Peak Oil Media: Buffett on Net Energy and Peak Oil and Lovelock on Putting Your Head Between Your Legs and Kissing Your...

A segment with Warren Buffett on CNBC last night with a mention of oil depletion, Malthus, "a tough time," "the point of no return," and resource scarcity. Good piece (give it about 30 seconds to get there).

And then there's Lovelock who's at it again:

Somewhat unexpectedly, Lovelock concedes that the Mail's plastic bag campaign seems, "on the face of it, a good thing". But it transpires that this is largely a tactical response; he regards it as merely more rearrangement of Titanic deckchairs, "but I've learnt there's no point in causing a quarrel over everything". He saves his thunder for what he considers the emptiest false promise of all - renewable energy.

A striking example of the peculiar phenomenon of British opposition to on-shore wind power. Lovelock hates wind, because he hates the effect on the view in rural parts of the country. Astonishing, given how strongly he projects a climate disaster.

I don't think that is quite fair, Nick.

On his own terms Lovelock hates wind chiefly because it is ineffective, he thinks, and therefore it is not worthwhile covering the countryside with them.

I don't particularly go along with most of what he says, but that appears to be his position, rather than a simple aesthetic objection as you imply.

"On his own terms Lovelock hates wind chiefly because it is ineffective, he thinks, and therefore it is not worthwhile covering the countryside with them."

That's what he says, but IMHO if you read him carefully, the aesthetic objection is primary. He's quite vehement about the monstrous injury he feels they perpetrate on the countryside, and the arguments about effectiveness is vague, non-quantitative rationalization.

What do you think? Wouldn't you agree that UK on-shore wind is an effective replacement for natural gas and coal? I know you've argued that off-shore wind is excessively expensive, but on-shore is cheaper.

I'm personally somewhere in the middle, Nick about on-shore wind in Britain. It cost around £0.9 millions per MW installed in 2006 according to government figures, at 27% capacity factor which is good for on-shore that comes out to around £3.3 millions a MW, so it is perhaps in the same ball-park as nuclear energy.

The new Areva plant is around 1.6GW, or around 1.44GW actual output.

So if you assume 3MW wind turbines, you have to have around 1,500 of them to equal the output from one nuclear plant, or 15,000 or so of them to equal the proposed off shore build of 33GW nameplate, 10-11GW average hourly output.

A look at the wind maps of Britain shows that they would have to be mainly in the north and west, and would involve massive transmission lines.

It would also mean building access roads and other infrastructure over very environmentally sensitive moorland, and even then finding sites in good wind areas would be tough - the UK is not very big. The transmission line costs would be on top of the numbers we have already discussed, which it should be noted are now substantial under-estimates due to rising materials costs which impact wind-turbines many times more than nuclear plants due to their much higher use of materials.

At the end of the whole process, which politically is not going to happen on that scale as the Scots and Welsh have separate parliaments and will certainly not allow it, you would generate around 10GW out of a power requirement peak of 75GW.

So it is not going to make a substantial difference to the UK energy picture, and is essentially an irrelevance which distracts from the hard choices facing this country, which centre on the colossally expensive off-shore option, nuclear or fossil fuels.

Given the choice between 15,000 on-shore turbines with their huge environmental impact in the UK and 10 nuclear power stations I would go for the nuclear option every time.

The situation is radically different in areas such as Texas, although as others have remarked wind power there tracks poorly with use, unlike in the UK.

So to sum up, even if we totally devastate the countryside we will not have made a substantial dent in energy needs by building on-shore turbines, and the cost whilst less than off-shore would still be very large.

I have no objection to some wind turbines being built where appropriate, but it is essentially irrelevant to our energy requirements and the main objection is when it masquerades as a solution.

" it is perhaps in the same ball-park as nuclear energy."

I agree. As a note, don't forget that you're just discussing capital cost. On-shore wind operating cost is perhaps $.001/KWH, compared to nuclear's $.02.

" you would generate around 10GW out of a power requirement peak of 75GW."

You're comparing average wind output to peak requirements. If you compare average of 10GW to average demand of roughly 45GW (IIRC) that's about 22% of demand. That's very far from trivial.

"even if we totally devastate the countryside "

Access roads for onetime construction wouldn't be devastating. Besides, what will be the environmental effects of climate change on these areas? They're certain to be much, much larger (for example, all of the pine forests of the mountains in Colorado, US, and many in Canada are dying due to climate change). Ultimately, we're mainly talking about aesthetics as the primary problem.

" which politically is not going to happen on that scale as the Scots and Welsh have separate parliaments and will certainly not allow it,"

You're describing NIMBY. That's my point: UK wind's primary problem is NIMBYism, due to aesthetics. Lovelock is a classic example - he projects massive disaster of truly nightmarish proportions, and then rules out wind power because he doesn't like its looks!

I would point out that aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder - most of the UK looks nothing like it’s condition 3,000 years ago, before massive farming and development, and would horrify someone from 1,000 B.C. . Also, many people find wind turbines beautiful.

Your point about my comparison of 10GW of average power against 75 GW peak is a fair one, I just did not get around to drawing the comparison better - a better comparison is either the one you suggest, or to compare peak wind power production with peak, and since wind power tracks rather well in the UK with power consumption at peak in the winter it is around 2.5 times more than in June, as against an increase on power consumption of just under 4 times, from 20GW to 75GW - so we might say that the 33GW nameplate will produce around 5-15GW of actual output, or around a quarter to a fifth of total output, similar to the figure you give.

The running costs you mention are pretty low in both cases, and in the absence of whole life-cycle costs for wind-turbines perhaps somewhat moot, as more problems with maintenance such as faulty gear-boxes than have been anticipated and costed for in the figures you give could greatly increase that.

However, the real problem is that the costs are only even vaguely reasonable for on-shore - for off-shore they are astronomic.

There are actually no proposals to build 33 GW of on-shore wind power, and even could that vast number of windmills somehow be sited on land, you certainly would not be able to increase it to provide for running even the present electric output of society, let alone run a society which ran substantially without fossil fuels.

In contrast a similar power output at around the same cost would be produced by around 7 modern reactors on perhaps 4 sites in a double configuration, and the expertise in so doing could be used to series build enough reactors to provide for most of our electricity power at minimum estimates - the French already do so.

So is substantial on-shore wind really worth the bother in this country?

The real option we are being presented with in this country is in any case the vastly expensive off-shore one.

I actually have no objection to wind turbines being built where appropriate, but it is so far from a total solution or even a major economic contribution that it should attract very little of our attention - at the moment it is only a distraction from solutions which could really help - conservation initially followed by a large nuclear build and the installation of air heat pumps.

So we are not really talking about aesthetics as the primary concern, or at least I am not - if wind turbines really could contribute in a major economic way, as may be the case on the American plains, then we should pay the ecological price of building them, but for the marginal contribution they might make in the UK we would be far better off getting focussed on real solutions.

I have just come across Dr Bakhtiari's work on Peak Oil:

And I note that he predicted heavy rises in commodity prices due to expensive oil.

I had previously associated the rise in commodity prices largely with heavy demand from Chindia, but his analysis throws a different light on it, and one with severe cost implications for wind turbines.

They use around ten times more steel for every unit of power generated, and four times the concrete compared to a similar nuclear build.

My figures were already too generous to on-shore wind, as I was using 2006 costs since when there have been major increases in material costs, and it should be noted that I did not include connection costs.

In the light of Br Bakhtiari's analysis it seems safe to say that not only is on-shore wind more expensive currently than nuclear, but that the difference is likely to become progressively greater.

Runaway inflation would alter the situation greatly though, as the long lead times of nuclear power would impact the build much more than for wind turbine builds.

"I note that he predicted heavy rises in commodity prices due to expensive oil. I had previously associated the rise in commodity prices largely with heavy demand from Chindia, but his analysis throws a different light on it, and one with severe cost implications for wind turbines."

And I would note that Bakhtiari is an oil & gas expert, but not a commodities expert. He superficially notes that a number of commodity prices are rising, and assumes it relates to his expertise - oil. We see this often - oil industry insiders assume that everything is related to oil. This perspective finds it's way into PO analyses, which is surprising in a way, given that PO enthusiasts generally have little respect for the oil industry.

In fact, soaring commodity costs (like copper & steel) have very little to do with their oil inputs, and everything to do with capital expenditure lags and Chindia demand.

Since both the extraction of minerals and their processing is so energy intensive I am sure that after reflection you would agree that high energy costs can't but mean high materials costs - just look at the energy cost to refine aluminium as one example.
No doubt high demand from Chindia will also play it's part, but until we have changed our energy systems totally to renewables/nuclear and batteries high energy costs are automatically going to mean high materials costs, even aside from other cost pressures, which as you point out are themselves likely to be severe, so construction costs for wind turbines will be very heavily impacted.

"Since both the extraction of minerals and their processing is so energy intensive I am sure that after reflection you would agree that high energy costs can't but mean high materials costs "

Not really. First, for most minerals labor is much more important than energy, and 2nd, keep in mind that not all energy has risen greatly in cost. Oil has quadrupled, but natural gas hasn't risen nearly as much, and coal has risen very little (keep in mind that most coal is sold on long-term contracts, unlike oil).

"just look at the energy cost to refine aluminium as one example."

First, aluminium uses electricity, which hasn't risen much in price. 2nd, aluminium is the most energy intensive commodity of all - most use much, much less.

" high energy costs are automatically going to mean high materials cost"

Again, not really. This is a common error in PO circles, and it's really not so.

It's true that commodity costs have affected wind, but a bigger problem has been the shortage of turbine manufacturing capacity, due to the skyrocketing demand. Manufacturing is expanding, but it can't keep up.

We have short-term capacity bottlenecks in a wide variety of areas. That's one reason why it makes sense to ramp up everything we can - none of them alone can grow fast enough.

You remark on energy costs being more loosely related to energy costs sounds well-founded.

However, in a situation of very tight oil and with the constraints on natural gas production that have been noted on this blog it would seem that gas prices are also likely to rise a lot.

Coal also seems relatively constrained, and although the system of long term contracts may delay rises they will not halt them in the long run, so spot prices for coal perhaps act as some sort of proxy for the trends in the market.

I can't see demand from India and China slowing much for materials though, and financing new mines is not proving easy at the moment, so for the next few years at least materials costs seem likely to remain high - and as you say, the short term is proving problematic.

I accept your point about nacelle costs, but high material costs in general will have a far greater impact on wind than nuclear.

"Coal also seems relatively constrained"

Not really. It's a short-term question of building infrastructure - ports, rail, etc.

"high material costs in general will have a far greater impact on wind than nuclear."

Well, wind costs rose from an recent historical average of $1.50/watt to $1.80 in 2007 - that's not a big increase. The fundamental costs are falling due to increasing size & better technology, and turbine manufacturing capacity will catch up, so a price rise is a temporary blip.

By the time we could get the infrastructure built for significant coal use, and the exporting countries had done so, or we built new mines if resources are available, we could be deep into a nuclear build and save the CO2.

Have you a source for your wind-power costs - since you are talking in dollars, I assume that they relate to US costs, which has a different cost base to the UK and a better on-shore wind resource in many areas.

Even in the US the most recent figures I have seen are for the T Boone Pickens 4GW nameplate facility in Texas, which is going to cost $10bn and would generate and average hourly energy flow of around 1.4GW - much less during Texan peak demand in the summer.
If I have not lost a decimal place that is over $6 a watt rather than $1.8, unless you are talking about some kind of levelised cost which can show just about anything depending on the assumptions put in - presumably once again you are talking about nameplate capacity, which is just downright confusing in the case of wind, however as you say it may be useful in comparing the scale of the price rise - you don't though give a date for the $1.50 figure.

If I have the Picken's figures right though on a nameplate basis that still works out as $2.50 watt nameplate, not $1.80

The figures I have based my costs on are 2006 UK Government figures - costs will have risen since then.

"By the time we could get the infrastructure built for significant coal use, and the exporting countries had done so, or we built new mines if resources are available, we could be deep into a nuclear build and save the CO2."

New infrastructure in the US, such as rail, is a 1-3 year thing, not a 10 year thing. I think Australia has a port capacity bottleneck - I'm not sure on a timeline there. Anyone have info?

My source on recent historical costs was FPL, though I don't have a link. The 2007 data is nameplate (for comparison purposes) for both the US and the world - overall stats on new capacity and dollars spent (which may exaggerate costs, from a PPP standpoint) - I'll see if I can find a link.

Don't forget the scarcity pricing for wind turbines: manufacturers have a 2 year backlog.

Here is a link to the Pickens 4GW $10bn project:

There is one heck of a price difference here, $2.50 watt against your figure of $1.80.
That's about a 65% price increase against your original $1.50

I am not saying your figures are like this, but I am pretty suspicious of costings in the renewables industry, they often seem to have taken off subsidies first, and in general got up to all sorts of games, just so long as they get their subsidies - the market basically stopped when Denmark stopped them.

I am particularly interested in your statement that the increase in costs is mainly due to supply shortages in the nacelles rather than rising material costs - have you got any breakdowns on this?

I'll see what I can find on Pickens, and nacelle costs.

" I am pretty suspicious of costings in the renewables industry, they often seem to have taken off subsidies first"

I'd note that we're talking about capital costs, and subsidies typically don't apply to capital costs.

"the market basically stopped when Denmark stopped them."

That doesn't tell us much. Developers may have been waiting for resumption, or gone somewhere else where things were slightly better. We should note that most sources of energy would halt without subsidies, explicit or implicit, such as guaranteed utility reimbursement for investment (a key factor in general), CO2 externalities, or Price-Anderson.

"There are actually no proposals to build 33 GW of on-shore wind power"

Exactly my point: the strength of NIMBYism in the UK apparently precludes serious consideration of such an option.

"So is substantial on-shore wind really worth the bother in this country?"

20%-25% of electricity supply is trivial???

Personally, I think a diverse set of power sources is a really good idea. Perhaps more importantly, wind can be built much more quickly than nuclear: The UK is going to need all the power sources it can get in 5 years, and the world needs all the low-CO2 power sources it can get.

In my comment that wind-power was trivial I referred to the likely land-build, not the off shore 33GW proposals, where the problem is the vast expense.

Supposing that you could place 33GW on land, it could certainly not be indefinitely expanded to produce more power, so we might as well get on with solutions such as conservation and nuclear which would deal with the problem as it is not substantially cheaper.

See my post above for the likely future costs of wind, on-shore or off-shore.

"Supposing that you could place 33GW on land, it could certainly not be indefinitely expanded to produce more power,"

Yes, but our problem is the short term, not the long-term. In the long-term, we can do anything. In the short-term, we have a lot of bottlenecks, and nuclear is no exception.

And again, 20-25% would be unimportant? 10% would be unimportant?

I agree conservation and efficiency (such as heat-pumps) are important. But again, you can't do them overnight. Think how slowly such things are moving now.

The heart of my objection is not to building turbines on land, it is that people have been misled into thinking that this alone, or maybe in conjunction with solar PV panels, will solve Britain's energy problem..

The whole of the renewables energy industry uses very immature technology, and projections for European grids and all -renewable power generation are so speculative as to be fantasy.

The solid solutions that we know how to do centre on conservation and nuclear power, at least for northern Europe.

Putting up a few wind turbines where objections are not too severe is being used as an excuse to delay any serious action at all.

Even the British Wind Energy Association says we won't get the projected off-shore build completed, at any rate in the time they have said.

"people have been misled into thinking that this alone, or maybe in conjunction with solar PV panels, will solve Britain's energy problem."

Well, not in the short term. Of course, neither can nuclear.

"The whole of the renewables energy industry uses very immature technology"

True. That's why costs are continuing to fall.

"projections for European grids and all -renewable power generation are so speculative as to be fantasy."

Not really, although it's not going to happen tomorrow. It's a matter of engineering, rather than new science, and it's certainly no more speculative than thorium reactors.

"Putting up a few wind turbines where objections are not too severe is being used as an excuse to delay any serious action at all.

Even the British Wind Energy Association says we won't get the projected off-shore build completed, at any rate in the time they have said."

I'm not sure it's fair to blame our paralysis on renewables.

I don't blame our paralysis entirely on the renewables industry, but the standard of coverage in the media is just awful, with readers being told that the projected 33GW nameplate capacity for off-shore wind will -provide enough power for every home in Britain' - oh no it won't, save on a windy summers day.

Cost decrease for nuclear power are actually likely to be far greater, with one innovation alone, annular fuel, likely to lead to very large cost reductions.

Having said all that, I think that we are fundamentally on the same page, and I would certainly support on-shore wind power more than the ultra-expensive off-shore alternative.

It is difficult to talk rationally about such a deeply stupid and lethargic entity as British energy policy, which operates on premises that we would both feel to be clearly false, that natural gas supplies are effectively unlimited, that Suadi will continue to supply all our energy needs, and that we don't need to bother about conservation - even the lax standards for insulation prior to 2005 were rarely enforced, the responsible officials deeming them unimportant.

I would take issue with you in your statement:

"people have been misled into thinking that this alone, or maybe in conjunction with solar PV panels, will solve Britain's energy problem."

Well, not in the short term. Of course, neither can nuclear.

These are radically different issues, we would need only modest technical advances to power most of society with nuclear.
For solar PV, whatever may be the case in sunnier climes, the low winter solar incidence in Britain means that we have to make the most fantastic assumptions of cost reduction for it to contribute significantly, and in my view this is a prime case of the public being misled by a wholly unrealistic prospectus, and in fact illustrates perfectly my contention that the over-hyping of renewables has abetted the way in which we have taken our eye off of the real choices in favour of what is, for the foreseeable future, a fantasy.

"Cost decrease for nuclear power are actually likely to be far greater, with one innovation alone, annular fuel"

AFAIK, annular fuel is intriguing, but still in the research stage, and isn't attracting that much investment, much to the frustration of other nuclear enthusiasts with whom I've discussed it. I think it's roughly on the same level as kite wind generators, floating/tension leg off-shore wind platforms, and quantum dot PV efficiency of 60%, all of which are promising but unproven.

"I think that we are fundamentally on the same page"

Yes. Actually, I discuss this with you, where I wouldn't bother with some people, because you're open to new ideas & information.

"These are radically different issues, we would need only modest technical advances to power most of society with nuclear."

But not in the short term. That was my emphasis.

In the long-term, there's very little question that solar is falling dramatically in cost (though prices will take much longer to fall, given the disparity between demand and production) - this is quite realistic. Already, it's very close to grid-parity with peak, retail pricing in sunny places. As it reaches this point in more places there will be a virtuous cycle which will dramatically increase demand and production volumes, and further reduce prices through economies of scale.

Again, wind is better in winter, and provides a nice synergy with solar.

I see wind, solar and nuclear all growing (wind & solar growing much, much faster, roughly doubling every 2 years for solar and 3 years for wind), and working well together.

I like solar PV a lot, in sunny places, it is when they keep insisting on sticking it where the sun don't shine that I loose patience - for as far ahead as we can see in Northern Europe all it will do is cost a fortune and cause problems for the grid, when they have to make up for it's being hopeless in mid-winter.

AFAIK though you are too optimistic on solar and wind costs, and present expansion is largely subsidy driven - but I do not rule out cost reductions, just the costs apart form on-shore wind are still pretty horrid.

Looks like you are right on annular fuel, as I have now had a chance to check a bit further, at least in the US - I would imagine that if the French or Japanese pick it up they will be considerably more dynamic.

"present expansion is largely subsidy driven"

Wind subsidies in the US are quite small: the 1.8 cent PTC is worth about 1 cent per KWH, after you factor in the 10 year restriction, and the conversion from tax credits to cash (which requires quite a lot of work for non-profits). Wind is now often competitive with natural gas.

There's no question that solar electrical generation is non-competitive with FF currently. Prices have stayed high due to an excess of demand, but costs are falling quickly (which means profits are skyrocketing). Take a look at Nanosolar and First Solar, both of which report plummeting costs. Here's a couple of decent articles:

You have a better wind resource in the States than in most places in the UK.

The spend on subsidies is really quite shocking here:

According to new industry figures, a typical 2 megawatt (2MW) turbine can now generate power worth £200,000 on the wholesale markets - plus another £300,000 of subsidy from taxpayers.

No wonder a lot of people here get a sinking feeling in the wallet when they here the word 'renewables!'

I am not too familiar with First Solar, but found this commentary by SW on Nanosolar who pretty apparently has expert knowledge persuasive:

The NanoSolar "news" is pure PT Barnum. They can't make this stuff by the method they claim in any commercially viable quantities at this time. That is not to say that the approach will never work, but that the press release upon which all the reports were based is highly misleading creating the impression that they are much further along than they really are. This kind of hype ultimately does a disservice to a promising technological pathway. It will be many years before this promise if fullfilled. And believe me, 19.5% is not in the cards for this deposition technique.

In reality, whilst I am not familiar with the US wind market In have found every claim and costing I have looked at in detail on renewables either grossly exaggerated or wildly misleading, or simply fantastically uneconomic - we would have solar thermal plants springing up by the dozen already if that were not so.

I hope that changes and that we move on to have reasonably economic renewables, but it is just that, a hope, not technology we can confidently deploy in great quantity at the present.

Well, I think you should look more closely at First Solar. They're publicly traded, and their production, cost, revenue and profit claims are verifiable. Nanosolar is plausible (they're very well funded by knowledgeable investors), but fairly secretive (which is not unusual for a company in their position), which makes them hard to evaluate. That's why I included First Solar.

I saw that post on TOD about Nanosolar. It sounds plausible, and I have to admit I haven't learned enough about CIGS to evaluate it. I would note that it's anonymous (both the TOD and the poster's blog are as well), and even if authentic it's admittedly posted by a competitor.

The Time article is interesting, but it's clearly written by an uneducated reporter ("a load factor of just 7%, meaning it produces a fourteenth of the power it was designed for" is just incorrect), and has relied heavily on wind critics for info. I wouldn't be surprised if UK wind is heavily subsidised, though. It would be interesting to see an updated, thorough comparison of total lifecycle costs.

I've reviewed some of the apparently authoritative UK wind studies, and found them to be surprisingly flawed (old data, incorrect analyses).

No one suggests that CSP or PV are competitively priced yet, on pure market price. You have to look at cost trends, and external costs (CO2, sulfur, other risks, etc) to realize how attractive they are.

Again, take a closer look at First Solar.

The Times article referenced official figures, and although I have not checked back to that I have seen the same figures elsewhere, and believe them to be about right - a quick google would get you to the sources if you have serious doubts.

As regards 'projected' renewables costs, well, give me the right assumptions and I will project anything - you will find they tend to go remarkably silent when asked what they can do today.

As regards Nanosolar, I refer you to your own excellent advice which you gave me when you did not quite like my selection of references for wind power - be very careful of what you give credence to, and don't believe every press release you read" :-)

I'll hang fire on First Solar, and just prepare to be stunned if they turn out modules at $1 watt

"As regards Nanosolar...don't believe every press release you read""

I don't. I do look at the quality of investors, though, and Nanosolar's are very good. Please note, that those comments on TOD were entirely speculative - the commenter admitted to not actually knowing anything specific except that his company was having difficulty doing the same thing.

I've been following solar for quite a while (ever since I read the first LTG in 1979). CIGS thin film has always been difficult to manufacture, and it's taken years to mature, but there are no fundamental barriers, and it appears that it has finally arrived.

I still have an article from Scientific American from 1981 which projected out PV costs for 30 years: it was remarkably accurate. That downward cost curve continues, and is accelerating.

"I'll hang fire on First Solar, and just prepare to be stunned if they turn out modules at $1 watt"

Well, they say that they're very, very close, and they are a publicly traded, verifiable company:

"During the fourth quarter of 2007 we benefited from the full capacity and economies of scale of our Frankfurt/Oder plant. This combined with continued throughput and conversion efficiency gains afforded us strong operating leverage and decreased our manufacturing cost per watt by 12% year over year to $1.12 per watt in the fourth quarter of 2007, further solidifying our cost leadership position in the industry"

If installation and Balance of System (panel enclosure, inverter, wiring, grid connection) can be reduced to $1.38/watt (and that's perfectly reasonable on new construction residential rooftops, or a industrial/commercial retrofit installation), then that's 14 cents per KWH, more than competitive with peak retail costs in most places, and average costs in many places.

Now, please note that First Solar isn't going to sell it's product for $1.12 any time soon, not when people are willing to pay much more. But, that will change, as competitors ramp up, and First Solar reduces it's costs further.

No-one could be more pleased than I if solar pans out soon - it would pretty well haul our chestnuts out of the fire on peak oil - if people can see an alternative they can develop then they are less likely to go to war, instead they are likely to gear up to get it going.

I must admit I am a little concerned about these rare earth cells though, as I don't know how much they use compared to the resource base.

My own favourite is amorphous silicon, it might not be quite as efficient per square meter but the material is inexhaustible, much less fussy than crystalline silicon and better in cloudy weather.

Should be cheap, too.

"No-one could be more pleased than I if solar pans out soon - it would pretty well haul our chestnuts out of the fire on peak oil"

Yeah. Now we just have to ramp it up...

"I must admit I am a little concerned about these rare earth cells though, as I don't know how much they use compared to the resource base."

They don't use much - the layers are very thin, just a few microns.

It's a real horse-race between various forms of PV. Sharp maintains that they'll be able to reduce silicon PV costs as quickly as CIGS, which is quite a statement. Sharp (a large, reputable company which has a lot of businesses besides PV) also predicts utility parity in just a few years, and the CEO of Sharp has said that "by 2030 oil will be out".

I know the layers are thin, Nick, but there ain't a lot of these rare earths around, and no-one is telling us how much these things use exactly so we can get a handle on it.

This guy predicts a silicon surplus, and remarks that there is not another Germany, and the market is still reliant on subsidy.

I think Japan may make a move actually, to go for even wider spread adoption.
Contradictions in the Solar Market - Seeking Alpha

Thin-film amorphous silicon requires very little material, and Evergreen Solar's cells can be continuous-cast at about 100 microns thickness.  We're not going to run out of material for PV.

EP, I hope you don't think I was worried about running out of silicon!

It was cadmium, tellurium, indium and gallium that I was concerned with.

These layers are very thin (just a few microns, or millionths of an inch), so the amount per watt of capacity is a few milligrams. That makes the material cost less than 1 thousandth of the manufacturing cost.

Nick, in general I am not fan of Limits to Growth type analysis, as if you have energy in good supply and cheap you can get most materials, and both solar and uranium power mean that we should not really be short of that, although there could be problems transitioning.

I make exceptions though in two cases, for fossil fuels and rare earths and metals.

We both accept the case for FF so I won't argue it, but it seems to me that there are at least some grounds for concern on rare earths too.

Perhaps the most restricted is tellurium, which First Solar uses:

With an abundance in the Earth's crust even lower than platinum, tellurium is, apart from the precious metals, the rarest stable solid element in the earth's crust. Its abundance by mass is less than 0.001 ppm, compare with 0.037 ppm for platinum. By comparison, even the rarest of the lanthanides have crustal abundances of 0.5 ppm.


Since it is used in Blu-Ray discs as well as solar panels, then in the event of a massive expansion of solar power it seems that there might be difficulties.

This is not a show-stopper, as you can use other materials in solar panels than tellurium, but is perhaps worth noting.

I think Lovelock made some good points on the issue of using wind, the energy density, the amount of land required, Britain is after all a small place. I think the load shed event recently in Texas shows a lot of the issues with wind power. Wind must be a small part of a larger energy solution. We need to roll it out as much as possible, but be realistic about its limitations.

Wind must be a small part of a larger energy solution.

nonsense, don't overreact to one small incident.

"I think Lovelock made some good points"

Again, that's what he says, but the aesthetic objection is primary. He's quite vehement about the monstrous injury he feels they perpetrate on the countryside, and the arguments about effectiveness is vague, non-quantitative rationalization.

2nd, his points aren't good. Wind requires very little land for the actual turbine - it's the "viewshed" that takes land, and again, that's aesthetic.

"Wind must be a small part of a larger energy solution. "

Certainly we need everything - wind, solar, nuclear, whatever we can ramp up.

A lot of small solutions, plus two big ones: conservation and nuclear.

We are also likely to have to learn to live with variable power supply.

Access roads in remote areas can cause more environmental problems than the windmills themselves, Nick.

Unsurprisingly bird migration routes also go to the places where winds are strongest and it is best to site wind turbines.

"Access roads in remote areas can cause more environmental problems than the windmills themselves, Nick."

Do you have any documentation of this?? This appears truly trivial compared to the environmental disaster due to CO2 emissions.

"Unsurprisingly bird migration routes also go to the places where winds are strongest and it is best to site wind turbines."

That's partially true, but bird kill is a trivial problem for wind. You should avoid flakey anti-wind websites - they'll exaggerate such things, and make you crazy.

Hmmm, you seem to have convinced yourself that I am totally opposed to wind turbines, which is not the case.

Concerns for the environmental impact of windmills are widespread, and not confined to fringe blogs, as you seek to suggest.

The information on possible concerns about windmills tracking favoured bird migration routes comes from California, and refers I believe to the Great Heron.

I did not in any case represent this as a show-stopper, but it does seem to be a valid concern, and I find your dismissal of all environmental concerns as Nimbyism over-drawn, and in any case it is very right that people should be concerned by impacts on their own lives, and it is incorrect to imply that they should instead automatically bow to some assumed 'greater good'

Particularly when that good is maybe not so good after all.

And even more so when there are other solutions possible - why should they not prefer the alternative, if they so choose?

The contribution of on-shore wind in the UK will be ultimately trivial, as there are not enough suitable sites, and off-shore is horrendously expensive.

Wind power should help a lot in some areas of China, India, and perhaps the US if costs can be controlled, but certainly in the UK unless costs of off-shore decreases vastly, which hardly seems likely at least for wind turbines, will be basically irrelevant to CO2 reduction in any substantial sense.

" you seem to have convinced yourself that I am totally opposed to wind turbines,"

Not at all.

"Concerns for the environmental impact of windmills are widespread, and not confined to fringe blogs, as you seek to suggest."

Not really. Look at the views of any of the major environmental organizations: Sierra Club, Greenpeace, NRDC, they're all strongly pro-wind, and dismiss environmental concerns as overwrought, though they reserve the right to object to very selected sites. In particular, bird advocacy organizations such as Audobon Society are also strongly pro-wind.

" possible concerns about windmills tracking favoured bird migration routes comes from California, and refers I believe to the Great Heron."

Sure. There's one wind farm in the whole world with serious bird problems: Altamont, in California. It kills a lot of raptors.

"it is incorrect to imply that they should instead automatically bow to some assumed 'greater good'"

Shouldn't Lovelock, with his projections of total disaster, be willing to sacrifice a bit of his view?? Isn't that the heart and soul of hypocrisy?

" certainly in the UK unless costs of off-shore decreases vastly, which hardly seems likely at least for wind turbines, will be basically irrelevant to CO2 reduction in any substantial sense.

Well, that's simply a choice to be made. Are UK voters willing to pay more for off-shore wind? They can if they want to. They really don't seem to be eager for nuclear - nuclear seems to be moving very slowly in the UK. Perhaps they'll reject the low-cost choices (on-shore wind and nuclear) for emotional reasons, and go for the expensive option. It seems to be going that way.

Personally, I think we need all forms of low-CO2 power, and that nuclear is far too slow to be our sole and primary strategy. Do you agree that we're in a CO2 emergency? And that the UK will be in serious straits in 5 years in terms of natural gas electrical generation?

I tend to go along with the IPCC scenarios since I am no expert, and so CO2 emissions really impact if we don't get a grip in the later years of the century, so that what we need are long term strategies, although that should not be allowed to degenerate into standstill.

So I would treat the CO2 problem as serious, and try to make plans to greatly reduce it over the next 30 years or so, which would fit in very well with conservation and a nuclear build, and also try to come up with ways such as agrichar to reduce the emissions already in the atmosphere.

I agree that the UK has a totally messed up energy policy, and an energy supply gap is likely.

As for UK voters stance on nuclear power, the precise wording often determines the answers that are given, and a majority of UK people are usually found to favour nuclear power being part of the energy mix under most question wordings.

As for whether they would rather pay more for wind power from off-shore and so on, they have pretty much been sold a pup with misinformation the norm.

This runs right up from the basic level with nameplate capacity of wind turbines being almost invariably confused with actual output in newspaper and television pieces through to them having wrongly been given the impression that at our latitude solar PV is likely to do much for our power needs.

In reality of course a very expensive 5kw system produces about 150watts average hourly energy flow in winter, and just means that when it is most needed you have to do something else, likely burn fossil fuel.

At our latitude expensive fuel means deaths from hypothermia, and if we do get ourselves into some vastly expensive off-shore build, not only is it not likely to be ever completed, but wasting that amount of money will certainly hit the population very hard.

The propoganda campaign against nuclear energy has also been relentless, but I doubt that it will retain much force after the first power cuts, and it would seem to me a mistake to imagine that at that time we would be rich enough in real terms to go for very expensive options if we happen to fancy them - living standards and resources will take a huge hit.

I possibly agree with you, that energy policy is in such a mess and gaps in supply are so likely that on-shore wind may be needed, so I am not religiously opposed, but people should not kid themselves that this is more than a stop-gap, and fantasies of running the country on renewables are just that.

The situation may be different in the States, with much greater relatively cheap on-shore wind resources and much more likelihood of high inflation in the next few years, which would make a nuclear build difficult.

There's one wind farm in the whole world with serious bird problems: Altamont, in California. It kills a lot of raptors.

I've driven through the Altamont wind farm, and detoured to view another one nearby.  Those turbines are ancient; they are very small, high speed, and perched on lattice towers.  Some of them have Dutch-style pinwheels on the back to keep them turned upwind!

Those entire farms are long overdue for replacement with modern turbines in the 100-meter, 2-3 megawatt class on pylon towers.  The elimination of perches next to rapidly-turning wheels would slash the threat to raptors, as would the greatly increased spacing and height above ground.

"Those entire farms are long overdue for replacement "

No question. Modern turbines are high enough & slow enough to allow almost all birds to avoid them.

OTOH, there's no question that Altamont is right in the path of these raptors, and that it's currently a real problem. New turbines would be very likely to greatly reduce the problem, but the status of investment/replacement in Altamont is paralyzed by uncertainty about how completely it would work, and whether reduction (but not elimination) of the problem would satisfy bird advocates, who I think have lost trust in Altamont's operator.

In any case, it's an isolated problem, and entities such as Audobon agree.

"I think the load shed event recently in Texas shows a lot of the issues with wind power."

And chernobyl shows the limitations of nuclear and mercury poisoning shows the limitations of coal etc.

There's nothing whatsoever wrong with intermittent power.
The problem is we have built our infrastructure and economy round the expectation of continuous power without backup.

The solution to intermittent power is distributed generation and backup. It's that simple.

The texas "incident" is EXACTLY the right way to handle brownouts. The second tier customers get dropped. They signed a contract stating that was ACCEPTABLE.

Here's an idea:
The same deal for ALL households, with necessary loads like refrigerators put on UPS backup systems.

The whining about wind is just that, whining.

We need every source of power we can get: Wind, Solar, Solar Thermal, Wave, Geothermal, Hydro, Nuke and Coal.
The worst idea right now is building Nat Gas fired plants since it's obvious that prices of fuel (and correspondingly the electricity generated at the consumer side) will shoot to the moon.

Ultimately we will have to rely on everything but Nuke and Coal which will have run out in our children's lifetime, so we either wring our hands and don sackcloths or we roll up our sleeves and figure out how to make what we will have work.

Can we get to work instead of whining?

Hi Dan,

I'll just add that in return for their willingness to drop load, customers who opt for interruptible service get a pretty sweet deal and in some cases have a buy-through option whereby they can continue to purchase all the power they need but at a higher rate.

Residential load control for air conditioners, water heaters, pool pumps, even electric dryers can be completely transparent to the user and would have little or no impact on the quality of service; we should have been making better use of this technology years ago. There's a lot more we can do. Studies have shown that office and commercial lighting can be dimmed ten to fifteen per cent over the span of five to ten minutes without detection and that most employees are willing to have it dimmed much further during times of critical need; with the advent of dimmable, digital addressable electronic ballasts (DALI) the potential demand savings are truly enormous and, again, the impact on users is minimal.

We really need to throw conventional thinking on its ass and look at this problem from a completely different angle. Instead of a rigid system that only responds to demand, we need one that can just as easily adapt to changes in supply. If we can move further in that direction we can easily add a lot more wind to the mix and our power systems will become a lot more resilient.


Don't forget the DSM potential of a large EV/PHEV fleet.  I calculated a while back that the US vehicle fleet would require on the order of 180 GW average, compared to ~450 GW average generation; if this much demand could be advanced or deferred on a time scale of hours, the possibilities overwhelm most of the other ones on the table.

Hi E-P,

Commercial thermal storage is another possible solution. This allowed Credit Suisse to reduce peak demand at its New York headquarters by 900 kW and to lower its electrical consumption by over 2 million kWh (its chillers operate more efficiently at cooler night time temperatures).


Upgrade the lighting and cooling systems in the tens of millions of square feet of commercial and office space and you could power just about every vehicle in North America.

One more example: When I worked for the Ontario Ministry of Energy our offices occupied floors 8 through 12 of the Suncor Building (56 Wellesley St. West). The building was built in 1972 and the original lighting system consisted of a two-tube 1 x 4 ft. F40T12 fluorescent fixture every 25 square feet. With a conventional magnetic core ballast power consumption came to slightly less than 4 watts per square foot, fairly typical for an office building of its day.

In the late 1980s the lighting system was upgraded to F32T8 and electronic ballasts. The existing fixtures were reused, but instead of two tubes they installed just one, fitted with a high performance reflector. The fixture casing and lenses were washed to remove years of dirt built-up and grime (remember, back in those years people actually smoked at their desks) and a single ballast drove two fixtures in a master/slave arrangement. Power consumption dropped to less than 1.2 watts per sq. ft., for a 70 per cent savings. There was no noticeable drop in light levels; these T-8 fluorescents and electronic ballasts produce roughly 40 per cent more light per watt (a combination of better phosphors, more efficient ballast design and high frequency operation) and simply cleaning the fixtures (dirt absorbs light) and installing a reflector (improved optics so less light is trapped inside the fixture) did the rest. In addition to the demand savings -- about 630 kW as I recall -- the load on the a/c system was cut substantially, saving even more money.

The really big savings? As mentioned, this building is nearly 40 years old and the building transformer and a/c system were sized to accommodate typical office loads of that day (e.g., some desk lamps, a couple pencil sharpeners and a few Selectrics). By the mid-80s every desk had a power hungry PC, plus there were now dozens of servers, photocopiers and laser printers on every floor. With plug loads and corresponding heat loads growing almost daily, the buildings owners were faced with two very expensive and disruptive upgrades: installing a larger main transformer and adding additional cooling capacity. This lighting upgrade greatly reduced the stress on both systems and the building owners were able to defer these costly upgrades for several more years.


Energy density? I remember seeing a map of the available energy density of wind (in W/m^2) showing many places where it was higher than the best places for solar energy.

one of the main reasons (per Revenge of Gaia) he found wind energy impractical is its intermittency and the lack of a practical way to store the energy harnessed. it makes one wondering if he knows about NH3 as a practical energy carrier.

one the other hand, if all the energy consumed by the world now is tapped from the wind. could there be another unintended consequence as altered weather pattern?

if there is such a concern, then solar energy gathered in desert and stored in Si may be a better choice.

Just curious: what %age of electric input can be retrieved (as electricity) when storing energy as NH3? (note that this has nothing to do with hideously inefficient ICE power, whose days we know to be limited)

the efficiency of solid state ammonia synthesis is ~80%. the efficiency of ammonia fuel cell is somewhere in between 50-80%. so overall about 50%.

Sorry, I'm still skeptical. The efficiency of hydrogen production alone (not petrochemical hydrogen) being quoted at 50-70%, I'd think it difficult to recover that much.

How does "solid state synthesis" differ from the Haber process?

Type ----goes out/goes in

pumped hydro ----80-90%
pumped gas ----70-80%
batteries ----70-80%
ammonia ----60-70%

Probably at least a half-dozen other ways to store wind power.

I think the argument that Lovelock puts forth is that wind technology won't keep the current system running the same way is it does with fossil fuels, that is, wind won't support a growth economic system.

Well, 1) that's not his argument. His main argument is that wind turbines are ugly - I kid you not, read his writings - the rest is his criticisms of wind are window dressing. 2) why wouldn't wind help support a growth system?? It has high E-ROI, and there's plenty of it, and 3) no one's seriously suggesting that wind alone is an optimal solution, just as nuclear alone isn't an optimal solution - we need diversity of power supply.

And nuclear cooling towers are pretty?

Almost all electricity generation is ugly. So what?

He reminds me - here Down Under we've a few suburbs by the sea. The beach sand was being taken away by the sea, so the council planted trees in the dunes to hold the sand and soil in for longer.

Some of the people owning beachfront property got upset at the trees obscuring their view of the beach, so they ringbarked the trees, or drilled into them and chucked some Roundup in.

They could have had a nice beach forever which they had to walk to, or they could have a nice beach for a few years which they could see out their windows. Being stupid yuppies, they chose the short term. Doubtless when the beach washes away in a few years they'll be the first up at the council meetings saying, "government should do something!"

Lovelock can take his nuclear and... well, live next door to it. What do I want in my backyard? Not him, for starters.

Wind towers are ugly to a people with refined sensibilities as are often found in Europe. But here in North Iowa, the towers are located out in rural areas with low population density for the most part. The local inhabitants wouldn't know ugly, or beauty for that matter, if it hit them on the head. What they know is money. It can make ugly look beautiful, after all beauty (or ugly) is in the eye of the beholder and not an objective characteristic subject to scientific inquiry. North Iowans will take all those ugly wind towers you want to put up and love it.

Again, I can understand that people will find wind turbines ugly.

But do they find nuclear cooling towers, or coal chimneys beautiful? I don't believe that.

Let's face it: We're not really talking about aesthetics, we're talking about NIMBYism. And I say, people should have the right to decide what power stations are in their area. Of course if they say, "but everything is ugly! We'll have nothing!" then I'd say, "fine, so you'll have no electricity, then."

The things have to be in someone's backyard. So, which would you rather look at? Or would you rather be without power entirely? That's the choice I'd offer people.

It's amazing what people get used to.

Michelin Tyre Factory, Dundee

We're delighted to announce that the UK's largest corporate wind energy project is now complete at Michelin's Dundee tyre plant. The two 2MW turbines were assembled and commissioned in May 2006 after formal approval was given by the city council in September 2005.

Ecotricity are more than happy to help Michelin reduce their environmental impact, and are thrilled that an everyday product such as Michelin tyres are now produced using clean energy.

The 4MW project will generate around 8 million Kwh of clean electricity every year. The ambitious partnership scheme between green energy pioneers Ecotricity and Michelin will cover around a third of the energy needs of the huge factory.

The electricity generated from the two turbines will also go into the local grid to supply hundreds of local homes in the area.

That is where the power should be produced - near where it is consumed - that applies to all kinds of power generation. Telling people who live in windy places that they have got to have windmills so the people who live in cities can have power isn't fair.

If nuclear is as safe as is stated, then there is no problem with having it in the middle of cities and using the waste heat to warm buildings.

Let the end users decide how they want their power produced and make them live with it's risks, pollution, costs, consequences and implications.

A windfarm supplying electricity to make tyres for cars which burn oil and increase emissions. Maybe that is why Lovelock doesn't put much hope in renewables. They are being misused to continue business as usual

4MW. Thats the trouble with wind. 250 of that would make a coal fired power station. 375 of them would make a nuclear power station. To supply a major proportion of the countries power will take an aweful lot of wind turbines.

That could very well turn out to be an advantage. Finding 3 billion dollars for a nuke and waiting 6 years for any product may look much less attractive than doing smaller chunks and waiting only 2 years. At least the way the economy is looking.

Ever visited a coal or uranium mine?

They take up a lot of space.

That's nameplate capacity.

For the equivalent actual output you have to multiply the number of wind turbines by at least 3.

Wind power tends to be sold on a false prospectus, with the public not having their attention drawn to how little power you actually get from the things, by continually talking about nameplate figures.

"Wind power tends to be sold on a false prospectus, with the public not having their attention drawn to how little power you actually get from the things, by continually talking about nameplate figures."

There's a bit of truth to this, but the public doesn't really have an intuitive feeling for the magnitude of power plant capacities, anyway. Anybody experienced in the field knows the difference. This difference gets a lot of attention from nuclear advocates, but is really unimportant - sensible people just focus on average output from each.

Sort of like gas turbine plants, come to think of it. They list as 100 megawatts or whatever, but they only operate a few hours every day as peaking power plants.

There is a great deal more than a bit of truth in it.

In order to give the public a feel for the magnitude, the media will use comparisons, usually how many homes an installation will run, and they quite consistently pick the nameplate figure, so a 3MW turbine is said to be 'enough power to run 3,000 homes'.

This amounts to misrepresentation, and is I feel not only the result of the ignorance of the journalists, although that is often impressive, but in many cases a deliberate attempt to mislead by people who wish to hype renewables.

As for the other point on many gas plants being used only for peak power but being referred to by their nameplate capacity, I have rarely seen them spoken of in terms of how many houses they would supply, and gas plants have been relatively uncontroversial.

There is also a world of difference between switching off a plant because you don't need the output at that time and the plant not working due to low wind.

Well, you've got a point, but really, does the average reader come away with an informed, intuitive feeling? Would their impression be any different if the reporter had said 1,000 homes?

I don't think public policy is affected by such things.

I've seen a lot of silly reports in the US about isolated objections to windfarms (while most windfarms are welcomed). My sense is that the media exaggerates that, and creates a net negative perception.

Look at the Texas thing: the media reported it as a serious problem, when utility demand management worked exactly as planned, and customers who had signed up for interruptible service were indeed interrupted temporarily.

Driving through Wyoming, I pulled over so I could get a better look at the wind towers and take pictures. Don't think I would have been pulling over to see smoke stacks. Avoiding coal fired pollution is beautiful. But beyond that, I think wind turbines are beautiful. Or, should we send this message to future generations: "Sorry, we were thinking of doing something about global warming but the alternatives were just too damn ugly."

As far as wind towers on the ridges surrounding my home? Bring 'em on.

This has to be one of the dumbest statements to be posted on TOD in recent memory.

The British countryside is World famous for it's beauty. To have it covered in wind turbines is a massive loss. If they are to be built they should be put out at sea, where it's windier anyway.

The British countryside is almost completely artificial - the end result of centuries long raping of the natural environment. What was originally nearly all forest, where bears, wolves and wild boar used to roam, has been chopped down and replaced with monoculture farm land. All but the high peaks have been denuded for grazing animals. Apart from a tiny few pockets of original forests everything else has gone. The British landscape is quite unnatural.

Now, some may regard the artificial landscape as beautiful. It then seems quite hypocritical to object to wind turbines. People who object to wind turbines as being unacceptable artificial intrusions into the landscape remind me of the utter stupidity of humans. God knows why people look up to Lovelock, he is a mad old fool.

Well before Stonehenge and the Megalith builders were here, the brits started to slash and burn. You could say that the forests and swamps of post ice-age britain and doggerland were somewhat ephemeral and the impact of man is in fact a more natural state over the last 8k.

Is it beautiful? I think so, unatural or not. I grew up surrounded by 'satanic mills'- a bus ride away from the Yorkshire Dales and would never miss a chance to get out.

I would not mind wind mills if they were effective. Where I now live I can see the Wind Farm Arrays of Morayshire and a small cluster not 3 miles away. They are always in use, but then North East Scotland is an ideal site and do not harm the general amenity of the landscape to all users. Here, they work.

The photo up top of wind turbines so close to where people live in an urban environment is frankly ghastly. But looking at the houses suggests that they are not middle class and thereby not capable of organising or militating against the emplacement of such beasts in their midst.

Whichever way you shake a stick at it, power generation is industry and large and generally pretty ugly.

The objections from the 'greens' are pretty stale now. They object to just about everything. (Including wind when it impacts on their own constituents)

So why not do ugly and reliable? (Nukes)

Rather than ugly and unreliable? (Wind)

Lovelock is one of the few (IMO) that still makes sense. Regarding energy and what it will take he seems less than a mad old fool and more of a supreme rationalist. Facing the final sunsets of his life, he has no axe to grind and time to think. It is ironic that the father of the Gaia Hypothesis should become the devil of the greens.

But that says more about the greens than it says of Lovelock...

Sure, where wind works, then ok. Same for solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, wave, whatever.

Moray and Aberdeenshire have good prospects, but thousands of turbines in the Central Belt of Scotland (where most of the population and commerce are) or in the Manchester - Leeds conurbation , or the West Midlands, or the Home counties is frankly stupid, unreliable and ugly.

A few nukes would resolve the issue. Where mini-power projects cannot reliably work, nukes would help to keep the lights on.

And yes, the best place for wind is offshore. But tide is reliable.

Anyway, we will need anything and everything we can get.

Shame we are running out of actual money, water, grains and hydrocarbons.

These perpetual pro-anti arguments do nothing other than kick the required action way into the long grass.

Some , I suspect, rather like it that way.

May be old Lovelock is right:
As the song goes:
Enjoy yaself - it later dan you tink.

Strange argument. It's not beautiful, it's artifical;you only think it's beautiful. Might as well pave it over. To describle it as centuries of rape is demented. People need to eat. For food you need farms, unless the population lives on Wild Boar, a la Asterix the Gaul and chums. That means cutting down trees. Get used to it. The turbines would be much better of at sea where there is a lot more wind. Better still build a few nuclear power stations.

Sometimes an artifice can be beautiful. The Humber Bridge is an artifice. IMO it is beautiful. So too can be a landscape. It may be a 'natural' landscape , though there is no man living on a populated continent who can see a 'natural environment' with their own eyes.

Fact is, Man , a natural phenomena, changes landscapes the minute he enters a landscape. Ipso facto, 'natural' landscapes only exist in the absence of man. And, if we are not present - how would we know if they are natural or artifact?

Shades of Schroedinger here.

But this is not the point.

For over two years, this site has gone over pro and anti this or that method of energy generation. To an absurd degree. Nothing has been agreed or settled (with the possible exception of using human food for car food). - And even that is not killed off yet.

And the result?

A few windmills.

No new nukes.

Vague ideas regarding the Severn Barrage, wind, solar, geothermal , clean coal, whatever.

Ever worked in a big Company?

How do you channel misfits? or the awkward squad?

Lock 'em off in a room and let them talk themselves to death. Or give them toys and bits. Maybe they die, fracture, argue or come up with a commercial product.

Who knows these things? - So long as they dont upset everyone else.

Lovelock is cool: Enjoy yourself - its later than you think...

Good post, only I wouldn't say this board has settled on no new nukes. We have a strong pro nuclear element on the board. Lovelock is right. The US and others may have room for hundreds of square miles of windmills but do we?

The Specials are cool too: Enjoy Yourself - - its later than you think...

Better to level mountain tops in places like West Virginia. Ask them how beautiful their countryside is now.

I think when the brownouts / blackouts start hitting our neighbourhoods, all of a sudden a turbine will look pretty attractive...

In the last interview I read Lovelock stated that he and his wife fly as much as they ever did. He is one of those people who refuse to do anything to curb their own energy use and ridicule those who do because, "It's too late. We're screwed. And besides, if everybody doesn't do it, it won't make any difference."

He may have been a brilliant guy but now he's just senile and/or depraved.

It is rational:

If I dont fly, someone else will take my seat on the plane anyway.

So too is:

If my country pauperises itself with carbon taxes and reduced productivity in this current paradigm of growth, someone else will do it anyway, and at my expense the fossil carbon pulse will still occur.

This is a no - brainer.

If you are rich and if you wish to live then:

1. Stop immigration: You already have enough mouths to feed on your lifeboat, so why accept more? - Especially ones that want to cut your throat in the night?
2. Make sure you can grow your own food and secure your own water
3. Get nukes - you need power - and you know it makes sense.
4. Rationalise transport so that it is not ICE dependant.
5. Make sure your people are skilled and educated: You will need the whole spectrum from Garbage Men to Cobblers, to IC Nurses to Nuclear Engineers.
6. Assume someone will want to take it off you: Carry a big stick, or stay friends with someone with a big stick.

Lovelock has gone on record saying that everyone will want to pile into lifeboat UK when it all goes pear-shaped.

Coded message? or what?

Good quotes from Buffet in the Video. I'm glad to know he sees the fundamentals of the situation. A growing population's oil demands and a declining resource base are at the heart of the challenges that lay in our energy future.

Its also clear from the Video he is not counting on a silver bullet to fix the problem. He knows wind is a good investment, but a relatively small play on the scale at which this problem needs to be dealt with.

We are going to need a great number of small solutions working together to address an issue of this magnitude. My bets on are on Solar, Wind, Hydro, and Outdoor Algae.

Two of the grand old men of capitalism have now weighed in on Peak Oil -- T. Boone Pickens and Warren Buffett. Pretty soon this stuff is going to hit the general consciousness. If people don't flip out and panic, leading to stupidity, that's a good thing, right?

"We are going to need a great number of small solutions working together to address an issue of this magnitude. My bets on are on Solar, Wind, Hydro, and Outdoor Algae."

That's just the kind of thinking that Lovelock would hate.

There is no outdoor algae method of any commercially practical value now.

Hydroelectric certainly works, we've been doing it for 100 years at least. But there aren't any more big rivers to dam.

And now solar and wind are hardly immature technologies, and yet the power output per invested capital is still very small. The reason for this is laws of physics which can't be argued around.

His point is that if you run the numbers you can't exclude nuclear for the immense bulk of replacement for what we're going to lose.

Why? It's 50 year old technology and we know how to make lots of power from it.

"His point is that if you run the numbers you can't exclude nuclear for the immense bulk of replacement for what we're going to lose."


I've run the numbers, and I excluded nuclear, and it turns out okay.

Turns out, the problem isn't the particular mix of energy or its intermittency - that's what we have an electrical grid for - the real problem is that it'll be very difficult to build enough electrical generation capacity before the fossil fuel crunch comes.

We'd have to have a massive buildout to avoid having less energy per person for a few decades this century. Otherwise while we're building all these renewables, the fossil fuel crunch comes, and it's a few decades before the renewables can make up for it.

Whether we use nuclear or not doesn't make a lot of difference to the overall picture. Basically there's just a limit on how quickly you can build things and put them in place.

Our best hope in the next couple of decades, then, is to max out the renewables building while conserving the fossil fuels like mad, to buy us time and minimise the time in the poo.

I wrote about this once I looked at the time needed to construct bridges since the 1800's and basically we are about twice as fast now as then. So time for large projects has not increased near as much as other aspects of modern life. The obvious reason is humans are probably the limiting factor.

However converting to assembly line methods could increase this quite a bit but I don't think you will see this until it become a must. And deployment issues are still a bottleneck.

Its pretty interesting when you start looking it seems we are now the bottle neck in a lot of tasks not technology.

"I wrote about this once -"

If you could link us, I'd be interested to see that.

However converting to assembly line methods could increase this quite a bit....

Exactly, we could retool car plants - no longer needed after peak oil - into factories mass producing generators for wind farms, for example. We have to become energy productive, not consumptive.

We'd have to have a massive buildout to avoid having less energy per person for a few decades this century.

I don't think energy per se matters as long as we can maintain most of our living standards.  If we can substitute insulation for heating fuel and so forth, we may be able to stay ahead of the problem.

Basically there's just a limit on how quickly you can build things and put them in place.

Consider for a moment that offshore wind turbines on the Great Lakes could be built at a port and floated to any desired location with relative ease.

The USA installed about 5.2 GW of wind capacity in 2007.  I calculated that this probably produced enough energy to supply about 37% of US light vehicle production if it had been PHEV.  We really don't have to go too much faster than we already are; 3-5x might do it.  At 25 GW/yr over 20 years we'd have 500 GW of capacity and roughly 150 GW of average generation.  Figure a doubling of nuclear to 180 GW and a huge increase in cogeneration (both domestic/commercial and industrial) and the future starts looking much better.  For more on the possibilities of industrial cogeneration, see this Skeptical Inquirer article on Primary Energy (which enterprise appears to have been reorganized since then).

I think your figures are a bit off.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that PHEVs are 3x as efficient as non-PHEVs. That means that a 60MPG gasoline car translates to a 204 wH/mile PHEV - about on par with the reported ratio on a Prius.

In raw energy terms, random googling shows 8mbpd of gasoline for the light duty fleet. At 35 MJ/liter, that's
3.22 * 10^16 joules per day. Divide that by 3 for the theoretical PHEV figure: 1.07 * 10^16 joules per day.

At a 25% load factor, 5.2GW of wind produces 1.1 * 10^14 joules in a day.

That's 1.03% - assuming a complete turnover of the US light duty fleet. You might correct my numbers by 10, 20, 30%, but not by a factor of 37 - even wildly optimistic assumptions (100% load factor, 6x as efficient) don't give a number that high. Did you make a math mistake, or did I?

I'd have to dig to find my previous estimate, but figure production of 17 million vehicles/year, 300 Wh/mi average (no downsizing), 13000 mi/yr average.  That's 66 billion kWh/yr, or about 7.6 GW average.  The USA added 5.2 GW of wind capacity in 2007, which would produce 1.56 GW average at 30% capacity factor.  That would supply more than 20% of new vehicular needs even given the lack of downsizing.

I can't quite make it through your arithmetic because you didn't mention conversion factors (too hard to look up right now) but I think we're comparing apples and oranges.  You're calculating displacement potential of the whole vehicle fleet compared to one year's crop of wind farms, I'm calculating displacement potential of annual wind installation compared to annual vehicle production.  If we could even knock off 50% of petroleum demand from each year's vehicle fleet, it would have an enormous and cumulative effect.

"I don't think energy per se matters as long as we can maintain most of our living standards."

Well, it's like this. When the UN looked at countries and areas and compared Human Development Index to per capita kWh availability, well... here's the graph, coming from here.

So basically, if we take "HDI" as being about the same as "living standards" - and since HDI includes longevity, literacy and education, and per capita wealth, it seems fair to say they're roughly the same - then we need 4,000kWh for everyone in the world. That's 457W today, as I said earlier.

For total energy use, HDI maxes out at 5,000W. Remember that absent fossil or other liquid fuels, all our energy use will have to be electrical. But as I said in another article, I think we can get away with about 2,000W per person, since there'll be various economies from mass transit, lots of recycling and so on.

By 2050, if the world population continues increasing at 1.69% annually, that's a total of 10.75 billion then, another four billion we need to power - so we need something like 2,000W x 10.75 billion people = 21,500GW delivered power.

But with renewables' lower load factor, and with the higher load factor renewables geothermal, hydro and tidal being limited, we're left with solar PV, solar thermal, and wind to do most of it. Solar PV achieves about 15%, averaged over different locations in the world, solar thermal about 25%, and wind begins at 35% but then declines to about 15% once the best spots have mostly been taken - so call it 20%. I use the pessimistic estimates, because let's face it, if we're building so much so fast, there's going to be some sloppy work done here and there.

So that to get 21,500GW of delivered power, we need about five times that in peak capacity - over 100,000GW.

That's a frickin' lot.

It's physically possible, but not easy. Thinking of ten million wind turbines or whatever, it seems inconceivable. But then, in (say) 1966, the world having a billion cars probably seemed inconceivable, too. And in 1945 the US alone having 10,000 nuclear weapons would seem nuts.

It's doable, but it's a big task.

Now, for this or that country to do it, that's certainly plausible. But the whole world, by 2050? Not likely. There's never been any question that a few small areas could have a nice ecological way of life while surrounded by teeming millions of impoverished people without power - electrical or political. But for everyone to do it, well...

US alone having 10,000 nuclear weapons would seem nuts.

US alone having 10,000 nuclear weapons IS nuts, and is a major symptom of the clutster of difficult problems we face.

I am sure a lot of what Lovelock says is true. Especially the "Enjoy life while you can".

On TOD I see lots of possible solutions to our future energy problems presented - but most require more than one thing to happen in sequence - ie: x and y and Z and ... and ... , at each stage there is a less than 100% chance it will happen, all those 'ands' eventually add up to an INADEQUATE solution - and that is the OECD world's problem.

There will undoubtedly be Liebig minimums preventing optimum solutions, some of which Lovelock mentions - a high probability of dangerous climate change for one - one thing I have learned is that the climate is not stable, it does change, man induced or not.

Don't forget most of the world consumes much less, and more intermittent, energy than OECD residents. In the future I suspect we will too (in the UK sooner than most people think!) - get used to it (my grandparents lived that way) and plan for it.

The best solution for me is probably not the best solution for you, do not rely on somebody else solving your problems - 'they' almost certainly don't have a solution that considers anything but their own agenda!

You raise good points as always, but I'm mystified as to why you've gone wrong on this bit:

But for everyone to do it, well...

Unfortunately - and you already know this, I realize, so that's why I bring it up - it isn't a question of 'everyone' doing it and it never will be. We are, after all, talking about a world - the present world - where the overwhelming majority of people have never used a telephone - a 19th-century invention! So basing your calculations on what the 'world' will require to get past Peak Oil is wrong. The fact is that most people are left out when it comes to modern technology. And we have every reason to expect it will stay that way (inductive reasoning, anyone?)

So can we ramp up enough to keep the Europeans and the Japanese afloat? That's the question. (Sorry guys, but screw the US, you fellows are finished for a whole bunch of basically cultural and political reasons).

(China and India, forget them too ... they have been a 'success' based on flogging off labour to the Yanks, and that will soon finish.)

Unfortunately - and you already know this, I realize, so that's why I bring it up - it isn't a question of 'everyone' doing it and it never will be.

I've a couple of responses to that.

The first is that to be honest I'm sceptical even we in the wealthy West will do a big build-out of renewables. I think most likely we'll continue to postpone real action, doing token stuff, then in the 2015-25 period a fossil fuel crunch will come, and a Great Depression settle in, combined with extreme weather events which will keep us struggling. We won't even be thinking about swimming a marathon, we'll be treading water.

So far as I'm concerned, talking about building out a heap of renewables - we're just dreaming, throwing coins in the wishing well. So while we're dreaming we may as well make it a really good one and aim for some social justice, too, so that the impoverished have access to energy and are not impoverished any more.

That said, the social justice issue is a serious one. When you get a rich-poor gap and a lack of social mobility, and toss ethnicity and nationalism into the mix, you get civil and international conflicts. To have a truly sustainable society, it's got to be socially renewable as well as have renewable energy. If not, it stagnates and falls on its arse.

This sort of thing is really out of the area of focus of TOD readers, so I'll just mention that there have been studies done of pre-Revolutionary France and late 18th, early 19th century China which showed that social mobility dropped and the rich-poor gap grew - that these countries later had bloody revolutions is no coincidence. Hell, China got the bloodiest war in human history until WWII, the Taiping Rebellion. Modern studies like those from WHO in the UN have given us similar results.

So if we in the West want a peaceful future, we have to help out the Third World, too. And part of that is ensuring an energy future for them. I mean, if we don't they'll only migrate to our countries anyway. One way or another they're getting their share, whether we like it or not. We can try to stop them, but again that means lots of conflicts, civil and international.

I dunno about you, but I'd like our plans for the future to minimise the chances of intractable violent conflicts killing millions.

I dunno about you, but I'd like our plans for the future to minimise the chances of intractable violent conflicts killing millions.

Yes, I concur with the sentiment 100%, but on the other hand I think it is something we can be near-certain about ... it ain't happening. The haves will keep and the have-nots will ... go without, or die trying for it to be any other way.

(I am reminded of one of Ben Elton's novels, where he posits the great fear of the rich white world, the Third World moving en masse to (say) Europe ... but in his book they all just got nuked on the way or something and the whole 'problem' disappeared... OK it was satire, but if things do get desperate, I wouldn't be too surprised ...)

Re revolutions, they occur within particular societies, not worldwide, so I don't think that part of what you say holds up. I think that in fact it is quite within the power of the industrialized countries to continue to screw over the rest of the world in more or less the same way as they have done for the past couple of hundred years. It may be a bit more difficult (great small arms and RPGs), but it could be done, and it will be, if there is a buck in it. There is even the possibility of 'going Mongol', something at the moment beyond the ken of 'civilized' peoples unless it is done piecemeal and very slowly.

Again, I am not saying this is what _should_ happen, rather that I think it is likely to do so, given the way things have played out in the past. So,

One way or another they're getting their share, whether we like it or not.

No, I don't think so. The rich kill the poor rather than share with them, if that is an option. And here, it is.

We are, after all, talking about a world - the present world - where the overwhelming majority of people have never used a telephone - a 19th-century invention!

An oft quoted statistic, but probably now far from accurate due to the huge penetration of cell phones. At the present time there is about 1 cell phone subscription for every 2 people globally; some in the north have more than one phone, but many in the south share a phone...

Forget phones as an analogy.

About the time that phones first appeared, the bolt action magazine fed rifle made it onto the scene.

Now, more people have access to an AK47 automatic rifle than they do a phone and working phone network : -(

And they are cheaper than a phone (with access to a network) in Africa.

How soon before 'AK47 are us' or 'AK47 Wharehouse' comes to a high street (or Mall) near you?

In Nigeria about $70 dollars gets you in the game.

Less, if you can offer chickens, crates of coca cola, Euros, or other hard currency. (the $ US aint what it was...)

Dorme Bien.


Your graph shows electricity use per capita, not total energy use per capita. Thus things like gas fired heating, transportation fuel, and quite possibly energy usage at work are unlikely to be included. Given that the expectation is that these will end up transitioning to increased electricity load, I'd suggest the annual per capita energy requirements are higher than your 4-5000 kWh

plus, all it proves is you need less energy to live in a warm climate nearer the equator.

I am sick of people [not you BTW] trying to compare my UK energy use to people in Bangladesh etc. The UK has thousands of migrants from that sub continent every year. What does that tell you?? They sure as hell breed more [over there and here] than I do.

Which is why reading the actual text of a post, rather than just looking at the pretty pictures, is often useful.

Go back and look at it again, and you'll see that I addressed that issue.

To get to the left of that 4000 kWh/y dotted line would require the average person in the USA to cut their electricity usage by 2/3. In our household, we've managed to cut to about 1/3 below the US average so far, so our work is still cut out for us.

I disagree ..

You need a crash build for the most energy dense
solution you've got and that would be for new nukes ..
That buys you the time and energy to phase out the
coal and gas and allows the buildout of renewables for
the post FF era ..

If you do it the otherway around .. ie renewables first ..
You'll never get there .. JMHO ..

Triff ..

Unfortunately the numbers you have run seem entirely based on supposition.

At the outset you say that you intend to base your arguments on current technology, and then crudely divide power sources according to whether you on whether they are according to you commercially proven.

In the commercially proven section you place, for instance, solar PV - that is an odd definition of commercially proven, since it presently depends on vast subsidies.

In fact of course it is by no means proven as capable of producing power on anything like the scale you hypothecate without massive progress in improving the technology, whilst you rule out the comparatively modest improvements needed to power most of our society by nuclear reactors, for instance declaring the breeder reactors to be 'uneconomic' - well, it was certainly a lot nearer being economic than your choice of solar power, and the program was only ended because uranium was so cheap that it wasn't worth the bother at the time.

In fact the total cost of nuclear energy is very insensitive to fuel costs, so if it becomes difficult to get the amount of uranium and thorium we need then leaner resources could easily be used at with little impact on the overall bill, we can produce up to around 100 times the power by the use of breeders or simply more advanced molten salt reactors, or we know how to get uranium form sea-water at 5-10 times present costs, so energy return on investment will always be huge for nuclear energy.

It therefore seems that your argument is based on a very selective presentation of what is proven to be commercially viable, and in fact relies on massive improvements amounting to breakthroughs for your chosen options, whilst heavily loading the dice against the options you dislike.

If you think that solar PV is commercially proven at the moment, let's see your figures for how much a kilowatt hour costs you if you went off the grid, installed a PV system plus batteries or whatever you fancy for back-up and run your house just on those without grid assistance, and without subsidies.

Then compare that to the cost of a kilowatt hour from the French nuclear powered grid.

You could multiply the costs of the French electricity by 10 and still be way under the costs of the solar alternative - do you imagine that energy from breeder reactors or molten salt is going to cost 10 times current costs?

Your figures are entirely unrealistic and based on false premises.

Solar panels on your roof don't just compete with power generators, they also compete with power distributors. Power distributors have peaking power problems even worse than power generators.

Hydroelectric certainly works, we've been doing it for 100 years at least. But there aren't any more big rivers to dam.

I've seen some pretty big figures for the potential of Micro hydro. Might be along the lines of cellulosic proponents talking about all that unused sub-par land though.

Warren sounded like Matthew Simmons in that video. It does really annoy me when the interviewer hears about peak oil and then immediately turns to how do we play this to make money.

Peak oil - make money.

I've worked in drug rehab: money is the most addictive drug of all.

It's just another version of the "Oh I need a fix right now" reaction

Remember! the media make their money telling you what they believe you want to hear.

It does really annoy me when the interviewer hears about peak oil and then immediately turns to how do we play this to make money.

That is probably the only way they can justify putting seditious stuff like that on for their money grubbing viewers.

Hello o o o ...
Money grubbing TOD reader here. I didn't care about my retirement account, my eyes just glazed over when it was mentioned, until watching Rita rip through the Gulf on TOD. Then the aftermath on popular media. How FEMA doesn't care, etc.

Now I realize my retirement won't be there without my active management. I'm actually starting to get the hang of the "buy low - sell high" thing. Can't say I've mastered it yet, but
Thanks, TOD. :)

Good for you-in the economy of 2008, if you are not actually physically stealing money (which accounts for a large % of the business activity of Wall Street) you have the moral high ground, IMO.

You should definitely be at the Ticker Forum to meet the "buy PUTS high, sell low" crowd. It's pretty eye-opening...

"Warren sounded like Matthew Simmons in that video. It does really annoy me when the interviewer hears about peak oil and then immediately turns to how do we play this to make money."

Well it shouldn't, because it is going to take concvincing investors that it's doable in order to get things moving.
If the investors can't be convinced that we can solve the problems (whether we can or not in reality) they will put their money into simply buying oil and gold and we will be dead before we start.

Capitalism has produced amazing levels of consumption. It 'won' the Cold War.

(Communism, due to it's gross inefficiencies, produced amazing levels of, well, Not consumption)

Amazing levels of consumption are at the core of global resource depletion.

(amazing levels of 'Not consumption' are not at the core of global resource depletion)

Global resource depletion is the Abyss that the world now stands at the brink of.

However, being trapped in their own Illusion, Good Capitalists firmly believes that more Capitalism will solve all problems, including amazing levels of consumption.

The irony of the situation is lost on them.

Capitalism is not very good at promoting 'Not Consumption'.

A scenario to deal with this comes to mind. I imagine a 'deep concept' corporate PR campaign to deal with ALC (amazing levels of consumption) goes something like this:

Hey, we can double profits and be 'Green' by selling the public half as much stuff, for twice as much money. (A corporate wet dream come true.)

The Basics of Life

Food: Half as much in the package, for twice as much money. Nice

Clothing: cloth, half as thin, for twice as much money. Sweet

Building materials: Half as thick, for twice as much money. Even Sweeter

And the best for last:

Toilet Paper (just like building materials): Half as thick, for twice as much money. The Sweetest

The Captains of Wall St, the Titans of Capitalism, the Victors of the Cold War, have ushered humanity to the Pinnacle of Prosperity and the Amazing Levels of Consumption it now stands on.

Crank up the music, it's just what the doctor ordered.

All Over Again

B.B. King

I've got a good mind to give up living, and go shopping instead
I say, I've got a good mind to give up living, and go shopping instead
To pick up me a tombstone, and be pronounced dead

When I read your letter this morning, that was in your place in bed
I read your letter this morning, that was in your place in bed
That's when I decided, that I would be better off dead

It read, there is no use you looking, or ever hoping to get me back
Oh, there's no use you looking, or ever hoping to get me back
Yes, because it's all over now, and you can bet on that.

The Cold War was not won by Capitalism or Communism.

Corporatism -- also known as Fascism -- has won on both sides of that bizarre feud between corrupt Empires masquerading under the guise of economic ideas put forth with religious zeal and fanatical conviction.

Capitalism does not equal amazing levels of consumption.
That irony seems to be lost on you.

The fact that we have amazing levels of consumption is squarely on the shoulders of government who are inflating the currency and borrowing trillions of dollars to waste on useless projects.

Without all that inflation, there would not be a frenzy to generate wealth to cover interest payments and instead only projects with some reasonable criteria to them would be funded.

So nice try but no cigar.

The problem is government not capitalism. Governments have debased the currency since the days of the Roman Empire. Nothing changes.

Countries practicing Capitalism have the highest levels of per capita consumption in human history. Period

Countries that practice communism or variations of feudalism, have some of the lowest per capita levels of consumption in modern history. The few consuming alot, the 'little people' (everyone else) consuming very little per capita.

That irony seems to be lost on you.

China is a hybrid of these two forms of capital allocation. Feudal Capitalism? They are going from amazingly low levels of per capita consumption (under central planning schemes) to ALC (Amazing Levels of Consumption) under CAPITALISM.

They are about to show the rest of the world what Adam Smith would looks like on the financial equivalent of Anabolic steroids.

Unchecked CO2 emissions, resource depletion, and toxic pollution.

All made possible by, shall we call it, Cancer Capitalism.

Unchecked cellular growth in pursuit of unchecked profits.

To tell you the truth, I think we'd all be better off staying away from nuclear and make a last stand with renewable, i don't understand why no one talks about geothermal, looks like the best bet of them all to me.. If civilization is destroyed once and for all I'd rather leave the earth free of radioactive waste and other bullshit, so nature can choose a better candidate for inheriting the earth.

Hot dry rock geothermal, which is the only sort which could power large parts of our society, is a completely immature technology only now being fully tested, and even the most optimistic projection are for it's use in the foreseeable future solely in geologically favourable areas.

I think it is greatly underused, but will not become a huge energy resource for at least 40 years, around the time period typical for the widespread adoption of a new energy technology.

I am curious, why and in what way do you consider that: 'we would be better staying away from nuclear'?

Considering some to the projections of societal breakdown common on this blog and the catastrophic consequences in terms of deaths that that would entail, and considering the fact that in the west no-one has died from the civil nuclear program, that it has a proven ability to provide most of the electricity for a society and only modest improvements are needed to provide most of the power requirements for the world, unlike the very immature state of renewables this seems an odd judgement, as any harm is likely to be trivial compared to the consequences of societal breakdown.

The gas from my *** is about as effective as wind and solar. When WILL the folks on TOD realize that electric power is useless for planting, harvesting, transport, and heating homes. The solar/wind infrastructure and hundreds of oil/NG/coal inputs will dig us faster into oil depletion. Solar/wind will use up much oil, natural gas, and coal and gives nothing that is useful. Please don't give us the BS about tractors/combines running on batteries. A ton of batteries will get you at most a kilometers or a few on a tractor or combine. The Union of Concerned Scientists admits that batteries stink. Lets' get real and focus on risk management for the coming catastrophe. I see virtually nothing on TOD about risk everything is ok, something will come along to save us. Are TOD and the most the writers on TOD any better than the media they criticize. Myths about solar/wind and electric contraptions abound on TOD. Many TOD editors (especially BIG GAV) generate myths about how we are going to save ourselves with electric power, and such myths mean we don't face reality. When are the solar folks going to admit that the EI of EROEI is much more than they say. And that question is really irrelevant -- electric power stinks.

The Union of Concerned Scientists admits that batteries stink.

if so, why am I on a computer right now not connected to an outlet?

because your computer is a useless piece of **** for what is needed. When it comes to what is really needed... electric power stinks.

Yeah! Currently totally inadquate!

Do the simple math to find out why!

Do the simple math to find out why!

why don't you do it for me?

Yeah! Currently totally inadquate!

The Tesla is not an adequate solution to our Fossil Fueled transport problem.

In order to replace the current fleet of cars to electric power we need to start now since in twenty years there is unlikely to be much 'net export' of oil, any use of oil will be essential use only and it will be conserved not wasted. That means we need to build in 2008 around 50,000,000 Teslas.

The $98,000 Tesla, Production goal: 400 in 2008; 1,800 in 2009. 400 doesn't doesn't get anywhere near the 50,000,000 required!

So, john15 do you have $98,000 to spend on a two seat car? How many people in the world do?

Rather than design a new battery from scratch, they made the roadster's energy-storage system a multitude of rechargeable laptop computer battery cells — 6,831 per car — arranged in a half-ton block that's catacombed with cooling channels. Each cell is a little bigger than a AA battery, virtually identical to the few lithium-ion cells that power the IBM ThinkPad.

There are more than 600,000,000 cars in the world - that means ~300,000,000 tons of lithium required to replace the fleet.

The world production of lithium amounts to only ~12,500 tonnes per year - currently enough to build just ~30,000 Teslas a year if no extra mobile phones or laptops are built. That's less than 1000th the required number.

Yeah! Currently totally inadquate!

it isn't totally inadequate. the only problem is that we don't use it, not that we can't. my only point with the tesla is it shows we can use electricity to run cars contrary to CJ's claims.

1. we don't need to replace out current fleet right now. we still have 50% of our oil left. we will probably gradually replace the ICE with PHEVs or EVs.

2. many cars will probably be converted locally from ICE to an electric motors by garages and start-up businesses that do that thing. people will take out their ICE and all the other parts and sell them as they will probably be valuable as scrap. in other words we might not build them as they are already on the road!


There are more than 600,000,000 cars in the world - that means ~300,000,000 tons of lithium required to replace the fleet.

The world production of lithium amounts to only ~12,500 tonnes per year - currently enough to build just ~30,000 Teslas a year if no extra mobile phones or laptops are built. That's less than 1000th the required number.

what if lithium isn't used? what if it's used more efficiently?

it isn't totally inadequate

The Tesla IS totally inadequate, I've just shown you why, now you want to change it to "we can use electricity to run cars" - I agree we can make electric cars but they will still be inadequate to replace the current fleet, let alone grow BAU.

we will probably gradually replace the ICE with PHEVs or EVs.

Like I say, at least 50,000,000 a year IS the gradual rate required - building your 400 Teslas a year is definitely gradual, and is massively inadequate! If we don't/can't start with adequate alternatives now we end up with an impossible task in 10 years or so - the same is true of stabilising CO2 emissions!

The world may have 50% of its oil left but you don't get full access to it in a 'net importing' country even if it is profitable for oil companies to recover it - high prices and ELM cuts in, soon! The whole point of peak oil is not the 'size of the barrel' (which is your argument for acting gradually right now) but the size of the 'tap' after peak which will get smaller and smaller EXPONENTIALLY!

what if lithium isn't used? what if it's used more efficiently?

Who knows? ... but lithium IS currently totally inadequate for the massive battery job required ... it's ok for 400 Teslas but a complete non-starter for 600,000,000+.

Adequate storage of electricity, especially for mobile use, is a major as yet unsolved problem - which is why windmills and solar PV are difficult to use for continuous adequate amounts of power.

The Tesla IS totally inadequate, I've just shown you why, now you want to change it to "we can use electricity to run cars"

I never said the Tesla was adequate. I simply used it as a quick example of what we can use electricity for. the problem is you guy say it's inadequate now and totally leave out any future advances or changes in the market place.

hybrid cars were inadequate a few years ago but they aren't anymore and outsold the Ford Explorer.

you guy say it's inadequate now and totally leave out any future advances or changes in the market place.

No I didn't - I said "who knows?" I have no idea what the future will bring and neither have you. However, the future problem is not technology but energy - the technology requires a new adequate source of energy - at the moment, and for as far into the future as we can see, none exists.

You have faith in the just-in-time technology fairy, I don't. The reason I don't is because I have yet to see any new source of energy that comes anywhere near fossil fuel's ability to power any technology.

Your 'quick example' of the Tesla is an example of a completely inadequate and wasteful technology - nobody needs a high performance car with several hundred horsepower - it is not a solution to anything.

One thing for the future I do know is that we won't have exponential economic growth using fossil fuels.

I call b--ls--t.

That means we need to build in 2008 around 50,000,000 Teslas.

USA builds about 17 million light vehicles per year, about 1/3 of that total.  Where's the problem?  For that matter, half a vehicle's lifetime mileage is driven in the first 6 years, so starting 12 years in advance would appear to be sufficient (accelerated turnover of the fleet in response to price will do the rest, as it did in the 1970's and early 80's).

There are more than 600,000,000 cars in the world - that means ~300,000,000 tons of lithium required to replace the fleet.

You think an EV requires a half-ton of lithium?

Flag on the comment.  Ten hour no-posting penalty.

You think an EV requires a half-ton of lithium?

The Tesla which john15 has put up as a solution does, which is what I was responding to - that's why I say the Tesla (even if it were avavilable, which it isn't) is a totally inadequate solution.

USA builds about 17 million light vehicles per year, about 1/3 of that total. Where's the problem?

The problem is that >600,000,000 vehicles have to be replaced with something adequate using a fuel other than oil, not another 17 million gas guzzlers a year - john15's proposed 400 Teslas a year is totally inadequate to replace a fleet that big in any meaningful timescale.

starting 12 years in advance would appear to be sufficient

So, when do you propse to start - 12 years ahead of what date?

As I say, when you do start that implies 50,000,000 a year of john15's propsed Tesla solution - if there's any delay the number per year required increases. At the moment almost no EVs are being built for the good reason that almost nobody can afford them.

Post peak-oil the world's economy can't grow unless there is an adequate new (currently unknown) energy source - that probably means ongoing recession in 'net importing' countries so accelerated replacement of the fleet there isn't possible. Any recession means less of almost everything except an exponential growth of humans - so, even less people will be able to afford an EV (or even a pre-used EVs since the currently very expensive batteries will need replacing on a regular basis.)

Even if they can be manufactured, 600,000,000 EVs need to have adequate energy to make them and run them supplied from somewhere - it can't be fossil fuel so what will they use? What do you propose they make the batteries from, it almost certainly can't be lithium as used in john15's inadequate Tesla?

I'm not sure you're ready to listen to new info, but I'll give it a shot.

"an EV requires a half-ton of lithium?"

No, IIRC a KWH requires about .3 lbs of lithium metal (that could be kilos, though it wouldn't change the result by an order of magnitude). That means the Chevy volt (which would reduce fuel consumption by 80%) would need about 4.5 lbs, and the Tesla would need about 15 lbs.

"almost no EVs are being built for the good reason that almost nobody can afford them. "

No, it just takes a little while to ramp up production. The Volt is likely to be out in volumes of 100,000 per year in about 5 years.

"the world's economy can't grow unless there is an adequate new (currently unknown) energy source "

Wind, solar, nuclear, coal, will be enough.

" exponential growth of humans "

Humans aren't growing exponentially. It's barely linear.

Oh, your lithium math may well be true ... but that doesn't mean that there are adequate amounts of lithium to run all the world's cars using it. I am saying the Tesla is not the solution it is touted to be - quite the reverse in fact!

The Tesla, a tiny two seat $85,000 car, has a half ton battery - it's Tesla's claim not mine - just 400 may be made this year - if you think that is adequate to fix the world's personal transport needs ... good luck ... we'll see who is correct.

The Volt? ... huh? ... I was responding to the Tesla being touted as a solution to the lack of oil for road transport - I have no idea about the Volt, where can I buy one? 100,000 per year in about 5 years? ... in 2006 49,886,549 cars were manufactured at a +6.45% growth rate. The world is making more not less ICE powered vehicles each year ... at that BAU rate we will be building 100,000,000 a year in 12 years or so - your 100,000 Volts a year won't make much of a dent in that - you think the Volt is the solution?... who knows?

"Wind, solar, nuclear, coal, will be enough"... I totally agree since that's all we have, demand can't exceed supply ... but for what? I'm talking BAU ... if you are too that's just your Faith ... they may indeed be the adequate replacement for oil I am talking about ... I hope you are right ... tell us all how it's going to happen ... why are you so sure there will be enough energy and commodities to continue BAU.

The population is still growing - again I don't know the future - but during the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion and by 2030 is expected by the The US Census Bureau to be 8.2 billion - you may like to argue the toss whether that has been exponential or not but if you think the world will easily cope with all those extra people and achieve BAU economic growth, so be it, I won't change your mind.

"that doesn't mean that there are adequate amounts of lithium to run all the world's cars using it"

Actually, it does. China alone has reserves of 1M tons, which will suffice for all the batteries we'll need for quite a while.

Not to mention that there are plenty of other battery chemistries around, including lead-acid, that will do the job. Have you taken a look at Firefly batteries?

"I have no idea about the Volt"

Well, take a look at

""Wind, solar, nuclear, coal, will be enough... tell us all how it's going to happen "

Just take a look at the recent TOD post by Luis de Sousa.

" if you think the world will easily cope with all those extra people and achieve BAU economic growth"

I never said it would be easy. It's just not the exponential growth that everyone worries about.

Oh, your lithium math may well be true

You're off by a factor of roughly 100, and that's your response?  You, sir, have a lot of gall.

Lithium is about 170 ppb of seawater.  It can be concentrated from seawater very efficiently.  Once incorporated into a battery, it can be recycled.  There are many billions of tons of lithium in the oceans, and we can "recycle" it by dumping it into rivers and letting it flow downhill.  Once the price rises or the technology improves a bit, running out of lithium is not a possibility.

"You're off by a factor of roughly 100, and that's your response" - NO NOT ME, they are not my figures but TESLAS I was responding to the TESLA as supposedly the solution to our transport needs - and you start attacking me? I am a chemist by training, I know how batteries work - do you not read anything?

Then people try and tell me "oh no, we didn't mean the TESLA is going to save us - it's called the Volt" - I know what a VOLT might be but I can't buy one even if I could afford one - so, as usual ... who knows, I don't and nor does anybody else?

The reality is that currently all batteries are an EXPENSIVE method of storing energy (when compared to a gasoline tank), have short useful lives, have slow charge rates (when compared to FF) and require a massive increase in electricity supply if used in any quantity. They are made from mined materials, and all things mined, as we know from oil studies, can only be mined at a limited rate and they have to be mined at a profit, which is why lithium batteries (for example) are so expensive. It's just like oil, there would be a huge demand for $10 a barrel oil - unfortunately there is very little of it about so demand is constrained by raising the price so that some people can no longer afford to use it.

Telling me that there are millions of tons of lithium (or silicon for PV cells, or coal, or uranium) in the world so there is no worry is just plain stupid, there are millions of tons of oil in the world as well! - whether supplies of anything are adequate for essential BAU growth in the future will be about making a profit.

Eventually, in a resource constrained world such as ours, essential BAU growth is IMPOSSIBLE.


At one stage I was concerned about lithium availability, but further investigation showed that my fears appeared ill-founded, at least for the foreseeable future.

The price of the raw materials in a lithium battery are really a very modest part of the total cost, and so it would not be prohibitive to go to lower grade ores and so on.

If you go to the 123 battery website there is really quite extensive information there about their technology, and that is one of the batteries under consideration for the volt.

They are also widely used in power tools and many other applications, so a fairly good assessment of their likely performance in a car should be possible.
A123Systems :: Home

If you had a big enough reserve of electric power you could use it to create hydrogen for fuel cells. They could drive heavy vehicles. Light vehicles could be driven by batteries.

Kiashu's recent article on peak oil and agriculture in Cuba may shed some light on this issue. Any moderately rational state will ration hydrocarbon fuels in favour of agriculture. I agree that modern electric power cannot do the hard, important work, but it can do the easier stuff in many, many other places. Electricity technology and policy development would allow a greater shift of the energy burden away from oil and gas, increasing the potential reserve for tractors and combines and forestalling the starving, teeming masses.

A ton of batteries will get you at most a kilometers or a few on a tractor or combine.

Since I am inherently suspicious of claims made in such bombastic style, let's have a close look at it.

The Zebra Z5 cell has a specific energy of about 120 Wh/kg and specific power of 150 W/kg; the all-up Z5 battery stores 17.8 kWh in a 182 kg package.  A metric ton of batteries (11 units) would store 195.8 kWh, or about 260 horsepower-hours.

How far would that get you?  Recent news items about new tractors mentioned the figure of 1 gallon of diesel per acre covered.  A gallon of diesel is about 7.67 lb, and a diesel engine is doing pretty well if it consumes 0.35 lb/hp-hr.  Ergo, a gallon of diesel fuel yields about 22 hp-hr.

From these figures, we can see that a one-ton Zebra battery pack would carry enough energy to replace about 12 gallons of diesel, or enough to plow 12 acres.  That's not a huge amount, but it's not trivial either.  Carry 10 tons of batteries and you can cover about 120 acres.  Batteries could be brought in on a truck and swapped out.

My conclusion is that electric tractors would not be able to work as fast as diesel and would have some logistical issues, but they would be far from unusable.

One of the things you'd like to do is avoid compressing the soil into cement. You start running 10 tons of batteries across the field and you've got rammed earth not tilth.

The whole point of the machine is to OPEN the soil.

Which is not to say batteries won't work. The way they will work is to disperse them into many small machines. Think 5 or 10 tillers, not 1 tractor. Which is also to say... agricultural labor will be one of the few "growth" highlights in the years to come.

"One of the things you'd like to do is avoid compressing the soil into cement."

Hi TODers. I'm a long time lurker and first time poster.

Why not put all the batteries and the electric motor at the side of the field and winch the plow back and forward?
Like this but not steam.
In fact why not have windmills or solar at the side of the field too?

Weight may not be the issue you think it is. Tractors are not aircraft. To a least some extent weight is a good thing. Small mid century tractors like the Ford 8N often had several hundred pounds of fluid added to the rear tires ... and any tractor capable of plowing 120 acres in a day would be good bit larger than an 8N. With no fuel load, a motor much lighter than an equivalent diesel engine and the appropriate set of tires, soil compaction would probably not be a major issue.

The issue is what modern tractors need to weigh to get sufficient traction.  If you've eliminated the diesel engine and a substantial amount of the axle weight (just a reduction gear and differential), you will be making up the remainder with something.  That something might as well be batteries.

I just found a weight listing for a combine as 2640 kg (presumably with its grain hopper empty).  The weight I found for the John Deere 8430 tractor is well in excess of 20,000 pounds, and ballast kits are among its options.  I don't think a few tons of batteries would be too much for a purpose-designed vehicle!

Forget the batteries, do what they did in the 60's and 70's while strip mining in Kansas/Oklahoma. Run the powerline to the tractor. Click on the picture.

Agricultural areas tend to be flat. You can always park a truck with a microwave emitter hooked up to the power company pole and broadcast power to the tractor.
This sounds stupid. It would work, and if the Arabs don't sell us oil or the nice lead and zinc deposits they have under the Red Sea, then we may have to build them.

Hey, you're thinking outside the box!  You're not allowed to do that, you'll ruin the dieoff!

You should be able to do better than that be the use of non-rechargeable zinc-air batteries for this application - energy density there is 220Wh/kg.

I don't know how the weight of the battery pack would pan out, but just swapping the Zinc anode would seem possible in this use.

Although technically non-rechargeable in situ, the zinc oxide could be returned to a central electricity generating source of wind, solar or nuclear and re-converted back from zinc oxide to zinc.

I'm also sceptical about the battery-powered farm machinery thing. This is one of the few cases where I think that biodiesel might actually make sense. Grow the fuel that the farmers use right on the farm. Limited ONLY to that one application, that is not going to plunge the whole world into starvation, and indeed might save the world from it.

Electric certainly has been proven to be feasible for all sorts of rail transport, though, and is looking like a winner for local vehicular transport as well. The era of the long-haul semi-truck and the cross-country SUV trip will just have to give way to rail transport, we can't build enough batteries to keep those going. Air and maritime transport are a bigger challenge, though, electric won't work for them. (Takes too long of a cord, some would say!) We could use biofuels for these, too, but then you would be looking at a very substantial amount of acreage diverted from food production - way more than just that required for mechanized agriculture. My feeling is that we're going to have come to understand that air transport will be a luxury that very few of us are going to be able to afford. It will not cease to exist, but it will become rare. Shipping is pretty fuel efficient, and perhaps coming up with computerized technology to usher in a new age of sail could make it even more fuel efficient. If we get back to localized production of goods and minimize the moving of stuff around the globe, then maybe we can spare enough acreage to produce the biofuels needed for the shipping we really need as well.

Residences need to be made super energy-efficient, with max insulation and building envelope sealing. Do that, get the average square feet/inhabitant down by subdividing the McMansions into apartments, and the body heat of the inhabitants themselves will take care of part of the heating requirement. Passive solar built into all new construction, and retrofitted to the extent possible in existing buildings, can take care of a good chunk of the rest. Centralized district hydrionic heating plants utilizing CSP with biogas (methane from anaerobic digestion of municipal sewage) backup generators should get most communities the rest of the way there. Solar water heating is a proven technology, is here now, and is not nearly as expensive as PV panels. The materials required do not include rare minerals, either. We need to be retrofitting residences with solar water heat as quickly as possible, this is a do-able project. For backup on cloudy days, gas-fired demand heaters fueled by municipal biogas per above can do the job.

What I think is mistaken is the notion that we can take our total energy usage (from all types) now, figure out how many WTs, PV panels, and batteries we would need, assume that we can build them, and convert everything to electricity. You are right, we probably can't, and we probably cannot sustain such an infrastructure once it is built out.

What I think we can do is figure out how much of a renewable energy infrastructure we reasonably CAN build out AND maintain on a sustainable level. We then need to figure out how to power down to that level of energy. It will certainly require conservation, but it will also require changing the way we do a lot of things, and maybe accepting the fact that we can no longer to some things at all. It is going to have to be a much more frugal lifestyle for just about everybody, and that means - yes - what most people would consider to be a poorer life. I've always been very open and honest about this. I think that it is either dishonest or deluded to suggest that we can have a renewables + conservation future that will allow us to continue on living as affluent a lifestyle as those of us in the US and other western countries have enjoyed up to now. However, while it might be a poorer lifestyle, it can be a life.

The era of the long-haul semi-truck and the cross-country SUV trip will just have to give way to rail transport, we can't build enough batteries to keep those going.

do you have some figures to back that up?

Agree or disagree with them, one of my favorite things is listening to these two old guys "call 'em like they see 'em."

We really don't get enough of that these days, and it surprises me that the MSM let even this much of non-pre-packaged, knarly comments through.

Of course both are allowed because they can be used. Warren Buffet will attract viewers, and Lovelock states a position about nuclear that the nuclear industry will love. The CNBC folks get what they want, and those who still figure on a centralized, fragile electrical grid supplied by huge, single-point power plants get a boost from Lovelock.

(As an aside -- the current model of electricity generation makes little sense to me, but it certainly will be with us for a while. I would like us to focus on decentralised electrical generation and conservation rather than more coal or nuclear, but that's another topic. I'd like to focus on a different aspect of what these two are talking about.)

I think that Lovelock's best wisdom is indeed that we need to enjoy life. At one point in "Revenge of Gaia," Lovelock likens our species to mountain goats grazing in their habitat. They live their lives and can no more manage their habitat than we can manage our planet or the sun we spin around.

This reminds me of that older saying, paraphrased/modified:

"consider the flowers of the field; they do not work or worry, but they are beautifully clothed and then fade away in the course of things."

Perhaps the best we can do is to take our place in the scheme of things with grace.

Part of "my place" for me means doing what I can to make a good place for the next couple of generations who will experience the climate catastrophe and other complex catastrophes in a short span of time.

Nothing I do can be seen as effectual in one sense, and yet in another sense, some things I do may bear fruit. Trees drop many seeds or nuts and only a few take root, and of those only a few grow to be saplings, and maybe of those only a few grow to be mature trees. Nevertheless, trees do what trees do.

Rather than shrug and say that nothing I do matters, I will do all I can to help those of the next generation understand their predicament and be ready to adapt, adapt, adapt through the coming difficulties.

The most important lesson seems to me to be this: embrace and celebrate our absolute vulnerability by living as fully as possible while we live. We will each die, so what we choose to do between now and when we die is what we get.

To be fully human involves so many things that it is impossible to prescribe a "one size fits all" series of choices. Choosing with deep authenticity seems to be important.

For me that involves having some fun and living within the limitations of my mortality. For me this also means doing my best for others, including the next generation or two.

Buffet and Lovelock surely have limitations and make mistakes, but they seem now at an age where they are willing to speak authentically and in the first person -- limitations and errors and all. I find that refreshing.

Beggar, well said!

Beggar, you have summed up my philosophy too, well said.

Awesome new JIT tech for wind based on whales! kind of ironic.

WhalePower can retrofit blades on existing turbines or build new blades from scratch. Dewar says prototype tests to date have demonstrated "outstanding performance," most importantly during light winds, with the tubercle-lined blades capable of more than doubling performance at wind speeds of 8 metres per second.

"In fact, we're getting the kind of power (regular blades) produce at 8 metres per second at 5 metres per second," says Dewar, describing the results as "spooky" because of the dramatic improvement.

Fish says the better performance at low speeds is what makes the design stand out. "Since there are probably more days when you don't have gusty winds but instead have lower wind speeds, that means you can generate electricity on those lower energy days."

Now, this is the kind of new info that I like to read TOD for.

Here's an update:

Here's a good companion piece from the NYT science section this week on cyclonic eddies. Which is probably what's driving these blades...

I was wondering if any scientists have studied the effects of wind depletion upon the environment as wind energy is lost as it travels through a wind mill farm. Can this have negative effects upon the environmental balance? Of course energy harvested from the wind is absorbed by the wind mill, leaving less wind energy upon exit. Very curious about that!

Yeah, the higher level winds tend to be a little dryer, so that turbulence near ground level tends to dry out the air near the ground, and the soil and crops.
Not particularly important because the effect is small.

Consensus seems to be that it's entirely trivial for modern wind turbines, in relation to how much wind is out there.

Lovelock says,

Humanity is in a period exactly like 1938-9, he explains, when "we all knew something terrible was going to happen, but didn't know what to do about it". But once the second world war was under way, "everyone got excited, they loved the things they could do, it was one long holiday ... so when I think of the impending crisis now, I think in those terms. A sense of purpose - that's what people want."

WWII was one long holiday in which 57 million people died, and another 40 million or so were forced to move to new countries.

Some holiday.

This does not seem to me to be a person with a balanced and open understanding of the world.

Lovelock says,

In fact, I'm writing another book now, I'm about a third of the way into it, to try and take the next steps ahead.

Authour says something controversial which he knows will get into newspapers and be spread around. Authour is working on a new book...

I dunno, could just be an amazing coincidence.

Actually I'd suggest Lovelock is probably one of the more balanced individuals around, with a good understanding of what's important.

He's right in terms of energy density and reliability from renewables, we need a significant baseload from nuclear to maintain our civilisation. I don't think that means we shouldn't go full speed on renewables, but we should be realistic about what can be delivered.

He's also right about the greenwashing that individuals do in their day to day lives. Reusing a carrier bag is totally unimportant next to the level of change required - yet people think to do a few little things makes everything OK.

He's even right about WWII, from a UK perspective. Provided you didn't end up dead in a field somewhere the war provided a free open and enjoyable period for many people, even including the rationing. The sense of purpose, direction and live for the day that it gave made many much more content than they were before. Try talking to someone who wasn't fighting at the front and you'll hear about the good times they had.

And that brings us round to why I think Lovelock has got his head screwed on. His focus is quality of life, not money. He aims to enjoy his time and is capable of accepting that time is now too short to successfully avoid a sharp decline. People won't act until its too late and in large part whether they claw their way back from the decline, or embrace dejection, is determined by if they see it as opportunity, or the end of the world.

In large part the future is going to be determined by attitude.

Try talking to someone who wasn't fighting at the front and you'll hear about the good times they had.

Oh yes, jolly good time had by all as they were huddled together in the bomb shelters and sleeping overnight in the Underground stations.

I think you will find that Lovelock meant that once underway, WWII galvanised the UK population in a way not before or since and that it was a 'holiday' from the grim reality of economic depression and real life.

If I were to back any one individual regarding energy sources: It would be Lovelock. His points about fashionable ' green' lifestyle choices are on the nail. And his contention that Nuclear is the best bet is by far the most important statement he made in recent years.

No wonder the greens turned on him.

This debate is pretty sterile to me at least. We could spend the next decade arguing to and fro re wind vs nukes vs clean coal vs solar.

We will need all we can get and fast. And for that we will need a galvanised population who understand the seriousness of the situation.

Kiashu, you are correct, he's just an old bullshit-artist. Yes, he was once a very clever man, but that still doesn't change what he has become.

Hasn't everyone here seen this sort of thing already, on a day-to-day basis, in their personal lives? What happens to clever guys as they get old? Yes, they get even more dogmatic than they were before, when they actually happened to be right during their professional lives. You've all seen this. It's the old fart down at the pub bullshitting you with his war stories and things-aren't-what-they-used-to-be-we're-all-f*cked. They can't take everything now being behind them. They can't face personal irrelevance. So the stretch out their scrawny necks and let the wattles flap.

You've all seen it, locally. Unfortunately for us, Lovelock is famous, so his bullshit goes global.

"Kiashu, you are correct, he's just an old bullshit-artist."

Nahh - I'll tell you what he is, a long term global thinker. A genuine Limits to Growth chuck-it-all-in-the-model and see what comes out scientist. General public thinks timewise next year, location wise thir family and town. Government planners 3 years across a state. Economic academics 5 year across an economy. Climate planners 50 years in the atmosphere. Even most people here at TOD are focused on the technical problems of the next few decades. He is talking global collapse 2100. 100 year planning. Massive system inertia.
His models, just like the Systems Dynamics models from the Club of Rome show the tendancy of the system clearly - a positive feedback of population, industrial output, pollution and food production hitting the hard limits of resources, pollution sinks and land. The exponential growth rates mean that piecemeal solutions are ludercrous. My own taking apart and playing with the SD model World3 has convinced me that they were not taking the piss. Go pick up Vensim on the net and have a go yourself. Continual updating of the models with the best correlation of relationships and data just keeps confirming it. Check out their 2004 update. The model is 4 times as complex as Jay F's original and the result is worse. 30 years after the first model was put out and ALL the levels are to within a few percent. The trends are still spot on.

Call it a doomer perspective. It isn't really. Just accepting the fact that this is the tendancy of the system. We are not stable. We are in global overshoot. To even try to achieve a sustainable society tests the very physical limits of the model - add in the societal limits and inertia and it indeed appears hopeless for our runaway civilisation. There is only damage control.

That is the world from Lovelock's perspective. Mine too after a lot of not nice thinking. You can argue for your windmills. Recycle your plastic bags. Just making beds in a burning building. When you have a long term perspective like his - most of what we are doing is just papering over the cracks. People don't yet have the fear.
To illustrate - a problem is that when you look at these models, they makes no assumptions of countries, the west, the third world. A nice average across the globe. When I look at a graph that shows a 100 million yearly death rate for 2060 - I see 150 million yearly death rate from the third world in our society at least. That level of misery and death is awe-inspiring. It doesn't even shock me - it's beyond that - it is a feeling of wonder. That we could have stuffed it up so badly. That our system is that dysfunctional that it cannot engage in longterm planning. That is where Lovelock is coming from.

He is right in his optimistism. In WWI western society lost its innocence. After WWII military adverturism died and the world lost its appetite for total war. The suffering and death of all of those soldiers and civilians meant something. It has inprinted culturally in the human race just how destructive and terrible war can be. It became part of our mythos. Knock off 80% of the global population over 70 years and consider the power of such an object lesson. It will mean something, and the human race will learn...but at a terrible price.

Lovelock falls into the category of "British eccentric" aka "upper class twit".

Yes, I am sure for his sort, WWII was a jolly holiday. And as long as nuclear power stations are sited in the distant provinces, and wind turbines don't spoil the view from his country estate, he is happy.

For some reason, Lovelock casts a spell on people, who then don't realise what an idiot he is. His controversial Gaian theory got headlines and sold books, but the theory has been watered down since and now falls in line with mainstream theories - which were developed without Lovelock. Lovelock's real genius has always been in publicity, rather than useful science. Most scientists regard him as a "junk scientist". Lovelock goes down great with hippies and other New Ages types though, before he started spouting about nuclear.

"Breeding pairs at the poles". The guy's a lunatic, and probably always was.

Here in NZ we have our own Lovelock see this in the NZ Herald
What i love is the term New Zealand's gluttonish, insatiable appetite for energy has to be suppressed which I'd like to replace with the Hoi polloi's right the light and warmth.


I am puzzled about Lovelock. . .

According to his Gaia hypothesis, the Earth should be kicking in some buffering mechanisms to counteract and regulate the GHG buildup. Now I understand that human civilization interferes with this process to some extent, by chopping down forests right when they should be expanding, for example. Nevertheless, it has only been in the past few decades that this activity has really gotten into high gear, yet the evidence for GCC suggests a relatively smooth and continuous trend in global warming without much evidence of buffering, if I understand correctly.

So is the Gaia hypothesis wrong, or does Lovelock no longer believe it, or what?

Yeah, this seemed inconsistent to me too. Lovelock either says we are "outside the limits of Gaia" or that "Gaia will heat the planet and get rid of the humans". I think he makes it up as he goes along.

Lovelock's theory that the Earth is like a self-regulating organism is pretty obviously wrong, in that it is neither self-regulating nor does it have the significant characteristics of an organism. It is accurate to say "the Earth has various positive and negative feedback mechanisms which affect climate" but this is standard theory and nothing like Gaia.

Hopefully, Lovelock's enthusiasm for nuclear power and irrational dislike of wind power will enlighten people Lovelock is not the environmental guru he claims to be.

A self-regulating organism can kill itself. Consider alcohol: our liver processes all toxins, including ethanol. An adult male's liver can process about one standard drink an hour. Less than that, and the alcohol will have little or no effect on the guy. More than that, and it overwhelms the liver's ability to process, so that the ethanol gets into the bloodstream and you get drunk. Much more than that, and it can actually kill you.

All self-regulating organisms have limits; they can process a certain amount of stuff through natural cycles, but if you chuck more than that in, the organism gets sick.

We're putting more CO2 and so on through the Earth's liver (its atmosphere and aquasphere) than it can process, so it's getting sick.

As an analogy, it holds up pretty well.

Yeah, but like Bob said the Earth isn't a self-regulating organism, so that's why the analogy falls down. Put simply, self-regulating organisms can die or be killed, but the Earth isn't one and so it isn't going to die or be killed ... it's just going to change, probably quite drastically. But then that has happened many times in the past.

We can still do the dying, of course, and we well might. But that's what he said. In this case it's the 'cancer' that's going to do the dying, not the 'patient'.

Are we talking about Earth the planet, or Earth the living biosphere?

No, we of course can't kill Earth the planet, it's not even alive.

But Earth the living biosphere is a self-organizing, self-regulating system within the bounds of Earth the planet's environment. That biosphere also has an effect on the environment (such as methane, oxygen, and topsoil production, and carbon sequestration in plants).

Earth the living biosphere can certainly get injured. In the last 500 million years, there have been six mass extinctions in the biosphere's history, and we're in and causing the Holocene extinction, the seventh event.

Careful. You are letting language get the better of you. The biosphere does not 'get injured'. Individuals die and species go extinct at greater or lesser rates - that is all.

The mass extinctions you quote merely prove the point that life on Earth, per se, is well-nigh impossible to get rid of. Yeah, we had all those mass extinctions, some of them _really_ impressive, and look what we ended up with ... a beautiful, ecologically diverse planet, a veritable Garden of Eden just waiting to get bulldozed by H. sapiens.

It's not just that we can't kill 'the planet' i.e. the dead rocks, we can't kill the biosphere either. And pretty much nothing else can, short of Sol doing the job in a billion years or so.

The Gaia hypothesis invokes evolultion of the biosphere in a manner that preserves the biosphere without intention. This is very important for science because in natural systems Aristotlean final causes are not allowed. This is the core controversy in the intelligent design vrs. evolution debate. The cause of the existance of a house is that someone is to live there. This is a final cause. The cause of the existance of a cave (where someone could live) is the disolution of limestone. This is a Humean cause. Lovelock's acheivement is that, like the emergence of species explained by Darwin, the ecosystem can also develop complexity that show behaviors that appear to promote it without the intention required to have a final cause.

The interaction of people with the biosphere pretty much can't function in the Gaia mode because because intention is present. So, while the Gaia mode continues to occur, it can't compensate on the timescale that human actions are affecting it. Thus, we are in need of a final cause: the intention to stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere below 320 ppm to preserve biodiversity so that the Gaia mode can function as it does. Gaia is a theory of how the world works before humans. It does not fit a world with humans. We have foresight so that the future affects our actions. This feedback is much stronger than the feedbacks that make Gaia work.

Foresight is also limited and because of this we can see the real problem with intelligent design theory. It is an anthropomorphism applied in the direction opposite to the Lamarkian error that Lovelock attempts to overcome. It posits a period in time when the designer was at work while sound theology does not bind any being which might take on that role to sequential action. We, on the other hand, could be a bit more intelligent in the way we interact with Gaia since our foresight is improving through analytical methods such as climate models.


after some further thoughts, i have to admit Lovelock is right. the reason, he got the bigger picture. and it makes perfect sense since he is the father of Gaia theory. Gaia is sick because a part of the organism called humanity has become a fantastically overgrown cancer with an exponentially growing demand of resources. just as in any living organism, either the cancer is cured or the whole living organism dies with it. to cure the cancer, the least bloody one can hope for is to turn it benign and shrink it back to its proper size. everyone can guess what that proper size may be. the important thing is to realize that each of us is part of the cancer. now suppose you are diagnosed of cancer today. the prognoses is 10% chance of survival by going through an extremely painful treatment. or, as the doctor may suggest, 'Enjoy life while you can.' what would be your choice? no matter what, Alea Jacta Est.

This is nonsense though, because the planet and the long term prospects for life are in absolutely no danger. The ecosphere is taking a hit, but will certainly survive. What is in real danger is human civilisation.

In terms of your analogy, the tumour will kill itself, the organism is at no risk.

I also wonder, how do we not know that Gaia would prefer to be warmer, and invented humans to release CO2? Lovelock is like a prophet claiming to speak the mind of the God he just invented.

Combine Lovelock's perspective with that of E. O. Wilson, and maybe some things are clarified.

E. O. Wilson is another elderly scientist whose bio will show that he has done terrific work in his lifetime, and has had the good fortune to study things about which he is very passionate.

This passion involves a love for the planet and all of its species. Wilson contends that if we humans are to save some remnant of our own species, we must save as many species as we possibly can that make up the web of inter-related systems within our global habitat.

One would have to read Wilson's "The Creation" to get the whole arguement -- there are complexities and nuances. But essentially Wilson states that our species is tied emotionally and physiologically to a very specific global habitat, and that we have set in motion events which surely will destroy that habitat by the end of the century -- and humans with it. If we are to survive, we must mitigate the impacts we have already had on the planet. Otherwise the planet will become "another planet" with such speed that even we will not be able to adapt.

Radical changes in air, soil, water and weather will be so great that most of our planet will become uninhabitable by humans, according to Wilson. We cannot predict where on the planet we might move to be safe, or how long various places will be safe and maintain a carrying capacity for even a few thousand humans.

In the face of this cataclysm we are rendered absolutely vulnerable as individuals and as a species. It is that vulnerability and that confrontation with our own limits and mortality that make such topics taboo for many.

Lovelock and Wilson are both in deeply love with the planet they have spent their lives studying. They argue that most of us love this planet as we know it even more than we let ourselves know. They also imply that we are bound to the planet as we have known it for the past 10 or 12 thousand years in a vital way: we will not survive if the planet changes as much as they predict. We are too diverse and too many of us are vested in civilization as we have known it to be able to change.

Resistant to change, we choose ignorance regarding our dependence upon the planet and focus instead on various aspects of our godlike, magical technologies. This gives us a way to tell ourselves comforting stories as we enter a bottleneck of environmental blowback that we will not be able to control, and may not survive.

New Energy Source May Turn Cars into Cash Cows!
cash cow: Slang. A steady dependable source of income

Will a Breakthrough Technology Turn Your Future Car into a 100 kW Power Plant?

A revolutionary breakthrough by Magnetic Power Inc., called GENIE™ (Generating Electricity by Nondestructive Interference of Energy) promises to make possible the elimination of the need for batteries of every variety. GENIE generators are expected to replace the need to plug-in a plug-in hybrid. Two kW is all the power that can be taken from a typical wall socket. A pair of 1 kW GENIE generators are expected to demonstrate a compact, inexpensive, capability to end the need to plug-in, prior to the end this year.

If the development of GENIE generators is put on a 24/7 footing, it may be possible to provide 100 kW systems that will fit in the space of a typical gas tank, on a prototype basis in perhaps two years. If that occurs, since no fuel or battery recharge is required, automobile manufacturers may conclude that engines are likely to become obsolete. Consumer purchasing patterns could begin to reflect a new reality, with the market deciding most future cars must be totally electric, since they will never need any variety of fuel. Better yet, many cars might become cash cows!

The economics are likely to prove compelling. Until now, car ownership has been an expense. Vehicle to Grid power (V2G), has been explored in a modest way for hybrids. Plug-in hybrids, equipped with a two way plug, can feed power to the local utility while parked. This is at least 90% of the time for the average vehicle. Professor Willet Kempton, at the University of Delaware, has stated the car’s owner could earn up to $4,000 every year.

GENIE powered cars are expected to be capable of generating at least 75 kW and perhaps 100 kW in the volume of a typical fuel tank. In the case of luxury cars, trucks and buses, it seems 150 kW will prove practical. Technology already exists that, using inductive electronics, can wirelessly couple up to 150 kW to the grid from parked vehicles. No plug connection will be required.

A large plug installed in a hybrid would provide, at most, perhaps 12 kW to the utility. If that 12 kW can annually pay the vehicle owner $4,000, imagine what the income might be with an inductively coupled 75 kW or larger GENIE generator. If the price per kW is the same as that used in the University of Delaware analysis, we could be considering payments totaling $25,000, or more, per year. With utility cooperation, the GENIE powered car can become a cash cow!

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. stated that two million customers lost power during the recent California storms. GENIE powered cars will be able to wirelessly power the average home. Imagine the economic and human advantages!

When a substantial number of vehicles powered by GENIE generators fill a parking garage, it will have become a multi-megawatt power plant.

Doubtless, when millions of cars and trucks are selling power to the grid, the price per kilowatt paid will decline. However, it still seems likely that the cost of many vehicles might be paid for by utilities, as they purchase power whenever needed. The parked cars, trucks and buses, each become decentralized power plants - a rapid, cost-effective alternative to the many tough and costly challenges of constructing new coal burning and nuclear power generation facilities. Utilities and vehicle manufacturers have a unique opportunity to lead the nation and the world into a dramatic reduction in the need for oil. Future wars over energy supply might be avoided.

Lovelock may well be correct. James Hansen, NASA Goddard, stated (January 2, 2008): “The earth is close to passing climate change ‘tipping points.’ Greenhouse gases released in burning fossil fuels are nearing a level that will set in motion dangerous effects, many irreversible, including extermination of countless species, ice sheet disintegration and sea-level rise, and intensified regional climate extremes. As a society we face a stark choice. Move on to the next phase of the industrial revolution, preserving and restoring wonders of the natural world, while maintaining and expanding benefits of advanced technology. Or ignore the problem, sentencing humanity and other creatures to struggle on an increasingly desolate planet.”

What better way to address the problem than by turning cars into decentralized power plants?


The mythical Zero Point again. Absolutely guaranteed to transfer money from suckers into your bank account.

The first U.S. Patent issued claiming Zero Point Energy might be converted and used as a source of energy was inspired by the late Robert Forward, then a physicist at Hughes Aircraft. He had discussed, in a pioneering paper appearing in the refereed journal Physical Review B, in 1984, how ZPE might become a source of electricity.

Two years later the United States Air Force sought proposals for the utilization of ZPE for power and propulsion.

Aviation Week and Space Technology, reported in their March 1, 2004 issue, that at least two major aerospace firms and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, are studying ZPE.

A NASA news release dated March 30, 2005, states: "[ZPE] . . . is a potentially bottomless sea of invisible, ultra-powerful energy suspected to exist in the vacuum of space.” NASA data suggests that far more than 20 times the solar energy available, at the peak of a sunny day, can be extracted from the Zero Point Field per unit of surface area on earth – well in excess of 20 kilowatts per square meter, around the clock, seven days per week.

Dr. Fabrizio Pinto, formerly a physicist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and two other teams, have obtained U.S. Patents related to extracting ZPE. In his Patents, Pinto states, “ZPE is expected to exhibit infinite density and to be universally present, and might therefore be a limitless source of energy.”

Mr. Goldes is apparently the CEO of the company he linked to regarding this magnetic energy biz.

Forgive me if I seem too skeptical, but it seems like he is spamming us here.

The website does not inspire confidence at all. He states that he has a researcher with "an almost photographic memory" and three people who are degreed electrical engineers.

Who are these people, what are their specific degrees, and where from?

The articles listed are not published in any peer-reviewed literature that I can see. It looks mostly like self-published stuff from folks who have dreams of making "free energy devices."

I Googled "fabrizio pinto" and found that this guy is CEO of "Interstellar Technologies Corporation" and also connects him to "American Antigravity" of which Goldes is also CEO.

I note, too, that Goldes is involved in energy from "vacuums and nanotech," among other things.

I see that STAIF ("Space Technology and Applications International Forum" is another stop on the tour of references you give, but it also seems to refer us back to you as a reference for yourself on other websites,

There is not one verifiable claim on any website associated with this. Mostly it looks like a bunch of folks trying to garner support for their own alleged "free energy research and development" which may someday generate the new magical energy fix and solve all of our problems.

Snake oil, anyone? Swampland in Florida?

Sigh ... and so it goes ...

I am CEO of Magnetic Power Inc. and its subsidiary Room Temperature Superconductors Inc. The statement that I am CEO of another firm is incorrect.

The subsidiary has completed four SBIR Contracts on our Ultraconductors for the USAF and what is now the MDA. One of the AF Contracts was a Phase II.

That work is published in refereed journals including the Journal of Superconductivity.

The Ultraconductors have been tested by the USAF and reproduced independently for the AF by Fractal Systems on a SBIR Contract. They were also reproduced at the Ioffe Institute in St. Petersburg where a paper was published stating they found zero resistance. Magnetic tests to 9 Tesla with no loss of conductivity were done at the Bar Ilan University which reproduced the materials as well.

Our magnetic energy conversion systems are moving toward commercialization. We do not expect anyone with scientific or engineering background will believe this technology is real, until it is widely available and validated by independent laboratories, as it reflects new science and technology that will not be found in textbooks. Six multi-billion dollar firms have signed NDAs and are potential licensees.

With oil prices rising and a new book stating the war in Iraq has a price tag of $3 Trillion and peak oil seeming real to many, we believe this work offers an exciting potential alternative. It is one of the few technologies that offers hope of a rapid reduction in the need for fossil fuels.

When you're jailed for fraud, remember I told you so.

That is, unless your victims kill you first.

Human history is riddled with examples of innovations and research that had been suppressed and derogated by the leading science community and the accepted scientific conventions of the time. Throughout human history, many innovators became the victims of the insults of the skeptical scientific, governmental and corporate power elites.

Many scientists and scholars know that disagreeing with the dominant view is risky, especially when that view is backed by powerful interest groups. When someone presents a new research, unconventional or unpopular scientific view, or comes out with a new way of doing things that threatens a powerful interest group, typically a government, industry or professional body, representatives of that group attack the innovator's ideas and the innovator personally. Such attacks are carried out by censoring writing, blocking publications, withdrawing or denying grants, taking legal actions, or spreading rumors.

What are the effects of suppression of new ideas, intellectual dissent, unconventional, or unpopular scientific views? Suppression is not only a denial of the open debate that is the foundation of a free society, it also creates artificial barriers and in effect retard innovation and creativity. Moreover, it has a chilling effect that breeds external censorship as well as self-censorship. If we can learn anything from the history of science, it is the dissidents and the unconventional thinkers who have spurred science on.

The following quotes and facts illustrate the initial hostile and trivializing attitude towards new ideas, scientific inquiries, and revolutionary discoveries.

“I watched his countenance closely, to see if he was not deranged... and I was assured by other Senators after we left the room that they had no confidence in it." --Reaction of Senator Smith of Indiana after Samuel Morse demonstrated his telegraph before member of Congress in 1842.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
--Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

When Nobel Laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar presented his ideas at the Royal Astronomical Society in January 1935, most famous astronomer at that time, Arthur Eddington, ridiculed his ideas. It took decades before the Chandrasekhar Limit was accepted by all astrophysicists and eventually his idea became the foundation for the theory of black holes. Chandrasekhar was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in physics.

Galileo’s ideas about the universe were first dismissed as being impossible. The priests and aristocrats feared the worldview that his ideas were beginning to force upon people. Galileo was placed under house arrest until the end of his life.

Nobel prize-winning biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi never got funded for his work on the relevance of quantum physics to living organisms.

As documented by Dr. Brian Martin, government scientists critical of nuclear power have lost their staff and have been transferred as a form of harassment.

“Mr. Bell, after careful consideration of your invention, while it is a very interesting novelty, we have come to the conclusion that it has no commercial possibilities." -- J. P. Morgan's comments on behalf of the officials and engineers of Western Uni0n after a demonstration of the telephone.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." --Western Uni0n internal memo, 1876.

When Scanning-tunneling microscope was invented in 1982, it was met by hostility and ridicule from the specialists in the microscopy field. In 1986, the inventors won the Nobel prize.

George Ohm's initial publication was met with ridicule and dismissal and it was called "a tissue of naked fantasy." Ten years later, scientists recognized its great importance.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" --David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" --H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
--Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'" --Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.

Stanford Ovshinsky's invention of glasslike semiconductors was attacked by physicists and ignored for more than a decade. Finally he got funding from the Japanese for his work. Consequently, the new science of amorphous semiconductor physics was born.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." --Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

When Sherwood Rowland, Mario Molina and Paul Crutzen first warned that chemicals called cholorofluorocarbons or CFCs, were destroying the ozone layer they were ridiculed for their work. In 1995, Rowland, Molina and Crutzen, won a Nobel Prize.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man." --G. B. Shaw.

In 1908 Billy Durant, in trying to raise money to create an automobile trust, boasted to J.P. Morgan & Co. "that the time would come when half a million automobiles a year will be running on the roads of this country." This annoyed Morgan partner George W. Perkins who said "If that fellow has any sense, he'll keep those observations to himself." Unable to raise capital in Wall Street, Durant went home and put together something called General Motors.

When Warren and his team introduced a new facet to MRI theory, his colleagues at Princeton told him that his insane ideas were endangering his career. They held a mean-spirited bogus presentation mocking his work. After seven years, Warren was vindicated. His discoveries are leading to the development of new MRI techniques.

During 1903 to 1908, Wrights' claims about their airplane invention were not believed. Most American scientists discredited the Wrights and proclaimed that their mechanism was a hoax.

When Thomas Edison became successful with a light bulb filament he invited members of the scientific community to observe his demonstration. Although many from the general public went to witness the lamp, the noted scientists refused to attend. Sir William Siemens, England's most distinguished engineer said "Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being unworthy of science and mischievous to its true progress." Professor Du Moncel said "The Sorcerer of Menlo Park appears not to be acquainted with the subtleties of the electrical sciences. Mr. Edison takes us backwards."

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction." --Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology, 1872.

"Airplanes are interesting toys, but of no military value." -- Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

Famous Quotations on New Ideas & Innovation

"If at first, the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it." -- Albert Einstein.

“At their first appearance innovators have always been derided as fools and mad men.” -- Aldous Huxley.

"Every great advance in science has been issued from a new audacity of the imagination" --John Dewey.

"That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next" --John Stuart Mill.

"Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which the problems were created" --Albert Einstein.

"No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess"
--Isaac Newton.

"That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time" --John Stuart Mill.

"The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false."--Paul Johnson

"Concepts which have proved useful for ordering things easily assume so great an authority over us, that we forget their terrestrial origin and accept them as unalterable facts. They then become labeled as "conceptual necessities", etc. The road of scientific progress is frequently blocked for long periods by such errors." --Albert Einstein

"All great truths began as blasphemies." --George Bernard Shaw

All of the above can be found on the Home Page of Scientific Journals International


Human history is riddled with examples of innovations and research that had been suppressed and derogated by the leading science community and the accepted scientific conventions of the time.

And they all had one thing in common:  they brought up an undeniable inconsistency or theoretical hole in the science of the day, and resolved or filled it.  They understood where the rest of the field had something missing, while you can't even get your heat-engine nomenclature right.

If you want to distinguish yourself from Steorn and the peddlers of fuel-line magnets, you can start by shedding light on your exact results and methods.  Saying that you can dissociate water with tuned radiation is one thing; showing your methods in a paper that others can use to reproduce them is how scientists do it.

Even if your machine works the magnitude of our energy needs are so great that it will take many years if not decades for it to have a significant impact in the energy marketplace. Just look at the slow pace of implementing hybrid car technology. They simply cannot manufacture the batteries fast enough to increase hybrid production rates to more than a few per cent of all cars built. If your machine needs special alloys which use rare earth elements then widespread implementation will be even farther out in the future. It is highly unlikely that any new technology can ramp up production fast enough too have any impact on the peak oil crisis.
If you care to send me one of your machines I will plug it into my house and see what impact it has on my electric bill. Send one to Engineer Poet also.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. For instance the Wright brothers didn't seek outside investors and generally shunned publicity for roughly four years after their Kitty Hawk flights. Then at their own expense they took their refined airplane to Paris and stunned the world. It was the extraordinary proof that backed their extraordinary claim. Put up or shut up.

" Just look at the slow pace of implementing hybrid car technology. "

They're 2.5% of sales, and doubling every 2 years. Not too bad.

"They simply cannot manufacture the batteries fast enough to increase hybrid production rates to more than a few per cent of all cars built. "

Sure they can. NIMH is facing a bit of plateau, AFAIK due to the transition to Li-ion, but the big battery manufacturers say that they'll have no problem ramping up li-ion's.

" It is highly unlikely that any new technology can ramp up production fast enough too have any impact on the peak oil crisis."

What makes you think so?

The world uses 30,000,000,000 bbl of oil each year. Each per cent of oil production decline means replacing 300 million bbls. If the decline is 5% (which is conservative considering the decline rates of Alaska and the North Sea) means replacing 1.5 billion bbl/yr. That is 63 billion gallons. That is over 2 trillion kwh. That's 250 additional one billion watt power plants. Every year for decades to come. That's why I think so.

Did anyone see Representative Roscoe Bartlett's (R-Maryland) special order speech in front of the House on 2/28/2008? It seemed like he understands the issue. It's an hour long, much more than a sound bite. Check it out at Energy Policy TV's Congress Channel.