Climate change: the end of civilisation as we know it

James Hansen said in his book Storms for my Grandchildren that if we burnt all the available coal, tars, and oil then the ‘Venus Syndrome’ would be a dead certainty, extinguishing life as we know it on the planet. He has now thought further and says that is not going to happen, the time-scales make it impossible. It would take 100 million years to get enough carbon into the atmosphere, and by that time much of it would be back on the sea floor.

However we are on a path to make living at low latitudes impossible, plus more than half the major cities in the world cling to the coastline and are subject to sea level rise. The world, he says, would become ungovernable.

How likely is this? The short answer is that we appear to be on a path to achieve an ungovernable world within a century.

There is another story to be told, one which says that mainstream science is too optimistic, that we are heading for disaster faster than even most climate scientist will admit, at least in public.

For now, just take it that Climate Analytics, a very competent and authoritative outfit, said this last year:

    At present the overall globally aggregated effect of INDCs and current policies put the world on a 3°C or close to 4°C pathways respectively

The INDCs are the Initial Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. Climate Action Tracker says current policies will land us with 3.6°C, with the range 2.6°C to 4.9°C. On that basis 4.0°C looks like at least a 25% probability.

Michael le Page in the New Scientist took a look at our prospects under the latest information.

We’ve had several theories about recovery from disasters, such as hurricanes Harvey and Maria. They vary from ‘creative destruction’ to ‘no recovery’. An optimistic view is that an economy flattened by a big storm will eventually be better off. The pessimistic view is that recovery happens, but the area will never be as well-off as it would have been without the disaster.

Unfortunately studies show the following:

That was after looking at the effects of 7000 tropical storms since 1950 in work carried out be Solomon Hsiang at the University of California, Berkeley and Amir Jina at the University of Chicago, a study done in 2014.

Maria, apart from initial damage, could lower incomes by a fifth. It could take 26 years to get back to where they were before Maria.

Now Jina and Hsiang are looking forward and looking at what might happen in other disasters, such as floods, and in areas beyond the tropics.

Michael Mann says there may be more extreme weather events than the models predict. James Hansen worries that all hell will break loose on the basis of what happened 120 thousand years ago during the Eemian.

Then there is sea level rise. The article says that a 3-metre rise by 2100 is the wort-case scenario. That would be devastating, but most scientists have underplayed sea level rise prospects. The models don’t include the effects of ice sheet decay, because our records of measurement over the last century are a mere moment in time in this issue. We know that serious melting of ice sheets has started in the last 10 years.

I’ll stick with what I wrote in Scoping long-term sea level rise, where I said:

    380 (360-400)ppm gives a temperature variance of 2.7 to 3.7°C and SLR of 25m (±5)
    500 (400-600)ppm gives a temperature variance of 5 to 7°C and SLR of 75m (complete deglaciation).

We are currently at 403ppm and most think we’ll get to around 550ppm during this century, or double pre-industrial. SLR plays out over centuries and millennia, but it can happen rapidly under the right circumstances. I suspect 5-metres by 2100 is about the worst case scenario. As to the longer term, I suspect we’d be better looking at ‘back of the envelope’ calculations based on David Archers 2006 graph:

3.1-1_400

We really have no idea, but we should expect around 20 metres SLR for each degree of temperature rise. We also don’t know what would happen to ameliorate the situation if we reduced emissions to net zero.

Meanwhile in the immediate future the biggest impact could be from the straight temperature rise. Jina and Hsiang looked at this as far back as 2015, would you believe.

They found that when a country’s average temperature 24/7 over the whole year was at 13°C, maximum agricultural productivity is achieved.

At present the Earth’s average is about 16°C:

That image is calibrated in Kelvin, which shows in absolute terms how hot the place is. I think it does a good job in showing the relative warmth of different parts of the planet.

Back to the serious stuff, there are two problems with temperature increase alone. One is that it becomes too hot to work outside in some areas. The other is that productivity and GDP drops away rapidly. The study suggests a 23% drop in incomes on average, and rising inequality. The effects are from 2.5 to 100 times greater than previous modelling suggested.

So here is the impact of 4°C worldwide:

Of the major economies, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico are completely stuffed, The US, Spain, Italy, China and Australia are in bad shape. Germany, Britain and the UK along with Belgium, The Netherlands and Denmark could be OK, but then there is sea level rise.

There are uncertainties in all this, but the risks are astonishing.

Now you may have heard coming out of climate talks in Bonn that emissions were up a bit in 2016, but had been flat in 2014 and 2015, and they expected them to return to flat in 2017.

Don’t believe a word of it. Those scientists are simply not looking in the right place. It’s embarrassing. Here is the latest from the WMO via NASA:

That’s not just from Mauna Loa, it’s from stations all around the globe:

In reducing emissions, we are achieving in net terms exactly nothing. We are in trouble, deep trouble.

Indications are that there is going to be a population collapse of Homo sapiens in the future not too far away. If we get our act together on emissions, we may still need drastic solutions in other areas. Energy from the sun is virtually unlimited, and we may be eating synthetic food. But or politicians and policy makers are walking backwards into the future.

A final warning. The above is based on a linear response of earth systems to climate change. We can be almost certain the response will not be linear. And there is also the matter of low probability, high impact events, which could trigger further tipping points.

Just about anything could happen, short of the Venus Syndrome.

108 thoughts on “Climate change: the end of civilisation as we know it”

  1. To anticipate Geoff M’s question, I am planning a further post based on recent work done by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop to show why the mainstream science is coming up short. That will be in about a month’s time, given current commitments.

  2. I’m for a plebicite on cliamte action. No action, strong action, climate war footing. Or something along those lines. Then stand back and listen to the cacophoney of weasle words. I couldn’t yield a worse result than what we have now.

  3. BilB, what is making me cranky at present is that the LNP are running around openly saying money spent on renewables is wasted, and the media thinks that is not unusual, just fine.

    The ABC seems to have climate change marked as one of the issues it must be ‘balanced’ about,

  4. The LNP have fallen into line with the US coal lobby it seems. This was made clear with Trumps “team” openly talking up coal at the recent climate talks in Bonn.

    Its plainly obvious that Turnbull is a Trump sycophant and probably sees his hosing down of renewables in this country as being a big win buy-in to Trump’s favour.

    We are in for a rough legislative ride in this country as what should happen when Labour gets a wide seating on the government benches should immediately undo everything that Turnbull has effed up and get the renewables build back on track. Labour should also purge key agency positions of LNP appointees, to undo the stacking that has been going on. It was Labour’s being to nice and playing by the old play book in leaving Maurice Newman in command of the ABC that delivered the prime minister-ship to Tony Abbott.

    The first two I would dump from the ABC are that pair who do the morning breakfast show Trioli and Rowland who are neither clever nor smart. I usually have the sound muted when they are on, but I caught Trioli commenting to a discussion about celebrity political appointees “who could forget the pink bats saga” referring to Garret’s demise at the hands of Abbott during his Sociopathic best period of maximum demolition (facilitated by the ABC) as opposition leader, the basis for which Credlin later admitted was purely for personal political gain…not the advancement of the nation.

    The fact is that the roof insulation initiative was the best energy efficiency program the Australian government has engage in, and, my friend Bill K reminds me was Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion to John Howard at the time of the light bulb changing. Had the program completed much of the summer power blackout risk would not be a reality now.

    We need Bill Shorten as Prime Minister to apply some well focused revenge delivery after this next election. If he can’t do that then we need another Leader.

  5. Brian,

    Castlereagh Coal (part of the Manildra Group) has put forward a proposal for development consent to mine coal at the Invincible Mine (currently mothballed). The consent approval has triggered an assessment by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC).

    The proposal is to mine ‘nut coal’ at a demand rate of 85 kilotonnes per annum for Manildra Group’s ethanol production at Bomaderry NSW. The mine workings will be open cast, and in order to get at this prize other coal needs to be removed that has ash content up to 30%.

    Manildra gets its nut coal from Clarence Mine, but it claims the Invincible Mine nut coal will be cheaper than sourcing from Clarence. I don’t believe it.

    Higher EROI coal being used to produce lower EROI ethanol – a stupid idea!

    Any thoughts?

  6. Geoff M, sound stupid to me, but I’m a lay person in these things. John D was a chemical engineer, then worked as a process engineer in the mining industry, including for some time coal. He might have a comment.

    BilB, I recall Robert Merkel doing a post at LP saying the four deaths on pink bats proportionately was fewer than what had been happening in the industry before that. But ABC people are often shallow and pick up LNP lines, repeating them as truth.

  7. The roof insulation scheme,
    4 electrocuted
    50,000 homes had to have their insulation removed and replaced
    1-1.5 billion dollars to rectify the problems
    Program axed
    Millions of compensation to companies with warehouses full of batts
    Royal Commission
    Unknown homes burnt down or in danger of doing so

    Yeah, brilliant.
    Unless of course one looks at all the energy used to earn the tax that payed for it all.

  8. Brian,

    Yes I recall Robert Merkyl reporting that too. Bill K recently added that one of the deaths was from heat exhaustion, and another was caused by a previous installation where a staple had been driven through a power cable in the roof. All four of these deaths were a result of shoddy work practices by LNP voting contractors such as Jumpy.

    The governments only failure was caving in to Abbott and his Goons.

    Everything you spelt out there Jumpy were the cost that the LNP foisted on the public 100% unnecessarily just so Abbott could push his anti Australian anti Climate Action agenda which has been proven to be purely egotistical and political.

    Much of the power shortage problem supposedly facing the grid can be sheeted directly home to the LNP as a result of the sutting down of the Home Insulation Progamme shutdown.

    That’s now number five in the Abbott and Trump supporting Jumpyphile.

  9. What you are declaring there Jumpy is that all building contractors do shoddy work and that places all new construction at risk from a multitude of risks. Get real.

  10. In the private sector, when atrocities like the insulation scheme happen, the people responsible get bankrupt, jailed or both.
    Politicians are exempt so far more careless.

    And I’m going to have to ask your definition of ” supporting “, it doesn’t make senses to me that I gave support to anyone with my comment.

  11. What you are trying to BS across, Jumpy, is that is a person contracts a builder to construct a house, and due to the builder’s shoddy practices someone gets killed on the sight, the person for whom the building is being constructed is liable for the death and should go to gaol.

    Apart from that obvious fallacy, the fact is that building standards and practices are controlled by the states not the Federal Government.

    So tell me, Jumpy, how many of the shoddy contractors who set up the four deaths went to gaol?

    Further, we have to check your interpretation of “atrocity”. My reading of the meaning of t

  12. …..erm is there is an intention to cause injury or death. Are you saying that the primary purpose of the roof insulation scheme was to kill people and not insulate houses??

    On the other hand the guy you are sticking up for had absolutely no good intention with his offensive attack which culminated in huge losses tgo the public, with ongoing consequences to the present day.

  13. I’m talking about energy waste in the roof insulation mess.
    The shortsighted view was little, the longsighted view is huge.
    When does zoot think it may one day be paid for and how much energy expended to do that ?

    If BilB wants to go looney that’s on him/her/ whatever.

  14. BilB
    Straight up question, given your gift with math and electricity, how much energy will be expended to achieve the savings that are claimed?

    The emissions used in future to achieve paying off the cost is far greater.

  15. Jumpy: My recollection was that the death rate per house insulated was higher during the Howard years than that of the much vilified pink batt time.
    Am I to assume that Howard was the politician you are going on about even though neither Howard any more than Rudd controlled the relevant state inspectorates?

  16. GM: I assume that the “nut coal being used for ethanol production” was coal that would be burned to provide energy for ethanol being made from grain? The nut coal would be used for a very basic furnace that needed closely sized coal to work properly.
    My understanding is that the whole ethanol from grain business is questionable in terms of net reduction in the use of fossil energy let alone in terms of diverting arable land from food production.

  17. That may be so John.
    My point is the program isn’t finalised till it’s payed for.
    The final death toll isn’t known.

  18. JY: The surge in spending after the GST protected Aus from most of the effects of the GST. We would have been a lot worse off if we had followed Malcolm’s advice at the time and used tax cuts fro the rich to boost the economy.
    I said at the time that the pink batt project was not managed as well as it could have been because the environment dept was not equipped to handle projects like these. Governments need a project management dept that can either take over large projects or at least check that projects handled by other depts are set up and managed properly.

  19. I get cranky when scientists say CO2 is at higher levels than it has been for 800,000, because that is the extent of the Vostock ice cores, and they wouldn’t want to say anything that is not 100% true.

    At The Conversation Paul Fraser and others from the CSIRO have an article World greenhouse gas levels made unprecedented leap in 2016.

    They say:

    Geological records suggest that the last time atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide were similar to current levels was 3-5 million years ago. At that time, the climate was 2-3℃ warmer than today’s average, and sea levels were 10 to 20 metres higher than current levels.

    Then they add to that and confuse things by saying that counting the CO2 equivalence of the other GHGs:

    “CO₂-e” concentration in the atmosphere in 2016 would be 489 ppm. This is fast approaching the symbolic milestone of 500 ppm.

    They don’t say whether this means that temperatures will be even higher, and ditto for sea level rise. I think they mean ‘yes’ to both, but don’t give us an idea of by how much.

  20. John
    Putting to one side the budgetary effect which it a different topic, the nett energy usage of the program is not settled.
    First is the ongoing saving due to less heating and cooling, most people’s focus ends there.

    Second, and what less people see is the cost of the program is still going up because it was borrowed money. The final cost can only be known after it loan is settled, interest calculated, and associated administrative costs added.
    Those funds have to come from taxpayers burning energy on an ongoing basis.
    It’s like saying a house costs $ 400k so that’s only $1k per week= 8 years of petrol to pay for the loan.When we know it’ll be over 20 years of petrol.

    Thirdly, what some people refuse to see, opportunity cost.
    If government left that money in citizens hands they would be more able and inclined to upgrade that old energy chewing appliance for the new 5 star one, install insulation when the market isn’t artificially overheated or afford that bit more for that electric vehicle over the diesel one.

    I was addressing energy consumption not the effects of two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.

  21. As you are to damned lazy to figure it out for yourself, Jumpy, the roofing insulation ERoEI energy payback period for the average family house is 5 years, or 1.25 Australian political terms.

    And answer the question, Jumpy. As per your logic on the ALP Home Insulation Plan, are you claiming that a person who commissions a building should bear the liability for the illegal acts of his nominated builder?

  22. Jumpy, without the action taken, $10 billion in cash out, pink batts, school halls and libraries, and in total I think about $40 billion in infrastructure spending addressing years of neglect under Howard/Costello, we would have been in recession, perhaps depression.

    Some comparable countries lost 15% in GDP and still haven’t caught up.

    Debt even now is low by international standards.

    Could this thread get back to the topic, please, which was about the end of civilisation as we know it?

  23. As your too damned ignorant BilB to recognise, the average household is still paying it off through taxation than I can’t help you.

    On the second, in the private sector, liability is apportioned all the way to the top and the onus is on the principal to prove they put everything in their power in place to prevent injury.
    There were plenty of claim of this in the Royal Commission. It was rushed, ill informed and careless.

    On a discussion process point, if you keep being personally insulting and rude, I reserve the right to retaliate.

  24. I’ve been musing over the end of civilisation probability and to me the most imminent aspect is the probable collapse of technological support way sooner than the extreme environment arrives.

    The pink batts issue is connected to this argument because it is one gvt action taken that would have made a measurable difference towards climate action but was stopped in its tracks by the ignorance of the denialists, Jumpy’s attack here being typical of that total lack of understanding of the serious nature of our Climate Change exposure. I’m for not being able to find a nice way of putting it.

  25. I’m doing my progressive duty by being at the Kristina Kinnealy campaigne launch. Hopefully stomping on John Howard once more.

  26. I’ll go with Bill Gates on the next mass human die off will most likely be a pandemic.

    Civilisation as we know it is always changing.

    ( I hope no one felt attacked by this comment. Also not to be interpreted as support for Trump or Abbott. But we shall see )

  27. Jumpy, a pandemic is a real possibility. Climate change, if we go to 4C or more, could see a human population crash of 80 or 90%, maybe not so much, but as Hansen says the world would be largely ungovernable.

  28. Unless I haven’t been clear, ungovernability isn’t my major concern 😉

    But in all seriousness, many thing could cause catastrophic calamity, humanity isn’t ready for any of them.

    The survivors with be the ones that picked the guess, prepared the best and got very lucky.

    I don’t expect I’ll be among them.

  29. Unless I haven’t been clear, ungovernability isn’t my major concern

    Jumpy, you have much in common with Karl Marx. Here’s the transcript of a recent ABCRN Rear Vision program.

    Marx saw the ‘state’ withering away entirely.

    The program also says that many different people and groups, all different, go under the rubric of ‘Marxism”. They can’t all be right, but sure as hell they can all be wrong.

    The bloke also says that Marx as such was European, and of his time – still has an influence, but doesn’t really speak to the modern world.

  30. One way to consider the “end of civilisation as we know it” is to consider what we are losing.

    I was touched by the message of this video, and by Neomi’s beautifully subtle smile.

  31. Civilizations as they have been known have ended throughout history. Sometimes dramatically because of drought or plague or salination OR…. Sometimes gradual as cultures and economies change. We, for example, are quite different than our ancestors were when governor Phillips invaded Australia. If you think about we can think about the effects of the evolution of shipping over the last 200 yrs or relatively fast changes with the development of flying. (I think of the switch from shipping migrants to flying migrants as a a key jump.)
    Hard to say how dramatic climate change will be. It could something dramatic like climate change nuclear wars or some disease like a easily transferred version a disease like HIV that we don’t know how to handle OR…….
    I think we have been lucky to have been born when we were and where we were. One can but hope for our grandchildren and do what we can to reduce the risks to their future.

  32. I think I have a post somewhere that should be relevant on Jared Diamond, or something, but can’t find it. Closest is Charting the progress of Sapiens, which is not quite what I was after.

    When civilisations failed there was always somewhere else, but now we are everywhere, in numbers, so it’s hard to see us escaping a population collapse after the good times, which happens all the time in nature with other species.

  33. Important observation..

    “but now we are everywhere”

    …, fortunately though not all environments are equal so immediate collapse is unlikely except for the volcanic possibility.

    The big risk from a pandemic is the collapse of knowledge. Knowledge, particularly in key fields of expertise has never before been a factor, but in the future the death of enough key personnel could lead to the collapse of many segments of our complex industrial and technological supply chain leading to functional disarray.

    There is one technology that is vital to preserve, that being photo voltaic cell production, to maintain primary technological functionality. The secondary product of inverters is highly vulnerable to collapse of the electronic supply chain but can be replaced with the more basic and mechanical motor generator, so solar powering of a low level but still technology based existence is highly probable. It is the very distributed nature of solar energy production that makes it robust, to every possibility except the volcanic or meteor risks. Also computers are an abundant resource in most countries, keep some of those old machines just in case.

  34. Brian,

    What’s the source of the “Too Hot To Work” graphic?

    I’m thinking of using it for my PAC presentation for the Invincible Mine public hearing.

    Cheers Geoff

  35. Geoff M I got it from the New Scientist and it has “Burke 2015” on it. If you google images you might find it.

  36. John Davidson (Re: NOVEMBER 18, 2017 AT 8:19 PM):

    GM: I assume that the “nut coal being used for ethanol production” was coal that would be burned to provide energy for ethanol being made from grain? The nut coal would be used for a very basic furnace that needed closely sized coal to work properly.

    This is what I have gleaned from the proponent’s Environmental Assessment documentation:

    Manildra Group has its Shoalhaven Starches Plant located at Bomaderry on the NSW south coast, and claims it is the largest wheat starch and gluten plant of its kind in the world. It supplies the domestic and export markets with a range of gluten, starch, glucose, ethanol and stockfeed products for a wide variety of industries from food and confectionery, to brewing and building. This plant demands approximately 85 kilotonnes per annum (ktpa) of specialist ‘nut coal’ to meet the specific coal quality requirements critical to current plant infrastructure.

    Nut coal is a specialty coal resource which can only be economically sourced from a few existing mining operations in NSW. Manildra was previously a customer of Invincible Colliery (north-west of Lithgow) prior to cessation of mining in 2013, and presently is at ‘care and maintenance’ status. In 2015, Shoalhaven Coal Pty Ltd (trading as Castlereagh Coal) purchased Invincible Colliery and nearby Cullen Valley from Coalpac in liquidation – bought at bargain price. At present, Manildra sources most of its nut coal from Clarence Colliery, located east of Lithgow, and some from Whitehaven’s operations in the Gunnedah Basin in northern NSW. This coal is transported by road on trucks, as the Shoalhaven Starches Plant has no rail transported coal unloading facility, despite having on-site rail access.

    The Invincible Southern Extension MOD 5 proposal includes:
     Open cast 50 ha new disturbance area (165 ha total existing disturbance area), 8-year mining life;
     2.7 Mt ROM estimated coal reserves from Irondale (upper), Lidsdale (middle) & Lithgow (lower, 12 to 97 m below natural ground surface) Seams, with 300 kt of nut coal reserves from Lithgow Seam (11% of total reserves) – <4 years reserves at 85 ktpa supply rate;
     1.2 Mtpa maximum extraction rate permissible;
     35 maximum full-time equivalent employees;
     7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday (except public holidays) operations;
     Blasting between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, no more than 2 blasts per day, or 5 blasts per week;
     Road transport 7am to 9:30pm, Monday to Saturday, no more than 146 laden coal truck movements from site per day (averaged over a week), no more than 16 laden coal truck movements per hour;
     Nearest residence within 820m, Cullen Bullen Township at 3 km distance;
     Estimated 2,121-megalitres of mine water discharged into Cullen Creek in the first year of operation – significant potential for adverse toxicological effects (high Nickel and Zinc);
     Irondale and Lidsdale Seams with up to 30% ash content – likely not suitable for export unless extensively blended, Mt Piper Power Station is only potential consumer.

    Mt Piper Power Station’s energy is currently solely supplied, via overland coal conveyor, by nearby Springvale Mine, approved to produce coal up to 5.5 Mtpa. It’s coal reserves are likely to be exhausted in year-2024.

    Nearby Angus Place Mine, approved to produce up to 4.0 Mtpa, with private road access to Mt Piper, but currently mothballed, has its development consent expiring in August 2024. I would expect it has roughly 10-15 years coal supply remaining.

    Clarence Colliery’s development consent expires at the end of 2026.

    I think this proposal is likely to displace existing employment elsewhere (highly probable for Clarence Colliery, and possibly Springvale). The Irondale and Lidsdale Seam coal have high ash content, that will make Mt Piper Power Station less carbon efficient, contrary to the NSW Government’s Climate Change Fund draft strategic plan. I also think it’s likely this proposal is a “foot-in-the-door” to establish a larger mine, with further sequential approvals likely to be sought for expansion in future, that would never be approved if presented as one large project.

    The proposal does nothing to improve GHG emissions – it is another case of continuing business as usual, contributing to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. It is a contributor to increasing a global existential risk, however small (approximately 0.000046 per cent to global emissions per annum, according to the proponent). A tragedy of the commons.

  37. Brian (Re: NOVEMBER 20, 2017 AT 12:41 PM):

    I found the source of the “Too Hot to Work” graphic, shown here. It’s an interactive map. Worth a look.

    There’s also a FAQ on the subject here.

    A paper on this subject was published in Nature on 21 Oct 2015 by Marshall Burke, Solomon Hsiang & Edward Miguel.

  38. There is also the likelihood of intentional acts.
    Imagine if China developed a virus that attacks RH negative blood. They would be virtually untouched while many Western Countries would lose 10-20 % of their populations.
    Throw in some sort of virus that attack certain DNA markers and civilisation are WE know it would end.

  39. Jump: Guess the good news is that you may not be able to unassisted do some of the horrors you identify above. The bad news is that there are probably some people out there that may be able to do these things.
    Worse still, in our interconnected world the result really may be the end of humanity.

  40. I came across this article at Resilience.org. It asks the question whether energy resource depletion can force us to reduce our use of fossil fuels and thus reduce GHG emissions.

    Earlier this month at Resilience.org is another article by Ugo Bardi, exploring the “Seneca Effect”, that is an insidious kind of effect that hides future risks behind an apparently safe and robust growth.

  41. Different perspective, Geoff, but the first link is too relaxed, I think, about 2°C being a ‘safe’ zone. A more realistic view is that we are already unsafe.

    The second, continues the concept of the ‘Seneca Effect’ being central. I suspect it’s a red herring.

    I’ve just been to the local planetarium with my granddaughter, and they were drumming into us that we are all stardust. Every atom in our bodies started as very hot hydrogen inside a star somewhere.

    With solar we have in human terms unlimited energy, and we can theoretically make anything synthetically.

    Let me introduce you, if you are not already there, to the future being contemplated by some of the world’s mega-billionaires and astronomer Brian Cox. There is enough stuff in the asteroid belt to build a skyscraper 8000 stories tall cover the the whole earth.

    Amazon CEO Bezos wants to make energy and stuff off-earth and zone earth as residential. Presumably also recreational.

    Meanwhile, I haven’t had time to look at it properly yet, but the Fourth National Climate Assessment, mandated by the US Global Change Research Act of 1990 is quite sobering as to where we are at with climate change right now.

    It’s about tipping points rather than resource depletion, I suspect.

  42. Brian (Re: DECEMBER 2, 2017 AT 11:18 PM):

    It’s about tipping points rather than resource depletion, I suspect.

    I suspect it’s about both.

    Climate change, if left unchecked will wreck our habitat, but at a slow rate of change. We have already locked-in changes for the next few decades.

    But the resource depletion problem is also critical. Without affordable energy, everything you try to do will become unaffordable.

    With solar we have in human terms unlimited energy

    Indeed – but you have to convert that energy into something usable. That’s where EROI is important.

    Rockets use enormous amounts of liquid fuels. Where are they coming from in a post-peak oil world?

  43. GeofM,

    I have observed that you have a penchant for restating the problems that we are all only too well aware of, as if restating them in a different or more forceful tone will somehow shrink the denialosphere a little. I realise that this is really venting frustrations, and we all understand that only too well, but what annoys me with your approach is that, despite your being an engineer, you do not appear to have any solutions at all, nor do you offer any “plan of attack”.

    My appeal to you is to address this shortcoming and put forward at least one technological thread in which you have some degree of expertise so that we may learn from your thinking and have a useful discussion with some hope of “making a difference”.

  44. Geoff M, what I would say is that something like the ‘Seneca effect’ may happen with certain resources, but I suspect it is not a generalisable concept.

    Certainly, the notion that we are going to cure climate change because fossil fuels will be used up is absurd from what we know about burnable carbon budgets, or a lack thereof.

    As to what the future might bring, it starts with imagining. I’m just letting people know what some are imagining.

  45. Brian (Re: DECEMBER 4, 2017 AT 2:44 PM):

    Geoff M, what I would say is that something like the ‘Seneca effect’ may happen with certain resources, but I suspect it is not a generalisable concept.

    I suspect the ‘Seneca effect’ is applicable to resources that are finite (i.e. oil) and are in continued, strong demand when there are limited, affordable alternatives.

    But we have leaders (and ex leaders) that are so ill-informed and/or in denial. See this post from crudeoilpeak.info. Matt’s conclusion is:

    Although 10 years out of office, a former Prime Minister should be better informed about oil before spruiking endless growth in China. His successors were not better by 1 barrel. Untested assumptions including those on US shale oil dominate Australia’s energy policy or lack thereof. Nothing has changed since Howard published his totally flawed energy white paper in 2004 (40 years sufficient global oil supplies, 100 years sufficient Australian gas supplies). We’d not be surprised if the current Prime Minister as well as all State Premiers would answer the question in a similar way. One may ask why the Prime Minister’s office and other key departments like Resources, Energy, Transport and Planning are populated with oil-, gas- and energy-illiterate bureaucrats. A Prime Minister’s office in particular should have the brightest minds with a critical mindset, being able to scan the horizon for upcoming problems and being able to audit oil and gas companies.

    These are all very good points indeed.

    As to what the future might bring, it starts with imagining. I’m just letting people know what some are imagining.

    Indeed – but the imaginings need to be within the bounds of the laws of physics, chemistry and biology – i.e. within the real world of possibilities. Otherwise it is just fantasy – entertaining fantasy perhaps, but fantasy, nevertheless.

  46. BilB (Re: DECEMBER 4, 2017 AT 11:57 AM):

    My appeal to you is to address this shortcoming and put forward at least one technological thread in which you have some degree of expertise so that we may learn from your thinking and have a useful discussion with some hope of “making a difference”.

    Read my previous comments, particularly where I promote BZE’s plans and reports.

    Are you still smarting from our biofuel discussion?

    What have you done to try to influence any decision-makers?

  47. GM:

    Rockets use enormous amounts of liquid fuels. Where are they coming from in a post-peak oil world?

    Pretty easy to convert renewable energy to hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen and oxygen are traditional rocket fuels. Renewable hydrogen can also be the starting point for other fuels.
    Are you really an engineer?

  48. Geoff M, I won’t be around to see the results, but I’m never going to see Jeff Bezoz or Elon Musk as indulging in pure fantasy.

  49. GeofM

    OK! BZE, Yes I do remember that you were positive to that, now that you remind me. So we can unpack that and use it as the basis for discussion on what needs to happen?

    Smarting from biofuel discussion? Really? It is not a discussion where one party does not read the material put forward, and continues to repeat their own preconceptions. There was one point where you made reference to the cost of biofuel based on military reports. I came across a perspective on why the military fuel costings bare no relation to civilian experience, in this discussion on Lycoming’s smallest engine and why they made a diesel engine rather than an Avgas engine. The point to look for is where Lycoming say that military fuelling can cost up to 80 times that of civilian fuelling, due to the extreme nature of military supply chains. Based on that, to take any figures that the military produce for the cost of biofuels are completely irrelevant as the basis for evaluating fuels for civil aviation. I don’t recall your recognising that point.

    Influence decision makers? I take every opportunity for direct engagement on climate change and all of its consequences in face to face discussions with politicians. For instance in an hour long lunch I sat directly across from Ian Macfarlane and made sure that he understood what Concentrating Solar Thermal Power was all about. Mind you he was gone in the election straight after that, but the point was made.

    Making written submissions is not my thing. Not that I can’t do it, but my brother was management review for the department of defence for some years, and when visiting his office he directed my attention to the shelving system which spanned the width of his office filled with reports that he had written. “Fewer than ten percent of those reports have ever been read” he said. ie huge effort, minimal impact. Face to face discussions are equally limited in their impact if they are not reinforced regularly. Apart form that rational discussion is by far the most effective technique. To that end I have been banned from four Libertarian blog sites because they cannot cope with reality.

  50. Four Libertarian blogs ?
    I only know of one and most of the commenters are anti-Libertarian, and virtually nobody gets banned.
    As not to foul this thread, BilB, could you please name them on the SS please.
    I’d be very interested in checking them out.

  51. Good one zoot. Double slap in the face. Catalaxy, Jonova, Brave New Climate, and I can’t remember the last one,…and non of them are on the top 100. Aww gee.

  52. John Davidson (Re: DECEMBER 4, 2017 AT 5:06 PM):

    Pretty easy to convert renewable energy to hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen and oxygen are traditional rocket fuels. Renewable hydrogen can also be the starting point for other fuels.

    You seem to me to keep forgetting – energy has to come from somewhere to convert water to hydrogen and oxygen, and then liquefy them. If we are going to mine asteroids for materials (and energy), the energy required to do so in such a hazardous environment will be enormous – even just to get material into low earth orbit. That’s why EROI is so important in assessing whether these endeavours are viable – less than about 14:1 and it starts to become questionable.

    According to Wikipedia, the most common liquid propellants in use today:

    Liquid oxygen (LOX) and highly refined kerosene (RP-1). Used for the first stages of the Saturn V, Atlas V and Falcon, the Russian Soyuz, Ukrainian Zenit, and developmental rockets like Angara and Long March 6. Very similar to Robert Goddard’s first rocket, this combination is widely regarded as the most practical for boosters that lift off at ground level and therefore must operate at full atmospheric pressure.

    LOX and liquid hydrogen, used in the Space Shuttle orbiter, the Centaur upper stage of the Atlas V, Saturn V upper stages, the newer Delta IV rocket, the H-IIA rocket, and most stages of the European Ariane 5 rocket.

    Nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) and hydrazine (N2H4), MMH, or UDMH. Used in military, orbital, and deep space rockets because both liquids are storable for long periods at reasonable temperatures and pressures. N2O4/UDMH is the main fuel for the Proton rocket, older Long March rockets (LM 1-4), PSLV, and Fregat and Briz-M upper stages. This combination is hypergolic, making for attractively simple ignition sequences. The major inconvenience is that these propellants are highly toxic, hence they require careful handling.

    Monopropellants such as hydrogen peroxide, hydrazine, and nitrous oxide are primarily used for attitude control and spacecraft station-keeping where their long-term storability, simplicity of use, and ability to provide the tiny impulses needed, outweighs their lower specific impulse as compared to bipropellants. Hydrogen peroxide is also used to drive the turbopumps on the first stage of the Soyuz launch vehicle.

    The most powerful rocket is the Saturn V first stage – fueled by kerosene, because it has higher energy density.

    Then, with all this material being put into space, you need to avoid the situation depicted in the movie “Gravity”.

    Are you really an engineer? When I saw your post on the US Navy trial to convert seawater to jet fuel and there appeared to be no critical analysis, even after Nick’s comments about the scale required to achieve apparently little, and your response to Nick seem to me to be a brush off – inconvenient details?

    I think the questions I’m raising are entirely legitimate. But you appear to not want to deal with them – too inconvenient?

  53. GeofM,

    You are making a mountain out of a mole hill regarding energy for space launches. A very crude calculation of the energy required to power a loaded Saturn V rocket (still the worlds most powerful) into orbit is all of the energy of a 9 megawatt wind turbine at full capacity for 1,200 hours. It could be as much as twice that with losses but still not a totally inconceivable figure as your tack on this thread seems to be suggesting. Could NASA justify a few wind turbines?…I think they could easily fund a dozen or so powering regular launches.

  54. …..And the other important point is that most of the mass of a rocket launch stays in the atmosphere for fuel, and returns to earth for hardware mass. Gravity shift? I don’t think so.

  55. GeoffM

    Let’s put space travel aside for a while, and forget about mining asteroids.

    There are terrestrial problems to solve: energy for passenger and goods transport is one of them. Another is energy for mining (extraction) equipment, and transport of ores, and mineral processing. Later, rehabilitation of former mine sites.

    Hydrogen has been mentioned as a terrestrial transport fuel for several decades now. If it is produced through catalysis of H2O, powered by solar energy, then C emissions are very low.

    Hydrogen fuelled digging equipment? Solar powered underground robotic miners? Solar powered electric transport?

    Why, one day you may find someone invents electric trains!!

    Put aside space travel…. sort out electric cars, trucks, electric bicycles, trams, trains…. and people all over the globe will thank you.

    By the way, John Davidson is certainly an engineer, and very experienced. So we can do without your snarky jibes at him.

    Cheerio.

  56. GM: You can babble on about EROI as much as you like but it doesn’t matter as long as what you want to do is important enough and the process used does no depend on using energy sources that do damage that is no longer acceptable.
    All the rocket fuels you mentioned should be able to be produced starting with renewable electricity and basic things like air and water.
    In the case of the cost of operating rockets I would put it to you that the cost of fuel is going to be close to irrelevant.

  57. I was thinking that if you said in the 18C, before the steam engine was invented, that in the future huge metal carriages would be flying high in the air where the temperature is -50 °C carrying 600 people you would have been consigned to the loony bin.

  58. John D

    It’s the renewable electricity that’s the key.

    I like solar because of its ubiquity, but hydro, sea wave power, tidal may have their niches too.

    (On the domestic scale, I recall a friend’s small, passive water pump in a creek, very slowly pumping water up to a garden-watering tank. Yes, too slow to feed a fire pump; but entirely fit for purpose, mechanically simple, and requiring neither electricity nor fossil fuels. It worked on a tiny drop = gravity powered, as in hydroelectric generators.)

    Horses for courses.
    Nifty niche machines.
    Engineering skilfully and thoughtfully applied.

  59. Ambi, where I grew up you put the dam just up from the creek bank, if you didn’t want the bank broken in floods, and made drains fanning out to capture the water.

    We had such a dam with a trough and windmill to water the stock (works on a float) in two paddocks and a siphon over the bank to a fenced garden on the rich black soil creek flat below.

    We grew most of our food. I don’t remember the dam running dry.

  60. John Davidson (Re: DECEMBER 5, 2017 AT 10:42 PM):

    GM: You can babble on about EROI as much as you like but it doesn’t matter as long as what you want to do is important enough and the process used does no depend on using energy sources that do damage that is no longer acceptable.

    EROI is hugely important for acquiring affordable energy. Unaffordable energy means everything you try to do becomes unaffordable. If you spend most of your time trying to acquire usable forms of energy, you have no time to do anything else – meaning: arts, sports, leisure, healthcare, education, looking after family, etc.

    Your statement above indicates you do not understand the true significance of EROI in the energy debate. You have stated “EROI … doesn’t matter” – it most certainly does.

  61. Ambigulous (Re: DECEMBER 5, 2017 AT 7:02 PM):

    Let’s put space travel aside for a while, and forget about mining asteroids.

    I agree with you, including most of the comments following. There are plenty of challenges to tackle here on earth.

    By the way, John Davidson is certainly an engineer, and very experienced. So we can do without your snarky jibes at him.

    Who was challenging who’s competency first? Some of John D’s comments are highly questionable for an engineer, and I’m calling them out as being ill-considered and ill-informed.

  62. GeofM,

    You routinely talk about…EROI…which would mean Energy Return on Investment. The other expression is…EROEI…Energy Return on Energy Invested. One refers to opportunity cost, the other refers to energy efficiency.

    In a world where energy resources are collapsing EROI is less important as human labour, the final arbiter of effort value, becomes highly situational and subjective. EROEI is as always objective but again becomes influenced by situation. Your insistence on judging fuels of the future on today’s values is questionable.

  63. BilB (Re: DECEMBER 4, 2017 AT 5:24 PM):

    The point to look for is where Lycoming say that military fuelling can cost up to 80 times that of civilian fuelling, due to the extreme nature of military supply chains.

    If you had bothered to look at Table 1: Department of Defense Fuel Purchases in Twenty-First Century Snake Oil, you would see:

    For FY2011 under various US military bulk supply contracts for conventional fuel:

    JP-8 Jet Fuel: 2,079 million gallons purchased for a total of US$6,478 million, averaging at $3.12 per gallon;
    JP-4 / Jet A-1: 1,246 million gallons purchased for a total of US$4,032 million, averaging at $3.24 per gallon;
    JP-5 Jet Fuel: 529.3 million gallons purchased for a total of US$1,572 million, averaging at $2.97 per gallon;
    F-76 / Diesel: 875.9 million gallons purchased for a total of US$2,590 million, averaging at $2.96 per gallon;
    Motor Gasoline: 59.0 million gallons purchased for a total of US$186.6 million, averaging at $3.16 per gallon.

    The table also includes supply contracts for synthetic fuels, from US$3.41 per gallon for natural gas to aviation kerosene (in June 2007) to US$7.00 per gallon for natural gas to diesel (in September 2009); and various biofuels – the cheapest at US$25.73 per gallon for sugar to F-76 (in September 2012).

    So, who is not reading the material being put forward? And who is misconstruing statements put forward, or making wildly unsubstantiated claims, or conveniently forgetting solutions offered in past comments, or continually avoiding inconvenient questions reiterated, or irrational/illogical obfuscation?

    I question what you (and purportedly Lycoming) are talking about. The military source their fuels from the same supply chains as civilians and commercial enterprises do, and because they are large bulk purchases, particularly for the conventional fuels, the prices appear lower.

    You really can’t accept the notion that biofuels are not a large-scale replacement for petroleum, can you?

    Based on that, to take any figures that the military produce for the cost of biofuels are completely irrelevant as the basis for evaluating fuels for civil aviation.

    How do you come up with this utter garbage? The military don’t produce biofuels; civilian subcontractors and suppliers do, to the appropriate military specifications. It’s in the US military’s best interests to eliminate their dependency on petroleum, because they recognise that petroleum fuel supplies will inevitably decline – fossil fuels are finite. The US military don’t have a biofuels programme just for the hell of it! Thus, it’s in the US military’s best interests and objectives to source the cheapest biofuels possible in an attempt to provide a viable, sustainable petroleum replacement – inflated biofuel prices for the military would defeat this objective. You don’t seem to grasp this logical objective. I think some of your statements are irrational/illogical rants.

    Qantas isn’t military – they ran an aviation biofuels programme a few years ago and it was a failure, and they are trying another one next year with demonstration flights between Sydney and LA, although with a yield rate of 500 litres per hectare I don’t think this will be successful, but we’ll see in time. What was it you, BilB, said about Qantas? A classically illogical example:

    “…Qantas are substantially disinterested bit part players in the future of Aviation Fuels.”

    The Cane2Fuel biofuel programme isn’t military. It failed to become commercial.

    Last month at Resilience.org, Ugo Bardi explored the question whether biofuels can save airlines. There’s some sobering analysis there – but I would not be at all surprised if you were to dismiss it as being irrelevant, based on my assessment of your responses from our earlier biofuel discussion – you tend to ignore inconvenient evidence/discussions.

    Making written submissions is not my thing.

    Unfortunately, the written format is the only reliable form of communication when dealing with politicians and bureaucrats, and this should generally prompt a written response, that can be used as evidence in further exchanges. The risk of verbal communication is it can be easily misunderstood and/or forgotten/denied. You’ve heard the refrain: “I don’t recall.”? You’ve indicated you can do written submissions, but the rest of your comment is all about excuses not to do it. I find putting something in writing clarifies/focusses the message better than an off-the-cuff verbal conversation. And with public documents like some of my submissions to various inquiries or public hearings I can refer these to many people together with the official responses to them – you can’t do that with a verbal conversation unless you have recorded it legally.

    Ian MacFarlane has been out of office for a few years. Anything more recent, or have you stopped trying, and spend your time unproductively heckling and ranting? Have you had contact with your federal and state politicians this year? For instance, Friday week ago I phoned Paul Toole’s office (NSW Member for Bathurst) and Andrew Gee’s office (Federal Member for Calare) to draw their attention to the ClimatePlus.info post The Adani Project: – Is it good for Australia, including my comments about the apparent threat to NSW jobs, and suggesting the Adani Project could threaten jobs in their electorates, and asking what they are doing about that. The office staffers I spoke to seemed to be unaware of this issue, but appeared very interested when made aware of it. Don’t assume our leaders (and their advisors/staffers) are well briefed – have a continued respectful dialogue to inform them of the issues that concern you and, if possible, gain an understanding of what they intend doing about it. How else are they going to know? Democracy requires participation.

    To that end I have been banned from four Libertarian blog sites…

    I’m not at all surprised.

  64. BilB, (Re: DECEMBER 6, 2017 AT 10:54 AM):

    In a world where energy resources are collapsing EROI is less important as human labour, the final arbiter of effort value…

    Before fossil fuels, the human population was less than one billion, and was an agrarian society. With the introduction of fossil fuels, the human population grew exponentially and became industrialized and technologically enhanced. If we have to rely on human labour entirely to support our civilization, it won’t sustain our current 7.5 billion population, nor the technology we are accustomed to. Think about that.

    You don’t seem to understand the concept of EROI either.

  65. GeoffM,

    Good on you for being pro active. More strength to your arm, and I will support your efforts on every thing except bio fuels about which you are completely incorrect. I’m not going to engage in “who spoke to who” tit for tat.

    Geoff, no one is suggesting returning to manual labour. The point being made is that renewable energy requires a broader involvement of the population in the conversion of solar origin energies. This is the very reason why the oil industry is determined to deny climate change and frustrate efforts to convert to alternative energy sources, why Rockefeller was determined to kill off ethanol production for fuel, disabling Henry Ford’s ambition to produce biofuel powered cars in the process.

    Oil is not just high energy density it is also highly concentrated supply resource, which means that owning an oil field means the command of huge wealth. Not so with solar and other renewable energy, which is broadly available to the extent nearly every person on earth can be their own energy provider, whether it be with solar panels, converting grass clippings from a field into ethanol or methanol, or even digesting animal waste to produce methane for cooking and heating.

    Renewable energy being broadly based also requires a higher degree of effort on the part of beneficiaries of that economic resource. Given the choice most people would stick with the status quo, except for where that will destroy their environment (destructive climate change), or become unavailable (resource depletion/peak oil). Return on investment in the future will be a very different calculation, as will property values.

    That is what my comment meant.

  66. Mr A

    I believe the Tesla can accelerate just as fast in reverse. The French military are very interest.
    😉

  67. BilB (Re: DECEMBER 5, 2017 AT 6:37 PM):

    You are making a mountain out of a mole hill regarding energy for space launches. A very crude calculation of the energy required to power a loaded Saturn V rocket (still the worlds most powerful) into orbit is all of the energy of a 9 megawatt wind turbine at full capacity for 1,200 hours. It could be as much as twice that with losses but still not a totally inconceivable figure as your tack on this thread seems to be suggesting. Could NASA justify a few wind turbines?…I think they could easily fund a dozen or so powering regular launches.

    There you go again – taking a blinkered, tunnel-vision perspective, and ignoring all the other things that must happen to get to that point.

    You haven’t considered the energy (and resources) required to:
    • support the scientists, engineers, and technicians required to design, construct and maintain the rockets and all the required support infrastructure;
    • mine and process all the raw materials needed for, and construction of, the rocket support infrastructure;
    • mine all the raw materials for these rockets and process the materials into component parts, assemblies and fuels;
    • maintain the rocket assembly and maintenance buildings, launch pads and/or runways, and rocket tracking facilities;
    • train the pilots and crew (if manned) or the remote pilots (if unmanned).

    I think there would be much more than a few wind turbines required.

    You are not thinking of all the industrial capacity required to support an enterprise of this level of sophistication, and more importantly, the magnitude of energies required to get to this point. You are only looking at the point from when the button is pushed to launch one rocket to consume only the fuel.

    Until you start thinking of all the necessary elements required to make things happen you won’t have a deep appreciation of the challenges looming for our civilisation in a post-peak fossil fuel world.

    I recommend you obtain a copy of the book EXTRACTED: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet, by Ugo Bardi. It includes contributions from experts in a range of scientific and engineering disciplines: Philippe Bihouix, Colin Campbell, Stefano Caporali, Patrick Déry, Luis de Sousa, Michael Dittmar, Ian Dunlop, Toufic El Asmar, Jutta Gutberlet, Rolf Jakobi, Marco Pagani, Rui Namorado Rosa, Jörg Schindler, Emilia Suomalainen, Karl Wagner, and Werner Zittel. Perhaps by reading this book it may open your mind to the real challenges facing our civilisation. If you don’t wish to buy the book, try your local library and borrow a copy, and if they don’t have a copy, encourage them to acquire a copy (through inter-library loan or purchase). Anyone who has an interest in the wide-ranging subjects of energy and resources should read this book. I have urged my local councillors, my state and federal parliamentary representatives, and state and federal energy ministers to read this book, because I think they would be better informed in their decision-making.

    On page 113 is a discussion about the possibility of the “Universal Mining Machine”, that can extract minerals from the undifferentiated crust of the earth. Some economists would have you believe it’s possible, and therefore mineral resources would never be exhausted. The idea is attractive in theory, but not feasible in practice. The following are the key statements that should be assimilated to inform your thinking:

    The limits to mineral extraction are not limits of quantity; they are limits of energy. Extracting minerals takes energy, and the more dispersed the minerals are, the more energy is needed. Today, humankind doesn’t produce sufficient amounts of energy to mine sources other than conventional ores, and probably never will.

    Time will tell whether the last four words of the last sentence prove correct, but it is a sobering thought.

    Recycling resources is a must, but you can’t recycle 100% – there will always be some losses.

    And there’re discussions on Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) concerning fracking, high-to-low progression, and renewable energy.

    By the way, BilB, EROEI is also known as Energy Returned on Investment (EROI) – they have the same definition.

  68. I don’t share your skepticism, GeofM.

    In your 5 point negativity list most of those are jobs ie people’s time, and 2 involve mining of materials which is only relevant where the launch hardware is non recycled.

    On recycled let me list Spacex, Blue origin, and Skylon. With fully recycled launch and transport machinery the primary input is energy which I believe I have demonstrated can come from solar energy.

    Beyond that manufacturing in space becomes relatively easy utilising solar energy and 3D laser manufacturing. The amount of energy required to build significant structures in the absence of gravity is actually very small. The whole prospect is actually quite elegant, and until recently I would have said it was highly improbable to impossible. But I now know that I am very wrong in that thinking. Mining and manufacturing for space use is a very different proposition than mining resources for Earth Surface use. The one huge obstacle, though, is capturing a source of material in a location that is serviceable in Earth proximity. The challenge there is to capture a space rock (iron) and manoeuvre into orbit around the Sun (energy source) on the same orbit as Earth (easy delivery of finished goods).

    I don’t believe that space manufacturing will be for Earth, I believe that it will be purely for space use only, and I am equally concerned by the plundering of Earth’s resources.

    Generally, I think that your comment is under informed. There are many very clever minds around the world working on real solutions to the problems that you are very concerned about. The timing is not consistent with your notion of economic collapse, but only time will tell how this all plays out.

    On Aviation I suggest that you closely follow this:

    http://cafe.foundation/blog/rolls-royce-airbus-and-siemens-team-up-on-hybrid-airliner/

    …you just might be very surprised at the pace this emerging technology delivers.

    EROEI versus EROI,…I’ve been challenged on that in the past in the Oild Drum days, and I have seen EROI used in several ways, which is why I posed it as a question.

  69. Geoff M

    You chastise B for ignoring all that precedes the moment of the rocket launch.

    i. Did he, really?

    ii. John D earlier pointed out that biofuel cost was a tiny fraction of rocket and payload cost, which neatly included all of the costs and resources you list.

    That’s the thing about experienced engineers, they can be so succinct and accurate.

    (and many of them don’t spend their efforts on making others “smart with pain”; indeed some of them help others to be smarter by being more knowledgeable)

  70. Good News for Australia if this actually happens next year.

    The VW PHEV will be an awesome vehicle, it is the solution that I have been holding out for. This vehicle will offer me all electric travel for most of the driving I do, AND offer low cost long range driving when needed. In the optimal arrangement the ICE which powers the generator would be a diesel suited to bio-diesel. I look forward to charging my car from my factory roof during the day, or from off peak power at night. Fuel cost for my daily commute will drop to virtually zero, even with some night time charging. Also my Carbon Footprint will reduce significantly. Now if I could get the bank to finance the car and a Tesla Power Wall in the same transaction I could achieve some real Carbon reduction.

    By the way my employee’s partner who was looking at removing their swimming pool at the cost of $17,000 is now considering the notion of spending the same amount of money on some solar panels, a Power Wall and some solar water heating, after I enthused to her partner about it. The notion of reducing the power bill, keeping cool all summer, while also keeping the pool clean with solar powered circulation over rode the dislike for the pool (the dislike being based on the pool turning green in winter when the pump was not running). I’ll make a not here if they actually go ahead with the Tesla Battery, and if I do the same, also.

  71. I phoned VW sales and it seems that there will not be any VW electric vehicles for 3 years. There are a whole lot of dumb reasons for this. Damn it. Progress blocked by ignorance, again. I’ll be in Dusseldorf in January and I am going to make a point of test driving the PHEV, maybe it’ll be a poor experience and that will ease my disappointment. The Mitsubishi PHEV is a bigger and heavier vehicle, not my preference at all.

  72. Bilb: I think that they have got the design wrong.

    Already on sale in markets like Europe and the UK, the Golf GTE combines the company’s familiar 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and a 75kW/330Nm electric motor which is fed by a series of lithium-ion batteries stored underneath the boot floor.

    The electric is an add on that doesn’t give the same power on its own as the same old petrol engine so it may be good for relatively low power trips or boosting power when the engine is on.
    Probably makes more sense to have all electric drive backed up by batteries and a generator that runs at optimum speed generating only a bit more than average power consumption when battery charge is within specified limits. (Solar PV on the roof might make sense too.)
    It may also make sense to have a design that allows adding of extra batteries if extra electric only range is required and/or a hired generator to be slotted in for occasional long trips

  73. I am going to make a point of trying one when i’m somewhere that sells them.

    Give me a list, JohnD, of things to look for or try.

  74. Bilb: I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about hybrid cars but desirable features of the hybrid system might include:
    1. Electric motors have enough power to run electric only.
    2. Has enough battery range without starting the generator to cover most of your day to day travel.
    3. Has option to switch generator on and off manually. (You may want to top battery before going up a long climb or delay starting the generator if you are close to your destination and a charging point.
    4. Option of adding more battery capacity if needed to cover your normal daily usage.
    5. Option of leaving out the generator and maybe putting it in later if what you want is a lower cost car that won’t need to travel far between charging.
    6. Independent generator that can charge the battery when the car is not moving.
    This hybrid “car” that uses a human powered generator to top up the batteries might make you healthier than the alternatives you are considering. The option of reducing parking space by parking it on its nose is another interesting feature.

  75. BilB (Re: DECEMBER 7, 2017 AT 12:15 PM):

    In your 5 point negativity list most of those are jobs ie people’s time, and 2 involve mining of materials which is only relevant where the launch hardware is non recycled.

    Peoples time: people have to eat – that takes energy to produce food and transport and cook/prepare, and all the other living expenses;
    Recycling: requires energy to recover, refurbish and prepare for another launch – look at the time/resources/energy required to prepare the Space Shuttle to relaunch after landing. And recycling is never 100% – there’ll always be losses.

    Look at the energy required to get a kilogram into low earth orbit – you have to get stuff up there first.

    You also have to avoid other stuff, otherwise a cascade of collisions will make it impossible to put anything else up.

    But these are minor details not worth bothering about, eh?

    On recycled let me list Spacex, Blue origin, and Skylon. With fully recycled launch and transport machinery the primary input is energy which I believe I have demonstrated can come from solar energy.

    Solar irradiance at the top of the earth’s atmosphere is 1367 W/m2 with a variance about 0.1% peak-to-peak during solar cycle 21. But not all this energy gets down to ground level, and then there’s the efficiency of the collectors. Commercial solar-PV is around 20-22%. Then there are transmission losses and conversion losses to other forms of energy.

    Off course deep space missions cannot rely on solar because of low levels of solar energy.

    No worries – all so easy.

  76. Ambigulous (Re: DECEMBER 7, 2017 AT 1:21 PM):

    You chastise B for ignoring all that precedes the moment of the rocket launch.
    i. Did he, really?

    BilB stated at DECEMBER 5, 2017 AT 6:37 PM that:

    You are making a mountain out of a mole hill regarding energy for space launches. A very crude calculation of the energy required to power a loaded Saturn V rocket (still the worlds most powerful) into orbit is all of the energy of a 9 megawatt wind turbine at full capacity for 1,200 hours. It could be as much as twice that with losses but still not a totally inconceivable figure as your tack on this thread seems to be suggesting. Could NASA justify a few wind turbines?…I think they could easily fund a dozen or so powering regular launches.

    Ambigulous, can you please point out where BilB includes all the other things that I have listed that must happen to “power a loaded Saturn V rocket … into orbit” from the statements above?

    ii. John D earlier pointed out that biofuel cost was a tiny fraction of rocket and payload cost, which neatly included all of the costs and resources you list.

    John Davidson stated at DECEMBER 5, 2017 AT 10:42 PM that:

    All the rocket fuels you mentioned should be able to be produced starting with renewable electricity and basic things like air and water.
    In the case of the cost of operating rockets I would put it to you that the cost of fuel is going to be close to irrelevant.

    How would you produce liquid hydrogen and oxygen from water? You need electrodes and lots of electricity. The conversion from water to hydrogen + oxygen is not 100% efficient. You then must refrigerate and pressurise the gases to liquefy them. This also requires lots of energy. All this energy must come from somewhere.

    So, you build lots of wind turbines, solar thermal power plants, batteries, solar-PV, and pumped-hydro, all connected to a grid for 100% renewable energy supply. That’s what we should be doing now to transition our stationary energy away from fossil fuels, to sustain our existing civilization, let alone using enormous amounts of energy for an energy hungry space programme.

    But you need energy to produce all these systems from raw materials. Some raw materials are abundant and in high concentrations, like iron, lithium, silicon, magnesium, aluminium, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen. But many critical elements utilised in our technological society aren’t so abundant and remaining ore concentrations are declining, like the platinum group of metals, cadmium, tungsten, molybdenum, tin, nickel, chromium, zinc, titanium, and copper. So, the real question is how long can we support our current consumption of these critical materials? Some analysts suggest “peak everything” is years to a decade or two away. So, can we complete the transition before all the easy-to-extract critical materials are depleted? More reason to get cracking now, before it is no longer affordable!

    Depletion is unavoidable. Most of the optimism displayed towards the depletion problem comes from the basic mistake of considering only the amounts of minerals available, and not the energy cost (and environmental cost) of recovering them.

    Apart from the technological metals resource depletion problem, there is also the problem of declining reserves of phosphorous. Why is phosphorous important? Agriculture depends on it. Crop yield on 40% of the world’s arable land is limited by phosphorous availability. So, without phosphates as fertilisers, agriculture as most of the world knows it, could not exist. ‘Peak phosphorous’ is a looming big problem for ongoing food and biofuel production.

    If you read the book EXTRACTED, you would be aware of these issues.

    I think John D’s statements above are ill-informed, and displays a whole lot of wishful thinking and wild assumptions with nothing to back-up his statements.

  77. Is one of those fuels H2, JohnD?

    If so, I’ve heard engineers talking about this since the mid-1970s.

    Your memories of serious discussions of the possibilities may well go back further.

    We are not talking flammable H2 filled zeppelins, or Space Shuttle rockets. Just, you know, everyday machines called “trucks”, “buses”, “cars”, etc.

    Apparently:

    2H2 + O2 —-) 2H2O

    so the combustion product is unfortunately the greenhouse gas, H2O.

    But the oxidation agent in combustion, O2, is relatively abundant for terrestrial vehicles, and quite cheap because no complicated extraction technologies are needed to obtain supplies; many terrestrial vehicles are unlikely to carry O2 storage tanks.

    Now you will note that combustion energy will be released in the exothermic reaction. So the Gibbs Free Energy (GFE) will need close monitoring.

    At least we won’t be up against the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
    😉

  78. GeoffM, in between panic attacks, have you ever stopped to calculate, (let’s forget about the world here and just focus on Australia) how much each Australian needs and how that could be produced with solar power?

  79. Geoff M

    BilB was specifically referring to fuel-energy-applied-to-rocket lifting.

    That’s OK with me.

    If someone talks about fuel efficiency of cars using litres per 100km, I can accept that measure and that ratio in its narrow and specific form. I am aware of embodied energy in the car chassis and motor, but I don’t yell at the person who wants to talk about fuel use, that she is ignoring the history of European motor manufacturing, or the embodied energy in the car.

    One of the atttactive things about rational humans, I find, is that we can hold several complementary concepts simultaneously and use various different types of analysis.

    I’m not offended that one friend is more interested in the colour and styling of her car, than its engine. Another is more interested in its air conditioner than its reversing camera.

    I cannot find it in my heart to condemn them.

    On H2 production, yes: electrolysis will do it. Solar electricity can be used. Just because a process is not 100% energy efficient, doesn’t mean it is to be rejected out of hand.

    On this planet, we understand thermodynamics, and that the “Carnot cycle” analysis sets an upper limit on efficiency.

    We live with it. Humans have always lived within physical limits.

    Scientists, engineers, chemists, physicists, miners, architects, telecommunication and computer engineers, all have energy use and energy efficiency at the forefront of their thinking. Some, more so since the “oil shock” of the 1970s; others, for centuries.

    I would prefer to believe you are aware of that.

  80. Geoff M

    As far as Dooms go,
    *”The Limits to Growth” by Donella Meadows and others was published in 1972.
    *”The Population Bomb” similarly.
    *Thomas Malthus just before 1800, I think.

    Not that this should become “a battle of the books”, Mr Swift.

    As a lad, my own favourite Doom was *Global Nuclear War.

    That one really had everything one could wish for in a Doom.

    “The War Game” (Peter Watkins) as tragedy, “Dr Strangelove” (Stanley Kubrick) as absurdist black comedy.

    Others preferred
    World Domination by Red Hordes
    World Domination by Capitalist Thieves
    World Domination by a World Government. ….

    Later we had other Dooms:

    Population Explosion (again)
    Nuclear Winter
    New Ice Age
    AIDS
    Rise of Robots and AI
    Genetic Engineering Catastrophe
    Global Bee Death
    New Pandemics
    Islamist Terror

    and for a smaller audience, perhaps, Mr Bahnisch’s offerings

    Carrington Event
    Asteroid Arrival

    etc.

    As you may appreciate, once you’ve seen a few Dooms, it is possible to develop or attempt to develop a sense of perspective.

    Cheerio

  81. BilB (Re: DECEMBER 6, 2017 AT 1:57 PM):

    Given the choice most people would stick with the status quo, except for where that will destroy their environment (destructive climate change), or become unavailable (resource depletion/peak oil).

    Soon, we won’t have a choice to “stick with the status quo”. Please consider this:

    The survival of our modern civilization depends on billions of electronic modules, chips, semiconductors, and lasers, and on the continuous and assured supply of electricity. Nearly all electronic devices contain trace amounts of so-called rare earths, comprising 17 metals – 15 elements of the lanthanide group (i.e. lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium), plus scandium and yttrium. For most electronic applications, substitute materials cannot be utilized with the same efficiency, and so therefore rare earths are strategically important.

    Rare earths are mined in only a few places in the world, where they can be found in high concentrations. The USGS estimates more than 97% of active mines and 48% of the known reserves are in China. Hasty attempts are being made to find new sources of minerals and reopen old mines beyond China’s borders.

    A much more imminent shortage, generally unnoticed but no less concerning, is a shortage of not just rare earths, but also other elements important in electronics. The reserves-to-production for gallium, germanium, and indium is estimated to be less than two decades of supply.

    Why are rare earths and these other strategic materials important? They are used in high-efficiency brush-less motors, computers, TVs and monitors, mobile phones, solar-PV panels, and wind turbines. There may be only a few milligrams within each consumer device, but the products are distributed in enormous quantities all over the world. Reliable supply and demand data for these materials is difficult to come by, if available at all, with high variances showing in the figures available. Adding to the confusion, assorted products have different life cycles, making it difficult to accurately project the material in circulation.

    A different approach is needed. All products, not only electronic equipment, must be constructed so that they can be disassembled into separate modules, each still usable as a single unit. Product quality needs to be improved so products have a longer life cycle. Logistical systems of collection for recycling as well as accurate indications of the chemical compositions of various products are required. The recycling process itself also needs improvement.

    Since all resources are rare at some level, a circular-flow economy to preserve them for future use is required. That necessitates a rethink of our economy – one focussing on regeneration instead of growth, availability instead of profitability, value instead of price, and energy instead of money. In any case, it is energy that we need to produce products, energy that we need to use them, and energy that we need to ultimately recycle them. Ultimately, it’s not profitability that decides for or against recycling, it is energy and availability.

    Climate change is a critical problem, but so is resource depletion. Climate change gets nearly all the attention; resource depletion – hardly any, except perhaps ‘peak oil’ – but it is just as critical for the future of humanity. Climate change is a slow burn issue, with the full effects of increasing GHG emissions not being realized for decades to come. The effects of resource depletion are likely to hit us much sooner. Think about that.

    If you read the book EXTRACTED, you would be aware of these issues.

  82. Ambigulous (Re; DECEMBER 8, 2017 AT 8:49 PM):

    As you may appreciate, once you’ve seen a few Dooms, it is possible to develop or attempt to develop a sense of perspective.

    Indeed. But consider this: We live on a finite planet. Therefore, everything on it is finite. Therefore, endless growth is impossible.

    Good planets are difficult to come by. We need to protect this one we are on, or we run the risk of wrecking it for future generations – generations that are already alive & you may already know.

    Humanity is still on track to the normal run BAU scenario described in “Limits to growth”. The CSIRO has found the study still stacks-up after 4 decades. And yet we ignore it at our peril.

  83. Geoff, I’m going to have not bother responding to your comments, as you appear to not have the capacity to hold a discussion. Any fool can endlessly pose questions, it is another process altogother to develop and provide answers. I am an answers type person, that is what I do, but that is a fools errand when there is no desire to hear the answers.

    You chose to put down the discussion that I had with Ian Mcfarlane as being meaningless. The fact is that a week after that discussion Howard lost power and the LNP came back with Turbnbull as opposition leader, and Mcfarlane was some time after that in discussions with Rudd to work out a bipartisan framework for the CPRS, and he played a fairly positive role in that process which yielded an acceptable result. Now I can’t say whether my conversation with Mcfarlane improved his receptiveness to produce a workable Carbon Pricing Mechanism, but it is a fair chance that in conjunction with Turnbull’s positive attitude at the time, it did.

  84. Having said that, GeoffM, your “a different approach” paragraph is a good one. To the end of modular electronics wifi connectivity allows for widely varying interfaces to by coupled together for a different but common purpose. Chemicals are now far better regulated. The chemicals register for my factory is quite comprehensive, and we think 3 times before we buy in one we have not had before.

  85. Geoff M

    I agree that “good planets are gard to come by” and did not mean to suggest that any of those Dooms are now outdated or the problems they involve are all solved and we can just relax.

    Far from it.

    I also agree with your preference for the written form, the formal record, the putting forward of closely reasoned arguments with supporting evidence.

    Many people have a talent for that and do useful work along those lines.

    But please don’t assume it’s the only avenue for effective action. Just as one example, who can tell what “ripple effect” BilB’s conversation with the person who now plans to install solar plus Tesla instead of having the pool removed? Word of mouth can be very powerful at a local level.

    BTW, I think Senate Committees, which give avenues for your kind of submissions, can be very handy. They are (for all policy areas) a lasting legacy of Senator Lionel Murphy. If I’m not mistaken, he pushed for them and developed them…..

    Cheerio

  86. Ambigulous (Re: DECEMBER 8, 2017 AT 8:22 PM):

    I would prefer to believe you are aware of that.

    I’m well aware of the issues you described.

    We live with it. Humans have always lived within physical limits.

    There’s no choice in the matter. We are constrained by the laws of physics/chemistry/biology. But some of the comments put forward by BilB, and John D give me the impression that they think it’s optional.

    See BilB’s characterisation of the NASA OMEGA project (at Saturday Salon 28/10, NOVEMBER 8, 2017 AT 6:02 PM):

    This solution has the advantage of not requiring land area or much external energy for its operation, but it requires the will to transition to biofuels.

    My response to that (at NOVEMBER 10, 2017 AT 11:29 AM) was:

    Your characterization of this project appears to be describing the elusive perpetual motion machine – miraculous energy from nowhere! Ah, but for the lack of will, we’d all be saved by it! You can’t get energy out of nothing – please see 1st & 2nd laws of thermodynamics.

    If the NASA OMEGA project is so good why isn’t it being ramped up to “commercial scale”, or at the very least to “demonstration pilot” stage? Methinks it’s not competitive with petroleum, and it has poor to very poor EROI. But prove me wrong.

    And John D’s comment (above at DECEMBER 5, 2017 AT 10:42 PM):

    GM: You can babble on about EROI as much as you like but it doesn’t matter as long as what you want to do is important enough and the process used does no depend on using energy sources that do damage that is no longer acceptable.

    I see two problems with this statement:
    1. EROI does matter, particularly when any energy resource has an EROI below about 20:1. Conventional fossil fuel EROIs have generally been above 20:1, where EROI is less important – that’s what our civilisation has been accustomed to, and that is what has lulled most people into a state of complacency. But all the renewable energy solutions appear to sit below an EROI of 20:1, according to the available studies and data. EROIs below 15:1 start to impact on the sustainability of a society as sophisticated as ours at present. EROIs below about 10:1 start to impact on the capacity to educate future workers. EROIs below about 5:1 cannot sustain any society, even at subsistence levels, without energetic subsidies from higher EROI energy sources. That’s why corn-based ethanol, with an EROI of 0.8 to 1.6 is not sustainable without energetic subsidies from high EROI petroleum. Biodiesel, with an EROI at 1.3:1, is in a similar position. Petroleum is finite, so corn-based ethanol and biodiesel are not sustainable long-term. Sugarcane-based ethanol can have higher EROIs – data suggests as high as 10:1 – but this is not good enough to sustain a society as sophisticated as ours, without energetic subsidies from higher EROI, at present mainly from petroleum – again, not sustainable.
    2. …but it doesn’t matter as long as what you want to do is important enough…” implies to me John D is saying we just build energy infrastructure to get ourselves out of the current predicament, without regard for the availability of critical materials and the energy resources required to do so. The inference I take from this phrase is the apparent assumption that the availability of affordable energy and critical raw materials is an irrelevancy – these things are apparently assumed to be there for the taking; what’s the problem? Our civilisation is currently heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Evidence I see indicates global oil supplies are likely to begin a sustained decline before 2030, and a significant risk before 2020; and global gas supplies likely to begin a sustained decline around 2020. If we wait until these circumstances happen, then the transition to renewables becomes much more challenging. So, timing is critically important for an inevitable transition, not just for climate change reasons, but also for ongoing energy supply reasons. The other inference I take from the statement above is the apparent assumption the necessary materials for renewable energy infrastructure are readily available. Some are, but my recent comments above indicate other critical materials aren’t so abundant.

    People who have been born after WW2 have witnessed immense and rapid developments through their lifetimes – I’m no exception. Not experiencing hardship or scarcity lulls many people into complacency, assuming the good times will continue because they have not experienced anything else, and without understanding the underlying reasons why these circumstances have arisen, what has sustained it for so long, and whether it can continue to be sustained.

  87. John Davidson (Re: DECEMBER 8, 2017 AT 1:10 PM):

    GM: You seem to be in denial when it comes to using renewable, high energy density transportable fuels. Makes having a productive conversation difficult.

    What renewable, high energy density transportable fuels? Do you mean the US Navy seawater to jet fuel programme? Where is that at, by the way? Your post on this programme is dated 13 April 2014 – more than 3½ years ago. If it is as promising as you think it is, then I would expect it should be ramping up to “commercial scale”, or at least at “pilot plant” phase – is it? Methinks this programme is uncompetitive with petroleum and has poor to very poor EROI – but prove me wrong? Look, John D, I would like these things to be successful, because petroleum won’t be abundant for much longer, with transportation and agriculture currently heavily dependent on petroleum. But the scale required to replace petroleum is astronomical, and I think you don’t have a sound grasp of the feasibility of the critical factors that are needed to make these schemes successful – all based on unsubstantiated assumptions and wishful thinking. But prove me wrong, with EVIDENCE; not assumptions and wishful thinking.

    Firstly, in your post on the US Navy Producing Fuel from Seawater you say:

    Bio-fuels are not the answer. Diversion of land to the production of bio-fuels is already causing starvation of people in some countries as well as damage to the environment. (Think jungle clearing for palm oil production.) In addition, the production of bio-fuels is vulnerable to climate change and pests as well as posing potential problems if the organisms used escape into the wild.

    Careful; you’ll upset BilB! Unless you have changed your opinion since, you have ruled out biofuels. I don’t disagree with your comments directly above – I think they are valid. The production of biofuels is currently heavily dependent on high EROI petroleum for energetic subsidy, and unless biofuel production can disentangle from the use of petroleum completely, it’s not sustainable long-term. Also, unless biofuels can improve their EROI significantly above 10:1, they do not have a large-scalability future to sustain our society to the levels of sophistication as we know it.

    Secondly, you have stated in a comment above that “EROI … doesn’t matter”. It’s rather difficult to have a productive conversation when you clearly don’t understand the importance of EROI, and effectively declared it as being irrelevant to the energy debate.

    Your comment (below your post on the US Navy Producing Fuel from Seawater at JUNE 3, 2014 AT 4:58 PM) says:

    Unfortunately I have no feel for the size etc, of these plants and how well they would fit into an aircraft carrier.

    Your admission is a big problem. You don’t have a feel for the problems involved but you still appear to have a blind faith when you say that “I would also assume that the US navy cost study is not absurd.” How can you make any sound assessment? It seems you want to believe it will be successful – so it must be – end of argument. I my view, that’s a foolish and unproductive position to take.

    Nick’s response (at JUNE 3, 2014 AT 5:37 PM) points out the critical matter that a huge volume of clean water is required, necessitating desalination, that still seemed to be lost on you (or at least brushed aside) in your following reply (at JUNE 3, 2014 AT 10:12 PM) when you said:

    I will need to read the fine print but I would have thought that there is no need for desalination of the sea water. There may be a need to to clean the water to remove mud and other gunk as well as killing organisms that would grow in pipes etc..

    It seems to me there are lots of assumptions and wishful thinking on your part. That does not confirm the US Navy seawater to jet fuel programme is viable in my eyes – a greater burden of proof is required, like a demonstration with detailed costings and an EROI analysis. That may come, and it may not – we should not count on it just yet – but show me new evidence, if any, to convince me otherwise.

    Are there any other renewable, high energy density transportable fuels that you are referring to?

  88. BilB (Re: DECEMBER 8, 2017 AT 7:13 PM):

    GeoffM, in between panic attacks, have you ever stopped to calculate, (let’s forget about the world here and just focus on Australia) how much each Australian needs and how that could be produced with solar power?

    Bilb, do you suffer from memory loss?

    Did you look at my submission (#36) to the Australian Senate inquiry into Australia’s transport energy resilience and sustainability (referred at Saturday Salon-28/10 on NOVEMBER 9, 2017 AT 11:45 AM)? From your reply at NOVEMBER 9, 2017 AT 4:42 PM, it seems you did. I referred to some solutions. But I gather from your response that you expect me to have all the answers. And you think raising awareness of probable declining global supplies of oil before 2030, and gas around 2020, in a world currently heavily dependent on these energy resources is “irrelevant” and “contribute nothing useful”. You also appear to keep forgetting my promotion of BZE solutions.

    I also referred to my correspondence to the Australian Senate inquiry into the NAIF (in the same comment). Did you look at that as well, or overlooked it? Following my two-page cover letter to the NAIF inquiry, is included my presentation PowerPoint slides to Andrew Gee MP on 4 May 2017. Slide #4 shows global primary energy consumption in percentage terms, in 2015; and Australian primary energy consumption in both petajoule and percentage terms, in 2014-15.

    I won’t bother going any further. You are likely to just forget it, or ignore it.

    Just spotted this on the NAIF inquiry website:

    On 27 November 2017, the Senate granted the committee a further extension to report by 24 April 2018.

    This suggests there may be some more public hearings for the NAIF inquiry in the early new year.

  89. Ambigulous (Re: DECEMBER 9, 2017 AT 3:02 PM):

    But please don’t assume it’s the only avenue for effective action.

    I’m not. It can be effective. But the spoken word can be altered along the chain of conversations and the meaning can be distorted. Complex issues cannot be conveyed as easily in the verbal form. Simple ones can.

    Politicians and bureaucrats are harder to pin down with the spoken word, unless it’s recorded.

    The written form can be disseminated more widely, particularly now with the internet, and is more difficult to distort if the original message is sourced.

    McFarlane has been out of office for a while, and I doubt whether he would have agreed with BilB – look where he’s gone to – but then I wasn’t there.

  90. “I doubt whether he would have agreed with BilB”

    That’s a problem Geoff M.

    If you choose to speak only to those who are likely to agree with you…..

    Clearly in your own case, submissions you write are there for ALL to read and consider. Not only those likely to be sympathetic to your views and worries.

  91. Ambigulous (Re: DECEMBER 11, 2017 AT 5:12 PM):

    If you choose to speak only to those who are likely to agree with you…..

    I have spoken to people who are not at all sympathetic. But you have to put your case in a reasoned manner. Hopefully some of it will stick, particularly if other people begin to put similar views, and it triggers a re-evaluation.

    The submissions I write can be more detailed, with corroborating references, although senate inquiries and PAC websites are not where most people are looking. But you can always refer to them to people in conversation.

    Letter writing to newspaper editors can also be useful – I had one published last Friday in the local paper, on the Invincible Mine (open cut coal mine proposal) with its promised 35 jobs, potentially displacing more jobs from Springvale Mine & Clarence Mine (both underground), with a possible net job loss for the Lithgow region, in a declining coal market. Most people seem to only look at the 35 jobs and ignore the other potential consequences. See my PAC public hearing presentation under the heading Comments and Presentations.

    Radio talk-back can also be useful, but you have to be succinct and relevant to the day’s ephemeral topics. Also you have to get past the ‘gate-keeper’ producers, who may not be interested, or the viewpoint is contrary to the show’s biases.

  92. Ambigulous,

    Correction to my comment at DECEMBER 11, 2017 AT 10:25 AM. I stated:

    But all the renewable energy solutions appear to sit below an EROI of 20:1, according to the available studies and data.

    All renewables energy solutions appear to sit below an EROI of 20:1, except hydropower. Some studies suggest hydropower can have an EROI higher than 100:1. I would think this is possible where there are consistently abundant water resources (i.e. large catchment with consistent, sufficient rainfall) regularly topping up the upper reservoirs to feed the hydro-turbine generators for ‘baseload’, ‘dispatchable’ supply, and where operational lifetimes of the hydropower infrastructure can exceed beyond a century. Hydropower is commercially proven, but limited by topographical, geological and climate conditions, with limited sites available here in Australia.

    I differentiate primary energy hydropower generators from (what I would classify as secondary energy) pumped-hydro energy storage (PHES) systems dependent on other primary energy sources to enable the pumping of water up to the upper reservoirs. Overall EROIs for PHES systems are dependent on the operational longevity of the system, and the EROIs of the primary energy systems supplying to them.

    PHES systems have a significant advantage over battery storage because:
    • PHES generally have significantly larger energy storage (and generating) capacities, compared with batteries;
    • PHES generally utilise abundant materials in construction, whereas batteries can contain relatively scarce materials (such as nickel and zinc) together with the longer-term issue of necessitating establishing an effective recycling programme to recover and reuse these scarce materials;
    • PHES can have consistent operational performance, with an operational life extending to more than a century, whereas batteries generally have a degrading operational performance over time, with an operational life generally ranging from only 5 to 15 years.

    Many renewable energy solutions lack many of the undesirable characteristics of fossil fuels, including direct CO2 and other “pollutant” (e.g. PM2.5 & PM10 particulates, SOx, NOx, radionucleotides, heavy metals, dioxins, etc.) emissions, but also lack many of the highly desirable traits of non-renewable energy sources, specifically:
    • Are not sufficiently “energy dense”;
    • Are generally intermittent;
    • Lack transportability;
    • Most have relatively low EROI values (especially when corrected for intermittency by including energy storage);
    • Currently, lack the infrastructure required to meet societal demands for availability and reliability.

    Society seems to be caught in a dilemma unlike anything experienced in the last few centuries. During that time, most problems (i.e. needs for more agricultural output, worker pay, transport, pensions, schools and social services) were solved by deploying more technology investments and energy at the problems, although at each step populations grew and so more problems had to be served. In many senses, this approach has worked for many of these problems, or ameliorated them. This has been possible only because there has been an abundance of cheap (i.e. high EROI), high quality energy; mostly oil, gas or electricity.

    The twin dilemmas of climate change and decreasing EROI suggests the future is likely to be very different, for while there remains considerable energy in the ground, it is unlikely to be exploitable cheaply, or eventually at all, because of its decreasing EROI, and because it’s ‘unburnable’. There are no easy solutions when EROI is considered, necessitating an adjustment of society’s aspirations for increased material affluence and willingness to share.

    Potential ways of improving EROI of renewable energy solutions may include:
    • Careful optimisation of site locations and distance from distribution networks and energy consumers;
    • Minimise use of high energy-intensive and poor recyclable materials;
    • Increasing the operational longevity of the primary energy systems – better quality, more robust componentry with modular construction enabling easier/cheaper reparability;
    • Increasing the scale/size of the primary energy systems to gain economies of scale – bigger wind turbines (individual units currently limited to around 8 MW capacity), bigger concentrated solar-thermal generation (South Australia’s proposed project Aurora 150 MW capacity, BZE’s proposed 220 MW capacity).

Comments are closed.