The other day, knowledgable diner and mechanical engineer Roamer stated this concern about the colossal challenge and, in his opinion, impossibility of switching to renewable enrgy machines in time to avoid a collapse from an energy to manufacture and global industrial capacity limitation in our civilizational infrastructure.
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.
Roamer 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 Roamer has just cause to be concerned, we can, in reality, transition to 100% Renewable Energy without overtaxing our civilizational resources. This is a slim hope but a real one based on history and the world'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. Heavily loaded shiphttp://www.brighthubengineering.com/marine-history/88389-history-of-the-liberty-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.
Today, 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: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 - 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.
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 SAP 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 SAP. 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"
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.
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
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".
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.
If the the parasite takes MORE than 20 years to die, some of us will make it but most of us won't.
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. 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 Darwinian fence will read it and join the effort to save humanity.