The Three Chinas and World Energy Demand

Guest post by Thomas Fuller

I have been broadly correct about two important things in my career as an analyst. (I wasn’t the only one and I wasn’t the first–just far enough ahead of the curve to make a difference.)
The two things were the demographic decline of much of Europe and the rapid adoption of the internet following the release of the world wide web. I was not studying or researching either topic at the time–the two phenomena leapt out of other research I was conducting and were obviously more important than what I was doing at the time, so I dropped what I was doing and started looking at them exclusively.
So now it’s time to try for the trifecta. (No, I really don’t care about that at all–but this is the third Capital Letter Issue that has jumped out at me, so what the hey…)
Inadequate projections of latent demand for energy are leading to poor decisions now and are muddying the debate about both climate change and energy policy for the rest of the century.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the United Nations both project global consumption of energy at 680 and 703 quads respectively by the period 2030-2035 (a ‘quad’ is one quadrillion btus, roughly the energy you could liberate from 36 million tons of coal).
However, consumption trends, if extended, are far higher–they could reach 2,100 quads by 2030, if adequate energy was available consistently and at decent prices. This is because of the confluence of several important demographic trends.
The overall population is rising–it will be about 8.1 billion in 2030, the equivalent of adding another China to the planet. The comparison is fairly apt, as most of these new humans will be born into societies that look like China does now, or like China did 15 or 20 years ago.
These new humans will be stepping onto the energy ladder and consuming vastly higher quantities of energy than did their parents–if it’s available. They will be moving from farms with no electricity into slums with a minimum of electricity–but shortly thereafter, development and globalization will start them on the road to refrigeration, television, washer/dryers, computers, motor scooters, cars, ad infinitum.
These new humans will be joined by yet another virtual China–existing people who benefit from the same processes of development and globalization and jump on the energy ladder with both feet and both hands.
Obviously, many of both type will actually be in China. But even more will be in places like Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, large swathes of Africa and the rest of the developing world.
They will want what they perceive as a modern lifestyle–in America that amounts to 327 billion btus per person per year in energy consumption. In Denmark, it’s a much more modest 161 billion btus. But in either case, latent demand for energy will far exceed the 700 quads currently projected by the DOE and the UN.
Assume 7 billion people will be on the energy ladder (changing from wood and animal dung on their way to coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear and hopefully arriving some day soon at the promised land of renewable energy). This means there are 1 billion people we have failed. (And I don’t want to ignore them–I just want to present believable numbers for this exercise.)
If those 7 billion consume energy as Americans do it comes to 2,289 quads. (The total will obviously be less, as they won’t all be near the top of the ladder by 2030). If they adopt a Danish model and develop towards that (efficient use of combined heat and power, high taxes on gas, generally high prices for energy, conscious drive to conserve), global energy demand will be 1,127 quads.
Although I would wish that people new to the modern world would automatically choose the far better Danish model, I predict that they will opt for the easier, softer American model and their energy needs will skyrocket.
However, in either case, we will need far more energy than is currently predicted. If they do not get it, they will not fully participate in what the modern world has to offer–education, good healthcare, clean air and water. Nor will they participate in the modern economy, further enriching the rich world with purchases of video games and expensive perfumes. We all will lose, although the losses of the poor will be heartbreaking.
It may well be that the DOE and the UN have correctly identified what governments are willing to build and provide in the way of new energy–but if they are correct, we are condemning billions of people to needlessly live a wretched existence that they would avoid if they could. Because using energy is not just a sign of success at development, or a reward for doing it right or a ‘welcome to the club’–it is often the key mechanism that enables development.
The poor–the two new Chinas–will fight and scheme to get the energy they need. They will burn coal, oil, whatever is available to escape the life sentence of the poor–lives that are nasty, brutish and short.
This conversation is not really about global warming at all. But it is certainly relevant to discussions of our planet’s future climate. China has doubled its energy consumption since 2000. There are two new ‘Chinas’ eager to do exactly the same, mimicking our behaviour of the last two centuries and following the original China’s current example.
The sources and quantities of energy we make available to the world will determine what our planet will look like in the medium term.
There’s no getting around that.

Thomas Fuller http://www.redbubble.com/people/hfuller

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228 thoughts on “The Three Chinas and World Energy Demand

  1. Energy is a business. If such businesses were allowed to sell their products for a profit without governmental controls on quantities, there would be a lot more of it.

  2. Nice analysis.
    Unfortunately, it seems that the “fighting and scheming” is what those running the AGW scam want.
    No doubt the fighting and scheming will become global and reduce the population.
    Win-Win, if you’re one of the anti-human AGW brigade.

  3. If it makes any difference, I expect that battery technology will have matured and electric cars will dominate over gas. With 15 minute charging, it’s almost there already. Big trucks are another matter though. Maybe compressed natural gas , tar sands, or coal to oil for them.

  4. Anthony – Why the very limited growth in natural gas to 2030 and decline from then on? Don’t think this is realistic. New unconventional gas resources (shale gas, tight gas, CSG) would have the capacity to fill practically all the renewables wedge through to at least 2060. Suspect that Lynn Orr’s analysis may be heavily reliant on pre-2000 resource estimates which do not take this into account.

  5. Pretty reasonable chart. Did you know, Portugal gets 45% of its Electricity from Renewables?

    If you break it down into small areas you will see that the task isn’t nearly as daunting as it seems when you’re dealing in thousands of “quads.”

  6. Your paper highlights probably the most important issue all of humanity faces – we have roughly 4billion too many humans already. How does anyone in that palace of corruption that is the UN think we are ever going to be able to support 8 billion – six billion more than the planet can support?

  7. Interesting take. If energy is as strongly linked with the betterment of livelihood as you suggest, then we need massive amounts of additional energy. Even if your Danish model is adopted, the least of all evils is probably to acquire as much as possible of this additional capacity from nuclear energy. Biofuels take up too much good land, and there are presently limitations to some of the other alternative options. As for oil and gas, conventional supplies are the least destructive, but they may be approaching their peak. If you put humans on a geological timescale, the rate at which we are using those resources is frightening… technology to the rescue fast, please. Most of us won’t stop reproducing (what’s more fulfilling than children) and most of us won’t change our behaviours until we’re in deep trouble, because what is best for the individual is energy consumption, even if what is best for humanity is conservation. Tragedy of the commons guaranteed!

  8. I find your rationale completely wrong. It is the very fixation on scarcity upon which AGW and collectivist ideology rests.

    These new citizens will not “opt for the easier, softer American model” because they won’t be able to afford it. They will need an infrastructure and industry comparable to ours before they will even have access to the same level of consumption, and it is ENERGY which will provide them that, along the way, delivering increased consumerism.

    Crushing them or us with giant taxes won’t create more energy or prosperity, just a lower standard of living. This notion that choking ourselves and our consumption will somehow lead to the promised land is ridiculous.

    Demand will drive the delivery of energy. All efforts should focus on enabling rather than impeding the provision of needed commodities. Left alone, price will regulate consumption. Innovation will capitalize on the higher prices, and deliver increased availability.

    I take no issue with conservation when driven by a free market. I don’t even mind the rigorous CAFE standards. But don’t try to sell me on paranoia. America has the world’s largest reserves of coal, and more than a Trillion barrels of oil in shale. Exxon has discovered more reserves than they have consumed every year for the last 16 years. Known natural gas reserves have also recently rocketed. We’ve just reviewed here the vast reserves of Nuclear fuels.

    Man cannot shrink away from challenges and snivel in the corner. He must use his ingenuity to find or make the resources to deliver prosperity. Fear of scarcity is certainty of failure.

  9. The only report of which I am aware that looks at this half-way logically is:-

    http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Generating_the_future_report.pdf

    Note that this is the projection of the generation needs for a developed economy (the UK) up to 2050. And their base case assumption is the rather fanciful one of energy consumption being capped at current levels.

    Just check out what new energy infrastructure they say is needed if we are to strive to 80% CO2 reduction by 2050!

    I should point out that these aren’t a bunch of nasty deniers funded by BigOil. They are a bunch of highly qualified energy engineers who are also AGW alarmists (and who are heavily in the pay of Nuclear, BigWind and the rest.

    But the sums are probably appropriate and they have the probably got the ‘right answers’ (even though that is the right answers to the wrong questions).

    This is presented as the “solution” to the UK’s energy problems (although it brushes away the fact that BigWind just doesn’t work). Just imagine what are the implications of similar policies in Africa!

    Tom Fuller’s article is spot on. Or as Dr. Roy Spencer points out, the war against global warming is actually a war on the poor.

  10. Anthony,

    Back in 2008 when we procured with you the publication of a similar, but more detailed article you didn’t even answer back. I welcome your progress and hope you can keep on the right tack.

  11. Excellent write up and worrying in many ways. I back humankind to adapt though. You can see some point in what the AGW industry is driving at in that we really do need to use energy much more efficiently and I’m sure there are few even on this side of the debate who would disagree. I just don’t agree with the way that they are doing it.

  12. interesting take ..but I think flawed …you assume a standstill of technology and innovation, this I feel unlikely …in the west energy use peaked in around 2007 and is now dropping ..this is not because of recession but due to the increasingly efficient use of energy, this trend will continue, the new chinas of whom you speak won’t just emulate the old outmoded western model they will more than likely leapfrog into the newer more efficient paradigm. As their wealth grows their population will stabilise and eventually begin to fall as this happens their energy use will slow too .
    your graph is IMHO simplistic it assumes peak fossil fuel which is by no means certain and in light of new shale gas finds quite unlikely

  13. “we are condemning billions of people to needlessly live a wretched existence that they would avoid if they could”

    No, we are not.
    Please read my finger: ‘da poor’ do not have a blank check on my existence or determine my choices of what to do with my resources.
    However, those who attempt to use an argument based on ‘the white man’s burden’ or ‘my brother’s keeper’ to influence my sentiments are sorely deserving of a proper non-PC explanation of stfu.

  14. I suspect there are too many variables to make the ‘the 2nd/3rd world will all be consuming energy at 1st world rates in 25 years time’ statement very accurate at all. Most of all we do not know what technologies lie around the corner – if solar panel prices continue to fall at current rates solar electricity will be competitive with fossil fuels within 10-15 years. If battery technology improves also, it is entirely feasible that by 2035 the entire West could have houses with 75% of their electrical needs supplied by solar means. Equally we don’t know how much nuclear energy will be used in 2035, as it is a political decision, not a purely rational/technology one. Fusion technology may have also come to fruition.

    The Victorian Londoners thought that London would soon be 6 feet deep in horse manure, due to the rapid growth in horse usage. Fortunately for them Mr Benz had other ideas. We similarly are using past trends to predict the future. Which is fine, until the trends change.

  15. Please forgo the pathetic urge to wring drama from your back of the envelope calculations.
    Scaremongering is as fashionable and group emoting is socially fulfilling for some, but tent-show is tent-show. And this is low rent tent-show.
    When come back, bring pie.

  16. Martin Brumby says:
    August 13, 2010 at 12:53 am

    “Tom Fuller’s article is spot on.”

    Yes, rather

    “Or as Dr. Roy Spencer points out, the war against global warming is actually a war on the poor.”

    No, the “war” is a gradual transition to a low-carbon global economy, which is
    necessary in any long-term scenario. Starting in a decisive manner right now
    will also lessen very likely climate induced socioeconomic damages.

  17. I think the analysis is correct, but any prediction of timing a supply crunch will be extremely difficult as accurate numbers are impossible to get. I wonder about the numbers from The U.S. Department of Energy and the United Nations, experience shows their numbers usually present a fluffy picture regarding energy.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/7500669/Oil-reserves-exaggerated-by-one-third.html

    The graph presented above for example has crude peaking around 2020, with a long tail off. This is grossly underestimated IMO, and takes no account of “net peak oil” see http://netenergy.theoildrum.com/node/5500

    I suspect the wind/solar/renewable/nuclear projections probably don’t take account of the embedded energy required to manufacture/bring them on line in the first place, or the lower EROEI from harder to extract resources, which will bring the nice long sloping curve down – to a more abrupt cliff edge, certainly much steeper than the graph suggests.

    Is there a link to the original research presented in the graph?

    Regardless, I’m not convinced this has any major implications for our climate directly, tho increased poverty will no doubt assist further environmental degradation and pollution as it seems to now, as will resource extraction at the limits of technology.

  18. The Gray Monk:

    At August 13, 2010 at 12:45 am you assert:
    “Your paper highlights probably the most important issue all of humanity faces – we have roughly 4billion too many humans already.”

    Has it occurred to you that you have the ability to reduce the overpopulation that you assert by removing yourself from existence?

    Of course, that would only reduce the population by one, but it would be a demonstration that you mean what you say. And if all those who share your view were to do the same then the world would certainly be a better place.

    Importantly, imposing your desire on yourself instead of calling for it to be imposed on others would certainly be an improvement to your present attitude.

    Richard

    Richard

  19. The projection is overly simplistic – the extra billion people by 2030 will be too poor to buy much energy, whatever its source – and renewables are far too expensive for them. China’s growth is about 30% China Inc. – a branch of the US, EU and other sources of corporate finance making western goods cheaper so that western growth can putter along – but the whole global economy is unstable, and one factor is the oil-price to which all other energy sources are related one way or another.

    Certainly demand in China, Brazil, Indonesia, India and Russia will increase – they can afford it, and they will consume their natural environment in the process – but the poor will be left out, just as they have been for the last 30 years – with 2 billion still without adequate clean water and sanitation. I would argue their best future is to turn away from the western mode of consumption and strengthen their indigenous ways, securing a stable ecology and community and protecting themselves from ‘development’ – length of life and dollar spending power is no indication of the quality of that life, and my travel in the ‘Third World’ quickly showed me just how vital and happy people could be in very limited material circumstances (and thats not to deny a great number are desperate and destitute – often because of the social disruption of war, corrupt government and displacement due to the global demand for commodities).

  20. It is not only “quite likely” that finite fossil fuel resources will peak, it’s a dead-dog certainty.

    Wind Does Work, especially when it’s combined with Solar, Biogas, or, best of all, both. Wind is, now, considered cheaper than Nuclear, and, unlike nuclear, its cost-curve is heading down, not up.

    The cost of producing Solar panels is down in the $1.00/watt, range. The only reason solar is still relatively expensive is a shortage of certiified installers. As the number of these ramp up we will be seeing “installed” solar in the vicinity of $2.00/watt.

    Finland gets 30% of their electricity from paper, and pulp mills. We could, easily, get 200 Gigawatts from “waste heat recovery” from Steel Mills, etc.

    We will have 10 to 20 million gal/yr “cellulosic” ethanol plants in every county. These biorefineries will operate off Municipal Solid Waste (Fiberight has the cost of this down to $1.65/gal,) switchgrass (Genera, Poet projecting $2.00 or less/gal,) and forestry/ag waste. A Serious Co-Product of these biorefineries will be lignin, converted to biogas, to power 57% efficient Turbines which can be ramped up, and down quickly to follow wind, and solar.

    This is all extremely simple stuff. And, actually, not very expensive.

  21. Not demand, but supply, availlability and pricing will define the future energy-consumption of mankind in the future.

    The Third World can demand energy as much as it may – buf when there simply is none they can lay their hands on, or if the purchasing prices for said energy far exceed the Third World’s availlable income, there’s no ways in heaven they will ever rise their energy consumption to western-lifestyle levels – let alone, to US-lifestyle-levels.

    So keeping the Third World poor is paramount to ascertain the First, Western World the future availlability of sufficient and affordable energy.

    And that’s what western politicians were and still are all about, when dealing with the Third World.

    It only remains to be seen, how emerging countries and people like those of China and India will react to that in the future.

    I predict future energy wars looming in a not-too-distant future – the first of which are actually fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, already.

  22. I encourage everyone to have a look at this thesis by Willem Nel http://ujdigispace.uj.ac.za%3A8080%2Fdspace%2Fbitstream%2F10210%2F3094%2F1%2FNel%2520.pdf&ei=9AplTKHEE5WSjAfIv8DRCw&usg=AFQjCNFqiu5ZI6S4uXhOKVAidAoEAjhGBQ (Univ of Johannesburg) on ‘peak energy’. It is not perfect but it is pretty comprehensive and detailed. I agree that the unsuspected reserves of natural gas may change the picture. The idea that we can double the CO2 in the atmosphere at all, let alone in 100 years, is undermined by this detailed analysis of what energy reserves we have and where it comes from. Catastrophic predictions seem always to be based on the combustion of infinite carbon resources. They are simply not there.

    The population of the planet is forecast to drop back to its present level by 2100 in the same reports that say it will rise to a peak by 2050. Let’s not repeat the 2050 figure in order to provide the most alarmist picture of future global needs. That is cherry picking. As populations develop their birth rate drops. In a more equitable world it will drop faster. That doesn’t mean we need carbon taxes, but it does mean reducing and eventually eliminating the naked exploitation of some regions by others that creates so much alarming poverty.

  23. Martin Brumby:

    Considering present UK Energy Policy, at August 13, 2010 at 12:53 am you say:
    “The only report of which I am aware that looks at this half-way logically is:-

    http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Generating_the_future_report.pdf

    Note that this is the projection of the generation needs for a developed economy (the UK) up to 2050. And their base case assumption is the rather fanciful one of energy consumption being capped at current levels.
    Just check out what new energy infrastructure they say is needed if we are to strive to 80% CO2 reduction by 2050!”

    I think you may want to read my item at

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/courtney_2006_lecture.pdf

    especially its Section 1 (p 3) and Section 14 (pp 13-19).

    I hope this is of use and/or interest to you.

    Richard

  24. It makes nop sense to have coal energy production remain constant; it is the most abundent and cheapest source of energy.

  25. I find the Gray Monk’s post appalling. The planet can easily support the six billion it has, and many more besides. Perhaps four times as many. Even more. In affluence and with little pressure on natural systems.

    It all depends on how we manage ourselves.

    I completely agree with pat. There is no practical limit to the amount of energy we can and will produce — provided only that we do not stupidly prevent ourselves (as we have done) through insane/inane, self-destructive regulations which achieve less than nothing and both directly and indirectly bring about incalculable harm.

    (Yet, perhaps fusion will step in and prove the panacea.)

  26. daunting as it seems when you’re dealing in thousands of “quads.”

    The Gray Monk says:
    August 13, 2010 at 12:45 am
    “Your paper highlights probably the most important issue all of humanity faces – we have roughly 4billion too many humans already. [...]“

    Give me a list of their names so we can arange who gets whacked….

    (……. reading the list of 4 billion names provided by The Gray Monk………)

    What?!?! Your name isn’t on the list?

    Wait up! I see the pattern here. Only OTHER people’s names are on the list.

  27. “The overall population is rising–it will be about 8.1 billion in 2030, the equivalent of adding another China to the planet. ”

    I can’t read the future but from the past I know man has had a way of averting doomsday projections of mass starvation due to Malthusian logic, peak oil etc. I can’t help but wonder and hope that by that date nuclear fusion might have seen a breakthrough (with one breakthrough reported last year), or an innovative process that causes solar panels to drop greatly in price, or some new found source of energy. From here to 2030 I find it inconceivable that science won’t make any progress in the above or other energy related area. Few people could forsee the agricultural revolution in 1945.

  28. Did you know, Portugal gets 45% of its Electricity from Renewables?

    Which is why they are the poster-boy on how to self immolate one’s economy to no material gain.

  29. evanmjones says:
    August 13, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Did you know, Portugal gets 45% of its Electricity from Renewables?

    Which is why they are the poster-boy on how to self immolate one’s economy to no material gain.
    —-
    please explain how that ‘immolation’ works … in relation to renewables?

  30. Sir,

    There is a limiting factor that you must take into account and that is Peak Oil and Gas.

    And of course, coal.

    Rgds.

    Mike Core

    [REPLY - Peak Oil: Peek and ye shall find. ~ Evan]

  31. Sir,

    There is a limiting factor that you must take into account and that is Early Peak Oil and Gas.

    And of course, coal.

    Rgds.

    Mike Core

  32. For the Grey Monks’ information.
    The world produces enough food each year to support 8-9 billion people (thanks to MODERN agricultural techniques among other things). The issue is of distribution not production. We have a plentiful supply of fossil fuels, & even natural gas (not a fossil fuel according to certain politicians in the Virignian Colonies, one N. Pelosi I believe), & nuclear power generation. Fossil fuels take millions of years to develop through metamorphosis, therefore it is highly likely that billions of tons more is available for future generations, it’s just a matter of accessing it safely, viably, & ecologically soundly. I also understand that the current population of the Earth could fit on the Isle of Wight (UK) with room to spare, although it might become rather smelly after a few days! We don’t need an unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, & unsackable self-enriching Global Government to solve man’s issues on the planet, just common sense! I seem to recall that the oil was supposed to have completely run out by now according to some “experts” back in the 1970s. Yet more is constantly being discovered. That fact alone must place a question mark over such experts abilities to crystal-ball gaze.

    If the Grey Monk believes there are 4 billion too many people on the planet already, has he decided who they are & what he wants to do about them? If so could I see his list just to be safe?

  33. Sorry, Evan, I’m with the Grey Monk on this. I have yet to see any evidence that the planet can support such numbers of people in the style to which we in the west have become accustomed. The much-derided Tommy Malthus pointed out the big problem centuries ago, as did the Club of Rome in their modelling exercise. It is simply that the amount of food that can be produced depends on the land area that can be used and the technology used to produce it and hence increases arithmetically (if you work twice as hard you can double it, then work twice as hard again to quadruple it, etc.). Population, on the other hand, increases geometrically, i.e. the numbers born depend on the numbers breeding, and so will inevitably outpace resources unless fecundity is reduced.
    Interestingly, there seems much evidence at the moment that fecundity does in fact reduce with increasing wealth and particularly with educating women. Unfortunately, cultural norms vary slowly and in huge areas of the world women are not educated and, since the lead time is about 30 years (which is also the doubling time of the current human population), it cannot alone prevent an increase.
    I hope few here would advocate any sort of ‘Final Solution’ to this, because it’s really not needed. The more humans there are, the more population pressure forces them in to sub-optimal areas where they are vulnerable to our randomly varying environment. For example, millions of people are currently suffering because they live on the slopes of rapidly-eroding newly-raised mountains and the rainfall this year is higher than average (as it is half the time). Hence the floods and rockslides which are quite normal for those conditions are killing the thousands forced to live in the valley bottoms instead of the higher ground. Similarly, many people live in areas where rainfall is normally very low (but variable). In the good years/decades there is enough food and so they, like any other lifeform, invest in breeding so there will be more ‘selfish genes’ to ensure that in the bad times at least some of their descendants might survive. In addition to such entirely predictable hazards there are the rarer volcanic eruptions and meteorite strikes which will hit at random no matter where you have ‘chosen’ to live. Such is life.
    The other thing to consider is biological warfare. No, I don’t mean chucking dead horses over the walls, but the incessant fighting between micro-organisms and hosts. In the last 50 years, man has dramatically increased the death rate against pathogens with a huge variety of chemicals. However, this application of selection pressure merely means that pathogens evolve to deal with the problem and since their generation times can be as little as 20 minutes, we are going to lose in the long run. Already bacteria immune to virtually everything we can throw at them are appearing, and we now have huge numbers of people with virtually no natural immunity. I don’t think the human population will reach those levels.

  34. The simple takeaway is energy is life. Internally, for humans it’s mostly ATP-ADP cycle. Externally, it’s how food is grown, fertilizers made and continues to those sitting at a energy consuming computer-thingies reading, typing, viewing, playing games, watching their favorite show and transporting oneself to their favorite demonstration while recording it on their favorite vid camera/iphone.

    There is another very obvious, albeit modest, takeaway of cheap energy equals prosperity. Which, of course, is the only proven method that leads to cleaner environments. At some “tipping” point with prosperity groups of people decide that there is enough prosperity viz environment and we see clamps put on energy and, in turn, prosperity.

    It’s not really a question of running out of energy. It’s all about whether we’ll use what we have and what time line you think is important. If you take the view of needing a few billion years supply of energy you drop all drilling, wind farm eco-disaster, ethonol, etc., and simply start building nuclear energy plants at the rate of a few per month. Without much mental effort, you can easily recover fissionable materials like uranium, thorium, etc., from the ground and oceans.

    Then we simply manufacture hydrocarbons. The technology has been around since the 1930s along with sporatic improvements. If you’re interested Google it; if not, then imagine simply making dry ice for carbon, electrolysis for hydrogen and oxygen, freezing for nitrogen and a magic box that takes the hydrocarbon raw material and out pops pure gasoline, diesel, natural gas, methane, stuff for plastics, etc. We will always need hydrocarbons, if nothing else than to make your video display or until you invent an inter dimensional raw material portal and steal the stuff from some other universe. Manufacturing gasoline could even be phased out whenever that vaunted hydrogen fuel cell or the long extension cord is more cost effective.

    If an emphasis is placed on nuke energy with it’s surplus energy used to produce hydrocarbons you end up with, by any standards today, limitless energy at a decreasing per unit cost over time. That means things like better reactors from self-contained-drop-into-Kenya-village ones through the traveling wave reactor just for starters. And you also get lots and lots of really good jobs, really good food and a really clean environment for China, Africa, India and all the third world. Even in the “Western” industrialized nations. After all, the really grave pollution issues are in the third world. Abundant energy, simply, lets you produce vastly more with less.

    At least someone is pointing out the obvious about energy. We’ll let those that want to not have cheap, abundant energy go tell the African that drinks parasite infested water that they need to just keep up the good work so they can continue using their computers.

  35. We are already in a world where we are having food riots. If there is are early frosts in the grain producing regions of Canada and the mid-West together with the fires in Russia there could easily be a food shortage now. So far the world has managed to keep just ahead of the demand curve for food but only just and only because of the benign warm climate of the last 40 years. Had the weather remained cool Paul Ehrlich would have probably been right.

    All the current pointers are for the weather to start going cooler. This will both increase demand for energy and reduce the amount of available food, as grow lines move equatorwards.

    We are looking at the increasing probability of a cold world with no oil and insufficient food.

  36. please explain how that ‘immolation’ works … in relation to renewables?

    Simple cost-benefit. The cost simply does not justify the amount of energy produced. The economic results are inevitable.

  37. That is an oddly labeled chart. It SAYS “World Energy Demand – Long-term Energy Sources,” yet it nothing on it is about DEMAND. It is all about energy SOURCES.

    I think it need to be re-labeled.

  38. mindbuilder says:
    August 13, 2010 at 12:27 am

    “If it makes any difference, I expect that battery technology will have matured and electric cars will dominate over gas. ”

    I dont think so. Not unless you find some place, a mine, or a special tree, where batteries grows and can be harvested. Like oil, or gas.(Show me the carbon footprint of the battery, the charging station, the powerplant providing the electricity, the high voltage power-lines….the…..the…..)

    Or perhaps if the battery is actually a small nuclear reactor with a pluss and minus pole.
    Just plug it into your car, and off you go! Forever!

  39. pointman says:
    August 13, 2010 at 2:56 am

    For those who may not have seen it, a partial translation of a book which gives China’s view on CAGW and therefore energy. They’ll be doing their own thing on the energy front as will the developing world. It’s their only way out of poverty.

    http://libertygibbert.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/the-dragons-dissent/

    _____________

    The book seems speculative. But you are certainly right on
    “doing their own thing on the energy front”

    1/ In the short term they will use any energy to sustain economic growth
    and development. They will aggressively outcompete other nations for oil,
    mines and land ownership abroad.
    2/ They are well aware of the air pollution detoriation related to coal burning
    3/ They have stated a target of 500 gigawatts of renewable-energy capacity
    by 2020 — nearly one third of the nation’s projected power capacity
    for that year.
    4/ Last year they invested nearly half of total global renewables investments,
    for instance they have about 40% of global photovoltaics production
    5/ Already experiencing severe water shortage in the plains of NW China,
    I am convinced that they take AGW seriously.

    The impications for USA, you can figure out yourselves

  40. This is a thought provoking article but too narrow in scope. What is the daily quad output of the Sun? It has been suggested that in 40-50 years it will be feasible to capture solar energy via a satellite array beaming constant energy directly into terrestrial energy systems. Right now this is quite speculative. Yet it serves little use to project energy consumption decades into the future without also projecting technological change possibilities. But perhaps this has been done elsewhere. If so, it would be useful to reference it.

  41. I just want to say, yet again, that this forum generates a very high quality of discussion–even from those whom I disagree with. As great as the postings are, I often get as much or more from the comments.

    On this thread, I was about to make some comments (as I am an economic historian by training), but I found that others had articulated the same or similar thoughts. I think you’re doing a darned good job when you can make me feel like I have little new to add to the discussion! :D

    I think everyone involved here (from Anthony all the way down to the most occasional commenters) deserves kudos.

  42. Some points to consider: A universal “One Child Policy” would still require 5 generations (100+yrs) t0 return the population to present levels.
    A growing population requires a growing food supply, but also requires a growing living space, mutually exclusive solutions. Modern, hi tech food production requires hi energy input, not easily accomplished by renewable energy converted to battery power. A modern combine does the work of 80 men working manually.
    One gallon of oil provides the energy to pump 100 gallons from a well. One gallon of oil provides the energy to squeeze only 4 gallons out of oil shale.
    If the entire US corn crop were turned to EtOH for fuel each year, it would conserve about 2% of the world’s demand for automotive fuel. Keeping our tires properly inflated will save us about 5%.

  43. Whenever presented with numbers, instinctively, I go for the napkin to do some internal consistency checks. From the stipulated numbers the per capita world consumption is about 0.1 Billion BTU (assuming we are talking American mill, bill, trill and quad and not the British kind). In the breathless scenarios being thought of here, we are talking 170(Danish) – 330(US) Billion BTU. Are there some zeros missing on my napkin? How do we get the average to go up by orders of magnitude in 20-40 years?

  44. evanmjones says:
    August 13, 2010 at 3:46 am

    please explain how that ‘immolation’ works … in relation to renewables?

    Simple cost-benefit. The cost simply does not justify the amount of energy produced. The economic results are inevitable.
    ——–
    Uniot costs for renewables are going down. For fossils they will
    presumably rise. Renewables are subsidized, but so are, perversely,
    fossils.

  45. Robert of Ottawa says:
    August 13, 2010 at 2:14 am
    It makes nop sense to have coal energy production remain constant; it is the most abundent and cheapest source of energy.

    Is coal really that much cheaper than the potentially limitless ( and less polluting) energy from the sun, wind, tide, geothermal etc?
    It seems to me that the tax breaks and subsidy the coal industry and fossil fuel industries already recieve from the tax payer, far outweigh the comparative investment in alternatives, especially more sensible alternatives to corn ehtanol.

    http://www.elistore.org/Data/products/d19_07.pdf

    Spare a thought to how liberating energy independence on a household and national scale would be towards truely free markets.

  46. Some points:
    1. Peak Oil theory is not a scientific fact.
    2. Petroleum is buried biomass is not a scientific fact.
    3. Plate Tectonics is not a scientific fact.
    4. The Big Bang is not a scientific fact.
    5. AGW is not a scientific fact.

    These are, instead, technically sophisticated “Beliefs” based on an intellectually based consensus that is otherwise known as “peer review”. It isn’t science by any stretch of the imagination.

  47. With regards to population growth, what is interesting is that it is in the developed Western world that population growth is largely static, if not declining in some parts. It is in the undeveloped world and the developing world where the greatest population growth is happening.

    The natural population of the UK is in decline, and is only propped up by massive immigration from the EU and the developing world.

    So the way I have it figured is that the best way to control population numbers is to encourage the developing world to develop as fast as possible to a stable economic and energy provision status.

    The reason so many regions of the world have booming populations is both cultural and religious. Part of the reason is that the poor have large families as a sort of pension provision. They need to know that they will have enough children grow up to be able to look after them in their own old age. Economic development would solve the need for such large families. The other part is religious, where religions ban contraception and birth control, that leads to an increase in numbers too.

  48. There are more models of energy consumption than the Danish and American models. This is where your projections fail.

    Since we are talking about a third China, why not use the Chinese model of energy consumption? Let’s also look at the already modernized urban populations of Indonesia, Brazil, etc. to see how the urban populations of those countries use energy?

    For instance, the Hong Kong energy consumption per capita runs around 29% of that of the US, less than the Danish model by a significant margin (almost half).

    Your projections also fail to account for the fact that it is well demonstrated that once per capita income exceeds approximately $10,000 US (in 2000AD dollars), that energy consumption per dollar of GDP drops significantly, so as the three China’s improve their per capita incomes, while their per capita energy consumption rises, it will be a diminishing returns curve, not a linear one, wrt its relationship with income growth.

  49. Mindbuilder wrote: “If it makes any difference, I expect that battery technology will have matured and electric cars will dominate over gas. With 15 minute charging, it’s almost there already.”

    Batteries are not a solution, only a storage system. And every link in a system compounds inefficiency. As for “almost there already” you’ve been reading the spin on manufacturers’ brochures.

  50. In the 80s, when computer storage was expensive, a forward-looking individual wrote an article, head-lined “What if mass storage were free?” and came up with many enlightening ideas. Laughable those days, almost reality 30 years later.

    I am convinced that there is a similarity with energy:
    1. Technical progress will make energy generation cheaper and less damaging for the environment.
    2. Having abundance of cheap energy available anywhere will make human life much more enjoyable.

    Let’s get ready for such a future, instead of turning the wheel of progress backwards, as the doomsayers do.

  51. The joker in the deck to all these projections is war. People act as though war is some kind of anomaly while through history it is actually a norm.

    MAD could keep the major powers from launching nukes, but India and Pakistan or the Muslims and Israel??

    The genetic engineers are well on their way to accomplishing designer bugs. That technological genie will not stay in the bottle. The laboratory equipment needed to create a population thinning disease will be within the reach of any determined nation or well financed rogue group.

  52. This analysis seems to be pretty much the same, in terms of depth & sophistication, as Paul Ehrlich used to develop his warnings about the “Population Bomb” that never happened.

    Thing is, as societies populate the citizens tend to have fewer children on average. There’s a whole bunch of factors that interplay. Those apply to this analysis & None of them have been included. For a benchmark check out the late Dr. Michael Crichton’s official website — he addresses this at some length, noting his observation that when alarmists, like Ehrlich with his warnings of population overgrowth, sound thier alarms the solution to the problem is usually well underway. Crichton uses a specific example from the population expolosion fear — presenting data illustrating how population birth & growth rates had been in decline for some years prior to Ehrlich’s warnings; in many countries these fell to below population maintenance levels.

    For this grossly superficial analysis to have any merit, such things need to be addressed…but from what’s presented it appears such things haven’t even been identified, much less considered.

    This is just like the global warming models that reach sensationalistic conclusions, but cannot predict or explain unexpected trends parodyed here — but at least much of what they don’t incorporate in thier models is unknown, or largely unknown/highly uncertain.

    Its ironic this blog would perpetuate the same sort of oversimplified analytical logical error… I expect more/better from here.

  53. Why is that GreyMonk, or any post exposing the same idea (that we would have an easier life with less humans on planet earth) is immediately answered by: “Why don’t you start by removing yourself from existence”, or “and who do you propose to kill first?”

    I certainly share the idea of GreayMonk (that it would be much easier to provide better standard of living to everybody in a smaller population) without any desire to kill anybody. Only thing that is needed is to encourage the (already heavy) tendency towards less children per women in modern societies. Just let the individual selfishness do the trick: in societies where people with less children have a higher standard of living and where contraceptives are readily availble (like in the western world and unlike agricultural societies), population naturally decrease. Nothing wrong with that…

    I am firmly in the skeptic camp and do not like at all the AGW-cult that pass for environmentalism nowadays, but the “growth and multiply” mentality is not something that I find constructive, logical or ethic either. It inevitably leads to some kind of limitation by resources at one point, and populations limited by resources do not live a happy live, being animal populations or human populations….

  54. “evanmjones says:
    August 13, 2010 at 2:36 am
    I find the Gray Monk’s post appalling. The planet can easily support the six billion it has, and many more besides. Perhaps four times as many. Even more. In affluence and with little pressure on natural systems.”

    Totally agree. We are nowhere near the limit. For example Greater London [nice place to live] isn’t that overcrowded and you could fit all the worlds population in 600 Londons – and you could get them in England with plenty of room to spare AND nobody else anywhere on the planet. Not exactly Bladerunner high rise overcrowded just yet.

    cheers David

    [REPLY - Yup. And you can even go further than that. London today with 7.5 million inhabitants is incomparably less crowded than London when it had 1 million inhabitants. ~ Evan]

  55. “Louis Hissink says:
    August 13, 2010 at 4:20 am
    Some points:
    1. Peak Oil theory is not a scientific fact.
    2. Petroleum is buried biomass is not a scientific fact.
    3. Plate Tectonics is not a scientific fact.
    4. The Big Bang is not a scientific fact.
    5. AGW is not a scientific fact.”

    I’m with you on all except number 3? Not proven physically, measurement, observation??

    cheers David

  56. I’m not sure the author has taken into account the startling demographic problems that are about hit most if not all G20 nations. Europe (including Russia), as well as Japan, China, and most of North America will have an inverted population pyramid. That is, these nations will see thier largest population concentrations amongst the eldery. The fertility numbers are quite stark. Many nations have fertility rates that are near 1.1/female (Japan, Russia, Italy, Greece, and Spain come to mind). China continues to have fertility rates below 1.5/female, and North America isn’t much better (the US varies between 1.8 and 2.0). Africa contnues to be plagued by war and AIDS. Nations like Indonesia and some South American nations have healthy birthrates. But, thier population growth cannot compensate for the falls seen in the rest of the globe.

    This does not bode well, for most of the world’s wealth is tied to aging populations. To make matters worse, the nations with the fastest rates of aging also have the most generous entitlement programs. For the next 30 years, these nations will be drawing down thier stored wealth, as well as redistributing it to care for thier aging populations. This means less wealth creation. In the US alone, the amount of unfunded liabilities is staggering. Through 2080 it stands at over $70 trillion. The total assets in the US is around $49 trillion.

    I do not see our demand for energy increasing over the next 50 years. It will probably peak this decade before it begins to slowly but surely decrease. The kind of growth the world saw between 1983 and 2007 cannot be duplicated for the simple fact that there will not be enough younger people with the incomes needed to sustain it.

  57. kai says:
    August 13, 2010 at 5:01 am
    “Why is that GreyMonk, or any post exposing the same idea (that we would have an easier life with less humans on planet earth) is immediately answered by: “Why don’t you start by removing yourself from existence”, or “and who do you propose to kill first?” [...]“

    The Gray Monk didn’t say what you just said. He said that there were already 4 billion too many on earth. I’ll admit to conclusion-jumping in response to The Gray Monk, but it wasn’t really a jump so much as a tiny step to get to the only viable solution, given the premise, that somebody has to go.

    If one claims that there are 4 billion too many right now, then it’s fair to ask for a proposal for how, and how fast to get rid of the excess population. (I suppose there’s an Ap for that available for download on http://www.malthusiansforparadise.com.)

    One fair-enough reply from The Gray Monk could be, “I expect it will all sort itself out when everthing crashes and burns from the excess population burden. Do nothing and let the strongest survive.”

  58. We did all of the Malthusian arguments on imagined population numbers in the post on nuclear power stations a few days ago – can we just link people back to that one?

    While Tom may have picked right in the past, isn’t that what they warn in all the adverts for brokerage houses and stock tips:

    “Past results are no guarantee of future performance”

    This post ignores the biggest factor in human development – humans and their ingenuity. Call me an optimist, but I have travelled extensively in these “New Chinas” Tom talks about and, yes, they are dirt poor, but they are orders of magnitude better off than they were 15-20 years ago even with double the population.

    Every time I sit in a traffic jam in a city like Dhaka or Mumbai, I marvel that there are so many people with places to go and things to do. Of course their growth has outstripped their infrastructure and – in some ways – it is good that it has because this is the driver of development: the need to do more with less.

    Sorry Tom. I think you’ve picked the wrong horse in this race.

  59. China’s growth already dwarfs all Kyoto promises. We need a new Saudi Arabia of fuel every 2-3 years to keep up with global fuel demand on top of depleting light oil resources.

    YetDeclining oil exports increased oil prices from $60 in 2005 to $100 in 2008.

    Lloyds of London warns:

    2. Traditional fossil fuel resources face serious supply constraints and an oil supply crunch is likely in the short-to-medium term with profound consequences for the way in which business functions today. Businesses would benefit from taking note of the impacts of the oil price spikes and shocks in 2008 and implementing the appropriate mitigation actions. A scenario planning approach may also help assess potential future outcomes and help inform strategic business decisions.

    Former OPEC member Indonesia went from maximum light oil production to 50% drop in exports within 5 years. The UK’s exports dropped 80% in 4 years!

    The five largest oil exporting countries could easily stop ALL exports within 25 years.

    Geopolitical Peak Oil Feedback Loops will cause massive impacts.

    Welcome to the 21st Century. Full of opportunity for those who can see.

  60. mindbuilder says:
    August 13, 2010 at 12:27 am

    If it makes any difference, I expect that battery technology will have matured and electric cars will dominate over gas. With 15 minute charging, it’s almost there already. Big trucks are another matter though. Maybe compressed natural gas , tar sands, or coal to oil for them.

    I’m sure this has all been done before, let’s see if I can wing it. From http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/k-12/Numbers/Math/Mathematical_Thinking/jeep_to_estimate.htm it seems my car (Saturn SL2, 30 mpg[1]) needs some 900 Kj per mile of engine output. Love those mixed units. If it’s good enough for NASA[2], it’s good enough for me. Or maybe that was for the author’s Jeep. Close enough. 2.7Mj per gallon.

    That seems backed up by http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2003/ArthurGolnik.shtml which has energy input to the engine (the NASA page assumes 20% engine efficiency).

    One joule is one watt-sec, so a Kwh is 1,000 * 3,600 = 3.6 Mj.

    I have a long commute, about 3 gallons roundtrip, 8.1 Mj. I do it 4 days a week, say 16 days a month, 129.6 Mj, or 36 Kwh/month. That seems a lot lower than I’d expect and would make electric cars a lot more cost effective than I thought they are – did I screw up? Time to get to work.

    2.25Kwh per day, charge time of .25h, 9Kw, 37.5 amps at 240V.

    My point – where does that energy come from? That’s an important part of the equation for getting past peak oil – whenever that happens. (Me, I like nukes. Good baseline supply. NH can build a waste chamber ala Yucca Moutain under Mt Cardigan and charge lotsa money for storing out-of-state waste.[3])

    [1] Some gas I’ve been getting lately gives me about 10% better milage. I wonder if it doesn’t have ethanol. On trips to Mt Cardigan, (rural highway, speed limit 35-50 mph), that gas gives me over 40 mpg. Not bad for a car with 274K miles.

    [2] Yes, I know about the Mars lander lost due to ft-lb vs. nt-m confusion. Sorry, I forgot to include the :-). :-)

    [3] As long as they don’t have nighttime lighting. Starlight is a terrible thing to pollute.

  61. >> mikael pihlström says:
    August 13, 2010 at 4:11 am
    Renewables are subsidized, but so are, perversely, fossils.
    <<

    Don't keep repeating lies that have been refuted in other threads. 'Renewables' are subsidized by taking money by force from poor people (taxes) and giving it to 'renewable' manufacturers. Fossil fuels are only 'subsidized' if you count the failure to double-tax them and the government purchase of furnace fuel to help keep the poor from freezing.

  62. “Everything has it’s time, and everything dies.” (h/t to Dr. Who ;) ) In any case, the issue will be resolved sometime around Dec. 2012, according to various prognosticators. ;)

  63. This has been well known for years at IEA. There is a strong correlation between GDP and energy consumption. China and India are simply doing what the US did 50 years ago, albeit with a higher population, which suggests the impact will be greater on overall demand.

    You can find information about this on the Oil Drum as analysts have predicted this for at least 5 to 10 years. China began importing Oil in 1993 – so this is not news at all.

  64. If you believe this article then you may as well believe on the Hockey stick, they are the same, both based on few decades.

  65. Wolfgang Flamme says:
    August 13, 2010 at 2:55 am
    @Kum Dollison
    “Did you know, Portugal gets 45% of its Electricity from Renewables?”

    Check Ecotretas: <<

    Interesting read. To summarize for those who don't want to click the link, most of that is hydroelectric. That works great if your region of the world has a river that can be dammed and the lake created in the process isn't an ecological disaster. Since those lucky locations are being rapidly used up, I wouldn't call it 'renewable' by any stretch.

  66. As the number of these ramp up we will be seeing “installed” solar in the vicinity of $2.00/watt.

    Multiply that by 3X to account for day/night etc. Then add $1 for backup. That is the real number.

  67. I live in sub-Saharan Africa and we are already experiencing black outs because the energy infrastructure inherited from colonialism has not been maintained adequately and the necessary investments in new energy sources and distribution has not been made. As a consequence we have widespread deforestation as individuals need to cook their food and warm themselves. It is true that we have governments that don’t care a fig about their populations or economic development beyond that required to keep the ruling class in Versace, Blue Label and Mercedes but we also have a bunch of “well meaning” eco freaks who don’t want to see hydro power or coal power plants and definitely not nuclear here. These well meaning types continually push for “renewables” and green solutions which all keep the poor living like stone age scavengers but they have a solar panel or two to drive the local propaganda radio. No wonder so many of my countrymen head off to the west at the first possible opportunity.

    As long as these NGO’s are able to try out their experiments in sustainability here , while bribing the ruling class with Aid there will never be an upsurge in energy use as described by the author.

    Another point I would like to make is that this continuing canard about using up finite resources will lead to us having shortages of everything over time is just silly. Where has everything gone? Isn’t it still here on Earth? It will be used again and again as new technology arrives to make such a thing economically viable. If that doesn’t happen remember the Earth’s crust is between 10km and 100km thick and it is everywhere. Has anybody taken a stab at what percentage of that crust has been exploited so far, to say nothing of the nodules at the bottom of the sea. Surface area is definitely finite but the volume is essentially unlimited and just awaits technology ( e.g. deep offshore drilling ) to be developed.

    The single biggest constraint right now on human development is poor governance while energy available to all mankind is essentially limitless. Energy drives development and the current drive by the warmistas and incompetent governments to deny all citizens access to cheap energy is all about control and nothing more.

    Energy leads to so many good things. Education, small families, leisure, a clean environment, the list is as long as you would like. It can also lead to war, oppression and worse it all just depends on good governance. If you care about your environment, your self actualization, the future of your children and the wellbeing of Earth then be a democrat. Push democracy everywhere you can whenever you can. It may not be perfect but it at least allows us to strive towards something more perfect and nothing else does.

    Population is not a problem. Resource availability is not a problem. Those who think it is , having found themselves a nice place on the big boat that is Earth just want to keep anybody new from enjoying what they do already. Science, technology, engineering can solve all of the energy and resource issues but it takes good governance to create the environment for progress to happen. Not through the wicked coercion we see far too often but through the enablement of society to progress as it sees fit.

    Yes there will be wars, pestilence, plague, floods and worse but those are the price humankind has paid throughout history for progress and I believe we are the most evolved generation so far seen on Earth and the young ones coming up behind us now show even more promise than we do. Push back these anti-democratic anti-scientists and lets move ever forward in the evolutionary game. We will not destroy ourselves , not even nature has manged that so far, and the more we know the more likely we are to survive and spread.

    Sorry about the rant but I am not of a dystopian nature and I do believe we are , collectively and separately unique. The anti-science brigade are just nostalgic for a badly remembered halcyon past that never was because like all of our childhoods things seemed so much simpler then.

  68. cedarhill says:
    August 13, 2010 at 3:32 am

    The simple takeaway is energy is life. . .

    Exactly. The key to the future development of civilization, not just of the currently-underdeveloped world, but to the future of mankind as we expand out into the solar system (and one day, to the stars), is cheap, abundant energy.

    This is why the neo-Luddites and environmental goons who are actively attempting to restrict world energy production as the solution to the entirely factitious problem of ‘global warming’ are so dangerous. They would have humanity stop in its tracks, condemning those of us in the West to a bleak future of Soviet-style spare gray apartments, and the rest of the world to mud huts, malnutrition, and disease.

    That the governments of the West, apparently in their zeal for taxes and control and ideological purity, have fallen prey to this madness beggars belief. They are heading in entirely the wrong direction, which should be to encourage at every step the development of cheap (I mean virtually free) energy in unlimited quantities, all over the world. Anything less is traitorous to the human race.

    /Mr Lynn

  69. I find all Malthusian thought appalling.

    What’s more, I find all Malthusian thought a sign of mathematical deficiency.
    Malthus got everything exactly backwards and we’ve spent 200 years proving it over and over.
    The proposals to “solve” Malthusian problems always seem to involve dehumanizing government control over the personal lives of – here’s the important part – the personal lives of people who don’t look like the writer.

    As I said, appalling.

  70. OK, I’ll try to remain civil here, but it’s tough. All who agree with Grey Monk (and those who wonder why they are treated with the “start with yourself” type of reply) need to understand some simple facts. If you really believe that the Earth is overpopulated and that is causing others to suffer, there really is only one logical solution. Do we really have that much of a shortage of ability to take problems and arguments to there logical conclulsions? Seriously.

    As for those who think that we cannot support that many people on this planet, I will START to see your side of the story when we stop paying farmers not to produce food in large sections of there fields every year to keep prices from dropping too far. We have plenty of room for people to live and for food production. Every year technology helps us produce more in less area. The only solution that is needed is to continue improving as we have and let the rest of the world in on it as well – a kind of twist on the old “work smarter, not harder” adage.

    All that being said, I hope we do find some form of renewable/alternate/clean/non-polluting fuel source that will allow all people to have every advantage they can get. But not at any cost and not under the misguided notion that humans are some parasite on the host planet Earth. We are animals like any other animal. We take advantage of what’s available like any other animal. That is the natural way. Eventually there will be a point when we cannot continue to proceed on this expansion of human population, but we are far from it now. Nature will put us in our place when that time comes. It always does.

    Let me try this analogy: In nature, when a prey species is over hunted by a predator, the population of the prey species drops (duh!). Then, it is harder for the predators to live on the fewer prey animals (again, duh!). The predators die off in some numbers and the prey animals have a better chance of living until the predator’s population increases again (third duh!). There is a virtually identical pattern for herbivores and the plants they live on.

    The same is true for humans, but we have the advantage of technology. We need energy for technology. The cheaper and more abundant the supply of energy, the quicker and more widespread the increase in technology. The quicker and more widespread the increase in technology, the more likely we are to increase our overall population as well as our quality of life. Keep energy cheap and effective and it’s a win/win for humanity and nature. Right now “fossil” fuels (though I believe that to be a misnomer) are the best we have. We need to encourage their use and not tax them into inefficiency.

    OK, now I must get down off my soapbox and get back to work…

  71. yeah yeah

    and 50 years ago the projections were that the population would be double what it really is and we would be out of food.

    “This conversation is not really about global warming at all. But it is certainly relevant to discussions of our planet’s future climate.”

    I guess it all falls in line, if you believe one bull hockey, you might as well believe it all.

  72. Being right about the demographic decline of Europe, or the success of the web is like congratulating yourself for predicting you will go down river during a flood (absolutely no offense intended).

    Predicting peak anything that relates to human behavior is a pointless endeavor. The amount of energy available to humans is strictly a matter of our behavior, and has little to do with “resources”. Any specific resource (coal available on land, oil in easy to drill locations) is of course subject to local depletion. We move on. Humans having a better standard of living than a colony of ants is dependent solely upon our productivity. Productivity is the result of our behavior (manifested by technology)coupled with energy which is used to leverage our individual feeble physical capabilities. From a large perspective, there is simply no limit, relevant to humans, to the amount of energy we can utilize. Consider simply the extremes: Fusion, deep geothermal and above atmospheric solar. The access to these is merely a matter of technology. The current side show of solar and wind will likely always be the PC phase of energy development…for extremely simple and fundamental reasons: Capacity factor and random availability (relative to need). Solar cells are useless when the sun is down or occluded, and wind is random. (I do agree that the technological feat of a near perfect battery would affect this.). In the medium term (next century) we will find and harvest the technologically easy (based on todays technology) energy sources….coal, oil, gas, fission. When these get a bit too hard, we will move on to fusion (or breeders), harder to get at coal, oil, gas, and then to deep geothermal and or above atmospheric solar. I suspect (with little more than personal bias) that nuclear will dominate eventually…if for no other reason than that it is purely technology driven (relative to the cycle) and relatively limitless (again, relative to humans). A past remark about a nuclear battery with nice convenient plus and minus connectors that lasts a very long time (again relative to humans) is much more a political decision than a technological one.

    Whether we live in grass huts on 1500 calories a day, or sit at computers eating bon-bons and remotely driving our factories is purely (in general, not always individually) a choice we make. I rather like my bon-bons, but if you like living in a grass hut, I most certainly won’t try to stop you.

  73. guidoLaMoto August 13, 2010 at 4:00 am

    There’s a social dimension to ‘one-child’ policies. Human beings don’t like being told how many children they can have and despite social approbium and punitive taxes, continue to have as many children as they want. In China, there has come into existance a class of ‘undeclared’ extra children now growning towards adulthood. Since they’re ‘off the books’, they’re obliged to survive by either sweatshop labour, criminality or prostitution.

    The official estimate of the numbers is 200 million but I suspect that’s way off the true number. These people will have children of their own. I wish the poor wretches luck and fervently hope all population ‘controllers’ burn in Hell.

    Pointman

  74. Josh Grella says:
    August 13, 2010 at 6:27 am

    Thank you Josh for some sanity. In Norway school-children learn the marxism lithany every day, I’m sorry to say.

  75. I disagree with the population projections…. As countries modernize women have less babies. There are many reasons for this, but mostly it is lifestyle brought about by empowerment of women in society through laws, technology like the pill, longer life spans, etc.

    I suspect that in the coming years developed countries will stifle unchecked immigration and hold the governments of dysfunctional emigrant countries to account…. The world will become a democratic place. This is the future challenge… Not energy policy.

    The market place will decide energy policy…. not governments.

  76. Who would have thunk it when I was a small boy?

    Television service to virtually every home. 400+ channels on mine, and a few actually worth watching. We had Spitfires and Hurricanes and Messerschmitts, but who could have seen the death of the ocean liners and their replacement by intercontinental airliners, with ticket prices some of my younger grandchildren can afford. Who could have imagined the assembly over southern England, of the first thousand bomber raid? (Mainly U.S. vehicles of course). The transistor and miniaturisation of electrical circuits. Computers and home computers. The internet, giving me the ability to converse instantly with other people right around the globe. Motor cars have changed relatively little if one ignores the fact that they no longer come with a starting handle. Who could have seen that one day in the late ‘fifties, we should stand excited and expectant on our front lawns, waiting to watch the first publicly announced transit of Sputnik across the night sky? (Sorry my American friends. Sputnik was first and that is possibly the most amazing memory of my lifetime). Who could have seen that for all of the magnificent discoveries, we still need to rely so heavily on the internal combustion engine? Who could have seen that coal deposits of mind boggling extent in Africa, that had been located and identified before I was born, would remain unexploited three quarters of a century later? Who could have believed that politicians would one day believe that wind power would again be the ultimate means of locomotion? Who would have believed that the predictions of scientists, in the main, would prove no more accurate than the Oracle of Delphi?

    In theory all of those coal reserves around the world could be used up, but it will never happen. To believe otherwise I have to believe that man’s mechanical ingenuity has run its full course and that we shall see no consequential innovation over the next three quarters of a century. Archaeologists are always surprised when they discover that man was using tools several hundred thousand years before their last announced first time date. They make the mistake of regarding our ancestors as primitive. They fail to understand that man came with ingenuity built into him from day one.

    The end is not nigh.

  77. Anthony, are you actually trolling? I have been keeping up with this site for two years, and I have never seen so many Malthusians post on a a thread. I’m with Layne Blanchard (12:51 am), Grumbler, Evanmjones, and Ken on this one (there are others, I don’t mean to leave you out). Thomas Fuller’s article really does sound like Paul Erlich; the persona has the voice of a creepy fatalist who speaks from the heart of the warmist/environmentalist mentality.

  78. How many times have we heard about the population bomb? Earth is a big place and humans are but a tiny speck. A thought experiment done several years ago, which still holds today, is that every person in the world (with a 2009 estimate of 6.79 billion) would fit in an area the size of Jacksonville, Florida (757.7 mi^2), giving each person roughly 3 ft^2.

    People are myopic, seeing only what is around today. If just before the advent of the automobile you told someone in New York City what the population would be in 50 or 100 years, one of their biggest concerns would have been what to do with all of the horse manure. There will be advances in the future and we cannot yet know their impact. (Of course, as long as governments insist on driving policy things will stagnate, but that is another topic for another ‘blog.)

  79. Overall I liked this post but it does have issues.

    About the notion of a “Denmark model” one needs to realize that significant adjustments might be required to accommodate geographic location and population density. For example, Denmark has a population density of about 333 people per square mile but for Montana the value is less than 7.
    Other comparisons are similarly striking – nearness to population and industry, temperatures, ocean access, and so on. A Denmark model will need some tweaking to work in Montana.
    ——————————————————

    Generally, thinking seriously about the issues of this post is a good thing but understanding the difficulties of forecasting are important.
    What will life be like in the future. That is hard to say. Almost every attempt to project beyond about 30 years seems to fail when dealing with developing societies. Some of us are old enough to remember when news summaries were delivered weekly as flickering black and white images in our local theaters along with that week’s movie (for a 25¢). Newspapers filled in the details – in my town on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We had a party line phone and a live operator to connect us to our desired destination.

    The previous century was likewise interesting and citizens of large cities worried about accommodating all the horses the future city would need. Here is a link that “paints a vivid portrait of a city in the throes of an ecological crisis” because of its horse-driven infrastructure.

    http://www.fathom.com/feature/121636/

    Portrait of an Unhealthy City: New York in the 1800s
    From: Columbia University | By: David Rosner

  80. Evan – ‘Peek and ye shall find’

    That’s the problem Evan.

    I have been peeking for oil for nigh on 30 years…..

    Big problems coming down the pike :-(

    Rgds

    Mike

  81. Renewables are subsidized, but so are, perversely, fossils.

    It makes a difference by how much. (Do they still teach innumeracy in schools?) Roughly the fossils are subsidized at pennies a watt and renewables at dollars a watt

  82. Many great comments precede mine, and I concur about the imaginary limit forecasts regarding population and food not taking technology into consideration. On the other hand we can’t see what innovations will come down the pike. Further, I wish I had references for this, from reading 30 years ago or so, about stressed populations of humans stopping/reducing reproduction. We also cannot foresee what epidemics will occur, aside from intentional anthropogenic diseases, we are making many common bugs resistant to treatment. Also, reproduction has already dropped below replacement in the societies that have plenty, and have fewer people and more food production than was supposed 30 years ago. With many modern societies advocating, or at least allowing, non-reproductive sex, that in itself will reduce populations. It is hard to predict an outcome when the rules of the game and even the playing field are in constant flux.

  83. One point regarding the chart at the beginning of your post:

    The tar sands production over time looks way too low. Tar sands comprise an energy source as large or larger than oil. There are three ways to harvest tar sands energy:

    1) Open pit mining followed by industrial upgrade and water filtration.
    2) Down well steam injection, producing upgraded product flowing from the well.
    3) Down well air injection, in ground combustion and well catalysts combing to create upgraded oil in ground.

    Large scale commercial operations are only currently running for method #1. Methods #2 and #3 are currently in field prototype phase moving toward commercial production. If these advanced methods are commercially viable, they will exceed conventional oil production by the mid 2020’s.

  84. Thomas Fuller mentions the Danish model – which is very similar to the German; extremely high taxes on fuel to discourage consumption – and says that this will probably not be the model taken by the emerging economies.

    Well; if they develop enough buying power to compete for fuel, this will drive up prizes globally and the “Danish model” will then not be necessary to discourage consumption; the high market prizes will suffice for that, no need to slap on Danish taxes then.

  85. In terms of which energy model developing countries will adopt consider the development of telecommunications in developing countries. The lack of legacy infrastructure has resulted in generations of technology which are still in use in developed countries being skipped and the latest technology being adopted and provided by private companies not governments. I would suggest the same might happen with energy. Putting a solar cell on a roof connected to an LED does not require any government involvement, does not require the massive infrastructure which took developed countries decades to build in the same way a mobile/cell phone can be provided by a private company with far less infrastructure than land lines whose infrastructure took decades to build in developed countries often with heavy government involvement.

  86. Anyone worried about future population estimates should have a look at this great video-

    http://www.gapminder.org/videos/what-stops-population-growth/

    It features Dr. Hans Rosling with some beautiful dynamic graphs that illustrate why the predictions of the apocalypsian Malthusians in the 1960’s and 1970’s were not just wrong, but laughably wrong.

    Anyone demanding an immediate reduction in global population needs to join the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement and immediately reduce their personal carbon footprint to zero. No offsets allowed.

  87. To read so many positive comments on the nature and future of humankind brings about a great upwelling of pride and optimism in my heart.

    It seems to me that the skeptics are indeed optimistic lovers of humanity while the warmistas are just pessimists who have no faith in the ability of we humans to contunue and constantly evolve.

    Thank you all.

  88. What do some people have against healthy,happy -Prosperous-dark skinned people?
    BTW Shale gas is the game changer. if we have the temerity to keep up.
    It’s already happening…

  89. Layne Blanchard’s comments have it right. We should focus on removing barriers to energy production and technological innovation and prices will deliver the appropriate signals. That’s one of the many benefits of a free market. Long-term planning is carried out on a distributed basis across every market participants sphere of influence. Unfortunately, our impulse is to believe that our own understanding and ability to influence behaviors and outcomes will deliver superior results. This is called “hubris” and is part of our nature. It should be the goal of any political system to avoid cementing hubris into law. It only makes the eventual outcome worse and more abrupt.

  90. The much-derided Tommy Malthus pointed out the big problem centuries ago, as did the Club of Rome in their modelling exercise.

    The only material difference between Malthus and the Club of Rome is that Malthus was man enough to admit he was wrong. Don’t be deceived by the false equation of geometric vs. arithmetic. The population is an S-curve. Technology is is currently looking like a J-curve (though it may S out — eventually).

  91. Big problems coming down the pike :-(

    Unless the Bakken shale turns out a bust. Since Carter sounded the alarm, we have multiplied out potential reserves many times. And there’s virtually unlimited secondary supply, and I haven’t even touched on how we’ve tied our own hands.

  92. I thought solar power was supposed to be on a level footing with oil by about 2018 – probably through the printing of solar panels (or spray on). (That doesn’t to my mind justifying investing in renewables now because you can’t prejudge the area which will lead to the innovation which cuts the cost – installing solar now is just shifting it from where it would most cost effectively be applied). When that happens rational investors will always use solar on external surfaces (and windows by default will probably generate electricity). Cars like the volt would automatically recharge, and I suspect the speed with which it will happen will be breathtaking. There are so many technologies that are getting slowly more cost effective, that as soon the price of fossil fuels start to rise they will cut in. The current greens will probably delay it by diverting funds to the wrong technologies but the trend is pretty clear (although I have seen the argument that the profit on oil in places like saudi arabia is so huge that when solar becomes cost effective they will simply drop the price). The amount of energy mankind uses is miniscule compared to the amount of solar radiation coming in .

  93. On a final note to peak oilers out there: While both Peak Oil and AGW theories originated with the Club of Rome, they are mutually contradictory. For instance, the IPCC fossil fuel consumption projections in AR4 estimate that we will consume 10 times more oil over the 21st century than Peak Oilers claim is in the ground. Both claims cannot be true, yet they are both promoted as true, usually by the same exact people (particularly those in the Pickens crowd).

  94. Hi all,

    Many thanks for the comments so far, including the gentle criticisms. Keep ‘em coming.

    A couple of things I’ve noticed so far–regarding population growth, I am not a Malthusian at all. The projected 8 billion for 2030 is a large decrease from earlier predictions. We can be fairly confident of it, because the mothers of the next generation have already been born. I got it from the (ahem) UN, but it is supported by many other studies. (And think about it–we’ve grown from 2 billion to 6.7 in my lifetime–what’s another 1.4 billion more?)

    Nor do I think human ingenuity will fail us. The point of my post is that governments relying on the official estimates for energy consumption are going to make bad decisions–and some of those decisions will be about how to spend our money. I am a bit concerned that many believe that the sexy technologies getting all the press right now–solar, wind and next generation biofuels–will make a material difference in our energy supplies in the near term.

    I have high hopes for solar power. I think it will explode and be a major force. The other two, not so much. And for solar to really help us, we will need parallel improvements in energy storage, as pointed out above.

    There is no question in my mind that nuclear power must be a part of our thinking–and doing–right now. But we literally can’t build enough nuclear power plants in 20 years to take the load. So we need other avenues to exploit at the same time.

    We are not doing nearly enough with combined heat and power plants or waste to energy plants–and these are proven technologies. And we need to be more rigorous in adopting energy efficiency techniques the minute they come to market.

    I am confident we will figure out how to do this. My message is aimed at those who think we already have. We have not.

  95. There appear to be some assumptions in the OP that don’t reflect reality well nor the march of technological progress.

    The poor lead short brutish lives? Hardly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

    The short brutish lives are overwhelmingly in Africa. Largely due to being war ravaged with corrupt governments, high tolls from HIV & malaria, subsistence farming, lack of adequate sanitation, and so forth.

    For the rest of the world life expectancy at birth ranges from 70 to 80. Where life expectancy at birth is 70 years that’s not short or brutish by any stretch of the imagination.

    The United States is far from the leader of the longevity pack at #38 yet it has almost the highest per capita income and energy consumption. Leading a healthy lifestyle and being born of parents with long lives is what makes the big difference. Per capita income and energy consumption has little to do with it in comparison. Lifestyle is largely a matter of culture (nurture) and while we can’t choose our parents that isn’t a matter of energy or economics but rather of genetics (nature).

    Rate of natural increase (birth rate – death rate) rate decelerates as average life span goes up. Many nations are now below 1%, a few are below 0%, and the trend is almost exclusively downward as seen in the list below by country comparing 1990-1995 average RNI country with the period 2005-2010.

    http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/indicators/138.html

    So longevity we find is not very much a matter of energy consumption or per capita income.

    How about happiness – satisfaction with life and sense of well being? Get ready for another shock. That doesn’t follow per capita wealth, energy consumption, or even longevity. It’s all about culture. Hard as it is to believe for westerners and the wealthy all over – you can be dirt poor and still be very likely to be happy and in love with life. See the list below of 96 nations listed by reported sense of well being for more than a few shockers for those of you who think happiness is related to longevity, per capita income, and energy consumption.

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsmedia/pr111725/pr111725.pdf

    With those things cleared up the OP author seems to presume there are no breakthrough technologies on the way that will solve many if not most of the sustainability issues now and in the foreseeable future. What most everyone misses is the exponentially advancing field of genetic engineering and artificial genomes. We are literally on the cusp of designing and harnessing simple single celled organisms with wholly artificial genomes. The engineering and medical opportunities that flow from that make today’s farming, energy generation, medicine, and manufacturing look stone age in comparison.

    The earth gets a tremendous amount of solar energy and we harvest very little of it in raw energy or the carbon and water cycles it drives. Through genetic engineering we can harvest so much of it that it puts fossil fuel in perspective. That perspective is that fossil fuel was a mere stepping stone on the way to the way to the next transformative technology that makes it obsolete – a rather short chapter in the book of man.

    Biotechnology and bioengineering will soon be more transformative than anything that preceded it including fire, metallurgy, agriculture, money, mass production, fuel oil, electricity, antibiotics, mass transit, electronics, computers, and communications. It’s huge and its near. I’ve been keeping a very close eye on it for 23 years. The progress has been tremendous and it’s now advancing like Moore’s Law for semi-conductors. Actually the computer and information revolution was prerequisite and was predicted over 40 years ago in the 1960’s in Project Xanadu. I got involved with that in the late 1970’s and spent the following 25 years as an engineer closely associated with Intel and Microsoft R&D inventing and improving the techonology and accumulating shares of stock like a good capitalist. Can I pick some winners or what?

    As an engineer with a perfect track record at predicting transformative technologies I’m here to tell you that the engineering opportunties for practical application engendered by biotechnology and bioengineering exceed every transformative technology that came before it. A world of great material abundance is close at hand. The question is whether it will increase the happiness quotient. That’s not so clear. Humans appear to be equally capable of being miserable in lap of luxury or its opposite celebrating the dawning of every day with only the barest necessities.

  96. Nice to see you back GM… oh, sorry, Gray Monk. You two seem so similar. ;-)

    The best way to slow down the rate of population growth is to improve economic growth in poorer nations. By increasing the GDP per person these nations will experience the benefits of our own society: improved health care, improved education, lower birth rates and higher life expectancy. The only way to achieve this is access to cheap energy.

    Instead of imposing the West’s (i.e. the UN’s) will upon them, as so many progressives are fond of doing, these countries must be allowed to take part in the global economy. For too long now, they have been dependent on the handouts (economic welfare) and are unable (or unwilling) to break this cycle, whether from abdicating their future to diktats of foreign aid agencies or internal corruption in forms of “government” that hinder innovation and growth, or both. Now, to keep these nations in perpetual poverty or to hamstring their growth, the UN and AGWers insist that these countries not be allowed to use their own resources (i.e. cheap energy) but must only use the most expensive forms of energy generation on the planet. Solar panels or turbines might be fine on the top of your modest little home in central Africa but they cannot power a steel mill or an open pit mine—and anyone who says we are close to doing just that is flat-out lying. It is economic Imperialism.

    I admit that the stone in the shoe is Human Rights—how much should we expect a country to live up to OUR standards? Do we have the right to impose OUR beliefs on them or do we make it a condition of participation? The only practical and effective way to influence a country’s Human Right’s record is thru’ the free market, where individuals make the decision of who to buy from based on personal preferences (e.g. do I want to buy a cheap rug or pair of shoes that were made by children? Where exactly is the diamond in that ring from?).

    There will be some who jump up and down about the effects that access to cheap energy will have on the environment in these nations. Valid points, I’m sure but, as their economies improve and standards of living rise, the more intolerant their populations will become. They will demand changes when the risks start to outweigh the benefits, and as their economies grow they will be able to afford the technologies that we enjoy to solve those environmental challenges. (China is just starting to enter this phase—the social and environmental convulsions that occurred in the US and Europe from the ’50s to the ’70s have not yet happened there… but they will as the population becomes less dependent on the government and more self sufficient.) Here again, the free market can decide the fate of a country’s economic future—Do I buy food, like garlic or tilapia, from China? Not a chance because their farming practices are sketchy at best.

    It’s clear that with affordable energy poor nations can pull themselves out of their welfare dependency, replace corrupt or totalitarian governments, and become economically independent states that produce goods that have a market. And me and you, dear reader, get to decide whether these nations succeed or fail, improve or remain static, because of our freedom to decide from whom and where we buy.
    [end of rant]

  97. People have been very harsh with the Gray Monk. Do I think that we are over-populated for the currently available resources? No. Do I think that we are overpopulated on a sustainability basis? Maybe!?

    I’ll admit that I have no idea what the sustainable population of the earth is, but I think that a blind reliance on technology allowing continued growth in agricultural yield rates is somewhat arrogant. Mainly because it’s not always clear what caused the growth in land productivity. How much is new plant species? How much is fossil fuel based fertilizers? How much is fossil fuel based pesticides? How much is improved irrigation? How much is mechanization? How much is a synergistic affect from all the above combined? etc…

    Even if we can answer the above questions (and I’m sure there are some people that have some of these answers), the next question you have to ask is which of these technology affects are sustainable? New plant species presumably are, provided that their main advantage is not better uptake and conversion of fossil-fuel based fertilizers. Fossil fuel based fertilizers and pesticides are not in the long run, though that long run may be on the order hundreds of years from now. Mechanization is possibly sustainable. Irrigation is another qestionable one. There is a maximum rate that an aquifer can be drawn down by every year without “drying it up”. Population growth taxes the amount of irrigation that can be done out of an aquifer.

    I admit that Gray Monk’s post was harsh in tone, but at the end of the day it is possible that the current world’s current population is unsupportable when you take away the unsustainable technologies allowing for the type of food productivity we have today. I don’t condone genocide, and would never make a “list”. But I will allow for the possibility that we are living beyond the long term sustainability point of this planet.

  98. If you read Thomas Fuller’s text more carefully, you will find it is
    not Malthusian. The ‘movable parts’ seem to be energy demand
    per capita and energy provision/form.
    What maybe upsets many here is the notion of limits.
    Well, although they cannot always be reliably defined today, limits
    there certainly are:
    – fossil fuels
    – phosphorus
    – groundwater
    – biomass production per hectare, even taking into account
    biotechnology etc
    – metals
    – minimum biodiversity, for instance pollinators

    Population is probably one of the distant limits, but
    minimum quality of life for all is here and now.

  99. Starting with Malthus, those Deeply Concerned about Humanity have been engaged in these asinine projectional exercises. The meaning of “Stupid” is “the inability to learn”. These people are stupid.

    In the market, supply will meet demand at a price. To the extent that governments and dogooders interfere, the supply will be lower and the price higher. As many above have pointed out, there is plenty of energy for all, if the market is allowed to perform. Sadly, many will push for interference with the market, no doubt with claims of noble intent. The poor will suffer.

  100. 2005 was probably the “Peak Production” year for oil.

    Coal is a “finite” resource. It will peak, also. Think of a “Coal Train” 1,000 miles long. That’s what China uses, Every day.

    Germany has, for the last several years, been heavily into subsidizing Solar, Wind, and Biomass. They just announced 8.8% “Annualized” Growth this quarter. We will have plenty of energy. We’re just going to be a little smarter about how we get it.

  101. What is the biggest “hide the decline” in data analysis? It’s not about world surface temperature, but China’s TFR (total fertility rate).

    Since 1990, China’s TFR went down below 2.0 owing to the state’s birth-control and the economic reform. In 2000, according to the fifth population census, TFR is only 1.22. But the birth-control ministry abandoned this number; they claim a “real” number of 1.8, and use it as constants for the twenty years (1990-2010).

    So not to many people know the fact that the aging and implosion of China’s population will occur much earlier than expected; and China cannot keep the current growth for ten years, just due to aging population and lack of young labors.

    This problem has already been addressed in demographic studies in the recent years. In 2009 the US Census changed the forecast:

    http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/international_population/cb09-191.html

    As for the cause and effect of China’s birth control, UCLA’s Profs. Feng Wang and Susan Greenhalgh have numerous excellent works. China’s birth control policy warns us why people should be extremely cautious about the climate policies.

    Susan Greenhalgh:
    Just one child: science and policy in Deng’s China

    http://books.google.com/books?id=MjLdqh9lMgcC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Feng Wang et al.:
    BELOW-REPLACEMENT FERTILITY AND CHILDBEARING INTENTION IN JIANGSU PROVINCE, CHINA

    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a917991668

  102. “a modern lifestyle–in America that amounts to 327 billion btus per person per year in energy consumption. In Denmark, it’s a much more modest 161 billion btus. ”

    Should those figures be in something other than billions of BTUs in order to match with the totals for world usage given in quadrillions of BTUs, or am I being stupid here? Not that it makes a blind bit of difference to the point, of course.

    Interesting stuff – have you considered that the energy companies are investing (government grants) in ‘green’ technologies because they agree with you that we’re going to need to increase world energy production massively?

  103. It seems as though the graph provided represents “cherry picking” by Lynn Orr, a global warming advocate who has a large stake in Government grants at Stanford. If you look at his presentation on the “end of oil” presentation, he even admits that this chart varies considerably from other sources.
    The graph shows oil peaking at around 30 billion bbl/year in 2020 whereas the DOE estimates provided show oil peaking at 53 Billion barrels/yr. in 2037, and there has been a lot of oil discovered since 2004. Looks somewhat like the kind of adjustments NASA makes to the data

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/feature_articles/2004/worldoilsupply/oilsupply04.html

    “Thus, if the USGS mean resource estimate proves to be correct, if 2 percent production growth continues until peak production is reached, and if production then declines at an R/P ratio of 10, world conventional crude oil production would be expected to peak in 2037 at a volume of 53.2 billion barrels per year.”

  104. The problem with renewable energy technologies is that they are all inherently much more expensive than coal and oil. It doesn’t matter if you subsidize them to be “competitive” — that just moves the location of the drain on wealth to the government side (which, with bureacracy, results in even greater overall wealth losses).

    If you force renewables on the world through mandates or subsidies, the increased global cost of energy will flow into the price and availability of all products. Economic multipliers make this impact severe, particularly for food and medical care.

    Standards of living will fall everywhere. This means that people who are almost starving, will starve. Frequency and severity of epidemics will increase.

    If you institute vast aid programs to help the 1-2 billion poor cope with the increased costs, then the economies of the developed world become heavily compromised. Production falls, costs go up even more. You kill the golden goose.

    The end result is catastrophic. The whole world falls into a poverty crisis. A very large number of people die.

    Every government mandate, every tax, and every subsidy always end up causing increased human suffering, often in places far removed from those that vote them.

    The crisis of course will be blamed on capitalism, “unsustainable” technologies, and the greed of the United States.

  105. evanmjones says:
    August 13, 2010 at 8:05 am
    “Since Carter sounded the alarm, we have multiplied out potential reserves many times. And there’s virtually unlimited secondary supply, and I haven’t even touched on how we’ve tied our own hands.”

    Amen! The tying of our own hands because of greenie whining is the only thing that humans are to blame for in matters of energy and climate. I’m not saying there is no pollution going on or that we should stop true environmental problems (like the abundance of kindling if the forests or big industries dumping tons of nasty chemicals into a river), but let’s use the fuel we know we can get to for as long as we can and find new solutions over the course of however many decades or centuries we have until they run out. Let’s add new refineries to lower the price of gas and therefore the price of transportation and therefore the overall cost of everything! By the time we run out of the misnomered fossil fuels, maybe fusion will be a reality and then we can all jsut worry about where we will store the highly toxic and radioactive plasma by-products (yes, that a joke).

  106. “Louis Hissink says:
    August 13, 2010 at 4:20 am
    Some points:
    1. Peak Oil theory is not a scientific fact.
    2. Petroleum is buried biomass is not a scientific fact.
    3. Plate Tectonics is not a scientific fact.
    4. The Big Bang is not a scientific fact.
    5. AGW is not a scientific fact.”

    I’m with you on all except number 3? Not proven physically, measurement, observation??

    cheers David

    \\I also see plate tectonics is beyond a mere belief. #3

    HC

  107. Oil (oleum) from rock (petra) is a scientific and reproducible fact:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/99/17/10976.full

    Lakes of methane on Titan is a scientific fact.
    “Underground oceans of the stuff” on Earth is a scientific fact:

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/01_15/b3727001.htm

    Replenishing wells in the Gulf of Mexico is a scientific fact:

    http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf124/sf124p10.htm

    And I have an estimated 500 year supply of peak coal in my backyard:

    http://www.google.com/webhp#hl=en&safe=off&q=victoria+coal+500+years

  108. Kum Dollison:
    Germany has, for the last several years, been heavily into subsidizing Solar, Wind, and Biomass. They just announced 8.8% “Annualized” Growth this quarter. We will have plenty of energy. We’re just going to be a little smarter about how we get it.
    ———-
    I don’t know where you are getting that 8.8% figure because it is reported to be 2.2% for Q2.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703960004575426572933053474.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    Of note:
    “Economists say growth is likely to slow in the latter half of the year as stimulus measures run their course and governments cut spending to reduce their budget deficits.

    “The quarter-on-quarter growth rate in [the second quarter] is unlikely to be sustained in the second half of the year,” said Ken Wattret, chief euro-zone market economist at BNP Paribas. “Our feeling is that 2011 growth will be significantly weaker than 2010.”

  109. Thomas Fuller,

    Thank you. Your post is a stimulus to look beyond the veil of the current energy paradigm.

    For a world future where there are predominately free capitalist economies, there is no problem to be solved for future energy supply of any amount or on any timeline/schedule. It is what they (capitalists) do and do profitably.

    For a world future where there are predominately government-controlled-economies, there is no solution to the problem of our future energy situation. This is because the basis of those governments control (existence) requires there to be problem. This scenario is the high tax burdened government dominated (less free) one.

    As for mixed economies, well you start our getting mixed results that degenerate (because of for example an incomplete solving of the energy problem) into fully government controlled economies. In my view the “mixed economy” approach is the worst because it tends to lend credibility to the government control of the economy at the expense of the free capitalist part. But the capitalist part is the only one doing productive and effecient work.

    Thank you for listening to my version of “economics in one lessen”. My apologies to Henry Hazlitt for using his terminology.

    John

  110. Kum Dollison says:
    August 13, 2010 at 1:53 am

    It is not only “quite likely” that finite fossil fuel resources will peak, it’s a dead-dog certainty.

    Wind Does Work, especially when it’s combined with Solar, Biogas, or, best of all, both. Wind is, now, considered cheaper than Nuclear, and, unlike nuclear, its cost-curve is heading down, not up.

    The folks I talk to at Xcel have quite a lot of experience with wind, and they aren’t happy about its utility factor, cost, or how it changes the way they have to operate their coal-fired plants at present.

    The cost of producing Solar panels is down in the $1.00/watt, range. The only reason solar is still relatively expensive is a shortage of certiified installers. As the number of these ramp up we will be seeing “installed” solar in the vicinity of $2.00/watt.

    It is difficult to install wind for $2/W. Where do you get these numbers for solar?

    Finland gets 30% of their electricity from paper, and pulp mills. We could, easily, get 200 Gigawatts from “waste heat recovery” from Steel Mills, etc.

    That’s 1/2 of our entire electrical consumption from waste heat in just steel mills?

    We will have 10 to 20 million gal/yr “cellulosic” ethanol plants in every county. These biorefineries will operate off Municipal Solid Waste (Fiberight has the cost of this down to $1.65/gal,) switchgrass (Genera, Poet projecting $2.00 or less/gal,) and forestry/ag waste. A Serious Co-Product of these biorefineries will be lignin, converted to biogas, to power 57% efficient Turbines which can be ramped up, and down quickly to follow wind, and solar.

    This is all extremely simple stuff. And, actually, not very expensive.

    This sounds pretty good, but Fiberight’s website reads more like a brochure, and they really only speak of a pilot plant at this point. A 2007 special issue of Science was a good deal more cautious in its estimates about cellulosic ethanol–the beer for example could only achieve about 4% ETOH, compared to over 10% using grain–and other renewables. They were projecting costs like you quote somewhere beyond 10 years out. The proven technology at present is SYNGAS from municipal waste, or for biofuels is ethanol from grain, and I figure that to reach 50% of US gasoline consumption (i.e. produce 60 billion gallons per year) would just about destroy the environment of North America.

    Do you have some references to back up these claims?

  111. More good comments. I’m heading out the door, so I’ll limit my response to Dave Springer.

    The corollary of my argument is obviously a closer look at the technologies that actually will shape the 21st Century, and they do include nanoetechnology, genomics and proteomics and their applied use in biotechnology. And I think they are directly applicable to both energy production and energy efficiency measures.

    In fact, one of the reasons I did this research and wrote this piece was to help myself understand why we are focusing so much of our time and resources on technologies that are either millenia (wind) or centuries (solar and biofuels) old and ignoring the potential of bio and nano technology.

    Unlike Mr. Springer, I don’t see the exponential growth here that I would like. It grew very rapidly for a decade, but it seems to have stalled–due in my mind to obstacles in our current intellectual property management systems.

    I very much would like to see bio-engineered organisms that eat CO2 and provide energy in return on a large scale, and nano-coatings that reduce friction for roads, tires, train-tracks and wheels, aircraft fuselages, ad infinitum.

    But spending ever more money on ever more expensive offshore wind farms in my mind is a vanity purchase and is not advancing the cause.

  112. One excerpt summed up the problem:
    “It may well be that the DOE and the UN have correctly identified what governments are willing to build and provide in the way of new energy”

    If it is left up to governments and the UN, then there will definitely NOT be sufficient construction of energy generation. Governments only have incentive to provide to the most politically connected groups, while taking away from others. In fact, there’s a perverse incentive to maintain a scarcity, so that the politicians can gradually promise to “solve” the problem for different groups of people over time to get elected, and blame the other party (in the US at least) for getting in the way of providing more power to the losers. If there is no problem, then how do you get people to vote for you? “We wanted to raise taxes to provide more power for the children and elderly, but those evil, child-hating SOB’s on the other side blocked this tax increase.”

    The technologies for generation similarly are not selected, sized, and located based on efficiency or return on investment, or any of the things that a business would seek to achieve. Only those who can have the largest tales of woe or are the biggest donors will be favored. Of course there would be some oscillation of which groups are favored as leadership changes.

    If the opposite direction is taken, letting producers and consumers freely exchange money for energy rather than being dependent on government and taxes, can the energy needs of the world will be met. Even in the US, where there is a great deal of regulation but generation and delivery is still left to the private sector, we have enough energy to support the freedom of the citizens. In Denmark, they use less energy, but spend more money on it (higher taxes), and certainly have less freedom in using it. Do you want central planners in Washington to decide what temperature to keep your house and at what time you can wash your dishes or clothes (drying them outside, of course)?

  113. Trolls accuse others of what they themselves are doing. We get accused of getting Oil Money–I wish!

    One of the Climategate e-mails was about getting funding from Shell Oil.

    This article shows why–demand for oil won’t stop because of “Greenie” nonsense. But supply can be cut, and that boosts prices–and profits.

  114. Energy is life. We all need a certain amount of energy to live. There are people who will die or never be born as a result of the energy lost in the Gulf Oil Leak.

  115. Tom Fuller says:
    “I very much would like to see bio-engineered organisms that eat CO2 …”

    I’m not exactly sure what your position is on AGW or how Peak Oil fits into your scheme of things in this website, but to add my 2 cents worth –

    First I find pollution disgusting and the less we pollute the better it would be. Fossil fuels pollute, but are there better alternates? Plants eat CO2 to grow, so what would be the purpose of creating organisms that eat CO2 to compete with plants? Will these new organisms fit into our environment or will they come back to haunt us? How nano-materials interact with our environment is a big unknown. Again, in 50 years will we be hearing about pending environmental disasters caused by nano technologies? How would making our roads slipperier solve any problems but cause more accidents? It seems like every new generation has a crusade against some form of new technology put in place by an older generation.

    Second, Malthus has been wrong for the last 200 years. Believe it or not, population growth has given us the markets to drive our economic expansion and innovations. Without it, the West would still be in the medieval ages. As baby boomers retire and the population of the West declines, we will see more economic deterioration in the years ahead.

    This brings me to the last point. Global warming? Peak Oil? This is nothing that the West has to worry about because if we are at Peak Oil, then the problems of AGW, if there is one, will be resolved without our help. But more importantly, the continued economic deterioration of the West will make Global Warming and Peak Oil non-issues in the year ahead.

  116. Kevin Kilty, about the 200 Gigawatts, read here:

    http://cleantechnica.com/2010/08/09/nearly-200-gigawatts-of-us-energy-is-wasted/

    Kevin, I used to be (many years ago) in the solar hot water business in Fl. Panels are easy to install. Right now, we’ve ramped up so quickly, that we don’t have anywhere near the number of “certified” people we need. The “installation” companies are getting a Huge price for installation. Trust me, this will change.

    Novozymes, and Dupont Danisco have made Gigantic leaps forward in the last year on the cost of the enzymes for cellulosic ethanol They’ve dropped the cost of enzymes by roughly 90%, from about $5.00 per gallon of ethanol, down to $0.50/gal. $2.00, and less, per gallon (wo subsidies) are here.

    There is no reason why having 5% of our marginal/waste land in switchgrass, opposed, for example, to scrub bushes, and weeds would “destroy the environment.” Quite the contrary, we won’t be digging up heavy metals, and carcinogens and releasing them into the atmosphere. We’ll just be recirculating the minerals, and gases that are already here.

  117. Tom Fuller says:
    August 13, 2010 at 10:14 am
    “[...]
    I very much would like to see bio-engineered organisms that eat CO2 and provide energy in return on a large scale, and nano-coatings that reduce friction for roads, tires, train-tracks and wheels, (emphasis mine) aircraft fuselages, ad infinitum. [...]“

    We already have that technology. It’s called “Ice” and we spend a few billion dollars in the U.S. each year on various chloride compounds and grits trying to remediate ice’s disasterous effects.

    Roads, tires, friction; good.
    Roads, tires, rolling resistance; bad.

  118. Thomas, by your own chart speculate on how much energy would be available is you jut don’t axe coal, natural gas, crude oil, and fail to develop shale to the max?

    If you just extrapolate a straight line out of those, the “total energy production” number is in a much better place. The decreases in each of those areas are projected precisely because of climate as opposed to availability of resources.

  119. I agree generally with the idea but it should be tailored back a bit by technological change that will improve efficiencies in generation/waste heat recovery and there reduced unit consumption in transportation, etc. This is a given. Add the effect of comparatively muich higher energy costs and there will be lifestyle changes – not driving your car 4 blocks to the store, city planning that takes into consideration thrifting on energy. I hope I can make it to 2030 to collect my prize but I would go with the Denmark (1200 quads) model for the world, minus tech improvements – 25% or 900 quads – the UN and DOE may not be that far off.

  120. You have 327 x 10^9 BTU per USA person per year, which is way too much. That comes out to
    (327 x 10^9 BTU per person) x (380 x 10^6 persons) = 124260 x 10^15 BTU =
    124260 quads per year for USA. A bit large since world consumption is about 500 quads.
    Of course the above may be wrong if your billion is different than a USA billion.
    Your bogus comparison of USA with Denmark, a country with population 380 million to a country of 5.5 million, as Denmark being more modest than the USA in energy use, is not even close to modest. A country with about 1/69 the population and using about 1/2 the energy is not a modest user.

  121. The way I calculate it, the Athabasca tar sands – if all the heavy crude was recoverable – could supply the needs of the US for around 2,500 years. Perhaps the time will soon come when western Canada will become the most important place in the world for the US.

    “There are several notable tar sands deposits around the world. Probably the best known is the Athabasca Tar Sands, also known as the Canada tar sands. The Alberta Energy Resources and Conservation Board estimated that 173 billion barrels of oil are recoverable with the total size of the deposit to be 1.7 trillion barrels.”

  122. People who say that we have too many humans should be the first to volunteer and reduce the numbers. Unless, of course, they mean that there are too many OTHER people, in which case they should say so. We are all other to them.

  123. Reading “The Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley would be beneficial for most of the posters in this thread. Especially for all of you who buy into the Malthusian/Ehrlichian nonsense. Two people who, I might had, have been shown to be wrong on almost all accounts. Using biofuels and other land intensive energy solutions is the exact opposite way to keep mankind on an upward trajectory with respect to standard of living. Intensification and specialization will provide benefits that we haven’t even thought of yet. Retreating into some sort of mythical self sufficient hunter gatherer noble savage ethos will, in fact, push most of us into poverty.

    Additionally, I have to give props to Layne Blanchard for a very good post.

  124. “The sources and quantities of energy we make available to the world will determine what our planet will look like in the medium term.
    There’s no getting around that”.

    Right, but the anxiety of this posting is based on the “Peak Oil scare story” the “terrible” impact fossil fuels have on the planet and the “fear” for population growth and the quest for the clean electric future that isn’t realistic.

    –“Peak Lithium” for batteries -demand will
    soon increase cost, long before oil shortages
    occur.
    –“Peak Neodymium” (rare earth for motor
    magnets) –China has 95% of the resource
    and has already started limiting exports.
    Appears more critical than Oil
    Independence.

    Predictions for “Peak” Oil,
    Lithium and Neodymium are all wrong.
    • Oil reserves have been calculated for 90 years
    and each decade the prediction of ‘years
    remaining’ has increased.
    • The alarmists always leave something out –
    the creativity of the human mind; the ability
    to find better ways to find and mine the
    resource or to find alternatives.
    • None of earth’s resources will be critical in the
    future as long as creative minds are free.

    Fact is that oil and gas for now has the lowest impact on the planet compared to any renewable energy sources in terms of energy density, land use and price and we have plenty of it
    Besides that, a green planet results from a CO 2-fertilized
    atmosphere, not a CO2-starved atmosphere.

    So, what’s the problem?

  125. The “problem” is crude oil reached its “Peak Flow Rate” in 2005.

    Those that study “depletion” statistics from existing fields, and New projects scheduled, and, not yet sanctioned, are pretty unanimous that it’s pretty much downhill, from here. The DOD, in its “Joint Operations Environment” Report predicts serious shortfalls by 2015.

    Athabasca Tar Sands? That is one dirty operation. And Expensive. Even with $75.00 oil there’s not much expansion planned up there. And, just wait till one of those earthen dams breaks.

    2012, folks. Today, the world is producing about 73 million barrels/day of crude + Condensate. In 2012 that drops to about 71 million barrels/day. I suggest a fuel efficient FFV.

  126. R. de Haan

    Oil reserves have been calculated for 90 years and each decade the prediction of ‘years remaining’ has increased.

    Your “Oil” is pretty elastic. The “Beverly Hillbillies” missed the coon and out gushed oil. So with Saudi light crude.
    Bitumen in winter has the consistency of a Canadian hockey puck. US LIGHT oil peaked in 1970 and has been declining since, forcing US imports up 5%/year. To recovery and upgrade bitumen to “syncrude” requires $100,000/bbl/day plus converting 3 barrels of water to steam per barrel of bitumen recovered. e.g., costing about $50/bbl.

    Replacing 100 million barrels/day (~1000 barrels/sec) would from bitumen require about $10 trillion – PLUS “some” environmental approvals!

    “Peak oil” must be modeled for each region for each different type of resource.

    See Tad Patzek “Exponential growth, energetic Hubbert cycles, and the advancement of technology”

    Lloyds already warns of a supply crunch with rapid increases in price. When trillions of dollars and fiscal sovereignty is at stake, you better not make mistakes. Your approach would likely shut down half of our economy.

  127. What y’all wanta bet that the Malthusians in the audience are also CAGWers? The self-debasing hatred of mankind motivates a lot of the “True Believers.”

    Personally, if they’re going to pick on mankind, the also need to shutdown the chimps and other animals using tools. If they don’t, the next cycle will have all the same “problems” we do. /sarc

  128. We are discussing climate and weather on a fantastic board.
    The world wants to weld the topic of climate to energy and consumption,

    Actually the same people want to control food, energy , wealth, education and even more population (yep eugenics) and place values on freedom from travel to speech.

  129. There was an interesting story awhile back in the area of anthropology on the demise of the human population of the South Pacific’s Easter Island. Population growth exploding and resources shrinking till… POOF!… all the people were gone and the island was bare. The Earth is an island in the middle of nowhere. It doesn’t care who or what is roaming around, there’s only so much, when that’s gone –and there ain’t no more– it’s over, and the Earth gradually recovers, and something else is the Big Cheese –maybe.

    Unless someone comes up with a warp drive and a few other fancyful inventions in the next 20 years, the story will go in a very well rehearsed way. Someone will get a bright idea. They will start a war. The war will expand rapidly. It will be called World War III –or something like that. It will go on for a few long years, maybe even longer than that. Carpet bombing with nucs, using chem-bio weapons galore, eventually someone will win and likely billions will have died of war, disease, starvation, exposure, or what not. Then peace will once again rule the stars and the little speck of dust in the middle of nowhere.

    When politicians and scientists fail, scientists and generals rule.

  130. Dave Springer says:
    August 13, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Biotechnology and bioengineering will soon be more transformative than anything that preceded it including fire, metallurgy, agriculture, money, mass production, fuel oil, electricity, antibiotics, mass transit, electronics, computers, and communications. It’s huge and its near. . .

    Mr. Springer is almost certainly right. Though the potential dangers of our being able to create new kinds of living organisms from scratch are great (think biological warfare), so are the potential benefits. My first inkling of this came from the pen of the superb SF writer Jack Vance, in a novel called The Houses of Iszm (1964), wherein the technicians of Iszm had created a monopoly on houses of their invention grown from seed. We are not so far away from that now.

    Much of the work done today by machines and structures built of inanimate materials could conceivably be done by living, or quasi-living things. Indeed, the production of hydrocarbon fuels, already possible today with algae, may well be the simplest of the new biotechnologies to come.

    Can you imagine a living spaceship? I can.

    The future is wide open, if we don’t let the naysayers close the door.

    /Mr Lynn

  131. nandheeswaran jothi says:
    August 13, 2010 at 6:00 am

    great analysis.
    one little typo.

    when you said, “They will want what they perceive as a modern lifestyle–in America that amounts to 327 billion btus per person per year in energy consumption”
    you meant 327 million btu per capita, right?
    ———————-
    the numbers do seem to be off by factor 1000 don’t they.

  132. Tom Fuller says: (August 13, 2010 at 10:14 am) “I very much would like to see bio-engineered organisms that eat CO2 …”

    And if these organisms get loose and spread uncontrollably, causing a global CO2 plant starvation event…

    I think this is perhaps one of the worst possible results of the current popular anti-CO2 hysteria. I hope no one is ever allowed to act on such a potentially dangerous idea.

  133. The Grey Monk reminds me of why I’ve always thought of environmentalists as little Hitler’s. They believe there are too many of us and it is their plan to do something about it.

  134. Keith Battye is Julian Simon reincarnate, with on-the-ground experience.

    To quote:
    “I live in sub-Saharan Africa and we are already experiencing black outs because the energy infrastructure inherited from colonialism has not been maintained adequately and the necessary investments in new energy sources and distribution has not been made. As a consequence we have widespread deforestation as individuals need to cook their food and warm themselves. It is true that we have governments that don’t care a fig about their populations or economic development beyond that required to keep the ruling class in Versace, Blue Label and Mercedes but we also have a bunch of “well meaning” eco freaks who don’t want to see hydro power or coal power plants and definitely not nuclear here. These well meaning types continually push for “renewables” and green solutions which all keep the poor living like stone age scavengers but they have a solar panel or two to drive the local propaganda radio. No wonder so many of my countrymen head off to the west at the first possible opportunity.

    As long as these NGO’s are able to try out their experiments in sustainability here , while bribing the ruling class with Aid there will never be an upsurge in energy use as described by the author.

    Another point I would like to make is that this continuing canard about using up finite resources will lead to us having shortages of everything over time is just silly. Where has everything gone? Isn’t it still here on Earth? It will be used again and again as new technology arrives to make such a thing economically viable. If that doesn’t happen remember the Earth’s crust is between 10km and 100km thick and it is everywhere. Has anybody taken a stab at what percentage of that crust has been exploited so far, to say nothing of the nodules at the bottom of the sea. Surface area is definitely finite but the volume is essentially unlimited and just awaits technology ( e.g. deep offshore drilling ) to be developed.

    The single biggest constraint right now on human development is poor governance while energy available to all mankind is essentially limitless. Energy drives development and the current drive by the warmistas and incompetent governments to deny all citizens access to cheap energy is all about control and nothing more.

    Energy leads to so many good things. Education, small families, leisure, a clean environment, the list is as long as you would like. It can also lead to war, oppression and worse it all just depends on good governance. If you care about your environment, your self actualization, the future of your children and the wellbeing of Earth then be a democrat. Push democracy everywhere you can whenever you can. It may not be perfect but it at least allows us to strive towards something more perfect and nothing else does.

    Population is not a problem. Resource availability is not a problem. Those who think it is , having found themselves a nice place on the big boat that is Earth just want to keep anybody new from enjoying what they do already. Science, technology, engineering can solve all of the energy and resource issues but it takes good governance to create the environment for progress to happen. Not through the wicked coercion we see far too often but through the enablement of society to progress as it sees fit.

    Yes there will be wars, pestilence, plague, floods and worse but those are the price humankind has paid throughout history for progress and I believe we are the most evolved generation so far seen on Earth and the young ones coming up behind us now show even more promise than we do. Push back these anti-democratic anti-scientists and lets move ever forward in the evolutionary game. We will not destroy ourselves , not even nature has manged that so far, and the more we know the more likely we are to survive and spread.

    Sorry about the rant but I am not of a dystopian nature and I do believe we are , collectively and separately unique. The anti-science brigade are just nostalgic for a badly remembered halcyon past that never was because like all of our childhoods things seemed so much simpler then.”

    My compliments to you, sir.

  135. There is no ‘promised land’ of renewable energy. So called renewable energy is the same energy humans were using for thousands of years before fossil fuels allowed them to escape an existence of terrible poverty. Did the sun start shining brighter? Did the wind start blowing harder and with the reliability of a clock? No? Then what makes anyone think those things can power our modern civilization now?

    The graph shows nuclear and coal energy in decline after 2020. This is laughable. The planet has centuries worth of easily accessible, cheap coal. This is what the developing world will turn to without reservation. They don’t care about western environmental theories, they want to have decent lives. And nuclear is the only truly long term (billion year), environmentally friendly energy source which can power our civilization. As a race nuclear is our future if we want to have a future that’s any better than the poor saps who came before us, living off the sun and wind, and working 12 hour days just to have enough food to stay alive until 30-35.

    We have failed the developing world. We fail them with our nonsense about green energy and global warming. We should be fully developing nuclear power for electricity, and coal for vehicle fuels. (We’re a good 10-20 years away from affordable, usable EVs. After that it will take another 20-30 years to turn over the existing auto fleet. So we need liquid auto fuels that can run in existing engines for at least 30 and probably 50 more years.) Our goal should be to make energy as cheap and widely available as possible. Anything less is sentencing the entire human race to a harsher existence.

  136. I quote Mr. Fuller:

    “It may well be that the DOE and the UN have correctly identified what governments are willing to build and provide in the way of new energy–but if they are correct, we are condemning billions of people to needlessly live a wretched existence that they would avoid if they could.”

    And

    James H says:
    August 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

    picked up on it as well.

    Reply: How did we humans allow ourselves to get to this place where we are at the mercy of “what governments are willing to build and provide in the way of new energy”. How is this an acceptable concept and moreover conventional wisdom? The marxist/socialist/collectivist/central planning/media lapdog “elites” have brought us to this juncture.

    They know what’s “right” for the climate. They know what’s “right” for the world’s economies. They know what’s “right” for our lifestyles. And it is and will be literally killing us.

    But yet the independent thinkers among us know that they are dead wrong! And there is an answer. Just as this ‘blog shines the light of day on the CAGW hoax, fr further enlightenment give a visit to lewrockwell.com

  137. A big brain fart hit me when I wrote this:
    “Your bogus comparison of USA with Denmark, a country with population 380 million to a country of 5.5 million, as Denmark being more modest than the USA in energy use, is not even close to modest. A country with about 1/69 the population and using about 1/2 the energy is not a modest user.”
    Obviously (160 x 10^9) x (5.5 x 10^6) is not half 0f the USA yearly usage.

  138. Kum Dollison says:
    August 13, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Kevin Kilty, about the 200 Gigawatts, read here:

    http://cleantechnica.com/2010/08/09/nearly-200-gigawatts-of-us-energy-is-wasted/

    Kevin, I used to be (many years ago) in the solar hot water business in Fl. Panels are easy to install. Right now, we’ve ramped up so quickly, that we don’t have anywhere near the number of “certified” people we need. The “installation” companies are getting a Huge price for installation. Trust me, this will change….

    The author of your article needs a course in thermodynamics. Coal fired power plants “waste” 60% or more of the input energy because of the second law of thermodynamics. The waste heat occurs at about 60 degrees centigrade, and is fine for district heating, but it is not useful for much of anything else. So to the extent that people can send the waste heat to a district that can use it, then that is a great use, and people have known about it for a long time. The original generating station here in Cheyenne, for instance, was a combined thermal/electrical plant. There is a lot of co-gen going on in industry already, but it takes quite a while to replace industrial plants, so this is going to be a gradual process.

    When speaking of solar, I take it you are speaking of solar hot water. I thought you were referring to solar photovoltaic. The problem with solar hot water as I see it now is that a person still has to install the gas-fired water heater as well for the times the sun ain’t shinin’. The systems themselves are very expensive. Two dollars per watt is very expensive compared to a natural gas fired heater. If a person were overly concerned about the price of gas going sky-high, then invest in a heat-pump water heater that can simultaneously supply air conditioning in the summer.

    I agree with your premise that there is a lot we can do to increase efficiency, in fact industry increased efficiency amazingly after the energy price shocks of the 1970s. However, there are a lot of people who just through numbers out that make no sense or are out of context. The author of the article in your link is one.

    Finally, what would be ruinous would be planting the needed area to grains…that is what I was referring to. With regard to switchgrass, 5% of the U.S. is 100,000 square miles. That is the size of Wyoming! I do not know what you mean by 5% of our waste land. Give me a size. I’m going to guess that switchgrass is being over-sold. One does not get the needed biomass on just 5% of waste land, because there isn’t enough water. If you can, please, tell me how effective are these new enzymes for cellulose? My understanding is that at present the fermentation process for cellulose doesn’t work well — I mean, cellulose evolved to be non-fermentable for a reason.

  139. Oh, heck. In the previous post i meant “throw” numbers out, not “through”!

    lrshultis says:
    August 13, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    A big brain fart hit me when I wrote this:
    “Your bogus comparison of USA with Denmark, a country with population 380 million to a country of 5.5 million, as Denmark being more modest than the USA in energy use, is not even close to modest. A country with about 1/69 the population and using about 1/2 the energy is not a modest user.”
    Obviously (160 x 10^9) x (5.5 x 10^6) is not half 0f the USA yearly usage.

    Yes, but if you look at consumption for, say, Finland, you find they do use more electricity per capita than Americans do. So, just because some of these small countries use small amounts of energy, does not mean they are necessarily “efficient”. A good comparison might be energy per unit GDP.

  140. No, Kevin, I was referring to photovoltaics. I just threw the solar hw in there to reference that I have a small amount of experience contracting the installation of panels.

    Kevin, I’ve found that these things are easier when I break them down into “bite-sized” pieces. Let’s take my county. It’s about average size, I guess (the average U.S. county is approx 1,100 Sq Mi. IIRC.) We have some pretty fair farmland, and a lot of land in bushes, and weeds. Also, quite a bit in grass on which you’ll see a couple of cows, or a horsie (a little “tax” deal going on there, I believe.) I’d guess we have between 1/3 and 1/2 in rowcrops.

    Anyway, we easily have 300 – 400 sq miles in brush, scrub pine, and bushes, and another 200 sq miles in casual grazing. This is probably kind of a typical county in the South. So, would it be a big thing to convert 20% of that marginal-to-unused land to switchgrass, or hybrid poplar, or somesuch? Nah. You’d probably have to be paying attention to even notice.

    What you Would notice would be a lot of E85 pumps selling homegrown fuel for $1.75 – $1.85/gal. If you had one of the newer TDI engines such as is coming out in the new Buick Regal, and were getting the same mileage on ethanol, as on gasoline you would notice that you had more money in your pocket at the end of the day. And, there would be more “business” going on in your county because you weren’t sending all that money, and troops, to the Mideast.

    Poet, the world’s largest ethanol producer, figures their “Cobs to Ethanol” Plant, Project Liberty, will produce ethanol from cobs for about $2.00 W/O Subsidies. Genera Energy is looking in the same range for their switchgrass facility in Vonore, Tn. Inbicon is already using wheat straw in Denmark for about $2.35/gal.

    Switchgrass is for real. It was the breakthrough in “enzymes” that did it. As someone said, earlier, Biotechnology is turning into a monster. What I’m outlining will produce about 20 Million Gallons of ethanol/yr/county. A big coproduct is the approx. 80,000 btus of lignin that you get per gallon of ethanol “After” you’ve powered your process with it.

    That’s 9 Trillion, 600 Billion BTUs to be turned into electricity. Per County.

    Of course, I haven’t addressed the landfill over in the next county, yet. Fiberight can Produce a whole bunch of ethanol from the paper, etc. that was going into that.

    This isn’t any big deal, Kevin. The breakthrough in enzymes took care of that. From here on out it’s just “who wants to do it.”

  141. I find it amusing that the alternative fuel advocates, especially Pelosi who creates a huge personal carbon footprint with demands to be flown around in a wide body government aircraft every weeek, are so threatened by the huge potential of the oil sands that they spout out so much disinformation to discredit the the Canadian oil sands while spreading the risk of peak oil. Here are some facts:
    1) “At a world price of US$50 per barrel, the NEB estimated an integrated mining operation would make a rate return of 16 to 23%, while a SAGD operation would return 16 to 27%. ” This might be slightly different today but who cares, if the private investors decide to invest let them do so at the peril of loosing their money. The Alberta Government did subsidize development with research and probably continue to do so, but I am not aware of commercial plant subsidies. These projects have created considerable high paying skilled jobs and prosperity for numerous people. In 1978 the Syncrude project was built while oil was $12/barrel. Not a bad investment at $75/bbl

    2) In 2006, the Canadien tar sands are producing 1.126 million bbl/day since this has been a booming community in recent years. This capacity has probably increased since then but I did not find the latest. The fields are believed to contain up to 1.3 trillion Bbl of oil. This is clearly the second largest known oil source just behind Saudi. Think how this impacts the peak oil claims. Oil haters need to shut it down to alarm us about about running out of oil and needing expensive alternative and un reliable sources.

    3) The tar sands processing uses about 0.4% of the flow of the Athbasca river. Water use is not an issue as suggested.

    4) The Bitumen is a solid in the winter like a hockey puck. So what? Coal is a solid at all ambient temperatures. Today’s technology turns the bitumen into a light clean crude via a thermal process with sulfur removed and hydrogen added to increase the value and facilicitate shipping. Much of the Crude processed today is not the light sweet crude of the past, but with todays’ technology who cares unless you want to scare people. Most refineries have facilities to process heavy crudes.
    5) Syncrude is the name of one of the Companies, it is not the name of the product.

    6) It is dirty! Yes that is the propanganda from the likes of greenpeace, drink the cool-aid. Visit the site and look around. There are thousands of acres of barren, uninhabited land with mines that represent a fraction of the total land in Northern Alberta that is mined or processed to extract the bitumen. The typical temperature is -30 to -40 C and it is a dry environment with very little snow in the winter while permafrost extends deep below the surfacr. After the oil is extracted, the clean sands are returned to the mine hole and trees replanted. Yes the land is initially cleared just like farmers do to grow crops but it is restored whereas farmland is not. The pictures that green peace show of exhaust from the “smokestacks” is acually water vapor not smoke since the cold air condenses the water vapor. What a hoax. I lived worked on the Syncrude project during the late 70’s startup. I fished the Athabasca river and saw natural gobs of tar on the banks. One could claim that the extraction process cleans up the soil by removing the oil/tar.
    7) Yes the tar sands processing does create more CO2 per btu produced, but many of us do not consider CO2 as pollution unless it is the exhaust gas from any of our Senators or members of the House.

  142. Kum,
    As far as I know there are no commercially operating plants using enzymes. Correct? If so the claimed economics remain to be demonstrated , and I assume the folks who manufacture the enzyme will determine the market price.
    I assume you are aware that so far the cellulosic plants using pyrolysis have been a huge failure and the EPA has had to significantly reduce the required portion of ethanol from cellulosic sources. The one plant I am aware of from the news was the former poster child for cellulosic ethanol and is producing fractional volumes of methanol instead for the forseeable future. Without commercial demonstration the claims are to be questioned. I don’t know the details but the media have reported problems with the Catalyst for ethanol. Do you know the details? How was this missed in the pilot plants?

  143. Mr. Fuller, I have a few exceptions to take with the premises of your post. The picture of the future described in this post is alarming, yet very far from the likely reality. I write on this from time to time on my blogs under the key words Grand Game. see e.g.

    http://energyguysmusings.blogspot.com/2009/07/peak-oil-and-unicorns-both-mythical.html

    http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/search?q=grand+game

    First, we are not running out of oil. The claim that oil production will decline in the next 20 years has been made repeatedly for many decades. Those who make such claims do not properly account for the technology improvements in oil extraction.

    Second, natural gas production will continue to increase around the world, again, attributable to improved technology for extraction. Shale gas, coal-bed-methane, in-situ gasification, tight sandstone gas, and methane clathrates all will play large roles.

    Third, renewable energy will include electric power from ocean currents, not simply wind, solar, and geothermal. The power available from ocean currents is staggering, and the technology is advancing rapidly.

    Finally, the entire future energy picture will be changed fundamentally by the use of hydrogen from artificial photosynthesis, wherein man-made substances similar to plant proteins split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with the hydrogen collected and used as fuel, all at ambient temperatures and pressures using sunlight. Hydrogen storage is a trivial issue.

    “Yet another alternative is hydrogen from sunshine via enhanced proteins. The British scientists’ breakthrough research in 2004 showed the exact atomic structure of the photosynthesis site in plant proteins where water is broken down by sunshine into oxygen and hydrogen. That hydrogen could and will be used in power plants, probably combined cycle cogeneration because it is the most efficient. The electric power will replace gasoline and coal that can then be used to produce jet fuel or diesel. A major side benefit is that nuclear power plants with their toxic wastes will be shut down forever.” http://energyguysmusings.blogspot.com/2008/09/peak-oil-not-big-deal.html

    There is more than adequate energy supply for increased population on Earth. What is lacking are the political solutions to supply the energy to the impoverished areas.

  144. Don, I don’t know the details. All I know is, “gasification” is looking very iffy. You’re dealing with a Lot of Heat, and, sometimes, processes that deal with a Lot of Heat don’t “scale” they way they’re expected.

    Poet, Genera, Fiberight, and Inbicon are all producing “semi” commercial quantities of cellulosic ethanol. Genera said something to the effect that “they” wouldn’t scale all the way up until Jan 1, 2011. Something about the “tax” treatment regarding cellulosic ethanol. Genera is a partnership between the Univ of Tenn, and Dupont-Danisco. They are taking a very deliberate approach to building up the supply chain of feedstock, studying how to store it, and, in general working on the “logistics” of the operation. Poet has been “collecting cobs” for a couple of years, now, and, also, are studying different storage/collection processes. They are, also, waiting, and hoping for a sizable loan guarantee from the government (their “project Liberty” is by far the largest, most ambitious of all the current schemes. Fiberight will be first to market with “true” commercial quantities, probably early in 2011 (although, Inbicon could almost be considered “commercial” now.)

    Novozymes, and Dupont-Danisco are, already, committed to enzyme prices that I quoted. This has all caught the “gasification” boys by surprise, and they’re squalling like banshees; but it won’t do’em any good. The race has been run, and the “enzymists” won.

  145. Jim says:
    August 13, 2010 at 1:24 am

    I suspect there are too many variables to make the ‘the 2nd/3rd world will all be consuming energy at 1st world rates in 25 years time’ statement very accurate at all. Most of all we do not know what technologies lie around the corner – if solar panel prices continue to fall at current rates solar electricity will be competitive with fossil fuels within 10-15 years. If battery technology improves also, it is entirely feasible that by 2035 the entire West could have houses with 75% of their electrical needs supplied by solar means. Equally we don’t know how much nuclear energy will be used in 2035, as it is a political decision, not a purely rational/technology one. Fusion technology may have also come to fruition.

    The Victorian Londoners thought that London would soon be 6 feet deep in horse manure, due to the rapid growth in horse usage. Fortunately for them Mr Benz had other ideas. We similarly are using past trends to predict the future. Which is fine, until the trends change.

    This was worth repeating. Technology changes are like phase transitions in media, as the behavior of a gas is completely different than the behavior of the solid, as temperatures rise, breakthroughs in technology lead to unpredictable results.

    My grandmother, born in 1890, dying in 1984, saw many such drastic transitions. In her lifetime from water carried from the well to a well run electric home, television included. She never believed people landed on the moon, it was too much for her. She said it was a Hollywood production.

    I agree that the internet and the web changed the world, as well as satellites and computers. A phase transition.

    I agree that the energy problem will be the next phase transition, not in the sense presented in this article, but in the sense that, when energy becomes freely available to all, a new model of how men organize their lives should/will appear. Money will have no meaning and a new value system will have to be devised, probably around work and education in the necessary jobs still needing a human.

    Fusion will provide this free energy. How can I be sure? Fusion reactors are to the hydrogen bomb what car engines are to the Molotov bomb. Human resourcefulness and ingenuity will solve the problems eventually .

    It may be that more free energy will be available as scientific understanding develops, but at the moment the scenaria are science fiction.

    The basic problem facing humanity will be providing a new format for living for all, something like the way the leisure classes lived back in feudal times. We see the beginning of this problem in the number of jobless, created due to mechanization of agriculture and industry. There is a limit to how much value there can be in the service section, which more and more is the only one that can absorb such workers.

  146. Kum Dollison says:
    August 13, 2010 at 9:15 pm
    “From here on out it’s just “who wants to do it.” ”

    Ethanol is not the future – it is too energy intensive. It will have a role and in some places it will remain important for local energy and production, but overall it is likely to be a milestone on the way to better fuels.

    The parasitic energy requirement for ethanol production is high – ~60% IIRC (yes this can be provided from the lignin byproduct). Add in the energy requirement in farming the biomass and transporting it and the net energy production is limited compared to other processes (gasification, biogas). There are effiencies to be gained and improvements in technology but even if we get to ambient temperature fermentation or enzymatic conversion, the big energy requirement is always going to be the phase separation of ethanol and water. In addition, there is still a lot of waste from the process to be dealt with – lignin. Burn or gasify it? yes, although you need heat to dry it first or waste energy burning water. Turn it into biogas? Not in its native state – it needs preprocessing of which I believe the research is still in its infancy.

    The bottom line is that ethanol does not have the energy density of oil so the per bbl net energy yield on the process is not in the same league.

    Gasification is interesting because it is efficient at a useable scale. In fact for biomass scale is everything as you need an increasingly large effective transport radius as you scale up and small scale is better; if it is economic and the technology is efficient at small scale – that is the way to go. Ethanol is not there.

  147. And there is no reason for those folks to have any lower life style than the rest of us. There is no shortage of stuff nor of energy. The real China is busy building coal facilities like crazy too. I expect the coal and natural gas curves in that graph are wrong. (We’ve just recently developed ways to get giga-tons more of it from ‘tight gas deposits’ so we’re swimming in the stuff….)

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/everything-from-mud/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/ulum-ultra-large-uranium-miner-ship/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/china-makes-western-co2-control-pointless/

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/china-where-coal-turns-to-money/

  148. Tom Fuller says:
    August 13, 2010 at 10:14 am
    Unlike Mr. Springer, I don’t see the exponential growth here that I would like. It grew very rapidly for a decade, but it seems to have stalled–due in my mind to obstacles in our current intellectual property management systems.

    It’s still growing exponentially. A good benchmark to watch is the cost of human genome sequencing. In 2000 it was $100 million. Today it’s a little over $10,000. The Archon X Prize is $10,000,000 to the first company that can do it for $1000.

    Another good metric to watch is the growth rate of genomic databases such as Ensembl.

    http://uswest.ensembl.org/index.html

    Of particular note is the Venter Institute’s progress with artificial genomes. They’ve assembled a complete function minimal genome (about 120 thousand base pairs IIRC) and transplanted it into an evacuated bacterial shell which then came to life and grew out into a colony. They did it with mail-order DNA snippets.

    The time and cost of doing things like this is plummeting. As the cost drops the rate of progress accelerates commensurately.

    Venter’s first big practical goal is an artifical organism which can convert ligineous biomass (read agricultural waste) directly into biofuel. The current process is not economically feasible and so only high value feedstocks such as corn or beets are utilized and even then it’s still not economically viable without subsidies.

    I can’t imagine Venter is more than 20 years away from that goal. There’s really very little invention required. All the functionality needed exists in nature right now. It’s just a matter of cutting and pasting the right genes into an artificial genome. The trick is to get the cost of creating and testing artificial genomes low enough and fast enough that the tried and true method of trial & error can be employed in the quest for specific functionality.

    I very much would like to see bio-engineered organisms that eat CO2 and provide energy in return on a large scale, and nano-coatings that reduce friction for roads, tires, train-tracks and wheels, aircraft fuselages, ad infinitum.

    But spending ever more money on ever more expensive offshore wind farms in my mind is a vanity purchase and is not advancing the cause.

  149. anna v says:
    August 14, 2010 at 12:15 am
    [...]
    “I agree that the energy problem will be the next phase transition, not in the sense presented in this article, but in the sense that, when energy becomes freely available to all, a new model of how men organize their lives should/will appear. Money will have no meaning and a new value system will have to be devised, probably around work and education in the necessary jobs still needing a human.”

    (Emphasis mine) That’s a gem of a paragraph anna v. The “One World Government” discussed welcomingly or in fear by many here is really just a bigger version of the same old governments we’ve always had. I don’t know how humanity will reorganize itself, but socialist-capitalist-imperialist models will probably be put aside for something no onehas conceived of yet. Fun to tink about; what could the new way be? (Don’t forget that there always will be individuals that will want to control the whole shebang.)

    [...]
    The basic problem facing humanity will be providing a new format for living for all, something like the way the leisure classes lived back in feudal times. We see the beginning of this problem in the number of jobless, created due to mechanization of agriculture and industry. There is a limit to how much value there can be in the service section, which more and more is the only one that can absorb such workers.”

    Good example. We will have billions of people and the means to support them and they all have nothing specific to do. So what will they do? Mischief? Great things? Individuals will have to change their mindset or there’s a good chance we’ll descend into unstructured chaos.

    Excellent post, anna v.

  150. Mr Lynn says:
    August 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Mr. Springer is almost certainly right. Though the potential dangers of our being able to create new kinds of living organisms from scratch are great (think biological warfare), so are the potential benefits. My first inkling of this came from the pen of the superb SF writer Jack Vance, in a novel called The Houses of Iszm (1964), wherein the technicians of Iszm had created a monopoly on houses of their invention grown from seed. We are not so far away from that now.

    My emphasis above.

    Yeah, that’s the rub. When the cost and tools required to create an artificial organism drop to the point where individuals can whip one out in a spare bedroom things are going to get real interesting to say the least.

    I presume you’ve read “Engines of Creation” by K. Eric Drexler (1986). I read it in 1987 and my thoughts on the progression of technology have never been the same. At that point in time I was working with Intel and AutoDesk developing high performance CAD/CAM graphics hardware for IBM-compatible desktops. AutoDesk was the focus point for Project Xanadu at the time.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Xanadu#History

  151. anna v

    “Fusion will provide this free energy. How can I be sure? Fusion reactors are to the hydrogen bomb what car engines are to the Molotov bomb. Human resourcefulness and ingenuity will solve the problems eventually .”

    Won’t happen. The engineering obstacles are insurmountable. There are simply no materials that can withstand the fusion energy long enough to be economically viable even if a way to exceed breakeven for some short period of time is developed.

    The only fusion reactor we need has been up and running for billions of years and it will keep running without maintenance for billions more. All we have to do is find better ways of collecting the heat from it.

    Another technology I’ve been watching closely is called a space elevator. We need about one more order of magnitude improvement in carbon nano-tube technology to make it practical to run a cable from the ground to orbit. An order of magnitude may sound like a lot but it really isn’t as improvements of that order have come rapidly in recent years. If a space elevator becomes a reality (which is one heck of a lot safer bet than practical fusion reactors) the cost of lifting mass to orbit drops by a factor of 100 or more. It then becomes practical to build vast solar energy collectors in orbit where the sun shines 24 hours a day at much higher intensity than ground level and there’s no weather to deal with – the collectors can be paper thin and never get dirty or damaged. The energy can then be transmitted to virtually anywhere on the earth’s surface via focused microwaves to small footprint rectenna farms on the surface which solves one of the biggest hurdles in alternative energy – how to distribute the energy from point of production to point of use.

    At this point I think it’s a horse race between orbital solar energy using established technologies (the cost of lifting mass to orbit is the only real impediment) and ground based collection through genetically modified organisms. I believe the latter will win the race handily mostly because it is purely and engineering problem and the infrastructure for liquid fuel distribution is already in place. Most recently manufactured vehicles have motors that automatically adjust themselves to 85% alcohol fuels and the diesel fleet can run on vegetable oil as easily as diesel oil. Practical electric vehicles and means of charging them rapidly when needed are huge obstacles. Battery technology is not improving at an encouraging rate and the exotic, costly, toxic materials involved are obstacles in and of themselves. The copper alone needed for billions of electric wheel-motors will drain so much of the world’s copper supply that it becomes infeasible. Electricity has its place but that place just isn’t transportation fuel. Non-mobile applications where the point of production isn’t too distant from point of use is electricity’s forte. Elsewhere liquid fuels are going to continue ruling the day.

  152. Dave,
    Maybe you can explain to me how it makes sense to bypass the filtering system our atmosphere provides against too much solar heat getting to our planet allowing it to maintain a relatively constant temperature. All energy ends up as heat. All extra energy you bring in heats the planet up. Of course a portion is re-radiated to space but not all. Could this would be worse than the impact CO2 apparently has in reducing the amount of IR the earth gives off to outer space.
    BTW the solar panels on earth do the same thing, they reduce the amout of IR that would otherwise sent off to space.

  153. Dave,
    BTW, I agree with your comment on electric cars. Industry has been working on a “magic” battery for over 60 years. If it was easy, it would have been done. People bragg about getting 50 to 100 miles out of a charge. How many miles do you get driving home from workat night in a winter snowstorm with the heater on, the wipers running, and with the lights on in heavy traffic for hours? Besides the media ignores the fact that over 50% of our electricity is generated from “dirty” coal and the cost to replace the current infrastructure liquid fueling system is enormous.
    The electric car is a niche vehicle and I commend those who use it.

  154. Verity Jones says:
    August 14, 2010 at 4:33 am

    Ethanol is not the future – it is too energy intensive. It will have a role and in some places it will remain important for local energy and production, but overall it is likely to be a milestone on the way to better fuels.

    The rub here is the transportation fleet is ready for it with so many E85 capable motors already on the road.

    The parasitic energy requirement for ethanol production is high – ~60% IIRC (yes this can be provided from the lignin byproduct). Add in the energy requirement in farming the biomass and transporting it and the net energy production is limited compared to other processes (gasification, biogas). There are effiencies to be gained and improvements in technology but even if we get to ambient temperature fermentation or enzymatic conversion, the big energy requirement is always going to be the phase separation of ethanol and water. In addition, there is still a lot of waste from the process to be dealt with – lignin. Burn or gasify it? yes, although you need heat to dry it first or waste energy burning water. Turn it into biogas? Not in its native state – it needs preprocessing of which I believe the research is still in its infancy.

    I built an experimental setup for producing fuel grade ethanol. With cane sugar as the only feedstock and a strain of yeast that can turn water/sugar into clear 24% ethanol mix in five days and an insulated electrically heated boiler I can turn out fuel grade ethanol for about $4/liter. The greatest cost is in the feedstock as I used cane sugar from the grocers at $0.35/lb. If I were to use molasses purchased in 55 gallon drums, which is a great feedstock, I can get that down to $4 per gallon including the delivered cost of electricity to drive the distillation.

    But that’s not the most cost efficient method of distillation I found. Last fall I built a room-temperature distillation apparatus that uses a vacuum chamber in an ice bath. I didn’t calculate the energy efficiency but it was minimal even without insulation. Basically only the latent heat of ethanol vaporization needed to be added to the boiler to maintain a temperature of 25C. The vacuum only has to be established at the beginning so no vacuum pump needs to be kept running. Ideally the whole setup could function virtually cost-free by running it in the winter somewhere where it’s cold outside. A low temperature solar concentrator on a clear winter day is adequate to heat the boiler and the condenser can simply be a length of pipe exposed to the cold air.

    That said, I’m not at all sure that a GM yeast can’t be fashioned that can survive considerably more than 24% alcohol concentration. The strain I used was just a result of normal breeding techiniques. Other fungi carry suites of enzymes (mushroom mycelia in particular) that can break down lignin and cellulose into carbohydrates albeit rather slowly and with some substantial effort needed to maintain the environment. Again I don’t see why GM mycelia can’t be fashioned to break down ligineous biomass without much hassle.

    That said it’s vegetable oil that has more intrigued. I happen to have some Chinese Tallow tress growing on my property. They are a prodigious water-loving invasive species here that grow like giant weeds near the lake shore. I recently discovered these are the third-most productive plant for producing biodiesel after algae and oil palm. Through genetic engineering it seems quite feasible to construct a green plant that fills coconut-like pods with pure vegetable oil ready to pour into the fuel tank of any diesel engine. These could simply grow as a vast mat close to the ground like watermelons. In fact once biotechnology really gets wound up you can simply grow your pipes and tanks and eliminate just about all the labor and manufacturing.

    “The bottom line is that ethanol does not have the energy density of oil so the per bbl net energy yield on the process is not in the same league.”

    Likewise, gasoline contains 20% fewer BTUs per gallon than vegetable oil. Not sure what the point is. The differences don’t put alcohol, gasoline, and diesel into different leagues. They all play in the same ballpark and the distribution infrastructure is the same and extant.

    “Gasification is interesting because it is efficient at a useable scale. In fact for biomass scale is everything as you need an increasingly large effective transport radius as you scale up and small scale is better; if it is economic and the technology is efficient at small scale – that is the way to go. Ethanol is not there.”

    Actually I came very close last year to building a gassifier last year. On two acres of mostly wooded land I figure I collect and burn about 10 tons a year of deadwood. Currently I get off my butt about 3 times a year and spend a couple of days collecting a few tons into a big pile and setting a torch to it on high ground. The ashes are so minimal I usually just let normal rainfall wash it downslope where it fertilizes the very trees from whence it came. Once I did a huge amount of burning on the lakeshore and left the ash pile there. Then a small flood came along which put the ash pile under a foot or two of water. The algae bloom over that ashpile was a sight to behold.

    Anyhow, I hate wasting perfectly good wood but there’s only so much I can burn in my fireplace and what’s generated from landscape maintenance is mostly smaller branches and mostly still green. A good intense fire burns the green stuff (oak leaves and juniper needles) just fine but it’s unsuitable for a fireplace. Anything combustable (cardboard and paper) from manufactured products goes into my fireplace as well. A gasifier looked like it might be productive although I’m not about to foul and eventually ruing any of my gasoline engines with it. What I considered was tanking it in propane bottles and using it in place of propane which appears to be feasible without modifying any of my propane-burning appliances of which I have half a dozen including a mosquito-magnet which burns propane to produce CO2 which in turn attacts mosquitos into the suction trap. I might still look further into that at some point in time. I could probably produce way more than I need and sell the excess into the market for propane BBQ grills and get a premium for it because it’s carbon-neutral.

  155. Friends:

    There is only one certainty concerning future energy technologies, and it is that we do not know what they will be. Therefore, it is pointless to postulate about them.

    We can assess present research and hope it leads to advances. These would be materials science developments that provide abilities to construct cheap ‘room temperature’ superconductors, Carson Towers, fusion reactors or space elevators.

    But it is more likely that (excepting ‘room temperature’ superconductors) if these technologies became available then they would not be used because some now unforeseeable technology will be adopted.

    Few predicted the rapid adoptions of the internal combusion engine before Diesel, or viable powered heavier-than-air-aircraft before the Wright brothers, or home computers before the Apple II, or etc..

    History shows that predicting major technological changes is probably not possible. If it were possible then major corporations would all be working to win the race for them. But the race is usually won by people whom most others think are cranks until they win.

    Richard

  156. Don Shaw says:
    August 14, 2010 at 8:38 am
    Dave,
    Maybe you can explain to me how it makes sense to bypass the filtering system our atmosphere provides against too much solar heat getting to our planet allowing it to maintain a relatively constant temperature. All energy ends up as heat. All extra energy you bring in heats the planet up. Of course a portion is re-radiated to space but not all. Could this would be worse than the impact CO2 apparently has in reducing the amount of IR the earth gives off to outer space.
    BTW the solar panels on earth do the same thing, they reduce the amout of IR that would otherwise sent off to space.

    Energy can not be created or destroyed. Any amount of heat we siphon off from from surface insolation, unless it is stored forever in chemical bond energy (we produce fuel but don’t use it), ends up being radiated out to space. We simply collect it at high density, use the temperature gradient to extract mechanical energy, which then becomes mechanical waste heat and resumes its march back out into space in a more diffused form. Insolation collected in orbit is a different story. The collectors don’t shadow the earth so whatever we collect and send downward is additional to what the earth normally receives. The saving grace is that humanity’s energy consumption now and into the foreseeable future are insignificant compared to the total amount of insolation on the surface.

  157. Richard S Courtney says:
    August 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Few predicted the rapid adoptions of the internal combusion engine before Diesel, or viable powered heavier-than-air-aircraft before the Wright brothers, or home computers before the Apple II, or etc..

    I was one of those few who predicted home computers before the Apple II. The year was 1977. I was taking Entreprenuership 101 in an off-campus offering by Pepperdine Business School at MCAS El Toro while I still in the Marine Corps. The term project was to develop a business plan. Mine essentially was the business plan later employed by a number of franchises like Computer Land, Comp USA, and others.
    Too bad I didn’t use it myself but I’m an engineer not a business man so I was much more interested in design and invention of the hardware and left the selling of it to others.

    I’m here to tell you that biotechnology has far more potential today than personal computers did in 1977 and I have a perfect record in technological predictions so far but with a sample size of just one prediction there’s not exactly a lot of history in the record. If I were a young techological genius full of piss and vinegar again I’d be getting started in a bioengineering career today and, just like the home computer revolution that began 30 some years ago I’d expect the biotech revolution would be just as robust and fulfilling over the next 30 years.

    Not all infant technologies are so recognizable but computers were back then and biotech is now.

  158. Richard S Courtney says:
    August 14, 2010 at 9:18 am
    “[...] History shows that predicting major technological changes is probably not possible. If it were possible then major corporations would all be working to win the race for them. But the race is usually won by people whom most others think are cranks until they win. ”

    You’re talking about disruptive technologies. There’s actually pretty good experience about such disruptions. The web was one, for instance. Usually you see a clean exponential growth curve in the number of installations until market saturation makes it level off. Ray Kurzweil analyzed a lot of those.

  159. Roger Sowell says:
    August 13, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Hydrogen storage is a trivial issue.

    Hardly. It’s a huge issue. It has to stored and distributed either under great pressure or in cryogenic conditions. The infrastructure exists for neither. Either way it isn’t suitable for transportation fuel. While there is some progress being made in storing it with chemical absorbants the progress is glacial and holds no promise of becoming practical. Hydrogen as fuel would be moer aptly called hypedrogen because that’s pretty much all it is – hype.

  160. Kum Dollison says:
    August 13, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Kevin, I’ve found that these things are easier when I break them down into “bite-sized” pieces. Let’s take my county. It’s about average size, I guess (the average U.S. county is approx 1,100 Sq Mi. IIRC.) We have some pretty fair farmland, and a lot of land in bushes, and weeds. Also, quite a bit in grass on which you’ll see a couple of cows, or a horsie (a little “tax” deal going on there, I believe.) I’d guess we have between 1/3 and 1/2 in rowcrops.

    Anyway, we easily have 300 – 400 sq miles in brush, scrub pine, and bushes, and another 200 sq miles in casual grazing. This is probably kind of a typical county in the South. So, would it be a big thing to convert 20% of that marginal-to-unused land to switchgrass, or hybrid poplar, or somesuch? Nah. You’d probably have to be paying attention to even notice.

    What you Would notice would be a lot of E85 pumps selling homegrown fuel for $1.75 – $1.85/gal.

    I agree that people won’t notice the change, probably, but I’m not talking about what people notice when I say environmental trouble. 20% of 600 s. miles, is 120 sq miles, in a monoculture of switchgrass or hybrid trees–it doesn’t matter. Monoculture leads to environmental trouble. Once you begin using it as a “crop” you will find yourself in the business of pesticide, fertilizer, and other inputs. People have been talking about switchgrass out west here for years, but they are speaking of planting it in a combination of other plants, and harvesting so minimally that no inputs are needed. That runs the needed acreage way up.

    With regard to many of the cogen, biofuels schemes, I am being serious when I say that people need some background in thermodynamics so they can appreciate the real limits on these ideas. Some one above, Verity Jones I see, mentioned energy to separate phases. The second law of thermodynamics places limits on heat engines, heat pumps, the separation of mixtures, efficiency of combustion, and so forth.

    Yes, we can do better than we are at present with regard to renewable, but the political class have no end to their exuberance, and throw wads on money at every project that runs from the brush. No matter how well-intentioned we, as tax payers, should not let them pursue some, perhaps most, of them.

    Anyway, it’s been an interesting discussion, but we’ll have to agree to disagree for now.

  161. Dave Springer says:
    August 14, 2010 at 8:12 am

    anna v

    “Fusion will provide this free energy. How can I be sure? Fusion reactors are to the hydrogen bomb what car engines are to the Molotov bomb. Human resourcefulness and ingenuity will solve the problems eventually .”
    Won’t happen. The engineering obstacles are insurmountable. There are simply no materials that can withstand the fusion energy long enough to be economically viable even if a way to exceed breakeven for some short period of time is developed.

    Well, ITER, the international collaboration for building a megawatt tokamak is on the way and will answer the question of the viability of the tokamak solution.

    You are also underestimating human ingenuity, new technologies and breakthroughs.
    We shall see who is right in a few decades :)

    Wasn’t A.C.Clark who wrote about the space elevator? It would be good if humans could make one for many reasons other than solar energy for power. It would be excellent to have when the next ice age starts, the only true climate prophecy, to reflect extra energy on the earth and avoid the catastrophe.

  162. Dave Springer says: (August 14, 2010 at 9:14 am) “I built an experimental setup for producing fuel grade ethanol. ….”

    Kudos to you for doing so. My point was that at industrial scale when you calculate the net energy balance ethanol prodution is poor – and we need to be striving for maximum net production, not inefficient processes. Vacuum distillation is still an energy intensive process. As energy costs continue to rise, the net cost of that energy used in ethanol production will bite Also – you said yourself (August 14, 2010 at 7:15 am) “only high value feedstocks such as corn or beets are utilized and even then it’s still not economically viable without subsidies.”

    In response to my comment “The bottom line is that ethanol does not have the energy density of oil so the per bbl net energy yield on the process is not in the same league.” you said: “Not sure what the point is. The differences don’t put alcohol, gasoline, and diesel into different leagues. They all play in the same ballpark and the distribution infrastructure is the same and extant.”

    Well to pump energy analyses put gasoline at about 80% energy efficient vs 40% for cellulosic ethanol. Crude oil has a specific energy (MJ/Kg) of 46; ethanol is only 30. Per volume is the same ratio. It is less economic to transport ethanol long distances as part of a fuel distribution network.

    BTW for small scale gasification I was thinking 1MW.

    Richard S Courtney says: (August 14, 2010 at 9:18 am) Good comment, in fact one of the best on the thread.

  163. @ Dave Springer: re hydrogen storage

    “Hardly. It’s a huge issue. It has to stored and distributed either under great pressure or in cryogenic conditions. The infrastructure exists for neither. Either way it isn’t suitable for transportation fuel. While there is some progress being made in storing it with chemical absorbants the progress is glacial and holds no promise of becoming practical. Hydrogen as fuel would be moer aptly called hypedrogen because that’s pretty much all it is – hype.”

    This is, in fact, not at all an issue. Hydrogen has been generated, used, and stored at industrial scale for decades, and distributed via pipelines also. see e.g.

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/delivery/current_technology.html

    Hydrogen as a transportation fuel is hopeless, of course. No one can seriously argue that it is. The hydrogen fuel cell technology exists for vehicles, but is far too costly to ever compete with liquid fuels.

    But, as a renewable and inexhaustible fuel for electric power generation, it is a complete game-changer.

  164. I was one of those few who predicted home computers before the Apple II. The year was 1977.

    Arggh…Why do people say this sort of stuff on the internet? Is it meaningful in any sense? Is it verifiable? Oh, btw, I predicted that in a forum where people are basically anonymous and held to no verifiable standards they will say anything. Sheesh.

  165. @Kum Dollison

    Proof that your stuff is a bunch of BS: We still have something of a free market. If the numbers were even close to what you cite, it would be exploding all over it. And, don’t come back with any crap about Exxon gobbling up all the patents. They’d be at the forefront if they had the patents and the numbers were even close to what you say.

    This is all Jimmy Carter crap. God, we need another Ronald Reagon to come along and replace the current Jimmy Carter in the White House.

  166. Very nice, Mike. I love a “factually” based argument.

    Verity, the new 2.0L TDI engine pushes that 3,600 lb Buick Regal around to the tune of 140 MPH, and gets, essentially, the Same Mileage on E85 as on gasoline. This is just the first of many engines on the way that can utilize ethanol’s ridiculously high (114) Octane Rating. BTW, The XPrize Winner was an E85 fueled car.)

    BTW, you may not be aware of this, but there are only a handful of “Corn” ethanol plants left to come online. From here on out it will be All Cellulosic, and those will be powered by waste biomass (lignin from cobs, switchgrass, etc.)

    In fact, within a decade, I’d say most “corn” ethanol plants will be powered by cobs, or biogas derived from cobs.

    Things are changing fast.

  167. Kum Dollison,
    The point I was making was about well-to-pump energy efficiency rather than pump-to-wheels. I think we’ll see a lot more efficiency gain in vehicle powertrains in the next few years (and I’ll be very happy to see it).

    As I said earlier – ethanol will likely be part of the fuel mix for the future and will remain important in some geographic areas, however heaven help us if we have to rely on it as a main source of fuel/energy in any future scenario. Using waste biomass for power just allows plants to claim that all their production is CO2 neutral. Even if plants are all cellulosic, are powered by waste biomass and make some energy efficiency gains, they will still be a very inefficient means of producing fuel. For every MJ of energy produced as ethanol ~0.6MJ is used in the production process – it doesn’t matter whether the plant is powered by fossil energy or biomass. This is a parasitic load of 60%; for gasoline production and biogas the equivalent is 20% max.

  168. About fusion;
    Dave S. is correct to state that materials able to withstand fusion are not going to happen. This, IMO, rules out what I call the “meso-fusion” (human-scale) regime. Stellar mega-fusion and micro-fusion remain. Until we become a Type II civilization, able to harness the full output of our star, mega-fusion is not accessible (as a direct tool; I’m not talking about converting radiant energy to electricity). But micro-fusion, now ….

    There is a firm, LPP, Inc., which is working with a process called Focus Fusion. Containment is magnetic, within a sub-microscopic “plasmoid” generated by kinking a magnetic filament in plasma just so. It is completing its preliminary D-D calibration runs and tweaks not, and will be moving into the final proton-Boron11 regime within a couple of months. This is a waste-free, non-neutron-emitting fusion. It claims to have solved (in theory and simulation) the X-ray cooling problem by tuning the High Magnetic Field Effect some had predicted so that electron heating is minimized.

    It won’t be free, but the planned “product” is a 5MW generator installed in about the housing size of a home garage, with capital per-watt costs and output pricing at source per kwh both around 1/20 of current best N.A. retail, or maybe 1/50 of European prices. It is easily adapted to distributed generation, and could end up bypassing most of the current grid, if necessary.

    Timeline around 3-5 years to come up with a proven licensable design, to be made openly available at reasonable prices to all manufacturers wanting to produce and distribute it, world-wide.

  169. DT says:
    August 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm
    ______
    You misread the graph. Coal and nuclear are not declining on it. Their use is the WIDTH of their bands. The downslope you see is all from the green ‘conventional oil’ band.

  170. We have organisms that eat CO2. They’re called “plants”. Also most algae, which are not plants.

  171. Actually, Verity, it’s 0.43 in to 1.0 out according to the latest figures in a dry-grind ethanol plant.

    Of more interest to most people is the $1.79/gal at the pump ($2.20 w/o subsidies – or foreign wars.)

  172. Brian H, re fusion as a power source.

    Fusion has, and always will have, two problems that are insurmountable.

    1. Temperatures that obliterate any material that is used to contain the fusion core.

    2. Inability to run continuously due to the magnetic bottle having no inlet nor outlet. Inlets and outlets disrupt the bottle and end the fusing.

    40 years ago, Tokomak reactors were the “in” thing, using a magnetic pinch bottle and hydrogen plasma. How many billions have been wasted on that technology?

    The LLP technology sounds interesting, but they cannot overcome the fundamental problems of 1 and 2.

  173. Roger Sowell says:
    August 14, 2010 at 8:57

    40 years ago, Tokomak reactors were the “in” thing, using a magnetic pinch bottle and hydrogen plasma. How many billions have been wasted on that technology?

    The LLP technology sounds interesting, but they cannot overcome the fundamental problems of 1 and 2.


    50 years ago there was the Stellatron in fashion and as an undergratuate in physics I was tempted towards that direction, since also a greek had invented it. Fortunately it was too applied for my physics tastes; it finally disappeared from the scene.

    The Tokamak has not disappeared and the impossibilities you are stating have not been convincingly calculated, because about 17billion $ are programmed for the completion of the ITER international collaboration to build an industrial prototype that will produce megawats.

    Considering the billions spent on the war machines and imperial clout and the billions spent on so called climate research, the price is low and late, in my opinion.

  174. Here is a link for ITER, http://www.iter.org/

    Real work is going on.

    On the complexity:
    If you tried to describe to a19th century physicist how the car engine works, you would get the similar “impossible” reaction.

  175. Anna v, re Tokamak.

    I would love to see such a machine finally work, but as an engineer I am too much of a realist to believe those two fundamental problems I described will be overcome. Those problems are not something original to me, rather they were explained to me and other freshmen at University of Texas in Austin, as we toured their Tokamak system in September of 1972.

    Can you describe the current approach? Is there some super-material of which we are unaware? Or will the fusion reaction simply be located a great distance from any solid matter? Will the bottle have inlets and outlets? Or will this be a batch reaction with multiple batches brought into the heating zone, one at a time?

    Note that throwing money at a research project is certainly no guarantee, and also no reassurance that there will ultimately be a viable technology. In fact, most such research returns zero. I would love to be proven wrong on this one, but it seems to be a very expensive bunch of metal and electricity at which investors throw their money.

  176. Roger Sowell
    from:

    http://www.iter.org/

    The goal of the ITER fusion program is to produce a net gain of energy, and set the stage for the demonstration fusion power plant to come. ITER has been designed to produce 500 MW of output power for 50 MW of input power – or ten times the amount of energy put in. The current record for released fusion power is 16 MW (held by the European JET facility located in Culham, UK).

    There is a lot of information on the site.

  177. Kum Dollison – 0.43 – interesting number – where did that come from? Still a ways to go then in terms of efficiency.

    Yes things are changing fast. That Buick may appeal on perfomance and give same mpg on E85 as gas, but it is a heavy car whereas the trend is for efficiency. What’ll it do – 30mpg? Hmm. Also a TDI engine is more expensive than a standard engine. Even with the cheap ethanol you cite, I think I’d rather spend on a diesel and get more mpg ;-)

  178. @Verity Jones

    TDI is trademarked by Volkswagen and it is exclusively diesel.

    I’d love to own a nice little Jetta TDI for everyday driving, by the way.

  179. Jaye says:
    August 14, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    “Arggh…Why do people say this sort of stuff on the internet?”

    In my case because it’s true.

    “Is it meaningful in any sense?”

    I qualified it well enough. One prediction, one success. Not much of a track record but take it for what it’s worth.

    “Is it verifiable?”

    Possibly. Pepperdine University probably has a record somewhere of me attending the class mentioned 33 years ago and while unlikely the professor might have kept my term paper in a box somewhere.

    “Oh, btw, I predicted that in a forum where people are basically anonymous and held to no verifiable standards they will say anything.”

    Unlike you, I’m not anonymous.

    “Sheesh.”

    Indeed.

  180. @Roger Sowell

    re; hydrogen pipelines

    You panned the problems stated in the first paragraph of the DoE link that you provided.

    Try this for a dose of reality:

    http://www.ika.rwth-aachen.de/r2h/index.php/Hydrogen_Transport_by_Pipeline

    While not insurmountable the problems are great enough that it isn’t going to happen. The huge capital cost of upgrading NG pipelines won’t happen until there is a greater demand for H than for NG. There won’t be a greater demand for H until there is adequate distribution infrastructure in place and equipment converted to burn it instead of NG. It’s a classic Catch 22 situation.

    Whatever form our alternative energy takes it has to work with existing distribution and point-of-use infrastructure. Compatibility with that infrastructure will separate the winners from the losers.

  181. @Brian H

    I don’t like to be harsh but Lawrenceville Plasma Physics is a garage shop run by a non-scientist crank (undergraduate degree in physics) named Eric Lerner. As recently as 2007 he was the sole employee.

    Don’t get me wrong. Many times in history the unexpected breakthrough comes from a crank. The problem is that for every crank with something real, exciting, and promising there are a thousand of them trying to sell the proverbial bottle of snake-oil.

    Lerner is promising something approximating a perpetural motion machine. That should send up a red flag wherever and whenever you see it. I won’t discount it but I wouldn’t invest real money or hope in it either. Seeing, in this case, is believing.

  182. Dave;
    There are numerous others involved, now, including PhD physicists. Get current. Here’s an excerpt from a comment by one of the principals to a question I posed recently about whether the “pinches” (plasmoid collapses) were hot enough for pB11 fusion, or whether the extrapolations from current results was consistent with being able to get to that stage on schedule:

    “Brian, without going into details or complicated formulas, the pinches are not “hot” enough yet, but the extrapolations are there. However, pB11 is a completely different animal than deuterium.

    the results we have gotten are very encouraging, and we’re only getting started. We’re at the cutting edge of this research. With the upgraded switches, we should have vastly improved performance by having all capacitors discharge, with better synchronization, at higher voltages. We’ve barely started to test the effects of the angular momentum coil or the magnetic field effect, so we really can’t say just how much those will ultimately improve the results. We’re also getting all the diagnostic instruments installed and the noise eliminated, so we can better see what’s going on,

    I’m very optimistic that by late September, we’ll have some newsworthy results. When all the pieces come together at the right time and place, that’s when things get interesting. ”

    Just to elaborate a bit, the timelines currently call for “scientific break-even” to occur late 2010 or early 2011. So you and we won’t have long to wait.

    As for your equating of p + B11 –> 3xHe4 + energy with “perpetual motion”, that’s just bad-tempered ignorance.

  183. /comedy mode

    The technology for harnessing fusion already exists — standard electrical generation, IC-engines, and off-the-shelf fusion bombs! Just construct a single cylinder, 2-cycle IC engine a few miles wide & deep. The inlet is just big enough to drop standard multistage fusion bombs into the top, and run the exhaust pipe up above the atmosphere. Connect the piston rod to a geared-up giant alternator that runs at a reasonable rotation rate. Size the bombs so the fireballs won’t melt the cylinder walls or piston top. When the piston is near top-dead-center, bombs are “dropped” into the cylinder & detonated, pushing the piston down. The exhaust cycle pushes the radioactive debris out into space & the next bomb injected. Repeat. A giant 2-cycle chain-saw engine/alternator powered by nukes.

    /comedy mode off

    Seriously, I don’t see practical fusion power coming around for quite some time — centuries. It’s just so difficult to contain & control a miniature sun. Controlled fission is simple by comparison.

  184. @ Dave Springer, August 15, 2010 at 6:36 am, re hydrogen pipelines.

    You can deny reality as much as you want, but this is a rather public place to do so. (50 million unique visitors from around the planet).

    The indisputable fact is, to repeat myself, that here in the USA we have had hundreds of miles of commercially operating industrial-size hydrogen pipelines for decades. And that does not count the additional miles of piping installed and operating inside hundreds of refineries and chemical plants. For just one map of such pipelines along the Texas Gulf coast, see e.g.

    https://apps3.eere.energy.gov/ba/pba/analysis_database/docs/pdf/hydrogen_pipline_map.pdf

    I should know. I worked in those refineries and chemical plants for more than two decades myself, operated and performed engineering on hydrogen production processes, the purification plants, compressor stations, storage systems, and the associated pipelines, valves, control systems, etc.

    There are similar processes with hydrogen piping around the world. Wherever there is a steam-methane-reformer plant, or a chlorine plant based on electrolysis, to name only two, these exist. see e.g.

    http://www.redorbit.com/news/business/1647406/air_products_hydrogen_pipeline_extension_strengthens_gulf_coast_network/

  185. Dave Springer says:
    August 15, 2010 at 6:10 am

    You appear to not understand. Self aggrandizement in an anonymous media (you post a name but that is basically meaningless, I could add my last name or I could post under another name that would be hard to verify) as some sort of “proof” of something is extremely hollow. It is an anecdotal, unverifiable claim…frankly you should be embarrassed.

  186. Verity, I’ll try to look it up. The latest EROEI LCA number on dry mill corn ethanol plants was 2.3 : 1. That translates out to 0.43.

    I’m not “promoting” heavy cars, just using that car as an example. Obviously, a 2,600 lb. car would be preferable. It’s true, with a savings of $0.50/gal it would take 5 years for the average driver to pay for the more expensive engine, But the odds are very good that gasoline will escalate in price much more rapidly than will switchgrass. :)

    Nice chatting with you; later.

  187. Dave Springer says:
    August 14, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I presume you’ve read “Engines of Creation” by K. Eric Drexler (1986). I read it in 1987 and my thoughts on the progression of technology have never been the same. . .

    Haven’t read it, but will take a look.

    Dave Springer says:
    August 14, 2010 at 8:12 am

    . . . Another technology I’ve been watching closely is called a space elevator. We need about one more order of magnitude improvement in carbon nano-tube technology to make it practical to run a cable from the ground to orbit. An order of magnitude may sound like a lot but it really isn’t as improvements of that order have come rapidly in recent years. If a space elevator becomes a reality (which is one heck of a lot safer bet than practical fusion reactors) the cost of lifting mass to orbit drops by a factor of 100 or more. It then becomes practical to build vast solar energy collectors in orbit where the sun shines 24 hours a day at much higher intensity than ground level and there’s no weather to deal with – the collectors can be paper thin and never get dirty or damaged. The energy can then be transmitted to virtually anywhere on the earth’s surface via focused microwaves to small footprint rectenna farms on the surface which solves one of the biggest hurdles in alternative energy – how to distribute the energy from point of production to point of use. . .

    The Space Elevator (first envisioned by the late Arthur C. Clarke) is indeed an exciting prospect, though you may underestimate the difficulty of contstructing and maintaining one. Solar power from satellites makes eminent sense, but as you say, depend entirely on reducing to cost of getting to low-Earth orbit (LEO). A long ramp or mass-driver situated west-to-east at a high altitude (say, in the Himalyas) might be a way of overcoming the cost of chemical rockets to get to LEO (might have been proposed by Heinlein).

    This from a notice from the Space Studies Institute (originally at Princeton, now at NASA-Ames) about their 14th Conference on Space Manufacturing and Space Settlement (October 30-31, 2010):

    Rational Solar Power
    Development May Depend on Funding for Deep Space Propulsion

    Satellite solar power still appears to be the best candidate to generate large economic returns from space development . . . SSI believes that the cost of transportation to low Earth orbit will be low enough within a decade to make power satellites available for spot power to remote locations. . .

    And that’s without a Space Elevator or mass driver. Looks like the engineering problems for solar-power satellites will be discussed at the Conference. For those who might not know, the SSI was founded by Gerard K. O’Neill, whose 1976 work, The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space, was an inspiration for many of us, who are today frustrated by the slow pace of progress of manned space-flight.

    /Mr Lynn

  188. Re beaming power from space to Earth ground-level; there are serious legal and political problems even if the technical problems are solved.

    Who would want to have an energy beam in orbit? It does not take much to transform that energy beam into a space-based weapon. Change direction and the microwave frequency to that of water (e.g. a microwave oven) and people and animals explode.

  189. @Mr. Lynn

    Space elevator concept has been around for over 100 years. There are numerous engineering challenges in building one. I didn’t mean to imply there weren’t. There are fewer engineering challenges IMO in a space elevator program today than there were challenges to landing a man on the moon when Kennedy announced that program 1961. In adjusted dollars a space elevator will probably cost less too. The Japs think they can do it for under $10 billion – a mere bag of shells. The only caveat is the tether. Carbon nanotubes have the required strength to weight ratio and at this point it’s reduced to a manufacturing issue. The discovery phase is in the past.

    I still think biotech is going to be the big winner however. In that we have not only the promise of cheap abundant hydrocarbon fuels in a form compatible with current infrastructure but it also holds the promise of a revolution in how we manufacture things – manufacturing will become far more energy efficient. A great many things can be manufactured from local materials so instead of mining, refining, and shipping everything stuff will be constructed on site using local materials by what are essentially trillions upon trillions of microscopic self-reproducing programmable robots. Now -that- is a transformative technology and it is drawing near. The discovery phase of that too is over and nothing but engineering challenges remain and they’re falling fast. The best metric to watch is the price of whole human genome sequencing which has fallen from $100,000,000 ten years ago to $10,000 today. The rapidity of that advance is enough to make Gordon Moore blush as it’s a lot faster than Moore’s Law for semi-conductors where the price/performance ratio halves every 18 months. In another few years Venter is going to be able to have bio-engineers building custom bacterial genomes on an engineering workstation in the morning and be testing them for efficacy in the afternoon. It takes a team of people months and millions of dollars to do that now. The cost will fall as the procedures are refined and automated just like the cost of sequencing a human genome has fallen by 4 orders of magnitude in a scant 10 years. I’ve never seen a science advance so rapidly and I’ve personally witnessed the progression from vacuum tube computers that required a megawatt of power and a small office building, millions of dollars and a team of people just to operate it, reduced down to something that costs less than a penny and is nearly invisible to the naked eye. Biotech is advancing much faster which is no small wonder because unlike microprocessors biotechnology has been extant on this planet for billions of years – our challenge was one of building the tools needed to reverse engineer a technology that was given to us on a silver platter.

  190. @Mr. Lynn

    http://e-drexler.com/p/06/00/EOC_Cover.html

    A technology predicted in the book has been employed to make it accessible free of charge. The whole original version is at the link above. As you read it note the technological milestones layed out that have been achieved in the 24 years since publication. The single most important one will be achieved in the next several years – the first biological assembler. There is some controversy over whether more durable (non-organic) assemblers are physically possible but the biological kind had been extant for billions of years before the book was written – we just didn’t have the technology to customize them for our own purposes. Now we do. The engineering opportunities from only biological assemblers are mind boggling. It doesn’t really matter that much if inorganic assemblers can be made or not.

  191. Roger Sowell says:
    August 15, 2010 at 1:04 pm
    Re beaming power from space to Earth ground-level; there are serious legal and political problems even if the technical problems are solved.

    Who would want to have an energy beam in orbit? It does not take much to transform that energy beam into a space-based weapon. Change direction and the microwave frequency to that of water (e.g. a microwave oven) and people and animals explode.

    You appear to be channeling the protests of the environmentalist whackos 40 years ago over nuclear power plants. I hope they don’t win again because when they win we all lose.

  192. Jaye says:
    August 15, 2010 at 10:48 am

    “I could add my last name”

    Then by all means do it. What’s the problem? Frightened? Embarrassed?

    “I could post under another name that would be hard to verify”

    Why would you want to do that?

    Type my name into google scholar and you’ll find several inventions in the computer field with my name on them assigned to my former employer.

    “as some sort of “proof” of something is extremely hollow. It is an anecdotal, unverifiable claim…frankly you should be embarrassed.”

    I’m not at all embarrassed. You should be embarrassed. Liars are usually the first to suspect others of lying. I usually assume people are being truthful until proven otherwise.

  193. Roger Sowell says:
    August 15, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    It does not take much to transform that energy beam into a space-based weapon. Change direction and the microwave frequency to that of water (e.g. a microwave oven) and people and animals explode.

    Actually it takes more than much. High power microwaves are shuffled around in waveguides that are not easily tunable in the power output stage. Likewise acheiving the power density at the surface of that of a microwave oven would require a large physical change to the parabolic reflector.

    In other words if it were going to be a weapon it would have to be designed to be a weapon and there wouldn’t be any way to disguise it.

    I think you’ve been watching too many James Bond movies.

  194. @Roger Sowell

    Oh, I almost forgot the last flaw in your weapon hypothesis. If you tune it to the frequency of a microwave oven it won’t penetrate the atmosphere very far. It’ll just heat the air on the way down and dissipate all its power before reaching the ground. That’s the sole reason for tuning it to a frequency where the atmosphere is transparent.

    You appear to be arguing just for the sake of arguing now and are making things up as you go along.

  195. I mentioned before (maybe not this thread) that carbon will become a limiting factor in the biotech era. Living things construct stuff with a lot of different materials (for example calcium is a biggie for durable structures like clam shells and coral reefs). Amino acid polymers (proteins) however are the mainstay as the atomic ingredients are nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. The limiting factor appears to be, ironically, oceanic and atmospheric CO2 is the source of carbon in amino acids. Hydrogen comes from water while nitrogen and oxygen compose almost all the atmosphere.

    I wonder how quickly the global ocean (which has an immense store of CO2) will give up the dissolved gas once we start using more than we put back. And of course agriculture will suffer and the earth will cool down if we take much more than we emit.

    It just occured to me that soon enough someone is going to try charging you for sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere when you want to grow durable goods out of proteins. If “they” can make you pay to emit it “they” can surely also make you pay to absorb it. What’s next – a tax on rain?

  196. @ Dave Springer: comment on nuclear power.

    You don’t yet know the half of it. see e.g.

    http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/nuclear-nuts.html and the several other posts on my blog with the word “nuclear.”

    However, I do want to compliment you on providing such rare entertainment today. Please, keep coming back and share some more wisdom. It is rather amusing when you stray so far from facts.

    Your dream of a death ray from the skies will never happen, because attorneys like me will see to it. There will be no space-based weapons, even those disguised as harmless microwave power.

  197. Someone in the comments mentioned the amount of energy involved in distillation of ethanol and implied it was a lot. It isn’t.

    Ladisch, 1979

    Going from 12% hydrous alcohol to 99% anhydrous takes 1577 btu/pound of alcohol. Total BTUs in a pound of alcohol are 12760.

    In other words the distillation process is nearly 90% efficient as demonstrated by Ladisch.

    If there’s a lot more energy loss to be accounted for it’s in the growing and harvesting and processing and fermentation of the feedstock.

  198. Someone in the comments mentioned the amount of energy involved in distillation of ethanol and implied it was a lot. It isn’t.

    Ladisch, 1979

    Going from 12% hydrous alcohol to 99% anhydrous takes 1577 btu/pound of alcohol. Total BTUs in a pound of alcohol are 12760.

    In other words the distillation process is nearly 90% efficient as demonstrated by Ladisch.

    If there’s a lot more energy loss to be accounted for it’s in the growing and harvesting and processing and fermentation of the feedstock.

  199. Roger Sowell :
    August 14, 2010 at 8:57 pm
    ________
    Your response makes me doubt you actually looked at the LPP (not LLP) technology at all. Neither 1 nor 2 is relevant, since there is no physical containment at all, and since the process is not continuous, but pulsed for microseconds at a time. No unobtanium required.

    Here are two Technical papers for you to gen up a bit:
    Technical Paper I
    Technical Paper II
    and
    Current Technical Reports

  200. @Roger Sowell

    Actually I’m not very much of a nuclear power fan and am uncertain that there’s any net gain in energy when you tally up energy inputs in construction, operation, and decommissioning against energy output during the operational lifetime.

    That’s not to say they aren’t profitable however. Profit can be acheived in the time honored tradition of buying low and selling high. If the upfront cost of energy (let’s include things like licensing and labor as “energy”) to bring the new plant online is low and the cost of energy rises significantly during the operating lifetime then in effect you’ve made an investment and have bought low and sold high.

    On the other hand France, which generates 80% of its electricity from nukes, seems fairly happy with it. I didn’t mean to say you’d strayed from any facts about nuclear power as you didn’t make much if any comment on it. It was your shallow and erroneous assumptions about turning solar power satellites into microwave beam weapons I was talking about. I suggest you consult someone familiar with radar systems design about the implausibility of turning a radar dish into a beam weapon. I was trained in the military in theory and operation of radar systems. There’s a reason we don’t have microwave beam weapons on the ground right now. When you know what those reasons are you will know why it was so ridiculous to suggest that solar power sats could be used as microwave beam weapons.

  201. @Roger Sowell

    You say there will be no space based weapons because lawyers like you will stop it.

    I’m curious about the legal theory behind that statement. Space is not nationalized. Legally it’s like international ocean waters. The way I see it you have about as much chance of using the law to prevent space based weapons as you have in preventing battleships and submarines from being deployed in international waters. Where there is an international treaty which 98 nations have ratified it only prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons in orbit. Conventional weapons including kinetic, chemical, and directed energy are not proscribed.

    So do tell. Exactly what law and within what juridiction will be the means and venue in your quest to save the world from the dangers of solar power sats?

  202. @Dave Springer,

    The obvious seems to have escaped you. Placing a microwave energy satellite into orbit – but which actually produces the death ray – is a bit of a problem. Who will verify prior to launch? Do you seriously think China or Russia or any other space-capable country will allow such verification? If you do, then you also believe that all nuclear reactors on Earth are merely for peaceful, power production purposes.

    Re nuclear power, I suggest you search through the WUWT prior posts, where this has been flogged to death. Your grasp of economics is rather thin.

    Re energy for ethanol production. Your comments are comical. Energy required for distillation is not a fixed value, but varies with many factors. Please, leave the chemical engineering to the chemical engineers.

  203. @roger sowell

    Your insults are as weak as the rest of your blather.

    How about that legal theory whereby lawyers like you are going to stop the microwave death ray? lol

  204. With an as yet undetermined appendage Roger Sowell writes:

    “Re energy for ethanol production. Your comments are comical. Energy required for distillation is not a fixed value, but varies with many factors. Please, leave the chemical engineering to the chemical engineers.”

    Actually Rog, I did leave it to a chemical engineer. I quoted from Ladisch 1979. Like duh.

    http://cobweb.ecn.purdue.edu/~lorre/16/people/ladresume2.shtml

    Michael R. Ladisch
    Distinguished Professor and Director
    Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering
    Purdue University
    Potter Engineering Center, Room 216
    500 Central Drive
    West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-2022
    Phone: 765-494-7022; Fax: 765-494-7023

    ladisch@purdue.edu

    If you have some issue with the 90% distillation efficiency he got with his process in 1979 I suggest you take it up with him.

  205. Richard S Courtney says:
    August 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

    There is only one certainty concerning future energy technologies, and it is that we do not know what they will be. Therefore, it is pointless to postulate about them. . .

    I think you mean ‘speculate’ rather than ‘postulate’, unless it’s ‘expostulate’. :-)

    Either way, it’s all great fun. What I object to are politicians and bureaucrats, the ‘governing class’ if you will, betting on one future technology or another with my tax money. Chances are they’ll be wrong, and someone will have to undo all the mistakes they make, which of course will cost even more of my money.

    /Mr Lynn

  206. Dave Springer says:
    August 15, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Space elevator concept has been around for over 100 years. There are numerous engineering challenges in building one. I didn’t mean to imply there weren’t. There are fewer engineering challenges IMO in a space elevator program today than there were challenges to landing a man on the moon when Kennedy announced that program 1961. In adjusted dollars a space elevator will probably cost less too. The Japs think they can do it for under $10 billion – a mere bag of shells. The only caveat is the tether. Carbon nanotubes have the required strength to weight ratio and at this point it’s reduced to a manufacturing issue. The discovery phase is in the past. . .

    I knew (but forgot) the concept was older. As you pointed out earlier, it was popularized by Arthur C. Clarke, which was where I first encountered it, and he is usually given credit in the popular press.

    I still suspect you underestimate the engineering challenges. Nothing fabricated by man lasts forever. Imagine the effects of wind, sun (UV), heat, cold, micrometeors, cosmic rays, etc., all what we might call ‘wear and tear’ on a giant string, tens of thousands of miles long, under tension. First it degrades, then frays, then it snaps, like the guitar string the Elevator is so often compared to.

    Not that such problems can’t be anticipated and solved. Maybe some of your living nano-engineering-microbots could be patrolling the length of the string repairing molecular bonds. But I fear it won’t be soon enough for me. Heck, we haven’t even managed to get back to the Moon, much less Mars. When I was a lad, I thought for sure by now we’d be on our way to Alpha Centauri.

    /Mr Lynn

  207. Dave Springer: Thanks for the laughs! Such comedy is rare, you should seriously (or comically) consider a stand-up act.

    Fortunately, the sober and serious-minded can afford to take the drivel you spout for what it is, and have a few laughs.

    Just one question: if the Ladisch article you are so very, very proudly promoting was valid (after all, this was published in 1979!!) why then isn’t every ethanol production plant using this? Obviously, they don’t. Again, leave the chemical engineering to the chemical engineers, which is by the way my undergraduate training followed by decades of experience. When you cherry-pick one article (out of hundreds of thousands), and do not understand the context, nor the alternatives, you merely provide lots of laughs.

    And I don’t worry too much about your space-based energy beam/death ray system. Sober-minded men and women will never let that happen. But, I hear that Hollywood could use some fresh ideas for their next mega-block-buster We’re-All-Gonna-Die film genre. You could send the idea in to them.

    Finally, your blatant racism “the Japs think they could” has no place in polite conversation.

    Good day to you, sir.

  208. hi, It reminded me a joke i’ve heard some days ago. As the moral is simply the same! =) There was a man who worked all of his life and stored all of his cash. He was a true miser when it came to his funds. He loved dollars far more than simply about everything, and just just before he died, he mentioned to his spouse, “Now listen, when I die, I want you to take all my cash and place it within the casket with me. I wanna take my money to the afterlife.” So he obtained his spouse to promise him with all her heart that when he died, she would placed all of the income within the casket with him. Well, one day he died. He was stretched out in the casket, the wife was sitting there in black next to her closest good friend. When they finished the ceremony, just prior to the undertakers bought ready to close the casket, the spouse mentioned “Wait just a minute!” She had a shoe box with her, she came over with the box and placed it from the casket. Then the undertakers locked the casket down and thrown it away. Her buddy stated, “I hope you weren’t crazy enough to placed all that income from the casket.” “Yes,” the wife said, “I promised. I’m a very good Christian, I can not lie. I promised him that I was going to fit that income in that casket with him.” “You mean to tell me you place every single cent of his dollars within the casket with him?” “I sure did. I received it all together, set it into my account and I wrote him a check.” высшее образование в англии

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