Planning for Europe's Energy Future: My Submission to the Commission's 2010 Consultation on Energy

Europe is finally starting to think about its longer-term energy issues, and how they affect transportation plans. To try to deal with these issues, a new European Energy Consultation was set up, specifically to look into these issues. The European Energy Consultation asked for interested individuals to provide their input.

I decided I wanted to be one of these interested individuals. Below the fold is my submission. There are two major sections to my submission:

1. A Fossil fuel background section which covers

  • Oil supply issues
  • Natural gas supply issues
  • Coal supply issues
  • Fossil fuels and the economy

2. Strategies to move Europe away from fossil fuels. These strategies are broken down into the following areas.

  • Efficiency
  • Electricity generation
  • Freight transport
  • Passenger transport

I believe an energy policy directed at fossil fuel scarcity is of first importance to Europe. In fact, its very survival and cohesion may rest on its ability to meet these challenges. It is for these reasons, I decided to make this submission.

This is a crosspost from the European Tribune.

Address to the Commission's 2010 Consultation on Energy

Luís Moreira de Sousa
July 3, 2010

1 Introduction

This document is a response to the Energy Consultation launched by the European Commission in the first half of 2010. This consultation is part of a process that shall take the Commission to a new Energy Policy Programme a few years from now.

After 6 years with energy prices much above the low levels that were the norm during the previous two decades, the European Union is finally taking into due consideration this crucial sector. It is now contemplating an economy highly dependent on foreign energy, together with meagre and dwindling traditional sources of indigenous energy. As it stands, the socioeconomic model the European Union is built on simply doesn't seem able to remain in existence using traditional sources of energy, especially fossil fuels. This has lead to the Programme known as 20-20-20, that among other things, aims at increasing energy production from renewable energy sources and efficiency. This Programme is rather limited in many areas, and in others it contradicts itself or is contradicted by other Communitarian policies.

It is more than time for a new, serious and all-encompassing Energy Policy for Europe. Otherwise the survival of Europe itself is at stake; and not only the European Construction project, but states themselves may disintegrate if they are not willing or capable of tackling the transition due ahead. Simply put, there's no Economy without accessible and secure Energy, and without an Economy there's no Social State.

This document is divided into two sections, one outlining the Background, where Europe is situated in today's world energy market, and a second presenting a possible Policy, congruent with the given panorama, establishing goals and pointing out possible means.

Some deeper issues that are either closely related to, or at the root of, today's energy problems are not addressed in this document; two obvious ones are Population and the Monetary System. Essentially, the Policy presented assumes implicitly that Economic Growth is viable in the future. The aim of this document is to present practical options that can be easily grasped by lawmakers and stakeholders in general, leaving outside more complex concerns, that though important, should be discussed in a different context.

2 Background

This section tries to explain why in recent years, energy keeps coming back as a public concern and why stakeholders have been dedicated to it more than usual. Each fossil fuel is briefly analysed separately, with a few observations regarding the expected evolution of its availability. Finally, some reflections are made on the consequences to Europe's Economy.

2.1 Oil

Oil prices began to march upward in 2004, a pattern that would last for almost 4 years, slowly breaking all previous records. Even in the wake of the hardest Economic recession of the last 30 years, oil prices are today about four times what they where a decade ago. These continuing high prices have lent credibility to those who for many years have warned about impeding difficulties in continuing the growth in world oil production that has existed for the past two decades. Notable among those giving warning are Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrére [1], Richard Duncan and Walter Youngquist [2] and Kenneth Deffeyes [3] for their oil production forecasts and Ali Bakhtiari [4] for his price predictions.

The constraints to oil production growth have today been acknowledge by most, even by the Industry itself [5], as shown by Figure 1. Also notable have been the implicit warnings issued by the IEA, that despite publishing production scenarios that each year match demand, have been vocal in other contexts explaining how unlikely it is that the scenarios presented will actually happen. Its Chief-Economist, Fatih Birol [6], has been particularly outspoken in this regard.

Figure 1: Future World Oil production and Demand forecasts according to Petrobras.

Peak Oil, as it was named by Colin Campbell, is a pretty palpable reality at this stage, but for Europe reality is bit more complex. Only one of its states is a net oil exporter, with most meeting their needs fully with imports. Figure 2 presents the volumes of oil made available at the international market every year by all the relevant exporters and a forecast of how this will change in the future. International oil trade peaked in 2005 and has entered a permanent decline; moreover, this decline will likely accelerate during the next decade, by 2020 removing between 1/3 or 1/4 of the volume of oil available in the market in 2005. This has been the main reason behind the high price environment of the past 6 years.

Figure 2: World Oil Exports, past and projected.

But Europe's woes can be expected to deepen further, as its most important suppliers, Norway and Russia (which supply Europe almost exclusively) are themselves entering terminal production decline. Within a decade Norway's oil exports can be expected to be a small fraction of what they are today; Russia's exports are likely to be cut in half in the same period.

It is hard to envision how Europe will fare in this race for the dwindling international oil market. One thing is for certain: Europe, with its heavy foreign dependence and its now very small internal production, is the Economic block with the most to lose.

2.2 Gas

A Peak of world Natural Gas production is not something to expect in the short term. Although some have pointed to such possibility, even independent researchers usually position the peak some decades away. Today, with the development of unconventional reserves in North America, terminal decline in that region at least has been postponed for some years.

But Gas is not a fungible commodity like Oil. Its trade is mostly regional, reliant on pipeline deliveries. Europe's access to this energy source must be viewed considering this geographical restriction. Imports equate to about 60% of consumption. This gas is supplied by three neighbouring blocks: Russia, Norway and the Magreb (North Africa). Norway is now reaching its production peak for gas, and a marked reduction in exports can be expected in the next decade. Russia is not yet near such a decline. It is likely that Russia can maintain present production levels during the next fifteen to twenty years; the question regarding Russia is its internal demand, which has been slowly eroding export capacity. A best case scenario for Russia would seem to be the maintenance of present gas exports to Europe at current levels. The only export capacity growth that is expected is from the Magreb, though not in sufficient volumes to fill the gap created by the other two neighbouring suppliers.

Compounding the problem with imports is declining internal production. Since its peak in 2001 during the golden days of the North Sea, gas production in Europe has been slowly declining, and this decline can be expected to accelerate into the future. A huge gap will open between production and a relentless demand that up to 2008 had been growing 2% annually. Euan Mearns [8] produced an analysis of the European Gas Market in 2007 that detailed these issues. A summary is presented in Figure 3.

The only way to match an annual demand growth of 2% would be by importing all the Natural Gas traded in the world by ship in liquid state. The likelihood of that is very slim, especially in the face of competition from emerging economies.

Figure 3: Gas scenarios for OECD Europe summarising the indigenous supply forecasts and demand forecasts.

In Europe, but especially in the United States, Natural Gas has been used as a campaign flag by some politicians, promoting it as a benign or beneficial energy source, in some cases even suggesting the idea of a non-fossil origin [9]. This has created the false impression that Gas may be the answer to most, if not all, of the world's energy problems. The United Kingdom, for instance, is expecting to be generating two thirds of its electricity from Natural Gas a few years from now; how that will be possible is uncertain.

2.3 Coal

As with Gas, a peak in world Coal production is not expected in the short term. And unlike the two previous fossil fuels, reserves and future production profile estimates have yet to converge. Predictions exist for a world Coal Peak between 2025 and 2060, leaving unanswered the question of whether it can ever surpass today's energy flow from Oil.

In the short term, Coal presents different challenges, stemming from the relatively small size of its international market; most of the Coal mined in the world is consumed within the borders of the countries producing it. Coal consumption in the EU has decreased dramatically in the wake of the economic crisis (down 17% since 2008), but it still is the main source of baseload electricity in most states, with 45% of it being imported. Conversely, the emerging economies are consuming a great deal more coal. In 2010, India alone is expected to consume more Coal than the EU for the first time in history. As for China, it consumes almost half of all the Coal mined in the world, almost six times what the EU consumes and this amount is growing at close to 10% per annum.

So far China has remained Coal self-sufficient, despite some sporadic periods when it had to temporarily purchase supplies from the international market. One of these periods took place in the Spring of 2007, at a time when prices in Europe were around 45 $/tonne. China became a net importer of Coal for a few months and even after closing the gap later that year, faced a harsh winter in the early weeks of 2008, that compromised mining and transport, prompting shortages in most of the country. By this time Coal was being traded at the Amsterdam port for more than 140 $/tonne [10]. It took less than 12 months for Coal prices to rise by as large a percentages as Oil prices had risen in four years.

Coal Consumption in Asia is growing so quickly that episodes like the 2007/2008 crunch may become permanent. The IEA expects China and India together will generate demand of over 110 Mtoe in the international market by 2015 [6]; this figure is very close to what the EU imported in total in 2009. Can the international market cope with such a demand surge? Of all international fossil fuel markets, Coal may well be the one yielding the greatest surprises for the next decade.

2.4 Fossil Fuels and the Economy

High energy prices had been the omens of Economic Recession during the XX century, once it became clear in 2004 that OPEC was unable to rein in oil prices, many were those announcing an imminent crisis. The shock did not come until 2008, when high energy prices coupled with rising interest rates dried up household spending and triggered credit defaults throughout much of the OECD. This crisis revealed serious fragility in the financial system with over indebtedness by households, companies and states.

In Europe, this recession had different impacts on different states, but immediately threatened liquidity all across the bloc. This was dealt at the time with state guarantees on private bank credit, but with economic activity nearly stalled, it evolved into a crisis of confidence ins state solvency. This confidence crisis affected only some states, particularly those in the Eurogroup with large budget deficits, though they are indebted mostly to other EU states. But it is important to note that those states that are today in the most financial trouble are exactly those most reliant on Oil as their primary energy source [11], as Figure 4 shows.

Figure 4: Oil dependence by state in the EU.

There may be several reasons for this coincidence, but it clearly shows that fossil fuel dependence is having a determining role in the present crisis. Moreover, it also indicates that a Pan-European scope is indispensable for an effective Energy Policy.

The Economic Crisis has now continued for almost two years. GDP numbers may have grown occasionally, but unemployment figures are still high and in some cases still growing. At the same time, oil prices remain about 2.5 times what they where back in 2004. An economy based on fossil fuels will always have little room to grow while supplies of these energy sources remain constrained. This low growth, high unemployment environment can be expected to continue for as long as Europe keeps its dependence on foreign supplies of fossil fuels.

In fact, this crisis is facilitating an important shift of fossil fuel usage from the OECD to emerging economies [12] as Figure 5 portraits. These economies function on much lower energy per capita requirements. As a result, they seem to be more resilient to the present constraints in the international market. An unsustainable economic paradigm is coming to an end. If economic recession is the only way for Europe and the OECD to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, then economic recession is what it will be.

Figure 5: OECD and Non-OECD shares of the world total liquids consumption (EIA data).

Already under strain, the socio-economic model under which Europe is built on will eventually cease to be viable under this fossil fuel paradigm; the Europe Project is likewise at stake. The European goals of Harmony, Solidarity, Equality and Freedom cannot be defended using the present, defunct, energy paradigm.

3 The Policy

The Energy Policy elements presented are here outlined using the Business Motivation Model (BMM) framework [13]. This framework is structured to organize business plans in a way to make them easy to understand, follow and maintain1. It is composed of three essential elements:

  • Ends - the future state the business hopes to reach;
  • Means - the methods that will be employed to reach those ends;
  • Influences - things that impact or constrain the business;

In this analysis, only Ends and Means are considered; an assessment of Influences is outside the scope of this document. "Ends" breakdown into three types of ever more detailed categories:

  • Vision - a single sentence summarizing the hoped-for business state;
  • Goals - conditions that must be satisfied on a continuing basis for the business to attain the Vision;
  • Objectives - specific, measurable and time-framed targets that the business must achieve to fulfill its Goals;

Means breakdown in a similar hierarchy:

  • Mission - a single sentence defining the business operation that can make the Vision a reality;
  • Strategy - macroscopic course of action that takes the business to its Goals;
  • Tactic - specific activity that implements a strategy;

Translating this framework to an Economic or Policy Programme, Vision and Mission can be seen as the digest of its grand objective, a direct way to make its purpose explicit. Goals and Strategies define the next level, Ends that are either collectively perceived as relevant or imposed by circumstances; they stem from, and exist, mostly in a technical plane, largely disconnected from political philosophies. Objectives and Tactics comprise the bottom level of Policy application, corresponding to executive targets and initiatives. It is at this level of implementation that political orientation has the larger role.

This document focuses mainly on the higher-level of Goals and Strategies; no Targets are presented and only a limited number of Tactics are discussed. The intention is to simply show stereotyped courses of action, without diving into political or philosophical considerations.

At the Tactical level considerations on taxes may be made, such as "reflect the consumer electronics labeling framework into the taxing scheme". These references are always made in abstract, leaving open implementation options; for the example above, labeling could translate into a VAT rebate, a VAT increase or both. The taxing scheme can as well comprise individual or collective income taxes, all depending on each Executive's philosophy.

The proposed Policy is presented in the following subsections: firstly Vision, Mission and Goals are presented as a first macro-view with introducing texts outlining the overall aims. Then a number of Strategies are put forward and discussed for each Goal, with some tactics put forward in an informal way.

Each policy element is an index with a character reflecting its type and a sequential number reflecting hierarchy, e.g. the first goal is indexed as G1 and is supported by strategies S1.1 and S1.2.

3.1 Vision

A United, Solidarian and Egalitarian Europe beyond fossil fuels.

3.2 Mission

Move Europe and its Socio-Economic model to a non fossil fuel reliant paradigm.

3.3 Goals

G1. Efficiency - do more with less.

Former Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs once wrote that his favourite energy source was Efficiency, that could as well be turned into an Energy Policy motto. Efficiency measures are those that have greater impacts on the shorter time-frame, they dispense technological development and usually are not politically sensitive. Measures in this field must always have an important role in Energy Policy for an Economy like Europe's, given its reliance abroad. Unfortunately, some of the present policies included in the 20-20-20 package aim at exactly the opposite direction.

G2. Electricity Generation - on fully indigenous energy sources.

Electricity will become an even more important energy vector, as Europe shifts away from fossil fuels. Especially as Transport trades liquid vectors for electricity, generation needs shall increase by significant amounts. If electricity continues to be generated with fossil fuels (mainly Gas and Coal) the effect of this shift could even be negative. It is thus essential for Europe to move towards a fully renewable electricity market or at least fully reliant on indigenous energy sources.

G3. Freight Transport - out of the roads.

Well over half of the oil consumed in the EU is used for Transport. During the few months of 2008, when oil prices remained over 100 $/barrel, it became apparent that the road infrastructure isn't viable in such environment, with strikes erupting all across the continent. Changing the transport of goods and commodities can represent an important reduction of Europe's oil dependence while having little impact on every day life. It is seamless to either the manufacturer or the client if some merchandise moves on rail or by ship, instead of the road. Moreover, much of the infrastructure to make such shift already exists, perhaps simply needing maintenance. Implementation could be made progressively, first on inter-state transport, then on inter-city and so on.

G4. Passenger Transport - a new concept of individual travel.

Today individual travel is performed mainly on two modes of transport: by road car (inter-city) or by air-plane (inter-state). Both of them are now highly reliant on oil, with aviation being 100% reliant on jet-fuel and no serious prospects for an alternative. Substituting these two modes present two different challenges: the airplane's speed (travelling at 900 Km/h) and the individual car's flexibility (being simultaneously a commuter, a small freighter and a mid-range vehicle). Overcoming these two challenges shall require a new concepts of what travelling to another state or to another city may mean, but it is imperative that it takes place.

Humans cherish the concept of the individual vehicle for the perception of control it provides them, ready to travel long distances, to take loads to whatever location is desired, whenever an individual chooses. This versatility is a product of the low volumetric density of oil products. But in reality cars are confined to roads, constrained by its driver availability and being repetitively used as a simple commuters. Travelers will have to make similar concessions to the ones they do when traveling by airplane: being subject to a pre-determined schedule and route, travelling with strangers and using other modes closer to destination, but at closer ranges that the traditional interstate flight.

Like modern cars, airplanes are a bi-product of oil's volumetric density, allowing a heavy chunk of metal to rapidly cross the skies. Aviation does not seem to have any substitute for jet-fuel, because its fuel follows such tight specifications. In time, flying will likely become unaffordable to the majority of the population, something which, without mitigation, can have profound social and cultural impacts for Europe. Travelers will have to expect longer hours of inter-state travel, but if these coincide with regular leisure or resting periods, their impact on daily life can be reduced close to zero.

3.4 Strategies

G1. Efficiency - Do more with less

S1.1. Abandon CCS targets

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) has no place in a fossil fuel constrained world, where the extra 30% to 40% extra primary energy needed to run such systems isn't available. The implementation of the existing CCS programme can be expected to have tragic consequences for Europe. Any targets on this matter must be scrapped immediately.

S1.2. Abandon agro-fuel targets

One of the 20-20-20 targets is a replacement of 10% of the transportation fuels used today in Europe with agro-fuels. To achieve that an area at least the size of Germany would have to be covered with dedicated crops [14]. This target will likely have to be met with imports, though of a more expensive and in much lower supply commodity than oil. There is no logic to justify such target, immediate scrapping is imperative.

S1.3. Re-penalise fossil fuels

In recent years a number of fossil-fuel based energy vectors have been promoted accross the EU, including Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and jet-fuel. These vectors have benefited from tax breaks when used as transport fuels, something that makes little sense from a Energy Policy perspective. Fuel duties have played an important role in avoiding the higher energy per capita figures of other OECD members (e.g. USA, Canada), hence avoiding over-reliance on foreign energy. Moreover, these market biases have prompted owners to spend thousands of euros retrofitting their vehicles to use these vectors, a relevant investment that brings no efficiency improvement. There's no reason to differentiate between fossil fuel based vectors; all must be brought into the same tax framework.

S1.4. Use Thermal Waste Heat

Fossil fuels are primary energy sources that are transformed into motion or electricity by means of combustion. This is a rather inefficient process, where between 50% and 70% of the input energy is lost as heat. While recently combined cycle power plants have became the norm, targets must be set for an all round efficiency increase in electrical generation, including older power plants. Other tactics may combine to boost this strategy, such as the spreading of district heating systems, especially in northern states.

S1.5. Use urban waste

A process already in motion in some parts of the EU, that should also be turned into a European wide practice. Waste contains many different forms of matter that can be used as energy source, either by outright combustion or by processing it into useful vectors such as bio-diesel. This strategy can be seen as part of a larger Environmental goal of closing Society's matter cycle.

S1.6. Promote efficient consumer goods

Part of the Commission's present Energy Policy implementation is already a much wider Labeling framework now extending to a great number of consumer goods. This initiative should be progressively extended to all goods that use energy or otherwise have a relevant impact on energy efficiency (e.g. car tyres). More than that, the Labeling scheme should also be reflected in the taxing scheme of these products, thus providing a market bias in favour of efficiency. To work, a Labeling Framework will likely need a supporting institution responsible for testing goods and keeping efficiency rankings up-to-date.

G2. Electricity Generation - on fully indigenous energy sources.

S2.1. Support Renewable Energy

Some states have already shifted a relevant fraction of its electricity generation to indigenous renewable energies that go beyond the traditional hydro-electric. This has been achieved in great measure due to the introduction of feed-in tariffs, fixed rates by which grid operators must buy the generated electricity. Though more expensive than fossil fuels, feed-in tariffs are nonetheless considerably below present final prices at the consumer (e.g. in Portugal and Spain Wind feed-in tariffs are circa 7.5 euro cents/kWh, whereas consumers pay 12 euro cents/kWh).

This approach seems sharp in two ways: it facilitates investment (which for renewables is mostly before start-up) and can impose a benchmark to separate between lower and higher EROEI 2 energy sources. In the current market, where many different forms of renewable energy are promoted by different agents, a single fixed feed-in tariff for every one will stave off immature or low EROEI sources from entering the market. Additionally, a higher tariff limited to a certain generation capacity (say 10 Mw) could be employed for development projects.

S2.2. Promote Energy Storage

Feed-in tariffs for electricity generation as just part of a larger process to shift from fossil fuels to renewable. Being mostly intermittent in nature, renewables pose some challenges to grid management, many times not matching the instantaneous demand on the grid. So far this has been mitigated with the use of the hydro-electric park for storage, augmenting the hydrological potential for load-balance generation. In time, with an increased intermittent supply to the grid, hidro-electric storage may not be enough; new forms of energy storage must be promoted side by side with renewable energies.

This strategy can also be implemented with special tariffs for energy storage. It can take many forms, simply as fixed figures for intake and feed-in, or more complex schemes contemplating the daily variations of the demand/supply balance.

S2.3. Develop an European Nuclear Programme

Now patent from the experience by the states with higher penetration rates, renewable energies are having impact chiefly on load balance generation (in great measure due to its coupling with hydro-electric as explained above). Base-load generation will feel the impact later and likely only after larger scale storage systems are in place. Objectively, the only ready, scalable, indigenous alternative to fossil-fuels for base-load is Nuclear energy. It is thus time for the EU to assume this fact and take this energy source seriously.

A real European Nuclear Programme should not be seen simply as an expansion project but rather as a maintenance, assessment and long term road-map for this energy source. An important part of this programme would have to be information, explaining to the EU citizen what Nuclear energy is, why is it needed, what are the potential hazards, how they are mitigated, what is the EU planning for it long term. After that a thorough assessment of each state' base-load needs should take place, especially for those that do not have relevant Coal resources and do not use Nuclear. And on this assessment the Nuclear Park could be properly dimensioned and its hypothetical decommissioning planned for the long term.

G3. Freight Transport - out of the roads.

S3.1. Limit inter-state road freight

Tackling freight transport should start by the long distance, where empty haulage has the worst impact (finding back-trip loads is harder). This can be implemented in several ways, with special tolls on inter-state highways for hauliers, creating an inter-state circulation tax scheme for trucks, adjusting the taxing scheme on goods transported by road, etc.

The lion share of implementing this strategy would be recycling the jobs lost in the hauling industry. Workers in this sector would primarily be lead to the alternative industries: rail-roads, water-ways and maritime shipping; other options may exist in the logistic sector aggregated to these industries.

S3.2. Limit inter-city road freight

Similar to the previous strategy, this one would came at a later phase, with inter-state road transport already greatly reduced. The tactics discussed above largely apply here and would translate into an European-wide cost hike for road hauling. Only for short distances, where rail or waterways are impracticable, road freight could be left as is.

S3.3. European Rail Freight Network

In parallel to the phase-out of road hauling a programme to create an European-wide standard freight rail network would be necessary. A first stage could correspond to a network connecting every state capital, composed by slow lines (maximum speeds circa 100 Km/h). In time this would expand to all cities above a certain threshold size.

Underpinning this network an information system would be needed to allow a hauling operator to easily contract its container trip between any two nodes of the network.

S3.4. European Shipping Network

Also part of the alternative to road freight, maritime shipping, though reliant on fossil fuels, presents several advantages, a much reduced fuel usage per tonne-kilometre and relatively low infrastructure requirements. A programme would be needed to facilitate navigation all around the EU's coasts, to provide proper logistic infrastructure at ports and facilitate the movement of goods through customs (scrapping any barriers of this sort to inter-state shipping).

As before, a proper information system is indispensable for the management and tracking of freight ships, plus the useful instruments for easy contracting.

G4. Passenger Transport - a new concept of individual travel.

S4.1. Promote Aerodynamics

Somewhere after the Second World War the car industry simply forgot about Aerodynamics (or may have passed it to the back seat). Charismatic cars like the Volkswagen (later christened as beetle) or the Citroën DS, where built with much higher concerns on this field than those available today. Air is the largest obstacle to the movement of a car on a tarmac road, and the only one in flat road at constant speeds. The other obstacle is mass, entering the equation whenever there is acceleration. The car industry seems to be slowly tackling the mass component with energy recovery systems on braking (something associated with the popular concept of "hybrid-car"). Though indirectly penalized by fuel duties, movement through Air has so far been left unmitigated.

Implementation could be achieved with progressive industry standards for minimum frontal area / shape ratios or by adjustments to the taxing scheme. Aerodynamic vehicles will likely steal away some of the flexibility embodied in today's cars. Vehicles to transport large loads or large numbers of passengers would become less attractive. Overcoming this difficulty is something the industry can possibly deal with by itself, e.g. by recurring to concepts such as modularity.

An Aerodynamic bias on the car market may also have another important function by facilitating the penetration of alternative vector vehicles. These vectors are invariably less denser than oil products, thus providing less travel distance for the same tank size; better Aerodynamics shall increase these vehicle's range, improving their usefulness.

S4.2. Substitute inter-state Air travel for High Speed Rail

Using quasi-straight lines passing over major cities, a path between Athens and Brussels is about 2000 Km long; between Tallinn and Brussless it is about 1900 Km and between Lisbon and Brussels a little less. At an average speed of 200 Km/h these distances are covered in 10 hours or less. At face value, such a long time inside a train may not be that appealing. But instead of idealizing it as a regular plane trip with the passenger stranded in a seat, it can imagined in a different way. A passenger takes the Trans-Europa-Express at 8 pm in Athens and moves to the restaurant car for dinner. Somewhat later the passenger enters a small, but comfortable, cabin where some hours are spent reading, watching a picture or blogging, before going to bed. At 7 am the next day the passenger is up, goes for breakfast and at 8 am leaves the train at the destination city, where a cab or bus shall complete the journey to a starting business or vacation day.

There is certainly more to it than this simple story, children, luggage, etc, but for many occasions this could become a reality. A programme to substitute inter-state air travel by rail would not only require an high-speed network connecting at least every state capital, it would also need to make night travel affordable. Taking advantage of economies of scale, architecting new train cars, improving modal integration, a new long-distance passenger travel system must become a reality in Europe.

S4.3. Penalize jet-fuel

Complementing the introduction of an European high speed rail network is the simple measure of introducing fuel duties on jet-fuel. Though referenced before, it is important to stress that jet-fuel is subject to no duty at all throughout the EU. It's introduction is sensitive, since without a proper alternative long distance passenger travel could become unaffordable; on the other hand it would work as an important incentive to the introduction of a high speed rail network. It could be implemented progressively, firstly impacting only domestic flights below a certain distance, then spreading to all internal flights and later to all jet-fuel marketed in the EU.

4 Summary

Europe faces enormous challenges in the years, and possibly decades, ahead due to its reliance on foreign imports of fossil energy. By different factors, outright scarcity, geographic constraints or demand growth from competing importers, Oil, Gas and Coal are all set to become harder to afford for Europe. If no other way is provided for the reduction of their usage, then economic hardship shall take care of such task.

An Energy Policy directed at fossil fuel scarcity is today paramount for Europe, and may rest on it the survival of its Socio-Economic paradigm. Even the EU's cohesion itself may come at stake without a path to an Economy based on indigenous energy.

This document proposes an Energy Policy from a macroscopic stance, founded on four pillars: Efficiency - continuously improve the way Europe uses energy; Electricity generation - substitute foreign fossil fuel imports for indigenous renewables and Nuclear if needed; Freight Transport - substituting road hauling for rail, water-ways and maritime shipping; Passenger Transport - changing the way Europeans think of passenger transport, with new concepts of individual/family vehicles and long distance travel.

May our leaders have the courage and science to tackle this challenge.


A more detailed and direct description of BMM can be found at this webpage:
EROEI - Energy Return On Energy Invested; it is a measure of how much useful energy is delivered to society by an energy source, after excluding build-up, operation and other energy inputs.


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An excellent effort. Thank you for taking the trouble.

As to whether they will read it or not, that is another matter :)

S2.2 ....hidro-electric storage ?

Hope you spell checked the one you sent off.

Nothing here about car-based commuters, which I would suggest is the elephant in the room of oil usage and one of the first things to bite societal systems if not addressed early. Ride sharing, telecommuting, just plain not sticking everything in city centres - its one of the key things to get right.

I also spotted a few spelling errors: you seem to be consistently using "where" instead of "were", which I noticed three times I think, and you also used "pretend" where it seems to me you should have used "intend" or a synonym thereof.

Other than that it was a good read. I especially like the idea of limiting train heavy transport to 100 km/h, which makes good sense aerodynamically, and would probably facilitate rail construction.

As an avid biker I too would have liked some discussion of biking "freeways" in cities, but it might be a bit too small of scope for your letter.

Prominently missing: promote use of bicycles and small personal electric vehicles by building bicycle-friendly infrastructure in cities. E.g., "bicycle freeways" with overpasses (or underpasses) at busy intersections. Cover bicycle lanes to make all-weather use more attractive.

The latest and greatest multi-star-rated building was opened in Australia today (Melbourne I think); "...will produce more energy than it uses". Of course, the report failed to mention how much fossil fuel (and rare earth materials) were consumed in the construction phase, future maintenance requirements or the projected life span.

Funny how solutions such as having few babies and indulging in a simpler life-style, which physically (to the planet, or even a person's wallet) cost virtually nothing, still barely rate a mention.

Car aerodynamics.
Introduce a star energy rating for cars, which after all, are white goods.

Rail travel is delightful if it is cultured. Rail should not model itself on the airline paradigm.

Farms turn diesel into food, not food into diesel.

Introduce minimum of 20 year money back guarantees on all manufactured goods.
Full spare parts inventory. No planned obsolescence, Less embodied energy loss.

As we are thoroughly mismanaging contraction (Kunstler), we might be better of building local resilience rather quickly... Peak Oil surely is a problem, but the bigger setting of the ecological dilemma (excessive population growth, habitat destruction and resource depletion) must be kept in mind to scale our efforts appropriately.

Anyway, we have more problems: The curse of complexity (Joseph Tainter) and destructivity (Derrick Jensen), not to mention sheer stupidity all around the planet. Regarding strategies aimed at the political level I always remember Einstein's words: we should not try to solve problems on the ground we created them.

All excellent comments, Luis, I support all the above measures.

I would suggest more (to include some mentioned by others above);


- Incorporate a 'smart grid' to help balance renewable/stored energy with demand. This includes real-time pricing and smart appliances/HVAC.

- Explicitly include imports of renewable energy, such as the Saharan solar farm project (Desertec Industrial Initiative)


- Addition of light rail in cities and population centers wherever they are no currently extant. This will promote the development of car-free districts around rail stops, which inherently includes energy efficient buildings and greatly reduced car usage.

- Low energy personal transportation: Which not only includes aerodynamics (earlier addressed at TOD), but also lighter weight, high efficiency propulsion, and other energy reducing aspects, such as human power (bicycles, velomobiles, electric boost, etc).

A velomobile is a recumbent trike with an extremely aerodynamic body. Take a peek at what personal transportation could evolve to...);

One such velomobile with 2 seats and hybrid pedal/electric propulsion (the Twike) is rated to 85 km/hr (55 mph);

Very highly fuel efficient cars are coming out soon, such as the 180 mpg VW 1-litre, 120 mpg Loremo, and others.



The lighter drive describes BMW's work on building a next generation electric car using carbon fiber. Besides the weight advantage of carbon fiber that allows for greater efficiency:

Another advantage of a carbon-fibre body is that it will not corrode. So, apart from the battery wearing out in ten years or so, electric cars could last for decades (electric motors need little servicing).

If cars could last 50 years or more, with only changes of batteries and other replaceable parts every decade or so, this would reduce the energy requirements of automobile manufacturing.

Now THAT is REALLY going to upset the car makers and dealers who are hooked on the next year's model concept. As far as changes of batteries and parts goes this should be on a very modular basis so , for example, one could have the small size battery pack for running about but pop in and swap it out with the large size or add a couple more for the long trip or holiday/vacation.


A vastly expanded set of regulations forcing the the mechanical standardization and durability of automobiles would be a very desirable thing from the consumers pov.

Cars would last a lot longer and be a lot cheaper to maintain and it would be possible to write the standards to allow economical and easy upgrades.

I remeber that idea from the late 1970:s when I were a little kid.
It would have worked but it would also have slowed down the
adaptation of much more efficient engines and safer car bodies.
Quality did get better, especially rust proofing.

It is a good idea to standardise the bolts and subsystems.
It is a good idea to design for maintainability wich usually also
is good for manufacturability and the recycling.
And it is a good idea for society to make it possible for third
parties to manufacture spare parts and maintain software in old
systems and thus make them easier to maintain.

Do not overdo new standards since not all changes in technology
and consumer preferences can be pre-planned.

I don't know that velomobiles will ever catch on, but at the least we need to move toward using bikes to cover medium distances. Part of the problem there is a)security and b)transport - if you can take your bike on a train, then you can cover much better distances practically, but if you have to break it down or if you can't take it with you, then you're stuck walking at the other end, which is not always a workable solution. The Twike really looks like a good idea as well, the problem is that it's not cheap and can't handle higher speeds. In Europe that may work fine, but in the United States many areas are car-centered, and highways move at 70 mph. What really needs to be fixed in the US is car-centric infrastructure.

Bikes and vehicles like the Twike also need to be fitted to handle shopping in a comfortable manner. There are various bike/trike designs with cargo in mind (like the Christiania bikes), but right now they are oddities rather than mass produced, widely used items. Those old hippies in Christiania had the right idea in many ways, perhaps that's why Denmark has worked so hard to destroy them over the years...

I'm a bit biased as I've been taking care of Twike 433 in the MidWest US for going on 3 years this fall, and Twike 433's been dutifully taking me back and forth to work, every day -- rain, snow, sleet, hail (hail yes!). The Twike is AWESOME in the US, and it has replaced our 2nd car (literally -- we now have just a 1991 Toyota Camry that gets 27-33mpg)!

Cheap is in how you define it: By MY definition, messes in the Gulf (both the Mexican and Persian one) in order to obtain oil are too expensive. Also too expensive is Chinese factory workers committing suicide because they're being paid sub-living wages and being worked 'round the clock. Or being built by 14-year-olds. Quality of life (and quality of product) suffers -- they are essentially slaves. THIS is one way you get cheap electric vehicles!

The Twike as an electric vehicle carries no oil guilt. If you have the funds (I don't right now) to erect your own solar/wind power, then you also carry no buried-alive-miners/CO2/strip-mining/nuclear guilt. To me, guilt is expensive! Unfortunately most American's choose to blame BP rather than looking in the mirror to find out that if there was no demand, then BP would not be drilling in the Gulf! We will boycott BP filling stations, but we won't boycott our cars!

As far as higher speeds/distances are concerned, over 50% of Americans drive 25 miles or less a day. Eighty-percent drive 50 miles or less a day! Seventy miles per hour is just not necessary, and if you're talking during daily rush hour commutes, not even possible! I drive the back country roads -- just like bicycling, they're much safer and much more enjoyable! As far as thrill-seeking, it isn't a glorified golf cart either -- carving a turn at 20mph is quite exhilarating, and 20 mph feels like 30-40 in a small vehicle once your perspective shifts.

What is important is breaking away from SUV thinking: one vehicle that does everything poorly and instead getting the right tool for the job. Most Americans own easily 2 or more motor vehicles: you use your bicycle on nice sunny days to go to the gym, work, store on short distances. You use your Twike/EV for all your other local commuting running around town. Use your full-sized car when the whole family is going with you somewhere or when you need to go long distance (until the train situation is fixed!)

I'm not just saying this as theory -- I'm living it on a daily basis: It's possible, and it's not that hard -- in fact it's quite fun! 433 is a complete car replacement for me running around town, picking up a child from school/daycare on the way home (or in emergency), going on a grocery run...

The hard part is that there are 20 or less Twikes currently in the US, most dating from 1998 or earlier. Far fewer than 20 are actually on the roads on a daily basis due to needing repairs or legal status in the state that they're in. We are working on this though!

Matt Childress
Twike 433 -

Thanks for the link, Matt. A bit pricey though. Does it get hot in the summer? How does it handle in gusty weather? Just asking, 'cause alternative trans is my next project.

Hey Ghung, check this out.

I'm thinking alternative trans soon myself.


Adamx, I agree with you completely that there are certainly situations where a bicycle is superior to a velomobile (such as the folding-bike-on-a-train scenario you mentioned). Please note that I gave bicycles equal weight, and simply added a picture of a velomobile for those who are unfamiliar with them.

I myself have been a bike commuter in the past (10 miles one way), and have considered folding bikes in other situations where a bus commute did not get me as close to a destination as would suffice a stroll.

I note the cargo bike is gaining a resurgence with the Dutch. There are as many solutions as there are situations. the United States many areas are car-centered, and highways move at 70 mph.

This will change seemingly overnight, and many will not know how to handle the change. If we thought 10% unemployment was high, we must prepare ourselves for much worse.

Having vehicles such as the Twike or even a good commuting/errand bike is one such preparation. Besides, those that are doing so are reducing the nation's dependency on foreign oil, an act of strengthening the country. We should be looking for such opportunities, instead of opportunities to remain as comfortable as possible.

It needs to be understood that 'Nuclear Programme' is ambiguous. There are a large number of reactor concepts that are really completely different technologies with completely different charecteristics, EROI, infrastructure requirements, etc.

A future nuclear programme could be based upon:
1. light water PWRs with or without reprocessing,
2. small inherently safe gas cooled reactors (which could drive a hydrogen economy),
3. Fast breeder reactors cooled by sodium,
4. FBRs cooled by lead,
5. small fast reactors installed local to demand,
6. High Pressure gas breeder reactors,
7. molten salt reactors,
8. fission-fusion hybrid reactors,
9. travelling wave reactors,
and probably quite a few more.

Hence, nuclear is completely different to wind power, coal, oil or gas, which have a defined resource charecteristic and a narrow range of technological options. To examine the practicality of nuclear, we would need to examine every reactor and fuel cycle concept individually.

I would short list it in a few priorities.

Priority one: What can be done right now?

Life lenght extensions.
More EPR:s and other ready to build designs.
Higer manufacturing capacity and nucear certification of additional heavy industries and personell.
Do not bother trying to force populations and governments to change policy, invest elsewhere.

Priority two, what can be done soon?

Redesigns of current concepts for fast series production and lower costs for large and small reactors.
More uranium mines and enrichment capacity to give more time to develop and build breeders.
Train more workers and engineers.

Priority three: What can be done to prepare for the long term?

Realy serious attention to safety and waste handling to gain the publics approval, realy needed on all priority levels.
Make the most of current research facilities and already partly develop concepts such as lead-bismuth cooling, sodium cooled fast reactors, IFR with metallic fuel and molten salt reactors.
Wide scoope RnD of various concepts to train scientists and engineres and also try new ideas.

And of course a market based approach to the series production of nuclear powerplants to get good overall resource efficiency.

I am attracted to the idea of nuclear power.
However, Stoneleigh discusses nuclear safety in financialy constrained circumstances in this talk which I recommend to you.

Long distance transportation of small quantities only via vacuum tube transport at high speed. Local transport at very reduced speed.

No more printed advertisement.

Standardisation of reusable packaging for all foodstuff, and no more unemployment because all hands are needed for collection, sorting and cleaning.

Finally: penal servitude for advertising products that don't do what was promised that they would do, or products that have hidden disadvantages one cannot know before buying it.

Very good analysis of FF supply and demand. This fits well with Euan Mearns review of China's coal consumption and world export market.

I completely concur with your desire to see aviation fuel taxed same as road fuel. This is probably the biggest short term action to start the shift away from inefficient use of fossil fuels (auto and air transport) and achieve the longer term goal of using electric powered transport with energy from renwable sources and nuclear.

Maybe US can follow EU's lead, hopefully before our economy declines to the point where the governments cannot afford to invest in more efficient transport modes.

Yesterday the US House of Representatives transport panel decided to cut funding for high speed rail by 40% ($800 million) and increase funding for highways by 12% ($4 billion). US is running faster toward the cliff!

A couple of comments. Hopefully you have time to incorporate suggestions.

S1.1: Proposing abandonment of CCS targets. This is a bit too harsh, or maybe just too terse. Some form of CCS will be essential to future climate stability. Research into less energy intensive processes than the current amine based methods is sorely needed. Some of the proposed methods have an energy penalty of under ten percent. Large scale investment in methods without the potential to reduce parasitic loses below 20% should be redirected towards methods that still have the potential to do so.

S4.1: Aerodynamics is not the only dissipative force acting on vehicular travel. Rolling resistance of rubber tires is significant (I think somewhere around 1% -equivalent to climbing a 1% grade). Don't say it is the ONLY one, that detracts from your credibility. Also internal dissapative loses, in the engine and transmission are very substantial. The main advantage hybrids have over conventional (ICE only), is part time electric use. Essentially hybrids can travel with the engine off for short periods of time. The gain from lack of internal resistance of the engine/transmission more than makes up for the low round trip efficiency of the battery charge/discharge cycle.

Aerodynamics is not the only dissipative force acting on vehicular travel.

There are other, more subtle, considerations.

As vehicles get smaller, and more streamlined, the need for air conditioning becomes critical in warm weather (as virtually all automobile designers live in a cold climate, this factor is generally ignored). The examples usually shown of high efficiency cars are all built like solar furnaces. Large ventilators for air circulation tend to negate the streamlining, so air conditioning becomes essential. And as vehicles become smaller and lighter, the power needed to run the air conditioner becomes a much more significant part of the total power consumed by the vehicle.

An air conditioner might use 5hp of engine power. That's less than 3% of the power produced by many current car engines. But a highly efficient vehicle like the VW L1 has an engine which only produces about 10hp. Can it run an effective air conditioner?

Such a vehicle also has problems in cold weather. Cars traditionally have heaters which use waste heat from the engine. A highly efficient 10hp engine will not generate much waste heat. Decades ago I owned a small Citroen in Denmark. The engine (33 hp) did not generate enough heat to warm the driver in cold weather, and I can remember getting really cold when driving down hill, and then warming up a little on uphill climbs. These vehicles will be about as comfortable as an open snowmobile in cold weather, unless they have a heater burning fossil fuel.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy only 2.6% of fuel energy (14.3% of engine output) goes to aerodynamic drag, while 2.2% goes to running accessories, with air conditioning being the largest component. Rolling resistance is nearly twice as important as aerodynamic drag.

The examples usually shown of high efficiency cars are all built like solar furnaces.

There are two sides to the cooling problem. One approach is to pump the heat out A/C. The other is to minimize heat getting into the vehicle in the first place. The later has two areas that need consideration. The most obvious is a little bit of insulation. Less obviously is the need to reflect as much solar radiation (visable light and near infrared) as possible to minimize solar heating. The later could be a combination of white color, and reflective window tinting.

Such a vehicle also has problems in cold weather.

There are two problems. The most obvious is passenger comfort, which usually means heating. This isn't an absolute must, as one should be prepared to survive outside if for example your vehicle gets stuck. But lack of it would probably have a serious impact on the market. Far more crucially is defrosting. I can remember a problem I had with my old 79 Subaru. It was eighteen degrees, but we had a fog of supercooled water droplets, which would freeze on the windshield making it impossible to see where you were going. Cars with V8's had no problem, as they had enough waste heat/defroster power to keep their windshields above freezing. Perhaps electric resitance supplementary defrosters similar to some rear window defrosters can do the trick.

The examples usually shown of high efficiency cars are all built like solar furnaces.

The VW L1? No see above. The Aptera? No see their site. The Loremo? No, see above. The velomobile shown above? No...

While some may appear this way (and therefore not used in hot climates), many more are not.

Large ventilators for air circulation tend to negate the streamlining

So smaller ventilators are used and strategically directed at the occupants.

An air conditioner might use 5hp of engine power.

Perhaps those people with large cars who like to simply blast the A/C after leaving their windows tightly shut. Some cars are starting to come out with PV-powered standby ventilation, so that a car doesn't get up to 140F sitting in the sun. I personally drive a 2000 Honda Insight on US highways, so am well aware of the affect of A/C on acceleration. I leave my windows cracked, and on hot days drive 200-300 yards with the windows down, so as to avoid a heavy load demand on the A/C. On most other days, having the windows partway down fully suffices for circulation of air.

... I can remember getting really cold when driving down hill, and then warming up a little on uphill climbs. These vehicles will be about as comfortable as an open snowmobile in cold weather

Come now, you can't be serious! I remember having a car with no heater one winter, and I can assure you that I could not once compare it to driving an open snowmobile. Indeed, bundled in winter clothes I didn't have to take on and off as I got in and out of the car, I was quite comfortable.

only 2.6% of fuel energy (14.3% of engine output) goes to aerodynamic drag

"On the EPA highway cycle with an average speed of 48 mph, 54% of the energy required to move a car goes to aerodynamic drag."

And at higher speeds, much more power is devoted to simply pushing air out of the way.

Hi Will,

"Energy required to move car" is different than "percent of fuel energy". There is a lot of waste in the power plant and driveline before the energy gets to the wheels to move the vehicle.

You are right, of course. Though in this age of PHEVs and BEVs, power plant waste is becoming minimized. 54% of the energy required to move such vehicles is the majority of the energy consumed, therefore efforts to minimize it become much more pressing. GM found it needed to pay very close attention to CdA in order to reduce the battery pack costs.

Inner city speeds less aerodynamic losses, of course, so the predominant use of the vehicle will drive the need to focus on specific vehicle aspects.

Agree with adding solar to the car for secondary power eg ventilation. A/C off engine is very inefficient when idling. 1/2 the time (or more) when A/C is used simple de-humidifying would be ample and use far less power especially if forced to be closed cycle. Effective insulation would help both A/C and heating. Effective heat exchange for ventilation instead of the in one end out the other concept, it's used for houses for years. Not enough heat from the engine water coolant for heating the vehicle, come on, why not secondary air cooling layer on the engine or heat recovery from the exhaust, lots being thrown away. Use body under shell as large flat panel heat collector dump. There, some ideas. I am sure that these problems are quite solvable with a little bit of application.

Oh, Energy lost to air drag? are those figures related to the energy in the fuel or energy applied to the road, huge difference.


On the mythbusters TV show they tested the effect of AC vs. opening windows on fuel economy. IIRC the conclusion was that at low speed open windows was more efficient, but when going at highway speed having windows open increased drag to the extent that it was more efficient to close the windows and turn on the AC.

PV powered ventilation is genius, hadn't heard of that before on cars (I've seen those on boats decades ago). Wonder why it's not more common.

As for winter driving, the obvious solution as you say is to just put on more clothes.

More clothes is one thing for the USA,long straight driving, the UK is another matter. Lots of twisty, windy roads with many tight junctions makes for very tiring driving if you are bundled up. A lot of Europe is the same. Short journeys ok but long distance it doesn't work very well as you need to be moving all the time.


With all that exercise and the mild winters you have, doesn't sound like there will be all that much bundling up there in the UK (or France, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, etc).

Come now, you can't be serious! I remember having a car with no heater one winter, and I can assure you that I could not once compare it to driving an open snowmobile

Not all winters are created equal. Actually in the moderate temps of what you probably call winter a bundled rider can get quite warm wrestling a snow machine around. Mind you I'm not much of a fan of the inefficient beasts. The defrosting/ventilation concerns involved in designing small aerodynamic vehicles that can actually penetrate the market are hardly a trifling concern. The big inefficient brutes we drive now are a one size fits all solution, with big power plants either cooling or heating the passenger compartments and windows. We are about as close to getting mass use of tiny aero vehicles right now as we are to flying the little ships that populated 'The Jetsons' skies. Keep hammering away though. Eventually an adequate compromise might just fill the American roads.

Personally I'd like to see a fully integrated high-speed/heavy/light rail continent wide system with pool road vehicles at terminuses as required. That is about as likely as "The Jetsons" scenario as well right now.

Oh I drove a 67 VW bug with no cabin heat but what my body generated one winter in the relatively balmy (compared to where I now live) Upper Peninsula of Michigan as well. A sock full of rock salt kept a patch of the flat windshield about the size of a fist or two open in the minus 20 F weather. There was virtually no traffic there, so I survived. A similar defrosting solution on the coldest mornings in Chicago or Detroit for the millions of motorists there would reduce the driving population in short order. I guess that is one solution to the bigger problem.

Abandoning CCS is not harsh, but realistic and sensible:

Carbon Sequestration: Boon or Burden?

Geological storage may be more effective in delaying the return of the warming and associated consequences but only if a CO2 leakage of 1 % or less per thousand years can be obtained.

the dangers of carbon sequestration are real and the development of this technique should not be used as an argument for continued high fossil fuel emissions. On the contrary, we should greatly limit CO2 emissions in our time to reduce the need for massive carbon sequestration and thus reduce unwanted consequences and burdens over many future generations from the leakage of sequestered CO2

Resources will be better spent reducing fossil fuel consumption than on the imaginary panacea of CCS.

but only if a CO2 leakage of 1 % or less per thousand years can be obtained.

That statement doesn't make sense. If we asume for simplicity of argument/math that CO2 residence time is a thousand years, then a 1% leakage per thousand years would reduce the atmospheric burden by 99%.

I agree that the current CCS projects are mainly coal PR. It is unrealistic to think that a process as parasitic (of energy output) as the amine based system currently proposed will ever be adopted on a large scale. But some less energy hungry forms of CCS might make sense. I hope long term we can couple CCS and biomass, and begin the long process of drawing down atmospheric CO2.

I would be nice if this document made the rounds in Washington D.C. (U.S.) too.

One energy solution with great potential impact, not mentioned in your article, but already underway to be implemented in some European countries...:obligation for producers of consumer goods to take back used items at the end of their lifetime. This will stimulate the "recyclebility" of goods, and force companies to innovate within the cradle to cradle paradigm. I am aware of the oildrum discussions about the energy costs of recycling, but in these discussions was not paid attention to the fact that at the moment goods are not made to be recycled. So obviously you can count on a vast amount of energy needed to deassemble goods. But if goods are built in such a way that they can be easily de-assembled, ot that certain parts can be easily replaced it has a totally other energy picture. Ofcourse if will make good more expensive, less disposable. People need to change their habits. You might not want to have all cheap but s*&tty tools. Some will "specialise" in having good quality tools, and will share them or hire them to others.

Limit packaging. I bought a pack of razor blades and weighed the blades and the packaging. The blades weighed 6.2 grams, the packaging without the blades, 13.3 grams. Looking at a straight razor now. They're expensive.

Packaging is advertising... The more packaging the more messages possible. Recyclebility could be forced, cradle to cradle could be forced within capitalist system, but limiting advertising? "Buy 3 for the price of 2!" and hop, extra packaging to wrap 3 razor blades packages. Perhaps make waste disposal more expensive, and people will think twice to buy package material?

Packaging is also there to bulk out objects which would otherwise be easily shoplifted.

The only way to successfully reduce packaging and counter the problem of shoplifting would be to abandon the "self-service supermarket" mode of shopping and replace it with shopkeepers who fetch items from secure storerooms for their customers.

USB memories in Costco, how big are those? When packed bigger than a laptop itself. My new earphones 12g packaging 42g (refused plastic bag for just 1 item), served so shop lifting argument.


Yes, an excellent overall approach.

Enough "meat" that it will take time for me to digest :-)

Best Hopes for the EU,


Very interesting!

That may also be of interest to you:

I had a meeting about Peak Oil and the IEA at the European Commission (DG Energy) on the 17th of May 2010.

A brief summary about the meeting (the discussion wasn’t audio recorded, so these are just some notes I took after the meeting)

- For them, the IEA is not a bible, it is just one source consulted amongst others (they seemed to minimize the importance of the IEA).
- They are consulting various reports, both optimists and pessimists (similar to what DECC is now doing).
- They are trying to push for de-carbonization of EU countries (e.g. climate change policies)
- The EC is only an observant at the IEA. According to them, it would be difficult to start criticizing the IEA during the meetings and EC critics may not even be heard (I doubt that).
- That the US would influence the IEA should not be too difficult to imagine as it contributes to about half of IEA’s budget…
- The US could be severely affected by Peak Oil (it has a lot to lose).
- That a boss tells you to change a report is not unthinkable, like political influence (“it happens every day” or so I was told by one of the EC officials).

When I asked them why they were not making their own assessments on Peak Oil, they replied that they do not want to take the risk of giving a precise date and then either be too pessimistic or optimistic (and risk of being criticized…).

- They admitted that the IEA didn’t achieve many successes (e.g. energy efficiency), the Agency doesn’t have a great record.
- They expressed some complains about the negative role of the USA (they have been reluctant for 20 to 25 years to improve efficiency, renewable energies…)
- That the US are influencing the report (like the whistleblower is saying) didn’t seem so implausible to one of the EC officials.

Out of the 6 EC officials, only one seemed to understand Peak Oil (a Senior Energy Economist). For the majority, higher oil prices (as production declines) will solve the problem (“the market will solve the problem”).

I insisted that it was a problem of timing (e.g. Hirsch report), but beside the EC official aware of Peak Oil the others didn’t seem to understand the issue.

One EC official even said that if IEA’s assessments are too optimistic and that Peak Oil happens before 2030, then “it’s not a problem for us”...

At the end of the meeting, they agreed to read the report from Uppsala University:

Lionel Badal

Hi Lionel Badal,
It interests me, why you had this meeting with DG Energy? As journalist? Personally I have some experiences with discussing with EU bureaucrats (DG Agriculture/DG Environment/DG Enterprise) on "content issues" and I found that they are very willing to listen, are often even more "progressive" than the "activist crowds" concerning societal problems, but they are and remain bureaucrats or maybe "technocrats". They function within very limited political space. This space is made by the DG director that gets it from the EC, which is gets it from the national EU political leaders.
Most EU policies are technocratic, with implicit political goals (mostly ultra liberal). If a DG asks feedback from "independent experts" like they do often, it is to enforce their technological base. I think it is an illusion to think you might have political influence. The frustrating thing is that the DG's remain the foremost important entry to lobby, because the EU parliament has no power to change things....

What I got from your post Lionel is;

"Bureaucrats are not rewarded for making good decisions, but are punished for making bad ones. Therefore a good bureaucrat spends his life not making decisions."

On other governmental levels, some of the bureaucrats are hired to develop policy... but it is clear that within the EU they are asked not to use their imagination in doing this :-)

A critical variable for the future will be the relationship between the EU and the FSU. Will they negotiate a merger and become one economic unit? Also, what are the FF resources that may become available off-shore in the Arctic Ocean on Russia’s extensive continental shelf? The decline shown for Russia in Figure 2 may be too pessimistic.

The passenger transportation strategies do not deal with intra-city travel. What improvements can be made to light-rail, tram, autobus, and taxi services to move passengers more efficiently than one at a time in cars? For example, the now ubiqitous mobile phone might allow taxi services to be “dispatch only” and eliminate cruising for passengers while offering greater convenience for passengers. Light rail may use electric power frequencies and voltages that are no longer the most efficient.

The idea that long-distance rail can be made more comfortable through a greater use of sleeping cars and compartments may be true, but would it still be more efficient than air travel? Maybe the Ryan Air proposal to use stand-up seats to pack more passengers on the planes is a more energy efficient alternative.

Generally, moving goods is more necessary and economic than moving people. US corporations have noted an increase in business travel by their staffs in the first half of 2010. However, they also have found that the restrictions on travel last year did not hurt their business, and they are again putting restrictions on business travel. In particular, whenever travel does not involve meeting with customers, employees are being strongly encouraged to use videoconferencing or other collaborative networking tools to get the job done. Making these tools standard and convenient over public networks may be a tool to further reduce travel to meet with customers.

Since the high-fare business traveler percentage of the airline load has decreased, there is less subsidization of leisure travel by businesss. Increased fares and fees for leisure travel reduce demand and reduce FF usage for air travel.

Agro-fuels can supply part of air travel’s needs. However, agro-fuels should really be part of agricultural planning, with a view to growing a modest surplus of food in normal years and then converting the surplus which cannot be stored to fuel. This safeguards the adequacy of the food supply in years of poor harvest.

Eliminating the use of paper for communications and documents, on the other hand, can free up the pulp wood formerly used for that purpose for use in producing fuels and electricity. It also saves energy that would otherwise go into paper production, which is an energy intensive process.

I suppose any plan is better than the default, BAU but this one is rather disappointing.

My withering critic follows;

The transport portion of the OECD Europe is only 27% of energy used though 95% of oil used. The logical
course would be to find a substitute for declining oil. Biolfuels(agro-fuels) are ruled out.
Efficiency has practical limits, hybrids are about twice as efficient as IC/diesel engines.
That leaves shifting to grid electricity, natural gas and hydrogen for transport, which are not discussed.

Instead moving passengers by aerodynamic cars and moving freight by trains is recommended--aka efficiency. The case for efficiency is continuously overstated on TOD.
It would be better to transition to a much lower energy lifestyle, not mentioned.

Then there's the recommendation for energy independence by renewables ASAP.
Europe seems to be trying as hard as it can to develop renewables, so this is beating a half-dead horse.
Better to use available energy resources in a way that they don't pollute the planet.

The next suggestion is more efficiency by CHP. CHP plants are less efficient in producing electricity(36% vs 42%) but produce lots of excess heat which Europe isn't likely to need.

Waste energy really makes little sense as we need to recycle more and waste less embodied energy.

Also CHPs, waste energy and CCGT high efficiency electricity seems to draw down expensive and increasingly remote natural gas
supplies even quicker.

Also a great increase in nuclear is called for though the security of OECD Europe's imported nuclear supply is doubtful.
If GW comes on strong, water shortages and sea level rise could reduce the reliability of this low efficiency(30%) source of electricity.

The worst suggestion is no CCS. Europe produces 4 GtCO2 per year. Eventually sea level rise will inundate much Northern Europe and heat waves will scorch Southern Europe, so there may be no point in
slowing CO2 rise with CCS for fossil fuels for a small penalty in efficiency.
When the climate really gets bad, CCS will get done.

Would it be easier to move people to a lower energy lifestyle environment than to create the low energy infrastructure.

In other words, shed population to low per capita energy consuming countries by adequate incentives.

Create incentives for less activity in general, let people take longer vacations,Since travel by plane will be prohibitive, you can only use up the time by trekking, gardening,reading and other low energy activities.

Make it attractive for large populations to live in areas with milder climate. i.e let Athens Madrid and Lisbon become big enough to take population from colder cities.
Exchange young retirees with poor countries instead of sending aid to build a high energy lifestyle.

How about free mass transit for people who don't drive like telecommuters and gas taxes for those that do? Subsidize locavore foodstuffs, tax imports and foods highly processed or refrigerated foods.
Recycle wood and paper and local materials.
If we reduce consumption we don't need to vastly expand rail. Move away from industrial products.

Except PV solar and some biomass, most energy is imported from far away anyways so we do need a bigger grid for renewables.

If economic recession is the only way for Europe and the OECD to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, then economic recession is what it will be.

That's a lot in a nutshell. As the price of oil went up, the feedback system was the economy could not handle the higher price so economic activity went into recession and with it lower oil consumption.

The price of oil is everything for an oil based economy, but so is the price of coal and NG for countries relying on those forms of energy. Countries like China and India that rely more on coal as a base energy source have expanding economies, whereas the EU and the US that rely more on oil are in recession.

Seems like there needs to be a graph to determine various oil price points to show what level causes recession or expansion. Part of the graph could be shaded for growth and a different shade for recession. Then color codes could be assigned for oil, NG and coal. Then plot each country on the graph as to their FF primary energy source. For example, if coal is a red dot and China is a coal based economy that is growing, then plot a rod dot for China in the shaded area for economic growth. If the EU is an oil based economy, blue dot, then plot it in the shaded area corresponding to its recessionary state. The left side of the graph could indicate prices for oil, coal and NG.

It would provide a quick visual to indicate ff dependence and effects of pricing on economic activity for industrialized nations and regions.

Luis, thank you for sharing your submission, you make many valid and valuable points.

Sorry to be negative but could you please explain your thinking behind G2 - indigenous energy supplies only? This seems to me incredibly dangerous and self defeating as it implies state interference and a reversal of globalisation, two outcomes which will always result in a net loss of efficiency and destruction in net returns on energy investment - the ultimate cause of loss of energy security.

As an illustration take coal in the UK. The UK can and does mine its own coal, including in open cast mines, mainly in Scotland. However the energy required to mine and transport coal from Scotland to Megawatt Valley in Yorkshire is much greater than required to mine and transport coal from the Kuznetsk Basin in Southern Siberia - despite the need to rail that coal over 2,000 miles to Murmansk or a Baltic port. Maybe this is already well understood, but just in case, the three main drivers of this counterintuitive outcome are

1. Over/Interburden - in Scotland it is necessary to mine about 8 tonnes of material to get one tonne of coal, in Kuzbass the average is more like 2

2. Preparation - in order to achieve an acceptable quality Scottish coal requires preparation of much more material and a more intensive wash in order to get halfway decent quality coal and this is energy intensive

3. Calorific Value - Scottish Coals are delivering in at typically about 21 GJ/tonne (I've known them as low as 19) whereas most Russian coal can comfortably meet or exceed the 25.1 GJ/tonne international standard so mining, preparation and transportation are all much more energy efficient.

These three drivers combined are comfortably enough to outweigh the long rail journey. Sources such as Columbia and South Africa which have longer sea freight and shorter rail freight are even less energy intensive because the sea freight is so much more efficient than rail. This is only one illustration, the same principle applies across the board (and not just in energy supply), simple economics means that the lowest cost sources are usually also the lowest energy sources (highest net returns on energy invested).

It is a dangerous nonsense to focus only on transport energy while completely ignoring geographical differences in energy of production. Arbitrarily limiting the geographical sourcing of energy would unnecessarily impoverish Europe even further than that which is strictly unavoidable due to globally declining net returns on energy. If we do it we will practically destroy our current slim but still realistic chances of making an effective transition to non fossil sources of energy because we simply won't be able afford the huge investments implied.

Essentially, the Policy presented assumes implicitly that Economic Growth is viable in the future. The aim of this document is to present practical options that can be easily grasped by lawmakers and stakeholders in general, leaving outside more complex concerns, that though important, should be discussed in a different context.

As economic growth is not viable in the future (i.e. economic growth is not sustainable and, thus, must end at some point), does that invalidate the Policy? Without a commitment to zero growth, any energy strategy is doomed to failure, in the wider economic context.

I think that the simplest, easiest and most effective way of reducing energy use is to tax carbon as it sees the light of day.
The tax could start at a measly $1 per tonne.
The proceeds go directly to the citizens as a cheque in the mail.

As the citizens develop a taste for their cheque in the mail, demand will gather for greater taxes on the carbon.
Eventually all taxes will be raised from carbon, and distributed to the citizenry.
Of cause things made with carbon will cost substantially more.
However, J. Citizen can avoid paying taxes by not consuming.

Simple, direct and everybody can understand how the system works.

I think you should discuss energy security.
For example during the last winter Great Britain
almost ran out of natural gas. So I think the
European countries should have stockpiles of
each of the fossil fuels to deal with a few
months interruption.