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On Update on US Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear, and Renewables

Based on EROEI, coal is the best fuel, by a long shot. Natural gas comes in next. Imported oil from Iraq comes out a lot better than US produced oil.

It really depends on what you are trying to measure with EROEI.

 

August 29, 2014    View Comment    

On Update on US Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear, and Renewables

The reason why wind and solar become high percentages of added capacity are

(1) Their units (espeically wind) do not last as long as fossil fuel units.

(2) The percentage of capacity they are operated at are low compared to fossil fuel plants.

So it is always necessary to add a disproportionate share of capacity for them, if any is to be used at all.

I understand that the current price of wind is about 2.5 cents per kWh. This is about right, relative to the fuel it is replacing. If wind can be produced for something like this price (without a lot of subsidies), we should be building more of it.  Everything I can see says it needs a lot of subsidies to be profitable at its true value to the grid, which is equal to the fuel it replaces. Solar is still a long ways away from being profitable at a price in this range.

 

August 29, 2014    View Comment    

On Update on US Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear, and Renewables

Solar energy is diffuse. Photosynthesis is probably as close to as effient a use of solar energy as we are going to find--it has been evoloving for a very long time. We can eat food made with photsynthesis, and stay close to this chain. Or we can hope for much more.

Unfortunately, our current system is set up for very specific energy carriers--gasoline, or diesel or jet fuel, or electricity. Building a new system is extraordinarily expesnive and time-consuming. We can "beat ourselves up," for not doing more, but the truth of the matter is that now is too late to build a new system. Our financial system system is already showing huge signs of strain. Also, oil prices are not staying high enough for a lot of oil producers, adding strains to the system (contrary to be belief of many that oil prices will rise!). We need a different system now, not 50 or 100 years from now. To fix our problems, the new system needs to be cheaper than the current system using oil products. This makes the kind of change required especially difficutt.

August 28, 2014    View Comment    

On Making Sense of the US Oil Story

You are confused when you say 70% of energy is wasted. By the laws of physics, when you burn fossil fuels to get mechanical energy, you also get waste heat. If the heat is produced in a car's engine, it is pretty hard to make use of it, except perhaps for heating the car duing winter.

When fossil fuels are burned to provide electricity, waste heat is unavoidably produced. In some cases, it is possible to use this head as "combined heat and power," but to do this, it is necessary to have some use for the waste heat (like heating homes) nearby to the power plant. 

Most of this inefficiency is "baked in the cake." It is hard to get rid of it. Energy use is what provides our jobs, and allows us to get to work. It cooks our food. We cannot live on raw food (without a blender--which also requires energy use).

Renewables unfortumately don't work very well either. The are made using the fossil fuel system, and cannot be maintained without the fossil fuel system. In particular, the electric grid, to which so called renewables are often conected, needs the fossil fuel system to maintain it. We really need our whole syste, or the economy tends to collapse. This is very unfortunate.

August 20, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy and the Economy: Twelve Basic Principles

Matlhus theory would have been right, except for the ramping up of coal use. The use of coal greatly increased food production, because it allowed such innovations a steel plows in quantity, hydroeclectric (using concrete and steel) and the ramp up in the use of the steem engine, which allowed much better transport, both by ship and by rail. Caol also allowed the huge use of metal needed to make train tracks.

Bronze may have indeed helped end the "stone age," but the issue is that we have not learned to live without metals. Metals require a huge amount of heat energy to refine. We also need all kinds of other minerals.

Without heat to refine minerals, we are pretty much up a creek, without a paddle. We are without metals. In fact, we are also without plastics, and without all kinds of other moderns materials as well--synthetic fabrics, modern medicines, amd most everything else we need.

Solar and wind just plain don't have what is needed to continue to give us the heat energy that allows all of the "innovations" you talk about. They are too dilute for our needs. Their intermittency does not allow them to be scaled up well. Look at Germany, as it plunges into recesssion. Or Spain or Greece.

Solar and wind are extremely expensive ways to save on carbon. http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21608646-wind-and-solar-power-are-even-more-expensive-commonly-thought-sun-wind-and

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The article from the Economist is based on a Brookings Institution report. 

Innovation without materials to work with doesn't work. Broken supply chains are also huge problems. 

August 18, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy and the Economy: Twelve Basic Principles

You are right. Climate change could add to our problems. 

I haven't emphasized climate change as much as other issues, because current IPCC models (espcially the upper scenario, which is the BAU scenario) assume far more carbon burning that seems likely to be possilble with all of the other limits we are reaching simultaneously. We may very well have climate change--climate has been changing as long as the planet has been in existence. But I am less certain than the climate modelers seem to be about how much this will amount to.  The "2.6 scenario" seems far more likely to me, if their modeling is in fact correct, than the BAU scenario. 

August 17, 2014    View Comment    

On Making Sense of the US Oil Story

Over time, wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP have tended to fall. Wages amounted to 42.5% of GDP in 2013 compared to 46.9% of GDP in 2000.  Thus, while GDP has been rising, wages haven't been rising as much. Also, there is increasing disparity of wages. Rich people will drive a little more than poor people, but not proportionate to their incomes.

Insurance companies report that young people are starting out later driving. Lack of job opportunites also play a big role in the decision not to get a car. I have seen studies showing that not having a job is a major reason for not having a car.

 

August 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Making Sense of the US Oil Story

Over time, wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP have tended to fall. Wages amounted to 42.5% of GDP in 2013 compared to 46.9% of GDP in 2000.  Thus, while GDP has been rising, wages haven't been rising as much. Also, there is increasing disparity of wages. Rich people will drive a little more than poor people, but not proportionate to their incomes.

Insurance companies report that young people are starting out later driving. Lack of job opportunites also play a big role in the decision not to get a car. I have seen studies showing that not having a job is a major reason for not having a car.

 

August 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Making Sense of the US Oil Story

You will also notice the European economy isn't doing very well. The European approach isn't necessarily working very well.

US energy consumption varies greatly by part of the country. http://www.eia.gov/state/rankings/?sid=WY#series/12 The highest energy consumption is in Wyoming (949 million Btu per capita) and Alaska (873 million Btu per capita.) The lowest are Rhode Island (173) and New York (179). If we want to reduce our energy consumption, the easiest way is to stop producing energy products and stop farming.

Admittedly a higher tax on gasoline consumption might reduce the size of US vehicles over time. There will still be a big difference, though, relative to Europe, because of the different business activities, the dstances between towns, and US built infrastructure of houses rather than apartments. 

 

 

 

August 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Making Sense of the US Oil Story

I don't disagree. Electricity especially has seen reduced demand thanks to LED bulbs and changes in electronic equipment.

August 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Making Sense of the US Oil Story

I agree that it is CHEAP energy that we need for an expanding economy.

Reducing demand would work better if we could keep the total number of oil consumers down. In recent years, we have been adding a millions and millions of consumers in China and the rest of Asia. Even if we keep our own consumption down, it is hard to make a dent in world demand. In addition, world population continues to rise.  

August 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Making Sense of the US Oil Story

You are welcome. If oil prices were a whole lot higher, the Middle East would be doing better financially and there would be less tendency to fight over what the land and resources available.

 

August 10, 2014    View Comment