mfioretti: fossil fuels*

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  1. Earlier studies on this issue, Brandt points out, have highlighted the risk of a “net energy cliff”, which refers to how “declining EROI results in rapid increases in the fraction of energy dedicated to simply supporting the energy system.”

    Axiom: So the more EROI declines, a greater proportion of the energy being produced must be used simply to extract more energy. This means that EROI decline leads to less real-world economic growth.

    It also creates a complicated situation for oil prices. While at first, declining EROI can be expected to lead to higher prices reflecting higher production costs, the relationship between EROI and prices begins to breakdown as EROI becomes smaller.

    This could be because, under a significantly reduced EROI, consumers in a less prosperous economy can no longer afford, energetically or economically, the cost of producing more energy — thus triggering a dramatic drop in market prices, despite higher costs of production. At this point, in the new era of shrinking EROI, swinging oil prices become less and less indicative of ‘scarcity’ in supply and demand.

    Brandt’s new economic model looks at how EROI impacts four key sectors — food, energy, materials and labor. Exploring what a decline in net energy would therefore mean for these sectors, he concludes:

    “The reduction in the fraction of a resource free and the energy system productivity extends from the energy system to all aspects of the economy, which gives an indication of the mechanisms by which energy productivity declines would affect general prosperity.

    A clear implication of this work is that decreases in energy resource productivity, modeled here as the requirement for more materials, labor, and energy, can have a significant effect on the flows required to support all sectors of the economy. Such declines can reduce the effective discretionary output from the economy by consuming a larger and larger fraction of gross output for the meeting of inter-industry requirements.”
    https://medium.com/insurge-intelligen...low-burn-energy-collapse-d07344fab6be
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  2. The largest uncertainties and limitations of our analysis stem from the assumed values for impacts per unit electric energy produced. However, we emphasize that our results for both prevented mortality and prevented GHG emissions could be substantial underestimates. This is because (among other reasons) our mortality and emission factors are based on analysis of Europe and the US (respectively), and thus neglect the fact that fatal air pollution and GHG emissions from power plants in developing countries are on average substantially higher per unit energy produced than in developed countries.

    Our findings also have important implications for large-scale "fuel switching" to natural gas from coal or from nuclear. Although natural gas burning emits less fatal pollutants and GHGs than coal burning, it is far deadlier than nuclear power, causing about 40 times more deaths per unit electric energy produced (ref. 2).

    Also, such fuel switching is practically guaranteed to worsen the climate problem for several reasons. First, carbon capture and storage is an immature technology and is therefore unlikely to constrain the resulting GHG emissions in the necessary time frame. Second, electricity infrastructure generally has a long lifetime (e.g., fossil fuel power plants typically operate for up to ~50 years). Third, potentially usable natural gas resources (especially unconventional ones like shale gas) are enormous, containing many hundreds to thousands of gigatonnes of carbon (based on ref. 6). For perspective, the atmosphere currently contains ~830 GtC, of which ~200 GtC are from industrial-era fossil fuel burning.

    We conclude that nuclear energy — despite posing several challenges, as do all energy sources (ref. 7) — needs to be retained and significantly expanded in order to avoid or minimize the devastating impacts of unabated climate change and air pollution caused by fossil fuel burning.
    https://climate.nasa.gov/news/903/coa...e-far-more-harmful-than-nuclear-power
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  3. Barry Saxifrage, National Observer, Sep 21 2017 - 12:00

    I read lots of articles these days pointing to the rapid expansion of renewable energy as a reason to be hopeful about our unfolding climate crisis. Unfortunately, the climate doesn't care how many solar panels and wind farms we build.

    What determines our climate fate is how much climate-polluting fossil fuels we decide to burn. Renewables are great but only if they actually replace oil, gas, or coal. Sadly, rising renewables haven't stopped our fossil fuel burn, or our atmosphere's CO2 from continuing to rise. Instead, the new business-as-usual is one in which we keep expanding both renewables and fossil fuels at the same time.

    The best available science says we need climate pollution "reductions of 90 per cent or more between 2040 and 2070." (see International Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report.)

    But the latest energy data clearly shows we aren't reducing fossil fuel burn. Just the opposite. We keep cranking the tap open wider every year. In a recent article, I dug into the latest "BP Statistical Review of World Energy" to illustrate the climate-sobering fossil fuel side of this story:

    Fossil fuel use continues to rise every year
    Fossil fuels continue to supply at least 85 per cent of global energy use
    Oil and gas are expanding more than other energy sources

    After reading that article, Canadian energy expert Dave Hughes pointed me to the equally sobering renewable energy side of the story. Here it is.
    Demand growth swamps renewables

    Hughes notes that while renewable energy is growing, global energy demand is rising much more.
    Global energy demand vs renewables

    To illustrate, I created this new chart on the right from the BP data.

    The orange line shows the increase in global energy demand since 2009.

    Compare all that new demand to the top green line showing the increase in renewable energy. As you can see, renewables expanded only enough to cover about a quarter of new demand.

    In fact, all the expansion of renewables over the last seven years isn't enough to cover even the single-year demand surge of 2010. Sure that was a big year for demand as the world emerged from a global recession. But those last seven years have also been the all-time biggest years ever for renewable energy.

    The situation looks even worse if you don't like the idea of relying on expanding hydropower dams. That's because hydropower expanded more than any other renewable over those years. The lower green line shows the increase from all the non-hydro renewables: wind, solar, biofuels and biomass.

    So, any guesses what filled that huge gap between renewables and demand? Yep.
    http://systemchangenotclimatechange.o...sil-fuel-expansion-crushes-renewables
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-09-25)
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  4. Debt is a key factor in creating an economy that operates using energy.

    A generally overlooked problem of our current system is the fact that we do not receive the benefit of energy products until well after they are used. This is especially the case for energy used to make capital investments, such as buildings, roads, machines, and vehicles. Even education and health care represent energy investments that have benefits long after the investment is made.

    The reason debt (and close substitutes) are needed is because it is necessary to bring forward hoped-for future benefits of energy products to the current period if workers are to be paid. In addition, the use of debt makes it possible to pay for consumer products such as automobiles and houses over a period of years. It also allows factories and other capital goods to be financed over the period they provide their benefits. (See my post Debt: The Key Factor Connecting Energy and the Economy.)

    When debt is used to move forward hoped-for future benefits to the present, oil prices can be higher, as can be the prices of other commodities. In fact, the price of assets in general can be higher. With the higher price of oil, it is possible for businesses to use the hoped-for future benefits of oil to pay current workers. This system works, as long as the price set by this system doesn’t exceed the actual benefit to the economy of the added energy.

    The amount of benefits that oil products provide to the economy is determined by their physical characteristics–for example, how far oil can make a truck move. These benefits can increase a bit over time, with rising efficiency, but in general, physics sets an upper bound to this increase. Thus, the value of oil and other energy products cannot rise without limit.

    Research involving Energy Returned on Energy Investment (EROEI) ratios for fossil fuels is a frequently used approach for evaluating prospective energy substitutes, such as wind turbines and solar panels. Unfortunately, this ratio only tells part of the story. The real problem is declining return on human labor for the system as a whole–that is, falling inflation adjusted wages of non-elite workers. This could also be described as falling EROEI–falling return on human labor. Declining human labor EROEI represents the same problem that fish swimming upstream have, when pursuit of food starts requiring so much energy that further upstream trips are no longer worthwhile.

    If our problem is a shortage of fossil fuels, fossil fuel EROEI analysis is ideal for determining how to best leverage our small remaining fossil fuel supply. For each type of fossil fuel evaluated, the fossil fuel EROEI calculation determines the amount of energy output from a given quantity of fossil fuel inputs. If a decision is made to focus primarily on the energy products with the highest EROEI ratios, then our existing fossil fuel supply can be used as sparingly as possible.

    If our problem isn’t really a shortage of fossil fuels, EROEI is much less helpful. In fact, the EROEI calculation strips out the timing over which the energy return is made, even though this may vary greatly. The delay (and thus needed amount of debt) is likely to be greatest for those energy products where large front-end capital expenditures are r
    https://ourfiniteworld.com/2016/05/12...s-story-what-other-researchers-missed
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  5. The Center for International Environmental Law, or CIEL, a nonprofit legal organization, said it traced the industry’s coordinated, decades-long cover-up back to a 1946 meeting in Los Angeles by combing through scientific articles, industry histories and other documents.

    It was during that meeting that the oil executives decided to form a group — the Smoke and Fumes Committee — to “fund scientific research into smog and other air pollution issues and, significantly, use that research to inform and shape public opinion about environmental issues,” CIEL says on a new website devoted to the documents.

    That research, CIEL says, was used to “promote public skepticism of environmental science and environmental regulations the industry considered hasty, costly, and potentially unnecessary.”

    Muffett said in a statement that the documents “add to the growing body of evidence that the oil industry worked to actively undermine public confidence in climate science and in the need for climate action even as its own knowledge of climate risks was growing.”

    Last year, InsideClimate News revealed that top executives at Exxon knew about the role of fossil fuels in global warming as early as 1977, then lobbied against efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In January, the New York attorney general announced an investigation into ExxonMobil over allegations that it lied to the public and its investors about climate change.

    A report that surfaced in February revealed the American Petroleum Institute knew about climate change in the early 1980s.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/o...p-climate_us_570e98bbe4b0ffa5937df6ce
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  6. Il gas naturale ha fatto le fortune energetiche ed industriali dell’Italia del secondo dopoguerra, ma sono oltre vent’anni che la sua produzione nazionale è in calo. Ormai le riserve ancora recuperabili non bastano più nemmeno per coprire i consumi italiani di un anno e mezzo. Va un poco meglio per il petrolio, per cui si arriva a due anni e mezzo.

    La ricerca di nuovi giacimenti, dopo 70 anni di esplorazione, è avviata verso la sua morte naturale, soprattutto in mare dove da 6 anni non si perforano più pozzi esplorativi. L’avventura fossile dell’Italia è ormai in declino. Nuovi giacimenti da scoprire ce ne sono ormai ben pochi e pare interessino sempre meno alle compagnie petrolifere.

    Petrolio e gas naturale saranno materie prime essenziali per la società e la transizione energetica verso le rinnovabili ancora per moltissimo tempo, è bene conservare quel poco che rimane per le generazioni future lasciandolo dov’è. Gas e petrolio sono rimasti intrappolati per decine di milioni di anni, non scompariranno certo nei prossimi 100. L’occupazione (poca 3 » ) e i proventi (marginali 4 » ) li possiamo lasciare anche ai nostri nipoti.

    A nessuno con un minimo di visione strategica verrebbe mai in mente di nazionalizzare e vendere alla svelta le riserve auree della Banca d’Italia o la quota ENI ancora detenuta dallo Stato o le terre del demanio pubblico o i beni artistici statali come la Galleria degli Uffizi. Allora perché c’è questo imperativo di accelerare al massimo la morte fossile del nostro paese? Di rimanere a secco e alla mercé di paesi politicamente instabili come quelli del Nord Africa e del Medio Oriente?

    Possiamo escludere con certezza che non ci saranno crisi petrolifere in futuro e che non avremo mai maggior bisogno di quel gas di quanto ne abbiamo adesso? Se non vogliamo lasciare solo un paese paese pieno di debiti e senza risorse naturali ai nostri figli e nipoti, allora il referendum del 17 aprile rappresenta l’inizio per cambiare strada.

    Per iniziare a pensare al futuro del nostro Bel Paese.
    http://www.scienzainrete.it/contenuto.../morte-fossile-dellitalia/aprile-2016
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  7. Everywhere the opposition is forced by statute to make its stand not on climate change arguments, but on old grounds. This pipeline will hurt water quality. That coal port will increase local pollution. The dust that flies off those coal trains will cause asthma. All the arguments are perfectly correct and accurate and by themselves enough to justify stopping many of these plans, but a far more important argument always lurks in the background: each of these new infrastructure projects is a way to extend the life of the fossil fuel era a few more disastrous decades.

    The money, however, is only part of it. There’s also a sense in which the whole process is simply on autopilot. For many decades the economic health of the nation and access to fossil fuels were more or less synonymous. So it’s no wonder that the laws, statutes, and regulations favor business-as-usual. The advent of the environmental movement in the 1970s and 1980s introduced a few new rules, but they were only designed to keep that business-as-usual from going disastrously, visibly wrong. You could drill and mine and pump, but you were supposed to prevent the really obvious pollution. No Deepwater Horizons. And so fossil fuel projects still get approved almost automatically, because there’s no legal reason not to do so.

    in a few places you can see more than just the opposition; you can see the next steps unfolding. Last fall, for instance, Portland, Oregon -- the scene of a memorable “kayaktivist” blockade to keep Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs bottled up in port -- passed a remarkable resolution. No new fossil fuel infrastructure would be built in the city, its council and mayor declared. The law will almost certainly block a huge proposed propane export terminal, but far more important, it opens much wider the door to the future. If you can’t do fossil fuel, after all, you have to do something else -- sun, wind, conservation. This has to be our response to the living-dead future that the fossil fuel industry and its allied politicians imagine for our beleaguered world: no new fossil fuel infrastructure. None. The climate math is just too obvious.
    http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176092
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  8. Myth 4: The world can decouple economic growth from the use of fossil fuels.

    As ideal as decoupling would be, this is unattainable without radical new technology or nuclear energy (which is usually off the table). How are we supposed to provide electricity for the billions of people who still lack access to reliable energy -- a basic right -- without using carbon? The International Energy Agency predicts that over 75 percent of the world's energy in 2040 will still be provided by fossil fuels. A radical shift to renewables is not feasible in the short-term, given that the rate of renewable energy production per unit of area is significantly smaller than with fossil fuels.

    The one sure way to realistically "decarbonize" the economy is to set policies that directly reduce emissions and take carbon out of the atmosphere. These will impinge on the types of economic growth we take for granted, and also lead to hard policy questions: What should governments support in spite of their use of carbon, and what consumption must be restricted to help "pay" for that? Is it more important to produce electricity for millions of poor, or to allow private car ownership with cheap gasoline?

    So long as we understand economic growth as our only indicator of prosperity, the world will never have a specific plan to reduce emissions. Creating a different indicator -- one that is not reliant on a free ride on carbon -- is the challenge that the developing world must meet. The answer is not in promised but often under-delivered handouts from richer countries.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chandra...r/climate-change-myths_b_8895976.html
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  9. all of the oil we use to power our modern lives comes from living creatures such as algae – albeit ones that lived 3.5 billion years ago, before gradually morphing into fossil fuel.

    But when we talk about algae biofuel, we mean the green, renewable and sustainable version, rather than traditional fossil crude oil. The main requirements for making algae biofuel are: lots of sunlight, plenty of space, and easy access to the sea. Australia is an algae gardener’s paradise.

    To scale up any new technology, we need to consider not just whether we can make it, but also whether it is worth doing. Unfortunately, this involves rather dry concepts like productivity, efficiency, energy balance, and supply chain dynamics. These are critical to the development of business models for new technologies, but sadly they don’t translate easily into language that politicians are interested in.

    In the absence of a benevolent billionaire, the private sector is unlikely to take on the risks involved in bringing these emerging technologies to scale. This means that some form of government support is critical. With renewable energy investment growing ever more politically contentious, what are the incentives for spending scarce taxpayer dollars on something like this?

    Commercial algae biofuel production is now a challenge of scale. The prize is phenomenal. Algae ponds covering an area the size of Sydney could satisfy the entire crude oil demand of Australia, which would do wonders for both sustainability and security of supply – currently, 82% of crude oil is imported (see table 2 here).

    Pink productivity: the world’s largest algae farm. Steve Back (used with permission)
    Click to enlarge

    We know that large-scale algae cultivation is achievable. The largest algae facility in the world is at Hutt Lagoon in Western Australia, where 740 hectares of algae ponds are used to produce the food supplement beta-carotene.

    Our analysis shows that algae biofuel facilities would create local rural jobs, while also activating sectors of the broader economy associated with equipment, trade and business services.

    Then there is the environmental benefit: our study shows that the combustion of 1 tonne of algae oil instead of traditional crude oil would prevent the emission of 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

    Investing in algae biofuel production is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, and will provide a much-needed stimulus to the economy while creating much-needed quality jobs in rural areas. Surely every politician would be persuaded by at least something on this list.
    https://theconversation.com/sustainab...onversationedu+%28The+Conversation%29
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-08-05)
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  10. German researchers conclude that even magic technology that would suck all the carbon from the atmosphere won’t be enough to save the oceans from climate change and its associated warming and acidification.

    The reason technological fixes won’t work is because changes to ocean chemistry and temperature can take hundreds or even thousands of years to manifest, so even if we had a giant straw that could slurp up all this extra carbon and spit it off the moon until atmospheric temperatures are back to pre-industrial levels, it would still be too late: The oceans are just going to keep getting hotter and more acidic. The researchers concluded that the only way to stop ocean warming and acidification is to stop burning fossil fuels now.
    http://grist.org/article/theres-only-...tion&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=feed
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