Wind

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!

Our Electricity Problem: Getting the Diagnosis Correct

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Published on Our Finite World on October 14, 2015

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What is really wrong with our energy system, particularly as it relates to electricity and natural gas? Are there any mitigations available? I have been asked to give a talk at an Electricity/Natural Gas conference that includes both producers and industrial users of electricity and natural gas.

In this presentation, I suggest that the standard diagnosis of the problems facing the energy system is incomplete. While climate change may be a problem, there is another urgent problem that attendees at the conference should be aware of as well–affordability, and the severe near-term impact affordability can be expected to have on the system.

My written summary of this talk is fairly brief. I have not tried to repeat the information shown on the slides. This is a link to a copy of my presentation: Our Electricity Problem: Getting the Diagnosis Right

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Slide 2

A finite world is one that is subject to limits. Its economy cannot grow forever for many reasons.

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Let’s look at some examples (Slide 4) of how limits work in finite systems. Often there seems to be a change of direction.

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Slide 4

The standard story that we hear says that energy prices can rise and rise, indefinitely. But as I look at the data, this doesn’t seem to be true in practice. At some point, there is a problem with affordability, because wages don’t rise as the price of energy products grows.

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Slide 5

In many ways, the problems that overtake the economy are similar to ailments that beset a human being. A person can have multiple ailments, some of which grow in severity over the years. The catch, of course, is that if an early ailment becomes severe, it may kill the patient, eliminating the need to fix the later ailments.

The way I see the economy, there are many hurdles that have the potential to inflict severe damage on the economy. Slide 6 shows a few of them. Some examples of other issues include lack of fresh water and erosion of topsoil.

In my view, we are right now reaching an affordability crisis. One way it manifests itself is as high commodity prices that fall and thus become low commodity prices. Falling commodity prices are likely to cause debt-related problems because of all of the debt incurred in their production. We may find financial problems, much worse than those experienced in 2008, back again.

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Slide 6

Many others have focused on climate change. In their view, we can extract pretty much all of the fossil fuels that are in the ground, because prices will rise higher and higher, allowing this to be done.

If, in fact, prices fall after a point, then there is a good chance that we must leave most of them in the ground because of affordability issues. If this is the case, the situation may be very different: we may lose fossil fuel production in not many years because of disruptions caused by low prices.

We often think of affordability in terms of what a gallon of oil costs or in terms of how much a kilowatt-hour of electricity sells for. While these costs are one part of the problem, a big part of the affordability problem relates to big-ticket items, as listed in Slide 7.  If customers cannot afford these big-ticket items, such as homes and cars, the economy loses both (a) the energy use that would be required to make these big-ticket items, and (b) the later energy use that these big items would require.

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Slide 7

If we look at the data, we find that inflation-adjusted median income for families has been falling.

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Part of this lower family income involves a smaller share of the population working.

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Slide 9

When a person looks at the labor force growth split between men and women, there is a very different pattern. Men show a small downward trend over time; women increasingly joined the labor force, but this trend topped out in 1999, and became a decline since 2008.

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Something we all are aware of:

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Many fewer homes are now being built in the United States.

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Slide 12

There has been a very different trend in auto purchases in the United States, Europe, and Japan compared to the rest of the world. In the developed areas, interest rates have been very low, and lenders have increasingly offered loans to subprime buyers. An increasing number of the loans are 7-year loans, and the loan to value ratio is often 125%. We seem to be creating a new subprime auto bubble. Based on our experience with subprime housing loans, this is not a sustainable pattern.

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Slide 13

I am convinced that most economists have missed a basic principle regarding how economic growth takes place (Slide 14). I define efficiency in terms of what it takes in terms of human labor and resources to produce finished output, such as a barrel of oil or a kilowatt-hour of electricity. Are these finished goods becoming cheaper or more expensive in inflation-adjusted terms?

On Slide 18, note the change in the size of the output boxes, compared to the input boxes. Increased efficiency produces more output compared to the resources used; increased inefficiency produces less output compared to the resources used.

If an economy is becoming increasingly efficient, a given number of workers and a given amount of resources can produce more and more goods. This is good for economic growth. Growing inefficiency is a problem, because it quickly uses up both available worker-time and available resources. Many economists never seem to have gotten past the idea, “We pay each other’s wages.” Yes, we do, but if those wages are being used to encourage the use of increasingly inefficient processes, we go backwards in terms of economic growth.

Slide 14

 

 

 

 

Slide 14

If we look back historically, we can see a growing efficiency pattern with electricity, in the 1900 to 1998 period. As the price dropped, both consumers and businesses could afford more of it (illustrated with rising black “demand” curve). Part of the lower cost came from increased efficiency of electricity generation during this period.

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If we look at the oil sector, since about 1999 we have had exactly the opposite pattern taking place. The cost of oil “exploration and production capital expenditures” has been rising at a rapid rate. This is an issue of diminishing returns. We have already extracted the easy-to-extract oil, and as a result, we need to move on to more difficult (and expensive) to extract oil. Thus we are becoming increasingly inefficient, in terms of the cost of producing the end product, oil.

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As we move on to more expensive oil, the higher cost tends to squeeze budgets. The thing that is important is the fact that wages don’t rise sufficiently to cover the cost increase; in fact, the images I showed earlier seem to suggest that in the recent era of high prices, we have seen unusually slow growth in wages. The amount of wages is represented by the size of the circles in Figure 17.  The wage circles don’t grow.

Slide 17 shows that as workers need to spend more for oil, and for the things that oil is used to make, such as food, the discretionary portion of their budgets (“everything else”) is squeezed. This shift in discretionary spending is what tends to lead to recession. The same principle works if consumers suddenly find themselves with higher electricity bills–discretionary spending is again squeezed.

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Slide 17

The problem that squeezes all commodities at the same time is falling discretionary income. The amount of debt that can be borrowed also tends to fall as discretionary income falls. The combination leads to falling affordability for expensive goods, like new autos and new homes.

The price patterns for commodities of many types move together, reflecting a combination of rising cost of oil (because of higher extraction costs) and falling ability of consumers to afford the high prices of these goods. I have not included food on Figure 18, but many food prices have recently fallen as well.

Of course, the costs for producers creating these commodities have not fallen proportionately, and many have huge amounts of outstanding debt. Repayment of debt becomes difficult, as prices remain low.

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Slide 18

Back at Slide 14, I talked about increased efficiency leading to economic growth, and increased inefficiency causing economic contraction. Because our leaders have not looked at things this way, they have encouraged increased inefficiency in many areas, as I describe on Slide 19. To some extent, this increased inefficiency is required. For example, as population grows in areas with low water supplies, the need for desalination grows. Also, pollution problems increase as we use lower qualities of coal and oil.

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What are the expected impacts on the electricity industry and on natural gas? Are there any workarounds?

Let’s look at a few implications of the problems we now see.

In my view, low oil and natural gas prices are likely to be a huge problem for the natural gas industry, leading to the bankruptcy of many natural gas suppliers.

We cannot expect natural gas supply to grow. In fact, we cannot expect a coal to natural gas transition because the natural gas price won’t rise high enough, for long enough.

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If we look at the history of US natural gas prices (using Henry Hub data), we see that prices have tended to stay low, after the 2008 spike. This was a great disappointment to those who built new natural gas extraction capability. They expected prices to rise, to justify their new higher costs. In my view, the continued low natural gas prices to some extent already reflect affordability issues.

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The Marcellus Shale was perhaps the most successful of the new natural gas production, but it seems to now be topping out because of low prices (Slide 23).

Many producers will have their lending terms reevaluated using September 30, 2015 data. This reevaluation is likely to lead to bankruptcy of some producers, and cutbacks of production of other producers.

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Coal use has been declining, as shown in Slide 24. Coal has some of the same problems as natural gas, as I will explain on Slide 25.

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The basic issue is that coal prices are too low for most producers. Even if a particular producer has low extraction costs, this benefit is not enough to keep producers from bankruptcy. The problem that occurs is that coal companies are locked into high cost structures because of patterns that continue to persist from when prices were high. Lease costs are high; taxes and royalties are high; often debt was entered into, assuming that revenue would remain high in the future. Now revenue is lower, and there is no way to fix the “hole” that results from low prices. Production stays high, because each producer must produce as much as possible, to try to avoid bankruptcy for as long as possible.

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Coal is in a sense ahead of natural gas, in terms of bankruptcies, with big bankruptcies already starting.

With prices as low as they are, there is little chance for a new producer to come in, buy the production facilities at a low price, and restart operations. A big issue is ongoing costs such as royalty payments that cannot be eliminated. Another is debt availability to support the new operations.

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Bankruptcies are likely to interrupt supply chains as well. Part of the problem may simply be the excessively high cost of credit, for those members of the supply chain with poor credit ratings. Once a supply chain breaks, replacements parts may not be available. Other services that a company contracts for with outside suppliers may disappear as well.

As I note on Slide 27, customers may have financial difficulties. Those who remain in business will tend to buy less, so demand is likely to be lower, rather than higher. Companies producing electricity should not be misled by the rosy forecasts of the EIA and IEA regarding future demand amounts.

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Slide 28 shows that industrial consumption of energy products has been falling since the 1970s, as industrial production has moved overseas. Now the dollar is high relative to other currencies, encouraging more of this trend. On a per capita basis, residential energy consumption is down, and commercial energy consumption is level. It is hard to see that this mix will provide very much of an upward trend in natural gas and electricity consumption in the future. (Note: Slide 28 shows energy of all types combined, including both electricity and fuels burned directly. This approach is used because there has been a shift over time to the use of electricity. This method shows the overall trend in energy use better than, say, an electricity-only analysis.)

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The major ways subsidies for wind and solar PV are available are through greater government debt or through higher costs passed on to customers. There are now getting to be pushbacks in both of these areas.

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In Europe, the cost of intermittent electricity tends to be passed on to consumers. Dr. Euan Mearns put together the chart shown in Slide 30 comparing price of electricity with the per capita wind and solar PV generation installed for European countries. There is a striking correlation. Countries with more installed wind and solar PV tend to have higher electricity prices for the consumer.

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Given the problem with commodity producers not being able to collect high enough prices for their products, and the large number of resulting bankruptcies, a person comes to the rather startling conclusion that the ideal structure for electricity providers in today’s economy is that of a vertically integrated utility. In other words, an electric utility should directly own its suppliers, as well as transmission lines and everything else needed to produce and distribute electricity.

Utilities have traditionally had the ability to price on a cost-plus basis. With vertical integration, the utility can use its pricing ability to keep prices for fuel producers from falling too low, and thus sidestep the problem of bankruptcies. To the extent that the required price for electricity keeps rising, it will tend to pressure discretionary spending. (See Slide 17.) But at least grid electricity will be among the last to “go” under this structure.

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Slide 31

Black Hills Corporation lists the many electricity-generating facilities it owns (coal and natural gas), and the places it has arrangements to sell this electricity as a utility. The Black Hills Corporation indicates it has had 45 years of dividend increases. This increase in dividends is in stark contrast to the many coal and natural gas producers that are currently near bankruptcy, as a result of low coal and natural gas prices.

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How does one resolve the conflict between industrial companies wanting to generate their own electricity (for a variety of reasons) and the need to have an electric grid for everyone else? It seems to me that we have to keep in mind that having an operating electric grid for everyone else is absolutely essential. Without the electric grid, gasoline stations would stop pumping gasoline and diesel. Transportation would stop. Electric elevators would stop. Treatment of fresh water and sewage would stop. Companies everywhere would lose their consumers. The economy would quickly come to a halt.

With our current affordability problems, we are in danger of losing the electric grid. That is why it is essential that those who opt out not be given too large a credit for providing some or nearly all of their own electricity. The credit given to industrial companies should reflect the savings to the system, no more.

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One concern is the bankruptcy of peaker plants, if their use is significantly reduced by, for example, the use of solar PV. If these peaker plants continue to be needed for balancing purposes, this may be a problem. Another concern is the rising cost of grid transmission for those who continue to get their electricity from the grid.

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To sum up, the story we read from most sources is so climate-change focused, a person wonders if there aren’t other issues that are important as well. Most observers have overlooked the importance of low commodity prices, and the impact that they can have on coal and natural gas producers’ ability to produce the fuels that are needed by electric utilities.

Too much faith is being placed in natural gas, as the fuel of the future. And too much faith is being placed on intermittent renewables, without fully understanding their costs and limitations.

I haven’t tried to address the many indirect problems arising from many bankruptcies. These may be severe.

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Update on US natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on August 25, 2014

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On August 6, I wrote a post called Making Sense of the US Oil Story, in which I looked at US oil. In this post, I would like to look at other sources of US energy. Of course, the energy source we hear most about is natural gas. We continue to be a net natural gas importer, even as our own production rises.

Figure 1. US natural gas production and consumption, based on EIA data.

US natural gas production leveled off in 2013, because of the low level of US natural gas prices. In 2013, there was growth in gas production in Pennsylvania in the Marcellus, but many other states, including Texas, saw decreases in production. In early 2014, natural gas prices have been higher, so natural gas production is rising again, roughly at a 4% annual rate.

The US-Canada-Mexican natural gas system is more or less a closed system (at least until LNG exports come online in the next few years) so whatever natural gas is produced, is used. Because of this, natural gas prices rise or fall so that demand matches supply. Natural gas producers have found this pricing situation objectionable because natural gas prices tend to settle at a low level, relative to the cost of production. This is the reason for the big push for natural gas exports. The hope, from producers’ point of view, is that exports will push US natural gas prices higher, making more natural gas production economic.

The Coal / Natural Gas Switch

If natural gas is cheap and plentiful, it tends to switch with coal for electricity production. We can see this in electricity consumption–natural gas was particularly cheap in 2012:

Figure 2. Selected Fuels Share of US Electricity - Coal, Natural Gas, and the sum of Coal plus Natural Gas

Coal use increased further in early 2014, because of the cold winter and higher natural gas prices. In Figure 2, there is a slight downward trend in the sum of coal and natural gas’s share of electricity, as renewables add their (rather small) effect.

If we look at total consumption of coal and natural gas (Figure 3), we find it also tends to be quite stable. Increases in natural gas consumption more or less correspond to decreases in coal consumption. New natural gas power plants should be more efficient than old coal power plants in producing electricity, putting downward pressure on total coal plus natural gas consumption. Also, we are using more efficient lighting, refrigerators, and monitors for computers, holding down electricity usage, and thus both coal and gas usage. Better insulation is also helpful in reducing home heating needs (whether by electricity or natural gas).

Figure 3. Layered US consumption of coal and natural gas, based on EIA data.

Another factor in the lower electricity usage (and thus lower coal and natural gas usage) is fewer household formations since 2007. Young people who continue to live with their parents don’t add as much electricity usage as ones who set up their own households do. Low household formations are related to a lack of good-paying jobs.

Coal Production / Consumption

US coal production hit its maximum level in 1998, with production tending to decline since then. US coal consumption has been dropping faster than production, so that exports (difference between production and consumption) have been rising (Figure 4).

Figure 4. US coal production and consumption based on EIA data.

In 2012, about 16% of coal produced was exported. This percentage dropped to about 10% in 2013, with greater US coal usage.

Coal tends to cause pollution of several types, including higher carbon dioxide levels. It also tends to be less expensive that most other fuels, so world demand remains high. Worldwide, coal use continues to grow.

Nuclear and Hydroelectric

Hydroelectric is the original extender of fossil fuels. Hydroelectricity using concrete and metals became feasible in the 1800s, when we began using coal to provide the heat necessary to make metals and concrete in quantity. The first hydroelectric power plants were put in place in the US in the 1880s.  As recently as 1940, hydroelectric provided 40% of the United States’ electrical generation.

Nuclear electric power was the next major extender of fossil fuels. The first nuclear power was added to the US energy mix in 1957, according to EIA data. The big ramp up in nuclear began in the 1970s and 1980s. Similar to hydroelectricity, nuclear requires fossil fuels to build and maintain its plants making electricity.

If we look at the US distribution of fuels, we see that in recent years, nuclear has been a much bigger source of energy than hydroelectricity.

Figure 5. US Energy Consumption, showing the various fossil fuel extenders separately from fossil fuels, based on BP data.

The above comparison includes all types of energy, not just electricity. The grouping GeoBiomass is a BP grouping including geothermal and various forms of wood and other biomass energy, including sources such as landfill gas and other energy from waste. Note that GeoBiomass, Biofuels, and Solar+Wind are hard to see on Figure 5, because of their small quantities.

If we look at hydro and nuclear separately for recent years (Figure 6, below), we see that nuclear has tended to grow, while hydro has tended to fall, although both now seem to be  on close to a plateau. Hydro tends to be more variable than nuclear because it depends on rainfall and snow pack, things that vary from year to year and month to month.

Figure 6. Comparison of US nuclear and hydroelectric consumption, based on EIA data.

The reason why hydro has tended to decrease in quantity over time is that it takes maintenance (using fossil fuels) to keep the aging power plants in operation and silt removed from near the dams. Most of the good locations for dams are already taken, so not much new capacity has been added.

Nuclear power plant electricity production has grown even since the 1986 Chernobyl accident because the United States has continued to expand the capacity of existing nuclear facilities. I do not expect this trend to continue, for a variety of reasons. Not all such capacity expansions have worked out well. The capacity expansion of the San Onofre plant in California in 2010 experienced premature wear and is now being decommissioned. Many of the nuclear plants built in the 1970s are reaching  the ends of their useful lives. Unless we add a large number of new nuclear plants in the next few years, it seems likely that US generation of nuclear electricity will be falling over the next 20 years.

Other Energy Types

It is easier to see other energy types if we look at them as a percentage of US total energy consumption. The following is a graph of “renewables” as a percentage of US energy consumption, using EIA data:

Figure 7. Renewables are percentage of US energy consumption, using EIA data (but groupings used by BP).

A person can see that over the long haul, hydroelectric has tended to shrink as a percentage of energy consumption, as energy needs grew and hydroelectric failed to keep up.

The GeoBiomass category is BP’s catch-all category, mentioned above.1 It (theoretically) includes everything from the wood we burn in our fireplaces to the charcoal briquettes we use to cook food outdoors, to home heating with wood or briquettes to the burning of sawdust or wood pieces in power plants. It also includes geothermal, which is about 6% as large as hydroelectric, and is increasing gradually over time. Based on EIA data, biomass isn’t growing either in absolute amount or as a percentage of total energy consumed.

Biofuels are liquid fuels made from biomass used to extend oil consumption. In the US, the major biofuel is ethanol, made from corn. It is used to extend gasoline, generally up to 10%.  A chart of production and consumption shows that US biofuel production “topped out,” once it hit the 10% of gasoline “blendwall”.

Figure 8. US biofuel production and consumption, based on EIA data.

Biofuels now amount to 5.7% of US petroleum (crude oil plus natural gas liquids) consumption. In recent years, the US is a slight exporter of biofuels.

Corn ethanol currently takes about 40% of US corn production, according to the USDA (Figure 9). Greater corn plantings would put pressure on land usage for other crops.

USDA corn use, from USDA site.

If someone figures out how to make cellulosic ethanol cheaply (perhaps from wood), it presumably will cut into the market for corn ethanol, unless the blend wall is raised to 15%. Without additional ethanol coming from a source such as cellulosic ethanol, such an increase in the maximum blending percentage would likely be problematic.

Wind and Solar PV

Wind and Solar PV are sources of US electricity, so really need to be compared in that context. If we compare nuclear, hydroelectric, and all renewable electricity other than hydro (including electricity from wood, sawdust, and waste, and from geothermal, in addition to wind and solar) we see that in total, all other renewables are approximately equal to hydro electricity in quantity:

Figure 10:  Hydroelectric, other renewables, and nuclear as a percentage of US electricity supply, based on EIA data.

If we look at the pieces of other renewables separately, we see the following:

Figure 11. Wind, solar/PV and other renewables as a percentage of US electricity, based on EIA data.

Wind energy has indeed grown in quantity. Solar/PV is growing, but from a very small base. The remainder, which includes geothermal, wood and various waste products, is growing a bit.

A major issue with wind and solar is that we badly need a “solution” to our energy problem, so these are “pushed,” whether they are really helpful or not. Some issues involved:

(a) Cost effectiveness. Studies (such as by Brookings Institution, Weissbach et al., Graham Palmer) show that wind and solar PV are not cost-effective for reducing carbon emissions. If we want to reduce carbon emissions, conservation or switching from coal to natural gas would be more cost effective.

(b) Peak supply or peak affordability (demand in economists’ language)? The peak oil “story” often seems to be that because of inadequate supply, oil and other fossil fuel prices will rise, and substitutes will suddenly become competitive. This story is used to support a switch to wind and solar PV and high priced biofuels, since the expected high prices of fossil fuels will supposedly support the high cost of renewables.

Unfortunately, the story is wrong. High prices of any fuel tend to lead to recession because wages don’t rise to match the high prices. Also, a country using the high-priced fuel tends to become less competitive compared to countries that don’t use the high-priced fuel. The net effect is that prices don’t rise very much. Instead, manufacturing moves to countries that use less-expensive fuels. Oil prices may fall so low (relative to the cost of oil production) that oil producers sell their land and increase dividends to shareholders instead; in fact, this seems to be happening already.

(c) Hoped for long-term life. If fossil fuels have problems, can “renewables” have long life-spans in spite of those problems? Not that I can see. It takes fossil fuels to maintain the electric grid and to produce any modern renewable, such as wind, or solar PV or wave energy. Wind turbines need frequent replacement of parts, and solar PV needs new “inverters.” Wood and biomass will have long lives, if not overused, but these won’t keep the electric grid operating.

(d) Apples to oranges cost comparisons. There are a few situations where wind and solar PV are used to substitute for oil–for example, on islands, where oil is used to operate electricity generation. In these cases, wind and solar PV are likely already competitive, without subsidies. In these situations, per capita use of electricity can be expected to be very low, because exports made with such high-priced electricity will be non-competitive in the world market-place.

The confusion comes elsewhere, where substitution is for natural gas, coal, or nuclear energy. Here, the savings to an electric company is primarily a savings in fuel cost, that is, the cost of the natural gas, or coal or uranium. The plant’s manpower needs and its cost of electric grid maintenance will be the same (or higher). There may be costs associated with monitoring the new sources of electricity added to the grid or additional balancing costs, and these need to be considered as well.

If we want to maintain the electric grid so we can continue to have electricity for a variety of purposes, the “correct” credit for intermittent renewables is the savings to the power companies–which is likely to be close to the savings in fuel costs, or about 3 cents per kWh on the mainland United States. This is far less than the “net metering” benefit (offering a benefit equal to the retail cost of electricity) that is often used for grid-tied solar PV. It is also generally less than the “wholesale time of day” cost of electricity, often used for wind.

Germany is known for its encouragement of wind and solar PV, using liberal funding for the renewables. This approach has adverse ramifications, including high electricity costs, less grid stability, closure of some traditional natural gas power plants, and rising carbon dioxide emissions. A recent article called Germany’s Electricity Market Out of Balance by the Institute for Energy Research summarizes these issues.

Summary

It would be great if we had a solution for our non-oil energy issues, but we really don’t. The closest we can perhaps come is scaling up natural gas consumption some, and reducing coal’s current portion of the electricity mix. We currently have a large amount of coal consumption relative to natural gas consumption (Figure 3), so we ourselves have good use for rising natural gas production, if it should actually take place.

The “catch” in scaling up natural gas consumption is a price “catch.” If the price of natural gas price rises too high relative to coal, then electricity production starts switching back to coal. If, on the other hand, natural gas prices don’t rise very much, not much of an increase in production is likely to be available. Producers would like to export (a lot of) natural gas to Europe, as a way of jacking-up US natural gas prices. This seems like a pipe dream. See my article The Absurdity of US Natural Gas Exports.

Nuclear is a big question mark. If the United States starts taking much nuclear off line, it will leave a big hole in electricity generation, especially in the Eastern part of the US. Germany and recently Belgium are starting to experience the effect of taking nuclear off line. It is hard to see how wind and solar PV can play a very big role in offsetting the nuclear loss.

Politicians need to have a “solution” they can call an energy savior, but it is hard to see that renewables will play more than a small role. Biofuels seem to have “topped out” for now. Wind and solar PV are still growing, but it is hard to justify subsidies for them, as part of the electric grid system. Solar PV does have uses off grid, if citizens want their own source of electricity, with their own inverters and back-up batteries. There are also business uses of this type–for example, to operate equipment in a remote location.

I have not tried to cover all of the various smaller items. There may also be growth possibilities for items that I have not discussed, such as solar thermal for heating hot water, particularly in warm parts of the United States.

Note:

[1] I have used BP’s GeoBiomass grouping for convenience, but I am adding together EIA data amounts. What is included in the “biomass” portion of GeoBiomass seems to vary from agency to agency (BP, EIA, IEA), because of different definitions of what is included. For example, is animal dung burned as fuel included? Is fuel that is gathered by a family, rather than purchased, included? I am using EIA data for US renewables in Figure 7, since its long-term data series is probably as good as any for the US.

Open Letter to Nicole Foss

Off the keyboard of A. G, Gelbert

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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Published in the Comments on The Automatic Earth on August, 2013

open-letter

Discuss this article at the News Table inside the Diner

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I
Commentary on video by Nicole Foss on farming and energy saving

PART II
Fossil fuels and renewable energy discussion with Nicole Foss including the importance of climate science data to energy resoures.

PART III
Historic proof that manufacturing all the renewable energy machines and infrastructure needed to transition to a 100% Renewable Energy world economy can be achieved in two decades or less: The mass produced Liberty Ships of WWII

PART IV
Three different future scenarios


Nicole Foss shares the story of how she has reduced her energy needs by 90%.

I watched and listened to the above video from a 2011 Sustainability Conference. You said you felt the energy resource poor England, with 60 million people, convinced you to sell your townhouse and buy a 40 acre farm in Ottawa with 7 barn outbuildings.

You went about reducing your energy needs by 90%, have some sheep, chickens and other farm animals, a dog sled team for winter transportation, rent out some of the land, make your own hay, grow vegetables and have extended the growing season with a greenhouse.

Your plan for making use of renewable energy was based on power with less moving parts so you avoided wind power and obtained 3 kW of PV non-tracking panels for an off grid system.
You didn’t hook up to the grid for feed in tariff (FIT) extra money because you don’t want your power going to “public uses”, don’t believe FIT will last 20 years and, in the event the grid went down, you wouldn’t have the benefit of power because a grid tied system did not allow you to store energy in batteries.

There was an easy way around that. You buy your battery bank and keep it charged from the grid, not the PV panels. You have an electrician set up a switch from the inverter to the grid so that if grid power is lost, you just isolate yourself from the grid and the PV panels will then be able to keep your batteries charged and you are supplied with power until grid power comes back.

But from your comment about “public use” of your PV electricity and your feelings about the imminent collapse of feed in tariffs (FIT), it appears that you were more influenced by Libertarian ideology than pure logic.

After all, the community that you are fostering and the responsible, low carbon footprint behavior that you are engaging in by keeping your energy sources nearby and renewable (except for the gasoline, diesel and grid tie for your electric range and other high power demand appliances) energy wood fired heating system for the house and the greenhouse (when temperatures are below freezing) is really about survival of Homo sapiens, is it not?

I don’t agree with drawing a line at the grid connection and thinking you have no responsiblility to share your power with the larger community. But, I’m grateful to you for trying to live within your means and your sound advice to your children to avoid debt like the plague.

I too believe in being debt free and have been so for over a decade even though I do have to pay for the 1/3 acre of land I rent where my manufactured home sits.

I assume, because of your belief in some type of imminent civilizational collapse, that you are designing your lifestyle to be independent of industrial civilization. You are convinced that it is all going to go away.

I don’t think so but I’ll discuss that later. If a collapse is imminent, your actions are logical. If it isn’t, you are doing yourself and humanity a favor by living closer to the land and within your means. That is most prudent of you even though 80% or more of the human species does not have the option of owning one acre to farm, let alone 40.

Considering how most people with a townhouse in England (like most of the rich EVERYWHERE that own the mining corporations, factories and are the major corrupting influence that spurs goverments to fight resource wars) ignore the huge carbon footprint that the population of the developed countries have, I admire what you have done to break the mold of that unsustainable lifestyle by setting a sustainable, boots on the ground, example to lead the way in what all of us MUST do if humanity is to survive.

I was particularly gratified that you seriously considered walling off a section of your house in the winter to keep the heating costs down. I am of the opinion that if the human population was limited to only being able to heat, cool and plumb 500 square feet per capita, a sustainable renewable energy based world would be easily achievable. Of course that would entail a commensurate restructuring of industrial capacity and a 90% downsizing of large fuel hogs like the U.S. military and “security” state bureaucracies.

You mentioned that your geothermal system goes down 140 feet. Are you aware of the advances in passive geothermal systems that use geofoam above a large open land area to keep the land from very low temperatures?

The most common uses of Geofoam are as a lightweight fill and as insulation. Some specific applications of Geofoam are outlined below.

Unstable Soil Substitute

Roadbeds & Runways (pavement insulation)

www.drewfoam.com/geofoam.html

IOW, the land above the frost line is insulated too so, for all practical puposes, there is no frost line. Since you make your own hay, it is conceivable to use hay bales instead of geofoam.

Any passive geothermal loops placed down to the 140 feet below insulated soli with no frost line, but in a much larger area than a home footprint, will keep you quite comfortable. Also, the fact that your house is old means that it must be very poorly insulated compared with modern thermal mass based structures like the earthships.

I’m sure you are familiar with them. Old houses may have historical, traditional and sentimental value but they have next to zero value as low energy use living structures due to their draftiness unless you want to be bundled up with warm clothing all winter like our ancestors were.

Another “automatic” way to provide heating when you most need it is a wind turbine. When wind speed increases in the winter, that’s when you lose most of your heat from conduction. If you have a wind turbine that, like your PV array, is not only stand alone, but additionally does NOT go through an inverter but just sends DC into a resistance heating coil in some important part of your house, you will automatically get more heat in direct proportion to the strength of the wind.

I bring that up as something to think about. I don’t think you need to be overly concerned with the reliability and longevity of wind turbine moving parts. The reliability of the rotating parts of these machines has been proven by the fact that the old windmills in Texas and the midwest are still being made (now many converted to generating electricity).

They have 40 to 50 year life spans and no wind storm is going tear them apart unles it tears your house apart too. As you know, windmills, prior to the fossil fuel age, were used to pump water, mill crops and several other tasks that, without these pre-industrial Renewable Energy devices, would have been onerous.

In the United States it may be said that the conestoga, or covered wagon, settled the west and the colt 45 tamed the west. I will add that the windmill was the major
force in developing the western United States.

[/size=10pt]The covered wagon is no longer used as a means of transportation. The Colt 45 is no longer worn as a side arm and known as ‘the peace keeper.’ However, the windmill, that other great symbol of the nineteenth century American West, is now becoming the twenty-first century symbol of renewable energy.

Now that is staying power! [/size]

buckcreek.tripod.com/windmill.html

I am certain that John D. Rockefeller did not like windmills at all. I believe he was that fine fellow that said, “Competition is a sin”. He also said THIS:

“Try to turn every disaster into an opportunity. ”

Attributed in The Rockefellers (1976) by Peter Collier and David Horowitz

Measured in today’s dollars, Rockefeller is the richest person in the history of mankind.

en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_D._Rockefeller

Considering the mindset of this fine fellow and his descendents in the fossil fuel industry, it is not far fetched to believe than when an opportunity wasn’t “presenting itself” due some competitive nuisance (like ethanol), they would contrive a “disaster” for said competition that they could then turn into an OPPORTUNITY (I.E. PROFIT). More on that below.

It seems that we can see where the modern, consciense free expression,” Never waste a crisis” originated. I don’t think Karl Rove and the Bush family invented the idea of deliberately creating a crisis in order to obtain a profit or stifle competiton, do you?

PART II

Fossil fuels and renewable energy discussion with Nicole Foss including the importance of climate science data to energy resources.

At any rate, with all that wood you have, you should do all right if the winds don’t get too high from global climate change. Humans, according to science, cannot function when average wind speeds are 50 mph or greater. Let us hope that global climate change doesn’t produce such average wind speeds.

I heard this information and a lot more about the massive threat to humanity that global climate change represents and the absolutely vital requirement that we stop burning fossil fuels now, not 50 or a hundred years from now, from a panel of scientists including James Hansen. The climate catastrophe is upon us and is baked in for up to a thousand years. This is not hyperbole.Video here:


I will refer to this a few more times in this document.

The ten indicators that climate scientists are monitoring are all going into uncharted territory promising a climate that humans have never, ever been subjected to. See the article I posted on my channel (written nearly three years ago) with some recent charts I added at the top.

www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php?topic=559.msg27545#msg27545

Please ignore the snark I included in that post. I am just a bit tired of having the data I present here being viewed as questionable, debatable, or some tree hugger’s hysterical opinion.

Did you know one of the founders of a Disinformation Think Tank (The George C. Marshal Institute) created to defend the Reagan SDI star wars boondoggle (when 6,500 of the top scientists signed a document refusing to work in it) and, after the cold war ended, switched to adopt the “Tobacco Strategy” of sowing doubt about the global warming science, had been previously president of Rockefeller University?

What does propaganda fostered by the fossil fuel industry for the purpose of denying Global Climate Change have to do with the subject of this letter to you?

A lot. I’ll get to that but now I wish to remind you of a response you wrote to me in a comment forum about a year ago when I complained that you had not figured in the cost of poisoned aquifers from fracking gas drilling in the EROEI of fracked gas. I further said that, given the fact that Renewable Energy does not pollute, it actually is more cost effective than fossil fuels.

Why wait a year to answer you? Because I ran into exactly the same talking points in several other comment forums when the subject of fossil fuels versus renewable energy came up. So I set about to research your claims and predictions.

I have answered the statements and predictions you made. Nearly 100% of your predictions have not come about. In fact, in some cases the exact reverse of what you predicted has happened.

Also, some of your statements were factually incorrect at the time you made them, not just a year after you made them. Please read them and tell me if you have revised your views in these matters.

I have included your statements in exactly the same sequence as you made them without any alterations whatsoever.

Your statements are in brown color

My response in blue

Renewables represent a drop in the bucket of global supply.

(Phase 1)

Energy from renewable resources—wind, water, the sun, biomass and geothermal energy—is inexhaustible and clean. Renewable energy currently constitutes 15% of the global energy mix.

www.sustainableenergyforall.org/objectives/renewable-energy

They are having no effect whatsoever on fossil fuel prices.

 

(Phase 2) So the huge demand destruction in fossil fuels this past year was ONLY related to the depression we have been in since 2008!!? Why then, didn’t said demand destruction occur THEN? Why did that demand destruction DOVETAIL with the explosive growth of energy and wind in the USA in 2011 and 2012?

Charts: The Smart Money Is on Renewable Energy
—By Tim McDonnell
Mon Apr. 22, 2013

www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/04/charts-renewable-energy-fossil-fuels

IEA Predicts Wind to Double and Solar Solar to Triple in 6 Years

news.discovery.com/earth/global-warming/wind-and-solar-energy-rush-goes-global-130712.htm

The European Investment Bank (EIB), the world’s largest public financial institution, has announced that, effective immediately, it will no longer finance most coal-, lignite- and oil-fired power stations in an effort to help Europe meet its climate targets.

www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/07/european-investment-bank-cuts-lending-to-fossil-plants-supports-renewables?cmpid=rss

They are more expensive than fossil fuels

(phase 3)

When you account for the effects which are not reflected in the market price of fossil fuels, like air pollution and health impacts, the true cost of coal and other fossil fuels is higher than the cost of most renewable energy technologies.

www.skepticalscience.com/renewable-energy-is-too-expensive.htm

In the July 2011 PE magazine article “Why We Need Rational Selection of Energy Projects,” the author stated that “photovoltaic electricity generation cannot be an energy source for the future” because photovoltaics require more energy than they produce
(during their lifetime), thus their “Energy Return Ratio (ERR) is less than 1:1.”Statements to this effect were not uncommon in the 1980s, based on some early PV prototypes. However, today’s PVs return far more energy than that embodied in the life cycle of a solar system (see Figure 1).Their energy payback times (EPBT)—the time it takes to produce all the energy used in their life cycles—currently are between six months to two years, depending on the location/solar irradiation and the technology. And with expected life times of 30 years, their ERRs are in the range of 60:1 to 15:1, depending on the location and the technology, thus returning 15 to 60 times more energy than the energy they use. Here is a basic tutorial on the subject.

www.clca.columbia.edu/236_PE_Magazine_Fthenakis_2_10_12.pdf

because of their very low EROEI

 

(phase 3) See above. The EROEI of fossil fuels is lower than Renewable energy EROEI.

www.skepticalscience.com/renewable-energy-is-too-expensive.htm

However, today’s PVs return far more energy than that embodied in the life cycle of a solar system (see Figure 1).

Their energy payback times (EPBT)—the time it takes to produce all the energy used in their life cycles—currently are between six months to two years, depending on the location/solar irradiation and the technology. And with expected life times of 30 years, their ERRs are in the range of 60:1 to 15:1, depending on the location and the technology, thus returning 15 to 60 times more energy than the energy they use. Here is a basic tutorial on the subject.

Energy Payback Time = (Emat+Emanuf+Etrans+Einst+EEOL) / (Eagen–Eaoper)
where,
Emat: Primary energy demand to produce materials comprising PV system
Emanuf: Primary energy demand to manufacture PV system
Etrans: Primary energy demand to transport materials used during the life cycle
Einst: Primary energy demand to install the system
EEOL: Primary energy demand for end-of-life management
Eagen: Annual electricity generation in primary energy terms
Eaoper: Annual energy demand for operation and maintenance in primary energy termsThe traditional way of calculating the EROI of PV is EROI = lifetime/EPBT, thus an EPBT of one year and life expectancy of 30 years corresponds to an EROI of 1:30..

www.clca.columbia.edu/236_PE_Magazine_Fthenakis_2_10_12.pdf

Scientific Investigations of Alcohol Fuels 1890 – 1920

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…”62 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.63

The U.S. Geological Service 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,” .[/b]the report said. “The exhaust from an alcohol engine is never clouded with a black or grayish smoke.”64

USGS continued the comparative tests and later noted that alcohol was “a more ideal fuel than gasoline” with better efficiency despite the high cost.65

The French War Office tested gasoline, benzene and an alcohol-benzene blend in road tests in 1909, and the results showed that benzene gave higher mileage than gasoline or the alcohol blend in existing French trucks.66

The British Fuel Research Board also tested alcohol and benzene mixtures around the turn of the century and just before World War I, finding that alcohol blends had better thermal efficiency than gasoline but that engines developed less brake horsepower at low rpm.67
On the other hand, a British researcher named Watson found that thermal efficiencies for alcohol, benzene and gasoline were very nearly equal.68

These experiments are representative of work underway before and during World War I. The conclusions were so definitive that Scientific American concluded in 1918: “It is now definitely established that alcohol can be blended with gasoline to produce a suitable motor fuel …”69 By 1920, the consensus, Scientific American said, was “a universal assumption that [ethyl] alcohol in some form will be a constituent of the motor fuel of the future.”

Alcohol met all possible technical objections, and although it was more expensive than gasoline, it was not prohibitively expensive in blends with gasoline. “Every chemist knows [alcohol and gasoline] will mix, and every engineer knows [they] will drive an internal combustion engine.”70

And then along came Prohibition and saved the day for gasoline.
So a ‘Prohibition law “disaster” for ethanol was a rather convenient profit opportunity, was it not? It is quite conceivable that a “disaster” was CREATED (Rockefeller “donated” millons to the Temperance movement.) for ethanol in order to “Try to turn every disaster into an opportunity. “.

After all, competition was a “sin” for the Rockefellers and big oil. It may be “real politik” but it certainly isn’t cricket. The terms “free market” and “level playing field of energy resources” ring rather hollow in the “real world” of big oil market rigging and lawmaker bribing, blackmailing or bullying.

I dare say not much has changed.

Alcohol from grain and potatoes, at about 25 to 30 cents per gallon, was far too expensive to compete with petroleum, but alcohol from Cuban molasses, at 10 cents per gallon, was thought to be competitive.

Some observers suspected a conspiracy in the fact that Standard Oil of New Jersey had financial ties to the Caribbean alcohol market. The influence of an oil company over the alcohol industry was “a combination which many will regard as sinister,” said Tweedy.59

In 1942, Senate committees began looking into the extent to which the oil industry had controlled other industries, including the alcohol industry and the rubber industry. Attorney General Thurmond Arnold testified that anti-trust investigations had taken place into the oil industry’s influence in the alcohol industry in the 1913-1920 period, in the early 1920s, and between 1927 and 1936. “Renewed complaints in 1939 were brought to the anti-trust division but because of funds no action was taken,” Arnold said.60

Then the investigation of 1941 which exposed a “marriage” between Standard Oil Co. and the German chemical company I.G. Farben also brought new evidence concerning complex price and marketing agreements between du Pont Corp., a major investor in and producer of leaded gasoline, U.S. Industrial Alcohol Co. and their subsidiary, Cuba Distilling Co.

The investigation was eventually dropped, like dozens of others in many different kinds of industries, due to the need to enlist industry support in the war effort.

However, the top directors of many oil companies agreed to resign and oil industry stocks in molasses companies were sold off as part of a compromise worked out with Arnold.

www.environmentalhistory.org/billkovarik/research/henry-ford-charles-kettering-and-the-fuel-of-the-future/

Ethanol WAS ALWAYS a superior fuel to gasoline even WITHOUT the horrendous pollutants that an ICE burning gasoline produces. And ethanol requires NO CATALYTIC CONVERTER.

Every nasty, negative naysaying thing you have heard about ethanol from it using up food crops to having a “low” EROEI to corroding engines from increased water vapor to it being less economical than gasoline is DISINFORMATION and I can prove it point by point.

**”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.”

and very large fossil fuel dependency.

 

(phase 3) Maybe that was true in 1980 but NOW it is only partially true. Norway has about 100% penetration of renewable energy in their electric grid. Other highly industrialized countries have high penetration as well. This mean the electric arc furnaces for smelting steel and other high temperature thermal processes dependent on electricity are using very little fossil fuels to make renewable energy machines in these places.

Also Nuclear power plants, something neither you nor I favor, have always been made with fossil fuels but that never stopped our government from making or heavily subsidizing that new energy technology. Why should it be different for renewable energy machines?
Observe below the Renewable Energy penetration of the electric grid in various industrialized countries

Electric Grid Renewable energy Penetration in Selected Markets

Although we technically do not have PV manufacturing plants or Wind turbine manufacturers driving EV trucks or mining with EV machines as well as powering their factories with wind and PV or some other renewable energy, it’s just a matter of time.

WHY? Because of the HIGH EROEI of Renewable Energy devices. They pay for themselves in a few years and then, as long as they are properly maintained, last a number of decades while using ZERO fossil fuels throughout the entire period.

The fossil fuel powered internal combustion machine is not competitive with Renewable Energy technolgies UNLESS fossil fuels retain their massive subsidies and continue to limit the market penetration of renewable energy systems in the USA and elseware with the threadbare excuse, and untrue allegation, that they are “too intermittent”.

The Great Transition, Part I: From Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy
Lester R. Brown

www.earth-policy.org/plan_b_updates/2012/update107

In fact renewables is a minomer. The sun will continue to shine and the wind to blow, but steel is not renewable and neither are many other essential components.

Six Terrawat hours a year of energy is expended each year in the USA just to make the internal combustion engines and spare parts. How come you never complained of this massive amount of energy involving “non-renewable” steel used in manufacturing internal combustion machines?

Renewable Energy devices terminology refers to the FACT, that once they are constructed, they don’t USE fossil fuels to output energy. And the metal used in Renewables is not high temperature alloy metal like that required for internal combustion engines which makes it recyclable with LESS energy than that required for internal combustion engine metals.

In fact, we need far less steel and other metals to replace the entire internal combustion independent infrastructure with renewable energy WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL MINING by just cannibalizing the internal combustion machines for Renewable Energy machine metals as we make the transition.

Yes, I know about the rare earth metals mining pollution. I can only remind you of that phrase, “drop in the bucket” compared with the benefits of doing away with fossil fuels altogether.

www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php?topic=478.msg25945#msg25945

For As Long As The Sun Shines: The Non-Crisis of PV Module Reliability

blog.rmi.org/blog_2013_06_26_For_As_Long_As_The_Sun_Shines

The demand and price collapse will kill much of renewable development,

Prices have gone up for fossil fuels even as demand has gone down. This has actually spurred the switch to renewables , not dampened it.

Retail Prices (Dollars per Gallon) 2012-2013

www.eia.gov/oog/info/twip/twip.asp

Volatile fossil fuel prices make renewable energy more attractive

www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/blog/fossil-fuel-prices-renewable-energy-attractive

especially at a large scale.

(phase 3)

To date, we’ve committed over $1 billion to renewable energy project investments, signed … It may also be more feasible to build larger power installations …. and match their demand with utility-scale solution

static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en/us/green/pdf/renewable-energy-options.pdf

You cannot run an industrial society on intermittent energy sources with low EROEI.

The Renewable energy blend eliminates intermittency and the low EROEI claim has been proven, not just inaccurate, but the exact reverse.

www.skepticalscience.com/renewable-energy-is-too-expensive.htm

CSP technology can also be coupled with energy storage, one of the hottest topics in the renewable energy industry this year. Plants that include energy storage with molten salt can store solar power and dispatch it in the early evening and into the night. Tex Wilkins from the CSP Alliance thinks this application could make PV, which is often viewed as a threat to CSP, a complimentary technology. “The ability of CSP with storage to dispatch its power to the grid in the early morning and evening can combine with daytime PV to spread out the use of solar power from the time people get up early in the morning until they go to bed late at night,” he explained. Wilkins said that in five years most CSP plants will include energy storage. Van Scoter from eSolar said in five years he expects that most CSP projects will include molten salt or ISCC technology. “There is also a high potential for projects involving industrial process heat, EOR and desalination,” he said.
All CSP experts said that utilities are just beginning to recognize CSP’s value – a renewable energy able to provide base load, dispatchable power. According to SkyFuel’s Mason, “This attribute of CSP is its main differentiator from PV and wind, and will ensure its increasing uptake in the power market.”
Intermittency Of Renewables?… Not So Much

cleantechnica.com/2013/07/21/intermittency-of-renewable-energy/

For As Long As The Sun Shines: The Non-Crisis of PV Module Reliability

blog.rmi.org/blog_2013_06_26_For_As_Long_As_The_Sun_Shines

Feed in tariffs are already being cut worldwide, and without them renewable power is not competitive.

This is a generalization and is inaccurate as well.
It is also a faulty comparison. The MASSIVE subsidies fossil and nuclear fules get dwarf any feed in tariff “advantage” for Renewable energy.

If all fossil and nuclear fuel subsidies were removed, the ridiculously tiny Renewable Energy subsidies in the form of feed in tariffs and other paltry incentives would be even less significant than they are now.

I know you are adverse to feed in tariffs. It is not logical for you to be adverse to FIT and not ALSO be adverse to fossil fuel subsidies like THESE:

Expensing of Intangible Drilling Costs

Percentage Depletion Allowance

Deduction for Tertiary Injectants

Geological and Geophysical Expenditures

Exception for passive loss limitations for oil and gas

Enhanced oil recovery credit

Marginal oil well credit

You eliminate ALL THE ABOVE and the pittance that FIT represents can be eliminated quite easily, thank you very much. Just google fossil fuel and nuclear power subsidies to date in the USA alone and then look at the tiny sliver of a percentage of subsidies for renewables to date.

Of course, fossil fuel industries want renewable enrgy to go away and are doing everything possible to make that happen. Eliminating FIT would be one step to that goal while keeping fossil fuel subsidies intact.

Said Brian Jennings, ACE executive vice president, in a release, “If oil companies cannot stand on their own two feet after 100 years of clinging to certain taxpayer subsidies, Congress shouldn’t hurt American consumers by repealing the RFS, a policy that helps level the playing field with oil a little bit by giving people affordable and renewable fuel choices.”

www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2013/03/big-oils-100-year-incentive-birthday-bash-hosted-by-biofuels

Since we cannot run this society on renewables, our society will have to change.

A logical conclusion based on the low EROEI incorrect premise and the intermittency incorrect premise.

With an incorrect premise, you will always come to the wrong conclusion.

The fact that renewable energy has grown in leaps and bounds for over three years now is proof that it is a more profitable energy source, as well as being non-polluting after manufacture, than the poisonous fossil fuels.

The renewable energy percentage use targets are INCREASING, not decreasing as you incorrectly believe. Here’s just one example:

Vermont may have more foresight than other states it its ambitious 90% renewable energy target by 2050, but it’s really the sign of a paradigm shift in energy, says Dave.

www.ilsr.org/vermonts-standard-offer-renewable-energy-program-episode-10-local-energy-rules-podcast/

Prepare For Disruptive Solar Technology
In 2013, the landscape is drastically different. Solar power is here to stay, and the major manufacturers should be motivated to make big moves.

seekingalpha.com/article/1504552-prepare-for-disruptive-solar-technology

We will have to learn to live within our means.

Most people in the world already do. It’s people with giant carbon footprints that don’t.

I think what you are doing in lowering your carbon footprint is laudable but be aware that every time you board an aircraft, you have just used up about 6 months worth of the carbon footprint of a person in the third world. That doesn’t help.

This article was not about poisoned aquifers. I have written about that before though. I cannot cover everything in every article or there would be no focus. Of course fracking is obscene, the environmental risks are huge and a few well connected individuals are making a killing from the ponzi scheme. The price collapse will eventually prevent it, just not right now when there is still money to be made.

Yes, the environmental risks, and damages as well, are already huge. Fracking adds insult to injury. It’s time to stop supporting this biosphere killing technology, regardless of the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on governments and policy.

The country is in the midst of an unprecedented oil and gas drilling rush—brought on by a controversial technology called hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
Along with this fracking-enabled oil and gas rush have come troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths, industrial disasters and explosions. We call them Fraccidents.

earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/fracking-across-the-united-states

The numbers are bad even with externalities excluded, and are of course much worse with them. Some of these things are very difficult to quantify, and over-quantification doesn’t really help anyway.

Well, it DOES HELP the frackers in attracting investment capital to have energy experts publish EROEI numbers above 1:1, does it not? A real world EROEI woud remind these planet poisoners of the repercussions of their actions AND make it HARDER for them to get investment capital.

The less happy the EROEI numbers, the less inclined they will be to engage in criminal and toxic activity. If energy experts don’t do it, who is, besides the scientific community which is getting drowned out by the bought and paid for media?

I can show you a Buffalo University study about three years old (not the snow job that came later falsely claiming it was peer reviewed and forced to recant) that proved conclusively that Uranium traces would come up in the process of fracking and invade the aquifers, not at radiactive dose danger levels but as heavy metal pollutants.

There’s a LOT more bad stuff going on out there. If you don’t know about it, you should.

Gas fracking corruption posts:

www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php?topic=478.msg5905#msg5905
www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php?topic=478.msg5923#msg5923

‘Fracking’ Mobilizes Uranium in Marcellus Shale, UB Research Finds

www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2010/10/11885.html

This is real politik – the way the world really works.

You mean that’s the way the POLITICAL WORLD works.
The planet and the biosphere, according to serious, objective, proven environmental science, will become uninhabitable if we do not stop burning fossil fuels within a couple of decades (See video above in this document of panel of scientists where one British Scientist actually says that the REAL, “real world” is about to overwhelm the perception managed “real politik, real world” the fossil fuel industry and most of mankind falsely believe they live in. Note: Part 2 of that video is extremely informative as well.).

The intransigence of the fossil fuel industry in this matter is a given. They wish to avoid liability for the damage they have casued so they have, for several decades, (See the George C. Marshal Institute) launched a campaign of disinformation to claim there is NO climate threat whatsoever.

The disinformation has used the scare tactic that we are running out of fossil fuels. Sure, according to latest estimates, we have about 37 years left of oil and slightly over 100 years of coal.

I certainly think those numbers don’t translate into an imminent collapse UNLESS the fossil fuel fascists (that isn’t hyperbole) engineer one as an additional scare tactic.

Don’t tell me the industry famous for contrived price shocks and oil resource wars is not capable of that.

Here’s a PRIME example of what the fossil fuel industry has done to the USA and the world:

A quote from the following Peer Reviewed book:

Dilworth (2010-03-12). Too Smart for our Own Good (pp. 399-400). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

“As suggested earlier, war, for example, which represents a cost for society, is a source of profit to capitalists. In this way we can partly understand e.g. the American military expenditures in the Persian Gulf area. Already before the first Gulf War, i.e. in 1985, the United States spent $47 billion projecting power into the region. If seen as being spent to obtain Gulf oil, It AMOUNTED TO $468 PER BARREL, or 18 TIMES the $27 or so that at that time was paid for the oil itself.

In fact, if Americans had spent as much to make buildings heat-tight as they spent in ONE YEAR at the end of the 1980s on the military forces meant to protect the Middle Eastern oil fields, THEY COULD HAVE ELIMINATED THE NEED TO IMPORT OIL from the Middle East.

So why have they not done so? Because, while the $468 per barrel may be seen as being a cost the American taxpayers had to bear, and a negative social effect those living in the Gulf area had to bear, it meant only profits for American capitalists. ”

Note: I added the bold caps emphasis on the barrel of oil price, money spent in one year and the need to import oil from the Middle East.

Consequently, all extrapolated future scenarios the Peak Oil people come up with must have their premises scrutinized to see how much of that is fossil fuel propaganda.

I have. The collapse scenario does not add up.

In that video above, the scientific community makes it crystal clear that there is easily another 100 years of coal, a much more polluting fossil fuel than oil, available regardless of the state of petroleum depletion.

So it is not realistic to say everything is just going stop one day from a chain of collapses in economies. The available fossil fuels are still TOO available.

The worsening weather will be the ONLY thing that will spur change unless the 1% performs a coup d’état on the fossil fuel world power structure and even then we already passed the point a couple of decades ago when bioremediation was going to be fairly straight forward.

So the Peak Oil people and preppers, like you, are doing themselves a world of good by preparing for a lower carbon footprint and learning many low tech survival skills because, even in the best of the three scenarios I envisioned (no die off), we will still have to reduce our carbon footprint until we get all the bugs out of the 100% renewable energy PLUS 20-40% carbon sequestering economy implemented to GET BACK to below 350 ppm.

You are wrong to think it will all collapse but you are right to prepare for hard times and horrible weather. Hansen said the atmospheric and oceanic inertia is nearly 100 years. I had thought it was only about 30 years.

That means we are experiencing NOW the effects of our generated pollutants (if you say the incubation inertia is 50 years or so) as of 1963!

Consider all the pollutants that have poured in to the biosphere since then and you start to understand why brilliant people like Guy McPherson are so despondent. There is NO WAY we can stop the pollution/bad weather clock from CONTINUING to deteriorate for another 50 years (or 100 if Hansen is right) even if we STOPPED using all fossil fuels today.

I’m not in charge and neither are you. But clinging to this fossil fuel fantasyland of cheap power and all we “owe” it for our civilization is not going to do anything but make things deteriorate faster.

If enough people reach the 1%, maybe they will wake up. It’s all we can do in addition to trying to foster community.

The system, as defined by the fossil fuel fascist dystopia that currently runs most of the human affairs among the 1 billion population in the developed world that are saddling the other 6 billion, who are totally free of guilt for causing it, with this climate horror we are beginning to experience, IS quite stubborn and does not wish to change the status quo.

Mother nature will force it to do so.

Whether it is done within the next two decades or not (i.e. a swtch to 100% PLUS bioremediation Renewable Energy steady state economy) will dictate the size of the die off, not only of humans but thousands of other species as well.

We are now in a climate cake that has been baked for about 1,000 years according to atmospheric, objective, proven with experimental data, science.

My somewhat quixotic hope as fleshed out in the following article is that the 1% will respond to the crisis with a crash program to bioremediate the biosphere as a matter of enlightened self interest.

www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2012/08/13/sexual-dimorphism-powerstructures-and-environmental-consequences-of-human-behaviors/

If the crash program to switch to renewable energy is to begin soon, I expect the trigger for the crash program will be the first ice free arctic summer (according to my estimates :icon_mrgreen:) in 2017.

So I would use that future melting now as a rallying point to wake people up and join in the effort to ban fossil fuels from planet earth. Expect the fossil fuelers to counter that polar ice melting catastrophic reality with propaganda about what a “wonderful” thing it is to have a new ocean to shorten ship traveling (i.e. TANKERS) distances. So it goes.

But if things go well for humanity and the 1% galvanize to save the biosphere and their stuff :icon_mrgreen:, we will witness the dismantelling of the centralized fossil fuel infrastructure, it’s use and, more importantly, the relinquishing of political power worldwide by big oil.

15 April 2013
James Hansen1. Exaggeration? I have been told of specific well-respected people who have asserted that “Jim Hansen exaggerates” the magnitude and imminence of the climate threat. If only that were true, I would be happy.
[b]“Magnitude and imminence” compose most of the climate story.[b]

www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130415_Exaggerations.pdf

It’s about money and power.

Correct. It has ALWAYS been about POWER (which always brings easy money).

It has NEVER been about ENERGY beyond CONTROLLING the spigot to we-the-people.

That’s why the fossil fuel industry simply didn’t switch to the much more profitable and economical renewable energy technologies long ago (they certainly have the money to do so); they simply could not figure out a way to retain POWER and CONTROL with a distributed, rather than a centralized energy system.

The expansion phase of the bubble concealed that for a while by floating many boats temporarily.

No comment except that the forces of nature will overwhelm any bubble mechanics that corrupt central bankers or Wall Street can come up with.

The importance of financial activity pales in the face of climate change.

I wish that wasn’t the way it worked, but it does, whether we like it or not. All we can do is to understand our situation and make the best of it.

Renewable Energy is making life and profits more and more difficult for the fossil fuel corporations.

But you are right that they run the corrupt system and do not want to cede their power (even if it kills all of us).

Robert F. Kennedy Jr: In the next decade there will be an epic battle for survival for humanity against the forces of ignorance and greed. It’s going to be Armageddon, represented by the oil industry on one side, versus the renewable industry on the other.

And people are going to have to choose sides – including politically. They will have to choose sides because oil and coal, they will not be able to survive – they are not going to be able to burn their proven reserves.

If they do, then we are all dead. And they are quite willing to burn it. We’re all going to be part of that battle. We are going to watch governments being buffeted by the whims of money and greed on one side, and idealism and hope on the other.

cleantechnica.com/2013/02/06/interview-with-robert-f-kennedy-jr-on-environmental-activism-democratization-of-energy-more/

This ends my response and rebuttal of your statements and predicitons.

Do you now recognize that what you told me, wittingly or unwittingly, was fossil fuel anti-renewable energy propaganda?

I have shown the error in your statements and request you reconsider your position on everything you said to me.

The fossil fuel industry and those who side with it, regardless of appearing to take a pro-environment position in their personal lives, are hurting our chances for a viable biosphere.

Those who, instead, simply stand their ground on the settled climate science and state unequivocally that fossil fuels must be BANNED from human use forever and the fossil fuel industries dismantled while a massive transition to a lower carbon footprint and 100% plus renewable energy economy takes place, are the only hope Homo sapiens has.

The question is, which side are you on?

Typical phases of resistance to renewable energy, as descriped by Dr. Herman Scheer are as follows:

Phase 1 – Belittle & Deny the Renewable Energy Option

Phase 2 – Denounce & Mobilize Against the Renewable Energy Option

Phase 3 – Spread Doubt & Misrepresent the Challenges in the Disguise of General Support

(Note: reaching Phase 3 doesn’t mean that Phase 1 & 2 will disappear.)

PART III

Historic proof that manufacturing all the renewable energy machines and infrastructure needed to transition to a 100% Renewable Energy world ecnomy can be achieved in two decades or less: The mass produced Liberty Ships of WWII.
The other day, a knowledgable mechanical engineer I know stated this concern about the colossal challenge and, in his opinion, impossibility of switching to renewable energy machines in time to avoid a collapse from an energy to manufacture and global industrial capacity limitation in our civilizational infrastructure.

He said:

I admire your enthusiasm, and I agree with many of the points you make. Yes ICE waste high EROEI consistently, yes fossil fuels and conventional engineering has a warped distorted perspective because of the ICE, and yes we have an oil oligarchy protecting its turf.

However say we hypothetically made all the oil companies dissappear tommorow and where able to suspend the laws of time and implement our favorite renewables of choice and then where tasked with making certain all of societies critical needs were met we’d have a tall order. The devil is in the details and quantities.

Its the magnitudes, its 21 million barallels per day we are dependent on. Its created massive structural centralization that can only be sustained by incredible energetic inputs. Not enough wind, and not enough rare earth material for PV’s to scale and replace. We have to structurally rearrange society to solve the problem. Distributed solar powered villaged, not bit cities and surely not suburbia. I fear we’ll sink very useful resources and capital towards these energy sources (as we arguably have with wind) when the real answer is structural change.

I have shown evidence that there are several multiples of the energy we now consume available just from wind power. This data came from a recent study by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Scientists.

He thinks we CAN’T do it even if we had enough wind because of the colossal challenge and, in his opinion, impossibility of switching to renewable enrgy machines in time to avoid a collapse from an energy required to manufacture and global industrial capacity limitation in our civilizational infrastructure.

His solution is to survive the coming collapse with small distributed energy systems and a radically scaled down carbon footprint. Sadly, that option will not be available to a large percentage of humanity.

Hoping for a more positive future scenario, I analyzed his concerns to see if they are valid and we have no other option but to face a collapse and a die off with the surviving population living at much lower energy use levels.

I’m happy to report that, although the mechanical engineer has just cause to be concerned, we can, in reality, transition to 100% Renewable Energy without overtaxing our civilizational resources.

This a slim hope but a real one based on history and the word’s present manufacturing might. Read on.

I give you the logistics aiding marvel of WWII, the Liberty Ship. It was THE JIT (just in time), SIT (sometimes in time) and sometimes NIT (never in time because it was torpedoed) cargo delivery system that helped us win the war.

This was a mass produced ship. These ships are a testament to the ability to build an enormous quantity of machines on a global scale that the U.S. was capable of over half a century ago.

The Liberty ship model used two oil boilers and was propelled by a single-screw steam engine, which gave the liberty ship a cruise speed of 11 to 11.5 knots. The ships were 441.5 feet long, with a 57 foot beam and a 28 foot draft.
The ships were designed to minimize labor and material costs; this was done in part by replacing many rivets with welds. This was a new technique, so workers were inexperienced and engineers had little data to go on. Additionally, much of the shipyards’ labor force had been replaced with women as men joined the armed forces. Because of this, early ships took quite a long time to build – the Patrick Henry taking 244 days –
but the average building time eventually came down to just 42 days.
A total of 2,710 Liberty ships were built, with an expected lifespan of just five years. A little more than 2,400 made it through the war, and 835 of these entered the US cargo fleet. Many others entered Greek and Italian fleets. Many of these ships were destroyed by leftover mines, which had been forgotten or inadequately cleared. Two ships survive today, both operating as museum ships. They are still seaworthy, and one (the Jeremiah O’Brien) sailed from San Francisco to England in 1994.

These ships had a design flaw. The grade of steel used to build them suffered from embrittlement. Cracks would propagate and in 3 cases caused the ships to split in half and sink. It was discovered and remediated.

Ships operating in the North Atlantic were often exposed to temperatures below a critical temperature, which changed the failure mechanism from ductile to brittle. Because the hulls were welded together, the cracks could propagate across very large distances; this would not have been possible in riveted ships.

A crack stress concentrator contributed to many of the failures. Many of the cracks were nucleated at an edge where a weld was positioned next to a hatch; the edge of the crack and the weld itself both acted as crack concentrators. Also contributing to failures was heavy overloading of the ships, which increased the stress on the hull. Engineers applied several reinforcements to the ship hulls to arrest crack propagation and initiation problems.

http://menokin.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/b0026a_francis_l_lee_01_nara.jpg?w=529&h=478
Heavily loaded ship

www.brighthubengineering.com/marine-history/88389-history-of-the-liberty-ships/

http://www.skylighters.org/troopships/libertyship-hi-new.jpgToday, several countries have, as do we, a much greater industrial capacity. It is inaccurate to claim that we cannot produce sufficient renewable energy devices in a decade or so to replace the internal combustion engine everywhere in our civilization. The industrial capacity is there and is easily provable by asking some simple questions about the fossil fuel powered ICE status quo:

[size=10pt]How long do ICE powered machines last?

How much energy does it require to mine the raw materials and manufacture the millions of engines wearing out and being replaced day in and day out?

What happens if ALL THAT INDUSTRIAL CAPACITY is, instead, dedicated to manufacturing Renewable Energy machines?

IOW, if there is a ten to twenty year turnover NOW in our present civilization involving manufacture and replacement of the ICEs we use, why can’t we retool and convert the entire ICE fossil fuel dependent civilization to a Renewable Energy Machine dependent civilization?

1) The industrial capacity is certainly there to do it EASILY in two decades and maybe just ten years with a concerted push.

2) Since Renewable Energy machines use LESS metal and do not require high temperature alloys, a cash for clunkers worldwide program could obtain more than enough metal raw material without ANY ADDITIONAL MINING (except for rare earth minerals – a drop in the bucket – :icon_mrgreen: LOL- compared to all the mining presently done for metals to build the ICE) by just recycling the ICE parts into Renewable Energy machines.

3) Just as in WWII, but on a worldwide scale, the recession/depression would end as millions of people were put to work on the colossal transition to Renewable Energy.

[size=14pt]HOWEVER, despite our ABILITY to TRANSITION TO 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY, we “CAN’T DO IT” ??? because the fossil fuel industry has tremendous influence on the worldwide political power structure from the USA to Middle East to Russia to China.

 

IOW, it was NEVER

1. An energy problem,

2. A “laws of thermodynamics” problem,

3. A mining waste and pollution problem,

4. A lack of wind or sun problem,

5. An environmental problem,

6. An industrial capacity problem or

7. A technology problem.

EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE ABOVE excuses for claiming Renewable Energy cannot replace Fossil Fuels are STRAWMEN presented to the public for the express purpose of convincing us of the half truth that without fossil fuels, civilization will collapse.

It was ALWAYS a POLITICAL PROBLEM of the fossil fuel industry not wanting to relinquish their stranglehold on the world’s geopolitical make up.

It drives them insane to think that Arizona and New Mexico can provide more power than all the oil in the Middle East. Their leverage over lawmakers and laws to avoid environmental liability is directly proportional to their market share of global energy supplies.

They are treatened by Renewable Energy and have mobilized to hamper its growth as much as possible through various propaganda techniques using all the above strawmen.

It is TRUE that civilization will collapse and a huge die off will occur without fossil fuels IF, and ONLY IF, Renewable Energy does not replace fossil fuels. It is blatantly obvious that we need energy to run our civilization.

It is ALSO TRUE that if we continue to burn fossil fuels in ICEs, Homo sapiens will become extinct. This is not hyperbole. We ALREADY have baked in conditions, that take about three decades to fully develop, that have placed us in a climate like the one that existed over 3 million years ago.

We DID NOT thrive in those conditions or multiply. This is a fact. We barely survived until a couple of hundred thousand years ago when the weather became friendlier and even then we didn’t really start to populate the planet until about 10,000 years ago.

The climate 3 million years ago was, basically, mostly lethal to Homo Sapiens. To say that we have technology and can handle it is a massive dodge of our responsibility for causing this climate crisis (and ANOTHER strawman from Exxon “We will adapt to that” :evil4: CEO).

Fossil fuel corporations DO NOT want to be held liable for the damage they have caused, so, even as they allow Renewable Energy to have a niche in the global energy picture, will use that VERY NICHE (see rare earth mining and energy to build PV and wind turbines) to blame Renewables for environmental damage.

In summary, the example of the Liberty ships is proof we CAN TRANSITION TO RENEWABLE ENERGY in, at most, a couple of decades if we decide to do it but WON’T do it because of the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on political power, financing and laws along with the powerful propaganda machine they control.

PART IV
Three different future scenarios

What can we expect from the somewhat dismal prospects for Homo sapiens?

1) Terrible weather and melted polar ice caps with an increase in average wind velocity in turn causing more beach erosion from gradually rising sea level and wave action. The oceans will become more difficult to traverse because of high wave action and more turbulent seas. The acidification will increase the dead zones and reduce aquatic life diversity. But you’ve heard all this before so I won’t dwell on the biosphere problems that promise to do us in.

2) As Renewable Energy devices continue to make inroads in fossil fuel profits, expect an engineered :evil4: partial civilizational collapse in a large city to underline the “you are all going to die without fossil fuels” propaganda pushed to avoid liability for the increasingly “in your face” climate extremes.

3) Less democracy and less freedom of expression from some governments and more democracy and freedom of expression from other governments in

direct proportion to the percent penetration of Renewable energy machines in powering their countries (more RE, more freedom)

and an inverse proportion to the power of their “real politik” Fossil Fuel lobbies in countries. (more FF power, less freedom).

The bottom line, as Guy McPherson says, is that NATURE BATS LAST. Nature has millions of “bats”. Homo SAP has a putrid fascist parasite bleeding it to death and poisoning it at the same time. The parasite cannot survive without us so it is allowing us to get a tiny IV to keep us alive a little longer (a small percentage of renewable energy machines). It won’t work.

But the parasite has a plan. The IV will be labelled a “parasite” (the villain and guilty party) when Homo SAP finally figures out he is going to DIE if he doesn’t fix this “bleeding and poison” problem. Then the real parasite will try to morph into a partially symbiotic organism and Homo SAP will muddle through somehow.

I think that the parasite doesn’t truly appreciate the severity of Mother Nature’s “bat”.

Three future Scenarios:

1. If the parasite (as a metaphor for a fossil fuel powered civilization) does not DIE TOTALLY, I don’t think any of us will make it. :emthdown:

2. If the the parasite takes MORE than 20 years to die, some of us will make it but most of us won’t. :emthdown:

3. If, in 2017, when the north pole has the first ice free summer, all the governments of the Earth join in a crash program to deep six the use of fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine within a ten year period, most of us will make it. :emthup: :sunny:

A word about political power and real politik living in a fossil fuel fascist dystopia.

IT simply DOES NOT MATTER what the ‘real world”, “real politik” geopolitical power structure mankind has now is. IT DOES NOT MATTER how powerful the fossil fuel industry is in human affairs. The ICE and fossil fuels have to go or Mother Nature will kill us, PERIOD.

Pass it on. You never know when somebody on the wrong side of the Darwininan fence will read it and join the effort to save humanity.

Save as many as you can!

 

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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