Clark: Energy resources and the future

Posted: December 31, 2011 by Rog Tallbloke in Carbon cycle, climate, Energy, Philosophy, Politics

This guest post is from Clark. My thanks to him for the time he has taken to draw together the material which has guided his argumentation regarding the issues around energy resources. Clark debates strongly, fairly and politely, so let’s return the compliment. Try not to swamp him, and be patient for replies – I know what it’s like being one against many in the climate debate!

Rog Tallbloke asked me to do a guest article, as a follow-on from a discussion that started at Craig Murray’s blog, and continued here:

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2011/12/free-speech-for-the-unlovely/

http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/climate-realism-tallbloke-style/

At first, the global warming issue seemed pretty straight forward to me. There seemed to be a strong message coming from the scientific community, led by the UN appointed IPCC, that co2 emissions were a problem, and part of the problem was the difficulty of predicting just how serious it could get. Against this background there seemed to be the expected responses; governments saying they’d like to help but that their economies must take priority, and big businesses that were also major emitters of co2 trying to counter the science and oppose any co2 regulation.

Then the Stern Review was published. Effects such as lost habitats, lost agricultural areas, numbers of people displaced, increases in disease etc., were all replaced with dollar figures; losses to industry and commerce, additional costs and risks for the insurance industry. Suddenly, global warming was no longer a matter for ridicule. Governments started taking it seriously and even some businesses got on board. Unmoved by human death and suffering, the powerful woke up when their money was threatened.

“Global warming is a scam collaboration between bought scientists and governments buying excuses to invent taxes” – I only encountered this sort of argument in the last couple of years, and you can imagine how confusing I find it given my perceptions above. A glance at the scientific arguments on these and other such pages informs me that I am out of my field, and I expect that I’d have to take up full-time study to change that.

No, I’ll leave that argument for others. I’m happy for co2 production to be regulated in any case. Precisely how the regulations are enforced is an important issue of social justice, but overall, co2 reduction is entirely compatible with a reduction of hydrocarbon extraction, and that should be done anyway. My thinking on this has been influenced by the following articles:

The first proves that we can’t keep expanding our energy production by 2-3% a year for very much longer:
http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/galactic-scale-energy/

The second strongly suggests that we can’t keep growing the economy without growing the energy supply:
http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/can-economic-growth-last/

The third asks if we can slingshot ourselves from the hydrocarbon extraction peak into a steady state of energy production from other sources:
http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/10/sustainable-means-bunkty-to-me/

Here is a hypothetical hydrocarbon extraction curve similar to the one we seem to be on. A red star is marked somewhere near the top of the climb to represent our position now:

Even to preserve the miserable status quo beyond the peak, with no economic growth for rich or poor, we’d have to fill the gap on the right like this:

If we think the poor world should have as good a life as the rich world, we need to build an energy future like this:

OK, it doesn’t look good, so let’s consider failure. Riding a glut of hydrocarbons, the global population has increased by around a factor of four since about 1900. If the population curve ends up following the energy peak, we might roughly expect the death rate on the way down to be symmetrical with the birth rate on the way up. In 2011, 135 million people were born, and 57 million people died. If we do nothing, we can expect those figures to reverse in due course. That’s 78 million extra deaths per year, more than doubling the death rate, but not from old age; these extra deaths will be from lack of resources, or fighting over them. This of course translates to a much lowered global average life expectancy.

I doubt that this fairly gentle(!) death rate could be maintained; I expect that the population curve will lag the energy curve, making matters worse (more people, less energy each, and falling). Systems would be breaking down from lack of resources and people. When things go wrong, they tend to do so fast, critical failures bringing further systems down. The only sensible approach is to pre-empt the crisis; try to smooth down the hydrocarbon peak and make the downslope as gentle as possible, and that means implementing rationing, oh, twenty years ago, I suppose, but right now will have to do.

We can (and should) prioritise the development of renewable and nuclear power, but (1) that doesn’t solve the liquid fuel problem and (2) the current system grew, no one attempted to build it to a schedule dictated by nature; we have no precedent as to how well we can keep up like that. We should acknowledge that our attempts are likely to fall short, and implement hydrocarbon conservation now.

Interesting times, eh?

Comments
  1. tallbloke says:

    OK, I’m going to start the ball rolling here are pitch in a few things off the cuff which I hope will help prevent this devolving into a slanging match.

    1) Clark acknowledges that he isn’t up to speed with the scientific complaints sceptics have about the global warming hypothesis but that emission reduction suits his primary concern about our energy future. I suggest that since those scientific arguments are well rehearsed here and elsewhere, we pretty much skip them and concentrate on Clark’s main issue with ‘peak energy’.
    Brow beating him with climate science will lose the point at issue.

    2) Thorium reactors and LENR power sources such as Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat are as yet unproven. Fracking hasn’t been going long enough or on a big enough scale to ascertain effects on ground water and aquifers. Could there be a case for an interim slowdown in energy production while we get viable global scale alternatives online and study long term effects?

    3) Have we considered the sheer scale of the issue well enough?

    OK, I’m on the road today and partying this evening: play nice – over and out.

  2. kim:) says:

    “and that means implementing rationing”.

    ————–

    Like most that view this problem of energy – you seem to put innovation and technology at a standstill in your equations.

  3. Latimer Alder says:

    I see your point about hydrocarbons in the long term ..say ten or twenty generations. And I’m happy that some form of ‘renewable’ as long as you include nuclear in that, is what our descendants will rely on in 100 years or so.

    But why does that lead to ‘implement hydrocarbon conservation now’. I can’t follow your drift there.

    Surely the correct response is to develop economical renewable energy systems now, so that they are up and running when the hydrocarbons do run out. And if they are truly economical, they will displace the hydrocarbon demand anyway.

  4. kim2ooo says:

    sorry the kim:) post above is mine

  5. kim2ooo says:

    Ack did my post get ate?

  6. kim2ooo says:

    O’kay trying again:

    Like most presenting energy problems – you seem to consider innovation and technology at a standstill within your equations.

    History tells us a very different story.

  7. orkneylad says:

    Clark – Interesting stuff, appreciate the time spent pulling this together.

    “An abundance of everything shackles mankind as much as poverty”

  8. John Silver says:

    Clark doesn’t say who the “we” are.

  9. Cedar Rebellion says:

    The issue is really one of lead times and choice. That is if one bothers with a bit of intenet searching.

    “Peak” energy?

    Take the UK. The winter of 2011 was the first implementation of attempting to rely on “renewables”. These were built over the last few years while shunning hydro and nuclear. It’s not that the UK is incapable of building large scale power plants. Or developing the tech base for distributing portable ones (see by Hyperion Power Generation). Or doing what the Russians are doing using their nuke sub power plants. No, it’s because even a population as good at inventing, tinkering and engineering as the Brits simply cannot overcome nature. UK has effectively capped their energy production. One might say they’re at peak now and won’t change for some years. A choice.

    By shifting and misappropriating resources, Western governments are simply reducing their capacities. This is what “peak energy” actually means in the West. The methods are myriad: tax (Aussies and their carbon), nukes (Germany’s fear of the tsunami), renewables (UK’s great fan experiment), hydrocarbon hostility (the US’s Obama led EPA) and the list goes on. All self-imposed. All horribly wrong choices. In the UK, if the people decided enough is enough and the nation embarked on suitable power production, it will be years before they the needed facilities come on line. However, reading about the state of UK politics, that won’t happen until they wake up some February morning during one of the Met Offices warmest winter ever to find themselves having to recovery frozen bodies in the snow banks around London. Meanwhile, non-Western nations are racing to produce as much energy as possible. Energy is needed for fertilizers, transportation of food, heat, cooling, food preservation, manufacturing, building and even to charge you iPhone. Energy is life. Cheap energy is prosperity. The West has decided the opposite.

    Population?

    Facts tell us but immigration, every civilized Western based nation would be seeing a population decline. Even the US. Thus, the West has not only capped their base (non-immigrant) population but many are actually in decline. Check out Japan’s demographics that is becoming, by age group, inverted. Again, self-imposed. Google it

    Then consider the caps the West is putting on energy production and the diverting of food into fuel. Think conditions worse than Somalia. Masses of people are going to die due to the West’s energy policies ranging from the UK frozen pensioner to the Asian that would like to buy corn but there is none. It will be the far worse than the kill-off the West did with malaria. And for the same reason. Even the UN folks seem to be a tad concerned. Google it.

    The point is: not only was Ehrlich wrong in The Population Bomb but anyone guessing about women producing kids as their lifestyle improves have been immensely wrong as well. Supposing we use the current Western women as the baselines, it is really a question of when the humans go extinct. Which, of course, means that renewables would meet the needs of the last non-child bearing woman on Earth some 8,000 years from now. One could write a book about this.

    Is there any energy left?

    There’s methane (aka natural gas) bubbling up from vast stretches of the Siberian shelf. Huge natural gas fields lying around. Huge coal fields. Huge oil fields. Huge fissionable materials. And that’s just in the US. Using any reasonable estimation, summing them all up and applying even a modicum of tech advancement, the resources will run out in a few billion years. I’m betting that the fusion folks will work out the kinks within the first billion years. Then you’re looking at running out only when the sun incinerates the planet. Even the boys and girls at Los Alamos have produced papers showing the viability of simply manufacturing 100% pure hydrocarbon fuels mostly from thin air using, of course, nuclear power plants. Synfuels. Actually recycles CO2. Google it.

    And.

    In simple lay terms, “renewables” are not sustainable for the current population size and standard of living. In fact, the West is creating it’s own self-imposed peak energy what can not be reversed without massive misery and loss of life.

  10. Joe's World says:

    Interesting how we were suppose to harness the volcanoes heat and pressure, but that was too dangerous with the earthquakes.

    There is a vastly unharvested energy source which is ocean pressure. It just takes more brain power to figure out all the obstacles involved in producing this renewable resource. :-)

  11. Richard111 says:

    Interesting times indeed. I can whole heartedly agree with that.

    I also agree we need to look at future energy requirements especially if we wish to see any reduction in the population growth rate.

    Historically children were insurance for old age. Now it is money generated by trade which depends on reliable energy. Any severe reduction in current available energy could possibly lead to civil unrest. Since a high proportion of the UK power generating capacity is scheduled for closure in the next few years with very little planned replacement I feel this is a very real possibillity. Especialy if the UK has to be dependant on foreign energy supplies.

    I personally feel huge financial resources have been wasted on carbon cap and trade schemes which have made a few persons extremely rich for no change in the status quo. That money should have been channeled towards reliable energy research and production.

    There is no point in telling me about solar energy and wind turbines. I have not seen the sun here in west Wales for over six weeks now and the wind turbines are constantly switched off because of the gales. This situation is not tenable.

  12. RichardSCourtney says:

    The above guest article is mistaken. ‘Peak Oil’ is a myth in all its forms.

    Humans never run out of anything, and the reason is basic economics.

    We did not run out of flint, antler bone, bronze, etc. but their uses peaked long ago. Oil is similar.

    People do not bother to look for alternatives for an abundant resource. But ‘low-hanging fruit are picked first’, so the cost (in time, money and effort) of obtaining a resource increases as the used sources of the resource exhaust.

    People seek alternatives when a resource becomes expensive. The alternatives can be obtained by
    (a) searching and finding new sources
    or
    (b) finding something that can be used instead of the resource. And the ‘something’ is often discovered to have advantages over the original resource.

    Both types of alternative exist in the case of oil.

    Technologies are continuously developed to obtain crude from previously inaccessible places (e.g. from below sea bottom).

    Since 1994 it has been possible (by use of the Liquid Solvent Extraction, LSE, process) to obtain synthetic crude oil (i.e. syncrude) from coal at competitive cost with crude oil. This constrains the maximum cost of crude oil, and there is sufficient coal available in the ground for at least 300 years of supply.

    Nobody can know what fuels will be needed 300 years in the future. Hay for feeding horses was the major fuel 300 years in the past but hay is not a significant fuel resource today. Simply, there is plenty of available ‘oil supply’ for oyr children, grandchildren and etc..

    The reserves of crude oil were ~40 years throughout the last century and will be ~40 years throughout this century. This is because the planning horizon of oil companies is ~40 years. Therefore, an oil company pays people to look for new sources of crude when the company has less than ~40 years of reserves. An oil company pays nobody to search for more reserves when it has ~40 years of reserves because it does not pay to find reserves it does not need.

    If the extraction rate for crude is goo low then more wells are sunk to overcome the problem.

    Wind, solar and animal power were abandoned when the greater energy intensity in fossil fuels became available by use of the steam engine. There will be no return to their use except for niche uses (e.g. pumping water for irrigation and animal watering at locations distant from distributed power systems) and uses enforced by actions of governments (i.e. legislation, taxation and/or subsidies).

    There is much more that could be said, but I think I have said sufficient to show that the above article is plain wrong because it is based on false premises, false assumptions and mistaken ideas of energy issues. Humans’ uses of resources are not like the use of resources exhibited by organisms in a Petri dish.

    Richard

  13. Tidal energy together with nuclear is the way forward IMHO. The ‘Greens’ however will object, the birdies won’t like it in the case of tidal,as for nuclear………

  14. neill says:

    The basis for Clark’s contention that we can’t keep growing at this rate indefinitely, and so must evaluate alternatives, is contained in the first article he links to. Two quotes that seem to not add up:

    “I have always been impressed by the fact that as much solar energy reaches Earth in one hour as we consume in a year.”

    “Let me restate that important point. No matter what the technology, a sustained 2.3% energy growth rate would require us to produce as much energy as the entire sun within 1400 years.”

    Unable to wrap my arms around that, I asked Clark to back up the latter mathematically. If anyone is able to follow the maths in his response and verify that it supports the article’s conclusion, that would be helpful:

    Present energy production = Ep
    Total solar energy available = Es
    Yearly increase = 2.3%, ie multiply Ep by 1.023 every year.
    Restated,
    Es = Ep times (1.023 to the power 1400)

    My sense is that Clark looks at this issue as sort of a two-dimensional math equation, disregarding key things like human ingenuity and adaptability, what really powers market economies versus what doesn’t, etc. Is it even possible to quantify total solar energy output? Suppose it must be…..

  15. neill says:

    I’m afraid that much of the Western world is happily writing its own death sentence, while thinking it’s drawing the map to Utopia. Wonderful thing, groupthink.

  16. A. C. Osborn says:

    This is a classic case of those who see a Glass half empty and those that see it half full.
    Pessimism Vs Optimism.
    Perhaps life will just go down the middle ground.

  17. Brian H says:

    Cedar has it about right. (Richard and some others, too.)

    Cedar, here are a couple of sites to explore:
    overpopulationisamyth.com

    LPPhysics.com (and/or the “enthusiasts’ ” site, focusfusion.org).

    The latter is potentially the resolution of all energy concerns, from now till about when the Sun goes ‘Red Giant’. Seriously.

    Enjoy!

  18. Tenuc says:

    Thanks for posting your belief about the future, Clark. Perhaps no surprise that I disagree strongly with all the points you make, as they are all based on the nonsensical premise that mankind will stop innovating, developing existing technology and inventing new. Humans are unique amongst animals in being able to adapt our environment to meet our needs and to move quickly into new niches as others disappear.

    History shows that this is why we are the dominant species on our planet and we are improving our expertise in innovation in almost exponential fashion. Smell the coffee, Clark. There is no peak oil / peak population / or peak anything waiting to ‘get us’, rather there is a massive opportunity to find new sources of energy so that the standard of living of the increasing population of the world can improve.

  19. I liked those graphs showing the contribution of fossil fuels as less than 500 years. That is the right way to start thinking about the big picture. Build our current electrical generating capacity to five times what it is today and hold it there for at least 5,000 years. This can be done with nuclear fission alone. Hopefully that will be more than enough time to develop even more powerful technologies based on nuclear fusion or anti-matter.

    Here is Kirk Sorensen in his long term mode:
    http://thoriumremix.com/2011/

    I must take issue with our host when he mentions LFTRs and LENRs in the same sentence. The LFTR is a new member of the MSR (Molten Salt Reactor) family. The first MSR went critical over 40 years ago. The LENR that is making the news these days is a transparent scam:
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/can-a-definition-shuffle-steal-cold-fusion/

  20. Mark F says:

    Significant studies reveal that population growth is inversely proportional to the availability of cheap energy. So while energy consumption per capita goes up, the number of people who have to be fed goes down.

    Bleep! Another, largely baseless, alarmist arm-waving exercise.

  21. Roger, there has been a coordinated attack on the oil industry with regard hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in which all kinds of absurd claims have been made. It has been quite a successful campaign that has been suppoorted by most of the usual culprits and others, such UK Coop, helping spread the disinformation. What needs to be remembered is that fracking is not a technique peculiar to shale gas. Attacking shale gas fracking initially due to it being relatively new and an easy target opens the door to future large-scale assault on the hydrocarbon industry.

    Some general background and perspective can be found here:
    http://www.energyindepth.org/just-the-facts/
    http://www.kioga.org/communications/reports/GasLandDebunked.pdf/view
    http://tinyurl.com/7243le5

    Fracking is required for most geothermal energy extraction and would likely be necessary in CCS but this is never mentioned.

  22. Roger Andrews says:

    “We should acknowledge that our attempts are likely to fall short, and implement hydrocarbon conservation now.”

    Before we can justify this we must establish:

    1. That we are running out of hydrocarbons. Eventually of course we will, but not any time soon. Proven world oil reserves have more than doubled over the last 30 years and continue to increase, and if fracking comes in there will be an enormous increase in natural gas reserves as well.

    2. That conserving hydrocarbons will limit energy and population growth. It will limit energy growth because there won’t be as much energy, but it will have the opposite effect on population growth because people with cars have fewer children than people with no cars.

    3. That we can replace the missing hydrocarbons with renewable energy such as wind and solar. Well, maybe in the course of time we will be able to, but if our efforts to date are any indication the course of time will be long indeed.

    4. That conserving hydrocarbons will help mitigate the impacts of global warming. But we don’t know how much warming it would offset. In fact, our ignorance of how the earth’s climate works is still so profound that we can’t be certain that there will be any warming. And if warming does occur we can’t predict what the social or economic impacts might be, or even whether they will be net negative or net positive.

    I’m reminded here of a Giles cartoon I saw when I was growing up in England during one of the many periods of post-war shortages. In the foreground were freezing people standing out in the snow. In the background was a big sign saying “COAL: Don’t use it or there won’t be any.”

  23. And here are a couple of videos that debunk the much of the misinformation about fracking:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9CfUm0QeOk

    The last one is particularly neat because the director of Gaslands discredits his own film.

  24. With regard to the overall hydrocarbon resource, Richard Courtney has pretty much spelled it out. There are vast resources of all types of hydrocarbons on Earth and the amount that mankind has used so far is but a drop in the ocean. Recent technological developments are allowing the extraction of hydrocarbons that would have been inaccessible even a decade ago. Moreover, the target geologies are changing, aiming more towards the source.

  25. CanSpeccy says:

    What I wonder is why Clark and his friends over at Craig Murray’s website advocates mass immigration to Britain, thereby preventing the decline in population that would otherwise be occurring, if as Clark argues, it is imperative to cut resource consumption.

    Ending mass immigration to Britain (540,000 in 2010, net about 400,000 including illegals) would cut Britain’s resource consumption radically in the long run, while serving the democratic will of the population, which overwhelmingly opposes mass immigration.

    What I find truly horrific about Clark’s vision is the idea that humanity has to be managed as one might manage a domesticated species. This thinking, which is now general among elite groups, marks a complete break with history. In the past, human societies were territorially based tribal groups that competed with one another. Some rose, others fell, but success or failure depended on the exertions, intelligence, and luck of the various parties. There was, for example, no global oligarchy that able to dictate that British nationalism and the British race must be extirpated for the good of the planet (Only a Hitler could do that, and the Brits will much allied help disposed of him).

    In fact, in the past, humans acted just like any other animal species: they exploited available resources to the limit sometimes causing a population crash, as seems to have happened a number of times in meso-America. To some this may seem irrational, but it is, in fact, adaptive.

    Adaptive behavior increases the representation of the individual in succeeding generations. So if you can get the edge now, even if there is a population crash in the future, your chances of being represented among the survivors is enhanced.

    It is understandable, in an age of weapons of mass destruction, people begin to think about the alternatives to the traditional mode of human existence. But do we really wish to be reduced to the status of cattle, a domestic animal managed by a globalist, corporate oligarchy?

  26. Clark says:

    Hello, I just dropped in to say that I’ve been busy, I’ll be answering comments soon.

  27. George says:

    I pretty much agree with what Clark says. There is simply no possible way that we can continue to increase our consumption of carbon fuels at the current rate for much longer. That isn’t opinion, that is simple math. Also, carbon fuel stock is useful for more things than just fuels. We rely on them for fertilizer, fabrics, paints, pigments, and plastics. Most of the products, maybe even the clothes on your back, would be impossible without them. So conservation is certainly required if we are to have such things as plastic in the future.

    Modern conventional nuclear power provides an opportunity for cheap, abundant electricity. Modern plants are much less expensive to build than the plants with 1970′s technology were. Quoting from a page on one popular design (the Chinese are currently building several of these):

    50% fewer safety-related valves
    80% less safety-related piping
    85% less control cable
    35% fewer pumps
    45% less seismic building volume

    In addition, emergency cooling is passive in nature. It does not require human intervention to actuate and can not be accidentally “turned off” as happened at TMI. They use natural processes such as convection, gravity feed, evaporation and condensation that do not require external energy inputs or controls to function.

    This is technology that is available for deployment right now with no additional development cost. We can do things such as electrify rail lines to convert a lot of freight transit to nuclear electric transport. In addition, the nuclear waste issue can be mitigated through reprocessing/recycling of fuel and the transmutation of certain waste to isotopes having shorter decay times (see Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste, Scientific American, December 2005)

    Much of the cost of nuclear power deployment is artificial “lawfare” cost introduced specifically by various “activist” groups in order to slow/prevent deployment. Endless litigation, studies, surveys, etc. are required to obtain licenses for plants. We are having some success today in building plants that had been previously licensed but were never built subsequent to the TMI incident. Eliminating those costs greatly reduce the cost of building plants. Fuel reprocessing ON SITE would eliminate the need to transport highly radioactive and potentially weaponizable material around the countryside.

    I propose a two-prong solution for the USA:

    1. Using the current Interstate Highway System and air traffic corridors as examples, convert our railroad system from private roads to public roads. In this model, the rail right of way becomes publicly owned and maintained. Traffic is dispatched by a transportation authority much like our air traffic control system. The railroad companies, no longer bound by road maintenance costs, can invest in rolling stock. The construction/engineering portions of these companies can be spun off into maintenance/engineering contractors contracting to the government rail entity for maintenance and building of road. Removing the ownership of road bed eliminates a major barrier of competition and allows many companies to enter the markets of providing rail service. A national program of upgrading these lines for higher speed transport along with electrification of the lines would reduce fuel consumption and reduce transit times. Combined transit hub facilities can then be built that permit the easy changing of transport mode for both freight and passenger traffic. Freight can easily be changed from rail to road for regional distribution with rail transit between regions. Passenger transportation companies can become multi-mode. An airline could connect a regional hub airport to smaller cities using rail without having to build an entire rail system, they would simply have to purchase and maintain the rolling stock.

    Imagine if UPS and FedEx had to own their own road system to deliver parcels and neither could use the others’ road without paying a fee and pulling over to the side when a truck of the owner wanted to use the road. We would have a very inefficient and expensive trucking system. That is the situation we are in with our rail in the US and that should be changed. Get government out of the rolling stock business (CONRAIL and AMTRAK) and into the road business allowing private enterprises to compete on those roads.

    2. A massive national nuclear electrification program including a major grid capacity upgrade. One of the challenges of such things as electric cars and electric arc steel mills is that our grid and generation capacity can not support the migration of a large portion of our energy use to electricity. If electric vehicles were in widespread usage in urban areas, our current power grid would not be able to support the increased load. We are, in many places, barely able to support the load we already have. The loss of a single transmission line can set off a cascade failure that cause blackout over large regions as was recently demonstrated in Tucson, Arizona that left much of Southern California without power. Again, we need a common infrastructure for bulk transmission that is publicly owned but which can be used by private operators/consumers. A massive nuclear generation program combined with a national bulk transmission grid would also allow renewable generators connection points to that grid for injection of wind and solar generated power in places where those would be cost effective (though I doubt those sources would be cost competitive).

    Our EPA is on one hand in the process of requiring 10% of our generation capacity be taken off the grid for environmental reasons. On the other hand we have policies that subsidize the building and purchase of electric vehicles. How do we remove 10% of our generation while increasingly shifting demand from liquid fuels to electricity? Wind and solar are not viable for many reasons. The primary reason being that environmental impacts seem to be ignored with those modes of energy development. For every acre of solar collectors deployed, you utterly and completely destroy an acre of habitat under it. Windmills kill each year in the US 10x more birds than the Deepwater Horizon well blowout killed. They also decimate bat populations. Additionally, these are fragile and fickle sources. Much of the US (and the world) experiences weather that can completely destroy wind and solar generation capacity. A significant reliance on these sources will mean completely replacing generation capacity at random intervals due to weather events including ice, wind, and hail. Minnesota found its entire investment in a wind project useless last winter when the units failed to operate in -30F temperatures which are common in that region.

    We don’t require massive investments in esoteric technological research and development. We have the technology at hand right this minute to shift all of our base power generation off of fossil fuel in the US. But one must keep in mind that the net result of that transition would be a reduction in global fossil fuel prices and a likely offsetting increase in consumption elsewhere. This is particularly true as China continues to purchase oil production assets in both the US and Canada. This decouples fossil fuel extraction in North America from fossil fuel consumption in those countries. China could strip North America of fossil fuels even while the consumption of them is in decline in that region:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14214771

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/business/local/article/China-stakes-claim-to-S-Texas-oil-gas-858329.php

    But China is also on a massive nuclear electrification program. And even developing this program does not preclude continued development in other renewable sources of power. It simply means that we do not need to shovel money into political cronies who have positioned themselves to take advantage of the climate hysteria. We have the capability right now to greatly reduce our consumption while at the same time continuing to develop new sources of renewable power.

  28. George says:

    Meanwhile, we apparently have some good news in the US on the nuclear front:

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN_Westinghouse_secures_AP1000_approval_2212111.html

  29. Clark says:

    OK, big post, answers to lots of people:

    kim:): “you seem to put innovation and technology at a standstill in your equations” – Not in the slightest, but I don’t think we have anything now that can maintain our ongoing energy needs. If we start to suffer from depletion, prices will rise and we may not be able to afford to develop new solutions. It’s not just a matter of developing technology, we also need to build infrastructure. We must do that while there is an energy glut, because we’ll never get the political will in a shortage; it’ll all be “emergency measures”. We have to remember that our optimism stems from living in a time of energy and economic expansion; our optimism may well not apply in a contraction.

    Latimer Alder: “But why does that lead to ‘implement hydrocarbon conservation now’” – Yes, alternative energy sources should be developed now, but they might not be competitive until too late. That depends how steep the downslope turns out to be. If we can’t build an economy that works well in a contracting energy environment, any degree of downslope turns out disastrous.

    John Silver, I usually use “we” to refer to humanity collectively, or to us discussing, but yes, I’m using it pretty vaguely. If you’re looking for advice on how to outwit some country or other, sorry, I don’t think like that. “We” are all stuck on this ball of rock together.

    Cedar Rebellion, your timescale is completely wrong. Civilisations, empires etc. tend to last a few centuries. Most species are much less than a billion years old. The end to energy growth has to occur within a few centuries, on thermodynamic considerations alone, no matter what source the energy comes from.

    Yes, there are loads of sources of energy, but the quality varies immensely. What all the untapped energy has in common is it is all more difficult to use than that which we have already harvested (guess why?), and that will continue, each unit of energy harder to secure than the last. What we don’t know is how steep and bumpy the ride down is going to be. With conventional crude and natural gas, we seemed to hit the jackpot, and such a windfall is unlikely to be repeated; I wouldn’t put money on another two like that turning up, and I certainly wouldn’t stake billions of lives on it.

    Joe’s World: yes, there’s lots of renewable energy sources. Harvesting them is a bitch, because (1) the energy isn’t very dense, except when (2) nature occasionally lets loose. Getting as much energy from renewables as we currently do from depletables looks like a bigger task than any humanity has previously undertaken.

    Richard111: “Especially if the UK has to be dependent on foreign energy supplies” – Well spotted. Much of Western Europe is becoming a client of Gazprom, which translates to “Do as Russia says or we’ll turn the gas off next winter”, and the UK is the last outlet on that pipe. I live in the UK and don’t like it. The less gas we need, the less dependent we are.

    RichardSCourtney: “synthetic crude [...] for at least 300 years…” – I simply cannot believe that you’ve factored in the current 2% to 3% annualgrowth in the consumption rate. Have you taken off the portion for reduced EREI? But since, at the current rate of energy use expansion, the Earth’s surface would be unbearably hot in less than 400 years (thermodynamics, not climate change), it doesn’t really matter. No, there can’t be nearly that much coal, so you can’t have factored in growth. Your alternative is a fraction of the size you suggest.

    OK, I’m posting this now, and I’ll do some more later.

  30. amcoz says:

    Clark, I’m a skeptic at heart (that is, I need to be convinced through rational and logical discussion – not persuaded by exaggerated, and selective, data – when ever someone says anything is ‘settled’) but, by and large, I agree with what you write. My major shortcoming in a rather extended life is that I have great difficulty in dealing with liars and fools, which is largely how the whole debate on the climate has been orchestrated; for political reasons as I would believe because the ruling elite want to control everything.

    Unquestionably, there will come a time when all the easily extracted carbon-based energy tips the economic scale in favour of something else: but is it really so imminent?

  31. adolfogiurfa says:

    During the 20th. century many said that for the year 2000 hundreds of millions people would be starving in third world countries as in India, China, etc…….Well, time has passed away, and thanks to the same crazy ideologies, the ones going to be starving will be those what are STILL CALLED the RICHEST nations!!…If you don´t feel it yet it´s because you are printing money like madmen, but that, most ignorant people don´t know, won´t last for ever; the day is about to come to face reality, and all these kind of philosophical questions about “renewable energies” and things like that won´t matter. China and several other countries are really preoccupied for such an irresponsible behavior.

  32. Clark says:

    Neil, I just saw yours. Sorry about the maths. The problem is the exponential growth. I don’t know how much maths you know. When something grows by the same proportion each unit of time, that’s exponential growth. Here’s a really simple example, it grows by its own size each time, ie it doubles:

    1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024

    Look how it took three goes and didn’t even get to ten, yet a little later it jumps from 512 to 1024 in a single step.

    The trouble is, when economists speak of growth, they mean exponential growth. They’re most dissatisfied with linear growth, because it means that growth will be a smaller proportion of the economy in the future.

    But we can’t keep growing energy use to keep up with economic demands. 400 years of 2.3% per annum energy growth rate means we’d be using energy about 9000 times as fast as we do already, comparable with the incident solar radiation and enough to raise the average planetary surface temperature above body heat. This is not a climatic effect, it is simply the inevitable end product of using energy; waste heat. The only ways around this are more difficult than creating that much energy in the first place. For instance, we could try to construct heat pumps big enough to cool the whole planet. In 400 years. Yeah. This is not a matter soluble by ingenuity, it is a thermodynamic constraint.

    We have to level off energy use. “Economic growth”, whatever that is, cannot continue for even 400 years unless it completely decouples from needing more energy to grow.

  33. Clark says:

    Sorry, mashed my emphasis tags. ROG, HELP!

  34. Clark says:

    Just a quick thought, it’s interesting that Richard111 identified energy shortfall in the UK as a serious problem, but people here seem generally unworried by the possibility of a global energy shortfall. I don’t see any reason, economic or otherwise, why one should be possible while the other isn’t.

  35. Clark says:

    Tenuc, our pathetic bit of nuclear power represents our capacity to innovate. It is completely dwarfed by, makes no contribution to, and is entirely dependent upon, liquid fuel hydrocarbons dug out of the ground.

    The fossil fuels don’t tell us anything about our ability to innovate, just as someone’s winning a lottery tells us nothing about their ability to earn money.

  36. Clark says:

    Amcoz, in terms of how much oil is left, how fast it will decline, and how much more trouble the alternatives are, I really can’t say how imminent shortages are. I’ve read some peak oil arguments, and some anti-peak oil arguments. Both sides have some merit. However, if the peak-oilers turn out to be even partly right, problems could have started already. If the anti-peakers turn out to be right, well that’s fine, then, of course. But if we get through by luck and they keep whingeing that they always said it would be fine, I’m going to stamp on their toes (not really, of course, this issue is longer than a lifetime).

    In terms of our energy usage, the answer is much simpler. Our long-term exponential increase of energy supply is going to crash soon. This is to do with how big our activities have grown – growing them by another 2.3% is a huge increase, because it’s 2.3% of something enormous. This is what is interesting about the exponential growth curve. At our end, it rises so steeply that when we hit the limit, we will hit it hard. Indeed, the later we hit it the worse the impact, because our (soon to be unsatisfiable) demands are growing all the time.

    The most imminently worrying part is the economic argument. Can an economy grow without growing its energy supply? We’ve never tried that before, and if it can’t be done we need a new economic model, one that can grow, remain steady and contract (in order to handle fluctuations about an average), and remain healthy and humane throughout.

  37. Roger Andrews says:

    Clark

    Two hundred and thirteen years ago (two hundred and fourteen tomorrow) Thomas Malthus wrote: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”.

    Since this is essentially what you are saying, I was wondering if you would care to comment on why Malthus got it so wrong while you have it right.

  38. Clark says:

    It’s just occurred to me that the economic problem can also be stated in terms of population, which has also been following the energy extraction curve. Does a growing economy require a growing population? If it does, again, we need an economic model that can contract, remain steady and grow.

    Amcoz, the peakers that I found more convincing said that the oil peak would show itself by increasing volatility in the price of oil, which I believe means sudden and large fluctuations, up and down. There should be data on this, as other commodities also undergo peaks.

  39. Aussie says:

    since I am not a scientist, this subject is quite difficult for me, however, after doing a simple google search, and for once finding that the Wikpedia entry on hydrocarbons at least was illuminating, I do have to express a lot of doubt about the article.

    A reduction in those hydrocarbons would have a massive impact upon our way of life in more ways than just related to fuel consumption.

    What makes up hydrocarbons is quite complex to understand, but it boiled down to the liquid and the gaseous forms. Since hydrocarbons are an organic compound which is composed of decomposed organic matter, I doubt that we are going to run out any time soon. The fact is that there are vast oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. There are also untapped reserves in the USA, and new areas are being found in the Middle East.

    Since I am a novice, I needed to understand a bit more about hydrocarbons and discovered how we use these in all facets of our life:

    methane, propane (gas fire bbq is just one example, also think welding), paraffin wax (oops there goes the candles), and napthalene (good for keeping the moths away), polymers such as polyethylene, polyproplene, and polystrene, gasoline, naptha, jet fuel, industrial solvent mixes, heavy tars, roofing compounds, pavement, wood preservatives and in solid form we have ashphalt.

    Since we use ashphalt in the making of our roads, school playgrounds etc. one begins to see the full impact of the proposal to cut hydrocarbons. It would mean not having the materials available to repair the potholes in our roads. Yet, there is more because nylon is also a by-product of petroleum which then impacts upon the clothing that we wear including: polyesters etc. At the same time it affects the use of hair shampoo… and the list goes on and on.

    Are there alternatives? Well yes there are some alternatives for example instead of using synthetic yarns for clothing we could go back to using wool, angora, goat’s hair etc. etc. as well as cotton, bamboo and other fibres that are being discovered as alternatives. However, a return to the “natural fibres” also means more agricultural land is required. Perhaps in regions such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South America they could stop cultivating crops used for drugs and start producing agricultural items that could be used in the production of clothing etc. around the world.

    Now, this gets down to our use of resources such as agricultural land. The industrial revolution came at a time when there was a massive population shift away from agrarian to city life. There was a shift from people being serfs to becoming industrial or factory workers. It was a time for innovation and lots of inventions, including the invention of the steam train engine. It was also a time for rationalisation of land. That was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but there were more changes in the 20th century. Probably the most inexplicable change is that in the USA there remains on the books legislation that restrictions the production of agrarian products. People are not necessarily free to grow crops for their own reqirements. The original reason was a drop in the price of wheat to the point that it was not economically viable to grow wheat. Yet this restriction is contrary to the laws of supply and demand because it is artificially changing the market place.

    The other side of the equation seems to be population growth, and this is where I strongly disagree with the author with his relaince upon Malthus and Erlich. In the nineteenth century, for example, families were a lot larger than at present. Yes, we still have some families where there are more than 10 children, but these are in a minority. In the nineteenth century it was common for families to have more than 12 children. Nature itself is a great controller of population, thus we have famine, floods, volcanoes, tsunamis, cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc all impacting upon population. If there is insufficient land available for food production then we need to find out why, and I think the answer happens to be that there are “environmentalists” who seek to restrict the amount of land available for agriculture.

    I have not addressed such issues as land degradation or even deforestation which I believe to be a problem.

  40. Clark says:

    Roger Andrews, I’m not sure Malthus did get it wrong. Don’t all sorts of animal and plant populations undergo booms, steady states and crashes? Just ‘cos it hasn’t happened to humans recently doesn’t mean it won’t. Humans just haven’t met their match yet. Let’s try not to by using our unique ability to plan ahead.

  41. Clark says:

    Aussie: “Nature itself is a great controller of population” – Overcoming that is almost a definition of civilisation. One of our major objectives in securing and using energy is to overcome nature’s dominance over our lives.

    As to there being huge reserves of untapped hydrocarbons, the peakers often show the following graph, showing that oil discovery peaked in 1965:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GrowingGap.jpg

    Does anyone else have any other year-by-year discovery graphs?

  42. CanSpeccy says:

    @Clark
    “Don’t all sorts of animal and plant populations undergo booms, steady states and crashes? Just ‘cos it hasn’t happened to humans recently doesn’t mean it won’t.”
    ..
    Did you never hear of the collapse of Rome (400 – 800 AD), when the population fell by 90% due to famine and plague, the total collapse of the Mayan civilization (800 – 1000 AD) due to drought and famine, the Great Famine and Black Death of the 14th Century, which wiped out half of Europe’s population, Ireland’s Great Famine of 1845, China’s Great Famine of 50 years ago that killed over 30 million, The Great Patriotic War that reduced Russia’s population by 44 million, and endless other famines, plagues and disasters that have devastated or destroyed cities or empires on countless occasions including in the recent past?

    @Clark
    “It’s just occurred to me that the economic problem can also be stated in terms of population, which has also been following the energy extraction curve.”

    So why do you evade the question about mass immigration to Europe? Why do you promote the mass movement of people to Europe when such migration reverses what would otherwise be a decline in Europe’s population and thus a decline in Europe’s resource needs?

    It seems to me your goals have little to do with issues of managing energy supply and much more to do with promoting the globalization of governance by an unelected oligarchy.

  43. Tenuc says:

    Here you go Clark, this is the reality for methane clathrates…

    “Estimates vary, but conservative figures place global reserves at roughly 3 trillion tonnes of previously untapped carbon – more than is trapped in all the other known fossil fuel reserves put together, says Klaus Wallmann of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science in Kiel, Germany.

    That would last about 1000 years if we continue to use natural gas at the current rate, estimates Collett. Even if the methane from clathrates replaced all fossil fuels, and not just gas, it would still last for at least 100 years.”

    http://redicecreations.com/article.php?id=6958

    BTW, I don’t class the dangerous and expensive energy produced by nuclear power as innovation – more a spin off from nuclear weapons production. The cost is too high and the technology too prone to black swan events to be viable for the future, Fusion (hot or cold) could be viable, but still some way to go with this before we know if it’s practical.

    Real innovation will come in areas we haven’t even imagined or dreamt about today, so cannot be factored into future energy supply guestimates. I’ve lived a long time and 40 years ago I would never have dreamed I could have a pocket communicator that would let me talk to anybody in the world for pennies or a device which would let me have a debate like the one we are having here. You really must open your mind to the fact that as we learn more, technology will develop new methods to provide the cheap energy the world needs. As it has happened in the past, so it will happen in the future. Just wish I was 30y younger so I could be here to see it!

  44. CanSpeccy says:

    Since Clark talks about population and energy use, its interesting to look at country differences.

    In the UK, Clark’s homeland, its 5218 kwh per person per year, whereas in Pakistan and Bangladesh its 608 and 211, respectively.

    So bringing people from Pakistan and Bangladesh likely increases energy use per capita by a factor of about ten.

    Moreover, the argument that raising the standard of living of those in the third world reduces their fertility, is not necessarily the case.

    Pakistani and Bangladeshi born women in the UK have an average of 4.7 and 3.9 children each, respectively, whereas the numbers for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in Pakistan and Bangladesh are 3.9 and 3.3, respectively.

    So if its energy consumption that is of concern, it would seem desirable to ship Brits to Pakistan and Bangladesh rather that to allow Pakistanis and Bangladeshis to migrate to the UK.

    Moving the whole of the European population to the third world would surely end the energy crunch for a generation.

    Yet Clark wants to bring the third world to Britain. Why?

  45. Aussie says:

    @Clark, relying on something from 1965 is rather ridiculous. Since then there have been vast amounts of oil reserves discovered, especially the oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. Brazil for example is sitting on billions of barrels of oil. The only problem is that this requires deepwater extraction.

    In other words your peak oil people are not being realistic. There is no way that the “peak” has been reached.

    Even in the Middle East where some reserves might be drying up, there is a possibility of extracting more oil from those fields.

    As for man being able to dominate nature, that is something that I consider to be ridiculous. We will never be able to fully control the forces of nature. Have you ever been on board a ship in the middle of the sea when there has been a storm? There are many ways in which nature will continue to dominate us, and that includes flood, bushfires, famine, drought, volcanoes, tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, mud slides, etc. etc. We can mitigate some of these things but we can never overcome them.

    A few years ago thousands of lives were lost when an earthquake followed by a massive tsunami hit off the coast of Indonesia in the Aceh province. Those lives were lost in Thailand, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka and several other Asian countries. Last year thousands lost their lives when the tsunami hit the coast of Japan near Fukushima. No one was killed because of the earthquake but thousands died because of the tsunami. In Christchurch close to 200 people died when a shallow earthquake struck. These are a few examples of modern disasters.

    Looking back in time there was the Spanish flu pandemic from around 1918. Thousands around the world died as a result of that flu. We can now mitigate these flu pandemics through a vaccination program. Going back in time thousands have lost their lives via cholera outbreaks, TB outbreaks, and similar diseases. As already mentioned thousands lost their lives in Europe when the Black Death plague became a pandemic. (In those days Europe did not contain the large numbers that it has today). Likewise, millions died in Russia because of the crop failures in the 1930s. As well as these natural causes there have been the losses due to wars – more than 12 million died in concentration camps and the gas chambers in Europe during the second world war. Thousands died as a result of the Japanese war with the world, and this includes the Chinese who were killed by the Japanese. Thousands of Armenians were killed by the Turks towards the end of the first world war. Thousands died on the battlefield at the Sommes in France. In this modern time, thousands have died in Syria, hundreds in Egypt, hundreds in Iran, thousands in Libya, hundreds in Tunisia and all a result of war, or protests being suppressed. In those same Middle Eastern countries, thousands have been killed in the torture chambers of the dictators that control those countries. Thousands died in the Sudan, Mozambique, Nigeria, etc. etc.

    On top of that mother nature also plays a role when it comes to fecundity. Millions of pregnancies end up not being viable causing spontaneous abortion or miscarriage, but millions more are deliberately aborted every year (this is indeed a threat to our populations), I am more concerned about the spontaneous abortion, than I am about self-induced abortion, since this is mother nature at work!!

    For thousands of years man has struggled against drought and famine, and yes evidence can be found in the Scriptures regarding the effects of drought. From the earliest of the books of the Bible there is mention of drought and famine; this is after all how the Hebrew ended up being enslaved for a period of time in Egypt. Joseph’s family went to Egypt in search of grain to purchase!!!!!!! This was only one mention of famine in the Middle East during those ancient times. Yet, the people of the region survived!!!

  46. Aussie says:

    @Bernd, thanks for the link. It is a good essay :)

  47. neill says:

    Seems like a hijackin’ to me. Roger?

    Seems the equation we’re dealing with reflects exponential energy consumption growth — every year. Yet it’s the ONLY thing that grows exponentially, seemingly.

    Please tell me (once again, I’m pleading to you out there) — is this correct?

  48. neill says:

    Morgan ,you’re a macro-freak:

    Roger Andrews, I’m not sure Malthus did get it wrong. Don’t all sorts of animal and plant populations undergo booms, steady states and crashes? Just ‘cos it hasn’t happened to humans recently doesn’t mean it won’t. Humans just haven’t met their match yet. Let’s try not to by using our unique ability to plan ahead.
    Clark says:
    January 1, 2012 at 12:54 am

    Aussie: “Nature itself is a great controller of population” – Overcoming that is almost a definition of civilisation. One of our major objectives in securing and using energy is to overcome nature’s dominance over our live

  49. Roger Andrews says:

    Clark:

    “I’m not sure Malthus did get it wrong. Don’t all sorts of animal and plant populations undergo booms, steady states and crashes? Just ‘cos it hasn’t happened to humans recently doesn’t mean it won’t. Humans just haven’t met their match yet. Let’s try not to by using our unique ability to plan ahead.”

    Sorry, but Malthus did get it wrong. He grossly underestimated the ingenuity and adaptability of we humans and the capacity of the earth to support us. I don’t think that’s disputable.

    And up to this point all “our unique ability to plan ahead” has resulted in is the squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars on misbegotten schemes that have had no impact whatever on carbon emissions or energy consumption and which have brought us no closer to developing commercially-viable sustainable technologies than we were to begin with. Much more of this sort of planning and we’ll be extinct long before we run out of fossil fuels.

  50. neill says:

    “And up to this point all “our unique ability to plan ahead” has resulted in is the squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars on misbegotten schemes that have had no impact whatever on carbon emissions or energy consumption and which have brought us no closer to developing commercially-viable sustainable technologies than we were to begin with. Much more of this sort of planning and we’ll be extinct long before we run out of fossil fuels.”

    Seems as though the tree Morgan is barking up……is…..well……….DEAD.

  51. Aussie says:

    Malthus was wrong because of the impact of the industrial and agrarian revolutions in the UK, Europe and the Americas. The old system of farming with its peasant farmers was inefficient. The first act of Parliament that pushed for enclosure was passed in 1710 but not enforced until the 1750s. The inevitable result of this enclosure was the displacement of the peasnat farmers, who then flocked to the cities looking for work. These same peasant farmers were the migrants to the “New World”.

    As well as the Agrarian Revolution, there was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution that led to efficiencies in the production of goods and services. Inventions such as the spinning jenny which led to improvements in the spinning of cloth, printing presses, the water-frame, followed by the invention of steam power including the steam engine invented by James Watt had an enormous impact upon the way in which goods were made. These inventions led to efficiencies in production, but also led to the end of the cottage industries.

    These changes included the invention of machines that allowed for machine made lace rather than lace made by hand using bobbins.

    One of the impacts of the Agrarian Revolution, which was not visualised by Malthus was the surplus of agricultural products brought about by efficiencies of scale.

    Malthus was incapable of envisioning the impact of the Industrial and Agrarian Revolutions upon the economy of England, or of Europe. As such he failed to appreciate that an increase in production of grain etc led to a surplus that could then be traded for other items. He failed to forsee the impact of a mainly agrarian society moving into industrialization.

    The failure of Malthus was in fact his failure to understand the laws of supply and demand.

  52. p.g.sharrow says:

    The thing that sets humans apart from all other creatures is that they are, in most places, NOT supported by the earth. Humans increase the carrying capacity of their local area through management and husbandry of resources. They normally support themselves.

    Elitists greatly fear running out of stuff as they are not capable of creating stuff, They only consume, and therefor want to conserve stuff for their own use. After all the, little people can not run their own lives without guidance from the educated elite, and the educated elite fear a shortage of stuff.

    I have studied this energy thing for over 50 years. I have had a hand in Geothermal, wind, solar, biomass, sea currents and small hydro. All of these have a place in small, special needs, solutions. None of these can ever have place in real world solutions to energy needs for modern civilization. They require too much material to create, too much labor to maintain and operate and self destruct in their working environment. This is real world, grease on your hands experience, not collage book information. Siteing, designing, finance, construction, operation as well as scrapping. Far too little return on investment over the life of the project.

    Wind, sea, geothermal and PV solar are long term BAD for the environment as well. In construction as well as in use. IN over 50 years the only REAL solution for large scale long term energy needs of civilization that I have examined is nuclear fission. The burning of carbonaceous fuel is wasteful of a raw material. Cheap, plentiful energy is the MOST important need to be filled for the solution of all other needs of modern civilization. With enough energy you can not run out of stuff. pg

  53. RichardSCourtney says:

    Clark:
    At December 31, 2011 at 8:59 pm you say:

    “ “synthetic crude [...] for at least 300 years…” – I simply cannot believe that you’ve factored in the current 2% to 3% annualgrowth in the consumption rate. Have you taken off the portion for reduced EREI? But since, at the current rate of energy use expansion, the Earth’s surface would be unbearably hot in less than 400 years (thermodynamics, not climate change), it doesn’t really matter. No, there can’t be nearly that much coal, so you can’t have factored in growth. Your alternative is a fraction of the size you suggest.”

    Your beliefs are not relevant.
    300 years is very conservative. 1,000 years is more likely.

    You assert
    “at the current rate of energy use expansion, the Earth’s surface would be unbearably hot in less than 400 years (thermodynamics, not climate change),”
    Really? Prove it! Also, pray tell how your proof negates technology to avoid such unbelievable heating.

    And what “reduced ERWEI”?

    It seems certain that you have not considered the magnitude of the Earth’s vast coal resources. You display as much ignorance of that as you do of basic economics.

    Richard

    PS
    I worked on the LSE project and we built a demonstration plant at Point of Ayr, North Wales, that proved the technology both technically and economically. UNESCO commissioned a paper from me on the technology and its potential.

  54. Zeke says:

    From a more distant vantage point across the Pond, one cannot help but wonder if the Europeans are about to set up another strongman “with his belts and straps and sashes, and his upward turned mustaches,” who has a plan for how much everyone needs to eat, and how much power they may be allowed to use.

    I propose a poster for this entry on Tallbloke’s Talkshop, to reasonably ask whether Europe needs to transform itself – right now, of course, to avoid impending disaster – and seek a new “low carbon economy,” complete with new farming and electricity programs.

    I have found a historic work of art here, in all appropriate celebration of government’s past triumphs in commanding vital sectors of the economy. All that is needed is to add a windmill to the shock of wheat, perhaps.

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

    The Communist Party in its drive to “transform” the country’s economy “intensified it after being informed of the impending disaster from grain shortages.” Up to 40 million people starved carrying out the forced mandates for production of what was not needed and diverting resources away from what was needed.

    There have always been those hypnotic figures with upturned mustaches who diagnose impending disaster and shortages, who know the population is too numerous, and coincidentally, have the solution in government control. Europe knows this well.

  55. Aussie says:

    @Roger A, I agree with the main thrust of your comments.

  56. Aussie says:

    I have set out some of my ideas about Malthus on my blog at this link:

    http://aussieclimatechangefraud.wordpress.com/

    This is not my best work because the presentation needs a lot more polish. The idea I want to convey here is that Malthus is wrong for a variety of reasons, but the most important reasons relate to the historical period itself: the Agrarian and the Industrial Revolutions, which brought about massive population changes in England and beyond.

  57. Tenuc says:

    p.g.sharrow says:
    January 1, 2012 at 5:56 am
    “…Wind, sea, geothermal and PV solar are long term BAD for the environment as well. In construction as well as in use. IN over 50 years the only REAL solution for large scale long term energy needs of civilization that I have examined is nuclear fission. The burning of carbonaceous fuel is wasteful of a raw material. Cheap, plentiful energy is the MOST important need to be filled for the solution of all other needs of modern civilization. With enough energy you can not run out of stuff. pg…”

    I agree with your post PG, except I’d rather see clean fusion, or something which is not even on our thought horizon, as our future cheap energy source – fission is dangerous and too expensive. As we still have enough fossil fuel in various forms to last for hundreds of years we have loads of time to find and develop good solutions for the future.

  58. David C says:

    I’d recommend Clark reads two books. The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley; and Let them Eat Carbon, by Matthew Sinclair. The first shows very clearly the fallacy of imagining that we must overcome tomorrow’s problems with today’s technology, and the second lays out the appalling and corrupt waste of money which is current climate policy.

  59. Cedar Rebellion says:

    Clark @ December 31, 2011 at 8:59 pm
    1. “thermodynamic considerations alone”
    OK.
    You’re right. Must be the merger of spherical geometry and physics. Calculations would be very nice.
    I propose infinity as sounding about right.

    2. “your timescale is completely wrong. Civilisations, empires etc. tend to last a few centuries.”
    OK.
    Then you must dramatically revise your time line, assumptions — actually your entire hypothesis. One would presume that we’d be like the Maya? Gee, our need for energy would go way, way down. And for how long? Thousands of years?

    3. “it is all more difficult to use than that which we have already harvested”
    Agree. 100%.
    I’ve chopped down trees for fire wood (once using only an ax). I’ve never built a power plant but it must be gazillions harder build one of those so I can heat my house. Regardless of fuel source.

    There’s an entire science of economics lurking in the actual answer to this which maybe someone else maybe can address. Sadly, I even actually believe the folks at Los Alamos (used to work there for awhile. all nice folks. very smart) when they stated in their study a few years ago, that when oil hit a certain price, their solution would be price competitive. We’ve already surpassed that price, which means, I believe, that our energy prices could go down, even today.
    If you ever revisit your hypothesis, at least add a chart that shows the tremendous growth in science and technology of the last couple hundred years. Do it on you iPad at the airport on your way to your next conference then send it to Tallbloke. To underscore what tech can do, do recall those horrible first B&W TV’s of the 1950? TV’s have “evolved” to the extent that were you to find a TV that matched the features of those 1950 sets, it would cost, maybe, $60. As an exercise in time lines and ecnomics, I leave it to you to convert the 1950s TV into 2012 US Dollars for comparison. Oh, and while you’re at it, compare the per unit costs and the per unit power consumption. Then overlay the chart(s) with your ones that spike energy.
    While you’re reconstructing your time line, also add in a chart that shows how many geniuses we have (percent of population) and what they discover/invent/develop. I.E., the more people we have the more geniuses we have which means the pace of tech development should increase using the same comparative analysis you’ve used. Maybe it’s exponential instead of geometric.

    Brian H @ December 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm
    Great links! I especially like the one about population. Just loved math (primary major).
    Also the ones on nuclear (second primary major).

    Watts has a very good post about the doomsday folks, such as Clark, at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/31/be-careful-today-and-tonight-billions-may-die/
    Actually has some good science about natural gas (methane).

    It’s that time of the year.
    Happy New Year all.

  60. Tenuc says:

    Aussie says:
    January 1, 2012 at 10:02 am
    “I have set out some of my ideas about Malthus on my blog at this link:

    http://aussieclimatechangefraud.wordpress.com/

    This is not my best work because the presentation needs a lot more polish”

    Good piece Aussie, well worth a read. Here’s a few more points for you to consider to further develop the message.

    Malthus wasn’t an idiot, but neither he or anyone else at that time could have predicated the innovations which would allow agriculture to develop. Also worth pointing out that there is still much of the world where these methods have yet to be adopted.

    Also worth saying perhaps is that the agri-revolution still continues with places in Holland, for example, developing efficient production under glass using hydroponics. More emphasis on potential future for GM crops, once technology refined to be safe, also yeasts, algae and other industrial micro-organism protein production for use as a processed food filler or animal feed.

    Perhaps need to emphasise this case applies to all Malthusian rubbish – peak anything just doesn’t happen. It’s just another tool to worry the ignorant masses… :-)

  61. Clark says:

    Hello again; I just dropped into wish everyone

    Happy New Year!!!

    I’m not feeling too good today – no, I’m not hung over, I’ve spent too long at the computer and I may have a sick headache coming on. So if I don’t reply much today, that will be why, but I’m not abandoning this thread because I’m finding it interesting, so I’ll definitely be back…

    I just saw Tenuc’s comment above. I haven’t studied Malthus, but the underlying idea, that a population increases until it hits some limit, is obviously sound. At a guess, I’d say that Malthus’ “mistake” was to frame his argument in terms of Humanity’s destiny. If he had studied animal and plant populations, I dare say he could have documented a few population crashes and come up with a decent scientific theory. Instead, his writing came across more like prophecy, and of course he turned out to be wrong, but that doesn’t mean that populations never crash. Aussie, I’ll read your Malthus article soon.

    As for human ingenuity, that too constantly encounters problems that it cannot solve. Sometimes our ingenuity even proves that we can’t solve them. The scenario of 2.3% energy growth leading to an uninhabitably hot Earth in 400 years or less is one such example. We already know the relevant science (thermodynamics), and it tells us that practical solutions to this problem are inherently unachievable. We therefore know that the human energy-usage growth rate on Earth must fall, eventually to zero.

    Tenuc, I have a book recommendation for you, and anyone else who’s interested, of course. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond is a fascinating study of human migration, circumstance and development over the last 10,000 years or so.

  62. Clark says:

    Cedar Rebellion: “spherical geometry and physics” – Good point! Tenuc is right, ingenuity does solve everything. A sphere is the worst shape for disposing of waste heat – eureka! We just hammer our planet into a flat sheet and paint it black; it’ll stay relatively cooler that way, and we may be able to increase our energy use for a little bit longer!!!

  63. Clark says:

    Damn, doesn’t work. You have to turn our new, flat Earth edge-ways to the Sun, or we receive more incident solar radiation, but edge-ways on, photosynthesis stops…

  64. Ulric Lyons says:

    21st Century limits to growth ~ Peak Soil :
    http://soilerosion.net/doc/extent_of_erosion.html

  65. Joe's World says:

    Clark,

    Due to our system of democracy and “free-trade”….
    Smoke and mirror society…
    We have trapped ourselves into believing we know all the answers and everyone must follow our lead.
    Too much bull crap!
    Science is really what the US government has created with bought and paid for scientists that get grants and pass on their conclusions for more funding. Governments used these for policies which helped to generate more debt.

    We could have a fantastically good life of limitless electrical power but that MUST be created by companies. Companies go by what generates the largest profit for them and in some cases suck all the equity out of the company.
    How much creative technology has been lost due to this system of ignoring what could be a good product?
    The majority of technology is by trial and error with very little thought on how it actually works with our planets science.
    As far as I know, I am the only person to do angles of deflection on turbines energy flows. I am the only person to create the mapping of our planets velocities.
    I am the only person to create an inverted turbine which harnesses energy individually and NOT by the current bulk harvesting.

    I am also quite good at being ignored for fear that I may create change or show mistakes.
    Scientists are protected with this “consensus” but it has one flaw due to the building off of one another…If one scientist is wrong, then they are all wrong!
    That E=MC2 crap…What energy does E represent???

  66. Tenuc says:

    Clark says:
    January 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm
    “…As for human ingenuity, that too constantly encounters problems that it cannot solve. Sometimes our ingenuity even proves that we can’t solve them. The scenario of 2.3% energy growth leading to an uninhabitably hot Earth in 400 years or less is one such example. We already know the relevant science (thermodynamics), and it tells us that practical solutions to this problem are inherently unachievable. We therefore know that the human energy-usage growth rate on Earth must fall, eventually to zero…”

    An “uninhabitable hot Earth” will never happen in 400 years, or in any other meaningful period regarding mankind – so you can relax and set your mind at rest about this one. Earth’s climate is at it’s simplest level just a massive heat engine. The harder you work it (extra heat available at the surface) the more it cools. How can this be? you ask. Well the answer is complex, but not beyond the ken of someone with even average intelligence.

    Basically the multitude of linked climate process display spatio-temporal chaos, which simply put means that these processes change in speed, efficiency and location to optimise heat dispersal through the process of maximum entropy production. In summary, the combined effect is that the climate of the Earth behaves as a giant homeostat which prevents overheating. However, with too little energy entering the system it cannot sustain a comfortable environment and large glaciation events occur as can be seen in the historic record. This is the reason that the Earth has stayed (mainly) conducive to carbon based life in one form or another for many millions of years and will continue to do the same for many millions more into the future.

    Clark, I think it is time you stopped listening to people who don’t have a clue about how things work and spend more time studying and drawing your own conclusions from first principles. Unless you make this change, I worry the self-imposed stress will drive you into an early grave. So relax and stop worrying, its all OK.

  67. Clark says:

    David C, I’ve read two of Ridley’s; The Origins of Virtue and Genome, both excellent books, I’ll put The Rational Optimist on my reading list. Various considerations lead to my worry:

    (1) We may have to cope with these problems with our current technology because a problem may emerge suddenly.

    (2) The rate of “progress” cuts both ways; it gives us more power and ability (eg nuclear power), but it also throws up bigger problems that are harder to solve (eg actinide “waste”). Technology is currently overcoming probably millions of problems for us, but most of that technology is inter-dependent, and nearly all of it depends upon an adequate energy supply – inadequate energy can therefore bring back those millions of problems we thought we’d solved.

    We’ve become dependent upon our enhanced energy supply, and if it started to decrease we would suddenly be burdened with masses of problems “from the past”. That would not be the ideal circumstances for innovation; many inventive minds would become occupied in solving small life-and-death dramas with little incentive to work on the underlying problem. The situation in infrastructure construction would probably be even worse.

    Yes, we need an innovation. We need an economic system that is capable of contracting gracefully. If energy availability fell by 2.3% next year instead of increasing, theoretically humanity could cope with it well. I could certainly shave 2.3% off my energy usage with little discomfort. But can you imagine energy decreasing 2.3% in a year without there being enormous problems? The current economic system, predicated upon growth, is not fit for future demands. Contraction is a crisis for it, causing it to malfunction just when we need it most, and in its agony it thrashes about, turning a molehill into a mountain.

  68. Clark says:

    Tenuc, sorry mate, you haven’t understood the science. No, Earth probably won’t be hotter than body heat in 400 years time. Therefore humans will not have increased their energy usage 2.3% year on year between now and then. The human energy usage rate definitely has a limit on Earth.

    Can someone Tenuc would believe please try explaining to him?

  69. Tenuc says:

    @Clark – Glad you’ve looked up the science behind spatio temporal chaos and MEP and I would like to know how you decided that a heat engine, like Earth’s complex climate, can’t disperse the extra energy from our puny efforts?

    No wonder you are having all this worry when you believe rubbish like this from people who don’t know the first thing about how the world works and try to apply linear trends to a tiny part of a non-linear, chaotic system – this always give nonsensical results..

    “…Even so, we are still in balance to within less than the 1% level. Because radiated power scales as the fourth power of temperature (when expressed in absolute terms, like Kelvin), we can compute the equilibrium temperature of Earth’s surface given additional loading from societal enterprise…”

    What complete and utter tripe! Please use common sense, Clark, when reading stuff on the web and try to work out yourself if what you’re being asked to believe looks plausible in the real world. There are lots of people out there trying to mislead you – check any premises yourself before believing a word. The conclusions drawn on your link are plain wrong. No wonder you think we have a problem if you believe in this stuff.

  70. Cedar Rebellion says:

    Clark January 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm
    “sphere is the worst shape for disposing of waste heat”

    Great. I’ll remember that when they’re stacking up for burial all those frozen pensioners in the UK this winter. Maybe you can design and sell a waste heat device that will keep them warm and all that.

    Oh, and please be sure to post your new time lines at this site. Such works of fiction are really great in taking one’s mind off the real problems of this world.

  71. CanSpeccy says:

    To summarize:

    Clark says:

    “we can’t keep expanding our energy production by 2-3% a year for very much longer”

    OK, what can’t happen won’t happen. But let’s enjoy what’s happening while it’s happening.

    “we can’t keep growing the economy without growing the energy supply”

    That’s rubbish. Energy-use efficiency continually increases (measured in real GDP per unit of energy)

    “can [we] slingshot ourselves from the hydrocarbon extraction peak into a steady state of energy production from other sources.”

    Clark’s telling us we must work for a state of affairs where nothing ever changes. But the only steady state known to man is death.

    “We can (and should) prioritise the development of….”

    In other words, if the climate warming panic doesn’t persuade you of the need for unelected global governance, then maybe a scare about the continuation of history will.

    You know, if we don’t hand control to the globalist oligarchs we’ll be facing a future of possible hardship, scarcity, economic depression, war, plague, famine.

    Yeah, let’s opt for an end to history.

  72. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Clark: Production of goods is made by people, markets are made by people. No people, no goods; no people, no markets for selling/buying goods. Now, ask yourself why the so proud and advanced “First World” is declining?

  73. Tenuc says:

    CanSpeccy says:
    January 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm
    “Clark said…’We can (and should) prioritise the development of….’

    In other words, if the climate warming panic doesn’t persuade you of the need for unelected global governance, then maybe a scare about the continuation of history will…”

    Thanks Specs, now you’ve got me thinking that Clark is not as dim as he pretends regarding climate science, but is someone with a hidden agenda on global governance. Perhaps that’s why he’s peddling his strange brand of ‘precautionary principle. I expect he’s been brainwashed by all the doom-mongering – the end of the world is nigh!!!

  74. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Tenuc I agree! heavy atomic fission is a very “dirty” form of energy creation, nearly as bad as coal. I would prefer fusion. Over 50 years ago I learned that HTNR was a contradiction in terms for positive energy production. The very last thing that a high energy particle wants to do is fuse with another one. Even god does not use HTNR to power the universe. Now LTNR holds promise, low energy particles will cozy up to one another and fuse, yielding energy, low energy neutrons pop out and expand to hydrogen and more energy happens. Properly done, little or no residual radioactive material remains. Research in this area has been very small and hidden due the main stream conciseness log rolling of HTNR proponents, but it does show promise. Even now, several systems approach commercial availability and these are small size units, Kw to Mw size. But at present only fission systems are tried and dependable. A mature product of 1,000s of MW size that has a complete infrastructure. pg

  75. p.g.sharrow says:

    At least Clark has been polite. 8-) A good example for everyone. pg

  76. Clark says:

    Tenuc, it’s similar to my answer to RichardSCourtney above. He asserted that processed coal could supply our needs for 300 years minimum. I accused him of disregarding that 2.3% growth rate. If our energy usage on Earth increases 2.3% per year for 300-400 years, we’d be making so much heat (not co2) that the surface would be hotter than body temperature. The only equation you need is the Stefan–Boltzmann law for black body radiation. That gives us the limit. You can use chaotic weather systems etc. to vary the cooling rate within that limit, but you can’t exceed it without planet sized heat pumps into outer space. Your weather systems aren’t going to help you because space is a vacuum, so the only way heat can leave the planet is by radiation.

    Then I tried to imagine burning all the coal. Say we built air-heating coal-burning stations; if we burnt all the coal in 300-400 years, would that raise the average global temperature over body heat (disregarding co2 driven climate change either way)? That seemed most unlikely to me, surely there isn’t enough coal (though I admit that I haven’t done the maths). Thus I concluded that RichardSCourtney’s assertion hadn’t accounted for the 2.3% growth rate.

    I just had a look at Wikipedia on coal:

    BP, in its 2007 report, estimated at 2006 end that there were several billion tons of proven coal reserves worldwide, or 147 years reserves-to-production ratio.

    “Reserves to production ratio” – this is what people mean when they say “We have X years worth of coal”, isn’t it? I’m currently brushing up my maths to see what those 147 years reduce to when we consider the 2.3% growth – not much, is my guess. This is the trouble with being on an exponential growth curve; problems arrive several times faster than we expect.

    CanSpeccy, I’m tempted not to reply after your behaviour at Craig’s, but here goes.

    “let’s enjoy what’s happening while it’s happening” – with no concern for our future or descendants. Why do you care so much about the “loss of national identities” if you don’t care about their future?

    Energy efficiency buys us a factor of 2 or 3 (for inefficient processes only), totally subsumed by our energy growth in about 40 years.

    “Clark’s telling us we must work for a state of affairs where nothing ever changes. But the only steady state known to man is death”. Well, my comments only concern our energy usage; we can change what we do with that energy as we wish (within limits). But no, we don’t need to “work” for a zero energy-growth state, it is simply inevitable. My point is to avoid getting clobbered by our current economic system, which really doesn’t like contracting.

    The number of fingers per human hand has been in a steady state for quite a long time; do you regard this as a type of death?

    As to your last two sections, I am in favour of a global tier of democratic government. You know me from Craig’s; you should remember that there, I agree with commenter Evgueni, who supports the Swiss system of Direct Democracy, and argues for a huge increase in democratic control over government.

  77. Clark says:

    Tenuc, I don’t know where you are, but I’ll offer you this as verification of me. I’m contactable via my web page. You, or a trusted friend, are welcome to come and stay at my house for as long a it takes to satisfy yourself that I am genuine. If someone comes, they’ll get a room, but they’ll have to pay for their keep. And I smoke at home; they’ll have to put up with that, too.

  78. Clark says:

    p.g.sharrow, thanks. Complex problems were never illuminated by shouting.

  79. Clark says:

    Oops, sorry folks, I’ve been leaving off the link to my web page. It should be included with this comment, linked from my name next to my avatar.

  80. Clark says:

    And Tenuc, I consider it smart to know the limits of my own knowledge. I know that I don’t know the right science to assess changes in the atmosphere. I know that it’s messy science, with hundreds of unknown variables and no hope of any complete data sets. That is why I don’t claim to know if co2 causes warming or not.

    This contrasts with an impression I’m gaining here, that many people work backwards. They know that they like our high-energy lifestyle, they don’t want to give it up, so they build their interpretation of the science around their desires, committing exactly the same sin as they accuse the AGW proponents of. In short, the argument has become polarised.

  81. Clark says:

    p.g.sharrow, I agree that our current nuclear fission technology is irresponsibly dirty. The damn system was chosen because it makes plutonium; a political choice. I saw a mention of LFTRs above (Liquid Fluorine Thorium Reactors); these look very promising, but no one’s built a prototype since the late ’60s. I’d like to see some 100MW trials ASAP.

    Can you post a link please for “LTNR”?

  82. Roger Andrews says:

    Clark:

    I don’t agree with very much of what you’ve said here, but I do agree that people tend to “build their interpretation of the science around their desires”. This is part of the human condition, and there isn’t much we can do about it.

    But sometimes the facts do get in the way.

  83. Clark says:

    Cedar Rebellion, fuel poverty disgusts me. Tell me about it! I heat my house primarily by collecting and cutting firewood, and I get worried when I don’t feel well enough to keep up. But fuel poverty is caused by poverty in general, not energy scarcity, so the problem is political rather than physical. All those illuminated advertising boards, the high street shops that leave their lights on all night. All those salesmen driving up and down the motorways, selling Kirby carpet cleaners.

    I agree that the fuel companies are ripping off the public. Again, the answers are political.

    The solution to pensioners freezing is a decent application of socialism.

  84. adolfogiurfa says:

    @p.g.sharrow says: You are right as always, but first we must revisit the old laws of nature, of course not those held by consensus, but the unchangeable and eternal ones.
    You made me remember of the “Blacklight Power” which utilizes, to my understanding, those intermediate reaction between aluminum and sodium, where sodium reacts with hydrogen forming sodium hydrine.
    http://www.blacklightpower.com/index.shtml

  85. adolfogiurfa says:

    However….we are like fishes in the ocean…looking for water :-)

  86. Tenuc says:

    Hi Clark, I’m very disappointed that you couldn’t find the time to find out why the links you quoted were wrong…

    “…The only equation you need is the Stefan–Boltzmann law for black body radiation…”

    Ist step, read up about the Stefan-Boltzman equations and the conditions that must be applied to get a reasonable approximation to observation.

    2nd step, read my above posts on what comprises our climate system and ask yourself how can a linear equation be accurately applied to a single aspect of an heat engine, when other systems swamp the effect.

    Please stop parroting what you’ve read on ‘bad science’ web sites and use your brain to see what is really going on. The human mind has no limits, you just need to spend some time to understand what is going on. Clue to help your learning – global average air temperature is a useless metric for diagnosing what is happening to climate.

    Good luck with your quest for knowledge, Clark. We can then resume this debate once you’ve learned enough for us to have a sensible conversation about the real world.

  87. George says:

    World energy consumption fell by 1.1% in 2009 as a direct result of a decline in global GDP. We did not see a 1.1% decline in atmospheric CO2 reported from Mauna Loa. In fact, we didn’t see any decline in the rate of CO2 increase that I can tell by eyeballing. Now this was not a 1.1% decline in the RATE of increase of consumption but a 1.1% decrease in absolute consumption.

    That would tend to indicate to me that human emissions are not responsible for the increase we are seeing recorded at Mauna Loa. If those data are reflective of human CO2 emissions, we would have seen it flatten or fall a little. It didn’t change as far as I can tell.

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/webdata/ccgg/trends/co2_trend_mlo.png

    This tells me that human CO2 emissions are not the source of this increase. That is fairly empirical evidence of that fact. We reduced energy consumption by 1.1% and saw no change in the rate of CO2 rise. However, global beer production increased by 0.4%. Maybe it’s yeast.

  88. RichardSCourtney says:

    Clark:

    At January 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm you say;

    “Tenuc, it’s similar to my answer to RichardSCourtney above. He asserted that processed coal could supply our needs for 300 years minimum. I accused him of disregarding that 2.3% growth rate.”

    NO!! I do NOT disregard it. I refute it for the 400 year extrapolation you have presented.

    Extrapolating any present trend for 400 years is plain daft because the world changes. And there are foreseen changes that will occur within decades and thus will alter your asserted growth rate of 2-3% pa in energy use.

    Global energy use correlates to global population for good reasons. More people use more energy, and rich people use more energy than poor people. Also, the number of possible energy uses increases with time while the energy efficiencies of technologies increase with time and these two effects counteract each other.

    Global population is anticipated to peak around the middle of this century. Hence, as the increase to population reverses then the rate of increase to energy use can be expected to reduce. Indeed, a declining population using more efficient technologies may start to reduce its total energy use by the end of this century although average wealth continues to increase.

    Also, I wrote the chapter on coal in Kempes Engineers Yearbook. Read that chapter if you want to know why there is 1000 years supply of coal at any anticipated usage rates. Simply, global population is certain to stop growing at its present rate as affluence increases. Rich countries have such low birth rates that they need to import people to sustain population for needed economic activity.

    Assuming continued economic growth, the certain population problem by the end of this century is population decline as a result of lowered birth rates.

    Richard

  89. Canspeccy says:

    @Clark:

    “CanSpeccy, I’m tempted not to reply after your behaviour at Craig’s, but here goes.”

    Sticking to the smear routine developed as a mod over at Craig Murray’s site, eh!

    “with no concern for our future or descendants.”

    No, you said that, not me.

    “Energy efficiency buys us a factor of 2 or 3 (for inefficient processes only), totally subsumed by our energy growth in about 40 years.”

    Oh, yeah! Did you just make that up or do you believe everything you read?

    Light bulb: efficiency 2.5%, fluorescent lamp: efficiency 25%, a ten fold difference.
    Standard automobile versus advanced electric transportation, ten or twenty-fold difference in efficiency.

    Reconstruction of cities to eliminate automobiles altogether, increase in transportation efficiency virtually infinite.

    But thanks for confirming you’re for global govenance — with a democratic “tier”. That’s where we really disagree. I am for democratic national government, which would allow the 70% of the British public who oppose mass immigration to have their voices heard, rather than being branded racists for opposing the genocide of their own people, the destruction of their own culture and the annihilation of their own national identity, all in contravention of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

  90. Aussie says:

    There is something being left out of the conversation: it is efficiencies relating to changes in technology.

    This was the point that I was making about why Malthus was wrong. His assumptions were based upon an inefficient agrarian economy of open plots of land where production was just enough to feed the family. The Agrarian revolution brought about changes in the way that crops were produced, leading to efficiencies based upon economies of scale.

    Malthus also ignored the laws of supply and demand, which in a case of pure competition would mean that there is a point where the market becomes saturated, and only at that point there is a decline in productive activity with leading to a decline of entrants into the market. The labour market tends to be the best example of how this works in practice because the lead and lag times are more pronounced. An example would be the market for IT jobs leading to an increase in students doing IT degrees followed eventually with saturation of the market, which in turn leads to a decline in students wanting to study IT…..it also happened in the market for accounts and I am sure it can apply to any number of other professions.

  91. George says:

    Read that chapter if you want to know why there is 1000 years supply of coal at any anticipated usage rates

    It isn’t a steady-state usage rate that is the problem. The problem is the INCREASE in usage year on year. At a 2% per year increase in consumption, the usage rate doubles every 35 years. In other words, 35 years from now, that is down to a 500 year supply and then in 70 years that is down to a 250 year supply. Also, as the more easily extracted coal is used up, what remains because increasingly costly to obtain. Additionally, coal seam fires are currently burning up a tremendous amount of coal per year and denying access to even more.

    Andries Rosema of the Environmental Analysis and Remote Sensing (EARS) firm in the Netherlands worked with colleagues using satellite and airplane data to analyze the damage uncontrolled fires caused in China. The team found that the fires released up to 360 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — 2 to 3 percent of worldwide production per year from burning fossil fuels, an amount equivalent to that emitted per year from all automobiles and light trucks in the United States. The economic loss of coal from these fires is as high as US$125 million to US$250 million, estimates Zhang Xiangmin of the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) in the Netherlands.

    Get that? Coal seam fires in China alone produce as much atmospheric CO2 as ALL automobile and truck traffic in the entire USA. What that says is that incremental improvements in US fuel economy standards will have absolutely zero impact on global CO2 emissions.

    Now if the UN wanted to go on a global program to extinguish coal seam fires, I would be all for that. It would remove as much CO2 from the atmosphere as removing all automobiles from the planet. It would provide jobs, develop new technologies for the extinguishing of these fires and result in a real reduction of atmospheric CO2 emissions without any change in lifestyle or redistribution of wealth among nations. But of course that will never actually happen because it isn’t REALLY about reducing CO2. It is about redistributing wealth and central management of global development using CO2 in order to frighten people into going along with it.

    We could right now go on a program to produce real reductions in CO2 by declaring an international war on coal fires and I would gladly support that. But it just isn’t going to happen because it isn’t really about reducing CO2 as much as it is about making people afraid of CO2 so that things can be done that really have little to no impact on global atmospheric CO2 emissions.

    It is a global deception and you are being robbed.

  92. RichardSCourtney says:

    George:

    I have withdrawn from contributing to this blog, so I provide a brief reply to you so it is clear that I am not ignoring your point made to me.

    At January 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm you say;
    “It isn’t a steady-state usage rate that is the problem. The problem is the INCREASE in usage year on year. At a 2% per year increase in consumption, the usage rate doubles every 35 years. In other words, 35 years from now, that is down to a 500 year supply and then in 70 years that is down to a 250 year supply.”

    But that ignores the bulk of my post at January 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm that you claim to be addressing.

    Please read the explanation in that post which begins;
    “Extrapolating any present trend for 400 years is plain daft because the world changes. And there are foreseen changes that will occur within decades and thus will alter your asserted growth rate of 2-3% pa in energy use.”
    and ends saying
    “Indeed, a declining population using more efficient technologies may start to reduce its total energy use by the end of this century although average wealth continues to increase.”

    Richard

  93. George says:

    Richard, you make many assumptions in that. The rapid rate of change we are seeing today is not likely to sustain going forward. This will be particularly true if such things as war are eliminated. Most technological advances get their start in the military field. Nuclear power, for example, came about because of war. Same with jet aircraft, rocket technology, RADAR, electronics miniaturization, satellites, GPS navigation, etc. These advances in technology might never have come to pass if not for military confrontation and the willingness to sacrifice great sums for a technological breakthrough that gives an advantage over an opponent. Rarely will purely commercial competition provide such breakthroughs.

    Throughout history we see long periods of technological stasis interspersed with brief periods of advancement. Advancement happens only when there is a need for it, it isn’t something that happens organically. We are likely nearing the end of a period of great technological advance. We simply won’t be able to afford much advancement because our economic system has been turned upside down where we now tax success and subsidize failure. “Progressive” economic and social policies will result in less incentive for innovation except for the naive altruistic notion that people will simply do things out of the kindness of their hearts or because government orders them to.

    Governments go to extreme lengths currently to stifle developments, reduce innovation, create barriers of entry to markets, and create oligopolies via regulation that act to reduce the number of players in a given market and reduce opportunities to try new things. The current direction of policy would lead us back to a period of a large peasant class that is dependent on a shrinking privileged class for their daily bread. In fact, that is the entire goal of socialism. You must create as large a class of poor as possible and then demonize “the rich” and so stay in power while at the same time creating a very corrupt “rich” class with which they have a symbiotic relationship. For example, we see that in the US with the Democratic Party and the large financial institutions. The Democrats propose increased regulations in order to “protect” people from the predatory “rich corporations” but the impact of these regulations are to eliminate small players from local markets. So we see small local banks being absorbed by the large corporations who absolutely love the regulations (and dump more cash into the political campaigns of Democrats) because the regulations are expensive to comply with. This expense keeps new competitors out of the market and drives marginal existing companies out of business or into merging. Government then plays political favorites by assisting politically friendly businesses with things like loan guarantees or outright grants. So we see Goldman Sachs getting rich and Bear Stearns being allowed to be absorbed by Chase. Chase was a large supporter of the Democrats in the 2008 elections, Bear Stearns supported John McCain.

    In Russia we see a politically connected oligopolies running most business sectors.

    But the bottom line is that we can not assume that technology will continue to advance in the future at the pace it has advanced in the past 50 years. It is quite likely to stagnate and even possibly decline (the US now has no manned space flight capability, the Russians are showing trouble getting payloads to orbit). Things CAN go backwards and knowledge/expertise can be lost.

    Our current archives will not be trusted in the future because as they are kept electronically to an increasing extent, they are more susceptible to being changed or deleted in the future. One can not “un-print” a newspaper but they can go back in the electronic archives and silently edit content or delete entire stories as if they never happened. We see examples of website scrubbing and content modification all the time. Our archives are becoming meaningless.

    “Socialism” as we call it (actually quite Orwellian in fact because it is just the opposite) is the most unsustainable mechanism there is and it will ultimately squash human advancement. What we call “capitalism” but which I prefer to call a system of “free will” is actually better for the social good. You have a transaction that benefits both parties. I engage in the transaction and choose the provider of that good or service based on which one best meets my needs as I have prioritized those needs at that moment, not because the government through regulation has told me what my choices must be.

    We are entering into a period of stagnation and regression. It will take some time for us to get through it but history shows us that we hit these periods fairly frequently. It is a time of re-learning what doesn’t work. We get affluent and lazy and fall for emotionally appealing utopian ideas that eventually collapse due to their own inherent inefficiency. Any time you have some utopian socialistic program, you will find someone someplace making a huge profit from it and that profit will be concentrated in the pockets of those politically close to the people making those policies.

    Fiskar getting a huge subsidy from the US to make electric cars? Hmm, Al Gore is a board member of a primary venture capital firm backing the company. You see the same names showing up over and over again.

    We can make a real difference right now that doesn’t involve putting any money in anyone’s pocket simply by putting a bunch of fires out. But that will never happen and a million excuses will be given on why that isn’t possible so we shouldn’t even try.

    I’m getting rather sick of the whole thing.

  94. Aussie says:

    George some of what you state makes sense, but some of it is also very simplistic. In particular your claims that war is behind innovation is inaccurate.

    You have entirely neglected that period of the Agrarian Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. The impetus for the inventions was not war. Take for example the invention of the spinning jenny by Hargreaves, as well as the water frame. Those two inventions led the initial use of mass production which in turn led to lower prices for the manufacture of cotton products. The water frame is very relevant because it required the water mill to create the power to run the machines. However, these inventions were dwarfed by the creation of the steam engine. None of these were related to war!!

    Also, many of the inventions that you mention did not come about because of war, but from space exploration. Lots of inventions have come from space exploration.

  95. Tenuc says:

    @George – Yes much of what you say is true, but that mostly applies to the west. The new developments are more likely to come from China and India. Already many of the west’s best brains have been poached ( :- ) by these countries and I’m expecting to see great things.

    Nothing stays the same in this world of ours, but change is good as it drives humanity to innovate to find solutions. It will be a completely different world 50 years from now, just as it was a different world 50 years ago when I was in my prime.

  96. Tenuc says:

    @ RichardSCourtney – Sorry your not staying around. A bit of common sense and hard-nosed scepticism never goes amiss… :-(

  97. Clark,
    Atomic Insights is a good place to hang out if you are interested in NPPs. Here is a typical post:
    http://atomicinsights.com/2011/12/kirk-sorensen-why-didnt-molten-salt-thorium-reactors-succeed-the-first-time.html

    Kirk Sorenson has his own web site:
    http://energyfromthorium.com/

    Don’t forget your TEA (Thorium Energy Alliance):
    http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/

  98. Clark says:

    I don’t have time to do lots of catching up at present…

    George, yes, those seam fires should be extinguished. I’m going to suggest that as a campaign for Avaaz.

    RichardSCourtney, thanks for the clarification.

    Gallopingcamel, there are a few comments of mine at energyfromthorium. Kirk’s Forbe’s blog is quite good too:
    http://blogs.forbes.com/kirksorensen/

  99. Clark says:

    Tenuc, how the hell do you hope to increase planetary radiation with surface atmosphere effects? As far as I know, it’s impossible.

    Aussie, I heard somewhere that cylinders for steam engines owed a lot to cannon manufacture, so a bit of a war link there.

  100. Clark says:

    CanSpeccy, the problem with efficiency improvements is that most of our technology isn’t very inefficient. Light bulbs should, of course, be called heat bulbs; their efficiency is dire, but it’s not a huge sector of energy usage. As to cities with no cars, yes, I’m all for it, but if it isn’t done by “market forces” you’ll have half this blog down on you for “interfering”!

    I restate that I’m for democracy throughout all layers of governance, like in Switzerland. Now please misrepresent my position yet again. And I’m sure global energy supply pales into insignificance compared with your hobby-horse, immigration. It’s most important that people are in their proper countries, breeding with people of the same race, when the lights go out. Please try to make this thread about immigration and racial purity. You know what’s best for us here and at Craig’s, and it’s constant discussion about immigration.

  101. Michael Hart says:

    We’ve been through this so many times. The spirit of Malthus lives on in doomsters who wish to extrapolate exponential growth into the future where ‘inevitable disaster’ must happen.
    The ‘western’ nations have already shown that humans are capable of reducing population growth without trying too hard. It’s time we realised that the rest of the world is not likely to just do what comfortable western environmentalists tell them, and we should stop trying to keep them poor. It won’t do any good if we impoverish ourselves either. It’s already too late to change fossil fuel consumption, we should just be ready with the alternatives when we need them.

    As long as “crises” happen over a reasonable time scale, then humans will adapt. Wars are still a huge risk. My main concern is that we should already have the coal/nuclear technologies in place before Russia/OPEC each have both feet on our throat. Wind/wave/solar just won’t cut it in northern winters (and probably never in summer either until the population moves or decreases).

  102. George says:

    Replacing “heat bulbs” would be seen as a good idea in places where the primary energy expenditure is in cooling the living space. If the primary expense is in heating anyway, the energy you save from not creating heat with the bulb is simply consumed by the heater.

    The point is, I suppose, that we can go to all sorts of contortions for an increasingly difficult to achieve savings but the problem of diminishing return eventually rears its head. We have the technology at hand right this moment to replace most of our fossil fuel consumption. We don’t need to develop additional sources for the future, really, we can adopt the sources already on the shelf right now.

    But again, it really isn’t about CO2 emissions, it is about constraining economic activity in some areas while allowing unbounded growth in others in order to engineer global “justice”.

    One of the primary problems to my mind is that you have third world countries complaining that they are poor yet never take responsibility for the conditions they have created that keep them poor. They blame others for “exploiting” them. They use their arable land growing crops for cash instead of for food. They refuse to enact property rights in their laws. They refused to create a legal system that isn’t corrupt. In fact, corruption is generally an integral part of their culture in many such countries with graft by politicians and the bribery of petty officials by the people considered normal behavior in their cultures. Some third world despot can slaughter his political opposition in the countryside killing all their farmers and precipitating a famine knowing the UN will rush to their aid and provide them with food which he gets to dole out to political allies. We never hold those countries responsible for their own role in their situation. We simply go on “helping” them to death.

    The UN and the NGOs make their living in making sure problems are never actually solved but are simply managed in perpetuity. We have had “peacekeepers” in DR Congo for how long? What sort of “peace” are they keeping? They are never actually given a mandate to do what would be required to actually make a difference. Instead they simply manage to keep things at a low simmer forever. Rather than seeing 1000 dead in a month, you might get 10 dead per month over 100 months. Same number of people dead, but it’s easier to swallow and never makes the news outside of the country. The goal is to make sure the problem is never actually solved because then all the “experts” on that region and all their “committees” would be out of a job and they would no longer be important.

    I see it as a very sick and cynical game. We should hold them responsible and tell them quite clearly that they will reap the harvest of their actions and leave them to their fate if they don’t make the required changes. I believe in the long run that would result in fewer deaths. But instead we go in this campaign of assuring them that their plight is the fault of others and they aren’t expected to take any responsibility for their own behavior. In reality this keeps them in third-word status forever and ensures they can never rise above that. We can mollify their feelings of “injustice” by handing them cash — which they will promptly blow on unnecessary projects or divvy up among their cronies — and they will be right back where they were before demanding another handout. And we will give it to them in order to preserve their position as the designated receiver of global pity.

  103. neill says:

    Doers do. Thinkers think. Which can provide for folks to eat? To heat?

    Doers strive to create a profit every minute, every day. They strive to create payroll for their employees every week, or two. If they can’t do this, they must seek employment under someone who CAN create.

    1400 years? 400 years??

    I don’t care if you can think. So can I. The question is, can you create?

    Until that’s clarified, I’m not incentivized to listen.

  104. George says:

    but some of it is also very simplistic. In particular your claims that war is behind innovation is inaccurate.

    You have entirely neglected that period of the Agrarian Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

    I did for the sake of that posting, yes, else it would have been huge :) Yes, we do occasionally get a breakthrough that does result in a great advance, but it tends to sit there for a while. There often isn’t so much a change in technology as there is growth in the deployment of a technology that makes a large difference. For example, Edison is probably single-handedly responsible for our culture today. Electricity distribution, recorded music, motion pictures, the stock ticker, discovery of thermionic emission, etc. The electron tube came from experimentation surrounding the Edison effect allowing deForest to develop his valve. But these technologies were slow in being deployed. In 1920 we had about 4% of farms with electricity and commercial radio didn’t come along until about then, either.

    In fact, I would say we are one “Carrington Event” away from being thrust back into the 1920′s.

    What often surprises me isn’t how much things have changed, but how little they have.

  105. CanSpeccy says:

    @ Clark: “Now please misrepresent my position yet again.”

    With pleasure. LOL

    But as before, I will quote you exactly, as indicated below with quote marks.

    “I restate that I’m for democracy throughout all layers of governance”

    I’m not sure your stated that in the first place. But in any case, it doesn’t alter the fact that the global tier of government democratic (as if) or not, will trump lower levels whenever it likes.

    “And I’m sure global energy supply pales into insignificance compared with your hobby-horse, immigration.”

    It was you who first raised the issue of energy and population. I merely pointed out that moving people from Pakistan and Bangladesh to the UK not only increases the global population because women from Pakistan and Bangladesh have more children in the UK than they would have had if they’d stayed home, but that the move increases their energy consumption by a factor of ten.

    It seems to me that that observation is relevant to your hobby horse about hydrocarbon depletion and the need for global governance to manage energy use.

    “Please try to make this thread about immigration and racial purity.”

    Racial purity? it’s not a term I have used here or anywhere else. You see you imagine things, Clark. Or was that an attempt at a smear. I trust not, for when a liberal calls someone a racist it usually means that they’ve just lost the argument.

    “As to cities with no cars, yes, I’m all for it, but if it isn’t done by “market forces” you’ll have half this blog down on you for “interfering”!”

    I said nothing about coercion. But if the price of gas keeps rising, many people will likely be interested in moving to high density communities designed for life without a car.

    And as I discussed in my essay about redesigning cities for better living with less energy, I proposed a lot of other changes that would reduce resource use, while improving the quality of life.

    Since the stone age, human energy use per capita has risen several thousand fold. given the incentives, i.e., sufficient shortages, I suspect we could cut back a hundred-fold or so and still live better than we do now.

  106. George says:

    “I suspect we could cut back a hundred-fold or so and still live better than we do now.”

    No, we couldn’t. How much does it cost to create that antibiotic that might save a child’s life? Two things are responsible for today’s populations:

    1. Sanitary sewers
    2. Antibiotics

    And we are probably coming to an end of the period where antibiotics have any real impact on common varieties of bacteria such as staph and strep.

    I don’t believe you actually understand how hard it was to live only 100 years ago in this world. No refrigerator, no washing machine, no dryer. All that was fine as long as you had all day to get basic chores done and lived basically hand-to-mouth purchasing every day’s food as it was consumed.

    You sound like someone who lives in or near a city. Have you ever lived 40 miles from the nearest gas station / grocery / doctor? A horse and buggy just don’t cut it when you have to get someone to a doctor. From the time of the Roman Empire until the early 1800′s, about 85% of people born died before age 35. Energy use per capita also does not mean energy that each person uses. Things such as aluminum manufacturing and steel mills get spread across that lot, too. The energy you actually use in a day is rather negligible. All household power use in the entire US is about 25% of power used in the country. In other words, take ALL homes to zero power consumption and we have only a 25% reduction. About 30% is used in moving water around. Pumping it out of the ground, treating it, distribution, collecting, treating the waste and disposing of it. People still want their toilet to work. Going back to hand-pump wells and cesspools and outhouses isn’t exactly my idea of better living.

    Some people really romanticize such a life. First thing I would do is take away their computer and their toilet and see how they like it then. If you want to communicate with someone, put a pen to paper. The internet and the various servers connected to it are a huge consumer of power. Google consumes an amazing amount of power. The output of 8 power plants in California goes to nothing but growing pot.

    We could have cheap, abundant power right now. Our scarcity of energy is self-created and it is done for a reason. You don’t see China holding back in installing energy production, do you? They never will, either. They will have power in 50 years that costs a fraction per kWh of the power we produce and they will be laughing at our stupid windmills and solar panels as they sell them to us manufactured with nuclear energy that will also be used for water desalinization and other purposes for their people. They will laugh all the way to the bank.

  107. George says:

    I guess what I want to say is that if *you* want to live that sort of life, be my guest. Just don’t go thinking you have any right to shove that down the throats of other people. I have no problem letting people live whatever sort of life they want. Forsake your toilet and your shower and the computer and the power grid. Heck, get a million other people to join you. More power to you. Just don’t go projecting your priorities onto my life. That is one of the primary problems I have with people who romanticize that sort of life, they want to force it on other people.

    No thanks. I don’t want to be in some rabbit hutch high density housing when the power and water go out. I’d rather suffer than in peace and quiet on a patch of my own ground.

  108. Aussie says:

    @George, we are on the same page :)

    The Agrarian Revolution is probably more important than the Industrial Revolution because of its societal impact. It was the end of the peasant society :) The Industrial Revolution took up the slack :)

    I would have thought that for us it is a Technical Revolution that has taken place. I agree that the inventions of Edison were quite important to that revolution:

    - the washing machine
    - the rotary clothes line
    - the Victa lawn mower
    - radio and television (radio I think is Marconi)
    - computers
    - the Internet
    - email
    - blogs and social sites :)

    Since the beginning of the Industrial revolution we have continued to evolve!!

  109. neill says:

    and How do creators create wealth for themselves and those who work for them?

    It’s simple — they cater to a human need.

  110. neill says:

    Who most exemplifies ‘the creative, adaptive impulse of Man’ in Western power recently: Ronald Reagan.

    And who did he publicly recognize as opposed to that: the Soviet Union, and Jimmy Carter.

  111. Aussie says:

    @George, just one more little point regarding the push to force people out of cars. The disabled :)
    When these people start a push of this nature it usually means that they want everyone to use bicycles, but they never consider that some of us cannot use them.

    There are clumsy people like myself who cannot manage to balance on a bicycle. However, there are other problems associated with the saddle of a bicycle. It is hurts ville if one has had an injury that makes it difficult to sit down!!! Been there and done that twice. Bicycle riding is very difficult in such circumstances. Then for others it is the difficulty of walking due to diseases such as MS, or by being born with certain problems associated with cerebral palsy. There is an extensive list involved regarding people who would find alternatives to the use of a car very difficult. :)

  112. onlyme says:

    Newest figures i have seen on natural gas supply are collected in a post at http://bit.ly/sZoj7P and include links to sources, such as the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times etc.

    The final 2 paragraphs I find of interest:

    “That huge amount of non-conventional natural gas is, please note, in addition to the proven conventional reserves of 6,609 trillion cubic feet. Now add in not just proven (easily recoverable) conventional natural gas reserves, but all technically recoverable conventional gas (about 16,000 trillion cubic feet), and you have on the order of 22,600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available to the world — with just the currently known technology.

    For decades, the environmentalist fanatics have repeated the Malthusian myth that we are running out of fossil fuels. But the whole Thanatos-worshiping pagan enviro-religion is now facing its Copernican challenge.”

  113. CanSpeccy says:

    @George

    “I don’t believe you actually understand how hard it was to live only 100 years”

    Well I did grow up more than 60 years ago, in a house without indoor plumbing, without electricity and with a well that ran dry in the summer. Horses were still the chief form of motive power on the farm and the threshing machine was powered by a belt drive from a steam traction engine. So, I do have some idea what it was like to live the way country folk lived 100 years ago. A better idea than you have probably, anyhow.

    It was, for a five-year-old, just about the perfect life. One was rarely compelled to wash and the world, as far as one could roam, was one’s oyster. The country lanes were mainly for sheep and cattle. Cars were extremely rare, all dating from before WWII.The village commuted by bus: 8.15 AM into town, 4.30 PM out of town. Otherwise, we traveled by shanks pony.

    But I wasn’t proposing a return to the past. Had you read my piece (linked above) about urban redevelopment you would know that I was talking about a high-tech, low energy future, that would be a realization of Buchminster Fuller’s maxim that technological innovation should result in doing more with less.

    PS, I didn’t know antibiotics and sanitary sewers were so energy intensive. Or perhaps you are mistaken.

  114. Aussie says:

    @CanSpeccy,

    my grandmother’s place in urban Melbourne had an outdoor toilet but indoor bath!! That was 50 years ago, and in recent times I did learn that it still had an outdoor toilet!!

    With regard to antibiotics etc then one has to look at the actual industry in how things are made (for antibiiotics). It takes quite a lot of energy even for the packaging. The sewers also require high energy because of the equipment that is necessary for the treatment of the sewage. That point becomes obvious when there is any form of breakdown.

    Let me give another example when it comes to so called estimated costs and comparisons and that is the form of preferred shopping bag. Up until recently the supermarkets were offering those plastic bags that easily fall apart for the packing of groceries. The alternative was to purchase a bag made out of recyclable materials which is “cloth”. According to some research because of emissions (not sure how they were measured) it is cheaper to produce the plastic bags in comparison to the cloth bags, regardless of how often they are used. Personally, I see this as a false comparison… but it is a point to show that there are comparisons out there that do not necessarily hold water.

    Likewise I am unconvinced about the change from the incandescent light bulb to something else. Admittedly I prefer the light of a flourescent tube, not the bulb, but I honestly cannot see how the “emissions” are being measured so that we can say that there is a saving by changing from one form to another.

    On the other hand, architecture can be used to develop housing that makes the best use of the sun, thus it reduces the need for the use of electricity for lighting during the day.

  115. CanSpeccy says:

    @Aussie
    “There are clumsy people like myself who cannot manage to balance on a bicycle.”

    Here’s a bike for you:

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdmgDgcZfvY&w=400&h=233%5D

    Or if the embed doesn’t work try this link.

    Not sure if the machine would accommodate you and the cutie at the same time.

  116. Aussie says:

    @CanSpeccy,

    no bike will do for me!! It is the saddle that is the problem. Those saddles are a right pain where it hurts to sit down!!

  117. Tenuc says:

    Clark says:
    January 2, 2012 at 1:37 am
    “Tenuc, how the hell do you hope to increase planetary radiation with surface atmosphere effects? As far as I know, it’s impossible…

    Hi Clark, you’re putting words in my mouth now. What I said was that other climate mechanisms which make up our planets climate heat engine will reconfigure to remove the extra heat. As I said, you cannot just look at one part of a complex system, use a linear trend and expect to get an answer that makes any sense.

    Please use a bit of common sense, Clark, and try to understand that the radiative balance is only one part of a complex system. You really need to learn a bit more about climate, as what you are saying is utter nonsense.

  118. Aussie says:

    Here is a link to the page:

    http://www.unileaks.org/node/ClimateGate.htm

    here is the code (?) HASH: 09C4BA5AFD9E2A7724937DB92BF6B6A3D0C32558

    This is what I found on the site of Unileaks. I honestly do not know if they do in fact have the hidden archive.

  119. Aussie says:

    @Tenuc, you have made a good point regarding linear trend.

    Whilst my statistics is extremely rusty, it seems to me that a basic problem is the use of a linear trend. I do not think that a linear trend matches the real world for climate and population. There are just too many other factors to consider, and many of those factors are still unknown.

    I think that this is the problem with anyone who holds to the basic premises of Malthusian theory – the linear trend. It does not take everything into consideration.

  120. Tenuc says:

    Here you go, Clark, this sums up some of what I’ve been trying to help you understand. It will take you a few minutes to read, then act as an ideal framework for further study (google is your friend, but don’t use wikipedia as too many errors, both accidental and of deliberate bias).

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/robert-brown-what-we-dont-know-about-energy-flow/#more-4104

    Once you’ve got up to speed, we will be able to have a more meaningful discussion and you will be able to sleep a lot easier with all that worry off your mind… :-)

  121. Tenuc says:

    Aussie says:
    January 2, 2012 at 10:13 pm
    “…Whilst my statistics is extremely rusty, it seems to me that a basic problem is the use of a linear trend. I do not think that a linear trend matches the real world for climate and population. There are just too many other factors to consider, and many of those factors are still unknown.

    I think that this is the problem with anyone who holds to the basic premises of Malthusian theory – the linear trend. It does not take everything into consideration…

    It has been known from the 1960′s that population, raw material exploitation and climate are driven by deterministic chaos, and for these types of systems linear statistics have no worth. You can plot the historic numbers on a graph and sometimes even develop a heuristic model which back-fits the data, but extrapolating forward will never give even a reasonable fit to future reality.

    It is unfortunate that some people with vested interests are willing to use such tactics to try and scare the masses into doing their bidding. Population Explosion, Peak Oil, Catastrophic Anthropomorphic Global Warming, and the Ozone Hole are examples of this. Note the emotional language used and how they pretend that there is scientific basis for their claims and the science is settled. What rubbish!

    Unluckily for them, a large number of educated people do have a scientific background and understand critical thinking, or have the nous (common sense0 to see through the agenda beyond the tissue of lies. Luckily, despite the MSM being controlled by these same vested interests, the internet provides a method of communication through various Blogs like Tallbloke’s Talkshop, where these issues can be debated and a more informed picture of reality can be obtained.

  122. George says:

    It is unfortunate that some people with vested interests are willing to use such tactics to try and scare the masses into doing their bidding.

    That is generally what goes on. I have sometimes said that some of these people must be terrified of roller coasters. I can imagine their thinking as they begin the initial climb and calculate that at some point soon given the current rate of climb extrapolated into the future, they will run out of oxygen and die. Then as they crest the first rise, they extrapolate the current rate of drop into the future and calculate that they will eventually reach the Earth’ mantle.

    But generally you are correct, I think. They have a vision for what they want to accomplish as far as policy and then go about creating an argument to scare people into accepting very expensive changes in policy to reach that goal. In the case of “climate change” I believe the goal is global management of economic, energy, development and environmental policy using fear of “climate change” to cause the people to give up the large sums of money and accept reduced standards of living in order to meet those goals.

    In the meantime, they get other countries on board by offering the promise of large sums of money and the prospect that they can, in effect, charge the larger countries “rent” for the atmosphere along with an exemption from restrictions that the larger countries face making their countries more favorable for development. While that might sound noble on the surface, that money generally ends up in the hands of some despot’s family or cronies and life for the average person doesn’t change much.

  123. Zeke says:

    Actually, the case could be made that if England follows its current commitment to get 35% of its power from “renewable energy” in 2020, it could turn deadly.

    With 200bn pounds spent on 5% of a very unwelcome and unneeded source of electricity, one can see that building more of these wind turbines and reducing coal and gas power could have fatal consequences. No matter how many turbines any country builds, they do not produce if the wind does not blow, and when it does not blow it is quiet over very large geographic areas.

    There is some precedent for government beauracracies costing millions of lives in history, I think. It isn’t really all that difficult to figure out.

  124. George says:

    Another thing that I see going on is “journalists” who strive to “make a difference” through their reporting. I was married to a journalist until her untimely passing a few years ago. In social gatherings and through her relating of stories, I found this notion of skewing the content to present the “correct” picture rather common among journalists. They would tend to present things in ways that validated their own world view. Often this was very subtle, In the area of environmental issues, they might report a quote from some distinguished figure at the UN or national leader that was solidly behind some issue. If they mentioned a skeptical position, it would be framed in such a way as to make it appear extreme or mean-spirited, or incompetent. This is often done by following a skeptic’s quote with some rebuttal that devalues the statement of the skeptic and reinforces the desired position.

    In fact, PR outfits such as Fenton Communications in the US and Australia (and probably Futerra in the UK) who cater to various NGOs and activist organizations make it well-known that they have a stable of “sympathetic journalists” who they use to get material published in the media.

    Now that should not be any real surprise because going all the way back to the days of Benjamin Franklin in the US, “the press” has never been objective. An outlet has always served to further the agenda of the publisher. What is new is this expectation that the private press is somehow expected to be objective. Once you realize that the outlets are not objective at all, you can then weigh how much of the article is reporting and how much of it is “journalistic” art.

  125. CanSpeccy says:

    @Aussie:

    “no bike will do for me!! It is the saddle that is the problem.”

    No saddle to this bike Oz. Its a bike only because it has just two wheels, one behind the other. Weighing perhaps no more than a couple of hundred pounds it would offer the speed, convenience and safety (perhaps) of an automobile, but with only a tenth the energy use.

    @Neill

    Re: “No matter what the technology, a sustained 2.3% energy growth rate would require us to produce as much energy as the entire sun within 1400 years.”

    My question (elaborated slightly here) is, what’s the problem. That an advanced civilization will use the entire energy of a star, before going galactic (i.e., from Type 2 to Type 3 civilization) is a generally accepted assumption, is it not, among those who have considered the evolution of intelligent life.

  126. clark says:

    Tenuc, thanks for the link; I understand the point you’re making now. You hope that the hotter parts of Earth will outshine the cooler regions to such an extent that more energy can be radiated, while keeping the cooler bits cool enough. It’s a complex, non-linear calculation, and I bet you can’t squeeze more than a factor of two out of it; the bigger the temperature differential, the more atmospheric mixing. At higher temperature differentials cross-radiation between areas will also become important.

    But even a factor of ten only buys about one century. The 300 and 400 years time figures are about 1000 and 9000 times current energy expenditure respectfully, at +2.3% per annum.

    Tenuc, you keep referring to climate. The thermodynamic limit has nothing to do with climate, it works just the same even with no atmosphere at all. The heat has to leave Earth; since space is vacuum (near as), that rules out convection and conduction, which leaves radiation.
    - – - – -
    Neil, what’s all this? I need to be an employer to have an opinion worth considering? Hmm, how big was Einstein’s staff? I thought he was just an employee in a patent office. For what it’s worth, I’ve been a theatre sound and lighting technician. I do electrical, electronic and small mechanical fault-finding, repair and modification, though my electronic design skills are quite rudimentary. I’ve written software, from simple applications down to hardware level microcontroller programming (with associated interface design and construction). Mostly my solutions are one-off works of my own rather than purchased products, so I think I’m reasonably creative.
    - – - – -
    CanSpeccy, regarding ““No matter what the technology, a sustained 2.3% energy growth rate would require us to produce as much energy as the entire sun within 1400 years.” – this refers to energy expenditure on Earth. Yes, humanity can expend far more energy without getting too hot IF we make it to becoming a competent space-faring species, but we’re currently going backwards on that.

    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/10/why-not-space/

  127. clark says:

    Neil, even if you decide that I’m not creative enough to take seriously, the articles I’m basing this on are by Tom Murphy:

    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/tom-murphy-profile/

  128. clark says:

    Michael Hart, good comment. Look, it’s a shame about Malthus, but he was just an individual. We don’t go on and on about how Freud or Newton were wrong, we just accept the contribution, use what’s useful, and develop the ideas. Malthus’ warning of how hard an exponentially growing population hits a limit was spot on, and populations (other than human) suffer crashes every season. But he should have known better than to predict the future, as should all those people who claim that Humanity will never suffer a Malthusian crash.

    The ‘western’ nations have already shown that humans are capable of reducing population growth without trying too hard. It’s time we realised that the rest of the world is not likely to just do what comfortable western [environmentalists] tell them, and we should stop trying to keep them poor.

    This is probably the single most important comment I’ve seen on this thread – But – I’ve bracketed “environmentalists”, because there are far more agencies than just environmentalists that are keeping the poor, poor.

    And it leads us to another very difficult problem. The thing that brings birth rates down is affluence, and affluence is based fundamentally upon energy usage. To slow the rise in population we need to increase energy supply by a factor of about 5 to 10, and a large proportion of it has to be in the form of liquid fuel. But according to some (though not all) well-sourced estimates we are at or near peak production of our main source of liquid fuel, meaning that production may be forced into decline. Estimates vary for political, commercial and physical reasons, which leads me to…

    As long as “crises” happen over a reasonable time scale, then humans will adapt. [My emphasis.]

    Fundamentally, we’re predicting the future here. Anyone who has taken a firm position on what will or won’t happen is on dodgy ground. We do know a bit about the dynamics of our predicament: (1) exponential growth constantly accelerates us; if there’s a limit, the longer we wait the harder we hit it, and (2) there’s a nasty population-rise vs. energy-use relationship that means that we need more energy in order to need less.

    We can’t know the timescale, but we know that we can extend it in our favour by conserving hydrocarbons.

    Of course, there’s another approach. Minor parts of the population are responsible for the majority of the energy consumption, far beyond the point where they reduced their birth rate. Maybe this additional energy usage should be considered unwarranted, as it could be put to more effective use elsewhere. Discuss.

  129. Clark says:

    CanSpeccy, I just saw your January 1, 2012 12:56 am comment. Yes, I thought that human populations had suffered crashes; I’m not sure what Malthus wrote, but it is clear that entire populations can run out of critical resources. Thanks. But I don’t remember “promot[ing] the mass movement of people to Europe”. I vaguely remember promoting a gig and a workshop by Daevid Allen in the mid ’80s in York…

    Tenuc, I hadn’t noticed your comment about nuclear power before. I don’t like our current crop of reactors either, but to be fair, I think my fear of reactors is a bit overblown compared to the damage they’ve actually done. All energy sources kill and do damage.

    You are right, the current reactors are the descendants of reactors designed to produce plutonium for weapons. The process produces large amounts of “spent fuel”, uranium that is less than 1% used but which is already contaminated with isotopes heavier than uranium, including plutonium. Really, reactors need to be developed that can “burn up” this stuff, extracting the other 99% of the energy.

    Do you know the story of the Molten Salt Reactors? The US had the answer to the spent fuel problem, but they abandoned it and concentrated on reactors that produced plutonium. Molten salt reactors could re-circulate fuel until it was all burned up, extracting far more energy per tonne and leaving much less waste. And they ran at atmospheric pressure. Only two were built, operation ceased in 1969. See? We are going backwards.

    The nuclear industry was never offered any serious choice. Oh, they could build PWRs and BWRs etc. partly of their own design, but seriously different ways of doing nuclear reactions were barely pursued by governments who were all after the same thing – nuclear weapons. One day, I hope, nuclear power will be a mature technology in its own right, rather than an orphaned appendage of weapons production.

  130. Tenuc says:

    clark says:
    January 5, 2012 at 10:08 am
    “Tenuc, thanks for the link; I understand the point you’re making now. You hope that the hotter parts of Earth will outshine the cooler regions to such an extent that more energy can be radiated, while keeping the cooler bits cool enough.

    Yes!! Looks like your starting to understand… :-)

    “It’s a complex, non-linear calculation, and I bet you can’t squeeze more than a factor of two out of it; the bigger the temperature differential, the more atmospheric mixing. At higher temperature differentials cross-radiation between areas will also become important.

    But even a factor of ten oour still clinging on to the rubbish being spouted by nly buys about one century. The 300 and 400 years time figures are about 1000 and 9000 times current energy expenditure respectfully, at +2.3% per annum.

    Tenuc, you keep referring to climate. The thermodynamic limit has nothing to do with climate, it works just the same even with no atmosphere at all. The heat has to leave Earth; since space is vacuum (near as), that rules out convection and conduction, which leaves radiation.

    Oh dear, you still have much research to do so that you can understand what is really going to happen, rather than believing the utter rubbish being spouted by Tom Murphy at physics.ucsd.edu.

    Clue – the reason you are completely wrong Clark is that temperature on Earth has always, and will continue to be, driven by mainly by convection and the water cycle – radiative processes are of secondary importance regarding the energy available to do useful work. Please, Clark, try thinking for yourself a bit more and stop believing people who are trying to mislead you.

    Neil, what’s all this? I need to be an employer to have an opinion worth considering? Hmm, how big was Einstein’s staff? I thought he was just an employee in a patent office. For what it’s worth, I’ve been a theatre sound and lighting technician. I do electrical, electronic and small mechanical fault-finding, repair and modification, though my electronic design skills are quite rudimentary. I’ve written software, from simple applications down to hardware level microcontroller programming (with associated interface design and construction). Mostly my solutions are one-off works of my own rather than purchased products, so I think I’m reasonably creative.

    ??? Sorry, please quote where I said this???

  131. Clark says:

    Tenuc, the second part is to neil!

    Tenuc, when I write “the Earth”, I mean the planet, not the ground. The only way that heat leaves a planet is by radiation. “Convection and the water cycle”; these take place within the atmosphere, which I am including as part of planet Earth. I am talking about heat completely escaping from Earth, including its oceans and atmosphere, and escaping into empty space.

    Does that help? Do you understand now?

  132. Clark says:

    Tenuc, Tom Murphy isn’t trying to mislead anyone. My physics is good enough to check those articles. They are rough and ready, broad brush and unrealistic, but the maths and physics are right. If you can’t see that, your physics isn’t good enough for you to make a judgment.

  133. p.g.sharrow says:

    When you learn all the correct answers and maths that are in the book, you only know that is in the book and nothing more. People that write books of learning rarely create new knowledge, just rehash what they have learned from existing books about the accepted consensuses line. If you examine the guts of physics accepted thought lines, you will find that Climate Science learned from the physics community on how to create consensuses and eliminate decent. pg

  134. Tenuc says:

    “…Fundamentally, we’re predicting the future here. Anyone who has taken a firm position on what will or won’t happen is on dodgy ground. We do know a bit about the dynamics of our predicament: (1) exponential growth constantly accelerates us; if there’s a limit, the longer we wait the harder we hit it, and (2) there’s a nasty population-rise vs. energy-use relationship that means that we need more energy in order to need less.”

    He we go again, Clark. You are right, we cannot predict the future, so any ‘precautionary’ action is equally as likely to be wrong as it is right – best bet is do nothing.

    We are not experiencing exponential growth as energy use is dependant on the amount of wealth you have earned, which is why the western world uses lots of energy per capita, while the third world uses little. The population ‘explosion’ will never happen as food availability is also intrinsically linked to wealth. When food shortages happen, it is always the poor that suffer and, regrettably, this puts a natural cap on global population.

    We can’t know the timescale, but we know that we can extend it in our favour by conserving hydrocarbons.

    Again you want to take action with no clue about what the future may bring. Without cheap energy third world countries will never get out of the poverty trap and poor education, disease and starvation will continue to be endemic. What you suggest is sheer folly!!!

    Of course, there’s another approach. Minor parts of the population are responsible for the majority of the energy consumption, far beyond the point where they reduced their birth rate. Maybe this additional energy usage should be considered unwarranted, as it could be put to more effective use elsewhere…

    So now we are getting to the nub of your real agenda. You are simply a global communist who believes that redistribution of wealth will save mankind – what total rubbish!!!

    If you take just one second to look at what is happening in communist countries now, you will find that all that has happened is an even more uneven distribution of wealth, with a small cadre of super rich despots building wealth on the back of a huge ‘slave labour’ population – as happened with the failed Russian experiment.

    Democracy and capitalism has it’s problems and needs to retreat from fiat money back to the gold or silver standards. It also need to dismantle the world banking system and restrict any one person or organisation’s share holding to a maximum of 5% – total power always leads to total corruption as can be seen by the small number of super-rich elite who really run the world.

    I’ll leave you to ponder a few wise words from Churchill which are germane to the issues you raise…

    ‘It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.’

    ‘The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.’

  135. Clark says:

    P.g.sharrow, are you suggesting that the Stefan–Boltzmann law for black body radiation is a deception? Are you saying that the Stefan–Boltzmann law was crafted to support fake science for the political purposes?

    What are the correct formulas for heat flow for a body in vacuum?

  136. Clark says:

    P.g.sharrow, for me, science is quite unlike “book knowledge”, because (1) it does not have to be accepted on faith or authority, it can be checked experimentally, and (2) it is an integrated system of understanding; results obtained in one way can generally be re-derived or at least checked in various other ways. For instance, you can roughly check the speed of light by observations of Jupiter’s moons, using binoculars, a watch, and pen and paper.

  137. Clark says:

    Tenuc, “…we cannot predict the future, so any ‘precautionary’ action is equally as likely to be wrong as it is right – best bet is do nothing.”: your continued survival suggests that you do not apply this principle when you cross a road.

    You seem to have a hair-trigger fear towards either “communism” or “socialism” (you called me a “communist” but your quotes criticise “socialism”). Interesting, as I didn’t mention redistribution of wealth, merely redistribution of energy. Yet I keep being told that there is no inherent connection, that wealth can grow without additional energy.

    Tenuc, I am not idealogical about politics; I already outlined my position here:

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/climate-realism-tallbloke-style/#comment-12031

  138. Tenuc says:

    Clark says:
    January 6, 2012 at 12:46 am
    “Tenuc, Tom Murphy isn’t trying to mislead anyone. My physics is good enough to check those articles. They are rough and ready, broad brush and unrealistic, but the maths and physics are right. If you can’t see that, your physics isn’t good enough for you to make a judgment.”

    I think Mr. Murphy is definitely trying to mislead everyone, and twisting the facts to suit his brand of green socialist politics – that or he doesn’t understand physics as applied to the real world.

    He has obviously seriously misled you regarding our planets future temperature, as evidenced by you making this quote…“The thermodynamic limit has nothing to do with climate, it works just the same even with no atmosphere at all. The heat has to leave Earth; since space is vacuum (near as), that rules out convection and conduction, which leaves radiation.”

    It’s worthwhile you spending a few minutes considering why the temperature on this planet has stayed favourable for carbon based life for so many millions of years. I’ve been unsuccessful in giving the full explanation of how spatio-temporal chaos, and the law of MEP act as a homeostat, so I’ll try and explain to you using a simpler model.

    Firstly our planet is a water world with ~76% of its surface area covered with H2O – oceans, lakes, rivers, streams e.t.c.

    (Interestingly, of the ~24% of (sometimes) dry land left around half is in barren areas such as deserts, polar caps, and mountainous regions, where it is either too hot or too cold or too high to be productive of much life.)

    The ultimate temperature of our planet is driven by the thickness of our atmosphere and the vast heat engine we call the water cycle. More water vaporises when temperatures increase taking the energy high in the atmosphere, were it radiates to space. If you imagine that Earth is a pan of boiling water simmering on a low thermostatic heating ring, when you measure the temperature it is ~100 degrees. If you turn up the ring to full, the water becomes turbulent (chaotic), but the temperature stays at ~100 degrees. You can increase the heat as much as you want, but the liquid water temperature stays constant.

    Mr Murphy also seems to have a down on useful, cheap energy from hydroelectric scheme, trying to pass them off as insignificant in the greater scheme of things. Nothing could be further from the truth as ~20% of world electricity production comes from this source. In 2004 a UN sponsored meeting produced a paper on hydroelectricity – “Beijing Declaration on Hydropower and Sustainable Development”, where the worlds experts made a conservative estimate that only a third of potential sites for economic deveopment were being exploited.

    Imagine that, 60% of current world electricity levels coming from hydropower – yet Mr Murphy writes this off and recommends environmentally unsound solar PV and wind. It wouldn’t be so bad if these new technologies were useful, but real world deployment illustrates just how costly and inefficient they are.

    Finally there is a huge caveat, which Mr Murphy fails to apply to all his doom-laden Exponential growth models of physical phenomena. The first is that these are a type of forecast based on linear trends and have zero predictive ability when dealing with systems displaying deterministic chaos (e.g. population growth, global temperature). They also only apply within small regions, as unbounded growth is not physically possible and although growth may be exponential initially, the modelled phenomena will eventually enter a state in which previously ignored negative feedback factors become significant.

    Try thinking for yourself a bit more Clark and use critical reasoning to help find the truth.

  139. Tenuc says:

    Clark says:
    January 6, 2012 at 10:36 am
    “Tenuc, “…we cannot predict the future, so any ‘precautionary’ action is equally as likely to be wrong as it is right – best bet is do nothing.”: your continued survival suggests that you do not apply this principle when you cross a road.”

    Sorry Clark, but you haven’t picked a useful metaphor here. When crossing a road I always look and listen so I know exactly what to predict ahead for the few seconds it takes to cross the road. Your ‘precautionary’ principle, on the other hand, calls for socialist action (as you know wealth and energy are both equivalent, as you can’t get one without the other).

    You are also spreading false alarmism based on the incorrect application of physics in the real world to further your cause and finally you seem to think it wrong that some people who have worked hard to generate wealth don’t want to see it squandered on useless endeavours. From what you posted above I think that you are a long way left of centre with your views and even if you have no political affiliation, sadly are a communist at heart.

    Interestingly my political philosophy isn’t the ‘state / global bank’ controlled capitalism we see today. I’m much closer to the philosophy of Ayn Rand who supported rational egoism and rejected ethical altruism.

    In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which is the only social system which protects national identity and individual rights.

  140. Clark says:

    Tenuc, whatever your politics, I can state categorically that your physics on this is wrong, and your understanding of physics in general seems to be poor. Sorry. Ask someone you respect who has a qualification in physics.

    There is a point of possible confusion in our discussion. There are the various temperatures of Earth as seen from space (radiative temperatures), and there are various measures of temperature taken on-planet. The black body radiation equations concern the radiative temperatures only. There can be no convection or conduction of heat to or from a planet as a whole.

  141. Clark says:

    And Tenuc, Tom Murphy’s message is hardly “doom laden”. More sort of “we’ve never tried anything like this before, we don’t know if we can do it”. He probably likes photovoltaics because he’s worked in the space program, which uses photovoltaics extensively.

  142. Tenuc says:

    Clark, I’ve tried to explain to you in several different ways why the theory of radiative physics is of secondary importance to Earth regarding surface temperature of the biosphere. You seem unable to listen and understand what I have said and unwilling to spend a couple of weeks using the web to find out for yourself. Like any other tool, physics is only as good as how you apply in to the real world. Just for once in your life, stop being a sheep and put in the time and effort needed for you to understand how things work and why the rubbish you’ve read on Mr Murphy’s web site is plain wrong. Your grasp of real world physics is badly in need of a refresh.

  143. Clark says:

    OK, Tenuc, what are your qualifications?

    “radiative physics is of secondary importance to Earth regarding surface temperature ”

    OK, what is of primary importance? You realise you’re going against all the anti-AGW people who claim that the Sun is of primary importance…

  144. Clark says:

    Oh, and what do you mean by “surface temperature”? The temperature shown by a thermometer in Antarctic ice is very different from that of one in daytime Sahara sand, and the temperatures of those two regions measured from space will be different again depending upon atmospheric conditions.

    Radiation is a minor effect for us, living on the surface surrounded by conduction and convection, but from space it’s basically the only effect. There’s the solar wind and meteors, I suppose, but I should think that they’re minor, and that they add far more energy than they remove. As for energy leaving Earth, radiation is all I can think of; anyone else? If heat energy didn’t leave Earth, the temperature would just rise and rise and rise… It’s radiation that keeps Earth’s temperature down.

    Anyone else please…

  145. Tenuc says:

    Clark says:
    January 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm
    “Radiation is a minor effect for us, living on the surface surrounded by conduction and convection, but from space it’s basically the only effect. There’s the solar wind and meteors, I suppose, but I should think that they’re minor, and that they add far more energy than they remove. As for energy leaving Earth, radiation is all I can think of; anyone else? If heat energy didn’t leave Earth, the temperature would just rise and rise and rise… It’s radiation that keeps Earth’s temperature down.

    Eureka! At last you’re starting to smell the coffee:-) The only temperature we need to worry about, regarding keeping the planet suitable for life for the next few million years is the temperature where life exists, at the surface. Here, as you so aptly say, convection (and the water cycle – conductance has only a minor role regarding GMT) is/are key, as is air pressure, the apparent attraction of gravity and the adiabatic lapse rate. What happens at the tropopause and above, where radiative processes dominate, is less important to surface temperature. This is where the main cooling system of the Earth, and many of our climate’s spacio-temporal chaotic processes exist, either speeding up or slowing down the rate of radiation to space.

    So no matter how much energy gets pumped into the system, GMT hovers around where it is now +/- a ~couple of degrees. The exception to this happy state of affairs happens when too little energy is available to drive climate systems. Luckily our oceans work like storage heaters and help slow the decline in temperature for a while, but eventually if lack of energy continues the polar caps start to grow and another ice age begins. This is not conducive to a healthy biosphere or to human civilisation come to that.

    For your interest and education about adiabatic effect I recommend the following threads – the topic is covered in a clear way, but please read the excellent comments and if there is something you don’t understand please ask questions, nobody will think the less of you…

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/hans-jelbring-the-greenhouse-effect-as-a-function-of-atmospheric-mass/

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/unified-theory-of-climate-nikolov-and-zeller/

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/stephen-wilde-climate-description-now-underpinned-by-utc/

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/the-loschmidt-gravito-thermal-effect-old-controversy-new-relevance/

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/g-t-weigh-in-on-adiabatic-atmospheres-and-raise-the-bar/

    Enjoy Clark… 8-)

  146. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Clark; Stefan–Boltzmann law, From wikipedia,
    The law was deduced by Jožef Stefan (1835–1893) in 1879 on the basis of experimental measurements made by John Tyndall and was derived from theoretical considerations, using thermodynamics, by Ludwig Boltzmann (1844–1906) in 1884. Boltzmann considered a certain ideal heat engine with light as a working matter instead of gas.
    “The law is valid only for ideal black objects, the perfect radiators, called black bodies.”

    This can only be valid above the atmosphere and certainly not below the stratosphere where the hydrosphere is the prime mover of energy. You know, where weather and climate take place. pg

  147. Clark says:

    Tenuc, as I said before, I have no desire to study climate science. You didn’t define GMT. None of this affects the deductions. OK, I’ll take your word for it that to radiate more energy the temperature of the tropopause would have to rise. OK, what temperature is it now? How hot would it have to be to radiate 1000 to 9000 times as much energy as it does now (300-400 years at 2.3% growth)? I think you’ll find atmospheric problems, and the temperature on the ground will be too high.

    P.g.sharrow, yes, the equation is for black bodies, which are “perfect radiators”. Actual objects fall short of black body radiation, and radiate less for a given temperature. Considering that the argument is about keeping Earth’s temperature down as much as possible, deviations from black body only make the planet hotter.

  148. Clark says:

    OK, back to basics, physics lecture. Take a 1kW kettle element. This is physics, so we consider an ideal 1kW kettle element, ie a theoretical device that consumes 1kW of electrical power no matter what the physical conditions, most notably its own temperature, and converts it all into heat.

    Right. Connect it up, switch it on, in air. It rapidly heats up until it glows red hot. Lucky it’s a theoretical, ideal element, or it would burn out unless we immersed it, but let’s immerse it anyway. Big woosh of steam, but the element is no longer glowing.

    We know what’s going on. The energy arrives at the same rate regardless, 1000 joules per second. The element’s temperature rises until heat energy is being lost from the element at the same rate, 1kW. In water, a low temperature suffices to drive that rate of heat flow into water, which then convects like crazy. Air is a more difficult medium, so the element settles at a higher temperature, and glows red; radiation is also becoming significant.

    OK, let’s put our ideal element into vacuum. There is now no medium for conduction or convection, so the element’s temperature increases until radiation alone carries the full 1kW away from the element. Maybe our element glows white hot. Whatever. Hotter than in air.

    You can argue that you can keep it cooler inside the tubes of the element – a bit easier if the element is spherical, I suppose, – but really, you’ll need some serious heat pumps and you’ll be fighting a thermodynamic “law of diminishing returns”.

    Any disagreement?

  149. Tenuc says:

    Clark says:
    January 6, 2012 at 5:52 pm
    “Tenuc, as I said before, I have no desire to study climate science. You didn’t define GMT. None of this affects the deductions. OK, I’ll take your word for it that to radiate more energy the temperature of the tropopause would have to rise. OK, what temperature is it now? How hot would it have to be to radiate 1000 to 9000 times as much energy as it does now (300-400 years at 2.3% growth)? I think you’ll find atmospheric problems, and the temperature on the ground will be too high…”

    Hi Clark, I’m surprised you’ve no interest in trying to find out what would really happen if, as you posit (or was it Mr Murphy), if man made energy means the tropopause is going to have to remove your/his quoted 9000 times as much as it is now. As I pointed out earlier, the figure quoted is ridiculous due to wrong assumptions and mis-application of the maths, however even if remotely true I’m certain that temperatures on the surface would be within tolerance for prolific life.

    To clear a few other points – GMT = (surface) Global Mean Temperature. However, you have to be careful not to confuse temperature with energy, as I illustrate for you below.

    Currently the tropopause is around -50degreesC. However this doesn’t mean that there is not much energy their, just that there are few molecule for the outgoing photons to interact with as they vanish in their trillions/second from our planet at the speed of light.

    The link below is to a chart which shows the temperature of the air by altitude above the planets surface, please note the high temperature at the thermosphere – scary huh… However, if you could put you hand out of your space suit, it would feel incredibly cold – temperature and energy are not the same.

  150. Clark says:

    Tenuc, I haven’t confused heat energy, measured in joule, with temperature, measured in kelvin, since the age of thirteen at most. Temperature is like the density or concentration of heat energy.

    Tenuc, quit calling Murphy’s maths wrong unless you can present what you think is right. Murphy looks about right to me. 400 years at 2.3% growth would make our energy usage similar to all solar energy incident upon Earth. The effect would be similar to having a second Sun. Are you really telling me that if our Sun had double the power, the temperatures on Earth wouldn’t change much? Venus gets just about twice twice the solar intensity of Earth. By your theory, the surface temperatures should be similar to Earth’s.

  151. Tenuc says:

    How many more times, Clark, the assumptions made are wrong and the maths are wrongly applied.

    Why, you ask??? Because Mr. Murphy has forgotten that in the real world other factors effect the level of growth – price of energy, new ways of doing more using less energy, reduction in world population… the list is long. Growth in energy use is a non-linear complex process and anyone basing an exponential model on a linear trend is either at best ignorant, or at worst trying to persuade people to follow a specific agenda.

    Here’s a good one Clark that shows how easily exponential models fail. We were being told back in the 1980′s by the models, that the world would suffer a from catastrophic population explosion and this would case mass starvation and wars, even in the western world.

    The reality is global population has peaked and is now declining… but as this is a process driven by deterministic chaos it is impossible to know which way the line will next go.

    http://img27.imageshack.us/img27/3598/screenbg.png

  152. Tenuc says:

    Clark says:
    January 6, 2012 at 9:14 pm
    …Are you really telling me that if our Sun had double the power, the temperatures on Earth wouldn’t change much? Venus gets just about twice twice the solar intensity of Earth. By your theory, the surface temperatures should be similar to Earth’s…

    Clark, you obviously aren’t interested in anything other than your own belief system and are, obviously, quite happy living in your little La La land. If you really want an answer to your question just spend a couple of hours reading through the links I provided above…

    Sleep tight…

  153. Clark says:

    Tenuc:

    The reality is global population has peaked and is now declining…

    http://img27.imageshack.us/img27/3598/screenbg.png

    Grief, Tenuc, learn to read a graph! The vertical axis is growth, not population. The graph shows that population is still rising. If you bother to read the caption it even says “rates are declining but still historically high“!

    No, Tenuc. I already knew that human energy use couldn’t keep rising as it has been for the next 400 years. About you I’ve learned that your arguments stem from ideology, not science or reasoning. Your arguments are waffle, and you can’t even read a graph. Sorry, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. You can’t even be right or wrong, because you don’t set up a clear theory that can be tested, and you don’t say what you think is wrong with theory that you criticise. If you can’t test it, it ain’t science!

  154. tchannon says:

    Co-moderator speaks…

    Please cool things folks.

    Tenuc. The plot is of change. It is an easy mistake to make. And drop it.
    Population is expected to stabilise not too far above current. Japan was the first country to do this, just happened. No-one really knows why but there are various theories.
    Try and disagree without adding fuel.

    Clark. Please try to stay non inflammatory, lot of and-another-thing in there. That is not science. Got it?

    Best thing is smile. These things happen.

  155. Tenuc says:

    Hi Clark, sorry missed the ‘growth’ out, should read…

    “The reality is growth in global population has peaked and is now declining…”

    Doesn’t change the fact that those exponential models predicting final population based on a linear growth rate were wrong, or that it is not possible to predict the size of future global population. Chaotic processes are unpredictable.

    Clark says:
    January 7, 2012 at 1:07 am
    …”You can’t even be right or wrong, because you don’t set up a clear theory that can be tested, and you don’t say what you think is wrong with theory that you criticise. If you can’t test it, it ain’t science!”…

    If you read my above comments you will see that I do explain what is wrong with exponential linear models, which produce poor predictions of the future. Systems in the real world do not behave in a nice linear way, it is a messy place. Lab experiments are often useless or misleading, as they can’t reproduce all the conditions seen in nature. We do not understand all the factors that make up real world systems. We have to make assumptions, which are often wrong. Using linear maths to predict the future of complex,dynamic non-linear systems produces results with no predictive power.

    All the above have been known from the 1960′s, so no excuses for scientists who claim to know something about our future using the above simplistic methods. The should say, “we don’t know?”.

    So how does science deal with indeterminacy when the old methods of decomposition of a problem to its lowest level fails? One way is to take an holistic top down approach and use the reasonableness test. History helps us keep a sense of perspective as to what possible future state are likely, and those that aren’t. Much of the stuff spouted on Mr Murphy’s doesn’t pass the reasonableness test, and I get the slight odour of a hidden agenda.

    @Tim – Noted.

  156. Clark says:

    tchannon, do you have the physics to declare on the radiation argument above? I’m a bit fed up being told I’m pushing propaganda and should “learn to think for myself” on an argument where I have the scientific facts straight and Tenuc doesn’t. In politics there are just opinions. In science, we can be proven wrong; we have to put up rigorous arguments that are susceptible to being disproven. I’ve done that, Tenuc hasn’t, and should not be permitted to pretend that he’s presenting a scientific argument. Those of sufficient ability will be able to tell from the argument; those without could be misled.

    Note that I’m not defending 2.3% as a fixed growth rate. This is reductio ad absurdum proving that the growth rate cannot be sustained.

    I’m sort of calling for peer review. I’m asking with a smile, because I’m highly confident of being in the right.

  157. Clark says:

    Tenuc, our comments crossed. Thanks for admitting your error with the graph.

    Have you really missed the point so thoroughly? Murphy uses fundamental physics to show that energy growth has to level off before human energy usage becomes comparable with the total solar radiation incident upon Earth, and he shows that at present rates of growth, this has to happen within 400 years at most. He’s not claiming 2.3% as a fixed growth rate at all; he has rigorously proved that +2.3% per annum is unsustainable beyond 400 years.

  158. Tenuc says:

    Hi Clark, no worries.

    Mr. Murphy uses fundamental physics the wrong way, Clark. Once we have a plentiful supply of cheap energy, which fusion or some other technology will supply, everything changes in a non-deterministic way. The world will look nothing like it does today and, just like the industrial revolution and agrarian revolution changed things out of recognition before. Trying to predict what mankind will be capable of, even just 100 years ahead, is impossible.

    Does this change the laws of physics, you ask? Of course not, but what it does is allow us to use improved technology to circumvent the problems caused and further adapt this small ball of rock of ours to our benefit.

  159. Clark says:

    Climate conspiracy?

    Tenuc: “Mr. Murphy uses fundamental physics the wrong way, [...] Trying to predict what mankind will be capable of, even just 100 years ahead, is impossible.”

    Wrong, misinterpreted, and wrong anyway. Murphy’s argument is sound (Tenuc is wrong). Murphy is not predicting what humanity will be capable of; he is predicting what humanity will not be capable of (Tenuc misinterpreted). Murphy shows beyond reasonable doubt that human energy use on Earth cannot keep increasing at current rates for the next 400 years (Murphy right, Tenuc wrong).

    Tenuc, please don’t think I’m being horrible by saying that you’re wrong. That’s just how it is in science; our theories are susceptible to test, by experiment and logic. Murphy’s conclusion seems inescapable to me; if you really think Murphy is wrong you must point out a flaw in his argument. I can’t find one.

    Tenuc, what is really sad is that, presented with a well-formulated argument that contradicts your belief, you fail to realise that you could be wrong. You don’t check. Instead, you waffle and distract with vague references to irrelevant articles, and accuse me of propagandizing. I mean, what is the point of science if you abandon it when it produces a result that conflicts with what you think you know?

    To the anti-AGW and no-peak-hydrocarbons believers in general, I ask this: which of you think I’m a propagandist for a conspiracy, and which of you think I’m genuine?

  160. Clark says:

    To the anti-AGW and no-peak-hydrocarbons believers in general, I ask this: which of you think I’m a propagandist for a conspiracy, and which of you think I’m genuine?

    Strictly, I should have asked what you thought before I asked the question, because I suspect that my asking the question may have changed some people’s minds.

  161. tchannon says:

    Clark,
    I noticed the original post, considered commenting, possibly with a different slant on things, but otherwise no more than an occasional quick look in case something needs attention, too much else going on.

    I’m not particularly interested in the physics, doesn’t seem a lot of point until the general gist is sensible, which I don’t think it is. Too simplistic and doesn’t recognise we start from here not back then.

    I was contemplating commenting eventually anyway. Got other things to do right now.

    Tim

  162. Tenuc says:

    Thanks for the link, Rog, and I think the final paragraph perceptive…

    “It turns out that the “monsters” feared by environmentalists are largely figments of their cramped Malthusian imaginations. Sure, there are unintended consequences to technologies, but the solution is not to abandon them, but to improve them. The way to protect and preserve nature is to make humanity more prosperous. In the end, given its failure to understand both ecology and economics, one is left wondering what the purpose of environmentalism was supposed to be anyway?”

    A couple of my friends are die-hard liberal-greens. They have been totally disillusioned with what’s been going on over the last few years in both politics and environmental science. Their biggest complaint being how much project money has ended up in the pockets of big business, financial institutions and politicians, with little left to spend on environmental project. There are a lot of angry people out there.

  163. tallbloke says:

    Which is what I’ve been saying all along. The Greens and govts make strange bedfellows and we all knew who would end up getting screwed.

    More tantalization from Andrea Rossi:

    http://dvice.com/archives/2012/01/e-cat-household.php

  164. p.g.sharrow says:

    One added bit on the Rossi reactor, It must be refueled every 6 months( est.$100) and requires about 1/6 of the energy output to be electric input, for a COP of 6. Later a 3kw electric generator adaptation should be available as an add on to the 10kw E-Cat heater. pg

  165. tchannon says:

    I’ve still not gotten around to starting a discussion here, too much else going on.

    My take is as a veteran and experienced designer, long thorn in the side of enviros.

    Very briefly, development starts here so it is wrong to project long history into the future. If you honestly believe that, here is a bucket of sand, now you complete the next computer from that. That is daft, we start from what has already been done, is already in the pipeline.

    I was reminded of Delingpole of a old tale copyright 1993, where I first connected fully to the Internet late May 1992, the absolute start of full public access, in other words this was written at least 19 years ago

    Wired.Magazine

  166. P.G. Sharrow says:

    @Tim: Nice little essay on “wired.magazine” 8-) I’ve been shouting this most of my life. It sometimes seems no one wants to listen. For a lot of people, actual facts just get in the way of their argument, so they just create the facts that they need to make their story work., and yell loud and long to drown out anything contrary. pg

  167. Brian H says:

    tim;
    Your theory and “memory” about seeing it 19 yrs. ago is disputed by the FACTS: Copyright 2003-2004.
    ;)

    Sorry, couldn’t resist playing Simon for a moment!!

    [ Copyright © 1993-2004 The Condé Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved.
    Copyright © 1994-2003 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights reserved. --T]

  168. Josey Wales says:

    Those graphs are ridicilous nonsense. Anyone could randomnly draw big peaks in a box and stick in a silly red star