EROEI Calculations for Solar PV Are Misleading

The Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) concept is very frequently used in energy studies. In fact, many readers seem to think, “Of course, EROEI is what we should be looking at when comparing different types of energy. What else is important?” Unfortunately, the closer to the discussions of researchers a person gets, the more problems a person discovers. People who work with EROEI regularly say, “EROEI is a tool, but it is a blunt tool. An EROEI of 100 is good compared to an EROEI of 10. For small differences, it is not so clear.”

Because of the idiosyncrasies of how EROEI works, different researchers using EROEI analyses come to very different conclusions. This issue has recently come up in two different solar PV analyses. One author used EROEI analysis to justify scaling up of solar PV. Another author published an article in Nature Communications that claims, “A break-even between the cumulative disadvantages and benefits of photovoltaics, for both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, occurs between 1997 and 2018, depending on photovoltaic performance and model uncertainties.”

Other EROEI researchers with whom I correspond don’t agree with these conclusions. They recognize that in complex situations, EROEI analyses cannot cover everything. Somehow, the user needs to be informed enough to realize that these omissions result in biases. Researchers need to work around these biases when coming to conclusions. They themselves do it (or try to); why can’t everyone else?

The underlying problem with EROEI calculations is that EROEI is based on a very simple model. The model works passably well in simple situations, but it was not designed to handle the complexities of intermittent renewables, such as wind and solar PV. Indirect costs, and costs that are hard to measure, tend to get left out. The result is a serious bias that tends to make the EROEIs of solar PV (as well as other intermittent energy sources, such as wind) appear far more favorable than they would be, if a level playing field were used. In fact, published EROEIs for solar PV (and wind) might be called misleading. This issue also exists for other similar calculations, such as Life Cycle Analyses and Energy Payback Periods.

Some Background on EROEI

Proposed types of energy alternatives are often analyzed using Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) calculations. For each type of energy product that is produced, a ratio of the energy output to energy input is calculated. A high ratio gives an indication that the particular approach is very efficient, and thus is likely to produce an inexpensive energy product. Coal is a typical of example of a fuel with high EROEI. Wood cut using a hand saw would also have a very high EROEI. On the other hand, a low ratio of energy output to energy input, such as occurs in the production of biofuels, is expected to be high cost, and thus is not suitable for expanding.

A derivative concept is “net energy.” This is defined as the amount of energy added, when “Energy Input” is subtracted from “Energy Output,” or variations on this amount.There are many other related concepts, including “Energy Payback Period” and “Life Cycle Analysis.” The latter can consider materials of all sorts, not just energy materials, and can consider pollution issues as well as energy issues. My discussion here indirectly also relates to these derivative concepts, as well as to the direct calculation of EROEI.

The actual calculation of EROEI amounts varies a moderate amount from researcher to researcher. On the input side, the researcher must make decisions regarding exactly what energy inputs should be included (manufacturing the solar panel, transporting the solar panel to the construction site, building the factory that makes the solar panel, disposing of toxic waste, etc.). These energy inputs are then all converted to a common base, such as British Thermal Units (Btus). On the output side, amounts are fairly clear when the production of fossil fuels is involved, and the calculation is “at the wellhead.” When output from a device such as a solar panel is involved, there are many issues to be considered, including how long the solar panel is expected to last and how many hours of solar output will actually become available given the solar panel’s siting (which may not be known to the researcher). In theory, the energy costs of ongoing maintenance should come into the calculation as well, but will not be available early in the life of the panel when the calculations are made.

Two Kinds of EROEI: Return on Fossil Fuel Energy or Return on Labor

The type of EROEI we generally hear about today is what I would call “energy return on fossil fuel energy invested.” This is a concept developed by Charles Hall in the early 1970s, shortly after the book The Limits to Growth was published in 1972. In fact, it sometimes includes other kinds of energy in the denominator as well, such as hydroelectric. Most people who follow today’s academic literature would probably assume that this is the only kind of EROEI of interest when discussing today’s energy problems.

In fact, there is a different kind of EROEI analysis that preceded fossil fuel EROEI. This is return on the labor of an animal, a theory that now goes under the name Optimal Foraging Theory. Falling return on labor for animals represents the situation in which an animal has to walk (or fly or swim) increasingly far, or is required to swim increasingly upstream, to find the food it needs. Animal populations tend to collapse when their EROEIs fall too low. Prof. Hall taught ecology, so is well versed in the issues of energy return on animal labor.

There is also a parallel analysis of the return on human labor. Return on human labor has been studied for many years, and is documented in books such as The Upside of Down, by Thomas Homer-Dixon. In fact, Homer-Dixon talks about falling EROEI with respect to human labor being the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire.

The return on human labor can drop too low in several ways:

  1. If resources deplete or erode. For example, if topsoil becomes too thin, or energy supplies become depleted.
  2. If population rises too much, relative to resources. We are really interested in things like arable land per capita, and barrels of oil per capita.
  3. If a disproportionate share of the return the economy receives goes to some elite group, so the workers themselves don’t receive enough.

Falling return on human labor is very similar to falling wages. This falling return affects those at the bottom of the employment hierarchy most, such as young people just out of school and workers without too much education. These wages may or may not fall in monetary terms; what is important is that the goods and services that these wages buy fall on a per capita basis. Once falling return on human labor starts happening, the whole system starts unraveling:

  1. Governments cannot collect enough taxes.
  2. Businesses lose the economies of scale that they previously had.
  3. A large share of debt cannot be repaid with interest.
  4. Individual citizens find that they cannot afford to get married and start new families because their wages are too low, and they have too much debt.
  5. In earlier times, epidemics became more common because workers could not afford adequate diets.

I would argue that falling return on human labor is the primary type of falling EROEI that we should be concerned about, because it represents the summation of all of the types of returns that the economy is getting. It might be considered the Societal Return on Energy Invested.

I would also argue that Societal EROEI, defined in this way, is already too low. One way this can be seen is through the higher unemployment rate of young people in many countries. Another is a delayed rate of starting new families. Another is wages of many of the less educated workers rising less rapidly than inflation.

The key things that make the calculation of EROEI of human labor and EROEI of animal labor “work” as intended are

  1. Clear boundaries on what is to be included. The boundary is per animal, or per human being.
  2. Very close timing between when the energy is consumed (food or other) and when the output is available (animal energy used or goods and services consumed by humans).
  3. There is an easy way of adding up diverse inputs and outputs, namely using the financial system to count the worth of human labor, or an animal’s energy system to determine whether the food input is sufficient.

The one thing that doesn’t entirely “work” in this model is the fact that the actions of humans can have an adverse impact on other species, but this is not directly reflected in the EROEI of human labor. This is not handled by the wage system, but it can be somewhat handled in the tax system. Of course, if taxes are used to compensate for the adverse impact that humans are having on the ecosystems, the higher taxes will tend to reduce the return on human labor further, and thus bring about collapse more quickly.

Fossil Fuel EROEI as a Cost Estimate

When Prof. Hall developed the concept of EROEI, the concept was intended to be a rough cost estimate. If a particular type of alternative energy required a lot of energy to be created, it would likely be a very expensive type of energy; if very little energy was required, it likely would be inexpensive. When making one energy product using other energy products, energy is usually a major item of input. Thus, it seems reasonable to expect that EROEI calculations will work at least as a “blunt tool” for pricing.

The problem in making EROEI more than a blunt tool is the fact that none of the three characteristics that make EROEI on human labor work as expected is present for fossil fuel EROEI. (1) Fossil fuel EROEI boundaries can be made wider by making the list of energy inputs counted longer, but they always remain short of the entire system. (2) Timing is a huge issue, leading to a need for capital and a return on that capital, but there is no adjustment for this in the calculation. (3) The fact that energy quantities rather than prices are being used to add up inputs means that we can never determine something that is comparable to the overall cost of the complete supply chain. Furthermore, similar to the problem with humans adversely affecting other species, intermittent electricity adversely affects both the electric grid and the pricing of other types of electricity. EROEI calculations leave out these impacts.

The fossil fuel EROEI system ends up being similar to a system that compares tops of icebergs, when these icebergs are floating at somewhat different levels, and we can’t measure the relative levels well. Furthermore, our measuring tool is restricted to only one type of input: energy that can be counted somewhere in the cycle. Adverse impacts, such as damage to the grid or to the electricity pricing system, are not counted at all.

The danger with EROEI comparisons is that a person ends up with “apples to oranges” comparisons. Generally, the more similar energy types are, the more likely EROEI comparisons are likely to be truly comparable. For example, EROEIs for the same oil field, made with data a year or two apart, are more likely to be more meaningful than a comparison of EROEIs for fossil fuels with those for intermittent electricity.

Specific Problems with the EROEI of Solar PV

(1) Prospective EROEI calculations tend to have a bias toward what is “hoped for,” rather than serving as a direct calculation of what has been achieved. If the EROEI of an oil field, or of a hydroelectric plant that has been in operation for many years, is desired, it is not terribly hard to find reasonable numbers for inputs and outputs. All a researcher needs to do is figure out pounds of concrete, steel, and other materials that went into the initial structure, as well as inputs needed on a regular basis, and actual outputs; with these, a calculation can be made. When estimates are made for new devices, the bias is always toward what is hoped to be achieved. How much electricity will a solar panel produce, if it is properly sited, properly maintained, maintenance costs are very low, the electric grid can actually use all of the electricity that the panel produces, and all parts of the system last for the expected life of the solar panel?

(2) All energy is given the same “weight,” whether it is high quality or low quality energy. Intermittent energy, such as is produced by solar PV, is in fact extremely low quality output, but there is no adjustment for this fact in the calculation. It counts the same as much better quality electrical output, such as that provided by hydroelectric.

(3) There is no charge for the use of capital. When capital goods such as solar panels are used to produce energy products, this has several negative impacts on the economy: (a) Part of the energy produced must go to pay for the interest and/or dividends related to long-term capital use, but there is energy cost assigned to this; (b) A country’s debt to GDP ratio tends to rise, as the economy is required to use ever-more debt to finance all of the new capital goods; and (c) The wealth of the economy tends to become ever-more concentrated in the owners of capital goods, leaving workers less well off. EROEI calculations don’t charge for any of these deficiencies. These deficiencies are part of what makes it virtually impossible to scale up the use of wind and solar PV as a substitute for fossil fuels.

(4) EROEI indications tend to be misleadingly favorable, because they leave out hard-to-estimate costs. EROEI analyses tend to focus on amounts that are “easy to count.” For solar PV, the amount that is easiest to count is the cost of making and transporting the solar PV. Installation costs vary greatly from site to site, especially for home installations, so these costs are likely to be left out. Indirect benefits provided by governments, such as newly built roads to accommodate a new solar PV installation, are also likely to be omitted. The electric utility that has to deal with all of the intermittent electricity has to deal with a whole host of problems being dumped on it, including offsetting the impact of intermittency and upgrading the newly added electricity so that it truly meets grid standards. There are individual studies (such as here and here) that look directly at some of these issues, but they tend to be omitted from the narrow-boundary analyses included in the meta-studies, which researchers tend to rely on.

(5) Precisely how solar PV at scale can be integrated into the grid is unclear, so costs required for grid integration are not considered in EROEI calculations. There are a number of approaches that might be used to integrate solar PV into the electric grid. One approach would be to use complete battery backup of all solar PV and wind. The catch is that there is seasonal variation as well as daily variation in output; huge overbuilding and a very large amount of batteries would be required if the grid system were to provide electricity from intermittent renewables throughout the winter months, without supplementation from other sources. Even if storage is only used to smooth out daily fluctuations, the energy cost would be very high.

Another approach would be to continue to maintain the entire fossil fuel and nuclear generation systems, even though they would run only for a small part of the time. This would require paying staff for year-around work, even though they are needed for only part of the year. Other costs, such as maintaining pipelines, would continue year around as well.

A partial approach, which might somewhat reduce the energy needs for other approaches, would be to greatly increase the amount of electricity transmission, to try to smooth out fluctuations in electricity availability. None of these costs are included in EROEI calculations, even though they are very material.

(6) Solar PV (as well as other intermittent electricity, such as wind) causes direct harm to other types of energy producers by artificially lowering wholesale electricity prices. Wholesale prices tend to fall to artificially low levels, because intermittent electricity, including solar PV, is added to the electric grid, whether or not it is really needed. In fact, solar PV adds very little, if any, true “capacity” to a system, so there is no logical reason why prices for other producers should be reduced when solar PV is added. These other producers need the full wholesale cost of electricity, without the downward adjustment caused by the addition of intermittent energy sources, if they are to obtain a sufficient return on their investment to make it possible to continue to provide their services.

These issues tend to drive needed back-up electricity generation out of business. This is a problem, especially for nuclear electricity providers. Nuclear providers find themselves being pressured to close before the ends of their lifetimes, because of the low prices. This is true both in France and the United States.

In some cases, extra “capacity payments” are being made to try to work around these issues. These capacity payments usually result in the building of more natural gas fired electricity generating units. Unfortunately, these payments do nothing to guarantee that the natural gas required to operate these plants will actually be available when it is needed. But gas-fired generating units are cheap to build. Problem (sort of) solved!

(7) Electricity generation using solar PV cannot be scaled up very well. There are multiple issues involved, including cost, debt, difficulty in handling the variable output, and the adverse impact of the intermittent electricity on the profitability of other carriers.

What Should Be Done Next? 

It seems to me that a statement needs to be made that EROEI was a preliminary pricing method for various fuel types developed back in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, it is a blunt tool, and is not really suitable for pricing intermittent electricity, including solar PV, wind energy, and wave energy. It presents a far more favorable view of adding these energy types to the electric grid than is really the case. Hydroelectric energy is sometimes considered intermittent, but is really “dispatchable” most of the time, so it does not present the same problems.

EROEI calculations are in a sense the output of a very simple model. What we are finding now is that this model is not sufficiently complex to deal with the way intermittent electricity affects the system as a whole. What needs to be substituted for all of these EROEI model results (including “net energy,” Life Cycle Analysis, and other derivative results) is real world cost levels using very much wider boundaries than are included in EROEI calculations.

Euan Mearns has shown that in Europe, countries that use large amounts of wind and solar tend to have very high residential electricity prices. This comparison strongly suggests that when costs are charged back to consumers, they are very high. (In the US, subsidies tend to be hidden in the tax system instead of raising prices, so the same pattern is not observed.)

Figure 1. Figure by Euan Mearns showing relationship between installed wind + solar capacity and European electricity rates. Source Energy Matters.

Figure 1. Figure by Euan Mearns showing relationship between installed wind + solar capacity and European electricity rates. Source Energy Matters.

Even this comparison omits some potential costs involved, because intermittent electricity concentration levels are not yet at the point where it has been necessary to add huge banks of backup batteries. Also, the adverse impact on the profitability of other types of electricity generation is a major issue, but it is not something that can easily be reflected in a chart such as that shown in Figure 1.

It seems to me that going forward, a completely different approach is needed, if we want to evaluate which energy products should be included in our electricity mix. The low energy prices (for oil, natural gas, coal, and electricity) that we have been experiencing during the last 30 months are a sign that consumers cannot really afford very high electricity prices. Analysts need to be looking at various scenarios to see what changes can be made to try to keep costs within the amounts consumers can actually afford to pay. In fact, it probably would be helpful if building of new generation could be reduced to a minimum and existing generation could be kept operating as long as possible, to keep costs down.

The issue of low wholesale prices for electricity generated by nuclear, gas, and coal needs to be analyzed carefully, since, for example, France cannot easily get along without nuclear electricity. Nuclear energy is generally a much larger provider of electricity than wind and solar. Somehow, the financial returns of non-intermittent providers need to be made high enough that they can continue in operation, if they are not at the ends of their normal lifetimes. I am not sure how this can be done, short of banning intermittent electricity providers, including those currently in operation, from the grid.

A Long-Term Role for Solar PV 

It appears that our civilization is reaching limits. In fact, it seems likely that our current electric grid will not last many years–probably not as long as people expect solar panels will last. We also know that in past collapses, the only thing that seemed to partially mitigate the situation was radical simplification. For example, China transported goods in animal-powered carts prior to collapse, but changed to transporting goods in wheelbarrows, after it collapsed about the third century A. D.

Building on this idea, the place for intermittent renewables would seem to be off the electric grid. They would likely need to operate in very small networks, probably serving individual homes or businesses. For example, some homeowners might want to set up 12 volt direct current systems, operating a few LED lights and a few specially designed 12 volt direct current appliances. Businesses might want to do more. The problem, of course, comes in maintaining these systems, as batteries degrade and other parts need to be replaced. It would seem that this type of transition could be handled without huge subsidies from governments.

The belief that we can maintain our current electric grid system practically indefinitely, using only wind + solar + hydroelectric + biomass, is almost certainly a pipe dream. We need to be looking at the situation more realistically, and making plans based on what might actually be feasible.


[1] In defining net energy, some would say that Energy Input should be multiplied by a factor of three before the subtraction is done, because input energy is only partially counted in most calculations. Another variation is that the calculation varies by energy product, and whether EROEI has been calculated using a “wellhead” or “point of use” approach. These variations further add to confusion regarding exactly which amounts are comparable to which other amounts.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,372 Responses to EROEI Calculations for Solar PV Are Misleading

  1. Bruce E. Dale says:

    Hi Gail:
    I have followed your work for quite a while, and have been strongly influenced by it. Thanks very much. I look forward to reading your latest thinking in 2017.

    I have used net energy, EROEI and other energy input/output measures in the past. I agree that they are blunt instruments, but they do provide some useful information for order of magnitude comparisons. And it is very true that intermittent power like solar and wind simply is qualitatively different than dispatchable power.

    That said, it is one thing to propose a better metric, it is quite another thing to actually calculate that better metric. 🙂

    So while I agree in principle that a “Social EROEI” would be a better metric than plain vanilla EROEI, how would one go about calculating such a metric? Do you have any quick and not-too-difficult ways of doing that? I am an engineer, and that means I am OK with useful approximations…particularly for making comparisons. Any thoughts on how to calculate your proposed “Social EROEI”?

    Best wishes,
    Bruce Dale
    University Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering
    Michigan State University

    • ARBP says:

      I guess great minds must think alike! I’ve been thinking about “Social EROI” except I didn’t call it that in my mind ..but it’s close enough: “the strength and integrity of human relationships.” Warning: I don’t put humans in a good light.

    • I don’t think that the issue is a “Social EROEI” vs a plain “EROEI”. It is just that we need tools that measure the situation much better.

      Stephen put up a link to a graph of per capita energy consumption. In fact, this is probably the most important consideration in whether adding wind and solar is helpful. If wind and solar are so expensive that per capita energy consumption goes down, it is probably not helpful. This is Euan Mearns’ graph showing how more electricity from intermittent renewables seems to lead to higher-priced electricity.

      Europe electric price and intermittent renewables

      Given that wages don’t go up at the same time, we would expect higher priced electricity to lead to smaller electricity consumption, and probably lower consumption of other energy and other products. Thus, it tends to make people worse off.

      By the way, the Europe charges subsidies back to consumers, while the US buries these subsidies in tax revenue, where they are hard to see. So the same relationship is not yet present in the US. At some point, it would be necessary to start charging subsidies back in the US, with the same effect.

      People normally spend a certain fraction–perhaps 10%, but I have not examined it–of their income on energy products. If intermittent renewables start taking up a big percentage of this, the overage starts cutting back on (1) other energy products purchased, and (2) almost anything else purchased.

      Wind and solar adversely affect the pricing system. This is an entropy issue which is much like pollution. I see this as a potential deal-killer regardless of other issues, because it tends to drive all other electricity producers out of the system. The only work around is to use a huge amount of buffering so that the can be made to respond correctly to price signals. Potentially, this could be enough buffering so that solar PV electricity produced in the summer is stored for winter use.

  2. Lastcall says:

    I agree. Trees are the true custodians of life and if we had a religion of the tree (pick your species) things wood be different!

    • LOL! “wood”

      • ARBP says:

        Your mind went straight to the gutter, Mrs. Tverberg. Color me most shocked.

        • Rodster says:

          It’s you with its mind in the gutter. The LOL, comment was made because she was responding to the previous poster who was talking about trees and chose the word “wood” instead of “would”.

          • don’t worry Gail—that was an eyerolling comment for the rest of us too

            • Lastcall says:

              Wouldn’t have thought my comment would have caused so much of a stir would you. Hopefully this won’t; knock on wood!
              Thanks for last years great work, look forward to OFW 2017.
              Here in NZ many have become accustomed to the fact that when it rains the rivers get muddy as they come out of the farming backcountry. And so each generation loses the memory of how it could be. Similarly when looking for answers to todays problems, people born into complexity/technology have difficulty imagining any answer that doesn’t also involve complexity/technology.

  3. Van Kent says:

    Are we wired genetically to end our species in an Seneca Cliff energy collapse?

    Humans are the highest energy apes!

    Compared with chimpanzees and other apes, our revved-up internal engines burn calories 27% faster. After taking body size into account, they found that humans averaged about 400 more calories per day than chimps and bonobos—635 calories more than gorillas and 820 calories more than orangutans. This meant that humans burned over 27% more energy per day on average than chimps.

    That’s surprising. Because it has been suggested that humans reduced muscle mass to save energy; walked and ran more efficiently to save energy. Now its clear our species is a high energy addict that also gets fat. Humans had significantly more fat than the other apes.

    • James says:

      Perhaps the larger brains of humans, which created tools, increased availability of food which further enabled the growth of the brain. A type of evolving nutrient cycle limited now perhaps by the sometimes problematic birth of a large head. And maybe more tools to polish-off gradients equals big barbecues followed by sleeping in the cave, more dreaming and tool-making and another go at the gradients with extra fuel stored under the belt. And if you get fat enough, you sit in the cave all day and make tools for the others to use or help-out by making Mastodon stew.

      • it’s pretty much accepted that seafood = brainfood, and that a later development of humankind evolved in a sea-edge environment.

        it follows then that seafood became a large part of our diet.
        women have always had young to care for, and feed, therefore couldn’t readily hunt for food, so had to avail themselves of what was available and couldn’t run away.
        on the sea edge that means shellfish, and to get at shellfish you need tools.

        it seems logical then that the female of the species began toolmaking, and likely firemaking too, in order to survive.
        this also fits the reality that females are better survivors than men in situations where brain is needed rather than outright muscle power

        • Artleads says:


        • Interesting ideas!

        • xabier says:

          I read somewhere that when Germany collapsed in 1945, the officer-class men went to pieces (no uniforms, no structure, etc ), while the women saved their families with incredible and determined resourcefulness and scavenging even thought they had had quite privileged upbringings – it was there to call upon.

          • hate to admit it

            but women are just better at it

            • Van Kent says:

              The men were busy hunting and gathering 30ft below the ocean surface.

              Somehow our species has a genetic adaptation that only seals and humans as mammals have. When freediving to 30ft, our bodies begin to divert oxygen to the heart and to the brain.

              So, at some point in the last bottleneck, the only place where steady food resources could be found was 30ft below the ocean surface, by the horn of Africa.

  4. Yoshua says:

    We need solar and wind… becaus they really work.

    Petroleum is a transportation fuel, without it there is no movement in space, but there is no movement in time either, since there is no future and that will make people really depressed.

    We need a future Solar City where solar produces clean and free energy… just as a phantasy… or as a religion.

    • We need hope. Solar and wind provide hope, even if it is unfounded hope.

      • Stefeun says:

        Hope is the certainty to be disappointed. It goes along with the suffering.
        It’s a moral value that has no sense in the physical world.
        In my view, it’s much more profitable and fruitful to accept the pains (and joys!) and try to deal with the reality (as we perceive it), know better our enemies and try to realize we’re part of a whole, rather than run after a dream and fight the facts.
        I prefer to run after harmony.
        My 2 cents. For me it works (so far), but I can understand that not everybody can be like-minded.

        • Van Kent says:

          Accept everything just the way it is
          Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling. Always seek better data
          Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world
          Do not regret what you have done
          Never be jealous
          Resentment and complaint are not appropriate
          Do not pursue hedonistic pleasure for its own sake
          Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need
          Do not act following customary beliefs
          Do not fear death

        • xabier says:

          ‘A drop of rain saw the Ocean.

          ‘What am I when the Ocean exists?!’

          It despaired.

          And then, Hope was born, of humility’………

          ‘The world is old and thou art young/The world is large and thou art small:/ Cease, atom of a moment’s span/To think thyself an All-in-all!’

          (‘Kasidah’ of Sir Richard Burton the great and crazy 19thc explorer. but maybe not so crazy as all that.)

    • Artleads says:

      “We need a future Solar City where solar produces clean and free energy… just as a phantasy… or as a religion.”

      MY hope is that this was a tongue-in-cheek bit of levity. 🙂

      In keeping with my ingrained sense of things, my studies on FW seem to confirm that solar technology does more harm than good. The manufacture, transportation and maintenance depend on destructive bau. But they might also make bau less resilient as well.

      So here’s an alternative idea for religion. Plant so many trees that the rare spectator from a plane can’t see buildings or streets. It would be as if the world was one big forest. The trees (and other vegetation) give you water, food, shade, heat energy and building supply. End of story. Done.

      • Yoshua says:

        A religion must be unrealistic, like a tempel that will send you straight to hell… sorry… heaven.

        And besides people don’t like trees, they are afraid of trees… and how do run Facebook on wood ?

        • Artleads says:

          Yes indeed. So my suggestion is indeed religious…imagining that civilization can change and acting as if it can. 🙂 BTW, a lot of FB is junk, dependent on the networked money economy and the dumbing down of the many. But my religion postulates that some part of the internet could be run on some selective source of energy that does not depend on profits. Same goes for fuel pond management.

    • our prosperous civilisation and basic infrastructure exists because we shift stuff form a to b and back again over vast distances, using the explosive forces of heat engines.

      that ”prosperity” in the context we know it is there because of ”stuff”–which is of itself embodied energy in some form

      it is not there through the act of shifting it.
      we can only shift stuff by using up still more finite –and cheap– energy
      when readily availalbe energy becomes too expensive to use, we will stop using it to shift stuff around.
      when that happens our civilisation is at an end.

      We do not have more that 40 years worth of oil left, long before then we will be fighting over the dregs, resulting in even faster depletion.
      They deliver electricity.
      Without our basic industrial infrastructure electricity has no commercial use.
      (to deniers—I can only suggest making lightbulbs one at a time)

  5. MG says:

    The number of suicides as the indicator of the happiness:

    During the years 1975 to 1990, the number of suicides in Slovakia was significantly higher than later. Based on this, the myth of the happy life during the socialism before 1989 is not true. After the year 1989, the number of suicides surpassed the number of 600 only in 10 cases: 1990, i.e. when the Soviet bloc was collapsing and in the years 2008 – 2010, i.e. in the years of the latest worldwide economic crisis. And also in the year 2013. In 2015, this number reached 592.

    The highest numbers of suicides among the 29 countries in the the wake of 2008 financial crisis were noted in Russia and Baltic states: the high unemployment and the cold climate seem to be the common factors.

    It seems that the indicator of suicide occurence gives us the true picture about the real economic situation of the population, not the GDP growth.

  6. psile says:

    World trade growth almost stalled at 0.8 per cent

    “World trade has had its worst year since the global financial crisis, with almost no growth in the volume of goods shipped and average prices of traded goods falling sharply.

    The latest global trade report compiled by the authoritative Dutch Economic Policy Analysis Bureau shows the volume of goods traded internationally in the 12 months to October was only 0.8 per cent higher than in the previous year. It is the first time trade growth has fallen below 1 per cent since the global financial crisis ended in 2009-10.

    The Dutch bureau’s trade figures show that as well as weak volumes, the prices of traded goods, expressed in US dollars, have also continued to fall, dropping 7.1 per cent over the 12 months to October. They are now 20 per cent lower than their peak in early 2012.”

    Deflation’s death grip tightens ever more…

    • That is an important article. Thanks! With world trade barely rising on a volume basis, and shrinking on a dollar basis, we have a major problem.

      • psile says:

        Yes, it seems that a major reckoning is coming. Every delay from here on in by the PTB will only make the consequences that more resounding.

  7. Ed says:

    Happy new year Gail and all my fellow readers.

  8. Kurt says:

    Merry new year Gail!!! Thanks for all that you do.

  9. David C says:

    Nice article Gail. I have a question indirectly relating to it (not sure if you could answer here or maybe consider for another article).

    The EROEI value for Solar seems to be below 5, assuming a 25 year usage.

    However I have noticed Solar promoters (at least in the UK) are quoting “energy payback time” (EPBT) – this figure looks very good, and says that that the energy used to produced the cell will be “paid back in 1 -3.5 years depending on location. This is actually a massive difference to the EROEI value, and makes solar look good.

    What is going on here?

    Is EPBT not including enough energy inputs?
    Is there some sort of fudge going on?
    Or have I completely misunderstood EPBT

    • JT Roberts says:

      The abstract makes a good point it’s the imbedded energy not efficiency that needs to be considered.

    • DJ says:

      ‘I have noticed Solar promoters are quoting “energy payback time” (EPBT) – this figure looks very good’

      Maybe they are selling something?

      • The Energy Payback time is based on looking at much too small a share of the total energy cost of solar PV. The big cost is the adverse impact it has on the electric grid. I need to write an article for Energy or Energy Policy on this.

        If you are looking at an off-grid system, what you want is the total payback time, not just of energy, but of all unsubsidized costs, of your entire installed system including the solar PV, the inverter (and replacement inverters) and the battery back (and replacement batteries). No one tells you this. True total cost per kWh is a useful metric.

    • I would have to look at the details of the calculation to see what the difference in the calculations is.

      The fundamental problem is that EROEI only makes sense on a system-wide basis. Thus, it makes sense to talk about the return on the labor of a human, which is measured in wages, or in the things that those wages can buy. It also makes sense to look at the return on the labor of an animal. If its return is too low, the animal is likely to die out. If it is very high, the population of such animals is likely to rise, so that the full amount of resources can be used to maximize the population of that species. For example, yeast added to a vat of grape juice will greatly multiply in number, if the return on their effort is very high.

      With energy products, the fashion has been to look at energy return for some little piece of the system, rather than the whole system. On this basis, anything can be made to look good. Depending on the boundaries shown, the energy payback can be very different, if calculated by different people.

      Many things are excluded from energy payback periods. One obvious excluded item is human labor. The cost of any product includes a lot of human labor, but this is excluded from any of these “energy return” calculations. Thus, the calculation tells you nothing at all about whether this product is a worthwhile product.

      Somehow, the use of these calculations has spread incredibly, because it makes energy products look incredibly useful, when they really are not. Requiring much broader boundaries to the calculation would help (including, for example, all associated grid costs, not just the energy costs of making a solar PV panel), but if this is done, the calculation becomes too difficult for anyone to really do.

      • Niels Colding says:

        “Many things are excluded from energy payback periods. One obvious excluded item is human labor. The cost of any product includes a lot of human labor…..”

        Yes, because human labor is rewarded by WAGES.

        I had a discussion with an engineer who said that he was not very energy consuming as his energy consumption working on his computer was very modest. And that is true enough in a way – but with his SALARY he could buy a lot of things and thereby trigger a very substantial energy consumption.
        Almost all things are produced in factories where the price per kwh is – let us say – 0,07 USD per kwh. If his salary is 70,000 dollars this would have the equivalent value of 1 million kwh. Wages is the lion’s part of all products. Chinese products are so much cheaper than the equivalent American/European products because the wages of the Chinese workers are much lower and do not trigger the same amount of energy consumption. They can afford a bike but not at car!

  10. adonis says:

    the only thing that i dont think brandon smith has gotten is that bau will continue but with a cashless system and perpetual negative interest rates that will provide the necessary stimulus to the world economy just imagine how many solar panels and wind turbines we can install thanks to future negative interest rates its free money guys

  11. adonis says: the sysyem will continue for many more decades because the elites have a masterplan anyone thats naive enough to believe otherwise is suffering from ‘tunnel vision’ ,check out this guy brandon smith he’s got something interesting to say of where heading next

    • Thanks! I see that Brandon Smith thinks the US will suffer worst, because it has the reserve currency, and thus has farthest to fall.

      I suppose you could also say that we have the highest standard of living, and have the farthest to fall for the same reason.

      I am not sure exactly how the order works though. Do all collapse at once, or do we have certain areas collapse first, and others, months or a year or two later?

      • Artleads says:

        Certain aspects of the system, like medical care, seem to have been collapsing for some time. Real wages have also. What could one really say is not collapsing already? And yet, the system as a whole gives the appearance of doing fine. I saw a short video on FB (with superficial charts) that shows everything getting better!

  12. dolph says:

    Actually it’s incorrect that the monetary wealth accumulated by the elite will disappear along with energy decline. If anything, it will concentrate further, as inflation wipes out the meager savings of the 99%.
    All that is needed to maintain a monetary system is the lack of an alternative. So how do you make sure there are no alternatives? Outlaw them. Oil must remain priced in dollars, and the military must be used to make sure that’s so. Cash must be banned or heavily controlled, so savings are forced into the zero to negative interest accounts. Alternatives such as gold and electrocurrencies like bitcoin have to be taxed heavily or manipulated.

    As long you can keep this up, the wealth of the elites remains intact. Fail this, and yes, the wealth will decline, but not in a catastrophic way, as they have the real estate and businesses locked up anyway. If someone has $100,000 in wealth and it drops by a factor of 10, he now has $10,000 in wealth – truly going from a somewhat stable to precarious situation. If someone with $1 billion in wealth drops by 10, he still has $100 million in wealth. Big deal.

    • bandits101 says:

      Do you think the wealthy have their money in the bank….literally? I could see Microsoft shares going to zero along with Facebook, American Airlines and Boeing. If the poor have no money there IS NO MARKET.

    • “If someone with $1 billion in wealth drops by 10, he still has $100 million in wealth. Big deal.”

      This is, of course, assuming the person has no debts or leverage. A 90 percent drop on the assets side of any balance sheet with leverage could be catastrophic.

      • DJ says:

        Rich dude: $1B assets, $0 debt
        90%:er: $1M assets, $.5M debt
        Sponger: $0 assets, $0 debt
        Government: no sellable assets, lots of debt

        After a 90% drop
        Rich dude: $100M assets
        90%:er: $100k assets, $500k debt
        Sponger: no assets, no debt
        Government: no sellable assets, lots of debt (mostly serviced by taxes from the 80%-99%)

        You are not a slave. You are not a slave.

        • greg machala says:

          If that happened it would be a lawless society with complete breakdown of order. So, no one would really have an upper hand I would think. Perhaps hardened and young criminals would.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            ” Perhaps hardened and young criminals would.”

            Gregory Clark makes the case that for 20 generations the UK population was selected for personality traits which are a world away from our hunter-gatherer ancestors.


            Gail, this is largely an economic paper. If you have not read it, I strongly suggest you do.

            The personality traits you see in criminals may be closer to what our hunter-gatherer ancestors had.

            • Thanks for posting the link. I think you may have posted a link earlier, but by now, it is mostly gone from my memory, and my notes are not close at hand.

              I hadn’t thought about the personality traits of criminals being closer to those seen in hunter-gatherer societies. Clearly, natural selection changes the types of characteristics of any population over time. It the need is for strong workers in the hot sun, then the characteristics of people may be similar to those in central Africa who were favored as slaves in hot climates. If the need is for people who are very orderly, and work together well, then Asian characteristics will appear. Well off Europeans tended to have more surviving offspring, tending to favor the characteristics that allowed them to succeed in a capitalistic economy, at least in Europe.

            • Excuse me…

              ‘The personality traits you see in criminals may be closer to what our hunter-gatherer ancestors had.”

              There so many serious mis-steps in reasoning and such a wide gap in knowledge about everything from epigenetics to criminology to anthropology for one to arrive at this conclusion from the premise presented by this paper.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              From the paper

              “But the mechanisms by which people commanded more income seem to have been very different in hunter gatherer societies than in the settled agrarian economies that preceded the Industrial Revolution.

              “As we saw for the case of the upper classes in England, violence was not a successful reproductive strategy. Rates of violent death were very low. This contrasts with conditions in modern hunter gatherer or shifting cultivation societies where accidents and violence are a much more important source of mortality. There mortality death rates from accidents and violence for males were typically 3-18 per 1000 males per year. At the extreme, among the Ache violence was the cause of most male deaths.

              In these societies violence was a way of gaining more resources and hence more reproductive success. Thus Napoleon Chagnon in a famous study of the warlike Yanomamo society found that a major predictor of reproductive success was having killed someone. Male Yanomamo sired more children at a given age if they had murdered someone than if they had not.”

    • Paper wealth of all kinds will disappear. The wealthy will probably own a disproportionate share of the land. If they can hold on to it and actually do anything with it, they will benefit. Otherwise, the situation is not so good for them either.

      • PeterFrederick says:

        “If they can hold on to it and actually do anything with it”
        To a large extent the viable application of force is dependent on law enforcement transportation capabilities. It allows concentration of limited enforcement capabilities where needed. If that capability goes away or the ability to meaningfully compensate law enforcement goes away much of our ideas about ownership go away. Will it happen? Maybe not but the possibility exists. In poor counties of the USA resources left unattended will be commandeered very quickly by the natives.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “Paper wealth of all kinds will disappear.”

        That will certainly be the case if the power goes off. Most “money” for example is just magnetic spots on spinning platters (or change in solid state disks).

        Keeping the grid up is one of the things the banks consider as critical.

        • DJ says:

          How long would value of paper money last without BAU?

          No money, no security personell to protect property.

          Those who have most during BAU have most to lose without BAU. Obviously.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “How long would value of paper money last without BAU?”

            The paper itself could last a long time if it was handled carefully. But without a government behind it, paper may lose its value.

            There are certainly times in the pass where BAU failed. Besides Rome, Greenland, Easter Island and the Maya come to mind. But this is certainly on an unprecedented scale. Of course, we also have over 7 B minds available to solve the problems. And then there is AI . . . .

          • DJ says:

            I think someone like Pu-tin could become powerful even without BAU, but people like Mu$k or Suck.erman?

    • PeterFrederick says:

      $/energy creates the ability to enforce not visa versa.

    • common phenomenon says:

      I bet dolp#h’s fifth limb does a Na~zi salute when he watches this:

  13. Yoshua says:

    The end didn’t come this year either… Dolph is right… well… at least this far.

    • xabier says:

      It already came. We are living through The End. Here is a prayer for end of civilisation:

      ‘For Thine is the Collapse, O great goddess Entropy, the fading fossil Power and the crappifying globalised Glory. For just a little longer,……please!’

      A healthy, and solvent, New Year to all OFW’s, and most of all to our host who offers us excellent food for thought and never tries to sell us anything!

      • Yoshua says:

        Happy New Year Doomers !

      • Thanks for your prayer. I hope I can offer food for thought. We indeed seem to be reaching the end of civilization.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “reaching the end of civilization”

          Anyone who looks up on a clear day can see that we don’t lack for energy. If we don’t solve the problems, you are right. Will we solve them? Don’t know.

          • We need energy in the forms that work in existing applications, gathered in ways that allow the prices for these energy products to be very low, so that they are affordable by people living in the economy.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “that work in existing applications”

              I would not worry too much about this. There are limits, but for the most part electrical power can substitute for most applications of energy. The exceptions are mobile power needs like tractors, trucks and aircraft.

              What would be really useful would be a way to make intermittent sources like wind and solar into liquid fuels. We know how to do this in terms of chemistry and physics. The economics though is hard. The problem is poor utilization of capital equipment like hydrogen electrolysis plants. Power satellites, installed at levels higher than base load, have excess power available most of the time, That’s not the case with PV or wind.

            • Gail

              You can borrow my wallspace anytime for banging your head against

        • Artleads says:

          The very best to you and the rest of us for 2017!

      • Stefeun says:

        “Just a little longer, a short while, please”
        That’s what the Comtesse du Barry asked the executioner while climbing on the guillotine in 1793.

    • Let’s not make long-range predictions, of say, a few hours.

  14. Artleads says:

    Off topic:

    Building large with wood instead of steel and concrete. Excellent progress, the trouble being the impossibility to reach its potential under capitalism, commercialism, and globalism.

    Some day, possibly too late, someone will figure out that these forestries for garnering the required wood could be planted alongside RR tracks and freeways for hundreds of thousands of miles of linear, renewable forests.

    And building large towers is, of course, a ridiculous idea under our current economic, energy and paradigm crises. But as some kind of transitional, consciousness-raising project…? Particularly if we look at new arrangements for growing the wood.

    • Wood also burns down very easily. Hard to imagine building large buildings with wood. Perhaps with a huge amount of chemicals, they could be made less subject to catching fire, but this is not sustainable either.

      • Artleads says:

        There’s a little section in the article dealing with fire. The board is constructed with some fancy lamination, using plywood. They talk about “planks” being a foot thick after their construction…and having been subjected to rigorous tests. Apparently, they function like those large antique beams that tend to sear on the outsides and burn slowly if they do burn. The fire protection is in the thickness and density of the plank. My understanding is that a thick enough chunk of material that has little or no oxygen inside it will be relatively resistant to fire. Also, they talk about a wood structure that is 21 stories tall. But it strikes me as idiotic to build anything that tall, with any materials, for any reason. So I think that if the wood planting/harvesting can be sustainable, the main problem then is the adhesion of the layers of plywood. Myself, I think that you get a similar effect using cardboard. Cheaper adhesives, easier to procure… Then plastering over like strawbale would be an option.

        • I wonder how they construct and transport these big planks; also how they get them up to a height of 21 stories, other than using fossil fuel. Other questions: how is water pumped to the top; how is ventilation handled; are occupants expected to walk up and down stairs when electricity is off?

          I don’t think cardboard would work. The point is that it is hard to get enough oxygen to the central part of the beam to burn. Cardboard has lots of air holes, so it is likely to burn quickly.

        • ” Also, they talk about a wood structure that is 21 stories tall. But it strikes me as idiotic to build anything that tall, with any materials, for any reason. ”

          The most energy is consumed and greenhouse gasses released in heating a home. Therefore, less heat loss = less energy needed and less GHG. The primary loss of heat from a well-designed structure will be due to its surface area. By maximizing volume to surface area, you greatly reduce energy needs. A 30 story apartment building can use less energy for people having several hundred square feet each, then for each person to live in an 80 sqft cabin. Of course, such a structure would need water via pressure or elevated aqueduct.

          • Artleads says:

            Skyscrapers block sunlight, and thus increase dependence on manufactured energy for heating. I’m sure that building so tall adds complexity at a time when we need to reduce it. Without complex technology (run on cheap fossil fuels) to build and function so high up, these structures will be poorly adapted to the future. The closer a building technology is to what ordinary people can do for themselves the better adapted to the future, I would think. That said, I surely would try to find ways to use the skyscrapers that are there already as collapse ensues.

            • I agree with your thoughts. If nothing else, the people in the skyscraper are dependent on food, water, and other goods being brought to it, and waste being taken away. All of this requires big surpluses from elsewhere to permit this to happen. The waste material needs to be spread back over the soil where it was originally taken from, if the soil is not to degrade. This requires yet more energy and complexity.

          • DJ says:

            What is the purpose of building I, T, H, L shaped houses? O shaped should maximize volume to surface.

      • Artleads says:

        Concerning Fire…

        “To skeptics, the prospect of wooden skyscrapers evokes images of matchstick infernos or towers splintered by seismic tremors. In the 19th century, fires decimated virtually all American cities, which consisted largely of flimsy clapboard homes. But testers have subjected new timber structures to all kinds of torments and found that it performs as well as or better than concrete or steel. Mass timber behaves more like thick logs than kindling: Even at very high heat, it chars slowly and evenly, maintaining its structural integrity and giving firefighters ample time to respond. In 2009, engineers in Japan erected a seven-story wooden shell on the world’s largest “shake table,” which simulates the effects of a massive tremor. Since wood is both strong and elastic, the building remained almost completely unharmed”

        Other than that. I’m opposed to building anything big, however hopeless such opposition might be. Given all the things we can worry about, the flammability of this technique doesn’t measure up to them. But building with wood means not having to build with concrete and steel. Apparently, its “cross lamination:” technique does not require large trees. The technique is pre fab, and said to be quicker and easier to assemble than concrete and steel. It also uses a renewable resource. The fact that nobody sees fir to plant a lot of the needed trees isn’t the fault of the wood; it’s the fault (if there is a fault) of planners and politicians. Sky scrapers are stupid things, and the problems with water and access would be the same in wood as in any too-large, “unaffordable” construction. But if people insist on building new things, this construction methods looks to be far superior to other known ones. It’s a baby step on the hopeful journey to much better concepts of building, ones that in sync with environmental mayhem and a collapsing economic system.

        “Right now, even the largest, most advanced buildings are built by hand, with workers on a windswept slab hundreds of feet in the air enacting old rituals, pouring concrete and welding steel. Mass timber is different: Designers sitting in a Manhattan studio can send electronic instructions to a factory in Oregon, which can spit out 1,000 slightly different components in the same time it takes to make 1,000 copies of the same part. Timber panels arrive on site like a prefabricated kit, with openings for windows, doors, and ducts already cut out. Assembly can be startlingly quick, “like a glorified Amish barn raising,” says Christopher Sharples, an architect at the New York–based firm SHoP.”

        • Cross lamination sounds high tech. I cannot imagine how this is sustainable technology.

          • Artleads says:

            Agreed. No style of building that I’d be interested in promoting is sustainable. Dmitry Orlov believes that log cabins come close. Trees will still grow, and nothing is needed but joining up the logs (and very simple tools like axes to do so). Unfortunately, I don’t want to personally plant trees or learn how to build log cabins. Nobody seems interested in planting trees. So some form of bau had better stick around. 🙂

            • Van Kent says:

              Here is some traditional Finnish log house building


              And make the log house energy efficient with a Finnish masonry heater


            • Artleads says:

              Thanks, Van Kent. What admirable skill those cradftsmen have! Since Americans are too fat and lazy while still being firly rich, can they entice some of these workers to come build logt cabins here, I wonder? Seriously, though, we need to have these skills taught in out colleges and universities.

              Couple Questions:

              1) That moss inserted between planks is for air sealing?

              2) What happens to it as it ages?

              3) For places without large rocks, could composite foundation slabs be made?

              4) Likewise with cement–or is it cement they use under floor boards?

              5) If completely cut off from bau–I’m excluding basic tools like axes and drills–was there an alternative for metal door hinges? (I imagine they could have avoided glass by depending on lamps to light interiors that had no glass lighting.)

              I imagine blacksmith technology and some source of iron would go a long way to make Swedish log cabins sustainable. Also not clear what the difference is between a fireplace and a masonry stove. I’m keeping an eye out for tiny wood stoves that can use twigs while not needing much or any venting. Not sure such things exist.

            • DJ says:

              Very impressive axe work.

            • there are new buildings being built now call ”plyscrapers”


              if youre on a housing waiting list—itll be a long time waiting for trees to grow

            • Van Kent says:

              Artleads, glad you liked it. I’ll try to answer. I’m not an expert. Haven’t built one myself. I was just a kid when I was with my dad building one in Northern Lapland near the Swedish border. Both of my grandfathers were masterbuilders. It’s a shame my father never took the time to teach me all the skills he had. Been trying to pick things up these last couple of years though.

              1. Yes, the moss is between the logs to make it air/warmth tight. Logs are a very dynamic building material. Its ‘alive’ so to speak. So the air quality is also generally much better inside a log house.

              2. Wood compresses a lot as it ages. When building, there should be set room for 2-3cm of wood compressing on itself for every 1m of house height, as the house ages in the coming decades.

              3. Foundations has to be considered carefully. The underground drains has to be made nonetheless. So that rainwater, melting snow and overall humidity is drawn away from the house. Not under the house. Otherwise groundfrost, overall ground depression and molds make the house a lot more shortlived. With proper consideration to the foundations, a log house should be standing after 150 – 200y.

              4. Under the floor boards there was usually some mix of soils, sand and sawdust. The idea is to make everything breathe. If there is air circulation under the floor, but its cool and dark, then its mold free. Same as in a root cellar. But usually some sort of root cellar was also put in. Most old houses have one or several root cellars. Also air is alongside soil the best sealant.

              5. Most things have their replacement, including metal door hinges. But all the doors I’ve seen have had metal hinges.

              The idea of an masonry oven/heater is to burn one fill in the morning and one in the evening, yet you can bake, cook food or keep the entire house warm all day. It traps and radiates heat. The ‘scientific’ idea behind it is that ‘heat makes air go up’. So once you have the heated air go up for about 3ft or so, you’ve created enough air pressure to circulate the air a long distance before the flu or chimney. You can actually force the air back down again, because the airpressure of the heat going up in the first chamber forces it to move. So instead of having heated air go straight up the flue or chimney, you circulate the air inside a thermal mass, trapping the heat, before it goes up the chimney.

            • Artleads says:

              @ Van kent

              “So once you have the heated air go up for about 3ft or so, you’ve created enough air pressure to circulate the air a long distance before the flu or chimney. You can actually force the air back down again, because the airpressure of the heat going up in the first chamber forces it to move. So instead of having heated air go straight up the flue or chimney, you circulate the air inside a thermal mass, trapping the heat, before it goes up the chimney.”

              So the idea is for the heat to radiate in and around a masonry chamber. How that chamber is constructed could have been made more clear. It sounds as though it’s the trapped heat withing the chamber (shaped how?) that radiates heat back into the room. If so, that’s the most important aspect to stress, I

            • Van Kent says:

              Artleads, there are a lot of different designs for the thermal mass and for the hot air to circulation inside that thermal mass, here’s one example


              All of the designs have in common, that the airintake has to come from someplace. Also the first chamber where the hot air raises, must be on top of or next to the fire. But after that, you can circulate the hot air in any way you want, in any thermal mass you want.

            • Artleads says:

              Thanks for the diagram, VK.

  15. ARBP says:

    Moore’s Law is already over. The end of Moore’s Law is why smartphones are getting larger in size.

  16. JT Roberts says:

    Moore’s law is not a law it’s an observation. Efficiency gains have a bottom limit. Eventually at the molecular level and based on thermodynamics “Moore’s law” will end. Few are aware that Ford’s model T got 25 mpg. It is irrational to believe past efficiency and productivity gains can be projected infinitely into the future. Isn’t that what this site is about? To believe technology can solve the problems created by technology may be the new definition of insanity.

    • Artleads says:

      “Few are aware that Ford’s model T got 25 mpg. ”

      Thanks. Is your point that, 100 years on, the IC engine has not gotten more efficient? I know IC motors can give better mileage than that but for the economics of it. Still, I don’t think that adds up to more efficiency in the longer run. It would be nice to get more clear about this. For instance, the model T is something the owners can fix themselves. They might not be too hard to make at the semi-local level (outside the networked economy) either.

      • JT Roberts says:

        Not where my mind was but you have made a good point. The lack of complexity of a model T results in a lower depreciation rate. So a lower overall cost of operation and a more sustainable platform. Great concept thanks.

  17. Greg Machala says:

    Just thinking out loud here with respect to pay back time of energy sources. I see a lot of numbers of 15 years pay back time for solar PV. Consider for a moment that is true. We already know the oil extraction industry is facing headwinds of low prices and increasing costs of production which are making societies look for alternatives. So, lets have a look at what the pay back period is for a new Eagle Ford oil well.

    According to Art Berman the costs of a new well is about $7M. The average new well production in Eagle Ford is about 1000bpd. So, if we assume a oil price of $50.00/bbl then it would take about 140 days to break even and start making a profit.

    Now, let us think back 1901 and Spindletop. It produced an initial guesstimate of 100,000 barrels per day of oil. Using today’s numbers it would pay back in a little more than a single day. I am sure there are wells that had realistic pay back periods less than a day perhaps even hours.

    So, if we assume that oil is the backbone of the economy and it was essentially the fuel that powered economic growth, then it seems logical to assume that the economy worked well and grew well with these short pay back times. Then, it was the short pay back period and high return on investment that enabled economic growth.

    Now, lets consider solar PV again with its 15 year pay back period. If it takes 15 years to pay back the costs of solar PV today, and solar PV energy takes the same path as oil did, then the pay back periods for solar PV will become longer with time. So, in the future we can see 50 year then 100 year pay back times for solar PV. Is this workable? To answer that, consider that the economy is falling apart with pay back times of 140 days with new oil supplies. It just seems like an impossible dream. I am just thinking out loud here and these are all rough numbers. But still 140 days vs 15 years pay back and the economy is in dire straits with 140 day pay back periods?

    • “According to Art Berman the costs of a new well is about $7M. The average new well production in Eagle Ford is about 1000bpd. So, if we assume a oil price of $50.00/bbl then it would take about 140 days to break even and start making a profit.”

      Is this assuming zero operation costs? If the operational costs are $25 per barrel, it would take 280 days to break even?

      • Greg Machala says:

        I don’t know. Just thinking out loud. I got the $7M from Art’s blog about the Wolfcamp shale being uneconomic (loosing about $500B) to produce 20B barrels. The thing is the pay back period for oil is increasing every year. So, if solar pay back periods are 15 years now, logically the pay back period for solar will be even longer in the future.

        • Greg Machala says:

          Your probably right with the 280 day figure. Still, that is a long way from the multi-year paybacks of renewables.

          • bandits101 says:

            “Renewables” and nuclear for that matter contribute/d practically nothing towards infrastructure. FF’s were in such cheap supply they were able to create their own markets. From roads, machinery, mines and equipment, road transport, housing, the power grid, agriculture, shipping and on to financial institutions big and small and stock markets etc. Each one of the big projects promoted growth and led to more demand for FF production and FF products. “Renewables” as has often been said are parasites. They cannot exist independently and absolutely not enough emphasis is placed on that fact. They come along to feed on a dying carcass, they only extended and supported the burn of FF’s. They were never a viable proposition in times of easy FF’s and low debt.

            “Renewable” because they extend the burn of FF’s, they remove the mattress of a soft landing. The massive overshoot they contribute to and support simply means natural resources are consumed beyond economic recovery.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “even longer in the future”

          That’s not the trend. Learning curve has been pushing the cost for PV down. See for details. Of course, the PV surface is only part of the cost.

          • Greg Machala says:

            “That’s not the trend.” – But it is the trend with all energy sources. They start out wonderful (100 years ago) then becoming dreadfully hard to extract (today). If solar is starting out with payback times so many orders of magnitude greater than what oil started out with, how can it replace oil?

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “how can it replace oil?”

              It might not be able to replace oil.

              We can, however, figure out what it will take for solar to replace oil and allow our indulgent lifestyle to continue for a long time. That’s what I work on. The fact that it needs improvement factor of 10 or 100 or even more should not daunt you. Consider how far integrated circuits have come over the last 40 years. Of course solar does not follow Moore’s law, but if you can get the cost of space transport down, putting solar collectors out in space gives you about an order of magnitude more energy per square meter and about a factor of 100 lower mass.

            • Read your post back to yourself Keith

              Keep the following in mind. It neatly parodies your ‘reasoning’

              I have a lemon tree. It only produces ten lemons a year. But that will increase. Soon I will have more lemons than I know what to do with. Why? ….because Moore’s law has increased computing speeds so much. Yes I know my lemon tree is not a computer. But let’s all look forward to more lemons because we like lemonade so much.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              We don’t need anything beyond the BAU compound growth that got us to this point.

              If people paid you more than it cost to grow lemons and there was a big demand for lemons (and you were a business kind of person) you would plant more trees, harvest them, plant more and so on till you had filled the market for lemons.

              The energy market will take a lot of filling.

            • smite says:

              Does anyone here actually really understand Moore’s law?

              It’s got nothing to do with speed and all about the doubling of the number of transistors on an IC. If shrinking the transistors becomes hard, the semi guys go toward bigger wafers. Or both.


            • “If shrinking the transistors becomes hard, the semi guys go toward bigger wafers. Or both.”

              “Moore’s law refers to an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965. He noticed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention.” –

              First, you are wrong, it is all about more in the same amount of space. Second, you are wrong, you cannot just make it bigger and bigger. We are already at the point of having thumbnail-sized chips shedding 250 watts. Transferring off kilowatts of waste heat from a small chip seems impractical. We are quite close to the practical limits, at least as far as binary semiconductor processors go.

              Bigger chips or more chips equals more cost per unit. Die shrinks allowed more capabilities at higher speeds within the same heat and size range, at equal or lower cost per unit.

          • Greg Machala says:

            I think a big reason the costs of solar PV panels are coming down is because the costs of the commodities used to make them are falling (below the cost of production no less). Just because the prices of solar PV panels are falling isn’t a sign that solar PV panels are becoming cheaper to produce in energy terms.

            The falling prices of solar PV may actually be a sign that we have reached the peak of all the resources that are used to make them.

            It is hard to see the true cost of solar PV since it is energy capture not a direct source of energy like the heat released from directly burning fossil fuels.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              There is detail about what effected the cost of PV panels here: Materials cost reductions (except Si) contributed about 1/4th. Poly Si prices falling contributed about half.

              “As can be seen from the graph at the left, recent solar module prices have experienced a dramatic price reduction. From 2006 to 2014, an eight year span, worldwide average module prices have dropped about 78% from $3.25 per watt to about $.72 per watt, an incredible drop.

              “The main reason crystalline silicon module prices dropped so much was because the price of the raw material polysilicon, which makes up a very significant part of the total cost, dropped so tremendously. Back in 2007 there was a world wide polysilicon shortage and prices increased to about $400/kg. Polysilicon suppliers made a lot of money and added tons of capacity so that there was a huge polysilicon capacity oversupply by 2010. Over a three year period from 2008 to 2011, polysilicon prices dropped from $400 per kilogram to $25/kg – a 94% drop. There continues to be a major overhang of polysilicon supply which is expected to continue for a few more years.

              “In addition to the polysilicon issue, the decline is also being driven by a) the increasing efficiency of solar cells (ratio of electrical energy produced to sunshine energy) b) dramatic manufacturing technology improvements, c) economies of scale and d) intense competition which lead to module oversupply. The solar growth rate of 23% per year over the last 5 years allowed manufacturing efficiencies that are unheard of in other industries. In addition, there are way too many competitors jousting for major contracts, which is also driving prices down precipitously.”

            • “I think a big reason the costs of solar PV panels are coming down is because the costs of the commodities used to make them are falling (below the cost of production no less). ”

              While that may be a factor, a big factor has been die-shrinks. Manufacturing everything at smaller and smaller scales reduces costs and inefficiencies. Very closely tied to processors for computers and Moore’s Law, which will soon be reaching its end. Your commodity price drops are really only relevant for the last couple years.

              “The average cost of solar cells has gone from $76.67/watt in 1977 to just $0.74/watt in 2013. ”

            • hkeithhenson says:


              Sorry again, but die shrinks/Moore’s Law don’t apply to silicon PV. If they did you could get a MW out of a something you could hardly see.

            • The adverse impact on the grid increases, as more solar PV and wind is added. No one seems to calculate the impact of that, however.

            • greg machala says:

              I meant the costs of solar have been dropping recently due to low commodity prices. sorry should have been more specific.

            • Unsustainably low costs of fossil fuels are what has allowed solar costs to drop. Doesn’t sound good!

    • When you figure out your payback period, please be sure to include the damage to the grid that must be undone.

    • Jarvis says:

      Greg. Why bother with a payback? when I installed my system I was hoping for 9 months of pumps, lights and washing machines but it turns out I’ll only get 6 months of easy living and that’s better than nothing and when I think about it what good would my $25K be post collapse anyway? Solar powered communities? Trust me once you have lived with a solar system you know that’s impossible.

      • greg machala says:

        Sure if you want to get 6 months extra (I don’t know about “easy living”) out of renewables as fossil fuels become unavailable, then by all means go for it. I am just thinking in terms of replacing fossil fuels with renewables as that is the focus of the article. So, if your thinking return-on-investment that would imply some kind of pay back period.

  18. Greg Machala says:

    Here is an interesting study:

    The conclusion (for areas of moderate insolation) is:
    “PV technologies, consume per unit of electricity produced, 64 times more material resources, 7 times more human resources and 10 times more capital than nuclear technology.”

    • Thanks! That is a very good article. It starts out:

      Publications in increasing numbers have started to raise doubts as to whether the commonly promoted, renewable energy sources can replace fossil fuels, providing abundant and affordable energy. Trainer (2014) stated inter alia: “Many reports have claimed to show that it is possible and up to now the academic literature has not questioned the faith. Therefore, it is not surprising that all Green agencies as well as the progressive political movements have endorsed the belief that the replacement of the fossil with the renewable is feasible”. However, experience from more than 20 years of real operation of renewable power plants such as photovoltaic installations and the deficient scientific quality and validity of many studies, specifically aimed at demonstrating the effective sustainability of renewable energy sources, indicate precisely the contrary.

      It calculates a net EROEI of 0.82 for solar energy in latitudes such as Switzerland. This indicates it is a net energy sink.

      It has a many useful things to say. For example, “The tendency, when using the IEA methodology is to make use of ideal parameter values, which, in their turn, tend to yield optimistic levels of EROI.” This is one of the problems I was pointing out. It also points out that experience to date shows that solar panels in practice last less than 30 years.

      Another article of interest is “Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROI): A Quintessential but Possibly Inadequate Metric for Sustainability in a Solar-Powered World?” by Willam Pickard in the Proceedings of the IEEE, published in August 2014.

      • Artleads says:

        This is something of a clincher, since I’ve been getting the gist of this from reading FW. Although I must put in a plug for intuition. I “knew” all this through “aesthetic intuition” from way back. But with these added hard facts, the intuition engine has some fuel to run on. 🙂

    • Landbeyond says:

      Wow! An energy sink! If those conclusions are even remotely correct, then the majority of “energy-aware” people are living in a fantasy world.

      • depends on contributions from people and organizations who think that solar and wind can save us. It is not going to go out and figure out what is really happening. Politicians need some hopium to sell to people. They are not going to tell people what the real story is.

        EROEI is an inadequate metric for measuring solar and wind, because most people have missed the important point that energy from the sun/wind can be partially upgraded, and the output considered “electricity.” The catch is the this electricity needs considerably more upgrading, and this is left to electric grid managers and others to handle. Also, measuring only loosely defined “energy inputs” is not really the right approach, on something that differs radically from fossil fuels.

        I noticed that the article to which Greg linked is the third most downloaded article on the Energy Policy journal website, according to information given on the front page of that site. Maybe the issue is starting to get some attention.

        • Landbeyond says:

          Gail, I’m reluctant to believe that someone like Richard Heinberg is selling “hopium”. As I recall, he advocates scaling up wind and solar, but is under no illusion that they can replace fossil fuels or keep BAU going. He seems to be a natural optimist, but his best-case scenario is a much simpler society operating on much less energy. Do you really think he and others at PCI and Resilience are being disingenuous regarding renewables? If so, I don’t know what their motive would be.

          • Van Kent says:

            Richard Heinberg would not have a job, with a salary, if he told the real story. People in the military can get a decent paying job by portraying the real story. But with an organization that depends on outside donations. Nope. Richard Heinberg would be out of a job if he was sincere. What you call optimism and a best-case scenario, that’s a lack of integrity.

            The real story is, our predicament, that with fossil fuels the world population had the ability to grow from mid-1800s from 1 billion to 7.5 billion. When the limits of our finite world come knocking, without affordable fossil fuels, there’s going to be a population drop to well below 1 billion. And with interconnected world economy, its going to be a flashcrash.

            Since there is no solution to our predicament, Richard chooses to ignore the facts. Quite like the majority of the populace.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” no solution to our predicament”

              We may not solve our problems, but that’s not to say there is no solution. For far less than what the US spent on the Iraq war, we could replace fossil fuels with solar energy from space.

              There are other ways to solve the problems, but this happens to be the one that opens the most interesting future.

            • Keith,

              The Iraq War did not cost 150 Trillion dollars.

              Do you remember we established that the satellites alone to ”get us off fossil fuels” were going to cost 90 Trillion? Or would you like me to shame you AGAIN by referencing and quoting your plain admission of this fact here only a few weeks ago?

              It’s fine to live in your spreadsheet fantasy Keith but don’t pollute this blog with your patently false claims about the economics of your scheme.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “to shame you”

              Quote away if you like. However, unless 5 GW power satellites can be made for $12 B each or less, we probably won’t build them. I think you increased the size of the FF replacement to 25 TW from my 15, but that’s not important. The important thing is how much does it cost to set up the manufacturing and transport infrastructure to turn them out like hotcakes? The analysis needs more work, but it’s likely bracketed by $100-200 B to reach a production of 10-12 per year. After that, it self finances.

              That certainly way less than the $4-6 T various sources estimate for the cost of the recent wars. “In 2011, expenditures on energy totalled over 6 trillion USD” If half of that $3000 B was directed toward buying power satellites at $12 B each, sales would be 250 per year, or new power coming on line at 1.25 TW/year. 20 years at that rate is 25 TW.

              After the infrastructure investment, a power satellite (including the rectenna) has to be less expensive than the power plants, particularly nuclear, that it replaces. Selling one to a utility makes a substantial profit. But the key point is that the power plants have to be replaced anyway, so we might as well do it with the lowest cost way we can.

              The cost for synthetic crude will probably come in around $50/bbl. The cost of the plants seems unlikely to exceed developing an oil field of the same capacity.

              Power satellites are a risky business though. There are many ways the project could fail. Someone finding a less expensive energy source is one of the major risks. StratoSolar, for example looks like it could get the cost of dispatchable power down to 5 cents per kWh. Cheap, high efficiency storage could make PV into a useful source of energy.

              If you want to see the discussions on the hard parts, sign on to the power satellite economics list. It turns out there are some very expensive problems in maintaining a work force out there.

          • I suppose I took offense at Richard Heinberg’s characterization of me in one of his recent posts.

            On the other side of the divide are those who dismiss renewable energy sources entirely—such as actuary and energy writer Gail Tverberg, who claims that building solar and wind capacity actually makes societies worse off than they already are. Her critiques of renewables appear to be based almost entirely on literature from fossil fuel and utility companies; she doesn’t seem to cite much data from solar and wind engineers. Her criticisms have some merit—but not nearly as much as they would have if they reflected a more balanced survey of the subject.

            We had a fair amount of back and forth, when I tried to respond to his statement in the comments, and my response didn’t go up. Weeks later, my comment did go up, together with his comment, which I did not consider responsive. I tried to offer a second comment, but that never went up. My perception was that Heinberg didn’t really understand what I was saying, and that others were also involved in putting together his response to my comment. What else would explain the long delays, even after he e-mailed me about my comment being up, together with his response–and it still took more days for my comment and his response to go up?

            After his comment about me, and the correspondence, I went back and looked at the PCI’s funding, based on the financial statements it has up on its site. The vast majority of contributions are from big corporate donors, looking for a “green” use for their funds. A smaller amount (20%, IIRC) are from folks like you and me sending contributions to the PCI. The PCI’s donations have been falling for several years. Richard Heinberg’s salary is one of the big expenses of the PCI.

            Perhaps I am being too hard on Heinberg, but I know that while I was involved with The Oil Drum (which was also sponsored by the PCI), many of the volunteers came to the site with particular “agendas” (for example, working in the financing of wind turbines, and wanting to present wind turbines in as favorable light as possible, or being concerned about climate change and wanting to find an alternative to fossil fuels to prevent climate change). If the site didn’t present the outlook they wanted, they didn’t want to participate.

            Heinberg writes in his posts as if he thinks he is being even-handed with respect to renewables. Maybe the issue is that he is an “educator” rather than a “researcher,” and he doesn’t really understand the issues very well himself. He reads certain standard sources, and bases his findings on them. Heinlein’s Razor is “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.” So perhaps the problem is “only” stupidity.

    • Long article–not sure I understood all of it. A different version of the story is that with the low oil price, Saudi Arabia no longer has excess funds to buy treasuries with. In fact, it must sell existing treasuries to raise funds. China must also sell treasuries, to keep the yuan from falling further relative to the dollar. As a result of all of this selling of treasuries, yields are rising on bonds of all sorts. To get away from this problem, people are investing in stocks, allowing their prices to rise unreasonably.

      I can see wanting to price oil in gold, if the dollar is going to fall in value.

      Ultimately, it seems like the problem is that we cannot produce enough goods and services with oil, to justify the high price that is needed to extract the oil from the ground. It seems like the low price problem will hold, whether oil is priced in gold or dollars. But maybe the price problem will be less-bad in gold.

      • Yoshua says:

        The oil producers have the option to sell oil for dollars or gold and bet the one of them will raise in value to compensate for low oil prices at the moment of sales.

        The Fed has stopped printing money and is raising rates to raise the value of the dollar.

        Which one will perform best… the dollar or gold ?

        • Thanks! Of course, a higher dollar means many defaulted loans from other countries. One country cannot succeed, while all others fail–but perhaps that is something to try, if there is not enough to go around.

          • Yoshua says:

            If the dollar goes up, then oil goes down ?

            If nations with dollar debt face higher debt with a stronger dollar, their economies goes into recession, demand falls and oil prices fall in dollar terms ?

            I am not sure how the Fed will balance everything ?

    • houtskool says:

      Yoshua, this is all based on the work of ‘Another’,


      Another’s work continued through FOA, friend of Another, and after that, Fofoa.

      All about the upcoming shift in gold trade. How long will oil exporters accept worthless currencies for their oil? And why are countries repatriating their gold from abroad?

  19. Niels Colding says:

    Dear Gail,

    I have spent some time speculating of your time shifting theory in your article “What has gone wrong with prices, debt and GDP growth?”
    I understand the following
    “If one hunter-gatherer specializes in finding flints that will start fires, that hunter-gatherer needs some sort of guarantee that others, who are finding food, will share some of their food with him, so that the group, as a whole, can prosper. Others, who specialize in gathering firewood, or in childcare, also need some kind of guarantee that their efforts will be rewarded.”
    as if you see the effort (working time) of the people in the tribe to be priced 1:1. This could very well be so in many cases but with increasing specialization the time shifting arrangement changes from 1:1 to other values:
    The black smith of the village for instance would demand more than a one to one time shift for his work. He makes a beautiful knife. It takes him 2 days making the knife including fabricating the charcoal and gathering the iron from the ore. He sells the knife to a farmer who, however, has to work 4 days in order to deliver the amount of grain that the black smith requires for his knife.
    In this example the time shifting arrangement is not 1:1 but 1:2. The black smith only consumes half of the grain that he gets from the farmer, but trades the other half off to the local hairdresser who promises to make his hair for next year- about two, may be three, days work for the hairdresser.
    In this case time shift takes place, but I think it also would be appropriate to call it high quality energy in change for low quality energy. In order to meter this relation money was ‘invented’.
    You have chosen the expression ‘time shifting’. But why not ‘energy shifting’?

    • DJ says:

      As far as I can tell everything we have today is real, nothing is borrowed from the future.

      • Yoshua says:

        The only thing we have borrowed from the future is a unrealistic promise ?

      • Greg Machala says:

        That is true but there are promises made to pay back a debt with interest. Of course the debt doesn’t really exists, it is just stored by electrons in a computer database. But, someone somewhere expects money from this debt to survive. It is all such hokus-pokus and unbelievable that it can work. The people creating the money/debt are the winners so long as there is faith that the money/debt will buy real goods and services.

        Debts could be eliminated if all the people that depend on them are eliminated as well.

        • Greg Machala says:

          Interesting though that the Fed is raising rates now just as oil prices are beginning to climb again. It looks like the Russians and Saudis are committed to cutting production for now. The Fed is advertising multiple rate hikes in 2017 as well. I wonder if the rate hikes are politically motivated? Or, are the rate hikes a bluff? I don’t see how interest rates can go up without crashing the economy. Does anyone have any insight on why the Fed is raising rates?

          • Seems strange to me. Of course, with the Chinese and Saudi Arabia not buying treasuries, higher interest rates are needed to be able to keep selling treasuries to fund all of the promised programs (unless QE is buying all of the surplus). It certainly seems like higher rates will crash the economy.

        • DJ says:

          The banks loaned out money they did not have.

          If they are gonna get it back someone will have to print it.

          Quite a malinvestment: houses, cars and higher education.

      • You need to read more of my posts. Anything that is made by a company (for example, food, water, consumer goods) that is either financed with debt or with equity, is using goods that are based on borrowing from the future. Any person who buys are car or house using debt, is making promises of payments in the future. Our government is heavily financed with debt; this affects all of us. Our balance of trade says that we owe goods to other countries, in total. This is part of the issue as well.

        • DJ says:

          I have read them, I just did not understand them 😉

          If I buy a new house with 15% down, the house will be built 100% in present time.

          In the financial economy all kinds of promises will have been made and bad things will happen if they are not kept.

          In the real economy the house will be there and whatever happens with the debt the materials and work is lost.

          Me taking on debt has affected peoples actions and shifted energy in the present. In time energy has only been shifted to the extent someone decided to do something and not anything.

          • bandits101 says:

            You must think resources are inexhaustible. Humans and their livestock is currently nearly 90% of large fauna and increasing at the expense of other wild fauna. The oceans are being depleted at an alarming rate, soils are being depleted, deforestation was and is rampant. Biodiversity was stolen from us and we are continuing the process for the future. Iron ore, coal, oil, gas and many other resources and commodities are being used like there is no tomorrow….literally.

          • “Doing something” rather than “not doing anything” is a huge change. This is what allows fossil fuels to be extracted. It also allows wind turbines to be built, and homes to be built.

          • buying a house ”now” is the purchase of a block of embodied enegy.

            if you take out a mortgage over 25 years—you are betting that you can accrue sufficient energy in excess of that, –ie in the form of energy-tokens (money)—over that period of time.

            If you win, you get to keep the house.
            If you lose, you’re out on the street and lose everything.

            • If you lose, the bank is out a lot of money. It can’t throw everyone out on the street at once. You have a big problem if the bank goes out of business, because then no one can get paid, and no one can retrieve the funds that they thought they had in the bank.

            • my point was, that people lose their homes individually—the disaster is ”you” on the street.

              obviously if the financial collapse is total, then there will be no mechanism for house repossession, but then there will be no ”mechanism’ for very much at all either.

              keeping a roof over your head—even if you own it, requires constant energy input. if there’s no energy input, you will lose your house because it will become uninhabitable

    • What I am talking about is energy shifting, but many people miss the role time plays, so I talk about it. Also, it isn’t really clear, without more understanding, why energy is pretty much everything. For example, it is not obvious why owing land is related to energy.

      People who have looked at early status symbols, like homes, think that hunter gatherers were relatively equal in status.(Also, looking at modern hunter-gatherers.) “Owning land” was one of the things that seems to have led to unequal status.

      • Niels Colding says:

        If it is a farmer who owns the land with the intention of cultivating it, his products are of course a result of the energy in the soil combined with sun shine, rain and a lot of hard work. When a medieval peasant sowed 1 grain he could only expect to harvest 3 grains. Still mostly there was an energy surplus, modest as it was. In that respect the connection between energy and land is obvious. Modern agriculture is much more complicated with a lot of different energy input/output and it is questionable if there is a genuine surplus taken the enormous expenses into account.

        However, I am so fortunate to own a piece of land that serves no purpose but pleasure. I have finished paying for this piece of land, now only taxes remain as expenses. The energy connection now lies in the taxes to be paid for my ‘pleasure’.

        But a piece of land in a dry desert belonging to no one and yielding nothing what so ever has nothing to do with energy.

      • Niels Colding says:

        “Owning land” was one of the things that seems to have led to unequal status.”

        Yes absolutely:

        Farmers differ in skills. One particular farmer is very hard working, has maybe an intuitive understanding of the “wellbeing” of plants, gets bigger and maybe better crop, is very thrifty, has only 2 or 3 children, enjoys a good health, wife and children with the same qualities and so on and so forth. He will be able to accumulate more crop (energy) to give away or to barter and reach a higher status.

        A skilled hunter-gatherer will be respected, but the skilled farmer has power by virtue of his accumulated energy …..

      • Stefeun says:

        “Owning land” and its further expansion into private property -and its transmission- has definitely exacerbated inequalities and many other things in our civilisations (haves and have-nots).

        Note that it also applies to the money itself, which always belongs to someone, but not to what the money represents in the first place.

      • it’s the prime reason for unequal status

  20. Niels Colding says:

    Every time you spend some money you trigger an equivalent amount of energy. It is hard to find just one example where this is not the case. Money is the tokenization of energy. It always was and it still is. If you want to know the energy balance of renewables just follow the money. That is the total sum of money in order to build, maintain, and operate the system plus accrued interests in the total lifetime of that system. Then you can convert that total amount of money into industrial kwh and compare the result with the kwh output of the energy system. That is the easy part. The difficult part is to define and find the harm done by the intermittent energy system to the conventional energy system. This method should however also include possible expenses/revenues in connection with the recycling of the decommissioned system.
    I am still convinced that my example of Anholt Vindmøllepark principally is correct, but I would be very glad to hear good explanations as to why not.

    • this outlines the fallacy of wealth

      the rich delude themselves that money will protect them come shtf time.

      it won’t, ——without the energy production system created and supported by the rest of us, money becomes valueless

      • Greg Machala says:

        “without the energy production system created and supported by the rest of us, money becomes valueless” – Yep I agree! People really bit off hook-line-and-sinker into the belief that money has real value. The money creators have done a fantastic job of creating this faith-based monetary system. So good in fact that some folks are actually addicted to money!

    • Right. The damage of the intermittent energy system to the grid is a form of entropy related to that energy system. I believe it helps our current system fail sooner.

  21. Pingback: Daily Reading #56 | thinkpatriot

  22. Artleads says:

    Got this from NBL forum:

    “Apparently they have started selling air now to pollution ridden cities in China and are making a killing at it:

    As we lose more of our oxygen producing vegetation on land and sea I wonder if this will become the new norm.”

  23. Greg Machala says:

    This is a good article illustrating the challenges facing solar PV and wind:

    • Points 1 through 9 are very good. Ten and 11, not so much. Article is well worth reading.

      • edwinlloyd says:

        Since the energy issue affects us all it is by default something that needs to be handled in the political arena, but ours is currently closed due to private bookings. The article seems to be a pro nuclear plug, but does point out the shortcomings of wind and solar.

    • I just now looked at the article again, and followed a link through. The Solar Tax Credit has been extended for another 5 years. With it, individuals and businesses can continue to claim a reduction in taxes equal to 30% of the cost of the solar panels, if they install them, until 12/31/2019. It gradually reduced after that.

      Small wind tax credits disappear on new installations after 12/31/2016. Small wind turbines really are not effective–break frequently besides producing little electricity, so this is good riddance. I remember an Oil Drum article on this subject.

      Tax credits for large wind start phasing out in 2017, and are gone in 2020. A 10% tax credit on Geothermal Heat Pumps, Microturbines, and Combined Heat and Power Systems disappears at the end of 2016.

      Also, it is point 10 that is particularly offensive (scale up nuclear instead).

      Point 11 is OK. 11: Encouraging Wind And Solar Creates Incentives For Massive Corruption

    • Greg Machala says:

      There is a lot of “could-a would-a should-a” in that article. You know just becomes solar goes from 0 to 0.5% penetration in XX number of years does not mean it will be a linear progression to 100% penetration by XX year. To the contrary, it seems the 30% penetration threshold of solar pv and wind is difficult to overcome due to intermittency and lack of affordable storage capacity. Thus, once the 30% threshold is passed it seems for every new watt of “renewable” you have to add a watt of “fossil” backup to account for the intermittency. The article also touts the panel efficiency and cost. It isn’t the panels that are the bulk of the costs of converting the grid to solar PV, It is the storage capacity and supporting infrastructure and the huge amount of resources it will need to scale up that is the problem!

      • edwinlloyd says:

        We’ve spent the last 150 yrs burning the candle at both ends. Until we adopt the change of sunrise to sunset for MOST of our energy useage adopting solar is ridiculous. Off grid solar power for smart programmable low voltage appliances coupled with much higher use of insulation would be a start. Most of the houses in my area have efficiency ratings close to mud and wattle construction. No, I take that back, I bet thatched roofs would seal up tightly in winter damp conditions and keep the heat in, not to mention all those mice up there providing heat.
        Botton line, it will take a substantial change in lifestyles as well as smart use of already existing technologies to make what energy supplies we have left last longer than the way we live now. Intermittent energy could become a very useful part of that lifestyle. Make hay while the sun shines. Besides, most of us would be a lot h?ealthier living on biological time instead of 24/7/365. Last stats I saw for the USA show 20% of all familes have no one employed! 5.something% uneployment is propaganda. A reduced energy dependent life would force more back to work or go cold and hungry.

        But who wants to voluntarily drop their standard of living? Answer=not me for everyone I know. Is there a way to reduce net world energy use and get a better standard of living? This may not be the right forum to discuss that issue, but I think the group posting here is one of the best to get some more ideas on the table.

        • Artleads says:

          I don’t believe there is a known long-term way to keep manufacturing solar technologies and repairing them. Otherwise widespread use of solar, off-grid and intermittent, to power your low-energy lifestyle wouldn’t seem so implausible.

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “I don’t believe there is a known long-term way to keep manufacturing solar technologies and repairing them.”

            For silicon, you may be correct. The process of making silicon pure enough to make solar cells is on scale of a small oil refinery. I have only a hazy memory of what is involved in the process.

            But there are some new kinds of cells that may be a lot easier to make.

            • bandits101 says:

              Do you have a “peer reviewed” paper that guarantees that hundreds of thousands of rocket launches over a relatively short period, will not be harmful to the ozone layer. You continually mention that it’s not a problem because a colleague told you so, (I keep thinking Brer Rabbit). Bear in mind also, that the ozone right now is just tenuously holding on. We are in no way out of the woods regarding ozone depletion.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Do you have a “peer reviewed” paper”

              Actually, I do. But if you had asked me before Nov. 22, the answer would have been no.

              It took two years for the NOAA guys to model the problem and write the paper.

              “Modern reusable launch vehicle technology may allow high flight rate space
              transportation at low cost. Emissions associated with a hydrogen fueled reusable rocket
              system are modeled based on the launch requirements of developing a space based solar
              power system that generates present-day global electric energy demand. Flight rates from
              10E4 to 10E6 per year are simulated and sustained to a quasi-steady state.”

              It’s worth reading the the whole paper, especially the conclusions section.

              I really appreciate the work they put into this paper.

          • At most, any “solution” is short term.

          • “I don’t believe there is a known long-term way to keep manufacturing solar technologies and repairing them.”

            Okay, let’s imagine a scenario in which the spent fuel ponds and abrupt climate change are somehow avoided, 90 percent of the population dies off without any major war, deforestation or killing every animal.

            The first thing I would suggest is to question the need for electricity. If you can make ice, move air, and do other things using mechanical energy, you can make Stirling engines out of canvas and wood, to operate at low RPM. For heat, you can use the sunlight to heat air and water directly; if you live in a cloudy area during winter, firewood is likely the superior solution.

            • Van Kent says:

              Once the grid comes down, its not likely we’ll have national grids ever again.

              But there will be a billion car batteries lying around for quite some time to come.

              There will also be about a gazillion power tools and two gazillion water pumps everywhere. It’d be kinda strange if we weren’t using those resources, while they still function?

            • “It’d be kinda strange if we weren’t using those resources, while they still function?”

              You’re talking about salvaging leftovers for a few decades. I’m talking about the long term, how society would be able to use some amount of our accumulated knowledge without fossil fuels, for centuries or millennia after. Sure, if you can make your life a little easier during transition, go for it.

            • Good luck on using them together! You need specially built pumps and inverters.

            • Van Kent says:

              That sort of long term plan would require two things. Some sort of “testlab” where different solutions are being tested in real life conditions. With raw materials, tools and equipment found at the time. And as with the scientific method, only repeatable working solutions would be promoted forward. That way people would know that if its Matthew Krajcik -approved then it really is a working solution. Secondly, the world will be a very different place, after the grid is a goner. No internet, newspapers or television. But there might be a possibility of low frequency radio.

              That would be an interesting plan, actually, for the possible future generations. Setting up a couple of such “testlabs”. And then set up a few lf-radiostations with 24/7/365 continuous broadcasts of working real life solutions. From simple, to complex.

              That just might be about the only way our species could survive the coming millenia.

      • It is amazing what other people can miss. As long as the problem is transferred to the “commons,” it seems not to exist. It is simply another version of “tragedy of the commons.” Someone else will take care of it, amazingly enough.

        • A Real Black Person says:

          I read a history of the Enclosure of the Commons in England at the end of the Middle Ages. The author’s theory is that problems classically attributed to the “tragedy of the commons” happened during a period of rapid privatization. During the time that the commons prevailed, the prevailing cooperative collectivist mentality would have prevented overgrazing.

          I want to put a question before Gail before OWF readers and it this:
          What encouraged overgrazing–the lack of private property or privatization?

          • Stefeun says:


          • “What encouraged overgrazing–the lack of private property or privatization?”

            Scarcity, probably.

          • From what I have heard, and what I can see, it is privatization that tends to be worse in causing overuse, compared to collective use.

            When each person is dependent on his own land, he will use it to the limit. Overgrazing is likely to occur, as is failure to allow for adequate rotations or fallow periods between crops. This is especially the case when population pressures are a problem. If farms need to be subdivided because of high population, overuse especially likely to be a major issue.

            Thinking some more about the issue, I think population growth and falling land per capita are likely to ultimately behind the problem, whoever it occurs. To solve the problem, there really needs to be both (1) population control and (2) some group control over commons.

          • richardA says:

            “What encouraged overgrazing–the lack of private property or privatization?”
            There are a couple of jumps in your logic I think. There is enough reading material on “common land” to allow whatever conclusion you desire to arrive at. I’ll mention that “The Tragedy of the Commons” is a partial answer. In those days the wealthy had recourse to “fake news” to justify enclosure of land owned in common, and the financial incentive to do so.

            • the enclosure of the commons was effectively making and directing profitability from previous underused land areas.

              what had been undocumented grazing ”rights” held over centuries were swept away by acts of parliament, allowing the wealthy to graze (sheep usually) to produce wool for manufacture of cloth. Cattle werent much good for that because meat could not be preserved and exported on a large scale—wool could.
              this was also the case with the ”highland clearances” where crofters were evicted by unscrupulous landlords to allow large scale grazing and increased profits as markets expanded in the wool trade

  24. Interguru says:

    Trouble in nuclear-land

    The purchase was a gamble from the start: The Toshiba subsidiary was paying relatively little to buy the business, but its ultimate costs could end up being many times higher if things went badly. That outcome now looks likely.

    “Westinghouse has found that the cost to complete the U.S. projects will far surpass the original estimates, mainly due to increases in key project parameters, resulting in far lower asset value than originally determined,” Toshiba said on Tuesday.

    • Greg Machala says:

      RE: Trouble in nuclear land: The cost of rising complexity to the point of non-profitability.

  25. MG says:

    The ultimate theory about the statues on the Eastern Island

    Recently I have discussed the role of the accumulated energy source on this site:

    And it brought me to the conclusion about the role of the deforestation, i.e. the depletion of the accumulated energy source, in the fall of the population and civilization and the rise of the Christianity:

    Yesterday, I have presented this to my friend, who is a biologist, who immediately reminded me about the Eastern Islands. It seems we have the solution to the mystery of those statues:

    As they were depleting the wood, the source of the accumulated energy, their population started to fall. No wonder, as the population is the function of the energy, and as regards the human race, the population is the function of the source of the accumulated energy. Their solution was that they started to produce those stone statues, as the replacement for the declining number of the individuals of their population. They had no problem with the food, there was plenty of it not only on the island, but also in the sea. Their problem was the falling population for which they did not have an explanation.

    Thus, those monument statues of humans on the deforested island are a further confirmation of the fact that the human species is made of the two components: the hairless ape and the source of the accumulated external energy.

    • MG says:

      The shape of those statues on the Easter Island is also interesting: the disproportionately big head to the trunk and the disproportionately small arms to the trunk, with no legs: they are symbolic statues of humans that could be moved around the island with ropes:

      “Jean-Michel Schwartz says in his 1975 book ‘The Mysteries of Easter Island’ that he believes the statues were not moved by wooden rollers or sleds but rather by using ropes around the statues which ‘walked’ the statues in the same way as one might walk a refrigerator; by tilting it first to one side, shifting the airborne portion forward, and setting it down again. By this method, the statues would truly walk in a waddle fashion around the island.
      Later, a Czech mechanical engineer named Pavel recreated this method along with Thor Heyerdahl. With twenty other men, they tied ropes around a statue and leaned it from side to side while pulling it forward with the rope, a slight variation on Schwartz’s method. The method worked, but was excruciatingly slow. It is an ingenious theory which takes into account the legends of the walking statues […]”

    • Curt Kurschus says:

      Although there remains much to be learned where the Easter Islanders are concerned, it is thought to be the case that food was a major problem. With the trees gone, there were no more birds to catch and eat, no more eggs from the birds to eat, no more timber with which to construct boats to go fishing, no more bird bones with which to make fish hooks.

        • MG says:

          The wood is a naturally occuring renewable material produced by the plants transforming the energy of the sun using water and minerals.

        • bandits101 says:

          Yeah read that. It’s a theory and they are guessing. The simple explanation is that they overpopulated an island of limited essential resources. Just like mice in a grain silo, reindeer on St Mathews Island, humans lived it up in the good times. We are not superior beings, we overpopulated and caused deforestation worldwide not just on Easter Island. We have depleted and polluted the oceans, caused irreversible global warming and depleted our soils. The last bastion of denialists is to acknowledge the problems of the world but then deny humans are not responsible. It’s the prime reason we continue to devastate the planet, when we know full well what we do is not sustainable.

  26. Tailor Paine says:

    Mighty fine work😄

  27. Duncan Idaho says:

    For me the biggest shock was realization that we are not in full control of our complex brains. While I warned about it a year ago, I really thought that the primitive reptilian brain can dominate only relatively few people and others will compensate. Boy, was I wrong! I call 2016 the year of erupting primitivism, powered and assisted by modern technology that now unites the creepy reptilians around the world and feeds their hallucinations. With modern communication networks, hardware like the smart phone, and software like Facebook and Twitter we have created a myriad of mutually-abetting tribes out of the scared, confused, and angry people everywhere. These people are lashing out at anything they perceive as being not them. All this is deadly for civilization and democracy everywhere.

    • Greg Machala says:

      Smartphones are destroying our social/communication skills. I feel that smartphones are turning people into anti-social bots. Social media is anything but social. It is all virtual (as in not-real). There are so many people literally plugged into their smartphone and not into the world around them. Even married couples just go to opposite sides of the room and gaze into their respective smartphones. I have seen this many many times now. It is sad. I see it as more evidence that we are living a lie, a virtual reality, that is fueled by (assumed infinite quantities of) energy. As a prior post stated: we are not superior beings! We are way too easily distracted by dangling carrots.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        When my wife and I were in Venice, Italy, at a nearby table in a restaurant a father of a family of four was glued to his IPhone the entire time. Never said a word or engaged his kids even with what he was looking at on the stupid screen. Obviously at one time it was a priority to start a family, but now the guy doesn’t even notice them. They will grow up (unless collapse stops their maturation) and go to counseling because they have abandonment issues.

        • Tim Groves says:

          The guy may have been reading the comments at Finite World.
          I do that on the PC even when the dog tells me it’s a priority to play tag with him.

      • DJ says:

        I have a hard time quantifying how much worse it is sitting next to each other watching separate iToys compared to sitting next to each other watching television, compared to sitting next to each other watching the fire.

        • There is a lot of visiting and singing around a fire, and sharing of experiences. This gets lost in stupid video games, most e-mails, and watching TV.

          Not having air conditioning meant a lot of people spent a lot of evenings outside in the summer, visiting with neighbors. Now it is hard to get to know neighbors.

  28. Christian, Jewish, and ISLAMIC end times prophecies are all coming true. There will be a cataclysmic war over the last oil on Earth, which is all in one spot in the Middle East.

    The Prophecy of the Vilna Gaon: “When you hear that the Russians have captured the city of Crimea, the ‘Times of the Messiah’ have started, that his steps are being heard.”

    The Jewish messiahs are coming. There’ll be at least 2. They’re the first false Christs. The next 2 will be the Islamic messiahs. They’ll be false too. I’m working on the sequence right now.

  29. smite says:

    Hedge funds booting out the middle management layers and replacing it with:
    Yep, you guessed it right – a supercomputer.

    “Bridgewater Associates has a team of engineers working on a project to automate decision-making to save time and eliminate human emotional volatility”

    The clientele next up for ‘bright sizing’ to the benefit of computing: crummy investment bankers, half-witted actuaries, morons w(h)or(k)ing in the legal system and the generic dullard accountant.

    • I am glad it is only “half-witted actuaries” and not full witted ones that are being replaced!

      I can’t imagine that their formulas that the put in today will work very well as we go past tipping points. Could cause faster undoing.

      • Yoshua says:

        When they replace the supercomputers with superdupercomputers then there goes full witted ones too!

        • greg machala says:

          The more I think about automation, the more I think it is (and was) a mistake. We lost and are loosing too many jobs because of it. Sure, without automation, we might be less “technologically advanced” that we are today but, we may not have burned through resources as quickly as we have.

          • Interguru says:

            We are all lucky to be beneficiaries of the industrial revolution. However its destruction of traditional jobs and trade made it pure hell for the workers who lived through it.

            • the industrial revolution gave us democracy through the prosperity it delivered

              when the power of the industrial revolution has dissipated, democracy will dissipate with it

            • A Real Black Person says:

              Urban Legend:

              I remember reading somewhere that the Romans had the technology (they didn’t) to develop the steam engine but chose not to, because it would cause massive unemployment. The Roman Empire’s economy was based on agriculture and it couldn’t be conceived of what people would do without work.

              Is there any truth to this?

            • every species must expend effort to sustain itself—that is a universal law that illustrates the nonsense being suggested that we need only work a few hours a week and the rest of the time can be spent recreationally.

              our lives are sustained by extracting energy sources from the earth –meat or grains basically–and converting that energy into our own muscle mass /power.
              if we choose to ”work” for only 2 days a week to obtain that energy, then the shortfall for the other 5 days has to be made up elsewhere.
              there are only 2 ways that can be done:

              1 have human slaves like the Romans (and all ‘’economies’’ up to the 1800s) meaning that most people do the heavy work to support a minority of aristocrats who didn’t work at all.

              2 have Hydrocarbon slaves like we do, which means that oil coal and gas do the heavy work to support the majority. (so we can all live like aristrocrats) We don’t really work either, we just pretend we do. The only people who do real work are the primary energy producers.
              Given our current lifestyle, it has been estimated that each of us has the equivalent of 50 personal slaves in energy availability terms.

              The Greeks made a spinning kettle, which was a metal vessel filled with water with opposing vents. When the water was boiled, it caused the kettle to spin. Thus they had the means to convert explosive force into rotary motion–the basic technology of the steam engine.

              They didn’t have the technology available to take this further, and in any case, slaves delivered sufficient energy for their needs.
              By the 18th/19th c, population was growing, new lands were being opened up, and more power was needed—hence the impetus to produce more iron and to develop steam engines. Iron and coal were plentiful.
              The ultimate function of the steam engine has been to burn fuel in order to access more fuel.—The use of the finite to pursue the illusion of the infinite. (we call it permanent growth).

              Ultimately of course this became our evolutionary dead end.

            • “that is a universal law that illustrates the nonsense being suggested that we need only work a few hours a week and the rest of the time can be spent recreationally.”

              Many primitive fishing villages in the tropics, both historically and into modern times, only needed to work 12 hours per week to meet their needs. They were free to spend the rest of the time with arts, music, and entertainment.

              It is only the people in colder climates and/or switched to farming that needed to work an average of 40 to 60 hours per week, with obviously longer days in summer and less in winter.

            • i took it as read—-that my meaning was about working a couple of days a week to support ourselves within our current environment.

              obviously, if you swing in a hammock most of the time in the amazon rainforest and catch an occasional fish, and pick fruit and just wear a loincloth, you hardly need to ”work” at all.

              by contrast an inuit has to expend energy continuously just to stay alive

            • “I remember reading somewhere that the Romans had the technology (they didn’t) to develop the steam engine but chose not to, because it would cause massive unemployment.”

              The steam engine they had, someone made as a curiosity and it was extremely low powered. The big thing is they would have had to make everything out of bronze since I’m sure they were not able to mass produce large cast iron works.


              I suspect the reason it was not developed had more to do with failing to convince a rich senator to provide patronage.

            • Van Kent says:

              Here is dr. Richard Carrier answering that question in length


            • Greg Machala says:

              “when the power of the industrial revolution has dissipated, democracy will dissipate with it” – You know that is a scary statement. I wonder how many people think this way though. How many realize what powers freedom of choice?

            • it’s meant to be scary. It’s what I’ve been warning about.

              That’s the whole point….in practical terms, almost no one recognises that democracy has existed only for the last 1 or 200 years (depending on where you live), coinciding with the industrial revolution.
              Universal franchise had to be given to the proletariat in return for stable work output and environment—ie workers were needed to run machines rather than follow ploughs and horses by the seasons

              —for millions there is still no democracy, and the democracy we have is as fragile as the energy system that supports it.

              When our energy sources fizzle out, it will be necessary to bring in martial law to control civil unrest. Democracy and martial law are totally incompatible.

              Dictatorships will become normality in the coming decades.

            • Greg Machala says:

              Another thought occurred to me that I never really considered before. If a person was retiring today, the energy intensity of the environment one would retire into would be much higher than 62 years ago when that person was born. But, that person is no longer doing any work (assuming the work was productive) and continues to enjoy increasing amounts of energy intensity “for free”. Seems like a fairy tale when you think about it that way.

              One concern I have going forward is retirees are increasingly coming from a pool of people who have never knew of life without electricity or cars. They were raised in a culture of cheap energy with promises of fully funded retirements. My concern is how these 50 year old security state employees (federal, state and local police and related services) will react when their pensions are cut? Will they become violent gangs. Many of these folks will be well connected through unions and acquaintance in positions of authority.

            • pensions are my other killer reality

              Anyone aged 40ish now, paying into some kind of pension and expecting maturation by –say–2045, is entirely dependent on hydrocarbon fuel input over that time period to deliver ”growth”—ie sufficient income to allow sustainable living 25 years from now.

              And there are no alternatives, solar and wind cannot sustain what we have, let alone deliver that kind of growth.

              Then throw in the real cruncher, that the entire government (of any country) has put in place a pension system based on the same concept—-that pension promises will be met for the coming century, and allow everyone to “buy” energy, whether that will be food or fuel at whatever price it might be then.
              They have to know it’s wrong, but the people we elect know of no other way, any more than we do.

              This confirms my thesis that nations depend on indigenous energy to survive.
              If the energy supply fails, security forces tend to go self employed

            • Of course, actuaries are involved in determining needed contributions for both regular pensions and for pay as you go go pensions (used for government programs, such as Social Security).

            • The “plan” is that people will work longer to fill in the deficits of the funding. Of course, jobs that pay well depend on fossil fuel energy, too.

            • Ert says:


              You can only hope that the ‘old folks’ have ruined their health on their own behave so much, that they are now dependent on the system (not knowing that they could fix most of their problems in most cases through the right nutrition – but than they would suffer their loss of their daily dopamine-fix 😉

              I heard the same from my mother: ‘I would rather die that to live without my daily sausage and cheese’ (literally translated). So much for that….

            • Ert says:


              “pensions are my other killer reality”

              Yepp – and everyone who realizes that will opt out of the system if he can. Pitty my brother… he has 3 private pension / retirement money schemes running “because I have to do something”. He is so much into work – he has no time to reflect… and If he would drop out, then he had to crush his hopes for a nice and relaxed future / retirement out of his mind… and with that in mind not may people can live….

              So in a way good for me – this behavior stabilizes the whole system… and there is no point in premature collapse 😉

            • NegativeBizarro says:

              “Dictatorships will become normality in the coming decades.”
              One could hope for a benevolent monarchy. I will be the first guy the king sends to the gallows but overall I think monarchy allows correct decisions to be made. Perhaps I will even get the long drop. Three optimistic statements in as many sentences, definitely a first for me.

            • i don’t think there’s been a benevolent monarchy in times prior to the industrial revolution.

              Our Queen is benevolent but she has no power, neither did her predecessors for about 300 years.

              Before that they pretty much ran the country to their benefit

    • A Real Black Persona says:

      Awright! We’re getting closer to realizing your dream of having s e x with fully-witted robots!

      I’m surprised it has taken this long for them to try to automate a large share of the managerial class who do nothing but go to meetings and yell at people.
      Most managers are not Steve Jobs.

  30. “… the place for intermittent renewables would seem to be off the electric grid. They would likely need to operate in very small networks, probably serving individual homes or businesses. For example, some homeowners might want to set up 12 volt direct current systems, operating a few LED lights and a few specially designed 12 volt direct current appliances. Businesses might want to do more. The problem, of course, comes in maintaining these systems, as batteries degrade and other parts need to be replaced. It would seem that this type of transition could be handled without huge subsidies from governments.”
    I wish the popular BAU-lite green-tech-will-save-us mentality could be informed of my ongoing several-years’ experience with un-subsidized off-the-grid solar power — my truck is normally parked five days a week with a 30-watt solar panel charging a 12-volt lead-acid deep-cycle battery (that battery also gets charged when I drive the truck, & a relay connects it to the alternator) — I get maybe a few dollars/year worth of grid power out of it, & the deep-cycle batteries last maybe about 1 year (it’s hard on a battery to keep running it way down like that, & re-charging it).
    My idea is, running things off of solar-charged batteries only makes sense where the power grid isn’t available, & the whole thing couldn’t exist without the fossil-fuel-based infrastructure.
    Is there anywhere in the world where an AC power grid has been run from IRE (intermittent renewable energy — wind/solar power)? The last thing I read about that was, years ago, the island of Kauai, in Hawaii, made a big push to convert their power grid to run on solar-charged batteries, and, last I heard, they were still using things like oil shipped in, to power it — & that was with the batteries & solar panels shipped in from fossil-fuel land.

    • greg machala says:

      I agree, solar and wind power, even off grid, are complete non-starters without fossil fuels. To make matters worse, the maintenance of IRE also requires fossil fuels. It isn’t anything approaching a game-changer that many are envisioning.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        ” isn’t anything approaching a game-changer”

        I agree. There was a reason to subsidize it though, because it might have worked out to be a game changer, and in any case, we need to do something. Cost for PV did come down by a huge factor and is still falling, but not enough.

        But given the current failure of IRE to replace FF, what would need to be changed for renewables to be a game changer?

        StratoSolar reduces the intermittent factor because at 20 km clouds are not a factor. Ed Kelly, the guy behind StratoSolar makes a case for base load at 5 cents a kWh because the altitude allows reasonably cheap and highly efficient gravity storage. Without the storage, the estimate is around 3 cents a kWh. Fed to hydrogen and F/T plants that gives $70/bbl synthetic oil. I know, that’s still too expensive.

        Can you specify what it would take for renewables to be a game-changer? If you know, then it become a design to cost problem. We may not be able to find way to meet the specification, but at least we would have a target.

        • I just wish the timing were a lot better. We need a solution now.

        • iu54 says:

          Can you specify what it would take for renewables to be a game-changer?

          4 unga bungas a trupence would do it! But only if the flosphering was delinerized.

          • Greg Machala says:

            First there is not such thing as renewable energy. But, if solar PV and wind turbines were a game-changing technology, they would have started displacing other sources of electricity many years ago and certainly by now if it were economic. We need an energy source right now that would be so cheap and so energy dense that it would be the obvious choice for any future supply of energy. For example, if one solar panel or about one square meter could power a modern SUV. That would be a game changer. Or, one wind turbine could power a city of 700,000 homes and business 24/7. That would be a game-changer. Or, a new liquid fuel was discovered that could directly replace gasoline in any current ICE car right now and cost 1/4 of what gas currently costs and had no C02 or other toxic emissions. That would be a game-changer.

            But, every year that goes by it is becoming glaringly obvious that there is no replacement for the energy in fossil fuels. We need that new energy source right now! It is so late in the game now that for any energy source to make a meaningful difference it would have to be a game-changing discovery. Something so obviously superior to fossil fuels that every major energy supplier would immediately switch to it.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “We need an energy source right now that would be so cheap and so energy dense”

              If you have cheap enough energy, you can make all the energy dense carbon neutral synthetic fuel you want,

              Re “right now” would 5 years be too long? Or ten, or even 20 years for it to completely replace fossil fuels?

            • Van Kent says:

              What would buy us more time, would be some sort of investment product for the big banks. Something to sell. By the trillions.

              Also we would need coal, NG and oil to burn, and some abundant cheap raw materials to build infrastructure on a huge scale. Or to make some new product a billion people couldn’t live without.

              But I’m not sure how many months that would buy us. The limits of our world are upon us in so many ways.

            • Greg Machala says:

              “Re “right now” would 5 years be too long? Or ten, or even 20 years for it to completely replace fossil fuels?” – That is precisely the problem! Our modern society in all its techno-splendor cannot completely replace fossil fuels. This techo-splendor was created with fossil fuels. So, it is designed to run on fossil fuels. So, any replacement has to drop right into place of fossil fuels. That means, we need, liquid, gaseous and solid fuels that can be burned directly to produce heat and make plastics and fertilizers. From my point of view, there is no technology or combination of technologies or discovery anywhere on the horizon that can ever completely replace fossil fuels without having to completely build up a whole new infrastructure. We need a drop-in replacement and we needed it 10 years ago.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “cannot completely replace fossil fuels”

              Of course it can. Energy is fungible. Take cement kilns. They can be fired with oil, coal, natural gas, wood chips, old tires, medical waste, and/or blood and bone meal. I have never heard of one being heated with electricity, if there were, Iceland would be the place, but the one there burns coal and waste oil. However, if electricity were cheap enough, it would not be hard to modify one to use electric power for heat.

              For liquid hydrocarbons that current vehicles would run on see for a cost analysis.

              The only serious use for coal (other than electric power production) is in blast furnaces for making pig iron. That’s fallen out of favor in competition with direct reduced iron sponge and arc furnaces to make the reduced iron into steel.

              If you want, give me a specific example of a fossil fuel use and I can show you how to substitute low cost electricity to do the same job, or a way to make a substitute fuel.

              It’s high school physics and chemistry. (Well, maybe AP physics and chemistry.)

            • Jarvis says:

              Keith , as a pilot I would be very interested in how you could replace diesel/jet fuel with substitutes that still make jet travel viable. I know Richard Branson tried and I think his failure was a consideration in him selling his airline. No proof mind you, just a smarter than average exec dumbing an asset that’s doomed to become valueless.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “replace diesel/jet fuel with substitutes that still make jet travel viable.”

              Based on energy cost to make hydrogen 2 MWh/bbl and the capital cost of F/T plants, synthetic hydrocarbons costs about $10 per bbl for capital and the cost of 2 MWh of power. So, at penny a kWh ($10/MWH) the cost of synthetic feed stock would be $30/bbl. 2 cents per kWh, $50/bbl, 3 cents $70/bbl. Planes were still flying when oil hit $120/bbl.

              We probably will not be making synthetic fuels before we have more power installed than the electrical base load. That’s around 15 years out from committing to build 15 TW of power satellites.

              Richard Branson (as far as I know) has never heard of power satellites. Even if he did, jet fuel is a long way down the path.

            • there is an ongoing fixation on ”travel” as if travel itself is effectively our core of ongoing survival and infinite prosperity. Cars, trucks, planes, trains—as long as we can travel, everything will be fine.

              hence the endless argument about different fuels that will enable travel to go on, is to miss the point.

              Travel, of itself, has to have a purpose, and in our current economic environment travel has 2 functions:

              1 Employment (this can include survival and warfare)
              2 Entertainment

              Remove those functions, and travel has no purpose.
              We commute 20 miles to “work”, because our place of employment is 20 miles away. If it is no longer there, then we will not make the journey. We drive 5 miles to a supermarket. If the supermarket isn’t there, we will no longer make that journey either.
              Same applies to holidays. Remove employment, and entertainment is wiped out instantly.
              So there will be no purpose to travel, other than that which can be made on foot.
              In past times only the very rich travelled, because they owned sufficient ‘horsepower’ to do so.
              Everyone else stayed put. The concept of ‘distant entertainment and employment’ did not exist.

              We forget that mass transport is little more than a century old. It is not “normal”– we just think it is because our collective living memory knows no other way of life now. This is why the argument about “fuel” goes on, rather than trying to figure out the fundamental purpose of transport itself.

              Infinite travel demand is the same as ‘infinite prosperity ‘ demand. It just isn’t going to happen.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” travel has 2 functions”

              I think you missed one, maintaining family bonds for scattered families.

              Travel is an indication we have more than the minimum amount of fuel for the really high priority things like growing food, transporting it, and things like the water supply. I have been in LA the last few days. Great place, but not without remote sources of food, water and energy.

            • nope—that comes under entertainment.

              We do that for pleasure, because we can

            • DJ says:

              You sound less insta in this post. If people stay put and do as little as possible all that is needed is transport of essentials.

            • NegativeBizarro says:

              “If you have cheap enough energy, you can make all the energy dense carbon neutral synthetic fuel you want, ”

              This is the mantra of the technology will save us ala free energy crowd.

              “For liquid hydrocarbons that current vehicles would run on see for a cost analysis.”

              The cost analysis you provide is based on using coal and a source of hydrogen. The hydrogen cost is not included in the cost analysis. I assume water is the source of the hydrogen.

              We have no real life cost analysis. What we have is some numbers that address only the bare start of a cost analysis.

              This preliminary imaginary proposal is then disguised with a misnomer or a acronym and then used as a foundation for more preliminary and unrealistic acronyms not a single one of which has feasibility. The stack up continues forming very large relationships between ideas not a single one of which is feasible.

              This is the hallmark of the free energy proponents. Usually any exploration of their claims incites anger. Keith is remarkably free of expressing anger and that is appreciated.

              What he is not free of is deception through the use of desirable outcome imagery. The term synthetic fuel is deceptive. His statements around them are deceptive. Both the term and his statements declare that energy can produce synthetic fuel.

              Two very finite components are used as its base components in the cost analysis he provides. Water and coal.

              Usually if it is pointed out to the free energy believers that their plan consumes a lot of finite resources references get made to even more imaginary sources of fuel like garbage. Then the dialogue ends. They wont discuss things with those who have “negative energy”. It is my belief if the idea was to have the tiniest bit of feasibility they would welcome constructive criticism. I have learned to find great value in constructive criticism from my peers.

              I have also seen much unhealthy use of deceptive imagery to hide unfeasible proposals. Acronyms and desirable imagery are generally used to hide the reality of a proposal. Things with cool sounding names that enable entitlement are very popular.

              “Synthetic” fuel not only ignores the base components it addresses none of the considerable resource requirements in peripherals alpha and beta testing and maintenance.

              I find it amazing that none of the free energy advocates acknowledge or seem to value a finite planet. I find it very sad.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “The hydrogen cost is not included”

              From that URL,

              “Per the above, the formula for costing synthetic fuel is ~$20 for capital and carbon plus $10 x cost of power in cents per kWh. The cost of power is important, 10 cents per kWh electric power could be used to make $120/bbl oil. $120/bbl oil refined into gasoline gives a cost of about $4 at the pump–which is about what gasoline cost in the summer of 2008 when oil was at $120/bbl.

              “If a plant can buy penny kWh electricity, then on an industrial scale it should make dollar a gallon synthetic gasoline out of coal. ”

              More cost analysis in the next section


              ” Both the term and his statements declare that energy can produce synthetic fuel. ”

              It’s been done. It’s just known chemistry. No magic at all to make hydrocarbons out of CO2 and hydrogen.

              “Two very finite components are used as its base components in the cost analysis he provides. Water and coal. ”

              The “carbon neutral” section discusses using water and CO2 instead of coal. Both are effectively unlimited since burning the synthetic fuel produced water and CO2. Think of it this way, carbon and hydrogen are being used as a convenient way to carry around energy. (It’s mostly the hydrogen, but hydrogen is a PITA to carry around so we combine combine it with carbon to make it easy do move..)

              “welcome constructive criticism”

              I do. It’s essential. I can go into the details of making synthetic fuel to any level you want. That’s not the hard part. Making really low cost electric power to feed into the process is. And then you start getting into deeply sticky parts like protecting the workers out in space from the galactic cosmic rays. Or the alternative of fully robotic assembly of thousands of power satellites.

              “free energy advocates”

              Not a “free energy advocate,” just cheap energy. Sunlight out in space is free, but you really have to watch the cost of the collectors and the cost of getting them out there, even if they are 100 times less massive than collecting on the surface.

            • “$120/bbl oil refined into gasoline gives a cost of about $4 at the pump–which is about what gasoline cost in the summer of 2008 when oil was at $120/bbl.”

              Is that an apples-apples comparison or apples-oranges? Does the $4 per gallon gasoline from synthetic include the profits and taxes? Or once road tax and corporate profits are added, is it closer to $8 per gallon? Price and Cost are two quite different things.

            • Greg Machala says:

              “If you want, give me a specific example of a fossil fuel use and I can show you how to substitute low cost electricity to do the same job, or a way to make a substitute fuel.” – We don’t have lost cost electricity in our future on any timescale that matters.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “We don’t have lost cost electricity in our future on any timescale that matters.”

              If we started tomorrow, the time scale to get completely off FF using power satellites is around 20 years, ten to build up to 1.5 or 2 TW/year and ten years at high construction rate.

              When are we going to start? The US, probably never, but the Chinese may have already started. It was a major surprise that they tested an EM drive in space. (I don’t believe the EM drive works, but if it does, it’s easy to convert it into an “unlimited energy from nowhere” power source.)

              Is 20 years too long a timescale?

            • “(I don’t believe the EM drive works, but if it does, it’s easy to convert it into an “unlimited energy from nowhere” power source.)”

              I don’t understand this thinking. The EM Drive is supposed to generate thrust without expelling any mass. It still consumes energy to generate that thrust, and any energy you harvest from it will be less than 100 percent? What am I missing? Also, it seems to be fairly inefficient at turning the input energy into thrust.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” What am I missing?”

              The power you can draw out of a moving object is the product of the force and the velocity.

              If the force is independent of the velocity, then at some velocity you can draw out more power than the power going into generating the force.

              In a thought experiment, mount the force generator on a friction free skateboard. Let it speed up enough, then lower a wheel connected to a generator and the generator will make more power than is going to the drive.

              I am not saying the EM drive or similar proposals don’t work, they might But if they do, it trashes our understanding of physics. One of the amusing the things I hear about is using the EM drive to move power satellites parts out to GEO. The existence of a reaction less drive would end the need for power satellites.

            • “Let it speed up enough, then lower a wheel connected to a generator and the generator will make more power than is going to the drive.”

              No, because the skateboard will slow down by an amount somewhat greater than the amount of energy the generator harvests.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “skateboard will slow down”

              Let’s see if I can make this clearer.

              The idea is not to slow down, but for the force from the drive to equal the force it takes to run the generator. The power available is force times the velocity. Force is measure in newtons, velocity in m/s. A force of 1 newton and a velocity of one m/s takes (or delivers) one joule per second or a watt. Let’s say the input to run the EM drive is a kW. If you don’t let the velocity go over a m/s, then the generator could produce 1 W at a constant speed of 1 m/s. Now speed it up to 10 m/s. For a constant force at 10 m/s, the output of the generator goes up 10 W. (This assumes that the force the drive produces is not affected by how fast it is moving.)

              At 100 m/s the generator could produce 100 W. At 1000 m/s the generator can make a kW. At 10,000 m/s the output would be 10 kW.

              Does that make sense to you?

              Not saying EM or other kinds of devices that convert power into force are not possible, reality is what we observe. But if something like the EM drive can be made, it will have profound effects on our understanding of physics. I.e., magic will be loose in the world.

            • I think you are confusing quantum mechanics with over unity. As soon as you apply a load, the vehicle will slow down. Like regenerative braking. If you have a 1 kW thruster and you have a generator applying 100 watts of resistance, the vehicle will only be accelerating with 900 watts of thrust. Also, the generator will be less than 100 percent efficient, so it will likely only be harvesting a net of, say, 50 watts with another 50 watts lost as waste heat.

              Also, in this example, we are in a perfect vacuum outside any gravitational influences. So the generator is a straight tube of infinite length and zero mass?

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “quantum mechanics”

              No quantum mechanics involved here.


              Steady state, no acceleration deceleration involved.

              “Also, in this example”

              This is a “thought experiment.” Like Einstein surfing a light wave in a streetcar and looking back at the town clock. The point here is to show the non-conservation of energy if you have a constant force and a variable velocity.

            • “No quantum mechanics involved here.”

              Are you still talking about the EM Drive? I’m pretty sure virtual particles popping into existence, providing mass and thrust, then once the energy is spilled off, popping back out of existence, is part of quantum mechanics.

              “The point here is to show the non-conservation of energy if you have a constant force and a variable velocity.”

              I think you are missing time in your thought experiment. If your payload is accelerated with a 1-kilowatt thruster for ten hours, it will have 10 kilowatts of kinetic energy added to it. If you turn on a generator to harvest 10 kilowatts of energy from the payload, it will come to a complete halt in one hour.

              You have to consume energy to generate the thrust in the first place, to keep accelerating the payload. In turn, the amount you are able to turn back into electricity on the other end will be some amount less than 100 percent.

              “Steady state, no acceleration deceleration involved.”

              You’ve lost me. The EM Drive (if it actually does anything) turns some amount of electricity, something like 1 kilowatt, into thrust, something like 20 milliwatts. Even if they make it 2000 times more efficient, it will still be turning 1 kilowatt of electricity into 400 watts of thrust, which you could then turn back into 100 watts of electricity if you wanted, I guess.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “400 watts of thrust”

              Sorry, you can’t measure thrust in watts. Wrong units, kind of like trying to measure your weight in miles per hour. The unit of force is newtons. The force needed to hold up a kg (2.2 pounds) on Earth is ~10 newtons (9.8 newtons to be within a percent).

              On a frictionless surface on Earth or out in space, a newton is the amount of force that accelerates a kg mass at 1 m/sec^2

              Energy is measured in joules.

              is equal to the energy transferred to (or work done on) an object when a force of one newton acts on that object in the direction of its motion through a distance of one metre (1 newton metre or N·m). It is also the energy dissipated as heat when an electric current of one ampere passes through a resistance of one ohm for one second.

              “One joule can also be defined as:


              “The work required to produce one watt of power for one second, or one “watt second” (W·s) (compare kilowatt hour – 3.6 megajoules). This relationship can be used to define the watt.”

              I wasn’t able to locate a quick study page on classical physics, but if you wonder around on the wiki pages starting from either of these you might find enough to understand the concepts.

              The general term for the relations in physics is

              “Many parameters and measurements in the physical sciences and engineering are expressed as a concrete number – a numerical quantity and a corresponding dimensional unit.”

              The trouble with EM drive is that it doesn’t make sense in dimensional analysis terms.

            • “Sorry, you can’t measure thrust in watts. Wrong units, kind of like trying to measure your weight in miles per hour.”

              The problem with you constantly switching between joules, newtons, watts, kilowatt hours is that you confused yourself and convinced yourself that somehow the EM Drive is an over-unity device that allows unlimited energy from nothing when I am quite sure this is not the case. It just takes in electricity and generates thrust, without losing mass.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “generates thrust”

              Does it generate constant thrust no matter what speed it is going? If it makes constant thrust does the power draw increase as it goes faster?

            • “Does it generate constant thrust no matter what speed it is going? If it makes constant thrust does the power draw increase as it goes faster?”

              I don’t think that becomes a problem until you start approaching relativistic speeds? If you are in space, for simplicity sake assuming outside all gravity and in a perfect vacuum, you should be able to keep accelerating at the same rate for the same amount of thrust, until you get to something like 90 percent of the speed of light.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              Do you think the kinetic energy of a moving object is describe by Ke = 1/2 mV^2

            • “In physics, the kinetic energy of an object is the energy that it possesses due to its motion.[1] It is defined as the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its stated velocity. Having gained this energy during its acceleration, the body maintains this kinetic energy unless its speed changes. The same amount of work is done by the body in decelerating from its current speed to a state of rest.
              In classical mechanics, the kinetic energy of a non-rotating object of mass m traveling at a speed v is {\displaystyle {\begin{smallmatrix}{\frac {1}{2}}mv^{2}\end{smallmatrix}}} {\begin{smallmatrix}{\frac {1}{2}}mv^{2}\end{smallmatrix}}. In relativistic mechanics, this is a good approximation only when v is much less than the speed of light.”

              Accelerating from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour takes the same amount of energy as accelerating from 100 to 200, 200 to 300, etc if you are in a frictionless environment. If you accelerate at rate X for 10 hours, then decelerate at a rate of 10X, you will come to a halt in 1 hour. The only exception is accelerating near the speed of light. I don’t know what happens when decelerating from near light speed.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              100 km/h is 100km/hr is 100*1000/3600 is around 27.8 m/s.

              By the formula you quoted above, the energy required to push a 1 kg mass from 0 to 27.8 m/s is 385.8 J.

              200 km/h is ~55.6 m/s, the energy needed to push a 1 kg mass from 0 to 55.6 m/s is 1543.2 J. From 100 to 200 km/h puts 3 times as much energy into the flying mass as it took to bring it up to 100 km/h

              Double the velocity and the kinetic energy goes up by 4 times, the square of the increase in velocity. This is why high speed car wrecks are such a mess.

              You are right about the time to speed up and stop being the same for the same force.


            • Yes, I got confused about changes in speed. I was focused more on the amount of invested energy versus the amount of energy you could get back out with a generator since you were saying that somehow the em drive would allow free energy.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “that somehow the em drive would allow free energy.”

              Do you remember how the horse power is defined? It’s a force x times a distance. Distance here is velocity x time. The amount of power it takes for conventional physics to do the same goes up with the velocity.

              At 100 km/h (27.8 m/s) the power required to maintain a conventional physics force of one newton on a one kg mass for one second would be 27.8 J/sec or 27.8 W.

              At 200 km/h (55.6 m/s) the power would be twice that or 55.6 J/sec or 55.6 W.

              At 2000 km/h the power a conventional system would need to generate a one newton force would be 556 W.

              At some point, a constant force and an every increasing velocity means that no matter how much power it takes for the EMDrive to generate force, at some velocity it will be increasing the energy of the vehicle faster than the input energy.

            • Edit: that should say 1 kilowatt of thrust for ten hours gives 10 kWh, not 10 kW.

            • NegativeBizarro says:

              “The “carbon neutral” section discusses using water and CO2 instead of coal. Both are effectively unlimited since burning the synthetic fuel produced water and CO2. Think of it this way, carbon and hydrogen are being used as a convenient way to carry around energy. (It’s mostly the hydrogen, but hydrogen is a PITA to carry around so we combine combine it with carbon to make it easy do move..)”

              The image you present is one of just stripping molecules off and putting them back on like legos. This is a very desirable and deceptive imagery.

              ” I can go into the details of making synthetic fuel to any level you want. ”

              Ill take you up on that.

              What is the source of the hydrogen?
              Is your proposal that we extract it from water?
              What amount of hydrogen in its raw form is needed to be collected per BTU of energy in finished product?
              What is the energy needed to collect the hydrogen?
              What is the energy input necessary to create the equipment to collect the hydrogen?
              What purity levels are needed for industrial scale process?
              What is the energy input needed to reach those purity levels?
              What is the energy input needed to create containers holding the hydrogen?
              What are the energy amounts needed to create all of the infrastructure for hydrogen collection and purification in total?
              What are the energy levels needed to maintain the equipment for all processes above?
              How fast does the equipment depreciate?
              What are the risks associated with the hydrogen collection purification?
              What level of loss is foreseen in infrastructure from explosive nature of hydrogen?

              What is the source of the carbon?
              Is your proposal that we extract it from atmosphere?
              What amount of carbon as collected in its raw form is needed to be collected per BTU of energy in finished product?
              What is the energy needed to collect the carbon?
              What is the energy input necessary to create the equipment to collect the carbon?
              What purity levels are needed for industrial scale process?
              What is the energy input needed to reach those purity levels?
              What is the energy input needed to create containers holding the carbon?
              What are the energy amounts needed to create all of the infrastructure for carbon collection and purification in total?
              How fast does the equipment depreciate?
              What are the energy levels needed to maintain the equipment for all processes above?

              Ok so now we have the raw materials

              What is the amount of energy that will be needed for the creation of carbon/hydrogen fuel per btu of finished product?
              What is the amount of energy needed to create the industrial plant that does so?
              What is the amount of energy needed to maintain the equipment to create the carbon/hydrogen fuel?
              How fast does the equipment depreciate?
              What level of loss of infrastructure is foreseen due to the explosive nature of hydrogen.

              This is only the first part of the energy usage you propose. Would you not agree these are common sense cost / risk analysis? Would you not agree that this beginning analysis needs to be done prior to advocating it let alone as interaction with even more dubious processes? I have by no means even began to cover known risk of your single hydrogen/carbon fuel production proposal. Unknown risk is significant. Would you not agree that as multiple dependent proposals are created with both known and unknown risk both known and unknown risks increase exponentially for the project as a whole?

            • you are hereby awarded the headbanging prize for December

              our bill for repairing the wall will follow shortly

            • hkeithhenson says:

              ” This is a very desirable and deceptive imagery.”

              It’s not deceptive at all. Am I to take it you have not had high school chemistry?


              Making electrolytic hydrogen is well understood industrial process. It’s not the main source of hydrogen since there are only a few places with really cheap electrical power.

              Try here: for most of your questions.

              BTU? kWh or MWh are more useful term.


              Which also covers the carbon out of the atmosphere.

              The electrical consumption is currently around 48 MWh/ton, expected to get down to 33 MWh/ton. The equipment lasts for many decades, and it not very expensive compared to the power it uses. Electrolytic hydrogen does not need purification, storage would probably be in old natural gas fields if it is needed. Hydrogen is used at something like 6 million tons per year, so it’s a well understood industrial gas.

              Carbon is from the atmosphere, and it’s very cheap compared to making the hydrogen. Look up “direct air capture.” Storage cost is minimal.

              As far as energy need to make synthetic oil from CO2 and hydrogen, it’s exothermic. I.e., you get some of the energy used to split water back out as steam. Look up for detail.

              There is no significant development risk involved since these plants already exist. They are not cheap, but the capital and maintenance cost contribution is around $10/bbl.

            • BizarroNegative says:

              “It’s not deceptive at all. Am I to take it you have not had high school chemistry?”

              If you say so. Perhaps you could actually answer the questions as you offered to instead of your elitist snobbery insults and providing Wikipedia links? As I said when the free energy crowd is questioned they turn mean. Does providing answers by providing Wikipedia links speak well of your knowledge?

              “Think of it this way, carbon and hydrogen are being used as a convenient way to carry around energy. (It’s mostly the hydrogen, but hydrogen is a PITA to carry around so we combine combine it with carbon to make it easy do move..)”

              What is the purpose of this statement?

              Notice the nonstandard english use of the pronoun “we”. You see this a lot with the free energy advocates. It is symbolic of the elitism of the free energy crowd. And other things.

              Your statements first and foremost an opportunity for you to play the role you so love combo yoda/sagan.

              Secondarily your statements purpose is a demand that I adopt a model of the process you are advocating it in a way that disregards all of the energy inputs necessary for it to happen. Your demand is that I disregard all common sense and embrace the abstract It is absolutely characteristic of all of your proposals. Your proposals demand an embracing of the abstract. Your proposals demand ignoring physical laws that are the basis of science. The abstract is formed into a reality in itself that is worshiped. That worship includes wanton disregard for what it takes for things to happen in the real world. Anyone who does not comply with the demand is characterized as ignorant or worse. Or worse includes all sorts of nasty things.

              These are the standard tools of the free energy crowd. Keith is very accomplished in their use as befits his rank within the crowd. His participation on this forum is a demonstration of rank. The complete ludicrousness of Keiths proposals in a forum dedicated to reason is a demonstration of rank and skill.

              You did not answer one of the questions I asked. Your offer to explain was not sincere. What you wanted to do was to be condescending and play yoda/sagan. You only answer questions that allow you to play yoda/sagan and continue your worship of the abstract. Questions that do not serve that those dual purposes are met with insults ignored or Wikipedia links.

              Nor is your assertion that you value peer review sincere. The questions I asked were very reasonable questions for a project to be successful. You will not entertain ideas that conflict with your tech/self/abstract worship. Rejecting perspectives that do not comply with a agenda is antithetical to constructive peer review,

              Every one of the words that you place serves only to serve tech/self’/abstract worship. You are very polished, You try to appear moderate but you are not. Your arguments serve an agenda. Your motives for posting here are unique. Your essence is one of a single focus. Nothing outside of that focus is respected or acknowledged.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “when the free energy crowd is questioned”

              Look, I am just trying to find what level you are able to cope with. Most of the answers to your questions you could answer yourself with a few minutes on Google. Some like the capital cost of a synthetic oil plant are by analogy with existing plants that do something very similar. Others don’t make a lot of sense like the cost for storing hydrogen. For the most part, we don’t store hydrogen, it’s made as it is used. However, because the hydrogen making systems go offline for repairs at times, there is a whole network of hydrogen pipelines running between refineries across the Southern US. If they have extra, they sell it to the pipeline, if the hydrogen making system is down, they draw from the pipeline. In refineries the hydrogen is (I think) mostly used to get sulfur out of diesel and gasoline

              I really don’t know what you mean by “free energy crowd.” I presume you are not talking about energy from nowhere implied by reactionless drives. Energy from power satellites, if they are ever built, will not be free. Cheap perhaps, but _NOT_ free. Even if the power satellite operators don’t pay for sunlight, the power satellites are going to cost ~$2.4 B/GW to get 3 cent per kWh power.

              “value peer review”

              Have you written a paper that went through peer review? If not, do you know what the reason for peer review is? It’s so you can trust what’s in the paper has been checked for reasonableness by someone who understands what you are talking about My last peer reviewed paper was for the 2016 IEEE SusTech conference. One of the peer review comments was:

              “I enjoyed reading your abstract and momentarily thought it was a bit on the weird side, but then appreciated you were offering quite a thought-provoking analysis of a novel solution to a topical problem.

              “You may wish to address this more clearly in your introduction so as to quickly gain and keep the reader’s attention.”

              Peer review comments are typically anonymous, but the person writing this is a graduate engineer in good standing with the IEEE. Do you have a degree in engineering or one of the physical sciences? From your repetitive questions I kind of doubt it, but let me suggest that you go through your list and pick out the top three questions you have.

              Or should I not feed the troll?

            • Tim Groves says:

              Perhaps you shouldn’t feed it any more, Keith. It’s appetite will only keep growing.

              For the record, I for one am interested in what you have to say about the possibilities for power satellites, even though I don’t have any questions on the subject at present. It takes be back to my youth misspent reading Asimov, Clark, Heinlein, Niven, et al. You make it all sound so doable. Whether it’s worth doing or not is a different question of course.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Whether it’s worth doing or not”

              You put your finger on the critical question. It’s unclear today, it might be worth it. But not too long ago it clearly was not. Back in 2009, Boeing did their last study of power satellites. It’s reported here:

              They came up with a cost of $145/W installed. That’s $145,000 per kW and when you divide that number by 80,000 (about the number of hours in ten years) you get $1.81 per kWh. You don’t need Gail’s skills to see this is way too high. It’s worse than PV and batteries. Most of the cost is from launching the parts into space.

              Does the current proposal of Skylon to LEO and beamed energy with arcjets from there up make economic sense? It *might*. At the traffic levels needed this method looks like it will get the cost down to around $200/kg to GEO. That’s a 100 to one reduction over the current cost to get comm sats to GEO, but the physics and economics looks like it will work.

              Now we get to secondary problems, like to we build the power satellites entirely with robots? Or can we keep a construction crew up there long term? That will take spinning the habitat for artificial gravity and 6 meters of shielding to keep the radiation down. If we go with people, the cost for living space for 400 people is up around $9 B. That would make it the most expensive company town ever considered.

    • iu54 says:

      ” my truck is normally parked five days a week with a 30-watt solar panel charging a 12-volt lead-acid deep-cycle battery (that battery also gets charged when I drive the truck, & a relay connects it to the alternator) — I get maybe a few dollars/year worth of grid power out of it, & the deep-cycle batteries last maybe about 1 year (it’s hard on a battery to keep running it way down like that, & re-charging it).”

      Something wrong with your system. Whats running it way down? A 30 watt pv with say a battery tender solar charge controller should give it normal life of 7 years. All you have to do is keep a trickle on it there is no load. Ive seen batteries going deep into the depletion zone (gate openers) last 5 years. Solar has its limitations but providing a dc trickle charge for a lead acid battery is not one of them.

    • Ert says:


      It will be indeed very interesting when Abu-Dhabi may realize that they should sell VW, since the fate of the vehicle industry is couples with their own…

      Sill – VW is to 20% owned by the state of Lower Saxony and approx 51% by the Porsche-Piech clan. In any case of a (hostile) take over – the Porsche-Piech clan had to sell at least part of their portfolio. If don’t think this is likely in the next years.

  31. Yorchichan says:

    Merry Christmas everybody,

    Thank you to all the regulars on OFW who make it such an entertaining and informative website. Thanks especially to our gracious host, Gail, whose insightful posts help me to understand the situation we are in.

    • yup

      a happy Christmas to one and all

      just ignore the sanity claus if only for today

      • Yorchichan says:

        I’m trying to stay off the doomer sites just for today, but it’s sooooooo difficult!

        • jeremy890 says:

          Merry Christmass. No Sir, I’m not an addict of DOOM….but Dancing with the Stars is another something that is another matter…

          Oh, almost forgot Fast Eddy, this ones for you…

          • Greg Machala says:

            HaHaHa…that’s great! Look at those well manicured faces, perfect hair and engineered clothing. The tools and resources to do that didn’t come from that jungle. It is funny how modern humans just stick out like sore thumbs in the wilderness. We looks like aliens on the landscape save for the few indigenous tribes of central and south America.

      • DJ says:

        Depletion never sleeps.

        • jeremy890 says:

          Entropy does in the dead state

          “When a well reaches a WOR (water oil ratio) of about 40 it is shut-in. That is irrespective of the price, or how much oil is remaining in the ground. Wells at a WOR of 40 are shut-in at $100/ barrel just like they are at $10. At a WOR of 40, wells are no longer economically viable “regardless of the price”. As we explain in our report, that is the point when they have reached the “dead state”. We demonstrate how a WOR of 40 is equivalent to an ERoEI of 6.9:1. The bottom of petroleum’s thermodynamic barrel.

          The bottom of the thermodynamic barrel is not the result of under capitalization, low NPV, low worker wages, or low ROA; it is the result of depletion. The others are effects, not causes. They come after; not before. Depletion results in the declining serviceability of an extractive resource commodity. It occurs to metal ores, it occurs to minerals, it is occurring to oil. In the case of oil it is the result of falling energy delivery. It is the point where oil can no longer supply enough energy to compensate for its cost of production. It becomes a losing proposition”


        • once a doomster always a doomster

          though i believe they are opening rehab clinics now

          trick is to get you off doomstering before it actually happens

          • Tango Oscar says:

            Yes, that way when an instant collapse scenario happens you will just wander around Wal-Mart for an hour, watching everyone pull the last cans of beans from the shelves and wondering to yourself why everyone is in such a hurry.

    • Merry Christmas to all!

    • MG says:

      Merry Christmas to all of you! The sun is rising higher and higher again after all these gloomy and doomy days in the Northern Hemisphere…

      • Lastcall says:

        Hey hey hey some of us are just getting into the swing of summer down here under the equator so don’t take that away from us too soon!

        Been a mixed bag of weather up to now but our traditional summer bbq’s for xmas are doing fine and the credit cards are overheating with the post-xmas sales.

        Anyway hopefully we still here (OFW) to enjoy next xmas.

        Thanks Gail for being one of my top 3 equal ‘must go to’ places on the net!

        PS Bring back Eddie-is a ransom required?!

  32. dolph says:

    Think of the system like an obese person. What you guys are arguing is that there is coronary atherosclerosis, and this is likely to cause a heart attack which will instantly kill the person.
    This is an incorrect model. Yes, there are triggers, but we clearly see that there is no circulatory collapse as long as there are producers/consumers in the economy, as well as monetary exchange. The heart never stops beating.
    The more correct model is starvation. At first it will be difficult, yes, but losing food (energy), the obese person will lose weight and the atherosclerosis will clear. There will in fact be periods of improvement and efficiency.
    Still, the starvation continues, and eventually the obese person will become emaciated and die.
    What none of us knows is how the different components of the body react to the ongoing starvation, which admittedly none of us can predict, but none of these are likely to kill the body instantly, as everything is met by the system in a reactionary way to preserve it.

    • kesar0 says:

      Although I understand the biological metaphor, I don’t agree with slow dying scenario.
      There are points of bifurcation in societal behaviour, where the system breaks.

      Either the impoverished/indebted/slavery masses organize to eliminate elites and exchange them for newer ones with different ideas portfolio (which is usually called revolution)
      the elites not able to keep the BAU working decide to find internal/external enemies (which is usually called war).
      At one point the system starts to disintegrate. The costs of the BAU are rising (healthcare, pensions, insurance, financial system, energy system) and return is diving. Red Queen syndrom.
      We’ve seen these type of scenarios multiple times in history. Are we living in this unstable period? I would say, yes. Within 10-15 years the system must change and it won’t be very pretty. Wars and revolutions are very costly in terms of resources. Less will be for the masses and the feedback loop will do the rest.

    • Yoshua says:

      The obese patient isn’t laying in a bed at a hospital, he is out running a marathon. His lungs are being filled with water and he is now coughing up blood.

      There are some talk now that the high pressure on oil producers to keep up high production levels has caused reservoir damages among OPEC producers in the Middle East.