Tag Archives: energy

Bits and Pieces – 20181202, Sunday

Commentary

I was going to slot this under Social Collapse but instead I’m featuring this article because it is at once astounding, insightful into our culture and profoundly disturbing: Watch What Happens When A Baby That Is Addicted To A Cellphone Has It Taken Away. Note that the mother thinks that this is funny and a search in YouTube finds the video in Best funny baby video compilation of 2015. Here’s just the video:

A real hoot.

By the way, if you know someone who might be interested in my letter, please pass it on. They can email me (see End Notes) requesting inclusion on my mailing list.

Bits and Pieces – 20181125, Sunday

Commentary

I’m adding a new topic – Energy. I work from a topic template structure with 36 topics arranged in 3 levels of detail breakdown. In choosing to add another, I reviewed all topics and sub-topics and found none that I wanted to delete. Many are not currently of active interest but could find an entry at any time. Often, an article that I wish to include spans diverse topics and it can be a challenge figuring out where to slot it in. So why energy now? Here are some collected thoughts.

The Quest for Fusion Continues

Alternate forms of energy is a topic we are very interested in although we don’t publish on it. This came to us from a friend and we thought we would republish it.

October 15, 2014 | 2255 GMT

Analysis

Fusion has long been touted as the panacea for the world’s energy woes. Scientists have sought to harness the same reaction that powers the stars in an effort to meet the world’s ever-growing global energy demands. Announcements of advances in the field are often met with excitement and grand plans for a greener planet, but scientists have a long way to go — and many obstacles to overcome — in creating fusion reactors for widespread use.

On Oct. 15, Tom McGuire, the head of a project at a secretive research division of Lockheed Martin Corp., announced that the company has made significant strides in recent years in developing a compact fusion reactor, and he touted the possibility of developing a useable, compact reactor within the next decade. Lockheed Martin is certainly no slouch when it comes to developing new technologies and bringing them to market. However, McGuire’s timeline is incredibly optimistic given the current state of the technology. Even if Lockheed Martin were to meet its goals, widespread incorporation could take several more years or even decades. That said, if or when the power of fusion is harnessed, it could shift the paradigms of the global energy system in manner similar to the advent of the modern oil industry in the mid-1800s.

Oil: Primary Energy Source for the Human Social CAS

On the “About” page of her blog site, Our Finite World, Gail Tverberg writes:

In early 2007, Gail decided to devote full-time to issues related to oil shortages, and other shortages, and their impact on the economy.

She explains in one sentence what she is about – a researcher and writer on the relationship between material shortages, particularly oil, and the economy. A sharp focus like this is usually the sign of a sharp mind. At the same time, she confirms our intuition that the issues around oil are a full time job, validating our decision to largely avoid the topic. Now that we share her interest in the context of networks or CASs, we will pick up the topic by distilling her latest essay, Why Standard Economic Models Don’t Work–Our Economy is a Network.

This essay becomes the first on the energy aspect of our new series on complex adaptive systems (CAS: The Operative Principle Behind Everything). In extracts that we quote from her essay any emphasis will be ours unless otherwise noted.

CAS: Limits in a Connected World

The grand strategy that we have adopted is to understand our global civilization as a complex adaptive system (CAS) or less formally, a networked or connected world. One of the first sources of commentary that came our way when we launched this effort is the video by Chris Martenson below (56:04 minutes). After the video we comment on it, extracting what are key ideas for our theme.

This is a long but well produced and clearly explained analysis of the current state of our civilization from three key viewpoints, economic, environmental, and energy. We examine each in turn.

Flash Point: A Game Changer. Japan Extracts Methane Hydrate

As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports: Japan cracks seabed ‘ice gas’ in dramatic leap for global energy. Just as the shale gas revolution was taking hold we appear to be on the verge of a much larger energy revolution. Methane hydrate, a methane molecule trapped in a molecular water cage, is thought to exist in appropriate temperature and pressure environments, such as deep sea deposits, that comprise more than half of the theoretical carbon fuel sources in the world. Figure 1 is a chart of the breakdown of the global occurrence of carbon energy sources with methane hydrate comprising more than half. This is a resource much larger than shale gas.

Figure 1. Distribution of organic carbon in the earth.

Source: .

Of the known occurrences, Japan has an exceptionally rich potentials as shown  in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Worldwide distribution of methane hydrate [5].

Source: Science Direct.

As Evans-Pritchard notes, Tokyo hopes to bring the gas to market on a commercial scale within five years. This is a very short time frame for a new energy source to come onto the market. If it is realized, it will have immense impact on select national economies that have the resources to develop. The geopolitical implications are also enormous. This is the early stage of the revolution and commercial exploration has not really begun yet. The current energy superpowers such as the OPEC countries and Russia will find their influence waning. The loss of energy income may destabilize parts of the Mid East.

Japan’s economy in particular may be revitalized. Countries such as Canada that are net energy exporters and that have no appreciable alternative base of revenue such as manufacturing will go into decline.

Flash Point: Hmmm … EROEI?

This will be a short post to capture an idea that is intriguing but requires some thought. Posted on Zero Hedge by Dr. Tim Morgan of Tullet Prebon, The End Of An Era examines certain trends leading us to economic disaster. He writes:

This report explains that this acceleration towards ever-greater immediacy has blinded society to a series of fundamental economic trends which, if not anticipated and tackled well in advance, could have devastating effects. The relentless shortening of media, social and political horizons has resulted in the establishment of self-destructive economic patterns which now threaten to undermine economic viability. We date the acceleration in short-termism to the early 1980s.

The emphasized phrase is an idea we have often used in conversation – nice to see it validated. Another ide we are familiar with:

there has been a relentless shift to immediate consumption as part of something that has been called a “cult of self-worship”. The pursuit of instant gratification has resulted in the accumulation of debt on an unprecedented scale.

He identifies four underlying trends:

  1. the madness of crowds
  2. the globalisation disaster
  3. an exercise in self-delusion
  4. the growth dynamo winds down

It is the fourth point that was new to us and grabbed our attention:

In modern societies, manufacturing, services, minerals, food and even water are functions of the availability of energy. The critical equation here is not the absolute quantity of energy available but, rather, the difference between energy extracted and energy consumed in the extraction process. This is measured by the mathematical equation EROEI (energy return on energy invested).

The path we are on has this characteristic:

Research suggests that the global average EROEI, having fallen from about 40:1 in 1990 to 17:1 in 2010, may decline to just 11:1 by 2020, at which point energy will be about 50% more expensive, in real terms, than it is today, a metric which will carry through directly into the cost of almost everything else – including food.

This is not a future that standard monetary or fiscal policy will be able to touch. It is based on the real state of energy production for which there are no easy solutions if solutions at all, and certainly not in time-frames that society has become adapted to as mentioned in the beginning of this post. As we mentionned, this post is a teaser, a place holder while we dwell upon this at length.

Flash Point: A Resurgent America

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of The Telegraph has published a beautiful essay that succinctly describes the re-industrialization of America that is just beginning. In Europe left behind as shale shock drives America’s industrial resurgence, he argues that the impact of shale oil and shale gas will make the US independent before 2020. The geopolitical implications are enormous. As he puts it,

The implications are momentous. America will no longer need a single drop of oil from the Islamic world. The strategic burden will fall on Europe, which is meekly disarming itself to meet Wolfgang Schauble’s austerity targets. Russia and China will be pleased to help.

 Japan and much of Europe are shutting down much of their nuclear power industry. Renewable energy has proven to be an enormous unreliable expense. As Evans-Pritchard notes, Prices on the Pacific rim [of liquified natural gas] are near $15 per million British thermal units (BTU), compared to $3 in the US. The differential in energy costs is making European and Asian manufacturing uncompetitive with a newborn American petrochemical industry which is shuttering plants across Europe while building new world-class facilities in the US. He notes:

This is happening just as other clusters of manufacturing – machinery, electrical products, transport equipment, furniture, etc – are “re-shoring” back from from China to the US. A 16pc annual rise in Chinese wages over the last decade has changed the game. PricewaterhouseCoopers calls it the “Homecoming”.

In short,the US is witnessing an industrial rebirth that will once again make it the economic powerhouse it was once. And this will happen quickly being aided by disastrous policy decisions in much of the rest of the developed world.

The Bright Future of Solar Energy and Green Jobs in Ontario

The McGuinty government, following the lead of the Obama administration in the US, has bet the farm on solar energy as an integral part of Ontario’s energy supply and a major source of the jobs the province has promised to create. To get an idea of the future success of this strategy we chronicle events in the solar industry in the US and elsewhere that gives us confidence in this brilliant program. A quick video clip on the issue:

Below are key events that portend of the program’s success.

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