Peak oil is NOT peak energy

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Majormoney's picture
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Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Chris: Thank you for this website and the Crash Course!  They are magnificent!

You have, quite correctly, used the bell-shaped curve to illustrate the extraction history of minerals and energy sources that must be dug or pumped out of the ground.  But there is more to our environment than the ground beneath our feet; there are the oceans, the atmosphere, and ultimately the sun itself.  These energy sources, being essentially inexhaustible, are not subject to a bell-shaped extraction curve over time.

You have asserted that "energy can't grow."  Probably true for the conventional energy sources extracted from the ground, but false for many other sources of energy that can grow--indefinitely.  Peak oil is not peak energy, simply because oil is an infinitesimally small and relatively inaccessible fraction of the world's total energy resources.  (Indeed, oil should not even be used for energy; it should be used as a raw material for the petrochemical industries.)  Therefore, I respectfully submit that your masterful exposition of the dire straits in which the human race now finds itself is flawed with respect to energy.

Granted that the technology and the infrastructure to harness the following alternative energy sources are not now fully developed.  But there was a time, not so long ago, when the technology and the infrastructure to exploit coal, oil, and natural gas were not fully developed either.

Conventional nuclear energy and the experimental 'hot fusion' technologies are intentionally being ignored in this commentary, because they are lethally polluting, and there is no fail-safe way to dispose of the wastes.  (They are typical government-subsidized dead-end technologies that consume valuable resources and leave a miserable mess behind.)

Of the many inexhaustible energy sources, wind, waves, and solar are, of course, available only intermittently; they are not practical as stand-alone energy sources, and must be backed up by other sources and perhaps with energy storage devices on a scale yet to be produced.

But all of the following six sources are always available, if their energy can be technically harnessed and economically transmitted:

Geothermal will be exploitable 'forever.'

The rivers--the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Nile, the Danube, the Volga, the Yangtze, the Rhine and the Rhone, and all the others--will flow 'forever.'

The sea currents--such as the Gulf Stream--will flow 'forever.'

The tides--most notably in the Bay of Fundy and Severn Basin, but also on every seashore throughout the world--will ebb and flow 'forever.'

The temperature differentials between surface and deep oceanic waters--exploitable by 'ocean thermal energy conversion'--will exist 'forever.'

The new 'cold fusion' aka Low Energy Nuclear Reaction technologies will be exploitable 'forever.'

Nine nonpolluting and inexhaustible energy sources have been noted in this brief summary--and there are probably more.  Nowhere in any of these energy sources will be found a bell-shaped extraction curve over time.

The implications are obvious: The assertion that energy production is inexorably approaching an insurmountable limit is false; there is no such thing as 'peak energy'; and energy R&D brains and capital MUST be focused on developing these inexhaustible and nonpolluting alternative energy sources, ASAP.

Meanwhile, of course, we have to deal with the implications of Peak Oil exactly as you have indicated.

Thank you again, Chris, for this magnificent website.

 

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But it might as well be

I agree with the nuances presented in your post. I've even seen people claim that peak oil and peak energy are interchangeable terms -- now, obviously that's foolish.

However, given the dogma of growth and the the large slice of the pie oil represents, for the world as we know it, peak oil might as well be peak energy.

All of this stuff is math, pure and simple. The globe's current trajectory cannot continue without oil and nothing can step into the void to fill it. That's not the end of the world, but simply the end of our current bender.

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy
[quote=MAJORMONEY]

But all of the following six sources are always available, if their energy can be technically harnessed and economically transmitted:

Geothermal will be exploitable 'forever.'

The rivers--the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Nile, the Danube, the Volga, the Yangtze, the Rhine and the Rhone, and all the others--will flow 'forever.'

The sea currents--such as the Gulf Stream--will flow 'forever.'

The tides--most notably in the Bay of Fundy and Severn Basin, but also on every seashore throughout the world--will ebb and flow 'forever.'

The temperature differentials between surface and deep oceanic waters--exploitable by 'ocean thermal energy conversion'--will exist 'forever.'

The new 'cold fusion' aka Low Energy Nuclear Reaction technologies will be exploitable 'forever.'

Nine nonpolluting and inexhaustible energy sources have been noted in this brief summary--and there are probably more.  Nowhere in any of these energy sources will be found a bell-shaped extraction curve over time.

The implications are obvious: The assertion that energy production is inexorably approaching an insurmountable limit is false; there is no such thing as 'peak energy'; and energy R&D brains and capital MUST be focused on developing these inexhaustible and nonpolluting alternative energy sources, ASAP.

Meanwhile, of course, we have to deal with the implications of Peak Oil exactly as you have indicated.

Thank you again, Chris, for this magnificent website.

[/quote]

You are correct in that all of these energy sources you list are renewable and exploitable "forever".  However, what you fail to point out is that none of them alone or in combination (with the exception of cold fusion, which is completely unproven and may never manifest at all) can produce energy anywhere near as dense as oil.  

All of the energy sources you mention have been studied extensively and have been found to be lacking in their ability to meet worldwide energy demands for one reason or another.  I'll provide three examples:

For example, hydroelectric sources in the US are largely developed.  There is little room to increase them.  Not one large dam has been approved in the past decade.  Hydroelectric dams also pose a range of environmental problems: they often ruin streams, cause waterfalls to dry up, and interfere with marine habitat.  Many existing hydro plants are jeopardized by siltation and foreseeable changes in rainfall patterns resulting from climate change.  Hydro is already a significant energy resource and will continue to be so throughout the coming century.  But in many regions of the world - especially the US - it is already thoroughly exploited.

Geothermal power is necessarily dependent upon geography: plants must be located close to hot springs, geysers and fumaroles.  Most geothermal resources are located around the edges of tectonic plates.  The US currently has 44 percent of the world's developed geothermal-electric capacity, but the American geothermal industry is stagnant.  Less than one percent of the world's electricity production comes from geothermal sources.  It is extremely unlikely that the generation of electricity from geothermal sources can be increased sufficiently to offset much of the net-energy decline from petroleum depletion.

Tidal energy is renewable, clean, and efficient.  Unfortunately, there are fewer than two dozen optimal sites for tidal power in the world, and most of those are in remote areas like northwest Russia or Nova Scotia.  A comprehensive survey of wave-energy research by David Ross suggests that tidal power can provide only limited power for industrial societies for the foreseeable future.

I could go on but I'll stop there.  I would also like to bring up some relevant conclusions of the Hirsch report, which a report on peak oil and its implications commissioned by the US Department of Energy.  The Hirsch report concludes:

1. A minimum of ten years, and preferably twenty years, of intensive mitigation efforts prior to peak oil production would be required in order to avoid a worldwide energy shortage.

2. If no such efforts have been undertaken prior to peak oil, there will be a global energy shortage of at least twenty years.

3. A global energy shortage of this magnitude and length would have unprecedented economic, social and political impacts.

On an absolute level, I agree with you that peak oil does not necessarily mean peak energy.  However, on a practical level it almost certainly does unless we have a major technological and as yet unforeseen technological breakthrough.

Another very relevant question is, presuming a worldwide energy shortage and resulting economic depression, where will the money come from to invest in such technology?  And, even if we do find some renewable way of replacing the amount of energy oil provides us, where will the money come from to reconfigure our existing infrastructure - which is entirely set up for liquid fuel - to run on electricity?

I cannot claim that such a confluence of events is not possible.  I will say, that if I were a betting man, I would not put my money there.

 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

I haven't read your massive entry above yet, Switters, (though surely I will) but just a quick thought in response to the original post.

Since when don't rivers run dry? Rivers last forever. I've never encountered this claim before.

The Colorado's having difficulties right now.

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy
[quote=MAJORMONEY]

Chris: Thank you for this website and the Crash Course!  They are magnificent!

You have, quite correctly, used the bell-shaped curve to illustrate the extraction history of minerals and energy sources that must be dug or pumped out of the ground.  But there is more to our environment than the ground beneath our feet; there are the oceans, the atmosphere, and ultimately the sun itself.  These energy sources, being essentially inexhaustible, are not subject to a bell-shaped extraction curve over time.

........

The implications are obvious: The assertion that energy production is inexorably approaching an insurmountable limit is false; there is no such thing as 'peak energy'; and energy R&D brains and capital MUST be focused on developing these inexhaustible and nonpolluting alternative energy sources, ASAP.

Meanwhile, of course, we have to deal with the implications of Peak Oil exactly as you have indicated.

Thank you again, Chris, for this magnificent website.

 

[/quote]

I seem to remember that Chris states that he believes the challenge MAY become insurmountable.

The big problem with many renewable energy sources is that they are mainly electrical, and it is transport energy shortages that will bite the worst.

It is possible to convert/supersede the existing transport fleet to run on renewable sourced energy, but if it is not started soon enough, the capacity to do so on a massive scale may be lost amongst social breakdowns caused by such a simple thing as being unable to move enough food.

Sadly the "fuel from corn" attempt is a lost cause, as the ERoEI is to low, but as so many politicians are unable to grasp this it may stagger on for a while yet.

Such misdirected efforts only serve to increase the risk that it will be insurmountable.

 Sadly the green movement seems to lack the guidance of  hard core engineering expertise and end up backing "sustainable" energy sources that have poor or negative returns.

 

Hamish

 

 

 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Many years ago when whaling was a major industry, people lighted their houses with whale oil. But the whale population started to decline and whale oil went up in price enough that people started looking for alternatives. This was when it was discovered that kerosene could be obtained from crude oil, and the oil industry was born. Many major scientific advances have come from the "necessity is the mother of invention" school. It is too bad that it has taken this long for necessity to become so great that finally the inventors are at work, and it is just possible that something is out there on the horizon that nobody thought of before which will come to the forefront.

 

Government subsidies have almost never brought about solutions to problems, it has nearly always been someone or some group that had an idea that was subsequently developed into a new industry, much as the invention of the transistor has led to our massive computer and electronic industries. Lets just hope that someone out there gets a good idea before declining oil production makes intensive research and new product development harder. An example of something that might be a possibility is using algae to create alcohol, and a new algae crop can be harvested every 2-3 weeks instead of annually like corn. I have my fingers crossed and I am chanting "go researchers go"!

 

pwoody82

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

It will be for the next two decades no matter how fast and furious alternatives are persued.  Read the Hirsch Report which Switters mentions.  It is available here: Hirsch Report (PDF download from the Dept. of Energy website - 91 pages).

 Crossing fingers doesn't sound like a plan to bet our lives on.

 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

i would suggest reading some amory lovins. our greatest energy supply is conservation. we simply have to use what we have left more efficiently.

amory thru rmi has saved tremendous amounts of money(energy)for corporations like dupont and ibm. 

he is currently working with walmart to double to triple their mileage for their delivery fleet.

conservation will buy us the time we need to move to the next energy age.

technology is not a fuel it is a means to use the fuels we have in the most efficient manner.

btw the rivers do not run forever .....the yangtze does not make it to the sea.

there are many demands made on our river systems from agriculture to industry.

due to climate change there is reason to believe the gulf stream may stop flowing.

all our energy comes from the sun. the closer we get to utilizing solar energy the more we will have. in the past civilization has developed where the low hanging fruit was ( fertile land. ample water, amenable climate etc.) we may see massive shifts in populations in response to where our new energy sources are found. ex. algae has great potential as a fuel and source for plastic feedstock. best places would be warm areas with lots of water.

we have been living for the last 150 years off of ancient sunlight. we will in large part have to move to current sunlight. if we wish to approximate our current mode of life.

the real tragedy of the sellout and the wars in the middle east is that the very monetary resources we could be using for developing the next energy economy is being pissed away saving arrogant 30 somethings driving maseratis around wall street. that is a waste of "energy"

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Re: Exponential Eugenics of 'Aarbeid Maak Frei'.....

Indeed,

 Peak Oil is NOT PEAK ENERGY....

If the good sheeple proles continue to exponentially breed, as they have in the past, then they shall provide an excellent RENEWABLE SOURCE OF FAT-ENERGY FOR THE OVENS, and NON-STOP SOURCE OF

ARBEID MAAK FREI...... 

I guess exponential-yewgenics.co.nr would be an accurate tiny url description, if the exponential function ain't quickly used to educate the sheeple proles about the importance of zero or negative population growth.....

Let's hope the sheeple awake before the exponential function reaches the point of no return in terms of its consequences on geopolitics decisions of our planetary Lily Pond... Omaha vs Texas Holdem Geo Poker Players....

JMCSwan

 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Major Money,

Clearly you have a very poor understanding of net energy.  None of those sources have a net energy large enough to support the societal complexity we currently enjoy.  Additionally, you may be right that the tides will always rise and fall, those energy sources CANNOT grow (thats why they are always around) and our current economic system requires growth.  

Also, what we are talking about is the next twenty years, in which we will be faced with major oil shortages, which will severely restrict our ability to do things like grow, develop technology, goof around, etc.  In fifty or one hundred years we will probably pick up some of the peices and start rebuilding stuff and create new energy industries, but they will be nothing like what we currently have. Nothing else combines oil's abundance, accessability, transportability, density, ease of use, and applications.  Some energy sources have a few of those traits, but NONE have all.  Those traits combined into one resource are sole reason for why we are where we are today (i dare you to disagree), and everything else is just not as good.  If there was something better, we would use it.  Oil was the silver bullet, and now we must shoot eachother with lead again.  

 Peace,

 Ashton

 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Ashton--

"Clearly you have a very poor understanding" of what I did and did not say.

Did I say (or imply) that any of the alternative energy sources I listed were 'equivalent' to oil (re energy density, etc.)?  Clearly I did not.  Did I say (or imply) that when the best source is gone, we have no choice but to fall back on other sources?  Clearly I did.

When the best source/solution/option/whatever is no longer available, then some of the others become the best.  The fact that the other sources are not as ideal doesn't matter.  The density doesn't matter.  We have to use whatever there is to use.

As another post noted: We have been using the energy of ancient sunlight.  That source is rapidly being depleted.  Now we have to start using the sun's energy--directly or indirectly--in real time.  Now we have to start using the best of the 'inferior' alternatives that are available to us. 

Unless you are proposing that we go back to living in caves as did our ancestors, WE HAVE NO CHOICE: we MUST embrace some of these alternative albeit inferior energy sources--and soon.

MAJORMONEY

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Of course we must fall back on the alternatives that are available.

But the whole point is that those alternatives cannot make up for the energy density of oil, and therefore we WILL have an energy shortage over the next 20 years and quite possibly for much, much longer than that.

The only way that won't happen is if we discover some source of energy we are currently unaware of.  Sure, this is possible but it certainly isn't likely and we shouldn't be making plans around it.

The other very important issue is what alternatives to oil we choose and how we travel down the other side of Hubbert's curve.  What we should be doing is moving as quickly as possible towards a more localized, less energy intensive way of life that primarily utilizes electricity as energy rather than liquid fuel.  What we will probably do is frantically try to preserve our insane resource-intensive consumer culture by converting dirtier and dirtier fossil fuels (tar sands, oil shale, coal, etc) to liquid.  In the process, we'll destroy the climate even faster than we are already.  

For example, turning a barrel of tar sands oil releases four times as much CO2 into the atmosphere as a barrel of light crude. And for all the talk about "clean coal", no such thing currently exists and it will take a minimum of 20 years to realize the technology - if we ever realize it at all, which many people doubt.

These are all very significant questions.  It's not just a matter of "embracing the alternatives we have", which we will obviously be forced to do.  It's a matter of what alternatives we embrace, which is at least in part determined by the choices we make as a civilization: to continue with business as usual at all costs, or to move towards a more sustainable future.

Call me cynical, but I think I know what choice we will make - at least in the short term.  Too many Americans are still in a consumer trance, and therefore the political will to implement the changes we really need is sorely lacking.  In my opinion, it will take a lot more pain to get to that point.  We've only just begun, because most people think that what we're experiencing is just another cycle in a history of cycles.  They don't realize that things are fundamentally different this time.

Until they realize that, all efforts towards real transformation will be thwarted. 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

switters--

Right on, every word of it. And a belated 'thank you' for your long and very perceptive response to my original post.

You mention 'the political will.' Therein lies the real source of the problem. Please allow me some 'podium time'.

The marketplace ACTS in the present to ANTICIPATE the future and does its best to innovate and evolve accordingly. But the political process, being a parasite upon the marketplace, REACTS to the past, and has fewer incentives to innovate correctly for the future.

Enterprises in the marketplace have an inexorable bottom line that is rigorously enforced by the consumers. But political entities can--and do--escape the rigors of a bottom line by creating bogus 'wealth' out of thin air--as Chris has so masterfully demonstrated on this website.

The present fossil fuel dependent economy got that way because of political favoritism to oil, and political penalties on the alternatives. For example: How many thousands of lives, and how many billions of dollars--ala Iraq--have been trashed in defense of  'ocean thermal energy conversion; or 'cold fusion'? The nuclear waste nightmare is another example of political intervention gone awry.

ALL of our problems--not just energy, but ALL of them--are due to our miseducations in Government schools. We have been mistaught to rely on the parasite to solve the problems that the parasite itself has caused its host--the marketplace. Until we understand the FUNDAMENTAL issue--which is the philosophical illegitimacy of Government itself--none of the other problems that Government has caused will be understood or solved.  There are no rational alternatives to the TOTALLY free marketplace.

I refer you to http://www.tolfa.us -- The On-Line Freedom Academy -- a magnificent website, and a worthy companion to this site.

I hope that Chris will include these fundamental issues in his Section 20 video, still to be posted.

MAJORMONEY

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Every twelve hours, since time immemorial, 100 billion tonnes of seawater have been rushing into, and out of, the Bay of Fundy.  How much energy does this represent?

As you have surmised, I am neither a physicist nor an engineer; my background is in the 'softest' of the hard sciences--biology/medicine.  Perhaps "switters" or someone else more competent than I can make the calculation.  But whatever the answer may be, even 1% of it is one helluva lot of energy.

We send men to their deaths--in coal mines, on hurricane-vulnerable drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and now in the interminable conflict in Iraq--in the name of exploiting bell-shaped extraction curves of finite and polluting resources.  And all the while, every twelve hours, 100 billion tonnes of seawater are rushing into, and out of, the Bay of Fundy--right under our very noses--and not one joule of that vast energy resource is being captured and used by an energy-starved world.

The level of insanity in the energy realm equals or surpasses that in the monetary realm.  And then people wonder why everything is now coming apart at the seams.  Or rather, most people have been so dumbed-down by the Government miseducations they have received that they don't even realize that everything IS indeed now coming apart.

Again, my thanks to Chris for trying to correct this situation. 

MAJORMONEY

.

 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

MAJORMONEY,

I think we are essentially in agreement.  The point that I wanted to make clear is that at present, no mix of renewables comes anywhere close to making up for the amount of energy we get from oil.  Renewable energy will no doubt play a substantial and important role in our future, but unless some as yet unpredicted revolutionary discovery is made renewables cannot sustain the global industrial society that has evolved over the past 150 years.  All of the renewable sources you mention will make some contribution.  But ultimately, even when added together the energy they will produce is only a fraction of what we get from oil.

Another factor that cannot be ignored is that we're likely headed into a prolonged period of economic contraction.  Since most economists believe that you cannot have economic growth without a growth in energy supply, it follows that as energy supply declines, our economy will contract.  This leads to a very sobering question: where will the money we need to invest in renewables come from?  Will we be able to develop the technologies and infrastructure necessary to make the transition to renewables in the midst of a global economic recession/depression?

This is merely one example of what Jim Kunstler so inelegantly refers to as the "cluster*$#@".  Economy, energy and environment are inexorably intertwined and any solution we propose for one area must consider the others. 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

switters--

Right on, again.

You posed the next question I intended to address: "Where will the money we need to invest in renewables come from?"  Where indeed?

We need look no further than the earlier sections of this Crash Course to see that a severe economic contraction and a hyperinflation are all but inevitable.  In other words: There will be much less money for energy R&D, and the money that is available will be worth much less.  Given this double whammy, how can my lovely list of alternative energy sources make it off the pages of this website and into the real world?  I dunno.  I really do not know.

I believe that Chris has not mentioned the Kondratieff Long Wave, a 55 to 65 year international financial and economic cycle.  Kondratieff theorists use a seasonal terminology--spring, summer, autumn, and winter--to describe the phases of the cycle.  We are now, obviously, in a Kondratieff Winter.  The last K. Winter was the Great Depression.  But back in those days, the total debt was a mere fraction of what it is today; and there was a Gold Standard to serve as an objective unit of measurement of that debt. Today the total debt is way off the tops of the historical charts--indeed, the monetary system itself is based on debt--and there is no Gold Standard to measure how huge those debts really are.

Conclusion: This Kondratieff Winter will be much worse than the last one.  Sooner or later, Reality will liquidate the nonsense and mischief created by the Federal Reserve and the income tax.  And I suspect that this liquidation will include the repudiation of the central banks, the fiat currencies, and the national debts.

If any part of this is true--and I suspect that most of it is true--then where indeed will the R&D resources come from to solve the energy problem?  Or the food problem that may follow hard on the heels of energy?

It is an obscene paradox that despite all of our technological sophistication, we are still arrested in the Dark Ages with respect to money, economics, the source of confidence, and the rational principles of social organization--i.e., the totally free marketplace.

Here are four excellent references on the Kondratieff Long Wave:

http://www.thelongwaveanalyst.ca/cycle.html

http://www.goldenbar.com/Mainpages/GuestAnalysts/FeketeonKONDRATIEFF.htm

http://faculty.washington.edu/modelski/IPEKWAVE.html

http://kwaves.com/kond_overview.htm

MAJORMONEY

 

 

 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Majormoney, you "dunno" where the money will come from to develop alternative energy sources fast, and I see the problem - but a much bigger one is the rats' next of government regulations that would hinder such innovation even if money could be found. I think it was you who instanced one: suppose a plan were feasible to harness the tide in that Fundy Bay, politicians with powerful protesting friends would likely nix it.

I suggest two partial answers:

1. Individuals can harness wind power right now, if we live outside cities. Google "small wind turbines" as I did, and take pleasure that an industry already exists to provide 100' masts, blades, generators and connectors at a price that pays for itself in power-grid savings over an acceptable period. The supporting how-to info even teaches how to defeat the zoning fascists. Now, that solution will affect only a minority of residential and business electricity users, but if enough of us do it, we'll make a decent start. In years to come, rechargeable cars will be widely available, ready to plug in to our own free-power source.

2. Individuals can band together to form companies, in the normal capitalist sense, and combine resources to build larger scale renewable-power projects. Such firms would have to purchase political influence to overcome even larger-scale bigotry, but heck, this is a big job and folk are going to have to get hands dirty now and again. It may even be that some existing companies are already figuring out how to use the power latent in rivers and tidal basins, and if so that seems a pretty good place to invest.

Given even partial freedom of enterprise, the Energy component of Chris' triple perfect storm can be overcome.

 

 

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Another point that is very important to consider is that we are headed into uncharted territory.  As Chris frequently says, the next 20 years are unlikely to be like the last 20 years.  I would expand on that and say simply that the future is going quite different than the past.  

For the first time in human history, we are facing a decline in available energy supply.  Ponder that for a moment.  For the entire span of human existence on this planet, each new year brought the possibility of an even greater supply of energy than the last.  Whether or not that possibility was actually realized is secondary; i.e. the supply of energy was relatively stable until fossil fuels and oil were discovered, at which point it rose precipitously.

Now, humans find ourselves looking down the other side of the energy curve.  What this essentially means is that we cannot use metrics developed during a time of continually increasing energy supply to determine what will happen over the next fifty years and further out.  The cycles that the Kondratieff Wave and other similar models attempt to measure and predict are simply not going to be accurate any longer (if they ever were at all), since they make fundamental assumptions that aren't true.

For example, in order to return from the Winter to the Summer we'd have to have a big period of economic growth.  I ask you this: if economic growth is dependent upon energy supply, and energy supply is entering a permanent decline, then what will fuel the supposed economic growth in the future?

Another example is the frequently heard mantra "the stock market always goes up in the long run".  Well, that may have been true for the last 150 years.  But during that time, the supply of energy also continually went up.  That will not be true for the next 150 years - so we cannot assume that the stock market will behave in the same way in the future.  I recommend reading "The Tyranny of the Immediate", by John Michael Greer for more on this. http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2008/10/tyranny-of-immediate.html

The cold, hard truth is that there is a very real possibility that we are headed into a permanent economic depression that we will never recover from.  That does not mean that we won't eventually reach a place of stability and sustainability, or that our quality of life will continue to decline (although standard of living will). It means that the 2-3% economic growth per year we've come to expect as our birthright is over.

It's interesting that even here on these forums I rarely see anyone acknowledge that a perpetual depression is the logical result of all of the current energy and economic indicators.  The only thing that could prevent this from happening is the discovery of a new energy source that would make up for oil.  If that happened, the energy supply could keep growing and thus our economy could eventually recover from depression and start growing again.  But without such a discovery, how will our economy ever grow again after peak oil?   

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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

"Liberator" and "switters"--

Thank you both for your excellent comments.

 

Carl Veritas's picture
Carl Veritas
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Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

My money is on those profit-seeking, loss-avoiding capitalists to fund and discover alternatives to oil. Consumers will let them know if their methods and products are sound, by the appearance of profits. And once the others sniff profits, they'll jump right in and accelerate the process. Will there be shortages before this come around? Probably. But the potential for enormous profits are there, and thats what usually get's the ball rolling. Those foreign governments whose power base is derived from their control of their nations oil resources should be the ones getting nervous about Americas capitalist system.

 

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HarryFlashman
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Posts: 53
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy
Asrehole
HarryFlashman's picture
HarryFlashman
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
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Posts: 53
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Drunk so even got my spelling wrong

 

Arsehole!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

At least explain your technofrenzy,and if capitalism was thst good why did the communists get into space first,idiot!!!

 

You are so indoctrinated it make me a little queasy.Capitalism in it's rawest form mean that the rich get to be very,very,very rich and the rest of us are slaves.

 

Final question,and be specific,what did capitalism ever do for you that a democratic socialist didn't get in Europe?Besides from free health care and a real welfare state(cradle to the grave).

 

Finally,Americans are stupid,they just have more money!So all the really intelligent Europeans,Chinese,Japanese and Indians(In fact Africans and everybody) all make tracks to where the money is.And that's all a factor of abubdant natural resources which are running out.SO all these CAPITALISTS you're talking about are probably from totalitarian(bet you don't understand that word either!) Countries.Americans are Jerry Springer's show.And I know enough to know.

 

Arsehole!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HarryFlashman's picture
HarryFlashman
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
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Posts: 53
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Just to make clear all my comments were to

 

Cluesaw

 

Anybody else who took offence hard luck(unless you're not American).

DurangoKid's picture
DurangoKid
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 25 2008
Posts: 174
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

Well, yes it is.  Petroleum has the highest energy density of any substance save fissile isotopes.  None of the so-called alternatives come close.  I could go down a list of the popular ones and debunk the alternatives one by one.  It's quicker to put them into general catagories and list the reasons.

 Biomass - there isn't enough land, fertilizer, water, infrastructure to use biomass as a replacement for oil.  A back of the envelope calculation proves it.  No need to go there.  Just take 0.2% the solar flux per unit area and multiply that by the area of arable land, and some marginal land if you're ambitious.  All of land area of the lower 48 states dedicated to corn production won't fuel the commercial truck fleet.  Other forms of biomass are even worse.  Scaling problems from the lab to the field.  Processing problems.  Transport problems.  Biomass has to be grown and consumed within a small radius or the efficiencies disappear.

Hydro - all of the good hydro sites are taken.  There is some room for micro-hydro, but don't count on the yields.

Geothermal - very few good sites in some mountainous regions.

Wind - It's probably the best bang for the buck in sheer energy invested compared to energy returned. Right up there with current oil yields.  Problem is, it's not a fuel.  Can't use it in a tractor to plow fields.  Can't store it efficiently.  Many of the windy places need billions of dollars worth of transmission lines to get it to market.  Storing it as hydrogen looses most of the energy in conversion.  Plus hydrogen leaks out of just about anything and there is no hydrogen infrastructure and there won't be for decades if ever.

Coal - good luck.  At current rates of GROWTH in coal consumption, we've got somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 - 50 years of coal.  Peak coal could be here in less than two decades.  It has half the energy density of oil.  Converting it to liquid fuels is an act of despiration.  Way inefficient.

Tidal - a pipe dream for the next couple of decades.

A word about nuclear.  Currently we get about 8% of our energy budget from fission.  Scaling up is years in the future.  Keep in mind that uranium ores are at about 1% of the concentration they were several decades ago.  That means more material to refine into smaller amounts of yellow cake.  The up-front energy cost of nuclear comes from oil, coal, and natural gas.  Enrichment is a very energy intensive operation.  If we scale up nuclear as fast as we can go, we'll get to peak uranium just that much sooner.  At current rates nuclear power has about another 50 years of uranium left.  Peak uranium comes long before that.

For all these alternatives, time is not on their side.  Scaling them up to current oil equivalents will be decades in the making for the promising ones and just short of never for the gee-whiz fantasy ones.  Over that time, we can expect the quantity of oil available to be reduced by roughly half.  The alternatives will never catch up with the decline in oil.  Throwing money at a problem will not produce energy.  Capitalism is a system of finance and theft of surplus labor.  There's nothing intrinsic in capitalism that makes it the big problem solver.  One could say that the constant demand for return on investment has hastened the senseless depletion of resources.  Way to go Wall Street.

Get used to it.  In about 3 to 5 years we will be noticeably along the downside of Hubbert's Peak.  All the swing production will be gone.  Oil producers will be using more of their exports for domestic needs. There will be less oil on the world markets.  The US peaked in 1970 and there isn't anything anyone can do about it.  No drilling anything anywhere will reverse it.  The future will be about less exosomatic energy to do less work.  Get ready to use some of your muscle power to feed yourself and keep yourself warm in winter.  It's time to grow up and face facts.  Limitless growth is being shown as the fantasy it always was.

Liberator's picture
Liberator
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Joined: Oct 13 2008
Posts: 22
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy
[quote=DurangoKid]

Capitalism is a system of finance and theft of surplus labor. There's nothing intrinsic in capitalism that makes it the big problem solver.

[/quote]

The trouble with those statements are that they are so grotesquely, utterly wrong as powerfully to suggest that everything else written in the post (about alternative energy sources being non-feasible) is equally nonsensical. In fact, some of it may be well reasoned - but due to that gross error, the writer's credibility is completely shot.

Cluesaw said it best in an earlier post, and another illustration can be drawn from today's electoral farce. Once every couple of years, some of the population can vote who are to be our rulers. The game is so well rigged that usually, around 95% get re-elected.

In contrast under free captalism (I speak not of state capitalism, better called Fascism, of which DurnagoKid may possibly have been writing and which prevails today) everyone in the population makes decisions every day, every hour, that get conveyed to the capitalist producer; the billions of buy/no-buy decisions go directly to his bottom line at once, signalling whether his offers are acceptable or not. In the latter case he turns on a dime to change his offer and satisfy his customers, or else he finds a line of work better suited to his limited talents.

 

 

fombie's picture
fombie
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Posts: 16
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

 

I really enjoy reading the opinions and ideas that are shared here. Thanks to you all!  Even though I agree with some and disagree with other, it is a great oportunity for me to learn and shape my own opinion. So here are my thoughts on this topic:

Capitalism (in the pure sense) is not theft of surplus labor, it amounts to taking the surplus from one side in return for a promise of future profits resulting from the investment of the surplus. This can work out fine for everybody as long as investments lead to future profits (i.e. future surpluses). Some investments fail to provide the promised profits. That is the risk premium assumed by the investor and reflected in the intrest rate that is to be payed on the invested capital. The big catch is: what happens if external circumstances (e.g. peak oil) put so much pressure on the expected profits that the promised intrest rates no longer compensate for the risks? Then the capitalist process stops to function. Capitalism is a surplus allocation algorithm. It can work fine under conditions of (infinite) growth, but is does not do its job when growth has reached its boundaries.

The only alternative algorithm we know is goverment spending, and that is a very inefficient algorithm because it tends to allocate resources to the benefit of the well connected (you can call it communism or fascism, depending on whose intrests are served, history shows that in practice there's not much of a difference between them). It is typical for the end of the Kondratieff cycle, when promised returns can no longer be matched by the available oportunities for increased efficiencies and profits.

Anyone got an idea on how to arrange the allocation of surpluses under conditions of deminishing returns?  

 

 

gregroberts's picture
gregroberts
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 6 2008
Posts: 1024
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

 How about peak sunshine? The Sun has a limited supply of hydrogen and will eventually run out, then we're toast unless we start working together on a worldwide basis to figure out how to get out of here in time. I have heard the Sun will last another 25 billion years or so but how long will it take to develop the technology to move somewhere else? I guess we can wait till the last minute when the Sun becomes a red giant and the Earth gets burned to a cinder, happy thoughts, eh?

 Speaking of the Sun, what about fusion? Anybody know what the energy in/energy out is for seperating deuterium from seawater? Is it the same as seperating hydrogen? I would guess the energy out would be much more in a fusion reaction than burning it or a fuel cell but I really don't know.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8385911/

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy
[quote=mainecooncat]

I haven't read your massive entry above yet, Switters, (though surely I will) but just a quick thought in response to the original post.

Since when don't rivers run dry? Rivers last forever. I've never encountered this claim before.

The Colorado's having difficulties right now.

[/quote]

AND you haven't seen Australia's rivers.....

The Murray, 'our Mississipi' (I am kidding, it might be nearly as long, but even in its heyday it probably was only 1% of the flow rate) has virtually ground to a halt and is now predicted 'to die' within 20 years.....

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy
[quote=Cluesaw]

My money is on those profit-seeking, loss-avoiding capitalists to fund and discover alternatives to oil. Consumers will let them know if their methods and products are sound, by the appearance of profits. And once the others sniff profits, they'll jump right in and accelerate the process. Will there be shortages before this come around? Probably. But the potential for enormous profits are there, and thats what usually get's the ball rolling. Those foreign governments whose power base is derived from their control of their nations oil resources should be the ones getting nervous about Americas capitalist system.

[/quote]

1)  There are NO alternatives to oil......  repeat three times.

2)  Profits?  How do you explain the biggest Ethanol company in the US filing for bankruptcy last week?

3)  Nervousness about Capitalism.

Oh I'm getting VERY nervous, because Capitalism is wasting the entire planet.  Not to mention all the people on it....  never mind the tigers and pandas and whales and.....

I would've thought anyone who's done the Crash Course would realise Capitalism is finished.  Ran out of capital AND cheap and abundant resources.  Bad luck. 

Move on. 

Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 10 2008
Posts: 3998
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy
Remember that the cliff begins below a ratio of 5:1. We are right on
the edge!!:

http://eroi.theoildrum.com/node/4762

A quote:

"Just to give you a rough idea as to where we are at present with
respect to EROI, "according to legendary oilman Charles Maxwell" on
The Money Show, most countries report that it costs from $55 (Saudi
Arabia) to $70-90 (Russia and most of OPEC) to $90 (Iran and
Venezuela) to produce a barrel of oil. That is a lot of money but
underneath the surface also represents a lot of energy. Recent work
in our lab suggests that when you divide the energy produced by the
energy used by oil and gas industries (data is available for only a
few countries such as the US and UK) that these industries use about
17 MegaJoules (MJ) per dollar spent in 2006. This is the energy
intensity per dollar spent for seeking and producing oil. This
compares to about 14 MJ per dollar for heavy construction and about 8-
9 MJ per dollar as a societal average, so it seems to be in the right
ballpark. If we assume 5 percent inflation since 2006 we might expect
there to be used about 16 MJ per dollar spent by the oil and gas
industries in 2008. So if it takes Saudi Arabia $55 to produce a
barrel then $55 times 16 MJ/$ equals about 880 MJ required per
barrel. For Venezuela, which requires $90 a barrel, this number would
be 1440 MJ required per barrel. Since a barrel of oil contains about
6164 MJ of energy, the EROI would be about 7:1 for Saudi Arabia to
4.3 for Venezuela or Iran. These estimates, although crude, indicate
the seriousness of the problem and sound a clarion call for opening
up data banks all around the world to greater scientific scrutiny
while also calling to companies making their energy, as well as
dollar, costs explicit and public.

It is important to remember that this is a rough estimate of the EROI
for total "upstream" costs, i.e. exploration, development, and
production of new wells, and so a calculation of the EROI for simply
producing wells within Saudi Arabia would be considerably higher.
(I.e., it is possible that high EROI 'at the margin', (on wells and
infrastructure put in place long ago), is masking a deterioration in
the EROI of 'new' oil and gas requiring new energy and resources to
harness). Nonetheless, the cost of getting energy has been increasing
greatly of late which implies that the world is approaching a point
at which the energy required to get new oil will be a substantial
part of, and eventually all of, the energy found within the barrel.
At this point the oil age will be over, regardless of the amount of
oil left in the ground or the price that the oil commands."
Damnthematrix's picture
Damnthematrix
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Posts: 3998
Re: Peak oil is NOT peak energy

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