Tags: peak energy*

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  1. Lord’s thesis is that the kind of art a society makes and values is joined at the hip with the kind of energy that society depends on to keep itself going. He traces the various forms of energy we have known as a species throughout our pre-history — our millennia spent in the Pleistocene — and in our recorded history — sexual energy, without which societies can’t continue; the energy of the body while hunting and foraging; wood for fire; slaves; wind and water; coal; oil; and “renewables” — and makes some cogent observations about their relationship to art and culture. In his Prologue, he says:

    Everyone knows that all life requires energy. But we rarely consider how dependent art and culture are on the energy that is needed to produce, practice and sustain them. What we fail to see are the usually invisible sources of energy that make our art and culture(s) possible and bring with them fundamental values that we are all constrained to live with (whether we approve of them or not). Coal brought one set of values to all industrialized countries; oil brought a very different set… I may not approve of the culture of consumption that comes with oil… but I must use it » if I want to do anything at all.

    (Photo via gettystation.com)

    Those living within an energy system, says Lord, may disapprove of certain features, but they can’t question the system itself. Within the culture of slavery, which lasted at least 5,000 years, nobody wanted to be a slave, but nobody said slavery should be abolished, because what else could keep things going?
    (Sébastien Bonaimé/Getty Images; Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images)

    Coal, says Lord, produced a culture of production: think about those giant steel mills. Oil and gas, once they were up and running, fostered a culture of consumption. Lord cites “the widespread belief of the 1950s and early ’60s in the possibility of continuing indefinitely with unlimited abundance and economic growth, contrasted with the widespread agreement today that both that assumption and the world it predicts are unsustainable.” We’re in a transition phase, he says: the next culture will be a culture of “stewardship,” the energy driving it will be renewables, and the art it produces will be quite different from the art favored by production and consumption cultures.

    What are the implications for the way we view both ourselves and the way we live? In brief: in the coal energy culture — a culture of workers and production — you are your job. “I am what I make.” In an oil and gas energy culture — a culture of consumption — you are your possessions. “I am what I buy.” But in a renewable energy culture, you are what you conserve. “I am what I save and protect.” We aren’t used to thinking like this, because we can’t see where the money will come from. But in a culture of renewables, money will not be the only measure of wealth. Well-being will factor as an economic positive, too.

    Like Barry Lord, Morris is interested in the link between energy-capture systems and the cultural values associated with them, though in his case it’s the moral values, not only the aesthetic ones — supposing these can be separated — that concern him. Roughly, his argument runs that each form of energy capture favors values that maximize the chance of survival for those using both that energy system and that package of moral values. Hunter-gatherers show more social egalitarianism, wealth-sharing, and more gender equality than do farmer societies, which subordinate women — men are favored, as they must do the upper-body-strength heavy lifting — tend to practice some form of slavery, and support social hierarchies, with peasants at the low end and kings, religious leaders, and army commanders at the high end. Fossil fuel societies start leveling out gender inequalities — you don’t need upper body strength to operate keyboards or push machine buttons — and also social distinctions, though they retain differences in wealth.

    The second part of his argument is more pertinent to our subject, for he postulates that each form of energy capture must hit a “hard ceiling,” past which expansion is impossible; people must either die out or convert to a new system and a new set of values, often after a “great collapse” that has involved the same five factors: uncontrolled migration, state failure, food shortages, epidemic disease, and “always in the mix, though contributing in unpredictable ways–- climate change.” Thus, for hunting societies, their way of life is over once there are no longer enough large animals to sustain their numbers. For farmers, arable land is a limiting factor. The five factors of doom combine and augment one another, and people in those periods have a thoroughly miserable time of it, until new societies arise that utilize some not yet exhausted form of energy capture.
    https://medium.com/matter/it-s-not-cl...e-it-s-everything-change-8fd9aa671804
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  2. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article called, Glut of Capital and Labor Challenge Policy Makers: Global oversupply extends beyond commodities, elevating deflation risk. To me, this is a very serious issue, quite likely signaling that we are reaching what has been called Limits to Growth, a situation modeled in 1972 in a book by that name.

    What happens is that economic growth eventually runs into limits. Many people have assumed that these limits would be marked by high prices and excessive demand for goods. In my view, the issue is precisely the opposite one: Limits to growth are instead marked by low prices and inadequate demand. Common workers can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that the economy produces, because of inadequate wage growth. The price of all commodities drops, because of lower demand by workers. Furthermore, investors can no longer find investments that provide an adequate return on capital, because prices for finished goods are pulled down by the low demand of workers with inadequate wages.

    The “secret formula” humans have had for winning in our competition against other species has been the use of supplemental energy, adding to the energy we get from food. There is a physics reason why this approach works: total population by all species is limited by available energy supply. Providing our own external energy supply was (and still is) a great work-around for this limitation. Even in the days of hunter-gatherers, humans used three times as much energy as could be obtained through food alone.



    In my view, the formula that has allowed humans to keep winning the battle against other species is the following:

    Use increasing amounts of inexpensive supplemental energy to leverage human energy so that finished goods and services produced per worker rises each year.
    Pay for this system with debt, because (if supplemental energy costs are cheap enough), it is possible to repay the debt, plus the interest on the debt, with the additional goods and services made possible by the cheap additional energy.
    This system gradually becomes more complex to deal with problems that come with rising population and growing use of resources. However, if the output of goods per worker is growing rapidly enough, it should be possible to pay for the costs associated with this increased complexity, in addition to interest costs.
    The whole system “works” as long as the total quantity of finished goods and services rises rapidly enough that it can fund all of the following: (a) a rising standard of living for common workers so that they can afford increasing amounts of debt to buy more goods, (b) debt repayment, and interest on the debt of the system, and (c) and an increasing amount of “overhead” in the form of government services, medical care, educational services, and salaries of high paid officials (in business as well as government). This overhead is needed to deal with the increasing complexity that comes with growth.

    The formula for a growing economy is now failing. The rate of economic growth is falling, partly because energy supply is slowing (Figure 3), and partly because we need more and more every year to do the same things.

    One way of viewing our problem today is as a crisis of affordability. Young people cannot afford to start families or buy new homes because of a combination of the high cost of higher education (leading to debt), the high cost of fuel-efficient new cars (again leading to debt), the high cost of resale homes, and the relatively low wages paid to young workers. Even older workers often have an affordability problem. Many have found their wages stagnating or falling at the same time that the cost of healthcare, cars, electricity, and (until recently) oil rises. A recent Gallop Survey showed an increasing share of workers categorize themselves as “working class” rather than “middle class.”

    It is this affordability crisis that is bringing the system down. Without adequate wages, the amount of debt that can be added to the system lags as well. It becomes impossible to keep prices of commodities up at a high enough level to encourage production of these commodities. Return on investment tends to be low for the same reason. Most researchers have not recognized these problems, because they are narrowly focused and assume that models that worked in the past will continue to work today.
    http://ourfiniteworld.com/2015/05/06/...most-everything-oil-labor-capital-etc
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  3. -
    http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/energy-round-up-unburnable-oil
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  4. The EROI that has fueled our development so far will soon be gone as fossil fuels deplete and decline in quality, and we cannot make up the difference by substituting renewables. What’s even more troubling, though, is that EROI does not appear to decline in a linear fashion.

    The implications of this analysis are troubling to say the least.

    Globally, the net return on our prevailing energy staples oil and gas1 has declined into the range of 20:1 – 30:1. A look at the state of global development today suggests that this is an EROI that makes it difficult for societies to achieve a high quality of life. The EROIs of renewable technologies fall at or below this range.

    Now look at what happens in an EROI range of 10:1 – 20:1. The exponential EROI function begins to drop off sharply. This is termed the “net-energy cliff.” A society moving through this range of declining EROI becomes increasingly less able to support high levels of techno-social complexity. We in the affluent West have come to take the fruits of this complexity for granted as the sine qua non for a high standard of living as well as our birthright in perpetuity.

    This analysis has two take-home messages for E4C readers and everyone involved in engineering for global development. First, it is unlikely that the developing world will ever "develop" as such. And second, the affluent developed world will face catabolic “de- development,” as energy sources dwindle and eventually fail to support the upper levels of the hierarchy of energy needs. Catabolism occurs when a society depletes its resources, can no longer grow and begins to dissassemble its infrastructure to consume it for energy, as John Michael Greer explains.

    The first priority should be to gain more experience developing technologies that are scaled to the resource constraints of the future. And we need to do this not simply out of moral obligation to the world's poor, but also because, in short order, we are going to need those same technologies ourselves.

    To set appropriate targets for this innovation, we have to accept the probability that the developed world of the future will look a lot more like the developing world of today, and not the reverse as has traditionally been assumed in the development sector.
    https://www.engineeringforchange.org/...global_development_as_we_know_it.html
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  5. With the coming of the industrial revolution, both of the lines shifted substantially from their previous position, as shown in the second chart. Obviously, the torrent of cheap abundant energy gave the world’s industrial nations access to an unparalleled wealth of resources, and this pushed the dividing line between what was affordable and what was unaffordable quite a ways over toward the right hand side of the chart. A great many things that had been desirable but unaffordable to previous civilizations swung over from category C into category A as fossil fuels came on line. This has been discussed at great length here and elsewhere in the peak oil blogosphere.

    Less obviously, the dividing line between what was useful and what was useless also shifted quite a bit toward the bottom of the chart, moving a great many things from category B into category A. To follow this, it’s necessary to grasp the concept of technological suites. A technological suite is a set of interdependent technologies that work together to achieve a common purpose. Think of the relationship between cars and petroleum drilling, computer chips and the clean-room filtration systems required for their manufacture, or commercial airliners and ground control radar. What connects each pair of technologies is that they belong to the same technological suite. If you want to have the suite, you must either have all the elements of the suite in place, or be ready to replace any absent element with something else that can serve the same purpose.

    What makes this relevant to the charts we’ve been examining is that most support technologies have no value aside from the technological suites to which they belong and the interface technologies they serve. Without commercial air travel, for example, most of the specialized technologies found at airports are unnecessary.

    Once energy and resource use per capita peak and begin their decline, though, a different reality comes into play, leading over time to the situation shown in the third chart.

    It’s habitual in modern economics to insist that such bottlenecks don’t exist, because there’s always a viable alternative. That sort of thinking made a certain degree of sense back when energy per capita was still rising, because the standard way to get around material shortages for a century now has been to throw more energy, more technology, and more complexity into the mix. That’s how low-grade taconite ores with scarcely a trace of iron in them have become the mainstay of today’s iron and steel industry; all you have to do is add fantastic amounts of cheap energy, soaring technological complexity, and an assortment of supply and resource chains reaching around the world and then some, and diminishing ore quality is no problem at all.

    It’s when you don’t have access to as much cheap energy, technological complexity, and baroque supply chains as you want that this sort of logic becomes impossible to sustain. Once this point is reached, bottlenecks become an inescapable feature of life. The bottlenecks, as already suggested, don’t have to be technological in nature—a bottleneck technology essential to a given technological suite can be perfectly feasible, and still out of reach for other reasons—but whatever generates them, they throw a wild card into the process of technological decline that shapes the last years of a civilization on its way out, and the first few centuries of the dark age that follows.

    The crucial point to keep in mind here is that one bottleneck technology, if it becomes inaccessible for any reason, can render an entire technological suite useless, and compromise other technological suites that depend on the one directly affected.

    All this has immediate practical importance for those who happen to live in a civilization that’s skidding down the curve of its decline and fall—ours, for example. In such a time, as noted above, one critical task is to identify the technological suites that will still be viable in the aftermath of the decline, and shift as much vital infrastructure as possible over to depend on those suites rather than on those that won’t survive the decline. In terms of the charts above, that involves identifying those technological suites that will still be in category A when the lines stop shifting up and to the left, figuring out how to work around any bottleneck technologies that might otherwise cripple them, and get the necessary knowledge into circulation among those who might be able to use it, so that access to information doesn’t become a bottleneck of its own

    That sort of analysis, triage, and salvage is among the most necessary tasks of our time, especially for those who want to see viable technologies survive the end of our civilization, and it’s being actively hindered by the insistence that the only possible positive attitude toward technology is sheer blind faith.
    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.it...ark-age-america-fragmentation-of.html
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  6. Billionaire oilman Harold Hamm, referred to by Bloomberg as “the founding father of the U.S. shale boom” who helped drive the discovery and development of North Dakota’s oil-heavy Bakken shale formation, lost half his fortune in the last three months, the publication reports.

    “Will this industry slow down? Certainly,” Hamm told Bloomberg. “Nobody’s going to go out there and drill areas, exploration areas and other areas, at a loss. They’ll pull back and won’t drill it until the price recovers. That’s the way it ought to be. This is a bump in the road, a correction, an adjustment that we’re going through right now.”

    Oil prices of more than $100 a barrel were a large driver of fracking exploration. But as prices drop, fracking for oil in areas such as the Bakken could become unprofitable. But Hamm believes the price will rebound. He claims that his company, Oklahoma-based Continental Resources, can make a profit at $50 a barrel and plans to boost output next year. “Hamm declined to say how those plans may change if prices fall further,” Bloomberg reported, adding “In the most profitable areas of the Bakken, producers can turn a profit on average with oil prices above $65.03 a barrel, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.”

    But Hamm isn’t the only one getting edgy about declining oil prices. The oil and gas industry sold Americans a rosy portrait of energy independence thanks to fracking, and some banks, buying into this picture, exposed themselves to risk from dropping prices.

    despite his relentlessly optimistic outlook abut the future of fracking and domestic oil production, Hamm told Steffy that Continental wouldn’t be adding any new rigs in the Bakken in 2015.

    “The company had announced plans in late September to increase capital spending to $5.2 billion from $4.6 billion this year, but Hamm said it now intends to keep its spending flat, essentially cutting its capital budget by $600 million,” Steffy wrote.

    With its much lower oil production costs, Saudi Arabia has the upper hand in this international game of chicken.

    “U.S. producers, having pushed output to its highest in three decades, find themselves facing the paradox of achieving energy independence: the more oil they produce, the harder it becomes to reduce imports,” said Steffy. “That’s because as oil prices fall, expensive hydraulic fracturing projects become unprofitable, tipping the scales in favor of cheaper imports.”
    http://ecowatch.com/2014/12/02/fracking-bust-harold-hamm
    Tags: , , , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-12-04)
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  7. Israel's defence minister has confirmed that military plans to 'uproot Hamas' are about dominating Gaza's gas reserves.



    "Proceeds of a Palestinian gas sale to Israel would likely not trickle down to help an impoverished Palestinian public. Rather, based on Israel's past experience, the proceeds will likely serve to fund further terror attacks against Israel…

    A gas transaction with the Palestinian Authority PA » will, by definition, involve Hamas. Hamas will either benefit from the royalties or it will sabotage the project and launch attacks against Fatah, the gas installations, Israel – or all three… It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement."
    http://www.theguardian.com/environmen...a-palestine-natural-gas-energy-crisis
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-12-04)
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  8. the expectations that fossil fuels have helped establish are unrealistic and unsustainable

    Myth #3: Renewable Energy Can Replace Fossil Fuels

    “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” –Barack Obama

    This is a hugely important point. Everything else hinges on the myth that we might live a lifestyle similar to our current one powered by wind, solar, and biofuels. Like the conservative belief that climate change cannot be happening, liberals believe that renewable energy must be a suitable replacement. Neither view is particularly concerned with the evidence.

    Conventional wisdom among American liberals assures us that we would be well on our way to a clean, green, low-carbon, renewable energy future were it not for the lobbying efforts of big oil companies and their Republican allies. The truth is far more inconvenient than this: it will be all but impossible for our current level of consumption to be powered by anything but fossil fuels. The liberal belief that energy sources such as wind, solar, and biofuels can replace oil, natural gas, and coal is a mirror image of the conservative denial of climate change: in both cases an overriding belief about the way the world works, or should work, is generally far stronger than any evidence one might present. Denial is the biggest game in town. Denial, as well as a misunderstanding about some fundamental features of energy, is what allows someone like Bill Gates assume that “an energy miracle” will be created with enough R & D. Unfortunately, the lessons of microprocessors do not teach us anything about replacing oil, coal, and natural gas.

    It is of course true that solar panels and wind turbines can create electricity, and that ethanol and bio-diesel can power many of our vehicles, and this does lend a good bit of credibility to the claim that a broader transition should be possible—if we can only muster the political will and finance the necessary research. But this view fails to take into account both the limitations of renewable energy and the very specific qualities of the fossil fuels around which we’ve built our way of life. The myth that alternative sources of energy are perfectly capable of replacing fossil fuels and thus of maintaining our current way of life receives widespread support from our President to leading public intellectuals to most mainstream journalists, and receives additional backing from our self-image as a people so ingenious that there are no limits to what we can accomplish. That fossil fuels have provided us with a one-time burst of unrepeatable energy and affluence (and ecological peril) flies in the face of nearly all the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Just starting to dispel this myth requires that I go into the issue a bit more deeply and at greater length
    http://transitionmilwaukee.org/profil...-change-that-liberals-rarely-question
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  9. on September 15, 2014, Japan reached a milestone of one nuclear-free year, without any blackouts or brownouts. A whole year without even one kilowatt from nuclear power.
    http://www.japanfs.org/sp/en/news/arc...nfs-en+%28Japan+for+sustainability%29
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  10. The reason solar-power generation will increasingly dominate: it’s a technology, not a fuel
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10...ource=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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