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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 8:29 am
by lpickup
Smidge204 wrote:You (and the author of that article) are implicitly assuming 100% of our energy needs need to be, or will be, satisfied by a single technology. That's beyond nonsense; it's insane.
No, not at all. In fact the vast majority of that book discusses MANY different solutions, most of which will have to be implemented to shift to a completely sustainable energy landscape. I don't think the author is necessarily bullish on nuclear fusion being practical--he's just pointing out what the possible potential is if it does so. You can mix and match whatever consumption and generation solutions you think stand a chance of being implemented and stack them up against each other and see if you have a positive balance sheet at the end of the day.

I will say this though: if we expect to keep the current standards of living and current growth rates up, then the traditional solutions we can imagine today will not work. They are going to have to be too big and potentially compete with each other and with other needs such as food, water, living space, etc. Either something's gonna have to give or we'll have to come up with some white knight type of solution.

I personally believe that we will always lie in an equilibrium. That is, if our growth rate is not sustainable, we won't grow. It won't be like the bottle exploding, but I would be very surprised not to see an increase in conflicts over resources, and for some (i.e. those who stand the most to lose--Americans) the process will be painful. If we do achieve a sustainable energy balance, or even a surplus of energy, we will certainly find a way to use it.

Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 10:17 am
by Smidge204
lpickup wrote:
Smidge204 wrote:You (and the author of that article) are implicitly assuming 100% of our energy needs need to be, or will be, satisfied by a single technology. That's beyond nonsense; it's insane.
No, not at all. In fact the vast majority of that book discusses MANY different solutions, most of which will have to be implemented to shift to a completely sustainable energy landscape.
My point being that as soon as you put any one of these solutions all by itself in the context of total global energy needs, you've cocked up your argument one way or another. If you start with "250kWh per person per day" and then use that as a basis to calculating how much uranium we'd need, you've implied that nuclear would comprise 100% of our energy generation by not subtracting non-nuclear power from that 250kWh value. Although to your credit, you did at least explicitly state that assumption as part of the point you were making. Others are not that careful.

It's kind of a sore spot for me because the defeatists always use that method to argue that it can't be done. Maybe I'm being too sensitive about it. :?
=Smidge=

Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 11:58 am
by lpickup
Smidge204 wrote:My point being that as soon as you put any one of these solutions all by itself in the context of total global energy needs, you've cocked up your argument one way or another. If you start with "250kWh per person per day" and then use that as a basis to calculating how much uranium we'd need, you've implied that nuclear would comprise 100% of our energy generation by not subtracting non-nuclear power from that 250kWh value. Although to your credit, you did at least explicitly state that assumption as part of the point you were making. Others are not that careful.
Actually this section of the book was dealing with "sustainable" fossil fuel (and nuclear) energy use, where he arbitrarily chose 1000 years as being a sufficiently long time period where we could use the existing finite resources at a rate that would last that long. I don't know why he chose 1000 instead of 500 or 2000, but like he said, it was arbitrary. At any rate, he used that number to determine, based on various fossil and nuclear resources, how much energy could be supplied with those various resources if spread out for that period of time, for example if we had to supplement renewable energy generation with fossil fuels or nuclear. So actually he arrived at the value from the opposite direction you assumed: instead of starting with 420 kWh/p/d, he fixed the "persons" and "days" and calculated how much of each various resource we could "sustainably" use. And other than seawater uranium and deuterium fusion, none of the other sources even got close to satisfying our demand for 1000 years based on current usage.

If you're interested, he did lay out several alternative plans (for his home country of the UK) which are made up of many different components summarized on this page: http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/with ... _212.shtml" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Note that this particular author is not focusing on the political or economic issues surrounding this whole topic (and I don't blame him!) only the technical issues. But he doesn't ignore them completely either.

Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 12:52 pm
by LTLFTcomposite
"If you use more energy to get the fuel than is contained in the fuel it's not worth the effort to get it"

Patently false. One might use far more energy from other sources (eg coal and natural gas) extracting oil as is contained in the extracted oil itself and still make a handsome profit, depending on relative price of the oil vs the other sources.

Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 1:41 pm
by padamson1
LTLFTcomposite wrote:"If you use more energy to get the fuel than is contained in the fuel it's not worth the effort to get it"

Patently false. One might use far more energy from other sources (eg coal and natural gas) extracting oil as is contained in the extracted oil itself and still make a handsome profit, depending on relative price of the oil vs the other sources.
Interesting. Energy is money, or at least it should be. If I use more energy to extract a fuel than the fuel provides, why would anybody buy that fuel when they can get more energy for less money from the other fuels?

The problem is that the market isn't pure. If the market is truly self correcting then I would lose customers (to the cheaper fuel) and the price would crash on the extracted fuel and the fuel extraction would no longer be profitable so I'd start losing more money and go out of business. E.g. if oil becomes too expensive relative to other fuels everybody should switch to coal & NG powered EV's to drive.

Funny thing is EV fuel (electricity) is already significantly cheaper than ICE fuel, but not too many people are switching (yet). So the market has other factors: subsidies, convenience, cost of entry, captive markets, etc. which delay the transition to the cheaper fuel. As oil prices rise with cost for extraction eventually the other market factors would be nullified so that the market for oil shrinks and its price crashes, but not until economies have wasted a lot money on a fuel that costs more than the cheap alternatives.

Kind of the makes the case for the government artificially jump starting EV's no?

Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 2:17 pm
by AndyH
adric22 wrote:
klapauzius wrote: In addition to that, population growth will inevitably stop, as countries get richer.
That's something I was wondering about too. I think as a country becomes more industrialized, the population stops growing. I heard somewhere that the US population would actually be shrinking if it weren't for all of the immigration.
Maybe so, but immigration/migration/etc. is included in the population growth numbers as a matter of course. The countries that have gotten to zero or negative growth haven't walled-off their borders.

Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 2:31 pm
by AndyH
Nice work gents.

One thing I notice is how difficult it seems to be to get folks to step back from their favorites and spend some time looking at the whole picture first. Tunnel vision is a huge part of how/why we've gotten in to the bind we're in.

One dramatic example of our "Vision, Tunnel, Variant: Western" was made in an earlier post...well, in a link in an earlier post.

Subject: Food. Question: Which works better: GMO rice with chemical support, or 'natural' methods?
Eastern Decision: Natural Methods
Western Decision: GMO/Chemical
For example, let’s say the United Nations
commissions a study of genetically
engineered rice production in Vietnam.
Some land grant grad students and their
properly credentialed Ph.D. mentor fly
over there. Their genetically modified organism
(GMO) paddy grows lots of rice.

The adjacent one, built on indigenous
methods, grows rice, tilapia in the water,
ducks that make meat and lay eggs, and
around the edges, prodigious bok choy
and arugula. But these Western linear,
reductionist, compartmentalized, fragmentized,
systematized, parts-oriented
researchers don’t measure the ducks,
eggs, fish or edible greens. They went
to study rice.
And the GMO rice,
in a chemical-ized paddy devoid
of any other life in or around it,
sure grows rice. Conclusion —
our side can’t feed the world.
http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprint ... alatin.pdf

Tunnel Vision. Can't see the forest for the trees. Loss of perspective.

We can do better than this!

Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 3:09 pm
by AndyH
Solutions

- We must include all externalities
- we must open our eyes to see all options regardless of the source - "The truth is the truth even if we hear it from a liar" comes to mind here...
- Profit can be a motive, but let's move it down a couple of notches - we can have our cake and eat it too - but we're not allowed to kill anyone to get the cake ;)

I think these three groups/organizations/movements can provide the vast majority of the solution not just to fixing our immediate problem, and not just to reach the 'sustainable' point, but to move to an environment of constant improvement.

Lester R Brown "Plan B 4.0 Mobilizing to save civilization"
This book lists the problems, organizes them into two major categories - Population Pressure: Land and Water and Climate Change and the Energy Transition - and then outlines a complete response that can be implemented across the entire planet with current technology and for less money than our current level of spending.

The book's in stores and available free in PDF format from the Earth Policy Institute's website:
http://www.earth-policy.org/books/pb4

Permaculture

What it is:
http://www.scottlondon.com/interviews/mollison.html
Mollison: Permaculture: A Designer's Manual wrote:Permaculture...is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way...

The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.
The single best book I've found is the main "Permaculture: A Designer's Manual"
http://www.amazon.com/Permaculture-Desi ... 280&sr=8-1
This is a nearly 600 page dense text that covers philosophy, ethics, chemistry, physics, meteorology, climatology, geometry, botany, hydrology, soil science and other aspects of geology, landscape design, money and finance, trusts and legal structure, village and town development...etc. etc...

Other books are a better place to start, however - especially if one wants to concentrate on the food/gardening/ag/land/agroforestry piece of the puzzle:
http://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Perm ... 280&sr=8-3
http://www.amazon.com/Gaias-Garden-Seco ... 280&sr=8-2
http://www.amazon.com/Sepp-Holzers-Perm ... 280&sr=8-4

There's plenty on Youtube - look for permaculture, Bill Mollison, and/or Geoff Lawton for the core info.

The Rocky Mountain Institute
A "think and do tank" that's in the trenches to help redesign transportation, energy, housing, and other areas. Huge focus on efficiency.
http://www.rmi.org/

Each of these three is an existing organization/structure, has been in the trenches more than long enough and have a highly significant track record, and are actively changing the world.

Let's add to the list?

Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 6:13 pm
by AndyH
lpickup wrote:Actually this section of the book was dealing with "sustainable" fossil fuel (and nuclear) energy use, where he arbitrarily chose 1000 years as being a sufficiently long time period where we could use the existing finite resources at a rate that would last that long...
You've provided proof of the contradiction in your post.

Sustainable use means we use a resource no faster than it's being regenerated. There simply is no such thing as 'sustainable' anything that relies on a finite substance. There's no sustainable oil, natural gas, uranium, or coal on the planet.

We'll have wind and solar and geothermal and wave and hydro power available on the planet long after we humans are gone. And we know that we can power the world from any of these by itself if we choose, but certainly any combination.

Let's train our brains to see through greenwashing and other diversions - kids in West Virginia can't eat greenwashing - especially when it's downwind of a coal plant or down the hill from a leaking sludge reservoir.

Image
http://www.good.is/post/marsh-fork-elem ... al-sludge/

Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 7:26 pm
by lpickup
AndyH wrote: You've provided proof of the contradiction in your post.

Sustainable use means we use a resource no faster than it's being regenerated.
That's why the word "sustainable" is in quotes. He acknowledges it's not truly sustainable, but at least gets us by for a long period of time, by which time maybe it's likely we'll figure something else out.

I do realize I've only provided snippets of the whole book, so it's probably easy to take this stuff out of context. But you need to look at the whole book to see where he's coming from.