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Comments by Gail Tverberg Subscribe

On Putting the Real Story of Energy and the Economy Together

You do not understand the enormity of the problem. I have seen solar panels (backed up by batteries) offering electrical power in the field. But this gets us a tiny way on the way to making so-called "renewables" and for that matter "EVs".

To make renewables and EVs, we first have to mine materials, around the world, and ship them to factories (which need to be built as well). Then we need huge amounts of heat, to smelt metals that are needed and to process materials like rare earth minerals. Then we have to build and ship the devices, plus the electrical transmission lines needed to make the whole system to work.

I challenge anyone to get even a little step of the way on this whole long process, using only renewable energy. There are some very flawed studies suggesting that "renewables" generate huge "net energy." This is not sufficient to solve the problem. Renewables have to pay back not only the fossil fuel energy embedded in them, but the many other costs, including human energy, and financing costs--also costs of mitigating intermittency with batteries.  

 

 

 

 

 

April 17, 2015    View Comment    

On Putting the Real Story of Energy and the Economy Together

Continued growth in a finite world doesn't work well. I am open to solutions, but we know that when local economies tried to grow for long periods in the past, they often collpased. It is hard to see how today's world economy can be confident that it can do better.

Devices that are called "modern renewables" are made using fossil fuels and limited supplies of high-grade mineral ores. Thus, they lead to exhaustion of one time supplies of fossil fuels and high grade mineral ores. They are sold as being less destructive than direct use of fossil fuels, but they are still inherently destructive.

Less modern renewables, like cutting down trees, may not directly use fossil fuels and mineral orse. But they still can be destructive to ecosystems through deforestation. Loss of topsoil often goes with deforestation.

 

 

April 17, 2015    View Comment    

On A New Theory of Energy and the Economy, Part 2: Showing the Long-Term GDP-Energy Tie

Willem--Good point:

"Many solar installations within a distribution grid (Germany, California) will upset the local grid requiring battery systems to be installed as dampers to minimize disturbances.

This has nothing to do with storage of energy for later use.

Viable storage, other than hydro, has not yet been invented, and would take many billions and many years to deploy AFTER it has been invented."

We can't expect solar PV to be a major source of power, regardless of how low the cost seems to be, unless the location seems to be next door to a hydroelectric facility with capacity to spare. I expect this is especially the case if high quality electric power is required, as might be needed for providing power for an electronic storage facility providing services to businesses.

February 10, 2015    View Comment    

On A New Theory of Energy and the Economy, Part 2: Showing the Long-Term GDP-Energy Tie

In fact, if the PV is connected to the electric grid, it is imporatant to look at the impact on the overall cost of electricity production. Many times, "net metering" is used, but this is very unfair to electric utilities. This gives the owner of the solar PV far too much credit for the intermittent electricity produced. The benefit to the electric utility of the solar PV will vary, depending on whether the the addition of solar PV can cut the need for new fossil fuel powered plants--I am wondering if the need for new fossil fuel powered plants is already going away, simply because of changing light bulbs. If there is no benefit in cutting the need for new fossil fuel powered plants, then the benefit to the utility comes out close to the amount of fuel saved. This savings is tiny relative to the net metering credit.

February 9, 2015    View Comment    

On A New Theory of Energy and the Economy, Part 2: Showing the Long-Term GDP-Energy Tie

Unfortunately, the government programs have been built on the premise that growth will continue forever. The most vulnerable if there is not enough to go around are those on social security and other public programs.

February 7, 2015    View Comment    

On A New Theory of Energy and the Economy, Part 2: Showing the Long-Term GDP-Energy Tie

It also must not create too much CO2 for the atmosphere, and must not encourage too much human population growth. 

February 6, 2015    View Comment    

On A New Theory of Energy and the Economy, Part 2: Showing the Long-Term GDP-Energy Tie

What we need is for workers' wages to go farther and farther. With the shrinking wages of many of the people who are low-skilled, this is not happening. If the part-time minimum wage person could eat pixels, everyting would be fine. If the part-time minimum wage person needs to feed herself and one or two others, it is a problem.

The wealth is not of the type that it puts food on the table for people, or magically transports them to work. That is the problem.

 

February 6, 2015    View Comment    

On A New Theory of Energy and the Economy, Part 1: Generating Economic Growth

The idea that when additional energy is added from outside, the result is self-organizing systems is something that is fairly new. I have been correspoinding with Francois Roddier also. I don't necessarily see eye to with him on everything either. I think it is a better description of the world than all of the talk about closed systems, leading to an ever-less-interesting world.

January 24, 2015    View Comment    

On A New Theory of Energy and the Economy, Part 1: Generating Economic Growth

The idea that when additional energy is added from outside, the result is self-organizing systems is something that is fairly new. I have been correspoinding with Francois Roddier also. I don't necessarily see eye to with him on everything either. I think it is a better description of the world than all of the talk about closed systems, leading to an ever-less-interesting world.

January 24, 2015    View Comment    

On A New Theory of Energy and the Economy, Part 1: Generating Economic Growth

Thanks! I haver read some of Tim Garrett's work and corresponded with him. He works in a climate change department. I agree that energy efficiency is not going to reduce overall energy use, basically because of Jevons' paradox. He doesn't seem to understand the impact of diminishing returns, and what that does to the economy.

The issue I see is that the world economy is going to collapse from financial effects related to limits we are reaching, long before other popular issues, like climate change, become important. It is a here and now problem, a likely indirect impact of low oil prices.

 

January 24, 2015    View Comment    

On Oil and the Economy: Where are we Headed in 2015-16?

Think about the situation we are in as being like a Ponzi Scheme. We have been borrowing from the future for a long time. Now the return we are getting on the borrowed money doesn't pay back enough to provide interest, so the debt comes back to bite us. (The government has been hiding this situation with 0% interest loans.) We can't keep borrowing from the future, and that is what brings the whole system down at once.

The financial system connects all the other systems, so it is the one that is first to collapse. When it starts to go, we are in deep trouble. It is not obvious to folks, though, because the financial system is so opaque. We almost had a major system collapse in 2008, and the financial wizzards found a lot of scotch tape (QE and ZIRP) to hold the system together. Now the scotch tape is failing.

January 8, 2015    View Comment    

On How Increased Inefficiency Explains Falling Oil Prices

We need to keep in mind, though, that these countries are truly dependent on high oil revenue at this point. If Venezuela , Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia stop producing oil because of civil disruption in their countries, we will be in a heap of trouble. Even a drop by one or two of these countries could be a problem. And as we have seen in Libya, it is not clear that if production drops, it will ever reliably rise again.

January 1, 2015    View Comment