable they must find ways to increase their charges or to supply less for the same fees or to quit supplying customers in less profitable areas altogether. And if they don't do those things they will either be bought out by companies that will, or they'll suffer bankruptcy. If there doesn't appear to be much chance that another company could make a good profit in the same business then it will never be reestablished. And if the public was relying on that company to provide vital services, then we are just out of luck.

Of course there are other ways of organizing an economy, and in particular other ways of setting up companies to provide infrastructure services. But the argument is often made that for profit companies operating in a free market are more efficient. I would question if there has ever been any such thing as a free market, and whether it would function as predicted in any case. Efficiency in this case is defined as the amount of return on share holders' investments, and has nothing to do with providing a high quality and reliable service to your customers.

But perhaps we should set all that aside in order to focus on the really critical thing, which is the difference between the way such companies work in growing economies versus contracting economies. In a growing economy it is relatively easy to make a profit and do so while supplying a service for the public good. But when the economy begins to contract that becomes more and more difficult for "for profit" companies.

Governments can set up non-profit organizations whose primary goal is to provide services for the public good and they are likely to last longer in a contracting economy. In my experience, contrary to typical capitalist propaganda, they can also be quite efficient. But as the economy contracts so will tax revenues and eventually governments will have to cut back on the services they provide. With good planning though, they can do this in a controlled manner with lots of advanced warning, and give people time to adapt to the situation.

As the economy gets even weaker, co-operatives organized by the people who need the services hold considerable promise. I'll have more to say about this over the next few posts.

The second thing is that if you rely on BAU to make a living, you will find that your own economic circumstances are declining. When you can no longer afford the services you have come to rely on, you'll have find ways to provide them for yourself, and in the process learn how to get by with less, like it or not.

I can consume along with the best of them, and there are certainly all kinds of things that it would be useful to have as we try to become more self reliant. But don't worry too much if you can't afford some of the shiny toys I'll be mentioning in future posts. As well trained consumers we may feel that buying things must be the solution to the problems that face us, but it isn't. Actually, there is no solution to the fix the world is in at the moment, and the best we can do is adapt to the changing conditions. Part of that is learning to get by while consuming less. This is hard for me and I'll bet it's hard for you too. That's why I talked first about preparing by become part of your new community (in posts 7 and 8 of this series), rather that the less important preparations that involve accumulating "stuff".

Back 2012, when I started this blog, the authorities recommended that you be prepared to weather emergencies lasting for as long as three days (72 hours). They were basically saying, "don't rely on us to be there immediately—it may take as long as 72 hours before help arrives." In the meantime, this has been changed to two weeks in some areas. Is emergency response capability declining, or are they expecting more lengthy and severe emergencies? I suspect both. Of course serious "preppers" are laughing at this—they'd recommend that you have supplies on hand for a year or two. I don't disagree, but you have to start somewhere. And as collapse deepens those longer intervals to prepare for will come to seem more reasonable.


Power Outages

Power outages will probably be the most frequent infrastructure failure you'll have to cope with. Short outages have relatively minor impacts, but because electricity is at the heart of so much that goes on in modern civilization, as outages stretch out they start to effect more and more things.

Eventually, it seems very likely that the power grid in many, if not most, areas will cease to function. I encounter two different responses to this idea. Many people cannot conceive that their 24 hour a day, essentially infinite supply of power could every come to an end. Others are fixated on the idea of a sudden and hard crash which will bring the whole of industrial civilization to an end, including the power grid.

I'm somewhere in between, holding what I think is a more detailed and nuanced opinion. Most of the rest of this post is going to be spent talking about how the slow decline of the power grid will go, leaving the responses I would recommend for the next post.

Power outages can be as simple as a utility pole getting knocked over during a traffic accident, to as complex as the grid failures that happened in northeastern North America in 1965 and 2003. And to take it even further, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) from nuclear weapons or coronal mass ejections (solar flares) can do huge damage to electrical girds which may be very hard to recover from. But I think some of the most common and serious problems with the grid will come from three specific areas:

  • The first is equipment failure due to age and/or lack of maintenance, aggravated by overloads such as air conditioning load during summer heat waves. As the economy continues to contract power companies are going to find themselves short of capital and less able to invest in their own systems, leaving those systems more susceptible to failure. /li>
  • The second will be damage due to storms that are growing more frequent and more intense due to climate change—things like high winds, tornados and ice storms in particular. Lengthy outages will happen when there are widespread weather related problems combined with shortages of spare parts and limited manpower to install them. Those latter two problems will come mainly from cash strapped utilities trying to save money.
  • The third is sabotage. The grid is very exposed to a saboteur who knows what he is doing, and because of its geographically diffuse nature, very hard to secure. As collapse intensifies, there will be increased civil unrest—more angry people looking for easy targets that symbolize the establishment. The grid is certainly one such target.

Of course, these concerns apply to the grid as it exists today, using conventional generation. It seems there is going to be a serious attempt to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, primarily solar and wind. Those who are pushing for a "Green New Deal" are telling people that we can use wind and solar to replace fossil fuels, and that in the process more jobs will be created and we'll actually end up more prosperous. This is a very unrealistic dream and just off the top of my head I can think of four serious problems with it:

  1. What solar and wind produce is electricity. But electricity supplies only 18 to 20% of our current energy use. Most of the rest comes directly from coal, oil and natural gas, and those fuels are used in ways that will be difficult, if not outright impossible, to replace with electricity.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The main issue is that a battery is not nearly as effective a way to store energy as a tank of diesel fuel. And there are definite physical limitations on how much better batteries can get— we can probably improve them by a factor of two, but that's about it. Despite what we keep hearing in the news, it simply isn't practical to use batteries to power airplanes or long distance heavy transport by road, rail or sea. The quantity of batteries needed, and the size and weight of those batteries, is the problem.

    There are many industrial processes that use coal or natural gas for heat. Replacing those fuels with electricity may be theoretically possible but we haven't, for the most part, even started to develop ways to do so, much less begun to implement them.

  2. Phasing out fossil fuels would require using renewables to supply much larger quantities of electricity than we are currently using. But there are fundamental problems with using renewables to produce even part of the comparatively small amount of electricity we use now.

    One aspect of running a power grid that the general public is largely unaware of is that generation must be matched exactly to the load. Since load is something the grid operator cannot control to any great extent, generation that is "dispatchable"—that can be turned on and off on demand and ramped up and down as required—is very important. Conventional generation is dispatchable to varying degrees but renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are intermittent and for the most part not under the control of the grid operator—the very opposite of dispatchable. As such, renewables only exacerbate the problems of running a grid, especially given the lack of feasible large scale storage technologies. Yes, I know there are a number of storage technologies available but none of them are economical to use on the scale that would be required for use in a power grid with intermittent renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

    The concept of a "smart grid" which gives greater control of both generation and load offers hope of addressing these problems to some minor degree, but only at the price of adding complexity to the system. And adding complexity never increases reliability.

  3. The immediate reason for switching away from fossil fuels is to reduce the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere in order to combat climate change. But no one seems to be thinking of the carbon footprint of switching away from carbon. The switchover to renewables would be a massive undertaking powered mainly by fossil fuels, and the amount of CO2 being released would greatly increase during that effort.

    Much of this construction effort would also require large quantities of steel and concrete. Making steel and concrete involves the release of CO2, regardless of where the energy comes from—it's inherent to the chemistry of the processes involved.

    So it is by no means obvious that we can get off fossil fuels and onto renewables without creating an even worse climate crisis that the one we are currently facing.

  4. Renewables have a very low EROEI (energy returned on energy invested). A high EROEI is essential to the functioning of a modern industrial economy–money is just accounting, energy is really what makes the economy go. Any country which adds a large quantity of renewables to its energy mix will lower its overall average EROEI, making it more difficult to support a growing economy and a high tech industrial society. So even if we could somehow manage to switch over entirely to renewables, we'd have trouble sustaining a high enough level of technology to maintain and repair solar and wind generation facilities. And replacing them when they wear out would be a real stretch. Switching to renewables is something we might be able to do once, but then we'd be in big trouble.

 

All this is of course based on not having to change our lifestyles, not having to accept a lower level of prosperity and consumption. Indeed one frequently hears people talking about increasing economic growth in order to bring the poor parts of the world up to our level of consumption. It is clear to me that this is not going to happen and that what we really need to do is reduce our levels of consumption down to what can be supported without fossil fuels, using local, sustainable, low tech renewables. It is also clear to me that we will not do this voluntarily, that the majority of our efforts will go into maintaining business as usual regardless of the consequences.

Give all these factors time to work and it will become difficult to continue running the power grid as a whole. Some parts of the gird will simply quit working. Others that have proved unreliable, which place the grid as a whole at risk, will eventually have to be excluded from the grid. These islands will grow until the grid as we know it falls apart.

There will be a few areas where generating equipment will continue to function for a long time and will be able to supply local load. Again, the matching generation and load will be a problem since most such generation comes in large chunks and is a long way from large amounts of load. The most hopeful situations are small hydro (water) powered generators, which can be run at less than full capacity and adjust quickly to match varying loads.

Anyway, it seems clear that we can indeed expect more frequent and longer power outages. But what are the effects of these outages, and what can we do to mitigate them?


The effects of power outages

When the power goes out, you lose the lights, heat, cooling, cooking equipment, refrigeration and so forth in your own home. Even most oil, gas and wood heating systems rely on electricity for control, ignition and circulating fans. Then there are all the services that comes to you from outside your home, that you rely on to just work, but which need electricity to do that.

In general, the most critical services run off batteries which are kept fully charged as long as the power is on. When the power goes out, these services keep right on running as if nothing had happened, at least until the batteries are discharged. The batteries for the controls in power stations are rated for eight hours. The batteries in cell phone towers are rated for two to four hours.

Everything I'm finding on the internet says that the central switching stations for land line telephone service should keep working even during long power outages, which implies both batteries and backup generators. I have some doubts about this, and I'll be keeping an eye out for more detailed information.

Many slightly less critical services have generators that start automatically with only a brief interruption when the power goes out and run as long as there is fuel (usually diesel fuel) in the tank. If arrangements have been made to refill that tank, then this can go on for quite a long time.

Even less critical services than these can have a portable generator hooked up to them if need be. This would include facilities operating on battery power, if the power is off so long that the batteries need to be recharged.

Most service stations don't have backup power so you likely won't be able to get fuel (gasoline, diesel, propane) while the power is off. During long outages the many supply chains that are powered by gasoline and/or diesel fuel will be in trouble.

Natural gas pipelines have to be pressurized to keep to gas flowing through them. Some of the pumps used to do this are powered by natural gas, some by electricity. And I suspect that at least some of the controls for the gas powered pumps are electrical. So your natural gas supply, at least in some areas, will be compromised during electrical outages.

The pumps in municipal water and sewage systems need electrical power too. Some may have backup generators, but not all. If you live on a farm or in a very small town, your toilet is likely gravity feed into a septic system and weeping bed, and will work as long as you have water to flush them. Or perhaps you have already set up a composting toilet which requires no power at all. Your water supply is probably from you own well, with a pump driven by an electric motor that uses 240V AC (if you are in North America). Even if you have a generator, you may need an electrician to help you hook it up to that motor.

Refrigeration of food in grocery stores and pharmaceuticals in pharmacies and hospitals will be jeopardized. Fortunately our local hospital does have a backup generator.

Radio and TV can be important sources of information during emergencies. But you will likely find that only a very few of your local stations are set up to keep broadcasting during power outages.

It would also be great if internet service could continue during power outages. I understand it some areas it does, but we get our internet through the local cable TV company, and even short outages to their facilities knock out our internet connection and our cable TV service, even if the power is still on at our place. Your situation may be different—I hope so.

Oddly, or so it seems to me, most traffic lights aren't backed up in any way and stop working when the power is off.

ATMs won't be working, nor the systems that allows us to pay for things by credit and debit cards. Even if you do have cash in hand, you may find many retail outlets are unable to sell you anything when their cash registers and product code scanners aren't working. Many of them may just lock their doors for the duration of the outage.

Not all of them, though—I was quite impressed during a recent outage when I saw the guy behind the counter at a nearby convenience store beavering away with a cash box, battery operated calculator and a notebook to record sales in. It can be done, but one hopes the prices are marked clearly on items rather than encoded in UPCs. This is an example of an individual (or maybe his manager) taking the situation in hand and keeping things working rather than sitting back and letting them fall apart.

No doubt I am missing many of the potential effects of long power outages, but I think this gives you the flavour of what you'll be facing. Next time I'll talk about how you can mitigate the effects of power outages, both short and long, and what your community can do to cope when it finally finds itself permanently isolated from the grid.


Links to the rest of this series of posts, Preparing for (Responding to) Collapse:

 

The First Law of Wealth

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 8, 2017

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The First Law of Thermodynamics:

Energy is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed from one form to another.

 

How is wealth created?  Is it created at all?  An important idea in capitalist epistemology is that the capitalist system creates wealth, and that those who become wealthy within the system do so by creating that wealth.  Do they really?

The issue here is the idea that some people are "Wealth Creators".  Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, they all got incredibly wealthy, right?  So they must have "created" wealth, right?  This concept depends a whole lot on whether you view the idea of "wealth" from the POV of the Individual or from the POV of the System as a whole.  Which lens you use on this microscope on makes a HUGE difference on how you view the distribution of wealth in the society at large.

In order to better elucidate my POV, I am going to use 3 different examples of biznesses that supposedly  "create wealth".  I will look at my own last bizness of the many I have been involved with first, the Gymnastics Bizness.  Then I will look at the Dental Bizness, which is my friend Eddie's type of biz.  Then I will look at Tesla, Elon Musk's really BIG bizness, currently creating tons of wealth for Elon. lol.

The Gymnastics Bizness

Now, in the case of the Gym Biz, what the Gym Owner does is to insert himself in between well to do parents of kids who can afford a pretty high price tag of around $400/mo to be on the Team and coaches who know how to teach gymnastics.  Then there are lots of recreational gymnasts who come for 1 class a week for around $100/mo.  The typical gym has between 500-1000 gymmies running through it at any given time.  Because it is such a pricy sport to be putting your kid into and it is an optional thing to do (you don't absolutely NEED to do gymnastics like you need to have your teeth drilled when you have a toothache), the clientele has a pretty high average income.  Poor people do not send their kids to a gymnastics school.  So I put the average income for the Victims here at around $100K.

Now, if out of the 1000 Gymmies you have 200 on Team, that is $400 X 200 =$80K/mo income, x12 = $960K/year.  Your 800 other Rec gymmies are paying $100/mo for another $80K/mo, another $960K/year.  Total gross income here around $2M for a well organized gymnastics school.

On the outflow end of this conduit, the gym owner has the cost of his facility, equipment, salaries for coaches and the taxes & insurance he has to pay.  Facility costs can vary tremendously from old warehouses to custom buildings.  Equipment also varies from old beat up stuff bought used to brand spanking new stuff from Spieth-Anderson or AAI.  Coaches are almost universally paid low wages, often teenage ex-gymnasts are used as coaches at Min Wage before they even go to college.  You gotta be a really first class coach to get out of this Min Wage level and actually make a living at coaching the sport.  Even so, you never get into 6 figures as a coach unless you own the gym and run the conduit scheme.

Depending on the market they insert themselves into, Gym Owners can both become exceedingly rich or they can fail miserably, I've known both types over the last 30 years.  In neither case though did anyone "create" any wealth.  All they did was sieve wealth from one end, the victims, on the way to it's other end downhill in this process.  The gym owners who got rich were the ones who were best at soaking their victims, but they never created any wealth here.

Where did that wealth come from?  Well, many of the parents here are professional, doctors, dentists, lawyers and so forth.  They in turn were using their own conduit schemes to sieve wealth from their victims.  They have nice big paychecks incoming, so they can afford to pitch $400/mo after tax income to keep gymmie happy.  In fact it costs a good deal more than that when you include all the meet fees, team leos and warmups, private lessons etc.

The Dental Racket

So now let us look at one of the Victims of the Gym Biz, the Dentist with his prized young daughter with this quite rare talent of extreme coordination, strength and flexibility  and also pychological qualities of fearlessness and a drive to succeed, who sees Simone Biles/Mary Lou Retton/Shannon Miller/Shawn Johnson/Nadia Comanice on TV at the Olympics and wants to make her a STAR!  How is he "creating wealth" to do this?

In order to analyze the Dental Biz in detail,, I made a new Infographic to examine how the Dental Conduit Scheme works!

There are 3 basic Nodes here, the Dental Victims, The Dentist and the higher level extractors taking profit from the Dentist, which makes him a second level Victim.

I used some average numbers here, giving the low level Victims an average take home salary of $50K (which is probably a high estimate) and the Dentist an average take home salary of $250K (which is probably a low estimate).  I put the tax bill for the Dentist at a 50% rate, so it costs also $250K in taxes for the dentist every year.

For the wage slaves working for the dentist answering the phones, filling out the medical records and dealing with regulations and insurance companies, I figured 8 employees each making around $60K average, for around a total of $500K.  A dental hygenist might make a bit more, a records clerk less.

The dentist also has to buy a lot of expensive stuff to run his bizness, those gold fillings don't come cheap these days you know!  Nor does the hardware for implants or aything else.  You also gotta upgrade all the time and buy those expensive new Digital X-Ray Cameras, and you gotta fly all the time all over the country to Utah and other spots for getting your continuing education credits to maintain your license.  Then there are the Malpractice Insurance bills.  ::)

So, in order to maintain a $250K/year income here in this Conduit Scheme, the Dentist needs a Gross Income of around $2M before expenses, taxes, insurance, materials etc etc etc.  All of that money has to come from the Victims of the Dentist, each making an average of $50K.

So one way to look at this is how many Victims the Dentist needs to cover $2M in costs, and how much they have to pay him each year?  If the Dentist has 100 Victims, then each Victim would need to pay the Dentist $20,000 every year to keep this conduit scheme going.  Obviously, people making $50K a year cannot afford to pay $20K of that to a Dentist!  So really the Dentist needs more like 1000 Victims to be successful with the conduit scheme.  Now you are down to $2000 per victim, which is a bit more affordable at a $50K salary.  BUT, can a single dentist really drill the teeth of 1000 different people every year? 

I Googled the cost of Dental Fillings in TX.  :icon_sunny:
 

Quote

On average, a silver filling costs between $50 and $150 for one or two dental surfaces. However, the price increases to the $120 to $300 range, if three or more surfaces require a filling. The good news is that dental insurance covers a majority of the cost since a filling is considered a necessary procedure.Sep 20, 2013

Mansfield, TX Dentist Explains the Cost of Dental Fillings | Mansfield, TX
mansfielddental.com/2013/09/the-cost-of-dental-fillings/

 


Call the average cost $200.  To work up a $2000 bill, each patient of the 1000 needs 10 fillings every year.  So the dentist needs to drill 10,000 teeth each year, in 250 working days.  That's 40 a day, 5/hr in an 8 hour day.  So he has to drill & fill a tooth every 10 minutes, with a 10 minute break every hour to check for Doom on the Diner. lol.

Another way to look at it is how much money the Dental Biz needs to bring in each day to cover those $2M in bills.  If you figure the dentist works 5 days a week 50 weeks out of the year, he has 250 days of extracting money from the Victims.  That means that every last day of that 250 days, he has to bring in $8000 from the Victims.  If he is working 8 hour days, that works out to $1000/hr!

Now, since I do not have PRECISE numbers on this to work with, these are all just estimates.  BUT, even if you knocked my numbers down by half, you can see why it is not sustainable.  The folks who pay the bills at the BOTTOM cannot retire the debt and costs that the Dentist has!  They just don't make enough money to do that!  Somebody somewhere is working up a nice debt bill.  No wealth has been created, just an ever increasing pile of debt!

The only way this shit gets paid for these days is through ever increasing debt, and the asset in this example goes on the side of the Dentist and the liability goes on the side of the Victim. That is straight economics.  You cannot make something from nothing.

Clearly here, the Dentist has created no wealth, all he has done is insert himself into a position where he can serve as a conduit between people who have dental pain or issues and those free of dental pain or issues.  Unlike the Gymnastics Biz, it is not optional to visit or not visit a Dentist when you have a bad enough toothache. You have no options here within the borders of the FSoA, you MUST pay whatever the Dentist will charge to relieve your pain.  Unless you cross the border into Mexico, you will bankrupt yourself if you make an average salary trying to pay off the dentists for fixing your teeth.  I have visited at least a dozen different dentists over the course of my life trying to repair teeth here in the FSoA that other dentists in Brazil ruined in my childhood and adolescence.  Every root canal and every cap cost me $thousands$ on a very average salary of median income for the time period. You are talking at least a dozen of these things over the time period.  In the end, all that money went to waste, every single one of those teeth had to be pulled out of my mouth by a Mexican Dentist, who did it at the Bargain Basement price of $25 a tooth, whereas a Dentist here in Alaska would have charged me $300 a tooth to do the same job.  It's a great racket here in the FSoA if you can get licensed to do it.  Every last Dentist that I ever visited owned a Mercedes and had a nice huge McMansion to live in.  I paid for that, along with all the other Dental Victims.

Why can dentists here in the FSoA charge such high prices for these tasks?  Because they run a gated profession with few Dental Schools relative to population size and they make it EXTREMELY difficult for a foreign trained dentist to get licensed to practice dentistry in the FSoA.  So there exist a LARGE pool of victims (basically everyone since everyone has some kind of dental problem at some point), and a relatively SMALL number of dentists licensed to do the job on your teeth that needs to be done.  So they can pretty much set the price as they please, the only constraint on this being what the other local dentist will charge, since most people will not cross the border into Mexico.  As a Dental Pain Sufferer, you are over a barrel if you cannot make the border crossing to Mexico, you MUST pay whatever the Dentist charges or else suffer agonizing pain until you figure out how to yank the offending tooth out of your mouth yourself.  This is called a contract under DURESS, and it is illegal in Tort Law.  In reality, you are not obligated to pay any of these charges by tort law.  In reality, all dental patients shoudl file a Class Action Lawuit against all Dentists and strip them of their criminally stolen money and property.

The Elon Musk Flim-Flam

OK, we have now moved through 2 types of Small Biz, the Gymnastics Biz and the Dental Biz.  To finish off for the day here, let us look at BIG BIZNESS, Elon Musk's Tesla, Gigafactory Battey facility and Rocket Ship Biz.

Not a single one of these biz makes any profit at all, but they have a Market Cap of $BILLIONS$  WTF did all the money come from so Elon could build his toys without making a dime of profit for YEARS?  Can you imagine going for years with a negative net income and still getting credit to keep going?

Like all of the really large corporations and big biz of our society, it is all run on CREDIT, and if you are well enough connected the credit has been quite endless.  The "money" flowing down through the society into all the small biz like Gymnastics Schools and Dental Offices actually begins with these very large corporations and their associated banking industry, they are all created through the massive issuance of debt in the form of corporate bonds.  The other big money creation mechanism is from Goobermint bonds, debt which the population is supposed to retire through paying their taxes.  The debt of corporate bonds is supposed to be retired by profits from the industry, again which the population at large is supposed to provide the money for by buying the products.  In reality, in neither case can the population ever make enough money to retire the debt either created by the corporations or by da goobermint.  This can be masked for a long time, but if you notice just about every large corporate entity eventually goes bankrupt.  The railroads all went bankrupt, the big automotive companies like GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, and the airlines like TWA and PanAm also went bankrupt.  Then new ones pop up with new issuance of debt and reorganizations, mergers and acquisitions, but they too will all go BK in the bye and bye.  No wealth was created here in any of these industries, only an ever increasing pile of debt along with a lot of landfill.

Similarly, Da Goobermint never created any wealth either by issuing out its vast quantities of debt.  While certainly Goobermints have built many roads, bridges, tunnels, power plants, sports stadiums etc, the maintenance cost on all of it is always greater than the revenue brought iin through taxation to pay for it.  So the only way to keep going with it is to issue out still more debt. Which they do as long as they can, but eventually smaller countries like Greece get cut off from the bond market, at which time their economy immediately tanks.  Similarly, any large corporation cut of from the corporate bond market immediately goes BK.

The "wealth" Elon creates is simply a bigger pile of debt somewhere else, bur unlike the gym owner or dentist, he has inserted himself into the very TOP of the food chain, getting his debt money directly from the folks in charge of manufacturing money, the TBTF banks.  Elon hardly needs Victims to bilk at all selling Teslas, hell he's only sold around 150,000 of them since 2008!  In the end, he's really bilking the taxpayer, who will end up with all the bad debt he has created on their balance sheet.

Nobody in this whole chain of events ever creates wealth.  They only sieve wealth in various types of schemes and rackets on it's way down the thermodynamic hill.  So where then IS the wealth "created"?

It's not created, it's EXTRACTED.  The wealth is the resources of the earth, and all that debt money that is created are little tickets (or now digibits) which allow you to buy some of the resources, most particularly the energy resource of oil.  Those little tickets trickle down through the rest of the economy, and various types of biznesses and rackets insert themselves along the way as the energy moves its way down the thermodynamic hill.  Who gets the privilege of creating these little debt tickets?  The folks who control the energy of course, which is why the Energy Industry and Bankstering Biz are so closely related.  It's why the Rockefellers who controlled Standard Oil ALSO founded the Chase Manhattan Bank, now JP Morgan Chase.  They issue the credit to buy the Oil, and it gets burned up all the way down the line in various stages as it moves through all the rackets.  The BEST rackets are at the very top of the food chain here, like Elon Musk or Mark Suckerbug's rackets.  Neither one creates any wealth though.

By the time you get down to small time rackets like the Gym Biz and Dental Biz, you're getting close to the end of the line on the way down to the final stop, the end consumer of everything that happened above in the chain.  The end consumer DEFINITELY creates no wealth, but rather destroys what is left of it on its way to its final destination as waste in the landfill or CO2 in the atmosphere.

What wealth there was in the Earth was captured over billions of years by photosynthetic organisms collecting energy from the sun.  Animal life just extracts that energy from the plant, then eventually both die and sequester carbon, and then after that Homo Saps evolve to burn up all that energy, and develop an economic system which does that.  Very rapidly too!

How long does the game last?  Only as long as there is a big enough thermodynamic gradient to support a downhill flow of the energy.  It appears we are getting quite close to the point where no work can be done exploiting the energy flow left.  At least not on the scale globally we have been doing it anyhow.

Let Nature be Nature

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Published on Peak Surfer on May 29, 2016

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Take the Renewable Energy Survey HERE

 

"Can the extravagance of growth fanatics continue? Clearly not. Will President @realdonaldtrump keep the lemmings racing towards the cliff? Definitely so."

 

 

!Kung peoples managed their energy well – C.A.S. Hall

  After posting a pretty dour outlook last week we were amazed to watch it attract more page views more quickly than any of our previous 22 posts this year. No accounting for taste, we suppose.

At the risk of alienating our new audience right off the bat, we are posting something more upbeat this week.

We had two scientific papers shoved under our door, and both of are serious sources of hope for a world undergoing climate shock. They represent the two sides of the solution ledger, adaptation and mitigation.

The first is an open research white paper, The Sower’s Way: Quantifying the Narrowing Net-Energy Pathways to a Global Energy Transition, by Sgouris Sgouridis and Denes Csala of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, United Arab Emirates, and Ugo Bardi from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Florence, Italy.

 

 

 

Hubbard Linearization – Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

The second is a journal article, published under a creative commons license in Science Advances 2016, entitled Carbon sequestration potential of second-growth forest regeneration in the Latin American tropics by 60 co-authors at 45 institutions in almost as many countries. The lead author is Robin L. Chazdon, a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut and a visiting professor at the International Institute for Sustainability in Rio de Janeiro.

In The Sower’s Way, Sqouridis’ group looks at the INDPs (national pledges) submitted at the Paris climate conference in December, sees that they are clearly inadequate to arrest runaway climate chaos and near term human extinction (NTHE)) and asks the pregnant question, suppose they weren’t?

Suppose the overarching goal set in Paris — to phase out fossil energy by 2050 or sooner — were actually committed to by all those who exchanged pens at the signing of the legally binding treaty last month at One UN Plaza?

 

 

 

The Energy Cliff – Courtesy C.A. Hall

“Is it possible to satisfy the dual constraint of reducing emissions fast enough while achieving the desired energy availability?” the authors ask.

 

 

 

“… [I]mplicit in the COP21 agreement is that these reductions should be obtained while offering sufficient available energy for humankind, especially for developing countries that are ascending the energy availability ladder.”

After completing the study, one of the authors, Ugo Bardi, conducted a poll on the Doomstead Diner   of how realistic most doomers thought the renewables revolution to be.

 

 

What is the possibility of a society not too different from ours (but 100% based on renewable energy sources, and on the possibility of obtaining it before it is too late to avoid the climate disaster. This said, what statement best describes your position?

  1. Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

    It is impossible for technical reasons. (Renewables have too low EROEIs, need too large amounts of natural resources, we'll run out of fossil fuels first, climate change will destroy us first, etc.)

  2. It is technically possible but so expensive to be unthinkable. 
  3. It is technically possible and not so expensive to be beyond our means. However, it is still expensive enough that most likely people will not want to pay the costs of the transition before it will be too late to achieve it, unless we move to a global emergency status.
  4. It is technically possible and inexpensive enough that it can be done smoothly, by means of targeted government intervention, such as a carbon tax.
  5. It is technically possible and technological progress will soon make it so inexpensive that normal market mechanisms will bring us there nearly effortlessly.

Our own response, after returning from Paris, was: "option 6 – it will be faster than anyone expects.” Our reasoning was that once the curves cross  — and solar is cheaper than oil — there will be a mad rush to dump oil stocks and buy solar, without any consideration of net energy. Simian neurobiology will then be buckled into the driver’s seat, chasing lost investments with fresh money until every last shekel is exhausted. In the end, there will be a lot of solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal energy to show for the effort but just not anything resembling the consumerist civilization most people now take for granted.

There will not be Space Cadet academies on Mars.

The Sqouridis paper concludes that “renewable energy installation rates should accelerate and increase at least by a factor of 50 and perhaps more than 90 over current” in order to meet the UN sustainable development goals. They conclude that growth rate is entirely possible and may already be in process. The key, they say, is “the sower's strategy”:

 

“… the long-established farming practice to save a fraction of the current year's harvest as seeds for the next. Fossil fuels produce no “seed” of their own but we can “sow” what these fuels provide: energy and minerals to create the capital needed for the transition. Yet, withdrawing the “seed” energy reduces net available energy for society. The challenge therefore is to balance energy availability and emissions in order to complete a renewable transition before fossil fuel depletion makes it impossible without inflicting crippling damages on the climate.”

 

Courtesy J.G. Lambert

Moreover, to be rated a success, the solar power transition has to meet three criteria:

 

  1. The impacts from energy use during the transition should not exceed the long-run ecosystem carrying and assimilation capacity;
  2. Per capita net available energy should remain above a level that satisfies societal needs at any point during transition and without disruptive discontinuities in its rate of change; and
  3. The rate of investment in building renewable energy harvesting and utilization capital stock should be sufficient to create a sustainable energy supply basis without exhausting the non-renewable safely recoverable resources.


The group concluded:

 

 

In every case, a successful SET (sustainable energy transition) consists of a sustained acceleration in the rate of investment in renewable energy of more than one order of magnitude within the next three decades following a trajectory dictated by the chosen fossil-fuel phase-out. A peak in installation rates, but not cumulative capacity, forms at the point where the rate of energy demand growth starts to slow down.

In other words, the group concluded that Option 6 was the most likely: it will be faster than anyone expects. At least 50 times faster than it is right now.

 

 

 

Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

Meanwhile the seminal bioeconomist Charles A. Hall reminded us:

 

 

 

There are three good studies — Mohr et al.'s 2012 (Ward, J., S.H. Mohr, B. Meyers and W. Nel. 2012. High estimates of supply constrained emissions scenarios for long-term climate risk assessment. Energy Policy 51: 598-604); Maggio and Cacciola (Maggio, G., and G. Cacciola. 2012 "When will oil, natural gas, and coal peak?" Fuel 98: 111-123); Laherrere's ASPO-France web page —  that agree that there is likely to be a peak in ALL fossil fuels in +/- 2025 and then a sharp decline. It seems extremely unlikely that renewables will fill that gap. On the other hand the near cessation of economic growth in OECD countries and the slowdown for China might smooth out and slow down our approach to the peak. 

 

 

Murphy and Hall, 2011

With that opening salvo, we can see Hall’s studies and raise a few more:

Leggetta, L.M.W. and D.A. Ball. 2012. The implication for climate change and peak fossil fuel of the continuation of the current trend in wind and solar energy production, Energy Policy 41: 610-617. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.11.022:

 

 

Courtesy J.G. Lambert

Climate change, and more recently, the risk of fossil fuel production being unable to keep pace with demand (peak fossil fuel) are both considered as risks to civilisation, or global risks. In an initial empirical analysis, this paper attempts to answer the following questions, which have often been posed but have not, to our knowledge, been answered empirically at global level. At which date, if unaddressed, will the risks become critical? Given that the substitution of fossil fuels by wind and solar energy is often proposed as a solution to these problems, what is its current aggregate growth rate and is there a plausible future growth rate which would substitute it for fossil fuels before the risks become critical? The study finds that the peak fossil fuel risk will start to be critical by 2020. If however the future growth rate of wind and solar energy production follows that already achieved for the world mobile phone system or the Chinese National Expressway Network the peak fossil fuel risk can be prevented completely. For global warming, the same growth rate provides significant mitigation by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels to zero by the early 2030s.

Mohr, S.H., J. Wang, G. Ellem, J. Ward, and D. Giurco. 2015. Projection of world fossil fuels by country. Fuel 141: 120-135. doi:10.1016/j.fuel.2014.10.030:

 

 

 

We model world fossil fuel production by country including unconventional sources. The Low and Best Guess (BG) scenarios suggest that world fossil fuel production may peak before 2025 and decline rapidly thereafter. The High scenario indicates that fossil fuels may have a strong growth till 2025 followed by a plateau lasting approximately 50 years before declining. All three scenarios suggest that world coal production may peak before 2025 due to peaking Chinese production.

 

 

Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

Thus, whether lured by the carrot of a sun-powered future or frightened by the sound of the dip stick scraping the bottom of the oil pan, a Great Change is coming. But what is the shape of the curve? In comments to our last week’s post, reader Don Stewart wrote:

Harquebus, as quoted [on Ugo Bardi’s blog]:

 

 

“Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilised future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t feasible.”

Stewart continues:

 

 

 

Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

We are completely convinced that the above statement is true, but that does not mean that renewables cannot be of significant use to modern society. It is not that they can replace fossil fuels, but they could considerably extend their useful life span. That could be as much as a century. At the world’s present consumption rate the oil age will be ending in 13 years, and society will have to pay a very high price to get it there. We are now witnessing the bankruptcy of the Petro-States,  and much of the Western world’s petroleum industry. Over the next five years it will become very apparent as to what is happening. Geothermal, wind, tidal power, small hydroelectric, and in some cases solar can replace much of the electricity production of the world — electricity that is now being supplied from our rapidly depleting fossil fuels.

 

 

Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

Of course clean electricity is not a substitute for fossil energy; nor are biofuels; nor are both in combination. Professor Hall recommends Alice Freidemann's new book When Trucks Stop Running for a fuller discussion of that issue. Friedemann blurbs:

 

 

Our era of abundance, and the freight transport system in particular, is predicated on the affordability and high energy density of a single fuel, oil. This book explores alternatives to this finite resource including other liquid fuels, truck and locomotive batteries and utility-scale energy storage technology, and various forms of renewable electricity to support electrified transport. Transportation also must adapt to other challenges: Threats from climate change, financial busts, supply-chain failure, and transportation infrastructure decay.

Hall, Friedemann and Stewart all raise a common point: assuming renewable energy was rolled out with adequate speed and with all the boost the last hours of ancient sunlight and fossil energy era technology can supply, is it enough? The answer to that question lies in our civic willingness to face limits, both to the size of the human population and to how much it consumes. Can the extravagance of growth fanatics continue? Clearly not. Will President @realdonaldtrump keep the lemmings racing towards the cliff? Definitely so.

Chazon’s 60 scientists looked at something entirely different. They asked the question, what if we let nature be nature? Would she recover? Would she do so in time? The answer, which is really quite shocking given what we presented here last week, is yes. We have only to step aside.

Chazon, et al, noticed that although deforestation in the world’s tropical regions, owing to expansion of cattle farming, urban sprawl and fire, continues to reduce overall forest cover, second-growth forests (SFs) are expanding in many deforested areas of Latin America. SFs emerge spontaneously in post-cultivation fallows, on abandoned farms and pastures, in the understory of ecological restoration plantings, and following assisted natural regeneration on private or communal lands. Given that there has been good satellite telemetry for more than 4 decades, Chazon’s group asked,

 

 

 

“What is the total predicted carbon storage potential of naturally regenerating forests over four decades across biomes and countries?”

The answer was “a lot.”

Only about 28% of the millions of hectares studied was second growth forest, but looking carefully at that part, the researchers concluded that if second-growth forests were permitted to recover, unaided by tree planting or other interventions, 8.48 gigaton of carbon would be net sequestered over 40 years just in the aboveground biomass. Calculating below ground carbon they say would add another 25% (although we think that is too low). Their number corresponds to a total sequestration of 31.09 Gt CO2, equivalent to emissions from fossil fuel use and industrial processes in all of Latin America and the Caribbean from 1993 to 2014.

Just imagine what could be achieved with the addition of step-harvesting of forest products and biochar from woody wastes — or if we just left alone the other 90 percent of the planet that would naturally revert to second-growth forest if were allowed to. In either of those scenarios, so much carbon would be sucked out of the atmosphere that Earth’s atmosphere could quickly recover to pre-industrial greenhouse gas levels in a time far short of 40 years.

Suicide is not the only option, as the volunteer on the other end of the hot line will tell you.

There are still choices.

 

The Renewable Energy Survey

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on May 29, 2016

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One of the biggest controversies among people who are aware of the Energy problems we face moving into the future is whether Renewable Energy (RE) can substitute for the Fossil Fuels (FF) we currently use to run our Industrial Lifestyle and Civilization. Can they produce enough energy, can we transition to them fast enough, can they replace all the things we use fossil fuels to power?

 

ugo-bardi-rLast week, Ugo Bardi of the blog Cassandra's Legacy  and Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Firenza in Italy put up the results of an Informal Survey he did of “experts” in RE who participate on a discussion forum dedicated to the topic. There were 70 respondents to this survey, and they mostly were positive in their view of the future potential of RE as a replacement for FFs. I thought it would be a good idea to get a wider sample of opinions on this topic, and hopefully a larger Sample Size as well in a new Renewable Energy Survey.  The first question in this survey is a duplicate of Ugo's question, the rest of the questions are designed to get further detail on your opinions on the future of RE as we move forward toward a Different Tomorrow.  I won't say better or worse, just that it surely will be different.

 

Now, our survey by no means is a Random Sample of the population at large, it is a sample of people who read blogs & websites where we are dropping the Links on to take the survey. However, we are not just dropping the links on Collapse oriented sites, we also are dropping them on Renewable Energy sites where the readers are generally more positive about the future potential for RE than on Collapse oriented sites. So we hope to get a balance of opinions in this way.

 

We also hope that the readers will email Friends & Relatives with the link to the survey, so we can get an even wider sample of opinions from people who don't usually concern themselves with this topic and don't haunt either the Renewable Energy blogs or Collapse Blogs. The larger the sample size we can get, the more accurate the results of the survey will be as a reflection of what people think about these issues.  Larger sample size also allows better parsing of data based on demographics.

 

http://www.easydigging.com/images-new/old-fashion-waterwheel.jpg RE doesn't come in only One Flavor, there are many forms of it, some used since Antiquity such as Mechanical Windmills and Water Wheels, which go back to the Roman Empire at least. Animal Labor from Draft animals is also a form of Renewable Energy, as long as you have food for the Horses & Oxen anyhow. Similarly with Slave Labor of Homo Saps, as long as you can feed, clothe and house them in enough numbers they reproduce effectively, this also is a form of RE.  The energy itself in both the latter 2 cases comes in the form of FOOD, but for that energy to be converted to usable work, it needs a biological machine that does that, which mainly are draft animals and slave Homo Saps.

 

More commonly though, when you talk to modern people about RE, what they think of are Photovoltaic Panels popping up on some of the rooftops around Suburbia amongst people seeking to go “off grid”. They also picture the large Arrays of Wind Turbines sprinkled across mountains in California, along with huge Hydro plants like the Hoover Dam. One of the questions in our survey is what you think the relative effectiveness of each of these types of RE will have as we move into the future?

http://www.rechargenews.com/solar/article1347212.ece/alternates/article_main/OCI%20Alamo%20I%20Solar%20Farm%20%20%20%20%20Credit%20-%20OCI.jpg   http://www.cellphonetaskforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/wind-farm.jpg

 

Other questions revolve around your opinions on how much energy we need to maintain the techno-industrial lifestyle, and how large a population of Homo Sap is sustainable on the planet in the absence of FFs, with only REs as a source of usable energy? If we made the transition today, how many people could live sustainably on Mother Earth? We also would like to know your opinion on when serious Energy Shortages for maintaining the Industrial Lifestyle will begin to be apparent in 1st World countries, using the United States as the primary example of a highly consumptive Industrial society.

 

Our survey provides room for detailed text answers to each question, along with the Multiple Choice and Ranking options for the questions. No matter what you do on such a survey, you never can provide all the answer choices everyone would like to see. The most common criticism we get with our surveys is that “you did not ask this or that” or “you did not provide this or that answer choice”. First off, you never can think of EVERY possibility in advance, and second even if you could your questions and answers would get way too long. So inevitably, any Survey is just a subset of possibilities.

 

https://s3-media3.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/sjCtSm2Pn8pKn2xJSfE6cg/ls.jpg Another common criticism is that our surveys are not "scientifically" designed.  This is fucking horseshit to begin with, you don't need a Ph.D to ask a fucking question. lol.  However, insofar as designing tests that provide a decent measure of WTF you are trying to measure goes, I'm as close to an expert as you will get.  I spent several years working for The Princeton Review designing test questions to mimic the SAT for wannabee Ivy Leaguers seeking to get a leg up on that test.  I got the job because I myself am a first class test taker, it's a gift. lol.  I also taught Args (Arguments) for wannabee Lawyers taking the LSAT, and all sections of the MCAT for wannabee Doctors.  In fact I'm the only person I know of who taught all of those tests for TPR. 🙂  So take it from me, this survey is measuring exactly what I set out to measure here.  That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement though, and based on responses and criticisms so far dropped on, I may do a follow up of this later on.

 

One criticism which has popped up in text responses so far is WHY did we not include Nuclear Energy as a Renewable energy resource?  This one I will answer now, so I don't get more of the same critique in the text fields as more responses roll in.  There are several reasons for this.

 

https://www.icheme.org/~/media/Images/TCE/News%20Images/Nuclear/Nuclear%20Tower.jpg First off is that strictly speaking fissionable material that can be mined up is not infinite, so this is not renewable.  Even with breeder reactors, eventually this will run out, although it might take quite some time.  Then you have the spent fuel problem and the waste generated by these plants.  Although in THEORY you might make such waste benign through further nuclear processing and reactions, such a method has not been implemented anywhere, and poisonous spent fuel continues to accumulate everywhere that nuclear reactors are running.  Third is that although some projected forms of Nuclear energy such as Thorium Reactors are claimed to be safe and clean, no such reactor has been built to date to demonstrate even on small scale that it can be run economically.  So all in all, to date Nuclear energy does not appear to be renewable, but rather presents its own existential threat to the environment due to the waste problems it has.

 

Next Week or the week after, depending on the Survey Sample size we will present the results here on the Diner for further discussion, and we will keep the survey open after that to see if the discussion materially affects the total numbers for any category. You can't change your answers from your first submission, but if the discussion materially affects your choices, you can make a second submission. Put a “#2” in the beginning of the email field along with your email address if you submitted one, and I will filter the second set. Or I may just duplicate the whole survey to get a whole new sample. Or I may filter the data by submission date.  One way or the other, I will try to sort this out.

 

We did a "pre-release" of the survey in the last week, dropping links on Cassandra's Legacy, Our Finite World, Economic Undertow and various Reddit Subs as well as on the Diner Forum to get some initial readings on what the zeitgeist is out there as far as RE Questions go.  As of this publication, we currently have 121 respondents so far, which is not a bad sample size to begin with, but hopefully we can expand it some from this.

 

I'm not going to publish the current stats on answers to the the substantive questions from this sample, because that would skew answers from people who have not yet responded.  However, I will drop down here some of the early Demographics on the respondents.

survey-RE-education-1

 

https://www.rochester.edu/commencement/2013/doctoral/doctoral1.jpg The most ASTOUNDING one so far is the Formal Education level of the respondents, it is extraordinarily high.  14% of respondents have Doctorate Level education, 29% with Masters level.  This compared to a general population level of 3% Doctorate and 12% Masters or above.  So by NO MEANS is this a Random Sample!  lol.

 

You can look at this as a Good or Bad thing depending on your perspective.  If you consider that getting opinions from mostly well educated people is a good thing, then a survey which draws in mostly well educated people in responses is good.  If you would rather have a general cross section of the population at large, then such a survey is not valid for that population.

 

http://www.wnd.com/files/2015/09/gender-restroom.png A disappointing (though not unexpected) demographic so far is the number of Females who have responded.  Not unexpected because the collapse blogosphere is heavily weighted toward males, so there just aren't that many females reading this stuff to be able to get them to post up their opinions.  A suggestion I have to remedy this problem is for male respondents to the survey to coax females they know into filling it out.  Your mom, wife, girlfriend etc.  Transgender people self identifying as female are also welcome to check this box! 🙂  Or you can choose the "other" selection (nobody has picked that yet).

 

The rest of the Demographic questions are coming out distributed nicely, particularly the Age Demographic which is almost a perfect Bell Curve at the moment, though this has fluctuated some.  In any event, there are substantial responses in all categories besides <18 or >70 to parse out opinions by age.  Global distribution is weighted heavily to North America as to be expected given the Diner is an English language blog based in NA, but substantial contribution from Europe as well since this is where Ugo's blog Cassandra's Legacy is based in Italy.  It's been holding pretty steady at 55% North America, 30% Europe, 10% Oz & NZ and the rest everywhere else.

 

The next question you face when analyzing such statistics is their VALIDITY across the population you sample.  Across the entire population of the earth at around 7.2B people right now, this survey has virtually no statistical significance at all!  However, that is not the population being sampled here.  This population is mainly those who consider energy/collapse questions and regularly participate in net discussions on these topics.  How BIG is that population?  Well, I have been doing this biz for almost a decade now, and my estimate on the population size for people who both are aware of the eenrgy problems AND regularly haunt the websites concerned with this topic is around 50,000.  I get that number because for a variety of reasons I know what the subscription numbers are for the largest sites concerned with the topic.

 

So, if you take the current Sample Size of ~100 and the estimate of the total population you are sampling as 50,000, what is the Validity of this survey with those numbers?  For  a Population size of 50,000 with a Confidence Level of 95% and a Margin of Error of 10%, we need 96 respondents to the survey, which we have ALREADY exceeded!  Plug the numbers in on Survey Monkey if you don't believe me. lol

 

I really don't think we need a greater Confidence interval than this, so the main thing a bigger Sample Size will do is to increase the total size of population that sample is valid for.  I expect by the time this survey has accumulated  maximum responses that we will easily have a 99% confidence interval on the results for a population size of 50K.  I only do this statsitical shit because I constantly get  hammered when I do surveys they are not "scientific" enough.  The only criticism that beats "your question and answer choices SUCK!" when you do a survey is how "scientific" it is and what validity it has.  lol.  You can easily tell using CFS principles what is going on though, you don't really need to do the math.

 

Remember though, for surveys to have good validity and make them tough to deny, they need a good Sample Size! So get as many people as you can to fill it out!  This is particularly important if you want to parse the data based on different demographic parameters, which is quite interesting already. Everybody who drops an email addy on the survey will get a copy of the complete dataset (less the emails and website referrals) to do their own analysis.  If you do undertake such a dissection, let me know and I will publish your analysis.  A real nice one to look at is the difference in results between males and females.  Parsing by education level and age also is quite interesting.

 

At current pace, I'll probably have enough numbers for a publication next week of results, but I may wait 2 weeks on this depending on what the stream is and the decay rate in responses.

 

Thanks to all who have contributed to the survey so far, and for the rest of you, TAKE THE SURVEY NOW!

Can Peak Oil Save Us From Climate Change?

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Published on Resource Crisis on October 8, 2015

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"Peak Oil will save us from Climate Change:" a meme that never went viral

The idea that peak oil will save us from climate change has been occasionally popping up in the debate, but it never really gained traction for a number of good reasons. One is that, in many cases, the proponents were also climate science deniers and that made them scarcely credible. Indeed, if climate change does not exist (or if it is not caused by human activities), then how is it that you are telling us that peak oil will save us from it? Add to this that many hard line climate science deniers are also peak oil deniers (since, as well known, both concepts are part of the great conspiracy), then, it is no surprise that the meme of "peak oil will save us" never went viral.

That doesn't mean that we shouldn't ask the question of whether we have sufficient amounts of fossil fuel to generate a truly disastrous climate change. The debate on this point goes back to the early 2000s. At the beginning, the data were uncertain and it was correctly noted that some of the IPCC scenarios overestimated what we are likely to burn in the future. But, by now, I think the fog has cleared.  It is becoming increasingly clear that fossil fuel depletion is not enough, by far, to save us from climate change.

Nevertheless, some people still cling to the old "peak oil will save us" meme. In a recent post on "Energy Matters", Roger Andrews argues that:

All of the oil and gas reserves plus about 20% of the coal reserves could be consumed without exceeding the IPCC’s trillion-tonne carbon emissions limit.

Now, that sounds reassuring and surely many people would understand it in the sense that we shouldn't worry at all about burning oil and gas. Unfortunately, that's just not true and Andrews' statement is both overoptimistic and misleading. One problem is that the "2 degrees limit" is a last ditch attempt to limit the damage created by climate change, but there is no certainty that staying beyond it will be enough to prevent disaster. Then, there is a problem with Andrew's use of the term "reserves," to be understood as "proven reserves". Proven reserves include only those resources that are known to exist and to be extractable at present; and that's surely much less than all what could be extracted in the future. The parameter that takes into account also probably existing resources is called "Ultimate Recoverable Resources" or URRs

So, let's consider a world fossil URR estimate that many people would consider as "pessimistic," the one by Jean Laherrere that I already discussed in a previous post. It turns out that we have enough oil and gas that, together, they can produce enough CO2 to reach the 2 degrees limit; even though, maybe, not more. There follows that, if we really wanted to burn all the oil and gas known to be extractable, to stay withing the limit we would need to stop all carbon burning; starting from tomorrow! Not an easy thing to do, considering that coal produces more than 40% of the energy that powers the world's electrical grid and, in some countries, much more than that. It is true that coal is the dirtiest of the three fossil fuels and must be phased out faster than oil and gas, but the consumption of all three must go down together, otherwise it will be impossible to remain under the limit.

In the end, we have here one more of the many illusions that surround the climate issue; one that could be dangerous it were to spread. However, in addition to the other problems described here, Andrew's post falls in the same trap of many previous attempts: it uses the data produced by climate science to try to demonstrate its main thesis, but only after having defined climate science as "Vodoo Science." No way: this is not a meme that will go viral.

Wicked Problems and Wicked Solutions

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Resource Crisis on July 13, 2015

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I am back from two days of full immersion in a meeting on something rather new for me: the world's food supply. I am still reeling from the impact. Whenever you go in some depth into anything; you see how immensely more complex things are in comparison to the pale shadow of the world that you perceive in the glittering screen of your TV. Everything is complex, and everything complex becomes wicked once you start seeing it as a problem. And wicked problems usually generate wicked solutions. (image from Wikipedia)

 

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Can you think of something worse than a wicked problem? Yes, it is perfectly possible: it is a wicked solution. That is, a solution that not only does nothing to solve the problem, but, actually, worsens it. Unfortunately, if you work in system dynamics, you soon learn that most complex systems are not only wicked, but suffer from wicked solutions (see, e.g. here).

This said, let's get to one of the most wicked problems I can think of: that of the world's food supply. I'll try to report here at least a little of what I learned at the recent conference on this subject, jointly held by FAO and the Italian Chapter of the System Dynamics Society. Two days of discussions held in Rome during a monster heat wave that put under heavy strain the air conditioning system of the conference room and made walking from there to one's hotel a task comparable to walking on an alien planet: it brought the distinct feeling that you needed a refrigerated space suit. But it was worth being there.

First of all, should we say that the world's food supply is a "problem"? Yes, if you note that about half of the world's human population is undernourished; if not really starving. And of the remaining half, a large fraction is not nourished right, because obesity and type II diabetes are rampant diseases – they said at the conference that if the trend continues, half of the world's population is going to suffer from diabetes.

So, if we have a problem, is it really "wicked"? Yes, it is, in the sense that finding a good solution is extremely difficult and the results are often the opposite than those intended at the beginning. The food supply system is a devilishly complex system and it involves a series of cross linked subsystems interacting with each other. Food production is one thing, but food supply is a completely different story, involving transportation, distribution, storage, refrigeration, financial factors, cultural factors and is affected by climate change, soil conservation, population, cultural factors…… and more, including the fact that people don't just eat "calories", they need to eat food; that is a balanced mix of nutrients. In such a system, everything you touch reverberates on everything else. It is a classic case of the concept known in biology as "you can't do just one thing."

Once you obtain even a vague glimpse of the complexity of the food supply system – as you can do in two days of full immersion in a conference – then you can also understand how poor and disingenuous often are the efforts to "solve the problem". The basic mistake that almost everyone does here (and not just in the case of the food supply system) is trying to linearize the system.

Linearizing a complex system means that you act on a single element of it, hoping that all the rest won't change as a consequence. It is the "look, it is simple" approach: favored by politicians (*). It goes like this, "look, it is simple: we just do this and the problem will be solved". What is meant with "this" varies with the situation; with the food system, it often involves some technological trick to raise the agricultural yields. In some quarters that involves the loud cry "let's go GMOs!" (genetically modified organisms).

Unfortunately, even assuming that agricultural yields can be increased in terms of calories produced using GMOs (possible, but only in industrialized agricultural systems), then the result is a cascade of effects which reverberate in the whole system; typically transforming a resilient rural production system into a fragile, partly industrialized, production system – to say nothing about the fact that these technologies often worsen the food's nutritional quality. And, assuming that it is possible to increase yields, how do you find the financial resources to build up the infrastructure needed to manage the increased agricultural yield? You need trucks, refrigerators, storage facilities, and more. Even if you can manage to upgrade all that, very often, the result is simply to make the system more fragile and less resilient, vulnerable to external shocks such as increases in the cost of supplies such as fuels and fertilizers.

There are other egregious examples of how deeply flawed is the "'look, it is simple" strategy. One is the idea that we can solve the problem by getting rid of food waste. Great, but how exactly can you do that and how much would that cost? (**) And who would pay for the necessary upgrade of the whole distribution infrastructure? Another "look, it is simple" approach is 'if we all went vegetarian, there would be plenty of food for everyone'. In part, it is true, but it is not so simple, either. Again, there is a question of distribution and transportation, and the fact that rich westerners buy "green food" in their supermarkets has little impact on the situation of the poor in the rest of the world. And then, some kind of "green" food are bulky and hence difficult to transport; also they spoil easily, and so you need refrigeration, and so on. Something similar holds for the "let's go local" strategy. How do you deal with the unavoidable fluctuations in local production? Once upon a time, these fluctuations were the cause of periodic famines which were accepted as a fact of life. Going back to that is not exactly a way to "solve the food supply problem."

A different way to tackle the problem is focussed on reducing the human population. But, also here, we often make the "look, it is simple" mistake. What do we know exactly on the mechanisms that generate overpopulation, and how do we intervene on them? Sometimes, proposers of this approach seem to think that all what we need to do is to drop condoms on poor countries (at least it is better than dropping bombs). Not so easy, but suppose that you can reduce population in non traumatic ways, then you intervene into a system where "population" means a complex mix of different social and economic niches: you have urban, peri-urban, and rural population; a population reduction may mean shifting people from one sector to the other, it may involve losing producing capabilities in the rural areas, or, on the contrary, reduced capabilities of financing production if you could lower population in urban areas. Again, population reduction, alone, is a linear approach that won't work as it is supposed to do, even if it could be implemented.

Facing the complexity of the system, listening to the experts discussing it, you get a chilling sensation that it is a system truly too difficult for human beings to grasp. You would have to be at the same time an expert in agriculture, in logistics, in nutrition, in finance, in population dynamics, and much more. One thing I noticed, as a modest expert in energy and fossil fuels, is how food experts normally don't realize that the availability of fossil fuels must necessarily go down in the near future. That will have enormous effects on agriculture: think of fertilizers, mechanization, transportation, refrigeration, and more. But I didn't see these effects taken into account in most models presented. Several researchers showed diagrams extrapolating current trends into the future as if oil production were to keep increasing for the rest of the century and more.

The same is true for climate change: I didn't see at the conference much being said about the extreme effects that rapid climate change could have on agriculture. It is understandable: we have good models telling us how temperatures will rise, and how that will affect some of the planet's subsystems (e.g. sea levels), but no models that could tell us how the agricultural system will react to shifting weather patterns, different temperatures, droughts or floods. Just think of how deeply agricultural yields in India are linked to the yearly monsoon pattern and you can only shiver at the thought of what might happen if climate change would affect that.

So, the impression I got from the conference is that nobody is really grasping the complexity of the problem; neither at the level of single persons, nor at the level of organizations. For instance, I never heard a crucial term used in world dynamics, which is "overshoot". That is, it is true that right now we can produce roughly enough food – measured in calories – for the current population. But for how long will we be able to do that? In several cases I could describe the approaches I have seen as trying to fix a mechanical watch using a hammer. Or to steer a transatlantic liner using a toothpick stuck into the propeller.

But there are also positive elements coming from the Rome conference. One is that the FAO, although a large, and sometimes clumsy, organization understands how system dynamics is a tool that could help a lot policy makers understanding the consequences of what they are doing. And, possibly, helping them device better ideas to "solve the food problem". That's more difficult than it seems: system dynamics is not for everyone and teaching it to bureaucrats is like teaching dogs to solve equations: it takes a lot of work and it doesn't work so well. Then, system dynamics practitioners are often victim of the "spaghetti diagram" syndrome, which consists in drawing complex models full of little arrows going from somewhere to somewhere else, and then watching the mess they created and nodding in a show of internal satisfaction. But it is also true that, at the conference, I saw a lot of good will among the various actors in the field to find a common language. This is a good thing, difficult, but promising.

In the end, what is the solution to the "food supply problem"? If you ask me, I would try to propose a concept: "in a complex system, there are neither problems, nor solutions. There is only change and adaptation." As a corollary, I could say that you can solve a problem (or try to) but you can't solve a change (not even try to). You can only adapt to change, hopefully in a non traumatic manner.

Seen in this sense, the best way to tackle the present food supply situation, is not to seek for impossible (wicked) solutions (e.g. GMOs) but to increase the resilience of the system. That involves working at the local level and interacting with all the actors working in the food supply system. It is a sensible approach. FAO is already following it and it can insure a reasonable supply even in the presence of the unavoidable shocks that are going to arrive as the result of climate change and energy supply problems. Can system dynamics help? Probably yes. Of course, there is a lot of work to do, but the Rome conference was a good start.

H/t: Stefano Armenia, Vanessa Armendariz, Olivio Argenti and all the organizers of the joint Sydic/FAO conference in Rome

Notes.

* Once you tackle the food problem, you can't ignore the "third world" situation. As a consequence, the conference was not just among Westerners and the debate took a wider aspect that also involved different ways of seeing the world. One particularly interesting discussion I had was with a Mexican researcher. According to her opinion, "linearizing" complex problems is a typical (and rather wicked) characteristic of the Western way of thinking. She countered this linear vision with the "circular" approach that, according to her, is typical of ancient Meso-American cultures, such as the Maya and others. That approach, she said, could help a lot the world to tackle wicked problems without worsening them. I just report this opinion; personally I don't have sufficient knowledge to judge it. However, it seems true to me that there is something wicked in the way Western thought tends to mold everything and everyone on its own image.

** In the food system, the idea that "look, it is simple: just let's get rid of waste" is exactly parallel to the "zero waste" approach for urban and industrial waste. I have some experience in this field, and I can tell you that, the way it is often proposed, the "zero waste" idea simply can't work. It involves high costs and it just makes the system more and more fragile and vulnerable to shocks. That doesn't mean that waste is unavoidable; not at all. If you can't build up a "zero waste" industrial system, you can build up subsystems that will process and eliminate that waste. These subsystems, however, cannot work using the same logic of the standard industrial system; they have to be tailored to operate on low yield resources. In practice, it is the "participatory management" approach, (see, e.g., the work of Prof. Gutberlet). It can be done with urban waste, but also with food waste and it is another way to increase the resilience of the system.

The Oil Crash: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Resource Crisis on May 11, 2015

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The recent oil price crash signals the impending demise of the oil and gas industry as a major world energy producer. That should be a good thing, in principle, but something wicked may still come out of the process.

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

With the ongoing collapse of the oil prices, we can say that it is game over for the oil and gas industry, in particular for the production of "tight" (or "shale") oil and gas. Prices may still go back to reasonably high levels, in the future, but the industry will never be able to regain the momentum that had made its US  supporters claim "energy independence" and "centuries of abundance." The bubble may not burst all of a sudden, but it surely will deflate.

So, what's going to happen, now? The situation is, to say the least, "fluid". A great rush is ongoing to convince investors to place their money where there is still some chance to make a profit. I think we can identify at least three different strategies for the future: 1) more of the same (oil and gas) 2) a push to nuclear, and 3) a push for renewables. Let's see to examine what the future may have in store for us.

1) A push for more gas and more oil. The oil&gas industry has not yet conceded defeat; on the contrary, it still dreams of centuries of abundance (see, e.g. this article on Forbes). It seems unthinkable that investors would still want to finance uncertain enterprises such as squeezing more oil from exhausted fields or, worse, from difficult and expensive technologies such as coal liquefaction. But you should never underestimate the power of business as usual. If people feel that they absolutely need liquid fuels, then they will be willing to do anything to get liquid fuels.

The main problem with this idea is not so much its technical feasibility. By throwing every resource at hand at the task (and beggaring the whole economy in the process) it would not be impossible to fool peak oil for a few more years. The problem is a different one: it is with climate change and with the fact that we are running out of time. If we keep burning hydrocarbons, we just can't make it: the industrial society cannot survive the resulting warming and the associated troubles. That is true if we keep burning at the "natural" rate, that is along the bell shaped curve. Imagine if we try to keep growing, instead (as all politicians in the world say we should).

All this is becoming well known and, as a result, a push toward further hydrocarbon production (or, God forbid, more coal) will be possible only if accompanied by a strong propaganda campaign destined to silence climate science and climate activism. Some symptoms that something like that is in the making are evident enough to be disturbing. Consider that none of the Republican candidates for the US 2016 elections supports the need for action on climate change, that in Florida government employees are not allowed to use the term "climate change" or "global warming," that NASA has been defunded on anything that has to do with climate change, and more. Then, a certain logic starts to appear: "muzzle the science and keep on burning". Something very wicked this way comes…..

2. A new push for nuclear. This option would not be so bad as the first, more hydrocarbons. At least, nuclear plants do not directly generate greenhouse gases and we know that it is a technology that can produce energy. Nevertheless, the hurdles associated with its expansion are gigantic. The first and foremost problem is that the uranium mineral production is not sufficient for ramping up nuclear energy from a few percent of the world's primary energy production to a major fraction of it – to be able to do that would require investments so large to be mind boggling. To say nothing about the need for rare minerals in nuclear plants: beryllium, niobium, hafnium, zirconium, rare earths, and more; all in short supply. Then, there are all the nightmarish problems of nuclear waste disposal, safety, and strategic control.

Nevertheless, if it were possible to convince investors to pour money into nuclear energy, then it would be possible to see an attempt to restart it, despite the various problems and disasters that have given to nuclear a bad name. An attempt to do just that seems to be in progress. President Obama is said to be considering a massive return to nuclear and investors are told to prepare for a gigantic surge in uranium prices. Will it work? Unlikely, but not impossible. Something wicked this way comes……
 

hafnium as a neutron absorber, beryllium as a neutron reflector, zirconium for cladding, and niobium

 

 

 

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2011-05-nuclear-power-world-energy.html#jCp


3. A big push for renewables. Surprisingly, the renewable industry may have serious chances to take over from a senescent oil industry, leaving the nuclear industry standing still and gasping at the sight. The progress in renewable technology, especially in photovoltaic cells, has been simply fantastic during the past decade (see, e.g., the recent MIT report). We have now a set of methods for producing electric power that can compete with traditional sources, watt for watt, dollar for dollar. Consider that the most efficient of these technologies do not need critically rare materials and that none brings the strategic and security problem of nuclear. Finally, consider that it has been shown (Sgouridis, Bardi, and Csala) that the present renewable technology could take over from the current sources fast enough to prevent major damage from climate change.

It looks like we have a winner, right? Indeed, the atmosphere around renewables is one of palpable optimism. If renewable energy picks up enough momentum, there will be nothing able to stop it until it has catapulted all of us, willing or not, into a new (and cleaner) world.

There is a problem, though. The renewable industry is still tiny in comparison to the nuclear industry and especially in comparison to the oil and gas industry. And we know that might usually wins against right. The sheer financial power of the traditional energy industry may well be enough to abort the change before it becomes unstoppable. Something wicked may still come……. (*)

(*) "Something wicked this way comes" is mainly known today as the title of a 1962 novel by Ray Bradbury. Actually, it comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth..

Conservation Commutation Plan

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 1, 2015

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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As my good friend Steve on Economic Undertow often points out, probably 90% of the energy problems we have right now come from the incredible WASTEFULNESS of so many people driving around individual Carz, often to little real purpose and certainly not generating any new “wealth”. just burning up old wealth in energy from increasingly depleted energy reservoirs around the world.

Clearly, as a society we need to STOP using so much Oil, and the biggest waster of that Oil is the current Car oriented paradigm, particularly in the FSoA which has been pursuing it the longest, but also in Europe and China now too.  It’s really ridiculous that every single commuter is riding in his or her individual car 20 or more miles to work every day from their Suburban McHovels, then leave the car parked all day in the lot or garage and drive another 20 or miles back to the McHovel after the workday is done.

As the population increases while the available SPACE on the planet does not, you end up getting some AMAZING traffic problems from this system.

NY Shity Traffic Jam

http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/nyc-traffic-jam-ronda-broatch.jpg

Beijing Traffic Jam

http://www.caradvice.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Beijing_traffic.jpg

 

This of course makes the whole system even MORE inefficient, with MORE waste of energy as cars sit in interminably long traffic jams from NY Shity to London to Paris to Beijing and back again.

The SOLUTION many folks propose is more Public Transportation, back to the Railroads as it were. This is a favorite paradigm for Jim Kunstler, but he is not alone in this idea.  What’s wrong with it?

Well, if you grew up inside NY Shity riding the Subway, you know immediately what is wrong with it, it absolutely SUCKS waiting for trains, muscling yourself in on crowded train platforms to get a seat on the next arriving train, etc.  Besides that, the train almost NEVER goes EXACTLY where you need it to go, like the Parking Lot of Walmart does.  You drive to Walmart, you buy a Big Screen TV, you wheel it out to  your SUV in a Shopping Cart and then you drive it home.  Good luck with getting your Big Screen TV home if you ride the Subway to Best Buy!

http://mainfun.ru/uploads/images/01/44/10/2014/12/02/bd3bfb.jpg

So, it is waste, Waste, WASTE everywhere here on a daily basis, and in fact the entire infrastructure has been designed in such a way that you can’t STOP this, not on a Dime anyhow.  If you took out the Carz tomorrow with no decent alternative plan to substitute for them, just about every Bedroom Community in the FSoA would be totally FUCKED.  Really, they would be UNLIVABLE.  However, you cannot rebuild an entirely new infrastructure overnight to accommodate for this, so you have to start thinking about how to ADAPT the current infrastructure

https://grist.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/chevy-volt_02.jpgBesides utilizing Mass Transport and Light Rail, the other main substitute often proposed by Cornucopians are EVs, aka Electric Vehicles which usually means Electric Carz like the Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius.  These vehicles take the SAME idea that every single person can have their own Powerful Individual Car which can travel Continent Size Distances, and instead of putting in a Gas Tank, they drop in an INCREDIBLY expensive set of Li-I batteries to run the thing.

People who promote this never really deal with the fact that if EVERYONE was charging up this sort of vehicle off the grid to do the same sort of Happy Motoring they do now, the energy requirement necessary would collapse the grid!  There is not enough electric generation capacity to substitute for all the ICEs, in fact there really is not enough Electric Generation capacity in many places to handle what we have NOW in terms of demand.

So, you have a few issues here you need to solve simultaneously.  You need to reduce the total energy demand.  You need to keep the current suburban model functioning at least through a Transition Period.  Outright INSTANTANEOUS abandonment of the Suburban Model is IMPOSSIBLE without a Mad Max style dislocation.  You just cannot move so many people so fast with an infrastructure that took decades, even CENTURIES to build.

Believe it or not, there is means and method to meet these goals, not perfectly but at least enough to avoid the Mad Max outcome IMHO.  It’s not with Rail, though that is a part of it, and its not a large Mega-Infrastructure project either.  It’s an adaptation that works on a Cellular Level, is redundant and easily achieved.

The SOLUTION here is PERSONAL SCOOTERS and ELECTRIC VANS.

The biggest issue you have in the daily commute if you do NOT use a car to get from PointA to Point B is the First and Last Mile.  AKA, if you are using some sort of Mass Transit, the distance from your McHovel to the Boarding Train Station, then the distance from the disembarkation point to your workplace, and vica-versa.

To resolve the First and Last Mile problem, you use the Scooters, which can be Electric or Gas Powered.  Gas powered ones get in the neighborhood of 80 MPG, so even there you have more than 70% savings usually.  Electrics, no gas at all, and renewable generation can charge them most of the time.  You drive your Scooter to a Pick Up location served by Independent Entrepreneurs who run 10 Passenger Vans with a Trailer capable of pulling 10 Scooters, Gas or Electric.

Electric-CommutersWhere there were before 10 individual SUVs all running on GAS, now there is only ONE Van running on renewable electricity.  Even if the scooters are running on Gas, they do only the first and last mile of the commute. Besides that, even if Gas powered, the scooters get 80 mpg while the SUV gets 30 at best.

Productivity is increased here, all the folks who used to be busy driving for an hour or more each way to work now sit for that hour in a comfortable Workstation in the Electric Van, answering emails and getting ready for morning Trading on the NYSE.  LOL.

There are now 1/10th of the Carz on the road than there were before, since 10 Pigmen were in the Electric Van instead of 10 each in their own Mercedes.  Parking your Scooter is easy anywhere in Manhattan also, even down on Wall Street!

Getting the Big Screen TV Home from Best Buy with a Scooter remains a problem with this meme.  However, Big Box Stores aren’t doing too well anyhow, so you just order the the Big Screen TV from Amazon.com or Alibaba and an electric truck deposits it in your driveway, or maybe a Drone will do it!

Overall, my estimation is that pursuing this paradigm would drop Oil consumption AT LEAST in half, maybe even 70%.  There would not be THAT much change in the industrial societies resultant from that.

Over time here, keeping all the Scooters charged or gassed up will become difficult.  However, in the INTERMEDIATE time, conservation of this sort can extend out the industrial lifestyle 20 or more years.

Of course, as of today, for most Amerikans not yet off the Economic Cliff, the Individual lifestyle of having boundless energy resource to waste remains the driving paradigm.  It doesn’t matter what Idea you present these days, be it High Speed Rail from the Chinese or Scooter Econmics from me.

Before any significant change can occur,  a lot more Shit has to Hit the Fan.

Meanwhile, before it all collapses, Prep up with Scooters and Bikes! 🙂

RE

Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on December 30, 2014

Heat_engine

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A while back, I tried to clarify the way Money works as a Proxy for Energy in the Money Valve series, in which I took a detailed look at how the various facets of our Industrial system conspire to turn Resources into Waste over time.  The whole bizness got pretty complicated even though I tried to keep it simple, stupid in the KISS principle.  What I was trying to demonstrate is how money and energy are related, and how the flow is mediated by the monetary system.

We began with a fairly simple chart, to see how Money is allocated based on Energy.

MoneyValve3The whole idea began to get a lot more complicated once I tried to identify the various sectors of the economy, how they interact, where the inputs are, and where the waste flows to.  Even at a simple level, the network gets pretty complex.

MoneyValve7While it is worthwhile to try to elucidate how all the factors interplay here in an Industrial type economy, in reality the basic issue is one of fundamental thermodynamics, which the classic Heat Engine graphic at the top of the article illustrates.  In the classic Heat Engine, energy in the form of Heat flows downhill from Hot to Cold, and how big the gradient is between Hot and Cold determines the amount of work the Heat Engine can perform.  For the Heat Engine to do WORK, there always has to be a HEAT SINK, a place for the waste heat to go on the way downhill.

As I have argued on numerous occasions, Money serves as a PROXY for the energy available in a given society, and because of that there is a PRECISE analogue to the Credit-Debt system of money we use to the available energy in a given society.  All you have to do to see this is re-label the Thermodynamic Heat Engine to see how this works.

Heat_engine-Money

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689.jpgThe analogy is so clear and so precise that I am quite certain Master of the Mint Sir Isaac Newton understood this relationship when they founded the Bank of England in 1692.

At the beginning in the theoretical example, a Heat Engine is very efficient, when there is a large difference between the temperature of the Heat Source and the Temperature of the Heat Sink.  The greater the gradient here, the more Work the system is capable of performing, and the waste heat is only a small percentage of the total energy consumed by the machine.  Over time however, as the Energy source which provides the Heat is consumed and the Waste created in the process becomes ever larger, the Gradient becomes ever less, and the machine becomes ever less capable of doing Work.

In the REAL example here of Industrial Civilization, back in the late 18th Century when the Fossil Fuel resources began to be exploited, there was a very large gradient between what was available for exploitation in terms of resources, and the total amount of WASTE accumulated to that point in time.  The New World Continents of North & South America were virtually empty of people, as the diseases of Smallpox, Tuberculosis and Scarlet Fever decimated the Native populations, and compared to Europe and the Middle East, not near so much agriculturally intensive society either, though there was some going on prior to the Colonial Era.

Beginning with this era, it became possible to issue out EXTRAORDINARY amount of DEBT, if you were in a position of power with which to do that.  There was seemingly ENDLESS resource available in the New World even BEFORE the discovery of Fossil Fuels and how to use them in Heat Engines.  Once fossil fuels began to be exploited, it seemed like you could issue out ENDLESS debt on this one, because the Energy Source was so big.  And so it came to pass, virtually endless Debt has been issued out on this resource base, which now is running a bit thin overall.

It hasn’t “run out”, nor will it likely ever really entirely dissapear, but what has DISAPPEARED here is the Energy GRADIENT between available resources and Waste produced, so the Engine of this sort of economy is no longer very efficient, and becomes less so every day.  At this point, the Waste is not just filling Land Fills with Garbage, it is filling the Atmosphere also with CO2 and the oceans with plastic garbage, not to mention the Nuke Puke from Fukushima.  All of this waste accumulating in the environment make the Engine less able to do Work, because the gradient is less capable of absorbing the Waste Heat.

In terms of how this is reflected in the Monetary System serving as Proxy for this, all the DEBT issued out since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution has to collect in a DEBT SINK.  What is that sink?  It is the expanding balance sheet of the Central Banks, most notably De Federal Reserve Bank of the FSoA, but also including numerous other CBs like the Peoples Bank of China (PBoC).  The source of the Credit was the Global supply of fossil fuels, which still exist but the gradient between what is extractable and the waste produced in the burning of it no longer is there to do efficient work with.

On the Credit-Debt level, you see this problem in sharp relief.  The folks with the power to issue Debt still have that power, and they continue to issue more and more of it every day.  In the main, it is a few powerful Oligarchs who have the power to issue out debt, and they get the ball rolling on anything.  They do not pay off the debts however, they are all transfered through various processes of bailouts and bankruptcies onto the balance sheet of the Public, at the Central Bank.  This is how the “Privatization of Profit, Socialization of Debt” occurs.

You reach a point in this equilibrium however when the Debt level in the Debt Sink is equal to or greater than the Credit that can be issued out on the resource base of energy.

Credit-Debt_FlowWhy does the money stop flowing?  Well, it doesn’t in it’s entirety at first, but the backflow of bankruptcies matches or equals the rate at which new credit/money is issued out.  This is the stage we are at now.  You can keep issuing out credit, but you don’t get any return from it because the backflow matches any amount of new credit you pitch out.  There are not more resources the money can access without accumulating debt at an equal or greater rate.  The money at this point has to be issued out at a ZIRP, because there is nothing to be sieved of the flow from Interest & Taxation.

The Boom-Bust cycle occurs in the early years of accessing an energy source because the “animal spirits” of the folks issuing credit take over and they issue more credit than the machine at that point is prepared to handle.  You can only grow the money supply and credit as fast as the resource base that underpins the money is accessed.  In fact the folks running the Central Banks learned this, and thus came up with the target inflation rate of around 2%, to match how fast new sources of fossil fuel energy were being found and exploited.  The early 20th Century collapse of the Great Depression was an example of a Boom cycle where animal spirits amongst the creditors went wild, but the consumption ability was low at the time, there were not enough vectors through which to waste the energy.  It all went Bust in 1929 at the end of the Roaring 20s, and the aftermath of that Bust is well recorded history overall.

The situation we have now IS DIFFERENT THIS TIME, it’s not that the credit has been issued out too fast to access the resource base, it’s that the resource base relative to the debt level is too depleted to offer a return on investment. Certainly you could in theory issue out another say $100B in Credit to energy companies to drill the Arctic Ocean, but you’ll never get BACK the $100B PLUS INTEREST from the population at large to pay off on this investment.  The Debt Sink of the Consumer is already full up here, on all levels from personal debt to Goobermint debt signed for in his name by his “elected” representatives.  Da Goobermint is NOT handing out free money to consumers to buy the oil as it hands out free money to extractors to drill, and they likely never will.  What they are doing in just about all economies across the globe is strangling the amount of credit the population at large has available to buy the energy, while they close up shop and stop the CapEx required to exploit any sources of energy that are still left here.

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2014/12-overflow/20141229_WTI2%27.jpg

You can see this in action already in the Bakken and other neighborhoods where high CapEx is necessary to drill and develop the energy source, rig counts are already down there.  Royal Dutch Shell and the other majors are already backing off from further investment, and Geopolitically you see the collapse of agreements between countries like Russia which still has some energy resource to exploit and the multi-national companies that provide the expertiese and equipment to do the drilling, like Halliburton and Baker-Hughes, recently merged as they consolidate downward here.  These service companies to the Energy Industry are the ones getting hit first and hardest, but the whole industry will collapse in a cascade fashion here.

Once you grasp that Money is not a THING in itself, but just a PROXY FOR ENERGY, you should also grasp that it does not MATTER what the currency used is made from, Paper, Gold, Cowrie, Shells or Digibits.  Issuing out more digibits to buy energy that is not being extracted does not allow you to buy more energy.  You cannot issue out more Gold (because of course what Gold is left in the ground takes ever more Energy to extract), so all converting to a PM based monetary system does is deflate the economy, the gold becomes less valuable with respect to the resource available as well, not to mention not very available for people to use because it is so centralized overall.  In the final stages of the game, no matter HOW MUCH “money” you have of any type, it simply does not buy the resources you want to buy with it, they just are not there to BUY!

http://scriptshadow.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/canary-in-the-coal-mine.jpgw595.jpegBecause we depend on money to lubricate and run the global system of trade we have developed, it remains possible to an extent for the folks running the credit creation biz to funnel credit out to some places and not others, and in so doing triage off the economy whole sectors of the globe now.  Southern and Eastern Europe is being so triaged off as we speak, with our friends in Greece at the forefront of this, in a constant state of Bailout and Political Crisis, but NONE of the Bailouts to date have done a goddamn thing to relieve the misery of the Greek population, all they have done is keep the Bankstering System in Greece and Europe as a whole floating another day.  At this point as far as the majority of the population in Greece is concerned, there simply is no benefit whatsoever to remain inside the system.  They want to Opt Out.

Greece is the Canary in the Coal Mine here, and the same effect is going to move through all the economies of the banking system as the Credit that is issued out to consumers to buy energy is triaged off here.  The last places to experience this will be the centers of credit creation, in the City of London and Wall Street, but the speed at which it works its way inward increases daily here, you absolutely can track this progress on a monthly if not daily basis now.

Eventually, the Credit issued out is worthless, the currency is worthless there just is nothing left to BUY with it.  That is why the Roman currency collapsed, not because they diluted the Gold in the Coins with Base Metals, but because there simply was not stuff to BUY with that currency once they reached the Limits to Growth of that type of economy, mainly agriculturally based to provide energy to the society.

Has such a thing occurred before?  Indubitably, it has, it most certainly occurred at the end of the Babylonian Empire in the earliest years of the Ag Economy.  From Revelation 18:

10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.

11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:

12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,

13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.

At a certain point in the Collapse of a Civilization, it ALL goes WORTHLESS.  Not just the Fiat Paper, not just the Gold, but even the SOULS of MEN.  The life of a Slave is Worth LESS than it costs to keep the Slave alive, so the slave is disposed of.  When the Souls of Men become worthless, just how much value do you think remains in an Ounce of Gold?  Answer, not a whole lot there.

Money is a mathematical artifice that represents the total energy available to a society at any given time.  You cannot create more energy by issuing out more credit.  For the Roman Empire, which took Millenia to grow, it took Centuries for their economy based on Agriculture as their source of Energy to Collapse.  For the Industrial Society which developed over just a few Centuries, it will Collapse in a matter of decades at the most, and possibly more rapidly  than that as the monetary system which mediates the flow of energy itself collapse.

fall-of-rome

There is no stopping this process, the only thing that remains somewhat possible is to slow it down some, and to REVERSE ENGINEER to some older technologies that are less energy intensive on the way downslope.  That is not possible however on the grand scale here, the network as a whole is too dependent on the energy to continue functioning, so until the network collapses, there will be no changes made.  When the network does collapse, the change will come rapidly indeed.

Prep for it.

RE

Debt: Eight Reasons This Time is Different

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on July 7, 2014

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Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

In today’s world, we have a huge amount of debt outstanding. Academic researchers Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have become famous for their book This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly and their earlier paper This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises. Their point, of course, is that the same thing happens over and over again. We can learn from past crises to solve our current problems.

Part of their story is of course correct. Governments have gotten themselves into problems with debt, time after time. This is happening again now. In fact, the same two authors recently prepared a working paper for the International Monetary Fund called Financial and Sovereign Debt Crises: Some Lessons Learned and Some Lessons Forgotten, talking about ideas such as governments inflating their way out of debt problems and pushing problems off to insurance companies and pension funds, through regulations requiring investment in certain securities.

Many seem to believe that if we worked our way out of debt problems in the past, we can do the same thing again. The same assets may have new owners, but everything will work together in the long run. Businesses will continue operating, and people will continue to have jobs. We may have to adjust monetary policy, or perhaps regulation of financial institutions, but that is about all.

I think this is where the story goes wrong. The situation we have now is very different, and far worse, than what happened in the past. We live in a much more tightly networked economy. This time, our problems are tied to the need for cheap, high quality energy products. The comfort we get from everything eventually working out in the past is false comfort.

If we look closely at the past, we see that in some cases the outcomes are not benign. There are situations where much of the population in an area died off. This die-off did not occur directly because of debt defaults. Instead, the same issues that gave rise to debt defaults, primarily diminishing returns with respect to food and other types of production, also led to die off. We are not necessarily exempt from these same kinds of problems in the future.

Why the Current Interest in Debt Levels and Interest Rates

The reason I bring up these issues is because the problem of too much world debt is now coming to the forefront. The Bank for International Settlements, which is the central bank for central banks, issued a report a week ago in which they said world debt levels are too high, and that continuing the current low interest rate policy has too many bad effects. Something needs to be done to normalize monetary policy.

Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair, and Christine Lagarde, managing director or the International Monetary Fund, have also been making statements about the issue of how to fix our current economic problems (News Report; Video). There is the additional rather bizarre point that back in January, Lagarde used numerology to suggest that a major change in policy might be announced in 2014 (on July 20?), with the hope that the past “seven miserable years” can be followed by “seven strong years.” The IMF has talked in the past about using its special drawing rights (SDRs) as a sort of international currency. In this role, the SDRs could act as the world’s reserve currency, be used for issuing bonds, and be used for setting the prices of commodities such as gold and oil. Perhaps a variation on SDRs is what Lagarde has in mind.

So with this background, let’s get back to the main point of the post. How is this debt crisis, and the likely outcome, different from previous crises?

1. We live in a globalized economy. Any slip-up of a major economy would very much affect all of the other major economies.

Banks hold bonds of governments other than their own. If a major government fails to make good on its promises, it can affect other governments as well. Smaller countries, like Greece or Cyprus, can be bailed out or their problems worked around. But if the United States, or even Japan, should run into major difficulties, it would affect the world as a whole. See my post, Twelve Reasons Why Globalization is a Huge Problem.

2. Our problem now is not simply governmental debt; it is debt of many different types, affecting individuals and businesses of all kinds, as well as governments.

In the studies of historical debt by Reinhart and Rogoff, the focus is on governmental debt. Now there is much more debt, some through banks, some through bonds, and some through less traditional sources. There are also derivatives that are in some ways like debt. In particular, if there are sharp moves in interest rates, it is possible that some issuers of derivatives will find themselves in financial difficulty.

There are also promises that are in many ways like debt, but that technically aren’t guaranteed, because legislatures can change the promised benefits whenever they choose. Examples of these are our current Social Security program and Medicare benefits. Citizens depend on these programs, even if there is no promise that they will continue to exist in their current form. With all of these kinds of debt and quasi-debt, we have a much more complex situation than in the past.

3. Our economy is a self-organized system that has properties of its own, quite apart from the properties of the individual consumers, businesses, governments, and resources that make up the system. Circumstances now are such that the world economy could fail, even though this could not happen in the past.  

I recently wrote about the nature of a networked economy, in my post Why Standard Economic Models Don’t Work–Our Economy is a Network. In that post, I represented our networked economy as being somewhat like this dome that can be built with wooden sticks.

Figure 1. Dome constructed using Leonardo Sticks

Years ago, when a civilization collapsed, the network of connections was not as dense as it is today. Most food was not dependent on long supply chains, and quite a bit of manufacturing was done locally. If one economy collapsed, even a fairly large one like the Weimar Republic of Germany, the rest of the world was not terribly dependent on it. Figuratively, the “hole” in the dome could mend, and over time, the economy could strengthen and go on as before. We cannot count on this situation today, however.

4. Fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) available today are what enable tighter connections than in the past, and also add vulnerabilities.

Early economies relied mainly on the sun’s energy to grow food, gravity to help with irrigation, human energy and animal energy for transport and food growing, wind energy to power ships and wooden windmills, and water energy to operate water wheels. Wood was used for many purposes, including heating homes, cooking, and making charcoal to provide the heat needed to smelt metals and make glass.

In the past two hundred years we have added fossil fuels to our list of fuels. This has allowed us to make metals in quantity, as well as concrete and glass in quantity, enabling the development of much technology. The use of coal enabled the building of hydroelectric dams as well as electrical transmission lines, thus enabling widespread use of electricity. Fossil fuels enabled other modern fuels as well, including nuclear energy, and the manufacture of what we today call “renewable energy,” including today’s wind turbines and solar PV.

Of the fossil fuels, oil has been especially important. Oil is particularly good as a transport fuel, because it is easily transported and very energy dense. With the use of oil, transport by smaller vehicles such as cars, trucks and airplanes became possible, and transport by ship and by rail was improved. Such changes allowed international businesses to grow and international trade to flourish. Economies were able to grow much more rapidly than in the pre-fossil fuel era. Governments became richer and began offering education to all, paved roads, and benefits such as unemployment insurance, health care programs, and pensions for the elderly.

Thus, fossil fuels enable a very different lifestyle, and very different governments and government programs than existed prior to fossil fuels. If something were to happen to all fossil fuels, or even just oil, most businesses would have to cease operation. Governments could not collect enough taxes to continue functioning. Very few farmers would be able to produce food and transport it to market, because oil is used to transport seeds to farmers, to operate machinery, to operate irritation equipment, to transport soil amendments, and to create herbicides and pesticides.

This situation now is very different from the past, when most food was produced using human and animal labor, and transport was often by a cart pulled by an animal. Before fossil fuels, even if governments collapsed and most people died off, the remaining people could continue growing food, gathering water, and going about their own lives. If we were to lose oil, or oil plus electricity (because oil is required to maintain electric transmission and because businesses tend to close when they are missing either oil or electricity), we would have a much harder time. Most of our jobs would disappear. Banks wouldn’t be able to operate. Our water and sewer systems would stop working. We would find it necessary to “start over,” in a very different way.

5. Because of the big role of debt today, economic growth is essential to keeping the current economic system operating. 

It is much easier to pay back debt with interest when an economy is growing than when it is shrinking, because when an economy is shrinking, people are losing their jobs. Even if only, say, 10% lose their jobs, this loss of jobs creates many loan defaults. Banks are likely to find themselves in a precarious position and are likely to cut back on lending to others, making the situation worse.

If the economy starts shrinking, businesses will also have difficulty. They have fixed costs, including rent, management salaries, and their own debt repayments. These costs tend to stay the same, even if total revenue shrinks because of an economic slowdown. Because of these problems, businesses are also likely to find it increasingly difficult to pay back their own debt in a recession. They are likely to find it necessary to lay off workers, making the recession worse.

If economic growth is very low, this lack of growth can to some extent be covered up with very low interest rates. But such very low interest rates tend to be a problem as well, because they encourage asset bubbles of many sorts, such as the current run-up in stock market prices. It is not always clear which bubbles are being run up by low interest rates, either. For example, it is quite possible that the recent run-up in US oil extraction (see Figure 4, below) is being enabled by ultra-low interest rates debt (since this is a cash-flow negative business) and by investors who a desperate for an investment that might yield a slightly higher yield than current low bond yields.

Actually, the current need for growth to prevent defaults is not all that different from the situation in the past 800 years. In Reinhardt and Rogoff’s academic paper mentioned above, the authors remark, “It is notable that the non-defaulters, by and large, are all hugely successful growth stories.” Reinhardt and Rogoff didn’t seem to understand why this occurred, however.

6. The underlying reason regarding why we are headed toward debt problems is different from in the past. We now are dependent both on oil products and electricity, two very concentrated carriers of energy, instead of the more diffuse energy types used in the past. Our problem is that these energy carriers are becoming high-cost to produce. It is these high costs (a reflection of diminishing returns) that lead to economic contraction. 

This time, in order to continue economic growth, we need a growing supply of very high-quality energy products, namely oil products and non-intermittent electricity, to support the economy that we have built. These products need to be low-priced, if customers are to afford them. Thus, it should not be surprising that economic growth in the past seems to have been driven by a combination of (1) falling prices of electricity as we learned to more efficiently produce it, and (2) continued low prices for oil.

Figure 2.  Electricity prices and electrical demand, USA 1900 - 1998 from Ayres Warr paper.

According to Ayres and Warr (Figure 2), power stations in 1900 converted only 4% of the potential energy in coal to electricity, but by 2000, the conversion efficiency was raised to 35%. This improvement in efficiency allowed the continuing decrease in electricity prices. With lower prices, more individuals and businesses were able to afford electricity, and more technology using electricity became feasible. Cheap electricity allowed goods to be produced at prices that workers could afford, and the system tended to grow.

For oil, the price of oil remained relatively flat in inflation-adjusted terms for a very long time, even as engineers developed ever-more-efficient devices to use that oil.

Figure 3. Historical oil prices in 2012 dollars, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013 data. (2013 included as well, from EIA data.)

We ran into our initial problems extracting oil cheaply in the early 1970s, after US oil production started to decline (Figure 4).

Figure 4. US crude oil production split between tight oil (from shale formations), Alaska, and all other, based on EIA data. Shale is from  AEO 2014 Early Release Overview.

Back in the 1970s, we were able to work around the price spike by bringing oil production online in several additional places, including the Alaska, the North Sea, and Mexico. Unfortunately, those areas are now declining as well. Thus, we are increasingly forced to extract oil from areas that are high priced either (a) because of  high extraction costs (such as the tight oil now being extracted in the United States) or (b) because of high indirect costs (such as the need for desalination plants and food subsidies in the Middle East). These can only be funded if oil prices are high, allowing governments to collect high levels of taxes.

There is considerable evidence that high oil prices are associated with recession. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 was associated with a huge spike in oil prices. I have written about the way high oil prices contribute to recession in a peer-reviewed article published in the journal Energy called Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis. James Hamilton has shown that has shown that 10 out of 11 US recessions since World War II were associated with oil price spikes. Hamilton also showed that the effects of the oil price spike were sufficient to cause the recession of that began in late 2007.

Now the cost of oil production is high, and electricity prices have stopped falling. We read U. S. electricity prices may be going up for good, from the L. A. Times. It should be no surprise that economic growth is now a problem.

7. In historical periods, defaults were mostly associated with the transfer of ownership of various productive assets (such as land and factories) from one owner to another. Now, we are vulnerable to changes that could ultimately cut off oil and electricity, and thus bring the system down–not just transfer ownership. 

The kinds of things that could bring the system down are diverse. They include:

  • War in the Middle East that would vastly disrupt oil exports. We do not have alternative suppliers–the world would have to do without part of its supplies. We are vulnerable now, because oil exporters are getting “squeezed” by prices that have not risen substantially since 2011. This makes it harder for Middle Eastern countries to fund their budgets, making wars and civil disorder more likely.
  • A spike in oil prices, perhaps caused by a war in the Middle East, that would vastly disrupt oil exports. Oil importing countries would head back into recession, with many layoffs. Governments are in worse shape for fighting this situation than they were in 2007-2008.
  • An increase in interest rates. While Quantitative Easing and Zero Interest rate policy may not look like they are doing much, an increase in interest rates would not work well at all. With higher interest rates, governments would owe more in interest payments, so would need to raise taxes (leading to recessionary effects). The monthly payments required for buying high-priced goods (from cars, to houses, to factories) would rise, cutting back on demand, also tending to lead to recession.
  • A decrease in lending, or even a failure of debt to keep rising, would also be a problem. Janet Yellen’s recent IMF speech highlighted the possibility of using regulation to prevent excessive debt. Unfortunately, increasing debt is very much needed to keep oil prices high enough to enable extraction at today’s high cost levels. See my post The Connection Between Oil Prices, Debt Levels, and Interest Rates. If debt levels drop, we run the danger of oil prices dropping as dramatically as they did in late 2008, when lending froze up.

Figure 5. Oil price based on EIA data with oval pointing out the drop in oil prices, with a drop in credit outstanding.

8. The world is now filled with a large number of people in powerful positions who mistakenly think they know answers to questions, when they really do not. The problem is that researchers tend operate in subject-matter “silos.” They build models based on their narrow understanding of a problem. These models may temporarily work, but as we reach limits in a finite world, these models produce misleading results. The users of these models do not understand the problem and make decisions based on badly flawed models.

Economists do not understand energy issues. They seem to think that their models, which ignore energy issues, are fine. All they need to do is fine-tune regulation, or tweak interest rates, and everything will be fine. Unfortunately, these economic models no longer work, as I explained in a recent post, Why Standard Economic Models Don’t Work–Our Economy is a Network.

In fact, the issue is more basic than just bad models that economists are using. The whole “peer-reviewed paper” system, with its pressure to write more peer-reviewed papers, each resting on prior peer-reviewed papers, is flawed. Models are built and used endlessly, in part because that is the way things have been done in the past. Once an approach is used frequently, everyone assumes it is correct. Models can and do have short term-predictive power, but that fact does not mean that the approach works for the long term.

The problem we are running into is the fact the world is finite. Growth can’t continue indefinitely. The way that the physical world enforces the end to growth is not obvious, until we start hitting the limits. The limits are cost of production limits for oil and for our supply of stable grid electricity. (I have talked about selling prices, but selling prices are not really the limits, in themselves. It is the fact that with higher costs of production, either selling prices must go up, or profits and the ability to invest in new production must go down–that is the problem. Right now, the rising cost of production of oil is being hidden in prices that are too low for oil producers. So many assume we don’t have a problem. The issue of adequate government funding is also mixed into the price/cost of production issue.)

Models that are no longer correct fill every area of study, from actuarial models, to financial planning models, to economic models, to models forecasting future oil and gas production, to climate change models.

Some models are deceptively simple–the idea that the number of years of future production of oil (or gas or coal) can be estimated by [Amount of Resources / Current Annual Production] is a simple model. Unfortunately, this model doesn’t work, because we can never get enough investment capital to extract all of the fossil fuel that seems to be available–the price can never go high enough, and stay high enough. High prices simply bring on recession. See my post, IEA Investment Report – What is Right; What is Wrong.

In fact, it is pretty hard to find any model that continues to work, as we reach limits in a finite world. This is not intuitively obvious. If a model worked before, why wouldn’t it work now? Researchers and well-meaning leaders follow models that sort of worked in the past, but don’t really model the current situation. Thus, we have well-meaning leaders, doing their best to make things better, inadvertently making things worse. In a finite world, everything is “connected” to everything else, so things that look beneficial from one perspective can have a bad outcome viewed another way. For example, a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from closing coal plants risks major electrical outages is New England and seems likely to raise electricity prices. Such changes push the economy toward recession, and perhaps ultimately toward collapse.

Governments are one area squeezed by higher oil and electricity costs. As governments cut back, whether these cut backs are in education, unemployment benefits, military spending, or healthcare spending, there are indirect effects on the economy as a whole. The problem is that government spending creates jobs. As government spending is cut, it pushes the economy toward contraction–even if part of today’s spending is clearly wasteful. It creates a conundrum–fixing one problem makes another problem worse.

Conclusion

We live in perilous times. We have leaders who think they know the answers but, in fact, they do not. The debt problems we face now are not just overspending problems; they are signs that we are reaching limits of a finite world. World leaders do not seem to understand this connection. It is not even clear that they understand the connection of debt problems to the need for cheap-to-produce, high-quality energy products.

World leaders are nevertheless convinced that they know the answers, based on complex, but very flawed, models. Unfortunately, actions taken based on these models have a good chance of making the situation worse rather than better. For example, trying to tie a world economy closer together, when it is already heading toward collapse, seems like a recipe for disaster.

I find Christine Lagarde’s use of numerology in her January 14, 2014 speech at the National Press Club Luncheon disturbing. Is she trying to signal some “in crowd” to make different decisions, in advance of a big IMF announcement? Or is numerology being used for prediction? Such an approach to forecasting would seem to be even worse than using models based on silos of limited understanding.

Of Fossil Fuels and Human Destiny

Off the keyboard of Ron Patterson

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Published on Peak Oil Barrel on May 7, 2014

Monolithic Memories

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner and SUN4Living on April 27, 2014

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Discuss this article at the SUN Table inside the Diner

A couple of weeks ago we held the first Convocation of Diners down in Texas. We did this in conjunction with a workshop held at Monolithic Domes, a 1 week intensive course where you learn the principles and practical aspects of building ferro-cement domes, for use as Domiciles, Grow-Domes and pretty much any type of use imaginable for a structure. This article is partially about that, but really more about the wonderful time those of us who went down had there and what the purpose is for coming together as a community.

I don’t leave the Last Great Frontier too often anymore, it makes me nervous every time I board a plane for a trip to the lower 48. First off I hate going through the TSA checkpoints like everybody does. This time, I was carrying a boatload of electronic equipment and was sure I would get the Full Monte from the Goons, but happily it wasn’t too bad, they only ran one of my bags through the scanner twice and I only set off the alarm once forgetting to drop my cell phone in a plastic bin. On the way back, I was REALLY fortunate, winning the LOTTO of TSA Pre-Approval on my Boarding Pass, which allowed me to not have to take off my shoes or take my Laptop out of its bag for separate scanning, and get on the much shorter line at Austin’s airport for Flight Crews and various VIPs with lots of airline miles who pass through these checkpoints on a weekly basis because they travel so much and burn so much Jet Fuel. Not sure why I was so designated as a SAFE Flyer, but it certainly was nice not to have to take my shoes off for the trip home.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe arrival in Austin had just about everything go according to plan, we were in communication regularly through the marvel of the internet to coordinate the Pickups at the Airport and then make the drive to Eddie’s McMansion through the Austin Traffic. We were wedged in pretty tight in the rental mini-van LD & GM drove in from South Carolina, with their two boys in car kid-seats and 3 doomers wedged into the back seat. Sidestepping the traffic was a challenge, and the GPS and Cell Phones were out in force as we worked our way around it to finally make it to Eddie’s place.

EddieElectricThis was a first IRL meeting for all of us, so there was a little nervousness about the meeting, but for the Doomers from the Diner, everybody turned out to be pretty much just like the personality on the Diner, so we relaxed with each other pretty quickly. More worrisome was Eddie’s family, since they are not 100% on board with Doom, so we did not want to make a nuisance of ourselves there.

I did get a chance to do a walk around of this space though, to have a look at some of the projects Eddie is pursuing there. Eddie is Mr. Project, he is SERIOUS about actually doing stuff to try to achieve some food and energy security for his family. He’s also a pretty well to do Dentist, so he has options on this most people do not have, but at the same time is a very generous and open guy who wants to try to make the things he experiments with available to more people.

After the Meet & Greet at his house, we headed out for the “Toothstead”, a 40 acre part of a Ranch Eddie bought a few years ago as a Retreat for when TSHTF. As Texas type property goes, it is quite beautiful with a stream running through it that flows when there is decent water falling on Texas, which unfortunately is not too regular these days. After our Convocation Party and Rain Dance on Saturday though, we had a downpour on Sunday morning. 🙂 Even with the drought there though, it’s still a very pleasant and bucolic place, and not all that far out of Austin proper either.

SAMSUNG CSCThis caused me to ponder some on the Zombie issue. It is difficult enough to negotiate your way to one of these outlier properties with a car and GPS unit, its pretty hard to imagine how people who have no cars will get out there in a SHTF scenario. You would have to ride MILES on bicycles, all along the way vulnerable to attack. After the first wave comes flowing out of the Big Shitty, locals will have the Shoot to Kill and Take No Prisoners attitude pretty quick. I don’t think it is realistic to figure that roving gangs could make it more than 20 miles outside of suburbia.

So you probably are reasonable safe on such a property, if you have enough people to protect and defend it, not so much from roving Zombies as from other Locals. This means many areas even fairly close to Big Shities might be survivable.

Zombie defense was not a real big concern during the Convocation though, what was much more a problem was just how far you had to go and how much time it took just to get a Six-Pack of BEER! The closest convenience store selling beer was like 30 minutes away BY CAR!

Now, if you are truly self-sufficient, you will of course be brewing your own beer, but this reinforces how big a change you will face after TSHTF even if you happen to be fortunate enough to have a remote retreat you can get to while you still have a tank of gas left. Is life worth living without On Demand Beer available at least until midnite every day? I wonder about that.

SAMSUNG CSCFortunately though we did have working Carz with full tanks of gas, and mostly stayed well stocked with the Elixir of Life. Saturday morning we had the first of the fabulous breakfasts whipped up by LD, who established himself as King of the Kitchen and flipped over some delicious eggs courtesy of his South Carolina based Chickens. These eggs travelled several hundred miles safely in the rented mini-van though, so they were not exactly fossil fuel free food before final consumption.

Saturday Night was our Big Party, complete with singing and dancing courtesy of WHD and lots of good musing about Doom. We went into the wee hours, until finally retiring to sleep on mostly Air Beds, courtesy of some factory in China made from fossil fuels by the magic of polymer chemistry.

I’m not trying to highlight the hypocrisy involved all along the way here of a bunch of people all concerned with sustainable living flying in to meet from places as far away as California and Alaska, but rather the dependance we have on fossil fuels and easy travel to live the life style we do. The lifestyle change involved for all when this goes bye-bye cannot be understated, and nobody will adjust to that overnight. Really what you need to concern yourself with is how to manage the transition, what things are needed and how to best prep up for the transition period.

The biggest part of that Prepping up which motivated this convocation was the Workshop at Monolithic Dome Institute, run by David South who has been in the biz of building Domes since way back in the 70s. Over time Monolithic has become the premier Dome construction company in the world, with over 4000 of them sprinkled around the globe used for everything from Warehouses to Schools & Churches and many homes as well.

SAMSUNG CSCThese domes also are highly dependent on the embedded energy now available from fossil fuels to build, though once built are very durable and energy efficient structures. In terms of preparing for transition, the energy spent in building these structures is way better spent than in simply Happy Motoring each day around to Walmart and Mickey D’s.

The Domes also provide a reasonable transitionary form of housing in a world where Climate Change brings danger from many corners. They are resistant to wildfires and earthquakes, often the only buildings left standing in the aftermath of one of these calamities. In places vulnerable to floods and hurricanes, they stand up to them also, and Monolithic has been involved in building replacement housing everywhere from Haiti to the Phillipines in the aftermath of the cyclonic storms which hit those neighborhoods over the last few years.

Besides their use as domiciles, the Domes also represent about the best chance we have for maintaining food supply through climate change. Inside a dome, you can control everything from humidity to CO2 content of the atmosphere, and through intensive techniques like hydroponics and aquaculture achieve yields 40X what typical industrial agriculture achieves, using a small fraction of the amount of water and fertilizer that this method does. With both water and fertilizer more difficult to come by at higher prices all the time, it only makes sense to start transitioning to these methods ASAP. Grow domes are not just being built here in the FsoA, but places like Bahrain and Oman as well, where their water supply and food security is in EXTREME danger right now. The more places that grow domes can be built NOW, the better that we can transition into a world where Climate Change is wreaking havoc with traditional forms of food production.

SAMSUNG CSCWith all of this in mind, we are working on setting up a company to build domes, mainly at the moment with the idea of providing affordable housing as more people slide out of the middle class, but long term with the idea of using them as a means to develop sustainable communities with secure housing structures. The techniques that Monolithic currently uses for Dome construction have a limited lifespan here, and there is only a short window of opportunity to put up as many as possible, so the more people involved in building them, the better.

Over the weeks and months to come, we hope to have good models available at reasonable prices which provide good and comfortable living spaces that will LAST for generations, much like some of the older housing in places like Wales, built out of stone and lived in by generations now for centuries.

Ideally in my mind, as a society and civilization, we would martial up here a construction project that was national if not global in scope, much like the WPA built infrastructure like the Hoover Dam during the Great Depression. Unfortunately, this is not how the economic system is set up these days, so it falls to individuals to take on this work, and the only way to do that is to set up companies to do it. Like it or not, under the current economic model everything costs money, so to build domes you have to figure out how to pay for them. Like flying down from Alaska to learn how to do it, helping to develop a building company for domes can be seen by some as hypocrisy in action. I will live with this criticism, because there is no better alternative I can see, though I am always looking for one and open to new ideas.

It remains an open question as to how deeply climate change and the disappearance of copious quantities of available energy will affect the existence of Homo Sapiens. There are more than a few people these days who think it will all end quite soon, in Near Term Human Extinction. This may be true, but it doesn’t mean you need to give up today on trying to find a way out of the deep mess our civilization and the planet is currently in. In the very worst case scenario that NTHE is a correct hypothesis, the effort may buy a bit more time for the great experiment with Sapience that is Homo Sapiens, and it gives you something to do also.

In the best case scenario, we will find a way to weather the storm, and build a Better Tomorrow.

RE

Suffering

Off the keyboard of Lucid Dreams

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Published on Epiphany Now on February 10, 2013

ninja fox

Discuss this article at the Psychology Table inside the Diner

suffering

Sometimes depression is the appropriate response to things. I am an intellectual being, and that space causes suffering. The things I write about below are true, all of them, and they are sad, and I don’t want to be happy about them. If you just want to be happy than don’t read this blog. At least not this entry.
Did you know it’s possible to hear soul atrophy? And why shouldn’t our souls decide to atrophy? What are we, the industrial grade consumers, the bomb chronic radioactive waste generators, the entropic catalytic smoke, the monkey’s whom caught cancer of the mind. What do we need of our souls anyways? We sold them a long time ago on account of delicate tastes in the finer things in life. Like name brand clothing made by brown third world slaves, and air conditioned luxury vehicles. God it’s depressing. I’m depressing myself over here talkin’ about how vile my species is. It’s true that exiting the Matrix means no place left to go. At least not where things are considered normal by societies standards. There’s nothing left but pure unadulterated truth.
I’m free to see the world from a very unique vantage point. Looking from this high peak I can see futility moving across our psychic landscape. That we should pay by selling our very lives to afford ridiculous stick built nonsense overhead…and drywall. That we spend so much time trying to figure out how to come up with this requirement called money, and this while some men just create it out of free flowing electrons and call it “quantitative easing.” What the fuck does that term even mean in reality? That some men get to control the daily realities of a planet full of life? Some men get to be rich while the rest get to be poor. Poor of heart, soul, and spirit, and poor in flesh. Our flesh is even made of less quality than it used to be. We used to be composed of 70% good ole fashioned corn molecules. Now we’re composed of high fructose gentically modified and radioactive Monsanto frankencorn molecules. Along with some 200 other man made chemicals that are floating around in our mothers wombs along with our future progeny.
I can envision a world much different from the one we are in now. A world where integrity, honor, compassion, self worth, and love are central to the political decisions that must be made. Why is it that for one group to prosper another group must get shat all over? Why is it that for us humans to be happy we have to kill everything else healthy about our planet? The answer to both of those questions is that neither have to be true. We can have a world where there is surplus amongst healthy natural systems. We must have that world, but all I see is fear painted on the faces of every automaton, and fear ensures that we continue getting this same cancerous, made from virus, reality.
I see cell phones plastered to the side of every motorist, and when the screens aren’t stuck to the side of the head they’re out front gettin’ texted (sounds dirty doesn’t it). What do we need with all these god damned electronic screens? They aren’t reality, even though we make them so. You can occupy Facebook with art all you want to, it’s still taking your energy and making you narcissistic. Why don’t you go occupy one of your “friends” house? I bet if you did go to your friends house they wouldn’t notice you due to all the electronic idiot panels. They’d likely be to busy liking their friends on Facebook to notice your “in real life” self standing there. Why should they notice you? If they noticed you, they might then be forced to notice something outside the window, something that’s outside where the nature is.
There ain’t shit natural about an idiot panel imagadget (and for the record, I’m no damn gadget). All of this virtual reality makes real reality diminish. The more we give our energy to those screens, the more our souls atrophy. You can hear the sound from outside of the Matrix. Yet due to the interconnectivity of all things, you can also hear your soul being sucked into the mess, and against your will. We’re all drowning alone together, and we’re all miserable, but we keep on insisting we must drown to death on comfort and plausible deniability. We insist that what we are doing is okay when it’s anything but. It’s not alright to continue living the way that we do, our highest good being trash generation for profit, all while serving as slaves to a machine that itself is receiving palliative care by way of digibit printing. It will continue spittin’ those ones and zeros out until either we use all of the fossil energy, or the use of that fossil energy finishes choking all life off of this planet, or we do something about it.
So what are we going to do about it? I refuse to continue with business as usual, and I’ll refuse any response that requires more of it. You want to own the land? How can you own the land? Even in the delusional version of land ownership you still have codes and taxes, both of which require money. Money for you to go get. You don’t get to just print the money either, that’s reserved for your masters, you have to sell yourself by the hour for it. There are those whom just have a lot of it. Those of us whom managed to have the brains to figure out how to get it, or were just connected enough from birth to the source of that magic digibit lever up in DC. The way I see it, those of us whom were born short changed, need to start taking from those whom have always had. Exactly like Robyn Hode.
I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet. It’s just an idea I’ve just started to think about. What is right and wrong in our world anyways? Is the highest good to honor land ownership? Some bankers said this piece of ground is yours (as long as you comply with codes and pay your taxes) and you can do as you wish with it. Then that same banker said that his corporation was a person with the same damn rights. Now that corporate person decides to shit all over his land with chemicals designed to bring death to healthy cells, with radioactivity, with poisonous food, and with “water” that can be lit on fire. What better symbol do you need for how fucked things are when you can light your tap water on fire. I’d laugh my ass off about that if it weren’t for the unfortunate fact that there’s nothing funny about it. The message I receive is that it’s alright to be a corporate person and shit all over the land with death agents, fuck the water up, heat the planet up, kill everything that’s not human (and even kill humans if your an empire) for no reason, and all of that’s just fine with the “law” of the land. This is the same law that I’m supposed to respect? The same law that you are supposed to respect?
Well, these are the laws that make our present world. Yeah, but at least we’ve got ten million food products with high fructose petroleum sugar and we’re not hungry…all 7 billion of us…and counting. I keep looking for an answer to this trash dump we’ve created for ourselves. I’m convinced there’s not one spot on this planet without man made trash. Nature doesn’t make trash. It makes feces, but then it uses that shit to pretty much perpetuate itself, until we came along and came up with the concept of shit, and now our leaders get to shit all over us and everything else. Maybe its all some fucked up God joke where everything shits on everything else until the end. Humans crave suffering like fish crave water.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics & Dutch Ecotechnik

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on January 8, 2013

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

A while back I wrote a series of half-serious posts entitled Peak n’Oil. In them I attempted to pick out some tracks to listen to as we tumble down from the heights of Hubbert’s Peak. At the time, as far as I was aware, nobody was actually writing songs about peak oil and the associated civilizational decay, so most of the tracks I picked dealt with it tangentially.
 
All that has changed with Muse’s latest album entitled The 2nd Law. So when I got this album at Christmas it was, well, like Christmas for me. Not only had my favourite current band released a new album, but the lyrics and subject matter of the music was all about peak oil.
 
Well, not quite about peak oil. The Second Law of Thermodynamics concerns entropy, and what from our point of view we might as well call energy death. It states that isolated systems always evolve towards a state of thermodynamic equilibrium and therefore maximum entropy. Energy flows from zones of higher temperature to areas of lower temperature. My cup of tea is doing a very good demonstration of it right now. They also flow from concentrated form to diffuse form, providing said energy is not locked into a chemical state. To get out of that state it needs a catalytic agent.
 
Scale up from my cup of tea to the entire planet and that’s our peak energy problem in a nutshell. We humans have been taking the concentrated forms of energy – oil, coal and gas – which were formed over geological time, and have been turning them into diffuse heat in the atmosphere. It’s what we do every time we drive a car or turn on the kettle. In this way we have placed a single complex biological organism – us – at the centre point between concentrated and diffuse energy forms.
 
Doing so has enabled us to have a fossil fuel party for a couple of centuries, and we have configured our economies, societies and cultures as if we were always going to remain at this central pivotal point between concentrated and diffuse energy. Our ability to do this has marked us out as a successful species, easily able to replicate our DNA and perpetuate our progeny, because the ability to leverage other forms of energy in favour of the agent species is what marks it out as successful. That’s why foxes eat rabbits.
 
If you believe that we can maintain our pivotal position ad infinitum that marks you out as a cornucopian. If, however, you harbour doubts about whether this is possible, or indeed desirable, then you belong to the reality-based community who recognise that our default position is not at the exact centre of that energy equation and may be starting to drift off target.
 
Matthew Bellamy, Muse’s frontman, is a thoughtful chap and recognizes this. Who knows, he might even be lurking out there in the peak oil blogosphere under a pseudonym. He’s only got it slightly wrong, reason would suggest, in that the Second Law is concerned with closed systems and planet Earth isn’t a closed system as it gets inputs of solar radiation from the sun, and leaks heat back into space as well. But never mind that, it shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment of what, in my opinion, is Muse’s best album to date.
 
Incidentally, if you’re in north America, you can catch them on their latest tour. They are well worth seeing live.
 
 
 
 
Houses in Germany with solar roofs. Image from here.
 
Well, it’s been a busy few days since Christmas, which has seen me in no less than six different countries. The reason for this was the fact that I had to go over to England to pick up a large trailer I got cheap on eBay, as well as a bargain basement 10 year-old-car to pull it.
 
When I got to England, on Boxing Day I couldn’t help but notice the whole place looked like a giant space toddler had spilled a cosmic glass of water over the whole country. Roads were submerged and trees poked out of what appeared to be lakes but were in fact fields. I have never seen the country looking so bedraggled and wet and it is quite amazing to think that only about ten months ago I wrote a post about the fact that meteorologists were forecasting a drought that would dry up all the rivers and lead to a devastating loss of wildlife. Well, they were a bit wrong on that one, with 2012 forecast to be the wettest year on historical record for England. Welcome to the new normal.
 
On the way out of the country a couple of days later, indeed, a flooded road led me to miss my car-train through the Channel Tunnel and I didn’t arrive in France until fairly late into the evening. When I did get there, France was entirely dark, so I don’t have any observations to make about the place, other than that it gets dark there at night time. Ditto with Belgium, which I entered later in the evening.
 
I had to make it to Eindhoven in Holland, where my motel bed awaited me, and did so at about 11pm. Starving hungry I enquired about getting something to eat (this particular establishment being located close to the motorway for ease of parking/locating) and was told that I could either pick from the restaurant or order sushi in the bar. A quick look at the restaurant confirmed that it was outside of my price league, so I retired to the bar to nibble on some wallet-emptying raw fish and sink a fine Belgian beer. Not for the first time in my life I marveled at the fact the Dutch are the best English speakers in the world; far better, indeed, than the English.
 
The next morning I hit the road again with my frankly gigantic trailer. The rain had cleared and it was sunny, illuminating the green Dutch landscape and putting me in a dreamy frame of mind. I had been driving at a steady 80kmph (50mph) all the way, as this is considered the best speed at which to save fuel – and here in Holland I noticed a strange thing: everyone else seemed to be doing the same. There were no aggressive light-flashing BMWheads eyeballing me as they screamed past. I had heard it said that the Dutch had got into eco driving as part of their fossil fuel energy descent plan, and here was the proof of it.
 
All that changed when I got into Germany. I always feel a bit nervous in Germany because I don’t speak more than about 50 words of German – a language deficiency often reciprocated by the natives in my experience. It has been a couple of years since I was last there – but what a difference! It is obvious even to one passing through that Germany is going hell for leather to make itself run on renewable energy. Last time I was there you could see all the wind turbines that had sprouted across the landscape – this time the story was all solar.
 
I’m used to seeing the odd house here in Denmark or the UK with a few solar panels on it. But Germany seems to be ramping up this on an industrial scale. Many houses sported 10-40 panels, but it was common to see barns, factories and even car showrooms with roofs made entirely of panels. Usually, as far as I could tell (remember, I was driving past) there would be 100-200 panels per roof. The record was one which had eight clusters of 8*8 panels, meaning there must have been 480 panels on a single roof.
 
 
A warehouse roof in Germany
 
Of course, and readers of this blog and ones like it will be well aware, that doesn’t make Germany ‘green’ or sustainable. There are still the monster truck parks, the giant supermarkets, the sprawling highways full of brand new cars driving at 200kmph (124mph) – and let’s not forget that Germany is a manufacturing country with a huge demand for high concentration energy and raw materials. I’m also well aware that Germany benefits from trading electricity with nuclear France, using that country as a giant battery.
 
But still. It’s hard not to admire the direction the country is taking. Everyone seems to be on board with it, and you’d have to be a dyed-in-the-wool cynic to say that a huge overhaul of the energy system conducted by this nation of engineers is not a step in the right direction

The Long-Term Tie Between Energy Supply, Population, and the Economy

Off the Keyboard of Gail Tverberg

Published originally on Our Finite World on August 29th, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord of the Diner

The tie between energy supply, population, and the economy goes back to the hunter-gatherer period. Hunter-gatherers managed to multiply their population at least 4-fold, and perhaps by as much as 25-fold, by using energy techniques which allowed them to expand their territory from central Africa to virtually the whole world, including the Americas and Australia.

The agricultural revolution starting about 7,000 or 8,000 BCE was next big change, multiplying population more than 50-fold. The big breakthrough here was the domestication of grains, which allowed food to be stored for winter, and transported more easily.

The next major breakthrough was the industrial revolution using coal. Even before this, there were major energy advances, particularly using peat in Netherlands and early use of coal in England. These advances allowed the world’s population to grow more than four-fold between the year 1 CE and 1820 CE. Between 1820 and the present, population has grown approximately seven-fold.

Table 1. Population growth rate prior to the year 1 C. E. based on McEvedy & Jones, “Atlas of World Population History”, 1978; later population as well as GDP based on Angus Madison estimates; energy growth estimates are based on estimates by Vaclav Smil in Energy Transitions: HIstory Requirements, and Prospects, adjusted by recent information from BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.

When we look at the situation on a year-by-year basis (Table 1), we see that on a yearly average basis, growth has been by far the greatest since 1820, which is the time since the widespread use of fossil fuels. We also see that economic growth seems to proceed only slightly faster than population growth up until 1820. After 1820, there is a much wider “gap” between energy growth and GDP growth, suggesting that the widespread use of fossil fuels has allowed a rising standard of living.

The rise in population growth and GDP growth is significantly higher in the period since World War II than it was in the period prior to that time. This is the period during which growth in which oil consumption had a significant impact on the economy. Oil greatly improved transportation and also enabled much greater agricultural output. An indirect result was more world trade, which enabled production of goods needing inputs around the world, such as computers.

When a person looks back over history, the impression one gets is that the economy is a system that transforms resources, especially energy, into food and other goods that people need. As these goods become available, population grows. The more energy is consumed, the more the economy grows, and the faster world population grows. When little energy is added, economic growth proceeds slowly, and population growth is low.

Economists seem to be of the view that GDP growth gives rise to growth in energy products, and not the other way around. This is a rather strange view, in light of the long tie between energy and the economy, and in light of the apparent causal relationship. With a sufficiently narrow, short-term view, perhaps the view of economists can be supported, but over the longer run it is hard to see how this view can be maintained.

Energy and the Hunter-Gatherer Period

Humans, (or more accurately, predecessor species to humans), first arose in central Africa, a place where energy from the sun is greatest, water is abundant, and biological diversity is among the greatest. This setting allowed predecessor species a wide range of food supplies, easy access to water, and little worry about being cold. Originally, predecessor species most likely had fur, lived in trees, and ate a primarily vegetarian diet, like most primates today. The total population varied, but with the limited area in which pre-humans lived, probably did not exceed 1,000,000, and may have been as little as 70,000 (McEvedy).

Man’s main source of energy is of course food. In order to expand man’s range, it was necessary to find ways to obtain adequate food supply in less hospitable environments. These same techniques would also be helpful in countering changing climate and in mitigating deficiencies of man’s evolution, such as lack of hair to keep warm, limited transportation possibilities, and poor ability to attack large predators. The way man seems to have tackled all of these other issues is by figuring out ways to harness outside energy for his own use. See also my previous post, Humans Seem to Need External Energy.

The earliest breakthrough seems to be the development of man’s ability to control fire, at least 1 million years ago (Berna). The ability to cook food came a very long time ago as well, although the exact date remains uncertain. A diet that includes cook food has a number of advantages: it reduces chewing time from roughly half of daily activities to as  little as 5% of daily activities, freeing up time for other activities (Organ); it allows a wider range of foods, since some foods must be cooked; it allows better absorption of nutrients of food that is eaten; it allows smaller tooth and gut sizes, freeing up energy that could be used for brain development (Wrangham).

There were other advantages of fire besides the ability to cook: it also allowed early humans to keep warm, expanding their range in that way; it gave them an advantage in warding off predators, since humans could hurl fiery logs at them; and it extended day into night, since fire brought with it light. The wood or leaves with which early man made fire could be considered man’s first external source of energy.

As man began to have additional time available that was not devoted to gathering food and eating, he could put more of his own energy into other projects, such as hunting animals for food, making more advanced tools, and creating clothing. We talk about objects such as tools and clothing that are created using energy (any type of energy, from humans or from fuel), as having embedded energy in them, since the energy used to make them has long-term benefit. One surprising early use of embedded energy appears to have been making seaworthy boats that allowed humans to populate Australia over 40,000 years ago (Diamond).

The use of dogs for hunting in Europe at least 32,000 years ago was another way early humans were able to extend their range (Shipman). Neanderthal populations, living in the same area in close to the same time-period did not use dogs, and died out.

With the expanded territory, the number of humans increased to 4 million (McEvedy) by the beginning of agriculture (about 7,000 or 8,000 BCE). If population reached 4 million, this would represent roughly a 25-fold increase, assuming a base population of 150,000. Such an increase might be expected simply based on the expanded habitat of humans. This growth likely took place over more than 500,000 years, so was less than 0.01% per year.

Beginning of Agriculture – 7,000 BCE to 1 CE

Relative to the slow growth in the hunter-gatherer period, populations grew much more quickly (0.06% per year according to Table 1) during the Beginning of Agriculture.

One key problem that was solved with the beginning of the agricultural was, How can you store food until you need it? This was partly solved by the domestication of grains, which stored very well, and was “energy dense” so it could be transported well. If food were limited to green produce, like cabbage and spinach, it would not keep well, and a huge volume would be required if it were to be transported.

The domestication of animals was another way that food could be stored until it was needed, this time “on the hoof”. With the storage issue solved, it was possible to live in settled communities, rather than needing to keep moving to locations where food happened to be available, season by season. The domestication of animals had other benefits, including being able to use animals to transport goods, and being able to use them to plow fields.

The ability to grow animals and crops of one’s own choosing permitted a vast increase the amount of food (and thus energy for people) that would grow on a given plot of land.   According to David Montgomery in Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization, the amount of land needed to feed one person was

  • Hunting and gathering: 20 to 100 hectares (50 to 250 acres) per person
  • Slash and burn agriculture: 2 to 10 hectares (5 to 25 acres) per person
  • Mesopotamian floodplain farming: 0.5 to 1.5 hectares (1.2 to 3.7 acres) per person

Thus, a shift to agriculture would seem to allow a something like a 50-fold increase in population, and would pretty much explain the 56-fold increase that took place between from 4 million in 7,000 BCE, to 226 million at 1 CE.

Other energy advances during this period included the use of irrigation, wind-powered ships, metal coins, and the early use of iron of tools (Diamond) (Ponting). With these advances, trade was possible, and this trade enabled the creation of goods that could not be made without trade. For example, copper and tin are not generally mined in the same location, but with the use of trade, they could be combined to form bronze.

In spite of these advances, the standard of living declined when man moved to agriculture. Hunter-gatherers were already running into limits because they had killed off some of the game species (McGlone) (Diamond). While agriculture allowed a larger population, the health of individual members was much worse. The average height of men dropped by 6.2 inches, and the median life span of men dropped from 35.4 years to 33.1 years, according to Spencer Wells in Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization.

Deforestation rapidly became a common occurrence, as population expanded. Chew lists 40 areas around the world showing deforestation before the year 1, many as early as 4000 BCE. Montgomery notes that when the Israelites reached the promised land, the better cropland in the valleys was already occupied. In Joshua 17:14-18, Joshua instructs descendants of Joseph to clear as much of the forested land in the hill country as they wish, so they will have a place for their families to live.

Energy, Population, and GDP: Year 1 to 1820

Table 1 shows that during the period 1 to 1000, both population and economic output were very low (population, 0.02% per year; GDP, 0.01% per year). During this period, and as well as in the early agricultural period (between 7,000 BCE and 1 CE), there was a tendency of civilizations that had been expanding to collapse, holding the world’s overall population growth level down. There were several reasons for collapses of well-established societies, including (1) soil erosion and other loss of soil fertility, as people cut down trees for agriculture and for use in metal-making, tilled soil, and used irrigation (Montgomery) (Chew), (2) increasingly complex societies needed increasing energy to support themselves, but such energy tended not to be available (Tainter), (3) contagious diseases, often caught from farm animals, passed from person to person because to population density (Diamond), and (4) there were repeated instances of climate change and natural disturbances, such as volcanoes (Chew).

Even after 1000 CE, growth was limited, due to continued influence of the above types of factors. In most countries, the vast majority of the population continued to live on the edge of starvation up until the last two centuries (Ponting). Most growth came from expanded acreage for farming.

There were exceptions, however, and these were where growth of population and GDP was greatest.

Netherlands. Kris De Decker writes about the growing use of peat for energy in Netherlands starting in the 1100s and continuing until 1700. Peat is partially carbonized plant material that forms in bogs over hundreds of years. It can be mined and burned for processes that require heat energy, such as making glass or ceramics and for baking bread. Because it takes hundreds of years to be formed, mining exhausts it. Mining also causes ecological damage. The availability of peat for fuel was important, however, because there was a serious shortage of wood at that time, because of deforestation due to the pressures of agriculture and the making of metals.

Wind was also important in Holland during the same period. It produced primarily a different kind of energy than peat; it produced kinetic (or mechanical) energy. This energy was used for a variety of processes, including polishing glass, sawing wood, and paper production (De Decker).  Measured as heat energy (which is the way energy comparisons are usually made), wind output would have been considerably less than the heat energy from peat during this time period.

Maddison shows population in Netherlands growing from 300,000 in the year 1000 to 950,000 in 1500; 1,500,000 in 1600 and 1,900,000 in 1700, implying average annual population growth rates of 0.23%, 0.46%, and 0.24% during the three periods, compared to world average annual increases of 0.10%, 0.24%, and 0.08% during the same three periods. Netherlands’ GDP increased at more than double the world rates during these three periods (Netherlands: 0.35%, 1.06%, and 0.67%; world: 0.14%, 0.29%, and 0.11%.)

England. We also have information on early fuel use in England (Wigley).

Figure 1. Annual energy consumption per head (megajoules) in England and Wales 1561-70 to 1850-9 and in Italy 1861-70. Figure by Wrigley.

Here, we see that coal use began as early as 1561.  To a significant extent coal replaced fire wood, since wood was in short supply due to deforestation. Coal was used to provide heat energy, until after the invention of the first commercially successful steam engine in 1712 (Wikipedia), after which it could provide either heat or mechanical energy.  Wind and water were also used to provide mechanical energy, but their quantities remain very small compared to coal energy, draft animal energy, and even energy consumed in the form of food by humans.

Maddison shows population and GDP statistics for the United Kingdom (not England by itself). Again, we see a pattern similar to Netherlands, with UK population and GDP growth surpassing world population and GDP growth, since it was a world leader in adopting coal technology. (For the three periods 1500-1600, 1600-1700, and 1700-1820, the corresponding numbers are Population UK: 0.45%, 0.33%, 0.76%; Population World: 0.24%, 0.08%, 0.46%; GDP UK: 0.76%, 0.58%, 1.02%; GDP World: 0.29%, 0.11%, 0.52%.)

Growth “Lull” during 1600s. Table 1 shows that both population growth and GDP growth were lower during the 1600s. This period matches up with some views of when the Little Ice Age (a period with colder weather) had the greatest impact.

Figure 2. Winter Severity in Europe, 1000 to 1900. Note period of cold weather in 1600s. Figure from Environmental History Resources. Figure based on Lamb 1969 / Schneider and Mass 1975.

If the weather was colder, crops would likely not have grown as well. More wood would be needed for fuel, leaving less for other purposes, such as making metals. Countries might even been more vulnerable to outside invaders, if they were poorer and could not properly pay and feed a large army.

Coal Age for the World – 1820 to 1920 (and continuing)

When the age of coal arrived, the world had two major needs:

  1. A heat-producing fuel, so that there would not be such a problem with deforestation, if people wanted to keep warm, create metal products,  and make other products that required heat, such as glass.
  2. As a transportation fuel, so that walking, using horses, and boats would not be the major choices. This severely limited trade.

When coal arrived, it was rapidly accepted, because it helped greatly with the first of these–the need for a heat-producing fuel. People were willing to put up with the fact that it was polluting, especially in the highly populated parts of the world where wood shortages were a problem. With the availability of coal, it became possible to greatly increase the amount of metal produced, making possible the production of consumer goods of many kinds.

Figure 3. World Energy Consumption by Source, based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects and together with BP Statistical Data on 01965 and subsequent

Between 1820 and 1920, which is the period when coal came into widespread use, the world’s use of energy approximately tripled (Figure 3). The large increases in other fuels later dwarf this increase, but the use of coal was very significant for the economy. Table 1 at the top of this post shows a fairly consistent rise in GDP growth as coal was added to the energy mix in the 1820 to 1920 period.

With the invention of first commercially successful steam engine in 1712 (Wikipedia), coal could also be used for processes that required mechanical energy, such as milling grain, running a cotton gin, or weaving cloth. It also helped as a transportation fuel, in that it could power a railroad train or steam boat. Thus, it did help with the second major energy need noted above. It was not very suitable for airplanes or for private passenger cars, though.

One invention that was made possible by the availability of coal was the widespread use of electricity. Without coal (or oil), it would never have been possible to make all of the transmission lines. Hydroelectric power of the type we use today was also made possible by the availability of coal, since it was possible to create and transport the metal parts needed. It was also possible to heat limestone to make Portland cement in large quantity. The first meaningful amounts of hydroelectric power appeared between 1870 and 1880, according to the data used in Figure 3.

Agriculture was helped by the availability of coal, mostly through the indirect impacts of more/better metal being available, more ease in working with metals, improved transportation, and later, the availability of electricity. According to a document of the US Department of Census,  changes were made which allowed more work to be done by horses instead of humans. New devices such as steel plows and reapers and hay rakes were manufactured, which could be pulled by horses. Later, many devices run by electricity were added, such as milking machines. Barbed-wire fence allowed the West to become cropland, instead one large unfenced range.

Between 1850 and 1930, the percentage of workers in agriculture in the US dropped from about 65% of the workforce to about 22%. With such a large drop in agricultural workers, rising employment in other parts of the economy became possible, assuming there were enough jobs available. If not, it is easy to see how the Depression might have originated.

If we look at the coal data included in Figure 3 by itself, we see that the use of coal use has never stopped growing. In fact, its use has been growing more rapidly in recent years:

Figure 4. World annual coal consumption, based on same data used in Figure 3. (Vaclav Smil /BP Statistical Review of World Energy)

The big reason for the growth is coal consumption is that it is cheap, especially compared to oil and in most countries, natural gas. China and other developing countries have been using coal for electricity production, to smelt iron, and to make fertilizer and other chemicals. Coal is very polluting, both from a carbon dioxide perspective, and from the point of view of pollutants mixed with the coal. For many buyers, however, “cheap” trumps “good for the environment”.

A look at detail underlying China’s coal consumption makes it look as though the recent big increase in coal consumption began immediately after China was admitted to the World Trade Organization, in December 2001. With more trade with the rest of the world, China had more need for coal to manufacture goods for export, and to build up its own internal infrastructure. The ultimate consumers, in the US and Europe, didn’t realize that it was their demand for cheap products from abroad that was fueling the rise in world coal consumption.

Addition of Oil to World Energy Mix

Oil was added to the energy mix in very small amounts, starting in the 1860s and 1870s. The amount added gradually increased though the years, with the really big increases coming after World War II. Oil filled several niches:

  1. It was the first really good transportation fuel. It could be poured, so it was easy to put into a gas tank. It enabled door-to-door transportation, with automobiles, trucks, tractors for the farm, aircraft, and much construction equipment.
  2. It (and the natural gas often associated with it) provided chemical fertilizer which could be used to cover up the huge soil deficiencies that had developed over the years. Hydrocarbons from oil also provide herbicides and insecticides.  Oil also enabled the door-to-door transport of mineral additions to the soil mix, enhancing fertility.
  3. Oil is very easy to transport in a can or truck, so it works well with devices like portable electric generators and irrigation pumps. It can be used where other fuels are hard to transport, such as small islands, with minimal equipment to make it usable.
  4. With the huge change in transport enabled by oil, much greater international trade became possible. It became possible to regularly make complex goods, such as computers, with imports from many nations. It also became possible to import necessities, rather than using trade primarily for a few high-value goods.
  5. Hydrocarbons could be made into medicines, enabling defeat of many of the germs that had in the past caused epidemics.
  6. Hydrocarbons could be used to make plastics and fabrics, so that wood and crops grown to make fabrics (such as cotton and flax) would not be in such huge demand, allowing land to be used for other purposes.
  7. Hydrocarbons could provide asphalt for roads, lubrication for machines, and many other hard-to-replace specialty products.
  8. The labor-saving nature of machines powered by oil freed up time for workers to work elsewhere (or viewed less positively, sometimes left them unemployed).
  9. The fact that tractors and other farm equipment took over the role of horses and mules after 1920 meant that more land was available for human food, since feed no longer needed to be grown for horses.

If we look at oil by itself (Figure 5, below), we see much more of a curved figure than for coal (Figure 4, above).

Figure 5. World annual oil consumption, based on the same data as in Figure 3 above. (Vaclav Smil /BP Statistical Review of World Energy)

My interpretation of this is that oil supply is more constrained than coal supply. Coal is cheap, and demand keeps growing. Oil has been rising in price in recent years, and the higher prices mean that consumers cut back on their purchases, to keep their budgets close to balanced. They can’t afford as many vacations and can’t afford to pave as many roads with asphalt. Oil is still the largest source of energy in the world, but coal is working on surpassing it. In a year or two, coal will likely be the world’s largest source of energy. Together, they comprise about 60 percent of today’s energy use.

If we look at per capita fuel consumption based on the same data as in Figure 3, this is what we see:

Figure 6. Per capita world energy consumption, calculated by dividing world energy consumption (based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent) by population estimates, based on Angus Maddison data.

Figure 6 indicates that there was a real increase in total per capita energy consumption after World War II, about the time that oil consumption was being added in significant quantity. What happened was that coal consumption did not decrease (except to some extent on a per capita basis); oil was added on top of it.

If we look at world population growth for the same time period, we see a very distinct bend in the line immediately after World War II, as population rose as the same time as oil consumption.

Figure 7. World Population, based on Angus Maddison estimates, interpolated where necessary.

Clearly, the arrival of oil had a huge impact on agriculture. Unfortunately, the chemical fix for our long-standing soil problems is not a permanent ones. Soils need to be viewed as part of an ecological system, with biological organisms aiding in fertility. Soils also need an adequate amount of humus, if they are to hold water well in droughts. There are natural things that can be done to maintain soil fertility (add manure, terrace land, use perennial crops rather than annual crops, don’t till the land). Unfortunately, using big machines dependent on oil, plus lots of chemical sprays, tends to operate in the opposite direction of building up the natural soil systems.

Our Energy Niche Problem

There are other fuels as well, including nuclear, wind energy, solar PV, solar thermal, biofuels, and natural gas. The production of all of these are enabled by the production of oil and coal, because of the large amount of metals involved in their production, and because of the need transport the new devices to a final location.

All of these other fuels tend have their own niches; it is hard for them to fill the big coal-oil niche on the current landscape. Solar thermal and natural gas are both directly heat-producing, and play a role that way. But it is hard to see how adequate metals production would continue with these fuels alone. Of course, with enough electricity, we could create the heat needed for metal production. The catch would be creating enough electricity.

“Cheap” is a very important characteristic of fuels to buyers. Coal is clearly beating out oil now in the area of “cheap”. Natural gas is the only one of the other energy sources that is close to cheap, at least in the United States. The catch with US natural gas is that producers can’t really produce it cheaply, so its long-run prospects as a cheap fuel aren’t good. Perhaps if the pricing issues can be worked out, US natural gas production can increase somewhat, but it is not likely to be the cheapest fuel.

One of the issues related to finding a replacement for oil and coal is that we already have a great deal of equipment (cars, trains, airplanes, farm equipment, construction equipment) that use oil, and we have many chemical processes that use oil or coal as an input.  It would be very costly to make a change to another fuel, before the end of the normal lives of the equipment.

Wrapping Up

Over the long haul, energy sources have played a very large and varied role in the economy. In general, increases in the energy supply seem to correspond to increases in GDP and population.  Necessary characteristics of energy supply are not always obvious. We don’t think of low-cost as an important characteristic of energy products, but in the real world, this becomes an important issue.

As we move forward, we face challenges of many types. The world’s population is still growing, and needs to be housed, clothed, and fed.  None of the energy sources that is available is perfect. Our long history of using the land to produce annual crops has left the world with much degraded soil. The way forward is not entirely clear.

I will look at some related issues in upcoming posts.

A Few Insights Regarding Today’s Nuclear Situation

Off the Keyboard of Gail Tverberg

Published originally on Our Finite World on August 14, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord of the Diner

The issue of nuclear electricity is a complex one. In this post, I offer a few insights into the nuclear electric situation based on recent reports and statistical data.

Nuclear Electric Production Is Already Declining

Figure 1. World nuclear electric production split by major producing countries, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy. FSU is Former Soviet Union.

According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, the highest year of nuclear electric production was 2006.

There are really two trends taking place, however.

1. The countries that adopted nuclear first, that is the United States, Europe, Japan, and Russia, have been experiencing flat to declining nuclear electricity production. The countries with actual declines in generation are Japan and some of the countries in Europe outside of France.

2. The countries that began adopting nuclear later, particularly the developing countries, are continuing to show growth. China and India in particular are adding nuclear production.

The long-term trend depends on how these two opposite trends balance out. There may also be new facilities built, and some “uprates” of old facilities, among existing large users of nuclear. Russia, in particular, has been mentioned as being interested in adding more nuclear.

Role of Nuclear in World Electricity

Nuclear provides a significant share of world electricity production, far more than any new alternative, making a change from nuclear to wind or solar PV difficult. If nuclear electricity use is reduced, the most likely outcome would seem to be a reduction in overall electricity supply or an increase in fossil fuel usage.

Figure 2. Based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy

Nuclear is the largest source of world electricity after fossil fuels and hydroelectric, comprising about 12% of total world electricity. Wind amounts to about 2% of world electric supply, and solar (which is not visible on Figure 2) amounts to one-quarter of one percent (0.25%). “Other renewable” includes electricity from a variety of sources, including geothermal and wood burned to produce electricity. These can’t be scaled up very far, either.

Note that even with the growth of renewables, there is still very substantial growth in fossil fuel use in recent years. If nuclear electricity use is reduced, fossil fuel use may grow by even a greater amount.

Role of Nuclear in Countries that Use Nuclear

The world situation shown in Figure 1 includes many countries that do not use nuclear at all, so the countries that do use nuclear tend to generate more than 12% of their electricity from nuclear. This means that if a decision is made to move away from nuclear, an even larger share of electricity must be replaced (or “be done without”).

Figure 3. Based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.

For example, in the Untied States (Figure 3), nuclear now amounts to about 19% of US electricity production, and is second only to fossil fuels as an electricity source. US nuclear production tends to be concentrated in the Eastern part of the US, so that nuclear amounts to 30% to 35% of electric production along the US East Coast. This would be very difficult to replace by generation from another source, other than possibly fossil fuels.

For countries that are planning to reduce their nuclear generation, nuclear electricity as a percentage of total electric production in 2010  are as follows:

  • Germany, 22%;
  • Switzerland, 37%;
  • Belgium, 52%; and
  • Japan 25%.

Unless these countries can count on imports from elsewhere, it will be difficult to make up the entire amount of electricity lost through demand reduction, or through a shift to renewables.

Nuclear Electric Plants that are “Paid for” Generate Electricity Very Cheaply

Nuclear power plants for which the capital costs are already “sunk” are very inexpensive to operate, with operating costs estimated at 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Any kind of change away from nuclear is likely to require the substitution of more expensive generation of some other type.

The electrical rates in place today in Europe and the United States today take into account the favorable cost structure for nuclear, and thus help keep electrical rates low, especially for commercial users (since they usually get the best rates).

If new generation is added to substitute for the paid off nuclear, it almost certainly will raise electricity rates. These higher rates will be considered by businesses in their decisions regarding where to locate new facilities, and perhaps result in more of a shift in manufacturing to developing nations.

Germany’s Experience in Leaving Nuclear

It is too early to know exactly what Germany’s experience will be in leaving nuclear, but its early experiences provide some insights.

One cost is decommissioning. According to Reuters, German nuclear companies have made a total of $30 billion euros ($36.7 billion) in provision for costs related to the cost of dismantling the plants and disposing of radioactive materials. According to the same article, Greenpeace expects the cost may exceed 44 billion euros ($53.8 billion). If the amount of installed nuclear capacity in Germany is 20.48 million kilowatts (kW), the direct cost of dismantling the nuclear reactors and handling the spent fuel ranges from $1,792 to $2,627 per kW. This cost is greater than the Chinese and Indian cost of building a comparable amount of new reactor capacity (discussed later in this article).

David Buchanan of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies did an analysis of some of the issues Germany is facing in making the change. Germany was in an unusually favorable situation because it had a cushion of spare capacity when it decided to close its reactors. When Germany closed its oldest eight reactors, one issue it discovered was lack of transmission capacity to transfer wind energy from the North to areas in the South and Southwest of Germany, where the closed reactors were located. In addition, the system needs additional balancing capability, either through more natural gas generation (because gas generators can ramp up and down quickly), or more electric storage, or both.

In Germany, natural gas is an expensive imported source of energy. The economics of the situation are not such that private companies are willing to build natural gas generation facilities, because the economics don’t work: (a) renewables get first priority in electricity purchases and (b) electricity from locally produced coal also gets priority over electricity from gas, because it is cheaper.  If new gas generation is to be built, it appears that these plants may need to be subsidized as well.

Increased efficiency and demand response programs are also expected to play a role in balancing demand with supply.

Not All Countries Have the Same High Nuclear Electricity Costs

We don’t really know the cost of new nuclear electricity plants in the United States, because it has been so long since a new plants were built. The new reactors which are now under construction in the state of Georgia will provide a total of 2,200 MW of generation capacity at a cost estimated at $14.9 billion, which means an average cost of $6,773/kW.

In China and India, costs are lower, and may drop even lower in the future, as the Chinese apply their techniques and low-cost labor to bring costs down.  The World Nuclear Association (WNA) in its section on China makes the statement,

Standard construction time is 52 months, and the claimed unit cost is under CNY 10,000 (US$ 1500) per kilowatt (kW), though other estimates put it at about $2000/kW.

In the section on nuclear power for India, the WNA quotes construction costs ranging from $1,200/kW to $1,700/kW, using its own technology.

If we compare the cost of  US planned plants in Georgia to the Chinese and Indian plants, the cost seems to be three or four times as high.

These cost differences also appear in comparisons on a “Levelized Cost” basis. The EIA in its 2012 Annual Energy Outlook quotes an US expected levelized cost of nuclear of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), anticipated for facilities being constructed now. The section on the Economics of Nuclear Power of the WNA quotes levelized costs in the 3 to 5 cents per kWh range for China, depending on the interest rate assumed. A cost in the 3 to 5 cents range is very good, competitive with coal and with natural gas, when they are inexpensive, as they are now in the United States.

Some of China’s nuclear reactors were purchased from the United States, and thus will be higher in cost because of the purchased components. But knowing that China has a reputation for “reverse engineering” products it buys, and figuring out how to make cheap imitations, I expect that it  will be able to figure out ways to create low-cost reactors in the near future, whether or not it can do so today. So the expectation is that China and India will be able to make cheap reactors (probably without all the safety devices that some other countries currently require) for itself, and quite likely, eventually for sale to others. Sales of such reactors may eventually undercut sales by American and French companies.

Interest in Purchasing Reactors

The interest in purchasing electricity generation of all kinds is likely to be greater in developing countries where the economy is growing and the need for electricity generation is growing, than in the stagnant economies of the United States, Europe, and Japan. If we look at a graph of electricity production of Asia-Pacific excluding Japan, we see a very rapid growth in electricity use.

Figure 4. Asia-Pacific Excluding Japan Electricity by Source, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review.

The Middle East (Figure 5, below) is another area with an interest in nuclear. It too has shown rapid growth in electricity use, and a historical base of mostly fossil use for electricity generation.

Figure 5. Middle East Electricity by Source, based on data of the BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Use of Thorium Instead of Uranium Would Seem to be a Better Choice, if It Can be Made to Work

I have not tried to research this subject, except to note that research in this area is currently being done that may eventually lead to its use.

Uranium Production is a Problem

World uranium production fell a bit in 2011, relative to 2010, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Figure 6. World Uranium Production, based on data of the World Nuclear Association.

Production from Kazakhstan is becoming an increasingly large share of the total. Production in both the US and Canada declined in 2011. Spot prices have tended to stay low, in spite of the fact that an agreement that allowed the US to buy recycled Russian bomb material reaches an end in 2013. There are no doubt some stockpiles, but the WNA estimates 2011 production to equal to only 85% of current demand (including military demand).

Figure 7. World Uranium Production and Demand, in an image prepared by the World Nuclear Association.

A person would think that prices would rise higher, to incentivize increased production, but this doesn’t seem to be happening yet, at least. The uranium consulting firm Ux Consulting offers the following comment on its website:

The market that we now find ourselves in is like no other in the history of uranium. Production is far below requirements, which are growing. HEU [highly enriched uranium] supplies and the enrichment of tails material make up a large portion of supply, but the fate of these supply sources is uncertain. Supply has become more concentrated, making the market more vulnerable to disruptions if there are any problems with a particular supply source. Another source of market vulnerability is the relatively low level of inventory held by buyers and sellers alike.

The consulting firm ends the section with a pitch for its $5,000 report on the situation.

A person would like to think that additional production will be ramped up quickly, or that the US military would find some inventory. Markets don’t always work well at incentivizing a need for future production, especially when more or less adequate current supplies are available when Russian recycled bomb material is included. The discontinuity comes when those extra supplies disappear.

Not even a spoonful of sugar could help

Off the Keyboard of Guy McPherson

Published originally on Transition Voice on August 10, 2012

Image: Sammy Slabbinck via Flickr.
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Television anchor Edward R. Murrow is credited with this expression: “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”

Murrow understood the power of television to misinform the masses. This strategy has worked brilliantly on every front, but none more pronounced than the all-important issue of global climate change. Seeking “balance” on the idiot box has meant presenting two sides to a one-sided issue until it’s become too late to address the crisis.

It’s now too late.

Feel the burn

By the end of June 2012, the U.S. had witnessed its hottest 12 months and hottest half year on record. And July 2012 was the hottest month in U.S. history, with records dating to 1895. Extreme events have arrived:

“The kind of blistering heat we used to experience once every 20 years, will now occur every two.”

Even as the sun cools, record high temperatures exceeded record low temperatures by a ratio of 2:1 in the last decade, relative to an expected ratio of 1:1. The ratio hit 9:1 in 2012.

As was pointed out in this space last year, I concluded a decade ago that we’d set into motion climate-change processes likely to cause our own extinction by 2030.

I mourned for months, to the bewilderment of the three people who noticed. And then, shortly thereafter, I was elated to learn about a hail-Mary pass that just might allow our persistence for a few more generations: Peak oil and its economic consequences might bring the industrial economy to an overdue close, just in time.

Like Pandora with her vessel, I retained hope.

No more.

Stick a fork in us. We’re done. Broiled beyond hope wishful thinking.

It seems we’ve experienced a lethal combination of too much cheap oil and too little wisdom. Yet again, I’ve begun mourning. It’s no easier the second time.

As always, I’m open to alternative views — in fact, I’m begging for them, considering the gravity of this particular situation.

But the supporting evidence will have to be extraordinary.

By the way, irrationally invoking Al Gore doesn’t count as evidence. Ditto for unsubstantiated rumors about global cooling. A small dose of critical thinking might be required rather than the ability to repeat lines touted by neo-conservatives and their puppet-masters in the fossil-fuel industries.

We know Earth’s temperature is nearly one degree Centigrade higher than it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution. And 1 C is catastrophic, as indicated by a decades-old cover-up.

Already, we’ve triggered several positive feedbacks, none of which were expected to occur by mainstream scientists until we reached 2 C above baseline global average temperature.

We also know that the situation is far worse than indicated by recent data and models (which are reviewed in the following paragraphs).

We’ve known for more than a decade what happens when the planes stop flying: Because particulates were removed when airplanes were grounded, Earth’s diurnal temperature range increased by more than 1 C in the three days following 9/11.

If the change in range leans toward warming, in other words, Earth’s temperature is already nearly 2 C higher than the industrial-revolution baseline. And because of positive feedbacks, 2 C leads directly and rapidly to 6 C, acidification-induced death of the world’s oceans, and the near-term demise of Homo sapiens.

That would be people. Us. You and me. Your kid. And your little dog, too.

Suicide isn’t painless

We can’t live without life-filled oceans, home to the tiny organisms that generate half the planet’s oxygen while comprising the base of the global food chain (contrary to the common belief that Wal-Mart forms the base of the food chain).

So much for the wisdom of the self-proclaimed wise ape.

With completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as will be obvious when most of the world’s planes are grounded.

Without completion of the on-going demise of the industrial economy, we’re there: We’ve crossed the horrifically dire 2 C rubicon, as described below.

Joseph Heller, anybody?

I’ve detailed the increasingly dire assessments. And I’ve explained how we’ve pulled the trigger on five positive-feedback events at lower global average temperature than expected, while also pointing out that any one of these five phenomena likely leads to near-term human extinction.

None of these positive-feedback events were expected by mainstream scientists until we exceed 2 C warming above the pre-industrial baseline.

My previous efforts were absurdly optimistic, as demonstrated by frequent updates (for example, here, and here, and here, in chronological order in this space). Yet my frequent writing, rooted in scientific analyses, can barely keep up with increasingly terrifying information about climate change.

Every day, we have more reliable knowledge about the abyss into which we’ve plunged. Consider, for example, the International Energy Agency’s forecast of business-as-usual leading to a 6 C warmer planet by 2035.

Malcolm Light, writing for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, considers one of the many positive feedbacks we’ve triggered in one planetary region and reaches this conclusion:

This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.

Please read that sentence again.

Light is a retired earth-systems scientist. As nearly as I can distinguish, he has no hidden agenda, though he believes geo-engineering will save us (an approach that would take several years to implement, and one that we’d almost certainly FUBAR).

Forecasts by the International Energy Agency and the Arctic Methane Emergency group match the recent trend of increasingly dire assessments based on collection and interpretation of more data and increasingly powerful models. If these forecasts are close to accurate, we’ve only a requiem to write for human beings on Earth.

Even mainstream scientists writing in Science have finally noticed that ocean acidification threatens all marine life with near-term extinction. In the very near future, coral reefs will disappear. Think of the deprivation we’ve brought to the world as we rape, pillage, and plunder Earth’s glorious bounty for a few extra dollars with which to purchase the food high fructose corn syrup that’s killing us and tons of toxic toys to titillate.

Deniers take note: “Recent warming of the top 2300 feet of the ocean alone corresponds to an energy content of more than one Hiroshima atomic bomb detonation every second over the past 40 years.”

This “remarkable warming can only be explained with man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

According to fancy sensors, those greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for a temperature increase of about 1 C in New England since the beginning of the industrial revolution (graphical depiction is here).

The plants paint a considerably more dire story, indicating average temperature in the region has increased 2.4 C during the same period. If you trust plants more than human sensors, as I do, this single statistic is sufficient to induce despair.

In cold blood

Climate chaos is only a small part of the big story, though it is among the phenomena poised to cause our extinction within a single human generation. In addition to triggering climate chaos, we’ve initiated the Sixth Great Extinction, and we revel in its acceleration as one more sign of progress.

Furthermore, we continue to ratchet up the madness of human-population overshoot on an overpopulated, overheated, increasingly depauperate planet.

Environmental degradation proceeds apace as we gleefully trade in living soil for smart phones, clean air for fast computers, potable water for high-definition televisions, healthy food for industrial poison, contentment for exhilaration, decent human communities for hierarchical death camps, and life for death.

All the while, we take truth-tellers to task while looking to corrupt governments for leadership. Truth is treason in an empire of lies, so we don’t protest governments that spy on their citizens and then kill them.

The people, largely convinced they are consumers instead of citizens, keep seeking guidance from the television and nourishment from GMO-tainted faux food, all while seeking happiness from exhilaration instead of introspection.

My heart aches to the breaking point. Industrialized humans are destroying every aspect of the living planet with all the joy one would expect from homicidal maniacs. We don’t think about what we’re doing. If we did, we wouldn’t. Or perhaps, driven by a culture of madness promoted by our contemporaries, we would.

I’m guilty, too, of course.

The thought of continuing to stare, alone, at the world of wounds, causes the terror to rise in me. Walking away from empire doesn’t mean I’ve done enough to terminate the omnicidal set of living arrangements known as industrial civilization. Haunted by the wonder and beauty of nature and fully recognizing my efforts as insufficient, bitterness nearly overshadows my overwhelming, debilitating sadness. How could I have been be so self-absorbed?

What irreparable damage have I wrought?

Revolting for real

I feel nature slipping out of my grasp as we rush to destroy every species on Earth. With no decent solutions, my mind wanders between sadness and madness, between reality and the despair induced therein.

What, then, shall we do?

As I contemplate the shackles we’ve created for ourselves, the words of Albert Camus come to mind:

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

In terms of action, I hardly know what that means for me, much less for you. But I encourage any and every act of liberty and rebellion, particularly as the world burns.

I’m often asked why people living in industrialized nations shouldn’t relent to hopelessness and party like hedonists as the world burns. My typical response is to ask how our lives would be different if we suddenly starting acting like hedonists?

With the words of Edward R. Murrow in mind, curse your television. Then shoot it. It’s not much, and it’s too little, too late. But it’s a therapeutic start to a much-needed revolution.

Geotectonic Ocean Heat Transfer Theory Revisited

Off the Keyboard of RE

Discuss this article at the Geological & Cosmological Events Table inside the Diner

I had a terrific discussion of Geotectonic Ocean Heat Transfer Theory with Gail Tverberg of Our Finite World in the Commentary of her recent article Reaching financial limits–What kinds of solutions are available?

It remains very important to consider the possibility/likelihood that the Global Climate Change we see occurring may not be Anthropogenic in origin. Many of the Policy Decisions and Economic decisions being made now are based on the idea that Cliimate Change is Anthropogenic, and that by pursuing Strategies like Carbon Tax Credits we might be able to alter the Climactic System enough to prevent further damage to the Ocean and Atmospheric systems currently being affected.

If it is true that the Earth is undergoing a Geological Phase Shift that is producing the effects, then it really does not pay to try and stop that, we won’t be able to do it.  Rather what we have to do is figure out means by which to live in a World vastly changed in Climate from what it is now. This could include such adaptations as shifting the locations where most people live to areas which might be more survivable, growing more food through Hydroponics in areas being DRENCHED with extensive Rainfall and moving food Production AWAY from areas experiencing Extreme Drought and perhaps even developing more Underground living arrangements to Ride Out the Storms, so to speak, until hopefully the situation reverts again once this cycle is done with.  If it does not revert,there really is not much to do about it, we are TOAST when the Phytoplankton Collapse.

Anyhow, below follows my discussion with Gail which clarifies many of these issues.  I suggest you read this and the original Geotectonic Ocean Heat Transfer Theory article here on the Diner before drawing the conclusion that Climate Change is necessarily Anthropogenic in Origin.

RE

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    Thanks!

    Any more news on your theory about heat coming from the center of the earth, rather than atmospheric warming?

     

     

    • reverseengineerre says:

       

       

      The Good Newz would be that it appears we reached Peak Quakes in terms of frequency between 2004-2007 maxing out at a little over 30,000 Quakes/year of any magnitude globally. The Bad Newz would be that the largest magnitude quakes greater than Mag 5 are still showing significant and steady increase, with concomitant high energy releases far greater than thousands of Hiroshima Bombs dropped each year. These along with numerous 7+ quakes releasing energies which dwarf the Tsar Bomba, the largest thermonuclear device ever detonated.

      You can do the calculations yourself Gail, you’re an Actuary.  The increased Energy Release coming from the Earth over the last 20 years dwarfs the Heat Content of all the Oil and Coal burned since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution by several Orders of Magnitude. No contest between Mother Earth and Homo Sapiens as to who can ramp up Energy Release more.  Its like the Dallas Cowbows taking on the Pop Warner Fotball Team from Timbuktu.  If you know any Physics at all, you know by Conservation of Energy it has to go somewhere.  What is the Biggest Heat Sink on the surface of Planet Earth Gail?

      You want to check this for yourself, go visit Dlindquist’s website and the USGS Earthquake stats.

      http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/year/eqstats.php http://research.dlindquist.com/quake/historical/

      RE http://doomsteadiner.com

       

       

    •  

       

      I think I mentioned earlier that when I went to an actuarial meeting last year, one of the topics being discussed was the rise in large magnitude earthquakes, and the fact that it was of concern to insurers. So I wasn’t surprised at what you were showing.

      My physics is pretty limited. I’m afraid I don’t know how to compare earth movement to other types of energy. (I do know the energy has to go somewhere.)

       

       

    • reverseengineerre says:

       

       

      The Law of Conservation of Energy states, “Energy is neither Created nor Destroyed, only transformed from one form to another.”

      In the case of Fossil Fuels, the potential energy stored as chemical energy in the Bonds between the Carbon atoms.  When burned with Oxygen, said energy is released as Heat.  In the case of Nuclear Energy, the stored energy is inside the Nucleus and is far greater, and when Fission or Fusion occur, again you get energy released as Heat, along with High Energy radiation in the form of Gamma Rays and X-rays.  In Earthquakes, you have the potential energy stored mechanically, and the movement of large masses in the end is transformed into vibrations which transform to Heat.

      ALL of them are measured in the same units, Joules,Calories, BTUs whatever.  There is no fundamental difference between them all.  In any event, when a Quake goes off, unlike a Nuclear reaction it cannot change any of its mechanical energy into high energy radiation, it all has to go out as Heat.On the surface of the Earth, all this Heat really has one mainHeat Sink, and that is the Ocean which constitutes about 75%of the surface material, and Water has the second highest Heat Capacity of any known compound, the only greater one is Ammonia which does not exist in anywhere near the quantity water does on Earth.

      The only place for the Energy released by Quakes is into the World Oceans, and from there it gets radiated out into the Atmosphere in a variety of ways.  Many by increased Evaporationof the Water, driving more of it up into the atmosphere.  Thus you get the kind of extreme rainfall situation you see now in the Manila and in Shanghai, where apparently if you BELIEVE  Chinese Stats they relocated 1.5 MILLION People.

      There are other synergistic effects to consider from the changing gas mix in the atmosphere, but overall albedo effects tend to offset greenhouse effects so overall atmospheric temperature is not rising that rapidly.The primary source of the increased energy input here though?  Not the Sun, not the burned Fossil fuels either.  Its coming from deep down inside the Core of the Earth.  for whatever the reason, the Earth is dissipating at least one order of magnitude if not 2 greater energy now than 20 years ago.  That is  LOT of energy to transform to Heat.

      RE

       

       

    •  

       

      Thanks!

      It had never occurred to me that the energy of the greater number / strength of earthquakes would be stored in the earth’s ocean as heat, or that the magnitude of the stored heat would be as high as you say. (Of course, my physics background is mostly what I have “picked up” here and there.)

      I remember that you posted a graph of the higher ocean temperature. Also a description of where you were able to calculate this from.

      You have also shown links to the rise in earthquakes, which seems to have tailed off a bit recently. Have you done an actual calculation of the amount of energy that would be stored from the increase in earthquakes to connect the two?

      Is this all in one post, or multiple places? I am not as good using your search engine as you are, and I sometimes forget what I have read where.

       

       

    • reverseengineerre says:

       

       

      The original article I wrote is actually a compilation of stuff I wrote together with a Geology buff named Stormbringer who I met on the Peak Oil message board. Together we ran one of the longest running threads on the board which went hundreds of pages deep during the Yellowstone Quake Swarm. I put it together in an article on the Diner

      http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2012/04/02/geotectonic-ocean-heat-transfer-theory/

      In terms of total energy, the increase in Heat Content of the Oceans is greater than the summation of all the energies of the Quakes alone.  However, quakes are not the only method by which the Earth dissipates Heat, Vulcanism on the sea floor is extensive around the subduction zones and there is direct thermal radiation through the crust as well below the sea bed where it is the thinnest.  Sort of like a pot of water on a Hot Plate.

      The best way to see the correlation between the two is to overlay the graphs of the Quakes with the graph of the increasing Heat Content of the Oceans over the 20 year time span, they match in lock step.

      The most frightening correlation is one I came upon later, which is the rapidly decreasing pH or acidification that is resulting from this.  It probably comes from two places, increasing Sulfur emissions from subsea volcanoes and melting Clathrates releasing gobs of CO2 from the ocean floor and bubbling it straight up through the water.  This produces Sulfuric, Sulfurous and Carbonic Acid. At current rates of acidification, it probably takes no more than 30-50 years before the Ocean is too acidic to support any shell based sea life like Coral Reefs.  How long the phytoplankton can last is a more difficult question, because they probably can adapt to higher acidity to an extent.  If the phytoplankton collapse, we are of course all dead, Oxygen percentage in the atmosphere will drop rapidly after that and all higher animal life will go to the Great Beyond in short order.

      One can take a certain amount of HOPE looking at the now decreasing frequency of quakes that this will level off before it collapses the phytoplankton.  However, the energy dissipation is still quite large because the most powerful quakes are still on the increase. Only Time will tell on that one..

      RE

       

       

    •  

       

      Thanks! I see that the ocean heat content graph is actually one from a NOAA web site you link to. http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/  No one can complain that you misinterpreted NOAA data.

      My chemistry background is only a little better than my physics background. I was presuming that the ocean acidification problems were coming only because of too much CO2 in the atmosphere. If the exposure is really form the bottom as well, this would increase the speed of acidification.

      If there is a different avenue of ocean/climate disturbance that is taking place, it seems like it would be worthwhile for someone with suitable background to write an article for an academic journal on the issue. Or perhaps post some comments on a blog that discusses more climate issues, where other climate modelers “hang out”.

       

       

    • reverseengineerre says:

       

       

      That would be me except I have the same opinion of Academic Journals I do for MSM outlets like Bizness Insider and Financial Sense.  In terms of discussing this on one of the Climate websites, that would be a bit like a Marxist arguing for Communism on Zero Hedge.  The Anthropogenic Group Think would swamp you in no time.  Discussing it with Guy McPherson for instance is like talking to a brick wall.

      RE

Hope for a Viable Biosphere of Renewables

Off the keyboard of A.G. Gelbert

Why They Work and Fossil & Nuclear Fuels Never Did

Discuss this article at the Energy Table of the Diner

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The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed (apart from solar and cosmic radiation) and self-regulating system.[1]

 

File:Seawifs global biosphere.jpg

This is a “Big Picture” article about energy resources and use by humanity. In the article I question the most basic assumptions that have become “common wisdom” in our culture in regard to the celebrated “cost effectiveness” of fossil and nuclear energy products and the view that renewables are not a suitable replacement due to alleged “low” EROI (Energy Return on Energy Invested – sometimes shown as EROEI in the literature). I even question the assumptions used in the EROI methodolgy for quantifying exothermic chemical processes (how much energy is released when rapid oxidation, otherwise known as an explosion, occurs in a given energy product). I will prove that the EROI methodology is, not simply flawed, but unscientifically skewed to narrowly define energy input and output boundaries so as to favor fossil and nuclear fuels and simultaneously delegitimize renewable energy product cost effectiveness. It is most telling that the EROI documents and discussions at The Oil Drum web site are the ones that first show up when you do an EROI google search for fossil fuels and/or renewables. The claim of scientific objectivity in regard to fossil fuels at a web site called The Oil Drum can only be considered acceptable in a country like ours where the oil and nuclear lobbies control much of the narrative and just about all of the governmental policies energywise. Tell me, dear readers, would you consider taking advice on the efficacy of a vegan diet from the owners of a steak house? Do you think they would celebrate the fact that rice and beans provide a balanced protein intake that covers all essential amino acids? Do you think they would, after you provided evidence of the facts, offer chickpeas, which are equivalent in protein density to meat without the fat, as a replacement for the kiddy burgers?

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Chickpeas have 361 calories per 100g, and are a good source of protein containing about 20 percent in content, which is equivalent to meat.

 
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Rice and beans are both nutritious yet inexpensive foods that, when combined, form a complete protein.

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/351077-the-protein-in-rice-beans/#ixzz20d8EofWj
Somehow, I think you will agree that the steak house owners are just a tiny bit biased in favor of meat and will attempt to undermine the vegan diet by the following reactions: 1) Ignore it. 2) Ridicule it. 3) Attack it with false propaganda. Provided enough people can be kept in the dark about the benefits to the body and the pocketbook of a vegan diet, the steak house owners and the entire chain of profit generating meat production facilities from raising cattle, hogs and chickens to every fast food burger joint in the country can continue to enjoy the status quo and their profits. I am not a vegetarian. I bring this example to you (remember the time Oprah had to back down on her claim that red meat was bad for you because of the cattle rancher outcry? – She was referring to scientifc studies but the beef industry prevailed anyway – truth be damned when profits are threatened is the predatory capitalist motto) simply because it shows how mendacity is used to defend a bias, regardless of the truth. I will prove here that the same mechanism has corrupted, not only our government energy use, subsidy and research and development grant allocation policies, but the very mathematics used by scientists to define energetic exothermic processes. The Procrustean Bed gaming of the boundaries for the EROI methodology is where we begin. I am not a mathematician but I can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Regardless of the calculus formulas or other advanced mathematics and statistical tools used by the scientists doing the EROI math, I will show that every energy cost they leave out favors the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries in their flawed EROI comparison with renewables.  At the end of the article, after having  presented the case which, not simply justifies, but requires a switch to 100% renewables in order to guarantee a viable biosphere, I will point you to some excellent videos from Germany (you have to go to the German web site to see them – they are free but they sell the DVDs of the videos for those who wish to spread the word) where renewables providing power to industrial processes, as well as consumer energy demands, are paving the way to an energy future free of disruptions,  price gouging from contrived fuel shortages and price shocks/hikes from wars (mostly contrived as well) and/or speculators. Parts of this article may be a bit boring. Please try to remember that your thorough understanding and use for dissemination of the data here to others out there may enable you, after you verify it’s veracity, to effectively counter some status quo victim of brainwashing in the “follow the herd” school of “that’s how the world works and we just have to live with it” tradition. Your efforts to wade through this and digest it’s contents will, I firmly believe, help attain a sustainable future. An unsustainable world is a world that  isn’t “working”. What I want is for it to work.
ENERGY RETURN ON ENERGY INVESTED (EROI or sometimes EROEI)
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Procrustean bed is an arbitrary standard to which exact conformity is forced.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrustes Measuring the EROEI of a single physical process is unambiguous, but there is no agreed standard on which activities should be included in measuring the EROEI of an economic process. In addition, the form of energy of the input can be completely different from the output. For example, energy in the form of coal could be used in the production of ethanol. This might have an EROEI of less than one, but could still be desirable due to the benefits of liquid fuels.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_investedThis is the general formula: EROEI = Usable Acquired Energy (output) DIVIDED BY Energy Expended (input) The formula appears pretty straightforward, does it not? If you get less energy out than you put in then you will get a number below “1” (i.e. 1/2 = 0.5 EROI not good, 10/1 = 10.0 EROI good). Since the units in this formula are energy units, let’s define those:

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Because energy is defined via work, the SI unit for energy is the same as the unit of work – the joule (J), named in honour of James Prescott Joule and his experiments on the mechanical equivalent of heat. In slightly more fundamental terms, 1 joule is equal to 1 newton-metre and, in terms of SI base units:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Units_of_energy What’s a newton-metre? What are SI units? Don’t worry about it. Anybody that wants to do an in depth discussion in the comments of how scientists came up with the units from observing the heat effect of lots of energetic molecules in a measured volume of some gas, liquid or solid is free to do so. In the meantime, readers only need to remember that more Joules (J) = more energy.
So taken with the “fabulous fossil fuels” are some people out there that they have the audacity to start using “barrel of oil equivalent” and “ton of oil equivalent” to measure energy rather than sticking with Joules (J).

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In discussions of energy production and consumption, the units barrel of oil equivalent and ton of oil equivalent are often used.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Units_of_energyTo the credentialed scientists in the EROI study published at The Oil Drum’s credit, they appear to have used Joules and MegaJoules(MJ) in their energy units. Use your own imagination as to how objective it would have looked to claim EROI in ethanol and other renewables is too low in terms of “barrel of oil equivalent” units. Okay, so we’ve decided to use “J” units as the input and output energy units in the EROI formula. How do we know how much energy is in a given measure of gasoline? For you oldy goldies here, do you remember leaded gasoline? Gasoline was goosed (increased octane rating) by adding tetra-ethyl lead. Lead hurt the environment and caused serious health issues and developmental disorders for humans (and surely a lot of animals that were never considered in the studies) so unleaded gasoline became the norm with the lower octane rating. The reason I bring this up is because changes in octane rating change the activation energy needed to start the chemical reaction/explosion. A low octane gasoline technically has more energy than a high octane gasoline does because a lower octane rating requires less energy (lower energy of activation) for the reaction to begin. The energy density per mole in a high octane gasoline is assumed to be lower due to the higher energy of activation. This is a half truth. This half truth is used by the EROI experts to claim ethanol, which has a high octane rating, has a lower EROI than gasolene. Simply changing the compression ratio in an engine to a high compression makes ethanol equivalent in MJ/L to gasoline. But, of course, the Hall study arbitrarily stopped at the octane rating “energy of activation” differences between gasoline and ethanol with zero discussion of high compression engines. That was very convenient for gasoline EROI and very inconvenient for ethanol EROI. Furthermore the Hall study studied oil and “conventional” natural gas together in computing EROI:

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Oil and conventional natural gas are usually studied together because they often occur in the same fields, have overlapping production operations and data archiving.

 

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.. authors also estimated through linear extrapolation that the EROI for global oil and conventional natural gas could reach 1:1 as soon as about 2022 given alternative input measurement methods

 

Sustainability 2011, 3, 1796-1809; doi:10.3390/su3101796 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability The authors of the above study made a reasoned assumption that the energy density per mole of global oil and conventional gas is, for all practical purposes, identical. Though one is a gas and the other a liquid, after processing inputs and putputs with similar infrastructure costs, that appears to be a logical approach. The problem with this approach is that the petroleum industry energy density numbers which predictably apply quite well to hydrocarbons result in bad data (low EROI) when applied to a renewable like ethanol. There was a study done at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory: “BIOMASS AS FEEDSTOCK FOR A BIOENERGY AND BIOPRODUCTS INDUSTRY: THE TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY OF A BILLION-TON ANNUAL SUPPLY”, Perlack, Wright, Turhollow, Graham, Stokes and Erbach – 2005. The conclusion of the Oak Ridge study was that the U.S. could meet at least 30% of its transportation fuel needs from biomass sources by 2030 “…with relatively modest changes in land use and agricultural and forestry practices.”. But the Oak Ridge Laboratory study, assumed, in error, that biofuels (specifically, ethanol) should be compared to petroleum fuels (specifically, gasoline) on a heat content basis (e.g. British Thermal Units) when estimating fuel efficiency. The Heat Value of ethanol is 65% of that of gasoline. Almost all researchers on this subject assume that ethanol’s fuel efficiency is 65% of that of gasoline. Even the U.S. Dept. of Energy thinks this is a valid assumption. Perhaps this is because so many of the studies pertaining to biofuels feasibility are done by individuals with economics backgrounds. The property of fuels known as the Octane rating indicates a fuels capacity for being combusted under pressure without pre-igniting. This is of great importance because fuels with higher octane ratings can be burned at higher combustion chamber pressures and produce more power which results in more work output (i.e. miles per gallon) than a fuel  with a lower octane rating that cannot be consumed at higher combustion chamber pressures. Ethanol has an octane rating of 115. Gasoline‘s is 93-95 for high test gasoline. This means that ethanol can be burned in a higher compression engine or an engine with combustion chamber pressures boosted using turbocharging or supercharging. The Department of Energy continues to base its estimates of fuel efficiency (and greenhouse gas emissions) for ethanol based on the Heat Value of ethanol relative to gasoline. This is entirely in error as it does not recognize the importance of octane rating and the characteristics of the engine the fuel in question is used in. The fact is, ethanol’s higher octane rating than gasoline enables it to be consumed in a higher pressure combustion chamber and obtain comparable (or better) fuel efficiency than that obtained with gasoline. This also means that the estimates of how much of the fuel supply we can meet using ethanol are significantly low. The estimate of the Oak Ridge study assumes ethanol can only achieve fuel efficiency relative to gasoline that is equivalent to ethanol’s “heat value” relative to gasoline’s or 65% of gasoline’s. But in actuality, ethanol used in an engine that takes full advantage of ethanol’s higher octane achieves comparable fuel efficiency to gasoline’s and thus the amount of the fuel supply that can be met with ethanol is not 30% but 46% (1/.65). So, returning to the EROI numbers published by the SUNY ESF study at The Oil Drum, you can see that they are way too low (from 1.29–1.70 )  because they low balled the OUTPUT in Joules of ethanol. Output is the top number on the EROI equation. I refuse to believe that these math wizards over there did not know that ethanol’s higher octane rating would result in equal or greater energy output than gasoline given a proper engine combustion chamber. This was a deliberate attempt to undermine the EROI of the corn ethanol renewable in the service of fossil fuels. The EROI number for sugar cane ethanol (8.0) that Brazil has achieved would be even higher if the output energy was corrected to the level of gasoline in the EROI formula. Furthermore, corn is a really poor choice for biomass because it requires so much energy to prepare the ground, fertilize chemically and harvest. This biomass crop may not have been deliberately set up to fail as a bonafide competitor to gasoline, but it has certainly worked out that way. The precise point where The Oil Drum continues to have it wrong on ethanolis this assumption which totaly ignores the FACT that gasoline ONLY has more useable energy than ethanol if you use it to boil water in a lab! In an internal combustion engine the effective MJ/L difference used to transform heat energy to mechanical energy is NEGLIGIBLE:

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“New Perspectives on the Energy Return on (Energy) Investment (EROI) of Corn Ethanol,” Adjusting for the lower energy content of ethanol (21.46 MJ/L etoh vs. 34.56 MJ/L gasoline = 0.62), we calculated that the net energy from ethanol is roughly 0.99 billion ‘‘gasoline-equivalent’’ liters.

http://www.countercurrents.org/murphy100810.htm The actual figure, since ethanol’s high octane rating makes it equivalent to gasoline in an easy to obtain higher pressure combustion chamber in internal combustion engines, should be 34.56 MJ/L as a minimum. I say this because ethanol burns much cleaner than gasoline and reduced costs in simpler catalytic converters (or none at all) for cars would, in a sane world, increase EROI for ethanol from cleaner burning and increased mileage per liter. Now add to this the other biomass crops out there like Lemna minor (Duckweed) that grow 8 times faster than corn with no tilling and cheap harvesting as well as many perennial grasses that can be converted to ethanol and you have an irrefutable argument for replacing gasoline with ethanol. But there’s more. Scientific assumptions about energy release during rapid oxidation are surface or substrate dependent as well as temperature dependent. We all know that when you strike a match, the chemicals on the match head increase to what is called kindling temperature. At the molecular level, what is occurring is that the Oxygen molecules floating around the match head combine with the match head chemicals as soon as they are all expanded (that’s what heat does to them) sufficently to combine. Once the “energy of activation” is achieved, the chemical reaction proceeds at a previously, scientifically measured and predictable rate. Think of it as pushing a boulder off a cliff. You need some exertion (small amount of heat) to get the boulder to begin falling and accelerating at 32 feet per second squared until terminal velocity (air friction prevents further acceleration) is achieved (a lot of heat is produced until it reaches a self sustaining oxidation which then proceeds until all the reactants are oxidized). The “cliff” can be a vertical drop (very explosive) or a gentle slope (slow oxidation with a gradual heat release). Rust is an example of slow oxidation. What I ‘m trying to get across to you is that the fossil and nuclear fuel industry never want to talk about is that the reaction can be slowed down or speeded up by controllling the distance from each other and distribution of more molecules of the fuel and oxygen. You can also introduce a catalyst which reduces the energy needed to “push” the “boulder” off the “cliff”. This means you need less heat to get the reaction going. In this case you end up with a higher energy output for a given amount of input. Surely you see how this can affect the EROI formula. But once again zero attention is paid to any renewables using catalysts to increase the energy output by these EROI studies. No, the standard everything must be measured from some thermodynamic straight jacket for a given simple exothermic rapid oxydation. This is ridiculous. But it makes criticizing the current fossil fuel and nuclear paradigm difficult because the numbers are quite accurate for hydrocarbons and also nuclear fission heat release. If a more scientifically broad view of thermodynamics in exothermic processes was embraced, the EROI formulation would have to be modified to favor the separate, but slower energy producing processes of e.g. biomass products from crops that are presently considered waste. The added energy input from using all of the crop for, not just ethanol, but heat from “waste” would raise the EROI. The mono mania with a long hydrocarbon chain like petroleum has pushed the “experts” into always attempting to discard multiprocess approaches to determining EROI for one crop. I don’t think it’s because they can’t count to two or three; I think it is because of fossil and nuclear fuel bias. These people are not stupid; they are compromised by the EROI Procrustean Bed that arbitrarily has excluded inputs that lower fossil and nuclear fuel EROI and included outputs that raise it. I have mentioned only fossil fuels in regard to the gaming of the EROI but nuclear fuel is a far more blatent example.

 

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The SUNY ESF study summarized the EROI of nuclear power from previous studies [26]. The review concludes that the most reliable information is still from Hall et al.’s [7] summary of an EROI of about 5–8:1 (with a large part of the variability depending upon whether the electricity is corrected for quality), and that the newer studies appear either too optimistic or pessimistic with reported EROIs of up to almost 60:1, to as low as even less than 1:1.

 

Sustainability 2011, 3, 1796-1809; doi:10.3390/su3101796 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Since nuclear fuel has a foot in the grave and another on a banana peel, I won’t spend much time on it except to say that the EROI is a blatent falsehood. That nuclear fuel EROI can be 1.0 or higher is pure fantasy. In order to run a nuclear reactor, you need to build and insure it. These costs can certainly be  converted to energy inputs but are excluded from nuclear EROI. The energy required to store used nuclear fuel rod waste and other nuclear waste generated at the plant and keep it from overheating or contaminating the environment for centuries is not included in the EROI either. Then there’s the energy to mine, concentrate and mill the uranium followed by manufacturing the fuel assemblies with multiple rods and the uranium pellets in them. Nope, not included. The day to day operation of the nuclear plant is included, period. This is ridiculous. Add to that the energy used in cleaning up nuclear pollution and you have an energy black hole combined with a horror story in negative health impact to the population. Finally, there are many studies that have clearly proven that the uranium fuel cycle is not carbon neutral so any attempt to claim nuclear power plants are “green” and CO2 free energy sources is a pure fiction.

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A big 1,250 megawatt plant produces the equivalent of 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year during its life.

 


http://pec.putney.net/issue_detail.php?ID=15
What about gas fracking energy costs?  I ask you all reading this who just watched the above video, how do the EROI  experts, like the one I had some trouble with when I complained (Stoneleigh – this means you) that she left out aquifer poisoning in her EROI calculations, separate the science from the emotion?  How can these people fall back on a formula that so narrowly defines energy inputs and outputs that they can blithely ignore the energy costs of cleaning up aquifers and dispensing health care to cancer victims?  WTF is wrong with these people? The article I complained about on unconventional fuels not being a game changer was an insult to the intelligence of any thinking human being that knows anything about gas fracking. Don’t let anyone tell you that gas fracking has an EROI of 1.0 or better. It’s another Procrustean Bed fabrication. Gas fracking is an obsenity.

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Alongside the growth in drilling, reports of fouled water, bad odors and health complaints also have increased. In the few places where basic environmental sampling has been done, the results confirm that water and air pollution are present in the same regions where residents say they are getting sick. Last spring, the EPA doubled its estimates of methane gas leaked from drilling equipment and said the amount of methane pollution that billows from fracking operations was 9,000 times higher than researchers had previously thought.

 
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In Colorado, the ATSDR sampled air for pollutants at 14 sites for a 2008 report, including on Susan Wallace-Babb’s property. Fifteen contaminants were detected at levels the federal government considers above normal. Among them were the carcinogens benzene, tetrachloroethene and 1,4-dichlorobenzene. The contamination fell below the thresholds for unacceptable cancer risk, but the agency called it cause for concern and suggested that as drilling continued, it could present a possible cancer risk in the future. Even at the time of the sampling, the agency reported, residents could be exposed to large doses of contaminants for brief “peak” periods.

http://www.propublica.org/article/science-lags-as-health-problems-emerge-near-gas-fieldsHow did we get this fracking nightmare besides the spineless lackeys that do happy EROI calculations for gas fracking? In the video above these frontmen for predatory capitalism were mentioned: Hill & Knowlton. They are famous for the Tabacco commercials in the 50s. Nothing has changed. Fracking and the Gas & Oil Industry

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In 2009, members of ANGA (America’s Natural Gas Alliance), a lobbying organization for the gas industry, spread $80 million in funds across several agencies that included Hill & Knowlton to try to influence decisions on the process of gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing[15] Similar to the strategy used for the pro-cigarette campaigns run in the 50s and 60s, the tactic the company is using for the issue is to simply raise doubt in the public’s mind about the dangers of the fracking process.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hill_%26_KnowltonDo any of these EROI experts figure what the following does to EROI numbers for fossil fuels or is this more stuff that doesn’t fit in the Procrustean Bed?

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Duke Energy CEO Bill Johnson resigns after one day, gets $44 million in severance For his eight-hour tenure as top dog at Duke, Bill Johnson made a cool $44.4 million.

 

http://grist.org/news/duke-ceo-bill-johnson-resigns-after-one-day-gets-44-million-in-severance/I haven’t mentioned the tar sands EROI but these “unconventional oil resources” are estimated by Professor Charles Hall to be abot 5.0 or less. Try a lot less, professor; less than 1.0 when all the energy costs in cleaning up the horrible mess they are creating in Canada come due. Oh yeah, you don’t include that in the formula, do you? What about those huge EROI numbers (up to 100.0!) that the EROI experts claim were the norm in fossil fuels when oil was easy to get out of the ground and you didn’t have to destroy so much land and lop off mountain tops to get to the coal? Yeah, the EROI experts lament all these added MJ/L of energy inputs needed these days and celebrate the good old days. Those were the days before automobiles when Rockefeller would flush his waste (gasoline, among other refinery poisons) products from refining into the rivers at night. Those were the days well into the early 20th century when coal miners worked for slave wages and suffered from myriad lung diseases. Those were the days when miners got shot for wanting to work in decent conditions with decent pay. Those were the days that the heat energy overload on the biosphere began and the CO2 pollution began in earnest. I firmly believe that the huge EROI numbers for early fossil fuel of nearly 100 are inaccurate because many energy input costs, energy extracted from the public in form of subsidies and handed to oil corporations, energy to build infrastructure and energy to care for an increasingly sickened population from fossil fuel pollution as well as energy to clean polluted lands was, right from the start, offloaded from the fossil fuel balance sheets and on to we-the-people. Fossil fuels were never cost effective. The captains of industry stifled renewables in their infancy in the late 19th century. Writers, even back then, were discussing the possiblity of clean and renewable energy from electrolysis of water to use hydrogen as fuel. Sure, the technology needed to be refined and developed but the subsidy money went to oil. There was a real interest in electrification through renewables. Cleveland had wind generators in the late 19th century. Scranton, the town incorporated as a city of 35,000 in 1866 that is now facing bankruptcy from financial shenanigans of predatory capitalism, became known as the electric city in 1880. Electric trolleys were all the rage in many U.S. cities. Had these avenues been pursued, we would not be saddled with this polluted world. Now, despite the flawed EROI methodolgy which produces numbers above 1.0 for fossil and nuclear fuels, some people in the engineering field are waking up to the fact that the writing is on the EROI wall for them and renewables are the future.

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Our society faces the colossal challenge of rapidly developing alternative energy sources that generate sufficient surplus energy to replace fossil fuels. Otherwise, material standards of living will decline – beginning with those of poorer people – as ever more resources have to be devoted to generating useful energy rather than to producing other goods and services. EROI figures indicate that the future lies in renewables like wind and solar, not unconventional hydrocarbons.

 

http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/energy-return-on-energy-invested-2012-06-15 So, to summarize all the above, the following “Energy Expended” inputs (the bottom part of the EROI formula*) have been arbitrarily left out by those EROI experts like Professor Charles Hall and the people from The Oil Scum (sorry, I meant the Oil Drum – really) web site: 1) Energy required to bioremediate pollution impacts from energy resource extraction. 2) Energy required to ameliorate negative health effects due to dangerous working conditions. 3) Energy required to counter negative effects on national GDP from slave wages. 4) Energy expended in wars to defend fossil fuel resources in foreign countries. 5) Energy equivalent in government subsidies taken from the populace and given to fossil and nuclear fuel producers. * If you get less energy out (top of the formula) the than you use to get the finished product (bottom of the formula) then you will get a number below “1” (i.e. 1/2 = 0.5 EROI not good). Procrustean bed is an arbitrary standard to which exact conformity is forced.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrustes The Procrustean bed “real world” of these experts is, and always was, a predatory capitalist, destructive and inhuman contrived “world” that they and all the lackeys that have benefited at the expense of the overwhelming majority of the human race and the biosphere cling desperately too by claiming it’s “the way the world works and we just have to live with it”. No, (Ashvin, Stoneleigh and Ilargi: pay attention) that is not “the way the world works”; That is “how a predatory capitalist con works”.  Any mathematician worth his salt can, given a standard upstream and downstream time frame from energy extraction of e.g. ten years before and ten years after, quantify all the above Energy Expended Inputs in Mega Joules per Liter. But because that would shrink the EROI numbers for all fossil and nuclear fuels to a fraction of 1, well below any justification there ever was for making use of these poisons, they won’t do it.  Furthermore the improper use and interpretation of thermodynamics by arbitrarily assuming that things that go boom (rapid explosive oxidation) are the gold standard in defining energy per se, they have made important “energy of activation” and “reaction velocity” variables seem irrelevant. The science of hydrocarbon chemistry and nuclear fission benefits from this flawed view that the more HEAT density in an exothermic process, the greater the potential EROI. That’s certainly true with hydrocarbons and nuclear fuels. That is NOT true with renewables. The best example I can think of is the internal combustion engine. The purpose of this machine is to use the energy of the explosions in the combustion chambers to drive a piston and produce mechanical energy. An electric motor produces mechanical enegy without wasting over 80% of the energy input on useless heat. The internal combustion engine, not only loses massive amounts of heat energy in the burning of fuel, but also must use part of the mechanical energy from the combustion to cool the engine. The EROI experts will certainly acknowledge that an internal combustion engine is only about 20% efficient but they flat refuse to see that the electric motor, because it doesn’t produce all that useless heat energy, can do the SAME AMOUNT OF WORK FOR LESS ENERGY. They may counter that I’m playing thermodynamic games here and the electricity to power the electric motor is coming from a fossil fuel or nuclear power plant so I’m just passing the energy buck, so to speak. Again, that shows the prejudice of these EROI experts to polluting fuel sources. In the subsequent paragraphs I will show how world electrification complete with electric motors being the motive force in industry and transportation, can achieve exactly the same amount of “useful work” (at a minimum) now produced by fossil fuels with less energy inputs because the resource is PV, geothermal, wind and wave. You would NOT have all the useless heat energy now contributing to an overheated planet. Along with all the CO2 and other greenhouse gases, we sure don’t need billions of engines spewing 80% useless heat energy into the biosphere. Combustion has it’s place with the use of ethanol in furnaces to provide heat in winter where ALL the heat energy output is made use of. Biomass ethanol used as fuel in high compression engines should be seen as a step in weening us away from gasoline but the whole approach to energy systems that is married to the “more heat is is better forever!”  view is scientifically bankrupt because it refuses to address the damage to the biosphere that waste heat imposes. As I said in a previous article, nature paces living energy systems with enzymes that lower the energy of activation and control the biochemical reactions to avoid overheating living tissue. It’s high time the EROI experts accepted that the future lies in an  energy extraction paradigm that does not go boom (explosive, rapid oxidation). We need, for our very survival, to use direct and indirect solar and geothermal energy in a manner so fine tuned that there is zero waste heat. We need to electrify all mechanical energy systems and provide them with electricity from renewable and truly efficient, non explosive energy processes.
Let us now see what our global  energy requirements are and how renewables can satisfy them. Remember that our new paradigm has a huge energy debt from all the pollution caused by fossil and nuclear fuels,  the chemical industry pollution and many dirty industrial processes. Even as we begin to power the world cleanly, we will need to be expending a LOT of Mega Joules per Liter to bioremediate the mess the dirty fuel industries have left us with. Note: The EROI reference below is stated as EROEI but it is the same thing. The “10:1” number convention is a way of stating an EROI of 10.0 with a reference value of “1” as signifying that  1.0 EROI equals equivalent inputs and outputs.  All the EROI numbers I have mentioned previously have the “:1” implied after the number so I have simply left them out.

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Given the strong dependence of current technologically advanced economies on oil, Peak Oil may be a distress for entire economic sectors (Hamilton, 2009) if no alternative primary energy is made available during the next decades to take the place of fossil fuels (Hirsch et al., 2005). In a recent report, Heinberg (2009) defined four conditions that a future primary energy source substitute should satisfy: i. must be able to provide a substantial amount of energy— perhaps a quarter of all the energy          currently used nationally or globally; ii. must have an Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROEI) of 10:1 or above (see Appendix A); iii. cannot have unacceptable environmental (including climate), social or geopolitical impacts; iv. must be renewable. Moreover, as discussed in this manuscript, an additional requirement must be also considered: v. Must not depend on the exploitation and use of scarce materials.

http://www.imedea.uib-csic.es/master/cambioglobal/Modulo_1_03/Ballabrera_Diciembre_2011/Articulos/Garcia-Olivares.2011.pdf
The above authors are being too conservative. As of this writing, renewables already are at 19% of the global energy pie and that information is probaly somewhat dated due to the several month lag on data collection. Because renewable use and their technical efficiency is constantly increasing through added infrastructure and research and development, while fossil and nuclear fuels are in a state where their EROI numbers, even by the gamed formula standards, are heading below 1.0, the renewable percentage of the energy pie will probably increase exponentially, rather than linearly. The fact that renewables, in the early studies nearly a decade ago, had a mere 1% of the global energy pie is strong evidence that the growth is exponential. For those pathetic, parochial clingers to the status quo ante who arrogantly dismiss renewables and their 10.0 PLUS EROIs with the claim that renewables  are a mere drop in the world energy bucket, I suggest you get some metaphorical floatation gear because there is a renewable tsunami coming.  Let us now return to the world energy requirements study and how renewables can fill the gap:

 Snippet1:

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All combined, these authors assume that only 11.5 TW (the 68% of the total mean power) should be produced by the renewable mix to satisfy the 2030 demand of an electrified society. This is close to the 2010 production of 12.5 TW. Current electric generation is only 2 TW, so a six-fold increase is required.

Snippet 2:

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The potential primary power sources that remain after this first screening process are wind and concentrating solar thermal (CSP) devices. Besides, the engineering of both technologies is well known and understood and do not actually depend on rare earth elements (REE) and/or scarce materials.

Snippet 3:

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2.1. Wind, water and solar proven technologies Windmills of 3–5 MW are being currently built and installed; this is a proven technology in expansion.The EROEI of wind turbines has been estimated in the range 15:1–40:1 (Kubiszewski and Cleveland, 2007). The capacity factor (CF, i.e. the ratio of the power actually produced to the theoretical maximum) of commercial turbines has improved overtime, from 0.22 for units built before 1998, to 0.30 for units in 2000–2001, and 0.36 for those operating after 2004–2005 (US DOE, 2008, p.27). The EROEI of CSP stations is close to 20:1 (Vant-Hull, 1985). Parabolic trough stations are more extended and proven CSP technology.

 

Snippet 4:

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From now to 2030, plausible technology developments would permit colonising continental shelves up to 225 m depth with both founded and floating offshore windmills. In addition, two hybrid wind-wave systems could enhance the yield and power stability of offshore wind turbines: (i)attaching attenuator floaters at the base of windmills and (ii)deploying floating platforms with attenuators at the base and wind turbines above. An example of this technology is the Green Ocean Energy Ltd. prototype of 0.5MW (see: http://www.greenoceanenergy.com/index.php/wave-treader). Another example of attenuators is the Pelamis floaters, from Ocean Power Delivery Ltd. (Drewetal., 2009), which generate 0.75 MW with a 120 m long device. An example of the second approach is the Floating Power Plant prototype (see: http://www.floatingpowerplant.com/), designed to produce 10 MW, 56% from waves and 44% from three windmills.

 

Notice the use of hybrid energy systems to increase efficiency of energy collection. This is a giant paradigm shift from the mono mania that the fossil and nuclear fuel industries pursue with their   “one size fits all” approach to the detriment of the environment (this inefficient approach to energy extraction also simplifies EROI math.  ;D). Fossil and nuclear fuel advocates hate hybrid energy extraction techniques. I guess it confuses them or perhaps their predatory capitalist mindset is too consumed by monopolising one energy source in order to achieve price control and then squelch competitors. Whatever their flawed rationale, their modus operandi is unsustainable. Snippet 5;

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The three main advantages of hybrid installations are: increased energy return per square kilometre; reduction of maintenance costs of equipments and undersea transmission cables; and compensation of wind generation intermittency, as wind and waves are not necessarily correlated (with the exception of storms).

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Fig. 2. Annual average (July 1983–June 2005) of incident insolation on a horizontal surface in kWh/m2/day. Data downloaded from the NASA Surface Meteorology and Solar Energy site (SSE, http://eosweb.larc.nasa.gov/sse/, release 6.0). Grey and blue dots have twice the real areas occupied by the CSP stations to improve the readability of the figure (see text for details). White lines represent main distribution grid lines. The length scale corresponds to latitude 45°N. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)

The above jpg shows where we will get much of our energy from renewables. As you all know, the sun, directly or indirectly, is our energy power source. We now have the technology, even in it’s infancy as to achievable levels of efficiency, that is proven, durable and being installed in the high renewable energy extraction potential points throughout the globe. This is no pipe dream; this is real, practical and happening, unfortunately, for financial reasons (cheap reliable energy free of price shocks) rather than our desperate global climate situation killing various lifeforms in our biosphere at an increasing rate. But even if it’s just being done for profit, my attitutde is, “Any Port In The Environmental Collapse Storm”. If the profit motive is needed to have a sane energy extraction standard, so be it.  This is a table of the proposed Energy infrastructure: Snippet 6:

Type Power fraction(%) Capacity factor Rated power (MW) Units
wind turbines 47.5-51 0.31 4.66-5 3,837,000
Stirling plants/air cooled CSP 28 0.25 300 50,460
Parabolic Stations, 12 h storage 12 0.4-0.75 300 9800
Hydroelectricity 9 0.88 1300 900
Attenuators 0-3.5 0.4 0.75 0-1,123,000

Table 1-Energy production mix proposed

 
I have, in a previous article, mentioned the roaring forties (area of the earth in the 40 degrees south latitudes with powerful winds and constantly turbulent seas). Take a look at the huge amount of wind power available sustainably there (there’s a lot in the North Atlantic too):
 
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Fig. 1. Annual average of wind speed at 50 m above the surface of the Earth in m/s. Data downloaded from the NASA Surface Meteorology and Solar Energy site (SSE, http://eosweb.larc.nasa.gov/sse/, release 5.0). Light blue, blue and dark blue correspond to regions where the wind speeds are in the ranges 6–8 m/s, 8–10 m/s and >10 m/s, respectively. The red line delineates the 200 m isobath, representing the continental shelf.(For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.) A. Garcı´a-Olivares etal./EnergyPolicy41(2012)561–574 563

Snippet 7:

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In addition to hybrid systems, other techniques are being proposed for power consistency: 2.4. Intermittency constraints The unwelcome power variability associated with renewable sources may be mitigated by: (i)   geographical interconnection (Zhou, 2009); (ii)  use of hydroelectric power to smooth out supply (Czisch and Giebel, 2006); (iii) using reversible Electrical Vehicle (EV) recharging as grid storage (Kempton and Tomic, 2005); (iv) using other electric storage systems, as for example, water pumping, air compression, batteries, hydrogen production and storage and (v)  using smart demand-response management and weather prediction to better match inflexible loads to the power supply (Delucchi and Jacobson,2011).

http://www.imedea.uib-csic.es/master/cambioglobal/Modulo_1_03/Ballabrera_Diciembre_2011/Articulos/Garcia-Olivares.2011.pdfThe study referenced above is thorough. So thorough that it lists every metal used in the energy infrastructure today as well as their uses in wind turbines, PV and CSP to list a few. They even project when these metals will be exhausted at current extraction rates. They warn that the renewable solution requires a steady state economy and not the continuous growth paradigm of capitalism and energy extraction corporations. In other words, it’s time to stop being pigs. We live in a finite world and pretending otherwise for environmental rape and predatory capitalist profits threatens human society and the biosphere. Yes, we can go full renewable and meet today’s total energy demands. Full electrification will reduce the unusable heat polluting the atmosphere from inefficient internal combustion engines that must go the way of the Dodo bird. The savings from newfound efficiencies with renewables will provide some limited room for growth in addition to a lower overall energy load for exactly the same mechanical energy previously used to run civilization because renewables don’t produce massive wastes in heat energy at all steps of the extraction and use process that fossil fuel and nuclear energy products do. Where I disagree with the authors is on their insistence that the renewable energy sources must be scalable. I believe that scalabilty of an energy source, unless it is a government utility (i.e. fully socialized and non-profit), will lead to unscrupulous short cuts and new externalized costs for the populace for the benefit of private power corporations. The promise of renewables must go hand in hand with decentralized power sources. The authors recognized PV panels could make a huge contribution but did not consider them cheap enough yet and voiced concerns with the future availability of the somewhat rare metals used to make them. This issue is being addressed and overcome so I believe the authors will be pleasantly surprised with the massive contribution PV will make to the total picture. The authors discarded alleged low EROI renewables for consideration because of their scalability bias. As I stated early in this article, biomass ethanol, if properly used, has an EROI of at least that of gasoline without the environmental baggage of gasoline. And other biomass products like Lemna minor (Duckweed), that grow eight times faster than corn without heavy industrial chemical fertilization or pesticides will certainly produce EROI numbers far above 10.0. Passive geothermal (also discarded by the authors because it isn’t scalable) and other renewable heat sources such as e.g. placing mirrors a short distance from the north side of house in winter to reflect sun onto the north facing wall to  drastically lower heating costs will play a very important role in the picture of total sustainability. In addition, decentralized renewable energy infrastructure provides jobs, not in the feast or famine pattern of ethics free, dog eat dog, vicious predatory capitalist “business” model, but in a sustainable, predictable and humane way. While we are busy bioremediating all the damage Rockefeller and the nuclear nuts have saddled us with, we will be dealing with violent and unpredictable weather for a century or more. Decentralized renewable energy infrastructure has the added bonus that it provides resiliency to communities in the event of a disaster because “something” is always going to be working and neighbors with some working renewable energy infrastructure will be able to help those without access to energy. Embracing sustainability is embracing a caring society and rejecting the mindless and destructive wars and erosion of trust that is destroying our civilization from the evil wrought by corporations and the psychopaths that run them. We must reject these human predators who constantly pit everyone against their neighbor for profit. There are still so many goodhearted, thinking people out there that take the stewardship of this planet seriously. We can do so much to live in harmony with the biosphere if we could only constrain the insanely greedy psychopaths among us. Just look at the beauty and harmony with nature we are capable of:

Overpass for Animals, Highway A50 in the Netherlands

 

Banff,Alberta,Canada

 

http://grist.org/list/these-beautiful-bridges-are-just-for-animals/
Germany is the world leader in turning the dream of a world 100% powered by renewable energy sources into a reality. I invite you now to proceed to this German web site and watch the following free videos. These videos are not about proof of concept or pilot programs. These videos are about nuts and bolts applications going on today. To show you how fast things are changing, the largest wind turbine available that is referenced in the above study about a year old has already been increased by over 1MW in energy generating capacity. The switch to renewables is really happening and these videos prove it: There are five videos.  They are all immensely enjoyable and filled with details of interest about several renewable energy technologies but if you are rushed for time, the last one on Wind Energy does a good job of putting them all together. Those new Wind turbines are BIG! When you click on the link below, scroll to the following sentence:

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Watch the film online! If you are interested in watching the Spanish or French version please change the language-option of this website.

 

Below that sentence you can click and watch each video, one at a time. I recommend you watch them in sequence from top to bottom as they are listed. You won’t be disappointed.

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Solar energy Hydropower Geothermal energy Bioenergy Wind energy

 

http://www.renewables-made-in-germany.com/en/publications/dvd-renewable-energy-technologies.html
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I am certain there are some people out there clinging to the status quo ante that will not be pleased. What will be the reaction from people with vested interests in the fossil and nuclear fuel bankrupt paradigm be? See the beginning of the article for the reaction of the Steak House restaurant owners to replacing the kiddy burgers with chickpeas. So prepare for the ignore, ridicule and attack sequence. The “Steak House” owners are not about to change their name to “Chickpea Heaven” or something like that. But, if all these people so invested in the horror that is fossil and nuclear fuels would sit down and really think that what they are doing will eventually kill their descendants and much of the biosphere, then “The Oil Drum” web site would morf to “Sustainability From The Sun” web site.  And maybe dear Professor Charles Hall and friends would stop their Procrustean Bed mathematics celebrating things that go boom and denigrating passive sustainable renewable energy processes that don’t. A big thank you to the Doomstead Diner web site and those that work it and comment on it. like Reverse Engineer (alias Josey Wales!) and Peter who designed an outstanding forum and thread architecture. Print this and plaster it everywhere you can. The planet Earth is our home and we need to do everything we can to save it. Challenge the deniers to argue the points made here. Demand proof rather than some huffy dismissal about not understanding the laws of thermodynamics, capitalism or free enterprise. Ask them how many Mega Joules per Liter will we expend in dealing with THEIR “GIFT” TO US of 400 parts per million of CO2, increased cancer rates, excess heat from internal combustion engines that are only about 20% efficient, erosion of democracy through monopoly oil corporation price control and purchase of of our representatives and laws and useless wars that get our children killed for their GOD DAMNED profits (no, I am not swearing; I am certain the creator is not amused by humans trashing his garden or those who, like some poor deluded souls, claim that this is the way the world works and we just have to live with it). And tell them to stuff it when they say we-the-people are responsible because we consumed their products. If they return all the profits and swag from subsidies made by big oil and nuclear, then we’ll consider that possibility but otherwise it was THEY who corralled us into consuming their crap so they could centralize riches and power and turn the USA into a plutocracy ruled by ruthless oligarchs. Call them cowards for drinking the koolaid. Force them to face responsibility for ruining the future for their offspring with ther blindness and greed. When the Biased Bums at The Oil Scum claim you don’t know what you are talking about when you claim that ethanol (otherwise known as ethyl alcohol) is a superior fuel to gasoline because it gets better mileage in high compression engines and burns cleaner translating to a GREATER effective EROI than gasoline, push this into their face and ask them why they never got the memo:

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Ethyl alcohol in the early 20th century The following excerpt is from a Paper to the American Society for Environmental History, Annual Conference March 26-30, 2003 By William Kovarik, Ph.D. “Studies of alcohol as an internal combustion engine fuel began in the U.S. with the Edison Electric Testing Laboratory and Columbia University in 1906. Elihu Thomson reported that despite a smaller heat or B.T.U. value, “a gallon of alcohol will develop substantially the same power in an internal combustion engine as a gallon of gasoline. This is owing to the superior efficiency of operation…” (New York Times Aug. 5, 1906) Other researchers confirmed the same phenomena around the same time. “USDA tests in 1906 also demonstrated the efficiency of alcohol in engines and described how gasoline engines could be modified for higher power with pure alcohol fuel or for equivalent fuel consumption, depending on the need. The U.S. Geological Service (USGS) and the U.S. Navy performed 2000 tests on alcohol and gasoline engines in 1907 and 1908 in Norfolk, Va. and St. Louis, Mo. They found that much higher engine compression ratios could be achieved with alcohol than with gasoline. When the compression ratios were adjusted for each fuel, fuel economy was virtually equal despite the greater B.T.U. value of gasoline. “In regard to general cleanliness, such as absence of smoke and disagreeable odors, alcohol has many advantages over gasoline or kerosene as a fuel,” the report said. “The exhaust from an alcohol engine is never clouded with a black or grayish smoke.” USGS continued the comparative tests and later noted that alcohol was “a more ideal fuel than gasoline” with better efficiency despite the high cost.”

http://www.americanenergyindependence.com/alcoholengines.aspx

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Ethanol Engine efficiency exceeds gasoline engines, giving greater miles per gallon (MPG) with ethanol fuel: High Efficiency and Low Emissions from a Port-Injected Engine with Alcohol Fuels— By Matthew Brusstar, Mark Stuhldreher, David Swain and William Pidgeon, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  size: 70 Kb – 7 pages

http://www.epa.gov/otaq/presentations/sae-2002-01-2743-v2.pdfWhen they fall back on the EROI formula Procrustean Bed with the claim that EROI only deals with energy density in fuels and not efficiency coefficients in different engine types, calmly remind them (hopefully, two by fours will be unnecessary to knock some sense into their heads but you never know) that gasoline is not customarily used for furnaces, room lighting, barbeque grills or to boil water; it’s used almost exclusively in the ICE (internal combustion engine). For these fossil fuel lakeys, water carriers and quislings to refuse to measure gasoline’s EFFECTIVE USABLE ENERGY when it is actually used in an ICE to do work is the height of duplicity. But this subterfuge by Rockefeller’s admirers is not new. As I have mentioned before, way back at the end of the 19th century, Rockefeller was flushing his gasoline waste product in the rivers by his refineries at night. He could not avoid producing gasoline in his refinery cracking towers (about 19 gallons of gasoline for every 42 gallon barrel of crude refined)*. When the automobile came out in the early twentieth century, the early car fuel called benzene had to be eliminated because that hydrocarbon is a carcinogenic. As you read above in the 1906 Edison lab study, ethanol was considered competitive energywise with gasoline. What did Rockefeller do? He lowered the price of gasoline (remember his cost was near zero because it had been a waste product of the refining process) so much that ethanol was priced out of the market**. It was a win-win for Rockefeller. It was only a matter of time before his nasty habit of flushing gasoline into rivers at night was going to get him and his refinery employees facing the wrong end of a shotgun from some irate farmer who noticed his horses and cows getting sick or dying when drinking the river water downstream of an oil refinery. So Rockefeller managed to change the flush operation from the rivers to the atmosphere and make a bundle out of it too. But this predatory capitalist wasn’t done killing ethanol yet. He gave millions to a temperance group that ultimately succeeded in Prohibition legislation banning the production and use of ethanol (ethyl alcohol), not just for drinking, but for ICE fuel as well (and you thought Prohibition was just the fundies not wanting you to get high on booze. Rockefeller USED the fundies to block ethanol competition). The reality was that the “cheap” gasoline was far, far more expensive than ethanol due to the atmospheric poisons introduced. It got even worse when tetra-ethyl lead entered the mix in the 1920s. It wasn’t until about 1973 that the severe damage from leaded gasoline was recognized and even so, to this day, unleaded gasoline is not mandatory in off road vehicles. Now that ethanol is out there and available once again as a competitor to gasoline, the fossil fuel enablers return with the familiar FALSE claims that ethanol is not competitive with gasoline and the poppycock that gasoline gets better mileage than ethanol. Call out these overeducated, Procrustean Bed, creative thermodynamics “geniuses” carrying water for the fossil fuel industry on their lies and distortions. Accuse them of being well aware of the above and deliberately distorting the fuel facts when they are actually applied to their use in engines. Tell them their Procrustean Bed EROI Bullshit isn’t going to fly anymore.

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*On average, about 19.5 US gallons (16.2 imp gal; 74 L) of gasoline are available from a 42-US-gallon (35 imp gal; 160 L) barrel of crude oil (about 46% by volume), varying due to quality of crude and grade of gasoline. The remaining residue comes off as products ranging from tar to naptha.[4]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline

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**The gasoline engine became the preferred engine for the automobile because gasoline was cheaper than alcohol, not because it was a better fuel. And, because alcohol was not available at any price from 1920 to 1933, a period during which the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol was banned nationally as mandated in the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment was repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment on December 5, 1933. In time to produce alcohol fuels during World War II. By the time World War II ended, the gasoline engine had become “entrenched” because gasoline remained cheaper than Alcohol, and widely distributed – gas stations were everywhere.

http://www.americanenergyindependence.com/alcoholengines.aspx Tell anybody with fried logic circuits that claims this is “the way the world works” that the REAL WORLD, not the predatory capitalist hell hole they so love, is the BIOSPHERE. That world has a set of rules and, for most of our human existence on this planet, we followed them. For over a century and a half, a level of insanity not seen in human history has produced a greed fest so blind, so stupid and so incorrigible that it can only be labelled what it is: EVIL. Fossil and nuclear fuel advocates and their pseudo scientific Procrustean Bed EROI happy number formulations NEVER WORKED. The backers of these poisoned energy sources lied about absolutely everything related to their extraction and use from day one and they are lying through their teeth now to sabotage the truth about renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy sources are practical, sustainable and healthy for the planet and humans. Fossil and nuclear fuels have brought us pollution, wars and corrupted democracy.

Renewable energy sources WORK!  Fossil and Nuclear Fuels NEVER DID.

 

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Iraqi security and medical officials say a protester has been killed by a direct hit to the head from a tear gas cannister amid fresh clashes on a strategic Baghdad bridge[img]https://s.abcnews.com/images/International/WireAP_ce9792ed3a854a97b7...

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday cautiously backed the government’s decision to raise gasoline prices by 50% after days of widespread protests, calling those who attacked public property during demonstrations “thugs” a...

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKRC) - Ohio lawmakers are weighing in on how public schools can teach things like evolution.The Ohio House on Wednesday passed the "Student Religious Liberties Act." Under the law, students can't be penalized if their work is scientif...

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Evacuation orders lifted after Palisades Fire leaves 2 injured and burns at least 40 acres in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Fire Department ordered mandatory evacuations Monday as a fire ripped across a hillside in the affluent Pacific Palisades area,..

3 weeks ago

US troops pelted with rotten fruit and stones as they leave Syria – video

People have thrown rotten fruit and stones at US troops as they left Syria in armed vehicles, with one man appearing to shout: ‘You liars!’..

3 weeks ago

Corporate America's Second War With the Rule of Law

Corporate America’s Second War With the Rule of Law- Uber, Facebook, and Google are increasingly behaving like the law-flouting financial empires..

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Photos from Rafael Nadal's Spanish wedding show a reception fit for tennis royalty

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3 weeks ago

The best toothpaste for kids

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3 weeks ago

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Diner Newz Feeds

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Doomstead Diner Daily November 17The Diner Daily i [...]

Doomstead Diner Daily November 16The Diner Daily i [...]

Doomstead Diner Daily November 15The Diner Daily i [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on November 14, 2019, 07:45:28 A [...]

Quote from: UnhingedBecauseLucid on March 18, 2019 [...]

CleanTechnicaSupport CleanTechnica’s work via dona [...]

QuoteThe FACT that the current incredibly STUPID e [...]

Scientists have unlocked the power of gold atoms b [...]

Quote from: azozeo on August 14, 2019, 10:41:33 AM [...]

Wisconsin Bill Would Remove Barrier to Using Gold, [...]

Under extreme conditions, gold rearranges its atom [...]

The cost of gold futures on the Comex exchange inc [...]

Kicking off with the death of the Marlboro Man.RE[ [...]

Now UP on Global Economic Intersection!http://econ [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Politicians’ Privilege By Cognitive Dissonance     Imagine for a moment you work for a small or medi [...]

Shaking the August Stick By Cognitive Dissonance     Sometime towards the end of the third or fourth [...]

Empire in Decline - Propaganda and the American Myth By Cognitive Dissonance     “Oh, what a tangled [...]

Meanderings By Cognitive Dissonance     Tis the Season Silly season is upon us. And I, for one, welc [...]

The Brainwashing of a Nation by Daniel Greenfield via Sultan Knish blog Image by ElisaRiva from Pixa [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-15http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-14http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-13http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-12http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-11-11http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

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Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

Waterboarding Flounder"Serious oxygen loss between 100 and 600-meter depths is expected to cover 59–80% of the ocean [...]

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects"We need wooden ships, char-crete buildings, bamboo bicycles, moringa furniture, and hemp cloth [...]

"Restoring normal whale activity to the oceans would capture the CO2 equivalent of 2 billion tr [...]

Ukrainian Rhapsody"Our future will be more about artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and non-state actors tha [...]

LeBron’s Chinese Troll Mobs"In the 36 hours after James’ delete, a troll mob with bot support sent a flame tsunami at the [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

What extinction crisis? Believe it or not, there are still climate science deniers out there. And th [...]

My new book, Abolish Oil Now, will talk about why the climate movement has failed and what we can do [...]

A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
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It is harder to automate home production than car production, you are right. In the US, autos are sa [...]

Thanks! I don't remember seeing the NASA study before. Louis de Sousa and Euan Mearns put toget [...]

Different types of oil produce different mixes of gasoline, diesel, asphalt, and other products, wit [...]

I have run into way too many young people who say, "I am pursuing a career related to climate s [...]

I am not surprised at the change in emphasis. China has figured out how poorly renewables work, firs [...]

Here's an article: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-imo-shipping-factbox/factbox-imo-2020-a-m [...]

What is the shift away from bunker fuels? [...]

Yeah, when the water heater goes out the day after you just put new tires on one of the cars, etc... [...]

I join the chorus in welcoming you back. Any thoughts on how the shift away from bunker fuel on Janu [...]

@Front Range Mike "Most everyone I know is trying to figure out how to cut back and sell their [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

The effect of urbanization on microclimatic conditions is known as “urban heat islands”. [...]

Forecasting extreme precipitations is one of the main priorities of hydrology in Latin America and t [...]

The objective of this work is the development of an automated and objective identification scheme of [...]