POLL: Can We Buildout Both Renewable Energy AND Attain Economic Growth?

We are trying to do everything.

Save the banks, save the automakers, build out a smart grid, create jobs, yet not 'be held hostage to dwindling resources'. Can this be accomplished? We need energy to do work. We need cheap energy to have growth for this many people and for those recently joining the global stage. We need growth (or at least the perception of it) to have debt in order to finance future industry, whether the industry is basic goods or more discretionary pursuits. But via receding horizons (depletion outpacing technology), energy costs will outpace energy revenues (in aggregate, declining energy surplus), and a compressed time horizon will require prioritization.

(From: Beyond Oil: the Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades; John Gever et al.; p. 225)

Though dated, the above graphic shows (green) starting early to solve the problem of transition to a world of less liquid fuel and (red) waiting until the 'market signal' (aka last moment) - the net energy available to society (due to continued energy expenditures on 'un-economic growth') passes through a period of perilous scarcity. In Matt Simmons latest presentation(pdf), he suggests the need for up to $100 trillion to upgrade the rust and aging energy delivery infrastructure - this is 2 orders of magnitude larger than the $850 billion stimulus package voted on last night, and triple the total global stock market capitalization.

Cutler Cleveland at Boston U. kindly scanned the entire 'Beyond Oil' book at the above link which is an excellent introduction to the energy choices we face -(particularly Chapter 7.)

Below the fold is a POLL on what you think is possible given our resource constraints.

Can We Buildout Renewable Energy Infrastructure and Attain Economic Growth at Same Time?

1)Yes, we have enough cheap oil and gas and materials left, that we can continue running the current system while building out renewable energy infrastructure. Yes we can (and will).

2) Yes we have the energy and resources to do it, but why should we? It would just perpetuate the complexity and dependency society has on superficial pursuits. Best to change the 'ends' as soon as possible - save the energy for later.

3)Yes, but only if we curtail non-essential industry and focus on 'smart-growth' -we then have enough energy gain and materials to continue 'growing' though growth will be different than in the past.

4)No, we cannot have growth AND scale renewable infrastructure without creating greater problems and shortfalls in the future. So to effectively build out 'sustainable' energy, we must give up growth as our goal.

5)No, not only can't we have growth, but we can't scale renewable infrastructure for 6+ billion in time to avert population reductions, war, famine, etc.

6)Other. Some option not generally reflected above.

Please vote in the . POLL . and if you like, cite your choice, and provide logic (and or links and graphs) as to why, in the open thread below.

(Note: the full poll choices are listed above but a temporary tech glitch (character limit)precludes me from listing the entire text.)

I'd say a cross between 3 and 6. We could build out some renewable 'critical' infrastructure for high-consuming countries, and some medium-consuming countries, but not for all 6 billion people, at least not at the level in the high-consuming countries. Solar cookers perhaps, but not full replacement of their housing, transportation infrastructure, and implementation of a modest smart electrical grid network.

if we do that, how will those not at the renewable infrastructure party feel? and what will their leaders do?

how will those not at the renewable infrastructure party feel?

Pretty much the way they feel now.

and what will their leaders do?

That depends on their reliance on our consumption of their goods, the negotiations over the measures enacted to reduce GHG, and how the other import/export money flows.

Left out.

Seriously I think its fairly obvious that at this stage renewable energy / nuclear / electric rail options will be for a minority of the worlds 6 billion people. I suspect that eventually it will be a minority of the current population of the wealthiest countries.

We also have and obvious catch 22 as the world energy supply contracts that continuing BAU results initially in the collapse of the weakest nations leaving more energy for the stronger countries. I uses weaker/stronger in a military-economic sense since military might would play a increasing role as we start to see a global economic meltdown.

Thus if the expectation is that a solution to our energy problems means electric SUV's for suburbia then we can expect that this will be the problem thats solved. At some point it will become obvious that electric rail is also needed but its more to support the work force of the wealthy not as a national rail network.

Americans expecting to participate in this economy at their current living standard will of course agree with the game. I suspect Europeans will be a bit less willing but will also go along. At some point it will become obvious that not all Americans and Europeans will be "saved" much less the rest of the world however politically I suspect at this point it will be to late.

Not that I'm against efforts to move to renewables etc but I think it should be obvious to all that this is not going to save the world and at best will ensure the continuation of a technically advanced civilization in a few enclaves much smaller than our current nations.

The problem is all of the problems we did not solve when we had abundant energy don't go away as energy declines they simply get worse and even harder to solve. And we all live on the same planet problems in one one country will spill over into its neighbors we are not isolated not even Australia. To save our global society we face the enormous task of solving many of the problems we failed to solved with almost unlimited resources and do it with a declining resource base and worsening global economy.

If we don't solve the worlds problems then all we are doing is creating technologically advanced enclaves and the issue is who is in and who is out. The chances of our current society surviving the formation of enclaves is zero. The chance that these enclaves won't turn into despotic militaristic centers of power is slim. The chance that most Americans and Europeans will support the formation of enclaves ignoring the rest of the world under the assumption that they will get in is 100%.

Only Alan's electric rail proposals offers a solution thats viable world wide. Electric rail coupled with renewable and yes nuclear energy offers the chance for the world to transition the nuclear option is in my opinion needed because we have waited to long but this does not mean it need be large or we cannot remove it overtime. But its simply to late to not develop standard commercial reactors if simply to power the creation of the infrastructure for renewable sources. This does not mean we don't have a number of other problems to address esp food and water security but if we can get electric rail widespread I'd suggest that this transportation backbone can help regions specialize in what they can produce sustainable and allow populations to redistribute to take pressure off the least sustainable regions. Even with six billion people we face more of a population distribution problem vs a absolute population problem . And of course we must finally develop a human way to reduce the worlds population and a secure retirement for all is the best solution.

So in my opinion as overall energy declines we have a simple choice we have to solve the problems of the world or we can create enclaves. And enclaves will result in extreme misery and probably despotic nuclear armed city states. Think North Korea.

Americans expecting to participate in this economy at their current living standard will of course agree with the game.

I don't know of that's true or not, current living standard part.

If the economy can decentralize then anything is possible, with the same twenty- five idiots in charge of everything all that is left will be 'check mate'.

Just a nit, but important (I'm not arguing your general point): We don't need to replace housing for 6 billion. A goodlyportion of the world lives in cliamtes that need no power for heating/cooling, or that are mild enough that, e.g., bundling up would actually be enough. For much of the world, living differently rather than building differently.

Some attempt to quantify this might be useful for global scale solutions.


Personally, If energy is allocated correctly, and people are not given gasoline to take their car to the mail box, things will work out fine.

This recent price spike seemed to illustrate one thing, a high price of gasoline does cause a drop in demand.

I think it's possible to build enough renewable energy, but only if we reduce wasteful use of remaining fossil fuels (3). This will only work with the correct policies, like carbon and energy taxes, subsidies, and simply banning wasteful equipment and habits.

I'm afraid the only way to get the necessary policy changes is actually running into the next spike in oil and natural gas prices, Mexico stopping oil exports, a longer episode of Russia blocking gas-pipelines, even clearer evidence of climate change (ice-free Arctic, a few more Katrina's, persistent droughts, flooding, melting glaciers). To be sure, I don't want any of this to happen, but they will.

I just hope that this will lead to policy changes, and not to populist or even fascist regimes, eager to blame everybody else and willing to go to war for dwindling resources.

Populist and even (near-)fascist you've already got. Worry more when they become unelected dictatorships.

I am very glad you posted this. There is some amazing stupid thinking going on and being broadcast through the media about what is happening. The bottom line is that the Financial Times estimates 50 million jobs will be lost this year; peak oil is real; global climate change, resulting from variation in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, now being mapped in near real time by NASA, will result in less predictable food supplies and local weather intensification.

The idea that government has no role in addressing these critical issues is an amazingly naive idea. The seriousness of all of this cannot be overstated. Nice job.

Could a formally Voting made out of it?

I prefer 5. But i dont like it ;-)

But what is necessary to say too:

I think a vision is needed to make people willing to do the work that has to be done.
If Obama would say: "Its over, nothing can stop the decline of everything we like" it would not help. Im not sure if the truth would help. Maybe it would stop the country going...

The only way we have been able to maintain economic growth this long is by building a huge debt bubble that allowed up to keep up energy production and push that energy through the economy. Now that the debt bubble is collapsing, the amount of energy available and used from all sources is dropping back. With less debt, cash flow becomes much more important, for energy as well as everything else.

As long as renewables are scaling up, the cost of new turbines and new PV vastly exceeds the annual benefit on an unsubsidized basis. Unless we are very short of electricity capacity (and this is debatable, with the current drop in industrial electrical demand), it is hard for governments to justify spending scarce resources in building a huge amount of additional infrastructure, no matter how "green".

Also, if state governments--and individuals--are very much poorer, they will not have all the money they have had in the past to provide subsidies to homeowners for renewables. If states like California are close to bankruptcy, it will be hard to maintain their current level of support for renewables. Because of these issues, I expect that renewables will have a hard time holding their own in the years ahead.

I have always had doubts about the overall EROEI of small scale PV and other widespread distributed micro generation. The fact that it can't work without being subsidised either through gross feed in tarrifs or direct cash handouts up front, underlines the overall inefficiency of this approach.

I am not surprised that Governments would withdraw subsidies as it may make more sense to invest in a centralised power station with a manageable output than to subsidise an uncontrolled, distributed system wher the responsible authority has little control over the mainatenance and reliability.

Back to square one I'm afraid.

PV has EROEI above one, but not all much above, as far as I've seen. To me, it is important as a supplement to wind, since it provides a more reliable base load during peak usage--hot summer days.

From what I have heard, small scale wind does not have EROEI above 1, especially when you include energy for construction and transportation of the units. Efficiencies of scale really are important here, though going with the biggest models makes it less likely that the democratization of the power supply in the way many alt energy folks have been hoping for.

On the subsidies side, every major form of power is pretty massively subsidized. The subsidies for research into nuclear alone swamps everything being spent on alternatives.

Of course, I all for taking away all subsidies to all of the energy industries, but that is not likely to happen any time soon.

PV has EROEI above one, but not all much above, as far as I've seen. ... From what I have heard, small scale wind does not have EROEI above 1, especially when you include energy for construction and transportation of the units.

Please share you sources, so that we can evaluate the findings.

In the meantime, read this Home Power article.

Just googling "pv eroei" pulls up:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2894 gives 1 (doubtless too low)


http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2008/01/eroie.html gives levels starting at 3.7

http://www.peakoil.org.au/news/energy_profit.htm gives 3

I don't have time to multiply these dozens of times, but outside the PV sales industry that your link (and perhaps you?) represent, there are many low estimates for PV EROEI. Note that I don't think that this alone should prevent investment, and of course further research and development.

I feel that grid tie PV should at least be given a chance and subsidized equally.

A 50+% rebate would go farther than what is being subsidized currently IMHO

California has been reducing the rebate while claiming that they support renewables

If they were really behind Solar , they would be increasing it.

Subsidizing indivduals like this is politically difficult as it creates a risk of the individaul disconnecting from the grid and hogging the generated power.

At this moment in South Eastern Australia we are sweltering in 43 Deg C heat and power companies are now load shedding by disconnecting whole neighbourhoods on a roster basis. If you were lucky enough to have PV on your roof so you can keep your fridge going at least, why should I help pay you for it?

I hear this argument from a few deep greens that want the government to subsidise their panels and then pay them premium gross feed in tarrif like Germany but where do they think the money for this comes from?

The feed-in tariff is only for grid-connected solar systems. Not storage. The power doesn't go through their house, and anything left goes to the grid; it goes straight to the grid and the house draws on it. So when the grid goes down, those houses with solar panels lose power, too.

If they added batteries to their system, that was entirely out of their own pocket and not subsidised by the taxpayer. So if they manage to keep their fridge going for a day or so, well they paid for that, so why not?

Some stand-alone systems are subsidised, but that's because where the household is they can't get mains power (outback cattle stations, etc). The subsidy there isn't really for renewable energy, it's to support rural people - the same way the public pays more per person to get a phone connection to a village of 82 people than in a city of a million. And in any case stand-alone systems in the outback don't get a feed-in tariff.

Money for rooftop solar comes from the same place money for coal-fired stations comes from, the public. The question is not whether the public will pay for it, they'll always have to pay; the question is what do we want to achieve, and whether this or that is the best spending of money to get what we want.

In sunny places like California, which have high insolation levels and clear skys, large-scale solar thermal electric systems have persistantly shown themselves to be cheaper per KWh than photovoltaics, whether distibuted or not. They can even store heat in molten salt and generate electric power at night.

We need to concentrate our resources on the options that provide the lowest long term costs, as there is no shortage of neccesary projects that require the expenditure of cash.

CA is subsidizing solar to the tune of ~10c/kWh (lifetime amortized cost IIRC) because it displaces ~15-25c/kWh electricity from natural gas peaker plants, reduces the need for extra transmission infrastructure only used during peak demand in the summer, and helps to get the solar industry, a lot of which is local, on it's feet. There's only so much peak capacity that is financially prudent for the state to subsidize at higher rates, not to mention solar panel prices have been dropping fairly consistently, so the subsidy drops as the amount of PV generating capacity increases for both business and residential applications.


You've claimed that PV has an EROEI of around one, but the links you provided show otherwise;

Your first two links are focused on cost, your third link provides PV EROEI values of 12-10, 7.5 and 3.7 (which has values in the ranges I provided), and your fourth link gives an EROEI of 3.

So I assume you are readjusting your thoughts on PV EROEI?

Now, what sources do you have on small wind?

I don't consider 3 to be "much above one" (my actual words), but if you do, I won't argue the point.

Again, I am not arguing against PV. I have considered putting some up on my roof. I just find it surprising and a bit disappointing that its EROEI is not higher yet.

I would REALLY, REALLY, REALLY like to see some effort put into determining EROEI of DIY systems as I have repeatedly posted on these forums. Until someone does that, you folks are blowing smoke when talking about micro-energy. I don't see the future filled with micro-turbines built by Vestas, for example. That's just greenwashed BAU and multiplies the costs by orders of magnitude, it would seem, over a DIY windmill/PV/etc.

The biggest cost in a DIY wind system are the panels and the batteries, but there are lots of batteries thrown away that have years of life, lots of throw away imperfect pv cells (though certainly not enough, but buying cells in bulk might help with costs, no?), there are many millions of auto generators in junkyards and lots of nice new mini- designs coming out. People are successfully using painted soda and beer cans to raise indoor temps 10+ degrees, e.g....

All of these things have been posted previously.


Last I checked, via the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the EROEI of solar was ~6-31:1 nearly a decade ago, depending on location, panel type, and so on. Since the cheapest panels available for consumers right now (AFAIK), at ~$3.50/Watt, are made from Polycrystalline and Amorphous Silicon, and have an EROEI of around ~15:1 as per the ASME paper, assuming an EROEI of three or less is incorrect in light of current panels. This of course does not take into account mass production for commercial and utility scale deployment of other amorphous thin film panel makers like First Solar at an EROEI of ~30:1. W/ thin film, in other words current tech in it's different forms, expected to blow past crystalline solar panel production around 2010, I imagine that any worries about solar PV w/ an EROEI less than an average of ~15-20:1 are unfounded.

Wind turbines are having bearing failures sometimes in as few as 100 hrs, in the larger turbines.

google: wind turbine bearing failure

I didn't see anything that showed this was common; very few, as a matter of fact, so it seems the industry is having much success in this area.

The subsidy will be an important contribution to the long term well being of the societies which are converting to renewables. It has to do with the Law of Receding Horizons. It has been claimed for a long time that technologies like shale oil, CTL, BTL, cellulosic ethanol, etc will make economic sense when fossil fuel prices are above X amount. Fossil fuel prices are a big factor in implementing replacements so as price rises the cost of replacements rise in step. I see a reflection of LRH that works the other way. Large scale use of renewables will reduce the demand for FF and therefore drive those prices down.

The justification for subsidies is national security. Imports make the importer vulnerable to political manipulation by the exporter. For instance we invest in military technologies not because they are cheaper than existing equipment but because they enhance national security. Building energy independence is cheaper than new military technologies by a long shot. If we don't need their fossil fuels then it takes away a reason for war and therefore the cost of new weapons.

One problem with PV occurs when it comes to speed of payback. If we are stuck in a growth paradigm in which a system has to deliver a certain % over the base financing rate, it is likely PV won't make the cut. It may be that PV pays back its energy cost in a few years time, but its return to the purchaser will likely mean that a PV system financed at say 6% interest may never pay for itself. I've done this calculation a number of times on a hypothetical home PV system and end up figuring 40 years payback, especially for an off-grid system. At this rate, one would be continually paying a rate many times the present rate of fossil-fuel electricity. But then maybe this is how much electricity will cost in the future.

THis is precisely my conclusion. Energy payback is a misleading indicator of affordability for an INDIVIDUAL due to timing of energy flows. From a social aggregate, with thousands of sources there are new ones coming online all the time so the FLOW rate of this energy is aggregated to make it appear to consumers as coming earlier in the lifetime. But if you only have one unit, it takes a great many years (and in my locale, about 40 at current electricity rates) to break even - if electricity rates triple then its closer to 15 years - but still no great deal - you are paying for insurance policy, not a high ROI.

I think some combination of 2, 3, 5 and 6 are all relevant. I think that renewable infrastructure can be built out, and that growth is undesirable - you could reduce growth and still cover the infrastructure issues *VERY SLOWLY* - that is, I don't think that you could do enough to keep the present generation living at a standard they'll be happy with (although I think they would probably accept it in the long term given the right incentives), but could offer a longer term, brighter future for subsequent generations.

My own feeling is that most rapid build outs that have been proposed will probably push us past climate thresholds we can't tolerate. The first priority is to get consumption of resources down, and then build gradually. This, of course, assumes a level of organization, sacrifice and management I think are unlikely - so the odds are good we simply won't do as much as we should.



Sharon, are you active in the transition town or relocalization/post-carbon movements? If so or if not, I'd be interested in your thoughts on these in terms of generating physical/local change and also as springboards for a grass roots movement for a new paradigm... That is, education and awareness, but also protesting/civil disobedience...

Naomi Wolf slams fake activism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qinPxSOBB5o


"Yes we have the resources, to live a much lower energy footprint, but lack the political and social will", would probably have been my answer (and since I wrote the poll, I should have included it...;-)

But the purpose is to discuss these points, with as much urgency, logic, and candor as possible - throw out the ones that are unlikely, and get to work. If all are equally likely, then that tells us something of value too.

I'm sure this has been discussed here before but choosing a much lower energy footprint has the potential to leave one ostracized from most social circles.
For instance, I don't share some of my coworkers zeal for big or small block V-8's, European styling trends or unbridled career advancement.
For me to actively engage these folks in discussions about my post peak preparations would label me the main attraction of the freak show that makes up the community of artists that inhabit any automakers design division.
"Hey Fred, whatcha doin this weekend?"
"Carbonizing my yard waste."
I can imagine the social pressure from marketing, sales or engineering to be much more intense.

I voted for 5.
I think that what we have today is as far as the game goes and our best bet is to slow down our approach to the cliff so we don't just shoot off the edge.
I like looking at ace's charts, imagine we're bumping along this damn plateau, then WHEEEE! the long slide down.
So until things degrade to the point where it is advantageous to power down completely or circumstances necessitate it, "coming out" to my acquaintances ain't in the cards.

Never thought of it as "coming out" before but I think that is a really good analogy. (Not that theres anything wrong with that!)

It's been a while since I saw anything here on TOD which deals with the psychological burden of carrying the peak oil secret and not being able to share it with the real life people around you. might be a great topic for a campfire night.

I was hoping someone would bring up "coming out" on Campfire. I didn't, because I don't really want to be the one to write it up, as I'm not ready to disclose that much. Maybe one of the "real name" posters could say what the experience was like for them?

I have not fully come out, but have expressed my belief in PO, and my "curiosity" in power down.

7) We will do all the wrong things making everything worse facilitating a rapid collapse then we can look back at 1) thru 5) and talk about what we should have done then start doing something/anything which will probably be the wrong thing again.

Sorry I know thats not very constructive but thats exactly what I see happening right here and now.

Now you're talking! But before you come-out and reveal yourself as a flaming doomer, I'd like to draw your attention to an Orlov post on EB.


"Boondoggles to the rescue" With imagination you might even create a profitable company to capitalize on the chaos. You could call it "Boondoggleburton" or some such thing.

When a long dreary winter murders the summer sun.
When dogs of war slip their leash
and slavering, race the killing fields.
Chaos is summoned from the hells.
Boondoggleburton comes.
Boondoggleburton comes.

Well that's a bit bleak then... 73% of us (including me) seem to be going with 4 or 5. I wish I had less faith in the wisdom of the oil drum readership!

That said, 5 is quite a broad category since it doesn't really talk about time-frames and extents of things.

I think when national governments (to the extent they still have sovereignty) have to start dealing with restless domestic populations in an onrushing crisis situation, any positive long-term plans they may have had that could have helped mitigate resource depletion will be replaced with fire-fighting to an even greater extent. Probably amounting to the further curtailment of our basic liberties.

1)Yes, we have enough cheap oil and gas and materials left, that we can continue running the current system while building out renewable energy infrastructure. Yes we can (and will).
To get enough cheap oil and gas we have to resolve some problems. One of the problems is very low oil discovery rate. Now the rate is one discovery in four drilled wells only. It means that 75% drilled wells is waste (dry holes). The ignorance of most of the world about what we do in oil exploration is amazing.
I would like to inform you, that to drill almost each well with new oil/gas discovery there is new technology for oil/gas detection (US patent 7,330,790). The technology is designed and successfully tested in the Barents and the Black Seas as well as in the Gulf of Mexico (see: www.binaryseismoem.weebly.com ).
With new exploration technology oil industry could make up to three times more oil and gas discoveries than when using conventional technology. And the fact that new technology won't need more investments is also very important. It can significantly mitigate impending oil crises.

Or (if it actually works) more likely we get the same amount for less cost by only drilling a third as many exploration wells.

Spam alert!

You've linked a similar paragraph many times - I don't have the geology background to understand it - but I'm curious - are you one of the owners of that patent? From Russia?
(just so as to ascertain whether your motives are profit, or providing the world with more energy, or both)

If you didn't see Euan's response, you might want to ask him his opinion.

Truth about oil deficit, dry wells, and wasted billions.--------------------------------------------

The oil deficit, and consequently, the high oil and gasoline prices in 2008 cost the population of oil-importing countries a pretty penny. Obviously, urgent measures have to be taken to overcome this situation. In particular, US Congress was forced to call for end to the ban on offshore oil drilling.
Many specialists and leaders of the oil industry believe that the main obstacle for increasing oil extraction rates is a shortage of exploration drill-ships. Indeed, many oil exploration projects have been frozen in 2008 because of the scarcity of drill-ships. Thus, the leaders of the oil industry see the way out of the current situation in the increase of the extent of drilling (the number of exploration wells). However, if one takes into account that at the current discovery rate only one quarter of the drilled wells is successful, the active ships drill mostly (three out of four) dry wells, which will be permanently plugged and abandoned after the drilling. Drilling costs for some of the newest deep-water ships in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, have reached about $600,000 a day ($150,000 a day in 2002) and such drilling is carried out mostly (75%) for nothing due to conventional methods of drill site predictions.
“With exploration wells in the Gulf of Mexico costing up to $100 m and a deepwater exploration success rate of 11 percent in 2006, minimization of exploration risk is critical”, writes Philip Christie, Vice President of the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE), New Generation Oil&Gas, issue 3, 2007, www.ngoilgas.com.
Now a discovery rate increases insignificantly, compared with 2006.
Dry wells are a fee society has to pay for uncontrolled trust of the oil industry leaders, who have built an array they are happy with -----------------------------------------------------------------
low discovery rate (25%) – large number of dry wells – large volume of exploration drilling – large number of drill-ships – large number of staff – expensive oil and gasoline – large investments and subsidies into the oil industry – high revenues of the oil and service companies, high dividends for investors – a drop in the quality of life of the population in oil-importing countries. --------

The determining factor in this array is the “low discovery rate”, which results from the unreliability of the predictions based on seismic data, which serve as a foundation for laying wells. Seismics is the dominant method in oil exploration, with a full-year revenue of $2.47 billion (2006). Losses caused by dry holes overcome this revenue more than ten times.
“It's no secret anymore that for every nine barrels of oil we consume, we are only discovering one." - The BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Let us assume, for now just hypothetically, that there is a highly productive Х-technology for detection of hydrocarbon deposits that provides a discovery rate of 75%. In other words, 3 productive wells for each dry well.

How would the above-presented array change if the Х-technology was to be used? It would be like this--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
high discovery rate – small number of dry wells – a reduction in the volume of exploration drilling – a small number of drill-ships – cut-back in the workplace number – cheap oil and gasoline – average investments, subsidies and dividends – average oil and service companies revenues – an increase in the quality of life of the oil-importing countries.

Who would be interested in the implementation of Х-technology?
1. Airlines.
2. Automobile industry and transport companies.
3. Petrochemical companies.
4. Governments and population of oil-importing countries.
Who would not be interested?
1. Oil and service companies.
2. Ship-building companies.
3. Oil-reach governments.
4. Investors into the oil industry.
Х-technology exists and has been successfully tested in the Barents and Black seas, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. It employs a new physical mechanism to initiate a response from hydrocarbon deposits, disclosed in US patents №№ 7,330,790, February 2008; 7,042,601, May 2006 and 7,245,560 July 2007. It is called Binary Seismo-Electromagnetic technology/method. BSE technology provides registration of deposit responses from a vessel moving with the speed 1.5 – 5 knots, depending on the depth of the sea (15-6,000 ft). These responses are observed and registered in the real-time of the vessels movement. The productivity of a vessel is 20-70 miles a day. Commercial deposits of average thickness (60-150 ft) can be detected up to 18,000 ft deep. The technology has 75% discovery rate.
Could BSE-technology be shortly implemented into the industry?
The answer is obvious – No, because successful oil companies and oil-reach governments will prevent this from happening.
And what do you think?

The super giant fields were so large that we didn't need X-technology to find them.

To: Paul-the-engineer,
For your info - size of recent discoveries you can see below:
Peakoil.com Forum Index -> Peak Oil Discussion-Catalog recent oil discovertes

Size of discovery: 2 billion barrels
Date: January 21, 2007
Company(s): National Iranian Southern Oil Fields Co.
Name: Bangestan layer of the Ab-Teymour oil field
Location: Iran
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 83 million barrels
Date: February 12, 2007
Company(s): Maurel & Prom
Name: San Jacinto/Rio Paez
Location: Colombia
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 474 million barrels
Date: February 27, 2007
Company(s): Respol and National Oil Co. of Libya
Name: Murzuq basin
Location: Libya
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 300-500 million barrels
Date: Feb. 28, 2007
Company(s): Norsk Hydro
Name: Nucula
Location: Barents Sea, Norway
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 1.2 billion barrels
Date: April 20, 2007
Company(s): Repsol Oil
Name: Block 200 in the Murzuq Basin
Location: Libya
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): 334-589

Size of discovery: 7.5 billion barrels
Date: May 8, 2007
Company(s): PetroChina
Name: (part of) Bohai Bay
Location: Bohai Bay, China
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

According to this article here, Bohai Bay could contain as much as 146 billion barrels. So we'll have to keep an eye on this one.

Due to its remote location this is not currently considered commercial. So I'll put it in an "other" category.

Size of discovery: 400 million barrels
Date: May 10, 2007
Company(s): Talisman and Petro-Canada
Name: 100 kilometers southeast of Barrow
Location: Alaska
API: unknow
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 450 million barrels
Date: May 11, 2007
Company(s): Nido Petroleum
Name: Service Contract 54
Location: Offshore Palawan Island, Phillipines
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 1.47 billion barrels
Date: May 30, 2007
Company(s): China Petroleum & Chemical Corp
Name: Block 12 at Tahe
Location: Xinjiang, (western) China
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

No info about drilling results, etc. Hard to tell if this is just a seismic assesment, or what? But I'll put it here anyway. Sounds like there's been a fair amount of exploration work, due to the increased size estimate.

Size of discovery: 10 billion barrels - previous assessment was 4 billion barrels, so I'll count this as a 6 billion barrel discovery.
Date: June 1, 2007
Company(s): Rosneft and Korea National Oil Corporation
Name: unknown
Location: Offshore Russia
API: unknow
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 1.1 billion barrels
Date: June 5, 2007
Company(s): Gippsland Offshore Petroleum and Pancontinental Oil & Gas
Name: L6
Location: Kenya
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 1.5 billion barrels
Date: June 23rd, 2007
Company(s): DNO, ENI and Statoil
Name: Goliath
Location: Offshore Norway
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 2.4 billion barrels - 2006 announcement said 300 million, so I'll count this as a 2.1 billion barrel discovery for 2007.
Date: June 24, 2007
Company(s): Heritage Oil and Tullow Oil
Name: Kingfisher well on block 3A in Bunyoro, Hoima district
Location: Uganda
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): 14,000 barrels/day

Size of discovery: 800 million barrels - announcement last year said there was 600 million, so I'll count this as a 200 million barrel discovery for 2007.
Date: June 18, 2007
Company(s): Tullow Oil
Name: Mahogany
Location: Offshore Ghana
API: uknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

According to this link here there could be 2 billion barrels. This is looking like a promising play.

Size of discovery: 170 million barrels
Date: August 31, 2007
Company(s): ROC
Name: Massambala
Location: Offshore Angola
API: unknown, article says it is heavy oil
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

The Brazilian discoveries are starting to pile up.

Size of discovery: 1.4 billion barrels
Date: September 11, 2007
Company(s): Petrobras. Who else?
Name: Xerelete
Location: Offshore Brazil deepwater
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): 2500 barrels/day

Size of discovery: 1.2 billion barrels
Date: September 24, 2007
Company(s): Petrolinvest
Name: Zhubantam license
Location: Kazakhstan
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 120 million barrels
Date: October 1, 2007
Company(s): Innamincka Petroleum Ltd.
Name: Flax and Juniper discoveries in Cooper Basin
Location: Inland Australia (southwest Queensland)
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Like the one near Barrow, Alaska above, this is not considered commerically viable at the moment due to remote location. So I'll put it in an "other" category.

Size of discovery: 240 million barrels
Date: October 18, 2007
Company(s): Devon Energy
Name: Paktoa C-60 well
Location: Beaufort Sea, Canada
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Size of discovery: 60-180 million barrels
Date: October 25, 2007
Company(s): Lundin Norway AS
Name: Exploration well 16/1
Location: Norwegian North Sea
API: unknown, article says it is "light oil"
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Tupi, the big news of the year along with Bohai Bay.

Size of discovery: 5-8 billion barrels recoverable, 12-30 billion barrels total OIP
Date: November 8, 2007
Company(s): Petrobras and BG Group
Name: Tupi
Location: Deepwater Brazil
API: unknown, article says it is "light grade"
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

EDIT: Per this announcement here, I've adjusted upward the total size of Tupi, though the estimated recoverable barrels remains the same.

Size of discovery: 107 million barrels
Date: November 21, 2007
Company(s): DNO
Name: Storskrymten prospect
Location: Norwegian North Sea
Flow rate of test well(s):

This one's hard to tell if it's a "discovery" or not. It might be a "re-discovery." So far they have only taken seismic readings to identify drilling targets, so I'll put this in the "other" category for my tally at the bottom.

Size of discovery: 100 million barrels
Date: December 17, 2007
Company(s): Running Foxes Exploration
Name: Jolly Ranch
Location: Coloradao
Flow rate of test well(s): N/A

Size of discovery: 1 billion barrels
Date: December 18, 2007
Company(s): Frontera
Name: "C" Prospect within the upper Kura Basin
Location: Georgia, in the Caucasus
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

This is yet another one I'll put in the "other" category since it's just seismic readings to target drilling spots.

Size of discovery: 213 million barrels
Date: December 19, 2007
Company(s): Fox Petroleum
Name: Anglesey Prospect
Location: UK North Sea
Flow rate of test well(s): N/A

And yet again, I'll put this in the "other" category since it's just seismic readings so far.

Size of discovery: 744 million barrels
Date: December 20, 2007
Company(s): Tethys
Name: Akkulka and Kul-Bas areas
Location: Kazakhstan
Flow rate of test well(s): N/A

Total 2007: 32.22 billion - 36.75 billion in my unscientific accounting.

Yo Geolog,

No one wants to read your data about some miracle, non-existent, built it in your garage, lets keep the party going a little longer, BS technology. Obviously, you are trying to sell something, or you just love talking about how technology will solve all of our problems. Well guess what my friend, more oil is not the answer! We've got plenty! You sound like an addict trying to devise plans to get more drugs. Listen to yourself! Clearly, you are doing one or more of the following: selling something (Z-technology or whatever), googling "oil discussion" and then butting in to sell something, or you think that everyone on this website is obsessed with finding ways to dodge peak oil and you literally don't have a clue about how the physics of net energy works. If you want to sell oil recovery technology or find people to impress with it, you are looking in the wrong place.

So, 32-37Gbbl. That's... one year's consumption at current rates. Not exactly awesome news.

You also include fields like Tupi, which we don't even know if we can tap it or not. Kilometres of sea, rock and salt to get down through. It ain't easy. We can probably do it but it won't be cheap and easy.

Anyway, let's assume all those fields are up and producing today. They run short, too. What then?

More miraculous discoveries? And then when they run short, more? Is there ever a point where you'll say, "well I guess we're running short, maybe we should try something else"?

Are you familiar with the words "delaying the inevitable"?

Burning fossil fuels for energy is like paying the bills by pawning off your clothing and furniture. You can do it for a while, but in the end you need a source of real income, not drawing on the past's stored income.

PS see, guys? I stomp on peak oil denialists just like I do climate change denialists!

Size of discovery: 2 billion barrels
Date: January 21, 2007
Company(s): National Iranian Southern Oil Fields Co.
Name: Bangestan layer of the Ab-Teymour oil field
Location: Iran
API: unknown
Flow rate of test well(s): unknown

Far too many of these are from national 'companies' that will do anything to boost their claimed reserves, especially if they are in OPEC, which affects their portion of the quota.

API: unknown? Flow rate: unknown? At best, these are wild guesses. How can you present 'data' like this and expect to be taken seriously?


It isn't my data. Is is quotation from PO data.

You are the one using it to support your position, or are you fond of contradicting your own position and are posting it for the $#|+$ and giggles factor?

You have shown that we MIGHT, if all went perfectly with every one of those "discoveries" move Peak by.... one day? And that only if they could all start miraculously producing at max capacity tomorrow rather than dribbling out their oil over the next 20to 60 years. So, increase your discoveries by a factor of 4... and it changes the equation in no meaningful way. At best, you might reduce the down slope little.

If your handle is what you are, you already know this. If you already know this, why are you posting? In fact, if you don't already know this, why are you posting rather than reading to learn more?

All your blabber has been done to death here. Read the archives, and for god's sake stop posting drivel.




My opinion is 5, but how can we move this from the realm of opinion and into something more tractable?

I think there are 4 major physical factors and 1 major sociological factor. If we could model those, even roughly, the answer would be apparent:

1. How fast will the energy sources decline in net energy. It took us 150 years (roughly) to ramp up. We know net energy is declining. If we assume we are half way though our hydrocarbons (by volume) we probably have 75 years or less of energy output remaining. So we would have to scale a new energy system twice as fast as we scaled the last one just to stay even.

2. How fast can we scale up our new energy supplies? EROEI sets rate which a new power systems can be added without putting a drain on the current economy (take more energy to build than they can deliver). Our prior energy sources had 100 to 1 or better EROEI. But we had less efficient methods of using that energy. Assuming we are twice as efficient, we would need a 50 to 1 or better EROEI source to match our last build out. We don't have it. We especially don't have it when you have to factor in smoothing out the intermittent nature of most renewable sources.

3. Rust. Or as I like to call it, the velocity of energy. Capital decays over time and must be replaced. Worse, it tends to perform just fine for 40-80 years and then fail. Much of our existing infrastructure will demand replacement soon. This demand will draw on energy needed for growth or alternative energy build out.

4. Hidden Limits. Water. Soil. Lithium. Tellurium. Declining ore grades demanding more energy. There are many other limits to growth that are not directly related to energy production. Many of the limits slow down switching to alternatives. These will further slow down the rate of change.


A. The current energy system puts unimaginable sums of money in the hands of a specific group of people. Those people are resisting any transition to a new energy system. (Who puts full page ads in the WSJ denying peak oil? Anyone? Anyone?)

Every day they are able to delay action 1) Depletion gets worst. 2) Alternatives are not scaling and remain on the flat part of the exponential curve. 3) Rust increases.

I have picked on energy groups in A but the same applies to environmental groups and others who are blocking any effort to site wind turbines or power lines etc. (Yes, Sen. Kennedy I am talking to you.)

So I have to agree with Jewish Farmer. We are going to face a long period of austerity. It may be that some time in the next century our renewable systems will finally scale up to something approaching the power levels of today. We would be much more certain if we could model these 5 factors in more detail and over time, Limits to Growth style.

Whilst I agree a with your physical factors, and that a reductionist approach has value, I fear that if we follow this logic too far we might give ourselves the impression of having a better understanding of the situation than we do. We need to be careful of accidentally discounting (especially sociological) black swans.

(Who puts full page ads in the WSJ denying peak oil? Anyone? Anyone?)

A more interesting question would be 'who puts full page ads in the WSJ articulating peak oil? anyone? anyone? Why would they? It would by definition be a bad 'dollar return on investement'.

IMO, the 'truth' can't be seen by most until too late due to profit motive. Change the motive and you change the truth. (or rather, you remove some important blinders).

we would need a 50 to 1 or better EROEI source to match our last build out.

Actually that is not true. We need an EROEI greater than one for sure. But during the buildout, the breakeven point is a growth rate of one divided by the payback period of the technology. If the payback is three years (solar as of a couple of year ago), that means if we grow it faster than about 35% per year, it is a net consumer of energy (until we slow the growth rate). But fortunately we are getting better at most of the renewables technologies, so the chance of being able to sustain a reasonably quick buildout isn't eliminated on energy grounds alone. Other factors will probably limit the rate of adoption.

I voted for number 5. It's insane to worry about all nearly 7 billion people on the planet. Why even bring it up? Most will never even see a computer or read TOD on the internet. The best we can hope for is to preserve as much as we can of what we have in the developed western world that we live in. It's very sad about all the ultra-poor in Africa and Asia. Maybe we can continue throwing bones to them, maybe not. Let's get real about population contraction on a finite, resources-depleted planet. Most of the ultra-poor will die. Everyone will feel poorer and most will be saddened by the plight of those that will suffer and die. How can it be otherwise, unless you believe in miracles, of course?

I love quotes. I particularly enjoy them when they come from very respected, knowledgeable individuals who have shaped the thinking of man. But I have noticed that much of what these individuals have said actually goes ignored. It is as if to say, “Isn't that profound.” but then the mind says, “Ah, profound yes, but I can't go there. You know, it gets in the way of my vision, my personal quest.”

Here is one. “Unlike the plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not understand, the modern plague of over-population is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we posses. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and the education of the billions who are its victim”. Martin Luther King

Then I found another signed by 1600 senior scientist from 70 countries including 102 Nobel Laureates that stated. “Pressure resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can over whelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must except limits to that growth.”

In a civic mind, I remember one I had heard from Dr Albert Bartlett while at a speech in Colorado. He said,” 'Smart Growth' destroys the environment. Dumb growth destroys the environment. The only difference is that 'smart growth' destroys it in good taste. It is like booking a passage on the Titanic. Whether you go first class or steerage, the results is the same.”

In another vain but still related I found, “Knowledge is a disposition to behave that is constantly subject to corrective modification and updating by experience, while belief is a disposition to behave that is resistant to correction by experience.” Eichenbaur

Then steps up a Mr. Nietzsche and says, “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations, epochs it is the rule.”

Upton Sinclair has said, “It is hard to make a man understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.”

One can not leave out Albert Einstein who said “Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity and I am not sure about the universe.”

To make the point again I call on Dr Issac Asimov. He said, “Which is the greater danger—nuclear warfare or the population explosion? The later absolutely. To bring about nuclear war someone has to DO something; someone has to press a button. To bring about destruction by over crowding, mass starvation, anarchy, the destruction of our most sacred values –there is no need to do anything. We only need to do nothing except that which comes naturally—and breed. And how easy it is to do nothing.”

Abe Lincoln gives me an old favorite, ”To sin by silence makes cowards of men.”

As a closer I have to add,” Deal with reality or it will deal with you.” I don't know who said it but hey, seems to be on the money. #5

Here's one for you. I've been thinking about this one a lot lately:

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root" -Henry David Thoreau

It's insane to worry about all nearly 7 billion people on the planet. Why even bring it up?

It never dawns on people who think like this that once some are expendable, all are expendable. It's precisely that which globalization HAS accomplished -- we are now all in one boat, all of humanity. We go up together or down together.

There are (ex-)billionaires who are committing suicide at the same time Africa peasants haven't given up trying to feed their children.

Nicely put. Someone recently (I think it was Rubini) opined that the market is working very well at assigning value. It has assigned a value to most of us and that value is very, very low.

No, we are not all in one boat. In fact, once economic contraction gets steep enough we'll see some very serious decoupling of the regions. Already the percentage declines in East Asian exports are far greater than the percentage declines in Western economies. This amounts to decoupling.

Borders still exist and they'll become much more vigorously controlled once living standards go into sharp decline.

"It's very sad about all the ultra-poor in Africa and Asia".

D3PO I am with you on Number 5 and share the sentiment that it is unreasonable (on the grounds of the laws of species population dynamics)to even give a passing thought to sustaining 7 billion plus people on spaceship Earth. I do, however, think it is important to recognise that there is a large human population lying between the Western nations and the "ultra poor of Africa and Asia".

I have been living in an Asian country that is in this category. I think the term was 'Developing, Second World countries'. Most of these people have been living through instability (wars, famine and pestilence) for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. As a result, they have learned to improvise and adapt to changing conditions. Furthermore, outside large cities and tourist centers there is still a culture of local food production, community, and thrift.

It would be wise, and reassuring, to recognise that there will be other cultures who will adapt and endure(perhaps more successfully than the West) in a more low tech way, and make a smoother transition through this paradigm shift. So much so, that I am considering putting my heart where my mouth is.

I was considering this same point after a recent trip to NW India. They are quite vulnerable to energy scarcity and climate change (especially their reliance on energy for agriculture). However, with such a large percentage of the population with very low expectations, it seems that the society may be more willing to accept the changes that will come. No doubt there will be huge losses to famine. However, those remaining may well have the mind set to get back to work and construct a livable society whereas we in the developed west are likely to expend our energy looking for someone to hold accountable for our diminished lifestyle.

This has been my thought all along, though I've no way to quantify or support it other than my opinion. I agree with you both: The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Just as it was the U.S. that suffered greatest during the Great Depression, it will be the developed nations that suffer most in the end this time around.

How far can a veritable peasant living in a hut scrabbling at the earth for a few bites of food fall? Hell, some of these people won't even notice the collapse unless war visits them. Us? We'll notice. All of us.

The days of a pile of blankets and warm cotton bedclothes may be in the offing for the great majority of us. But how bad would that be, really?

I'm not so sure a powered down world coupled with the knowledge we have gained in the last 80 years need be all that terrible.

It will be, almost certainly, but need not be.


I picked #3. In order to prevent a huge cost run up in important materials and what petroleum is left we need to limit the production of a range of consumer goods. Do we really need aluminum beverage cans more than we need high tension cables for the new HV grid? How many new trucks do we need when repairs to old trucks will keep them useful for 20+ years? New parts for old vehicles will use much less steel then building new vehicles than few of us can afford to buy. A better use for that steel would be new rails and rolling stock. We don't need any more McMansions but we do need the concrete that would be used for their foundations for RR ties, wind turbines, nuke plants, and electric grid tower foundations. What we need ought not need to compete for the materials for what society really needs.

Excellent point. And why Austerity is not in conflict with a green build out, but is a *necessary* accompinyment to shifting the direction of the economy quickly.

Oh WWII economic planners, where are you now?

Oh WWII economic planners, where are you now?

Dead, but that doesn't matter much, given that compared to the predicament we now face (massive and accelerating human overshoot of our ecological niche) the problem of winning WWII was trivial. I see no reason to think they would have been up to the task of a "managed" solution.

P.S. I voted for #6

It seems obvious that we need to abandon growth as the goal. This is of course a qualitative change from our current system and it ain't gonna happen overnight. I think we are decades away from a society that has sustainability as its goal. In the mean time we will be dragged kicking and screaming into a lower energy consuming world and it will very likely get ugly.

I believe reality will dictate that the renewable energy technologies that we pursue will be the lowest tech and the lowest energy intensive kinds. Massive expansion of passive solar and some active solar is sort of inevitable in this regard. Of course we will try the high tech stuff first, but scalability will likely limit most of these options. Also, technologies that can function as retrofits rather than replacements will also have a serious advantage. In the very near future the luxury of just throwing something out and replacing it with some state-of-the-art thing is going to disappear. That is my opinion anyway.

It depends on which non-carbon dioxide polluting technologies that you're talking about.

Some non-carbon dioxide polluting technologies are much more expensive than others. Hydroelectricity in the US on average cost about 0.85 cents per KWh while a non-subsidized industrial photovoltaic facility can cost more than 21 cents per kwh (in a sunny climate) and more than 47 cents per kwh (in a cloudy climate). And non-subsidized home photovoltaics produce electricity even more expensively. The new huge solar thermal power facility that's being built in southern California is supposed to produce electricity at the relatively low cost of 6 cents per kwh but even that would be more than 7 times the cost of hydroelectricity. A urban garbage power plant produces electricity at 4 cents kwh wich would be almost 5 times more expensive than hydro.

You can read my 2008 article 'The Cost of Non-Carbon Dioxide Polluting Technologies' if you want to know the relative cost of fossil fuel electricity production relative to non-carbon dioxide polluting technologies such as wind, solar, and nuclear:


Marcel F. Williams

That may all be true ( I think costs for PV are coming down). But some of these resources are not scalable. There is only a limited potential for hydro (and most has been built already). The same thing applies to tapping waste streams, an important, and in some cases cheap source, but there is only so much garbage. So by all means take full advantage of cheap, but limited sources. The rest will have to be made up by a combination of using less, and more expensive but scalable sources.

Sitting here in Melbourne where we're copping four straight 40+C days and have had 25 days without even a single millimetre of rain, and with water dams at less than one-third capacity, excuse me if I'm sceptical of the potential of hydroelectricity in our area.

Anyway, hydro isn't a low-carbon solution. It uses heaps of concrete, and where does rain fall to be caught? In forested valleys. Flood a forested valley and you get anaerobic decomposition, heaps of methane. So that hydroelectric, depending where you put it and how you do it, comes out about the same carbon impact as natural gas. Better than coal and oil, but worse than solar PV, solar thermal, geothermal, tidal and even (I hate to say it) nuclear. But hey, in your region it could be the best option.

There is no single perfect solution. Not hydro, not solar, not wind, not geothermal, and certainly not coal or nuclear. Each region must look at the resources available to it and the consequences of the use of those resources.

About a year ago at a Kyoto treaty meeting, China made the argument that they should not be held to the same pollution standards with respect to carbon emissions as the rest of the world because they had already done more than any other country to limit carbon emissions with there one child-one family policy. It was an interesting point. How much more energy would they be using if they had not instituted this policy?? What would the population of China be???

Any long term solution to resource depletion problems needs to include limiting population growth. Obviously this will never happen but it is at the root of the problem.

Below is a comment from Al Bartlett made about this issue:

Many journalists look to the scientists for advice. The scientists won't talk about overpopulation, so the journalists and the reading public can easily conclude that overpopulation is not a problem. As a result, we have things such as the cover story in TIME Magazine, April 9, 2007, "The Global Warming Survival Guide: 51 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference." The list contained such useful recommendations as "Build a Skyscraper," (No. 9, Pg. 74) but not one of the 51recommendations deals with the need to address overpopulation! What's one to do when scientists and political leaders demonstrate their understanding of the fact that overpopulation is the main cause of these gigantic global problems, yet the scientists' recommendations for dealing with the problems never call for addressing overpopulation?



To paraphrase a recent American politician, "It's the population, stupid!"

A corollary would be, "It's the expectations, stupid!"

Unlike China, a government policy was not necessary to lower the birth rate in the US. However,
if the consumption level of the US moved back to 1950, an effective depopulation would occur.

Paul in Nevada

I think we can, but since when have we as a country been proactive about saving money? I'm thinking we'll see something along ~1-3. We'll transition as it becomes unbearably expensive, and end up paying out the nose, like we do w/ too much stuff.

I would pose the 'set-aside' problem; how much of current fossil energy use needs to be de-consumed and invested or embodied in alternative generation? The easiest approach might be to use payback period and ignore dollars or kilowatt hours. Ignoring learning, compounding and conservation we get
time required= payback/set aside fraction

Thus if the average renewable payback was 8 years we would need to invest 100% of the fossil energy for 8 years, 25% of the energy for 32 years and so on to replicate that fossil output. It's not gonna happen because of Easter Island syndrome. We won't commit to the necessary level of sacrifice until it is already too late. Moreover I think there will be a resentment factor from conservatives. When wind and solar reach a whopping 20% of the grid they will say enough already and how about more money for the armed services and art museums.

Therefore I think scenario 4) is near to the mark. However notice if the alternative energy had a payback of 0.8 (ie less than a year) then we would need to invest just 10% (not 100%) of fossil fuel output for the same period. Therefore leaving aside conservation the aim must be to employ fast payback technology subject to constraints like reliability, safety and emissions.

See article by Mark Jacobson(TOD 15 january 2009); he claims 5MW wind turbines have an energy payback in 6 to 20 weeks( giving an EROEI of70-200:1).
This compared with earlier studies( Clevland) on smaller turbines(0.75MW) giving an EROEI of 20:1

Wind makes the payback cut but there is still the side-condition of reliability. Wind is probably not helping much with southern Australia's current heat wave with all the aircons blazing.

The connections between terms should be
plant life = payback X EROEI
eg 35 years = 0.5 years X 70
which I understand is about right for a 2 MW wind turbine.

Wind is probably not helping much with southern Australia's current heat wave with all the aircons blazing.

Whereas solar PV/thermal would do well.

Period of highest consumption? Hot afternoons.
PV/thermal period of highest production? Hot afternoons.

Putting my politician hat on, as I look at those two things I just can't connect them. That would be communism or something.

Umm yeah.... But what do you do with the thing on the other 360 days (and nights) of the year when it doesn't work that well?

An adequately designed distributed renewable grid seems to work well. For a small country w/ limited area like Germany it probably needs ~10-15% baseload and ~10% dispatchable power on top of the ~75-80% mixed renewable grid IIRC.

Solar only works well in 40+C heat?

This is a new and amazing discovery which you ought to write up and submit to Nature.

It provides extra power when extra power is most needed. Saying "but what about at night or on overcast days?" is like saying, "what's the use of fourth gear when I'm backing out of the driveway?"

It provides extra power when extra power is most needed.

Really! How does high ambient temperatures increase solar radiation hitting a collector panel? How does afternoon sun work better than midday sun?

High ambient temperatures don't increase solar radiation arriving at the ground. Increased solar radiation arriving at the ground increases ambient temperature.

It's sunnier, so it's hotter. When it's sunnier, solar PV can produce more power.

If there were not greater solar radiation arriving on the ground during hot days, then we the public would be not be given UV alerts.

Afternoon sun works better for rooftop solar in Australia because rooftops are generally pitched, so that the panels are generally pitched, too. So that the sun is striking them most directly during mid-afternoon, rather than midday.

Thus, the highest power output from rooftop solar in Australia is generally during hot afternoons, which is also the period of highest consumption. It provides extra power when extra power is most needed.

As to largescale solar, PV will as you say have the highest output at midday. Solar thermal will (depending on the design) generally have the highest output in the afternoon - after it's had some time to warm up, just like the air around it, highest temperature is in the afternoon not midday.

It's not gonna happen because of Easter Island syndrome.

Jared Diamon begins Collapse by mentioning that one of his students asked what people said as they were cutting down the last tree on the island.

I think they said, "It's true it's the last tree, but what about the Giant Stone Head economy?"

I think someone said;

"Dont worry about it. Theres plenty more trees on the other side of the island".

A wise, gray haired Islander said:

-History always repeats itself. We had tree recessions before, ... followed by inevitable recoveries; and we will always have the same in the future.

-Those tree-hugging eco-nuts are just trying to ruin the economy and destroy our non-negotiable way of life.

-The fundamentals are strong. Regulation in a free island marketplace is just wrong.

-One needs to keep his head on during these times of crisis and irrational worry mongering.

-Investment in rock head technologies has always provided solid returns and always will.

Big thumbs up StepBack
Our illustrious leaders both sides of the pond are offering us more change for the better. Strange that it seems to sound like the old BS!
The elephant in the room is world population, especially the over consumption in the west, come to think of it, we need to be elephants the amount of energy and resources we consume.

Capital consumption will shift to non-petroleum energy sources. If we insist on "renewables" they will result in less capital creation as their EROEI is so low.

However, we have other options like nuclear that still have a high EROEI, albeit lower than conventional oil.

If you insist on "renewables" you're sunk. Sometimes I think that's a feature, not a bug, to the advocates of renewables.

The EROEI of conventional oil in it's applications in the U.S. is quite low IIRC, somewhere around ~2-5:1. Now, in other places like the Middle East it may be much higher, perhaps comparable w/ renewables, but over here it ain't that hot. There's also the problem of it's much lower exergy than electricity from renewables, in other words a kWh of gasoline can only take a vehicle roughly a third (or less) of the distance a kWh of electricity can take an EV. I've read some saying that oil's EROEI at the well may have been tremendously high in the past, but if we were using it to make kerosene and dumping the gasoline in the river then at best it's EROEI at it's point of use, definitely a better measurement than it's EROEI at some earlier step in it's process, was ~3:1.

I agree that stuff like the lower energy density of batteries compared to liquid fuel is advantageous in that it serves to reduce energy consumption in applications like transportation, because we have to make the vehicles even more efficient, on top of the already greater efficiency, to travel the same distance.

Two years ago I would have said 3) because of the shortages of steel, cement, glass, aluminium needed to build more hydro, wind solar and nuclear. In the last two years we have had a massive(100%) increase in wind capacity while adding to hydro and nuclear.
Since the world wide recession none of the materials needed to continue building renewable and nuclear power appear to be in short supply.
Oil possibly in the future, but not much oil required to build or transport wind turbines, 85% steel, and the energy in coal used to build a 3MW wind turbine is recovered within a year(EROEI >30:1) thus freeing up more coal that may have been used for electricity production to build more wind turbines, dams etc.

So now, I would say; 1) we can continue to build out renewable energy because we have no resource limitations. There is surplus steel, cement, aluminium,gas,copper, glass and for now at least, even a surplus of oil(although that's not a critical limitation).

What we don't have is a shortage of energy, but we still have a looming shortage of liquid fuels primarily being used by 2 tonne cars and light trucks getting 25mpg and transporting a 100kg person with >50% of trips being non-essential. When the oil shortage hits, that's a lot of inefficiency that can be removed. As a bonus, in US, 400million tonnes of scrap steel, aluminium and glass, parked in convenient 2 tonne packages, great for building solar and wind or PHEV's getting >150mpg.

So now, I would say; 1) we can continue to build out renewable energy because we have no resource limitations. There is surplus steel, cement, aluminium,gas,copper, glass and for now at least, even a surplus of oil(although that's not a critical limitation).

5, because the crises we are in now are the direct consequence of resource limits. Looking at any one item, there is no limit, as in thorium in the sea. Or perhaps iron in used cars - I'd love to see the concentration recoverable there! But looking at all of them, in the overall context of society, we're into negative marginal returns.

cfm in Gray, ME

How so?

I'd say #1. With this caveat: while oil, steel and bonding are relatively cheap right now, we need to be building like crazy. Wind, Solar, Nuclear (LFTR). Five years from now, none of these things may be cheap, but compared to what they will be 25 years from now, they will likely still be a relative bargain. So even 5 years from now I say keep building like crazy and begin decommissioning coal plants. Especially the oldest, dirtiest and least efficient. Expand the electric grid and start shifting more and more of our transportation off of fossil fuels.

Hello TODers,

I voted #5--Overshoot & Decline will run its course. I have no idea if it will be Jay Hanson's Thermo/Gene fast crash scenario, then ultimately onward to his 'Requiem' conclusion, or ArchDruid's Catabolic Grind to Collapse.

IMO, full-on Peak Outreach inducing Optimal Overshoot Decline offers the best chance to shoot the gap between the above scenarios. I have many posting series in the archives that go into brief explanations of how I think this could be achieved by the concerted action of others.

If one understands that we are evolved to sit in the dark: huge energy savings can be immediately achieved by abolishing all outside lighting; black asphalt will never reflect photons [google Earth at night to see huge waste]. Vehicle headlights and personal flashlights should be sufficient for all, but easier said than done getting everyone to agree to make the dark side of the Earth being dark nightly, of course. But if this is possible, this energy saved could provide much to ramp viable mitigation strategies.

My assessment of the above happening soon is pretty minimal, so we got to keep working towards more grassroots-to-topdog Outreach efforts. My feeble two cents.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

My (admittedly limited) understanding is that night-time electricity use is not the place to get big savings right now, since conventional coal and nuke plant can't easily just shut down at night when use goes way down.

As we move to full renewables, I think a variant of your idea would be valuable. At the rare times when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing anywhere near enough to get energy to market efficiently, we should just have a siesta, or a holiday if it goes on for a while. Kind of a movable sabbath.

What you find in countries with intermittent electric power is extensive use of diesel and to some extent gasoline powered generators. No siesta. Also brown outs and black outs and the resulting surges are hell on equipment. You can't seem to get everything protected.
You learn to be careful which buildings you take the elevator in.
Been there done that.

We could combine many intermittent renewable sources such that as a whole they are reliable. Arguably, some level of baseload fission would be cheaper, but as a whole it's not impossible.

And use of demand side management in a smart grid would greatly help to levelize peaks and valleys.

This is especially useful in the case of companies who store air for pneumatic machinery and/or run air conditioning off-peak to save money, but even having networked appliances can provide something in the way of DSM.

That people haven't taken siestas when energy went down in the past does not mean that they will never do so in the future. It takes a shift in psychology, though. You have to stop thinking that nature should play no role in when and how often you carry out activity.

I'm pretty sure they have in the past, since renewables have been around in some way or another for a long time. It's just that w/ distributed generation I don't think people would have to take siestas.

I voted 5 because we have quite clearly left it too late to prepare for peak oil, on a political level, in any meaningful way (Hirsch report).

Ecologicaly the human race is showing signs of population overshoot through our unsustainable depletion of resources and degradation of our environment.

Humans are geneticly disposed to compete with each other over resources. War is inevitable.

Renewables can't deliver even a fraction of the amount of fixed electricity we currently use but it may be able to help us powerdown to a lower energy budget. What is needed is boldleadership to state where we are going to end up and then work towards that goal. Economics should then be measured not on GDP but on progress towards the goal, along with relative measures of individaul economic security i.e enough food for everyone, adequate shelter, healthcare, education and adequate and strengthening social and community links which are the key to both participation and physical and mental wellbeing.

The goals of course are to transition to a lower but renewable energy society with some basic agreed to principles (laws) such as:

1. The first priroity of the renewable energy grid is to become self sustaining whereby enough is produced to maintain the infrastructure, build replacement parts and repair and replace palnt and buildings necessary to distribute the surplus energy.

2. A hierarchy of energy use is implemented with the surplus renewable energy being allocated to the most critical areas first. As more surplus becomes avaialble as the renewables are built out it is allocated tothose apps lower on the hierarchy.

3. The non-renewable generation plant needs to be maintained but repriced to encourage energy conservation.

The creation of the new renewable energy economy will require a heroic effort on par if not exceeding the efforts of the great Depression/WWII generation. Consumerism and the military/industrial complex that serves it is now fatally injured. It's death throes however could make it more dangerous now than ever before as it becomes desperate for survival. Navigating for the transistionists will be hard going constantly having to fight the greedy, self interested, gluttonous sheeple that just want things to go back the way they remember in the good old days.

"Renewables can't deliver even a fraction of the amount of fixed electricity we currently use"
Canada gets 58% of its electricity from hydro(50GWa), while the US 7% hydro(30GWa) and 1%wind(9GWa).
The real big misconception is that US has developed most hydro potential. A DOE study( //hydropower.inl.gov/resourceassement) concludes that US has 300GWa potential small hydro, 100GWa on excluded lands and 100GW to remote to be practical, but still 100GW feasible potential of which only 4GW has been developed.
Canada is sure to have at least another 50GW of undeveloped potential hydro, possibly 100GW.

Wind power potential in US using only high wind sites( >6.9m/sec) is at least x3 the 450GWa electricity use in US.

Solar potential of the desert regions of SW US are >x10 present US electricity consumption.
We don't need a WWII effort to develop wind , hydro and solar just the idle resources that were going into vehicle manufacturing(5 million vehicles) and home building(1million homes) 2 years ago, would enable oil and coal to be displaced in <20 years( and put a lot of people back to work).

Interesting gas2.org article

California Air Resources Board going after A123 and plug in hybrid cars.

Seems like some of the CARB board are defending their ethanol projects.

We cannot have growth coming from renewable energy because is not a powerful enough driver. Scientific discovery and invention are the drivers of growth. In fact, renewable energy may not even be able to replace fossil fuels. That is not to say that we cannot have a steady state economy, at least for some time.

If you look at the real numbers on the economy, measured by the old standards, you will see that growth all but disappeared in the US in the last decade. We are now in a long term economic decline. In contrast, Asian economies are undergoing enormous growth, as they catch up to the developed countries.

The facts and figures behind my conclusion are perhaps better discussed in a separate post. They come from a study of the scientific and invention timelines, plus my training in engineering and experience in manufacturing.

In summary, I am examining the exploitation of the forces, or interactions, of nature: strong, electromagnetic, weak and gravity, compared to inventions and productivity, by era: First Industrial Revolution, Second Industrial Revolution, and Today: Nuclear / Biotech Age or Decline.

I will submit it for posting if anyone else is interested.

Oh dear, I thought my response would be out on a limb, my assessment of probabilities erronoeous. I hoped I was mad, not Cassandra. That near 50% share my response is troubling. I'm comfortable with being on the nutty, gloomy, fringe - that gave me hope I'm wrong.

Most of us here are more clued up than 99% of folks, that so many of us take such a pessimistic view implies (crudely) either: we are a self selected group of sicko doomers or, things really will be horridly bad and there is little we can do to avoid it.

I have a problem (inadvertent consequences) with saying what will turn out best. Sometimes what seems worse is the ultimate best path. So, I don't know if doing our best now works out better in the longer term, but my feeling is best now hurts more later.

Ultimately, as a species, we have to leap to sustainability, we have been in a delusional energy world for a while too long already. That may be new energy sources or a slimmed down humanity, most probably both. Wind time back 20+ years and there were more, less painful, choices - we could have made the leap with minimal pain, could have bought enough time if we'd been wiser.

Obama is sounding more like Jimmy Carter than any president since on energy policy. Sadly the boat is almost certainly missed, Carter's moment was the right one, the american electorate rejected it, we will all pay, dearly.

Oh dear, I thought my response would be out on a limb, my assessment of probabilities erronoeous. I hoped I was mad, not Cassandra. That near 50% share my response is troubling. I'm comfortable with being on the nutty, gloomy, fringe - that gave me hope I'm wrong.

It tells me I need to redouble my efforts. The propane for my cooking - if we are not nutty, then doesn't it mean we need to get even more serious about our next steps? How do I get rid of that propane? Maybe an ELP wood-gas facility.

cfm in Gray, ME

Easy one:

I eliminated propane with a corn stove. It's more work, but heats just fine. It costs about half what propane does, is cheaper than pellets and far less work than heating with wood.

As for cooking, use electricity. It comes from wind farms around here. Use an electronic oven when possible to keep power use low.

"POLL: Can We Buildout Both Renewable Energy AND Attain Economic Growth?"

Maybe put the horse before the cart and ask the precursor question: "SHOULD We Buildout Both Renewable Energy AND Attain Economic Growth?"

I say no to both. Neither is required, only a reduction in human population and strict population controls into the indefinite future.

At this time, my desire is for us to attain Economic Decline, Population Decline and no renewable energy needed for a long, long time. All three go hand-in-hand. Right now we are making good progress on beginning the first, and are anticipating a good helping of the second, with the third already included in the package for free.

Heaven on Earth can be ours in one or two generations, simply by preventing pregnancies.

Enough land for everyone, no need to pay rents or leases to parasite landlords.

Lots of voting power because each person's vote now counts for more (fewer voters).

A clean environment without any need to develop 'new technologies' or massive labor-intensive programs.

The list goes on and on and on.

Nice ideas, but if you do the math, you need to have pretty severe limitations on new births to start bringing population down before the middle of the century.

And of course even if you brought world population down to 2 Billion somehow, it would not be sustainable if everyone tried to live the current American lifestyle. It's not just pop. It's pop x consumption. If your population is using resources at many times above sustainable levels, it won't help much to have fewer of them.

But perhaps this is why you put economic contraction first?

I dont realy see this group as pessimistic. Yes they are looking at the whole picture in a realistic way and that doesnt look good. But there are some realy great ideas on here that can help on a personal and community level.
A good example would be the passive home heating articals which have some excellent information.

I voted 6. No, we can't have growth. But I'm not sure what renewable infrastructure is. If it meant what I might hope it to mean, I would vote for 4. I think that radical retrenchment, a return to the soil, etc. is the our only longer term option. 5 may turn out to be what happens, but I don't think that the most extreme version of it is inevitable. Going down that road apiece seems to be inevitable from what I see now. But at some point we'll wake up. That much I still permit myself to hope for.

I'm working on a submission to Campfire to lay out my case.

Like many so far, I liked option 5, the most realistic/pessimistic one, the best.

I voted for option 6, "other."

The reason for this has been hinted at by some posters already.

In short, things are going to get very rough. We cannot ensure any outcomes, we can only control our responses.

Let me repeat, for emphasis, that this is what I think President Obama and our leadership need to say clearly to the American people, and to the world:

Things are very bad with too many of us competing for too few resources in a rapidly deteriorating habitat.

We cannot ensure that anyone will survive the next two decades, let alone survive in comfort.

We need to emphasize that no one can ensure the survival of himself, herself, or of any individual children or grandchildren.

We need to emphasize that some people may survive, but we cannot guess how many will survive or specifically who will survive.

We cannot control outcomes, but we can control our responses to this emergency.

Rather than expend energy fighting over scarcening resources, we must conserve as much energy as possible, and see to it that we quite literally tend our own gardens and learn to survive within the limits of our own bio-region.

We must learn to create shelter and the infrastructure in terms of the bio-regions we each inhabit. We must learn to live mostly upon the energy and food budgets of our bio-regions, even while developing better ways to harvest, store and use both energy and food.

We must cooperate on a variety of intensive research and development projects aimed at creating the best array of options that we can for the infrastructures of human settlement around the world. We must focus on simple and resilient and robust designs.

While we have scientific resources to do so, we must cooperate to develop leading-edge technologies, but we must not see any such efforts as magical solutions to the challenges we face.

We have entered a period of consequences, of trials and tribulations which will spare no one. Let us try to focus on our own actions and responses.

We must live out the best wisdom we have. We must pass that wisdom along in hopes that one day a generation that survives will be able to look back and know that some of us did what we could for them as soon as we understood our predicament.

It may even be that these are truly End Times for our species. If so, then let us live them out well, working against the odds and working to make the impossible possible.

Again, we do not control outcomes, nor can we predict them with absolute certainty or complete accuracy.

"Therefore, we must control our own actions so that a new beginning for some might be possible, or so that at least our ending will be lived in such a way that we will pass from the scene working for survival rather than against it."

Of course, I fully believe that in The Great Global Game leadership around the world is focused on dealing death to others in the mistaken belief that this will increase their own chances to survive and perhaps even thrive.

The last will be first, and the first will be last. The weak will overturn the mighty. Those despised as backward, foolish, impotent and poor will outlive those honored as advanced, wise, powerful and wealthy.

What is the only question each of us has to answer? "What will I do between now and whenever I die?"

Why are we here? To help each other through whatever this is.

And so it goes .....

(A nod to Walker Percy and also to Kurt Vonnegut.)

Here's a little side story on energy woes from the southern Australian heatwave. Several States configured to draw over 700 MW via an underwater HVDC cable but one of the inverter stations failed. That was for hydro from my neck of the woods even though the dams are just 30% full. Apparently the spot price for electricity for a while got to the cap of $10 per kwh but the regulator intervened to make it 30c maximum. Major load shedding is now going on in several Australian cities.

This story is either about coping or not coping depending on your point of view.

Being in a new house we bought, I thought I'd try out our 3,000W aircon unit. I found that it cooled me very effectively while it was on, but did not cool the house as a whole, despite being refrigerative rather than evaporative.

The 55W fan also cools me while it's on, and doesn't cool the house. The aircon is actually cool while the fan blows the hot air around, but at least it stops me from sweating. It seems a bit pointless to use 55 times as much power to do the same thing. The aircon is better but not 55 times better.

So I use the fan and thus don't contribute to the heavy energy use which threatens blackouts for us. But apparently we didn't learn from the last time a single line went down in a bushfire and took out 2/3 of the city's power, and may get blackouts anyway. Resilience? Backups? Madness! Next you'll be saying that banks should only lend money to people who can pay it back, where would that get us, eh?

When rationing becomes the norm we will have to work out the allocation for room heating and air conditioning. Maybe that will have to increase for the frail elderly while the young and fit tough out cold snaps and heatwaves. 3kw is too much since some think we could make do with 2kw total for heating, cooking, lighting, entertainment and charging electric scooters. I recall DaveMart (where is he?) thought heat pumps should replace all air cons with the slight problem of cost. Therefore blackouts are like the obese going hungry for a while; maybe we want too much.

BTW those Skycrane helicopters in the link are most impressive. They save humans, property and livestock every year yet I guess they cost a fraction of a military aircraft.

We clearly have enough energy to continue economic growth and energy production growth for several centuries. Easily.

Yes, of course. E = mc^2 shows that. The sticky wicket is getting at it, accessibility. A mere detail.

Sadly, my view is 5.

Deterioration in EROEI is a relentless curve that applies not only to oil, but to all limited resources; oil just happens to be the most important and immediately pressing curve. Edgar Allen Poe's pendulum just keeps swinging closer and closer to our hearts.

If in fact we have passed peak oil production then we additionally will face a new relentless negative growth curve, complete with halving periods. The first halving period will cut in half production that in absolute terms will be the biggest loss of oil production ever to be experienced. And as to the rate, my word, look at the drop off rate for Mexico.

The demands for energy to build new infrastructure is huge, and is not even seriously on the drawing boards, just at the time we are waving goodbye to oil production growth. And to boot, which of these alternatives will hold a candle to oil? All, at a time that population is still growing, and previously underdeveloped parts of the world now want to join in on the great squander.

And then there is the collapse of the house of cards monetary system, which was an accident waiting to happen, and which accident in my view was triggered by inadequate oil production at acceptable costs. The effects of the monetary collapse just compounds the energy problem by even further postponing exploitation of new oil and alternatives, all the while the depletion monster is sucking the life blood from possible future economic activity.

Yea, 5 is my vote, unless you have the courage to conjure up an even more frightening future to offer as an alternative.

I voted for 4 because it came closest to my own views. But I think the wording of 4 suffers because it posits a particular "why":

4)No, we cannot have growth AND scale renewable infrastructure without creating greater problems and shortfalls in the future. So to effectively build out 'sustainable' energy, we must give up growth as our goal.

5)No, not only can't we have growth, but we can't scale renewable infrastructure for 6+ billion in time to avert population reductions, war, famine, etc.

I think there's a position between 4 and 5 along the lines of: No, we can't have growth because the lead times on the capital build for replacement energy sources are too long as compared to the rate of decline in oil production post-peak.

My take on it is we just can't build up a new capital base of nukes, solar farms, wind farms, geothermal plants, and electric cars fast enough to make the shift over without economic contraction.

What is not clear to me: how steep will be the economic contraction? 1% per year? 2% per year? I figure it'll be less than the yearly percentage decline in oil production since we'll still have other sources of energy.

What a strange question for an article.

By definition, "economic growth" happens whenever money gets spent. On what is irrelevant. Are renewable energy generators built and maintained for free? Why is building $1 billion of coal-fired generation an "investment" while $1 billion of wind turbines is a "cost"? Why does $1 billion of fighter jets "create jobs" but $1 billion of transmission lines improvements not create jobs?

Spend money and build stuff and you create jobs, people take their wages and spend them and so it goes. This applies whether we're building a wind turbine, a coal-fired plant, an auto factory, or as Keynes suggested, putting money in bottles down old mine shafts, filling them in and paying people to dig it up.

Spending money and building stuff creates jobs. The only question is whether the money is spent in the best way possible (burying and then digging up bottles is perhaps not ideal) and whether what we build is the best thing we could build.

Spend more money = economic growth. Of course if you have some new and different definition of "economic growth" I'd be glad to hear it. Like the GPI guys, I think that a million bucks on a school and a million bucks on cleaning up an oil spill are not really equal, simply talking of "the economy grew by a million dollars" is misleading.

By definition, "economic growth" happens whenever money gets spent. On what is irrelevant.

You are confusing the growth of one segment of the economy with composite growth of the whole economy. Suppose we lived on an island which had a reservoir of liquid fuel which we have been using as our energy source. At some point we realize that this reservoir is finite and will be depleted in a few years time, so we start looking around for alternative sources of energy. It turns out the the only practical alternative is palm oil. However, we realize that if we try to entirely replace the flow of fuel from the fossil reservoir with palm oil we will devastate the ecology of the island and destroy our food production system. Therefore our only practical choice is to downsize our overall economy to match the sustainable flow of energy that we can obtain from palm oil. Even though the palm oil industry needs to grow, our over all economy needs to shrink. This is the question that Nate is posing, and I think that it is a highly relevant one.

Well put Roger. I wish I'd of thunk up your example. As such, it is difficult to go back to basics on each short post here - the Gever graph above will be confusing to those just coming across this concept of energy cannibalism - your short paragraph illustrates it well enough.

The thing is that we don't live on an island, and our choices are not restricted to just two things. We live on a very large and diverse world with many choices.

In the past technological change has meant that people's jobs became redundant. But new jobs were created. Changing to entirely renewable energy, food production and manufacturing processes is as profound a change as the Industrial Revolution a century or two ago.

From the changes of the Industrial Revolution we got political revolutions and wars, but we also in the end got vastly improved lives - and economies grew. I don't see why a Renewable Revolution would be any different.

Now, whether a Renewable Revolution is likely is another matter. At the moment the West seems to feel about renewables the way the Sultan of Oman felt about industry.


Are you stating, with a straight face, that there are **zero** Liebig's minimums involved with your scenario?


I don't see what biology has to do with it. I'm not talking about biofuels, but about renewable energy - and biofuels aren't produced renewably right now, they're produced in a way that requires high fossil fuel and derivatives inputs, and/or depletes the soil. So let's talk about renewable energy as it stands today, which is not biological, but solar, wind, etc. Liebeg's not relevant.

If you mean to extend the principle to those other processes, then certainly there'll be limits. But at the moment the weakest links in the chain are political and cultural. We may or may not be able to produce enough renewable energy to provide a decent life for all on Earth. But long before we have to worry about (say) the amount of germanium we have, we'll have to sort out the political and cultural issues.

Worrying about the physical limits when the political limits are so much greater is like me starting a dog farm and then worrying about not being able to scale up production - it's pointless when hardly anyone wants to eat dog meat anyway.

We know that we definitely can't continue with fossil fuels. We may or may not be able to do it with renewables. Well, we may as well get started and try it. We won't be any worse off for trying.

The thing is that we don't live on an island, and our choices are not restricted to just two things.

Have you ever seen a picture of the earth from space? We do indeed live on an island. It's a big island, but not infinite. The two options example was just a simplification to illustrate the central issue. The question is whether the arrray of options available to us is sufficient to maintain our productivity at its current levels. And your answer to this question is:

From the changes of the Industrial Revolution we got political revolutions and wars, but we also in the end got vastly improved lives - and economies grew. I don't see why a Renewable Revolution would be any different.

So you vote for the first option:

1)Yes, we have enough cheap oil and gas and materials left, that we can continue running the current system while building out renewable energy infrastructure. Yes we can (and will).

Or perhaps you are even more optimistic and you do not think we need cheap oil and gas to transition to renewables without economic pain. You sound like a full bore technocopian who deserves to placed in the company of people like Charles Barton and Dezakin.

You sound like a full bore technocopian who deserves to placed in the company of people like Charles Barton and Dezakin.

Well, this certainly sounds condescending enough to count as an ad-hom in my book. You could at least reference their views instead of only their names. But I guess anyone who has a view different than "Throw my hands up, it's hopeless to do anything but give up hope" doesn't deserve to have their view discussed here.

The Oil Drum is not supposed to be an exercise in groupthink... it is a site to discuss energy and our future. Nuclear power is not abiotic oil or something; I think it deserves to at least be considered. But that would require us to do something I guess…

Did you actually read the exchange between Kiashu and me? Here is his statement from a few entries up the thread:

From the changes of the Industrial Revolution we got political revolutions and wars, but we also in the end got vastly improved lives - and economies grew. I don't see why a Renewable Revolution would be any different.

I do not see anything "Ad Hominem" about calling this statement technocopian.

I do not council despair or a return to neolithic technology. However, if new energy technology is not capable of increasing our wealth for many decades into the future, then responding effectively to the challanges of fossil fuel depletion requires major social and political changes in addition to the development and deployment of new technology.

Claiming that the social and political side of economic transformation should not be part of the discussion would be similar to claiming, at the start of the 19'th century, that dicussions of humanity's future should be limited to science and technology, and that anyone who brings up the issues of representative democracy or worker's rights is a non-productive troll.

Sorry if I misinterpretted.

My issue wasn't with that passage, but that you dismissed nuclear as "what those guys" talk about... Even then, my issue wasn't that you called it technocopian, but that you seemed to me to be dismissing an entire important area of consideration (technology/nuclear power) as "technocopian" without saying why, merely going on the merit that you could group it with a certain ideology outside the mainstream of this site/your own beliefs... (i.e. Communism doesn't work because it is communist). Maybe I misread... but I don't so.

I never said that social behaviors won't have to change in that post or ever. I always argue that they must and that that will be part of the bridge solution.

I do not dimiss nuclear energy as a part of our economic future. I do dimiss claims that nuclear energy can enable many decades or even centuries more of exponential economic growth. No technology can enable us to get richer forever or allow us to ignore ecological limitations to human activity. I was bringing up 'those guys' precisely because Kiashu has riduculed their aggressive pro-nuclear stance in the past, and yet in the statement he made above he was just as guilty (in my view at least) of over optimism about the ability of new technology to maintain the current economic paradigm.

Answer 1: No. Oil hit nearly $150 a barrel last summer because the world economy was buzzing along with little or no rise in oil production. Now a world recession and oil's down to $40. Oil production is or soon will begin declining, and that production ceiling will be a solid lid on growth when and if we pull out of this recession.

Answer 2: If we did have the resources to pull it off, we should focus on local economies and railroads.

Answer 3: Non-essencial industry is still someone's job. I don't expect the demise of non-essencial industry to be orderly at all.

Answer 4: Summed up in answer 1.

Answer 5: When the economy (i.e. growth) suffers, it gets much more difficult to create an entire new infrastructure. Particularly this late in the game. It's possible, but not likely.

Answer 6: The black swan event?

I went for 4 but a bit of 5 and 6 really...

If managed we can depopulate without civilisation collapsing completely or billions starving... its an ask but not impossible.

it does require a zero growth/contraction paradigm which is a very hard sell to the atlas shrugged crowd.

in a economy in transition there will be areas of growth.. renewable energy production for starters.. so in essence presentation of growth in a virtual manner may not match reality especially if money (whatever that really is) is invested long term in transition projects with no short term gain.

if a scaled renewable infrastructure is built some growth may be possible in the long term at least to the ceiling of solar harvesting permitted by physical restraints. This ceiling may be pretty huge looking at the available collection area.

the way to sell contraction and zero growth to the growth crowd is arguing that growth is only possible in the long term via capital investment that facilitates the expansion of energy production to greater than fossil fuel peaks AND must in the near term consume these fossil fuel resources on transition infrastructure(what a horrible sentence).A major corporation will go into negative territory when acting out long term changes in its business model.. investment etc.

that investment in the current "downturn" is a double whammy on a already stressed system which means "growth" is distant goal for sure..

So on a helpful level I would sell this contraction/zero-growth thing as investing for targeted growth in the far term.

its all semantics really...

the maths of the physical reality looks after itself... the trick is adding in the dividing term "mean energy/capita" and managing the standard deviation...

6 because 3 doesn't list government under that 'non-essential industry'. And 5 - because the people who have won't accept have-not status.

(And government is needed. So are laws. But why does Congressman Rangle not have to pay fines for the IRS? The guy in charge of Treasury screws up WRT the IRS and he gets a pass too? )

I voted 1, I think we have enough fossil fuel left to make the transition if we start before peak. The transition is on the supply side but also on the demand side, we are wasting way too much energy for activities that are not necessary in order to grow the economy:

Neat question, and discussion as well. FWIW, I voted 3, which I deemed the 'cautiously optimistic' scenario. It seems as though it may be possible to develop new energy sources, reduce our footprint, and transition away from the most destructive (and increasingly impoverishing) energy sources. We may be in overshoot on global population, but it is possible to envision getting to the 'right' population with a demographic transition.

Growth in energy can be accommodated if it carries some restrictions on how it is applied. Important principles include: waste = food; increasing energy = increasing ecological complexity. Understood this way, sustainable growth/development is achievable (easier posted than achieved....).

The grimmer scenario involves resource competition and successive collapses (die offs due to warfare, famine, disease) to lower energy states using BAU energy approaches, until the next asteroid finishes us. This is the 'our children will be worse off than we are' scenario. I think it is possible to avoid it, but not guaranteed.

This graph is very interesting, it says: You can have all what you want, you just have to get exponentially more energy to pay your interest... (the correlation is R2 = 0,78)

So the question comes down to: Can we have exponentially growing non-fossil energy? Some believe, some not. When you think, wind power will pay your interest, the answer is... "no", it follows the hubbert curve.

Please have a look at the right side and note that in 2002, 2003 and 2004 we needed more energy for our debt than the actual interest rate was (blue bar bigger than red bar). So, where is the efficiency? I mean this efficiency, that was planned to save us and bail us out! Were there maybe already too many efficiency-advances in the past and there is not enough efficiency left for us?

(click to enlarge)

I don't understand your reasoning, every $1 of interest paid is income for someone else. Its a net zero influence globally. Absolute economic activity and energy use is more relevant than change in economic activity and energy use!

I see it that way: every € interest paid is a € recently printed at the central bank...

The graphic shows that in order to enable the state to pay 3% interest each year and not to see its citizens to loose their wealth, it has to grow its industrial output by that amount. Otherwise all the wealth will soon end up entirely in the lenders hands (its like a cake that initially belongs equally to 10 persons, however, each year, 3% of that cake go to only one person of the 10. If the remainig nine want to have pieces of the same size as to the beginning, the cake has to grow).

To produce one television needs less energy than to produce 1,03 televisions, however (this is the correlation shown). Only if the production-efficiency increases by this amount, the energy needed stays constant. And this efficiency increase is there, as you can see from the correlation graph, to create e.g. 3% more industrial output, you only have to invest 2% more energy. However, and this is what I mentioned allready above, this rule did not apply in 2002-2004, i.e. in the very recent past, where there was already computer science and so on to search for more efficiency! Yet, gigantic efficiency increases are the lynchpin of every government in the world that tries to convince its citizens to find monumental wind farms in former untouched landscapes beautiful and romantic. Actually the german government plans to DEcreasse its total energy-needs by as much as 60% once all the fossil stuff is gone, while continuing to INcrease the industrial output exponentially in order to pay the interests to the banks.

And you know what: they will stick to this until this civilization is entirely crushed and nothing, not the sligthest memory rests from how we define wealth in this strange time called "industrialization".


My answer is number 1

If you look at the question from the standpoint that as consumption continues to reduce oil, gas & coal reserves, heading us towards peak or past peak for each of those, with associated higher energy costs due to lower eroei, then the answer is academic. We must move towards greater deployment of renewables as fast as possible while we can afford the energy to produce renewables.

One of the questions that comes up in any discussion of this nature, is; When will there be enough energy produced from renewables to make enough replacement renewables, so that energy from fossil fuels are no longer needed, i.e, a closed loop system? We're not even close to that point, and until we do reach that threshold, our reliance on finite fossil fuel resources takes us closer to the day when those dwindling resources will raise the price to the point when we will no longer have a window of opportunity to replace fossil fuels with renewables. At that point it's just a matter of time and wars until the whole economic system rusts in place.

Then the roads crack and grass grows up through the cracks, international news turns to local only news, people grow and trade crops, we all get around on bikes, and the only entertainment is the funky little outdoor play we put on once a month. No thanks!

I believe there is a solar PV plant that uses solar as its power source. I heard about it a while ago, though, so I'll have to do some digging. But in general your point still holds. Until renewables are generating renewables and there is energy left over for other purposes, they aren't really fully renewable.

I don't believe that unless all it's employees grow their own food and walk to work, but please find the link if you can.

The one I could find without searching too long was apparently the subject of a hostile take over by an oil company back in the '80's--Solarex Technologies in Fairfax, MD.


I'm sure I've seen references to more recent ones, but the fate of this one suggests why there are not more of them.

I am sure that the US and Canada do not use 20% of the electricity(80GWa) produced by hydro and wind to manufacture hydro, wind and solar, or that the employees and factories use the equivalent amount of energy to produce the steel, cement, aluminium, glass fiber etc. Both have very high EROEI some hydro plants have been running for 100years now.