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The Energy Trap

How to save energy through both societal and individual actions.

The Energy Trap

Unread postby ralfy » Wed 19 Oct 2011, 03:39:42

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/201 ... ergy-trap/

Discusses the up-front cost together with EROEI for replacement energy sources.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby ritter » Wed 19 Oct 2011, 11:34:06

Nice article. Thanks for posting it.

It confirms my suspicions that transition to a new energy paradigm will be painful.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby Oakley » Wed 19 Oct 2011, 13:30:07

And with government pissing away huge amounts of energy in wars to maintain the US empire, we will only arrive sooner at the point of no return.

The time to have used energy to build assets that capture renewable energy was when we were expanding our use of fossil fuels. Once the decline begins, it is too late, especially given that most of the renewable sources are low EROEI; it is probably too late even now as we are in the pre-decline plateau.

It will take a huge new source of energy to maintain the current population levels, much less provide for the built in population growth inherent in the current population mix and rate of breeding. Is that huge new source out there?

Those who talk about relocalization and kinder, more gentle methods of food production fall into the same energy trap problem. It takes energy to retool our lifestyles to survive at lower per capita energy consumption levels. It takes energy to shift from the corporate agribusiness model of food production and industrialized living to the small scale, localized model. The proof of this is that most people cannot today afford to acquire the land and tools necessary, even if they divert most of the energy (money) they use today to survive into these acquisitions. The energy trap effectively is a trap that keeps us where we are both figuratively and literally in a declining standard of living, until such time as just like a trapped beaver, the trapper comes to put us out of our misery. The future is bleak for the majority, simply because declining energy production cannot support the current lifestyle and will not allow a shift to a new lifestyle. For the few who can make the transition now, the long term rewards will be huge.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby Pops » Wed 19 Oct 2011, 16:17:51

Thanks Ralfy.

As I commented on the blog, we're already past the point where massive transition would be as painless as the author describes. That's right, painless.

The fact is we in the rich world have already dropped consumption by 6% or 8%. Whether that is the result or the cause of the economic problems we face today doesn't matter because we can see the effects either way. The era of conventional oil seems to be over. It's been 10 years now since we've been close to the long term average price of oil at $33

Really this is the whole nut wad is it not? It ties in perfectly with the "Wedge" of economic breathing space, it just doesn't matter that much if it's "Possible" for renewables to provide 100% if there is no gumption to make the transition, no spare capacity to fuel the change and no profit motive to drive the investment when the economy and energy demand is in fact contracting.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby Pops » Tue 21 Dec 2021, 16:35:34

Resurrecting this dude after 10 years lost in the wilderness. I'm seeing the signs everywhere.

The energy trap in a nutshell happens at the point oil production begins decline, prompting a massive effort to transition to renewables. The "trap" is that transitioning itself is a hugely energy-intensive endeavor that will create massive short-term fossil energy demand even as it tries to eliminate it long term. So not only will fossil energy be in shorter supply because of decline, but transitioning will reduce available supply even more——the price of fossils will rise even higher than it would have and spineless (bought) politicians will take the opportunity to demagogue the crisis and fight transition tooth and nail in the name of "cheap gasoline."

At this point, peak has not, to a certainty, occurred. In fact I think likely not. Hard to know this soon after the last peak in 2018, what with pandemic shutdowns, massive money giveaways, amazing unemployment numbers then a retail binge to beat them all, etc, etc. But we do have a shortfall causing high price which is a good stand-in for PO in the short run.

GW is not PO, but it is likewise a suitable stand-in. Even more importantly, the GW threat provides the best mitigation for peak oil we will ever get. Most efforts to reduce "CO2" likewise mitigate PO. The psych difference of course is that PO implies a natural limit, an impingement on our techno-liberty godhead—just ask any corny here and they will tell you that "they" will think of something.

GW soldiers on the other hand, relish their god-likeness, their magnanimity, their concern for and stewardship of nature. Speaking of god, If I were a believer I would think god sent GW to us because we're too stupid to do anything about peak otherwise.

So, whatever, I'll take all the self-aggrandizing anti-carbon, green gobbledygook the environmentalists spout into facebook because otherwise there will be zero effort to transition and we'd be sitting on our half-built windmills wondering where the truck is.

Biden is trying hard to push through a big spending package that includes lots of stuff to combat GW. But at the same time he knows high gas prices will end his presidency so he is leasing faster than trump, releasing the SPR, begging KSA, etc. He knows that his GW agenda depends on the appearance of energy plenty, not energy want, just ask Jimmy C. we don't do conservation. Whether Biden is a peaker or just a poser, being a GW warrior is the best we will ever get.

But here is something that Murphy, insightful that he is, didn't think of: because of GW there is a faction of Ds who think we should DEFUND oil first, even before we start serious work on transition. They have had some success in convincing institutional investors to cut off funding to oil and corps to brag on their carbon "neutrality."

I hate to say I'm smarter than other people but it is very shortsighted to think defunding oil will do anything but make transition even more expensive than it otherwise will be—even without PO. I put them in the same pile as the right-wingers who think god gave them diesels so the could roll coal on Priuses (Priusi) or beat on Joe Biden. Shortsighted, blinded by ideology and FOX propaganda.


Both extremes are lining up against transition, springing the trap that can kill it in the cradle

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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby AdamB » Tue 21 Dec 2021, 22:32:33

Pops wrote:Resurrecting this dude after 10 years lost in the wilderness. I'm seeing the signs everywhere.

The energy trap in a nutshell happens at the point oil production begins decline, prompting a massive effort to transition to renewables. The "trap" is that transitioning itself is a hugely energy-intensive endeavor that will create massive short-term fossil energy demand even as it tries to eliminate it long term. So not only will fossil energy be in shorter supply because of decline, but transitioning will reduce available supply even more——the price of fossils will rise even higher than it would have and spineless (bought) politicians will take the opportunity to demagogue the crisis and fight transition tooth and nail in the name of "cheap gasoline."


Tom's angle in the article quoted is one of EROEI primarily. EROEI didn't work when it was brought out to fight the rearguard action for oil production continuing to increase in the face of a CLAIMED decreasing EROEI, talking about it some more is fine, but if it was the real deal, it would have worked when Tom claimed it a decade ago.

An energy intensive transition makes perfect sense. Good thing I said "energy" and not hydrocarbon any oil and gas or sunlight or fission or hydrates or biogenic gas or fusion or biomass or coal or wind or solar or tides or any particular form. And thusly is the same problem revealed for those who argue EROEI. They miss the absolute fact that not all BTUs are created equal in form and usability, nor do they cost the same.

Physicists really don't like bringing even basic economics into an argument, and you can't blame them. It is just so...icky.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby Pops » Wed 22 Dec 2021, 10:25:57

AdamB wrote:Tom's angle in the article quoted is one of EROEI primarily..

The idea isn't hard, to transition costs energy thus making energy more expensive during a transition.
Typical result is popular resistance to transition

EROEI is fodder for endless boundary debates and zero public interest, I don't pay much attention.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby AdamB » Wed 22 Dec 2021, 11:00:39

Pops wrote:
AdamB wrote:Tom's angle in the article quoted is one of EROEI primarily..

The idea isn't hard, to transition costs energy thus making energy more expensive during a transition.
Typical result is popular resistance to transition


Sure, I agree. And all because of price. No need for scarcity or EROEI arguments to be involved at all.

Pops wrote:EROEI is fodder for endless boundary debates and zero public interest, I don't pay much attention.


Sounds about right for the value of it.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby Doly » Wed 22 Dec 2021, 16:07:38

The article matches (roughly) my own estimates. When I did my tweak on the LTG model, I included EROEI because it turned out to be the best explanation for why we have changed from one energy source to another in the past. And in a "business as usual" scenario, there is indeed an energy trap to transition to renewables. The good news (if you want to call it that) is that in a "push for renewables" scenario, where policy decisions are made to use more renewables, a transition is quite doable, though definitely not painless.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby Newfie » Wed 22 Dec 2021, 16:58:13

Pops

Thanks for posting that.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby AdamB » Wed 22 Dec 2021, 17:07:36

Doly wrote:When I did my tweak on the LTG model, I included EROEI because it turned out to be the best explanation for why we have changed from one energy source to another in the past.


Would this statement also cover a transition from the nasty non-renewables to the nuclear age? It seems to me that the natural movement from lower to higher energy density fuels (energy density not being the same as EROEI of course) through time doesn't just stop at the wood to coal to oil boundary, but can continue right along to the next step of the fissionable. Hubbert's idea of 1956 of course.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby EnergyUnlimited » Thu 23 Dec 2021, 15:15:15

Pops wrote:The energy trap in a nutshell happens at the point oil production begins decline, prompting a massive effort to transition to renewables. The "trap" is that transitioning itself is a hugely energy-intensive endeavor that will create massive short-term fossil energy demand even as it tries to eliminate it long term. So not only will fossil energy be in shorter supply because of decline, but transitioning will reduce available supply even more——the price of fossils will rise even higher than it would have and spineless (bought) politicians will take the opportunity to demagogue the crisis and fight transition tooth and nail in the name of "cheap gasoline."

And yet Germany is closing its nuke plants right now, despite of current huge spikes of electricity prices, what is actually discussed here:
https://peakoil.com/publicpolicy/german ... experiment

There are 2 main possibilities:

1. Germans want to decommission these plants while they still have economic means to do it safely.

2. It is one of many facets of suicide of the West - one of many aspects of catastrophic financial, economic, social, military and industrial policies leading to apoptosis of the West as a whole.
And no - this is not a powerdown. It is suicide.
I am truly amused while observing it.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby Newfie » Thu 23 Dec 2021, 16:44:03

“Suicide of the West”? Has also crossed my mind.

Not for all but for some.

And yet there are many ways to commit suicide. 8O
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby Pops » Thu 23 Dec 2021, 19:07:15

I don't know what is going on in Germany, they're shutting nukes down out of fear?
In the US we pretty well did the same.
Frankly I don't pay much attention to nukes because they are a moot point, I'd be surprised if they make a reappearance in my lifetime.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby AdamB » Fri 24 Dec 2021, 00:24:07

Pops wrote:I don't know what is going on in Germany, they're shutting nukes down out of fear?


It was a choice, and is still a popular one apparently.

When energy poverty is a choice, and planned poorly, and the folks who thought it was a good idea are faced with the consequences of that choice, it strikes me as a preview for the First World, as they try (or at least claim to try) to solve the same puzzle. Without all losing their jobs, the single most important thing to politicians.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby EnergyUnlimited » Fri 24 Dec 2021, 10:10:37

AdamB wrote:
Pops wrote:I don't know what is going on in Germany, they're shutting nukes down out of fear?


It was a choice, and is still a popular one apparently.

To a degree it was fear as this motion have gained momentum as a result of events in Fukushima.

When energy poverty is a choice, and planned poorly, and the folks who thought it was a good idea are faced with the consequences of that choice, it strikes me as a preview for the First World, as they try (or at least claim to try) to solve the same puzzle. Without all losing their jobs, the single most important thing to politicians.

They will proceed base on this choice, face consequences and attempt o reverse it at some point but system inertia will finish the job anyway because industrial capacity required for backtracking is no longer going to be there and impossible to rebuild due to resource depletion and fierce competition for whatever is left.

So Chinese will enjoy continuous civilization and West will go back to caves with electricity and high tech services left mainly for few rich.
But it *is* a choice, not an unmitigable collapse - at least for a time being.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby Pops » Fri 24 Dec 2021, 10:30:52

The good news, and the longer view is, first world consumption plateaued 50 years ago with the US conventional peak and the transfer of market control from TRRC to OPEC. We've been transitioning since and have survived so far. Going waaaay back to when I was born in the 50s, we were using a third less energy as today, per capita. 1957 was close but not quite the dark ages to begin with and everything today is much more efficient to boot. We can easily make it there.

Image

Image
An interesting study about transition...

As I sit here in the diode-glow of a petroleum based replica tree, it feels like The Great Resignation, emptying cities and the return of the thing the Luddite's rioted for—home-based work— are all good omens. The best path is voluntary conservation, ZPG, negotiating our lifestyle down to the point it can be floated in a bathtub of biomass moonshine warmed by a big, south-facing window.

Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice

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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby AdamB » Fri 24 Dec 2021, 10:45:00

EnergyUnlimited wrote:They will proceed base on this choice, face consequences and attempt o reverse it at some point but system inertia will finish the job anyway because industrial capacity required for backtracking is no longer going to be there and impossible to rebuild due to resource depletion and fierce competition for whatever is left.


Sure...and that has been the claim since peak oil was supposed to have kicked it off. If there is one thing we have learned for certain since then, it is that "depletion" hasn't shown up as expected, in terms of when, or how much. And neither of those things appears any closer to being known now, then they were all the other times they were called into play in the present.

As a practical concept the entire idea in a closed system makes perfect sense. In a closed system, use of a thing arrives, sometime, at an end. With mankind's robotic miners already sampling the resources available outside that closed system, there can be no reasonable assumption that the current closed system is all that is available, depletion wise.
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Re: The Energy Trap

Unread postby EnergyUnlimited » Fri 24 Dec 2021, 11:47:42

AdamB wrote:As a practical concept the entire idea in a closed system makes perfect sense. In a closed system, use of a thing arrives, sometime, at an end. With mankind's robotic miners already sampling the resources available outside that closed system, there can be no reasonable assumption that the current closed system is all that is available, depletion wise.

At the moment it cost $ billions to bring a small sample of material from outside of Earth gravity well.
Energy price of climbing this well will keep it that way.
Energy price of slowing down brought things to prevent them burning upon descent will double check on it.
For all practical purposes system *is* closed.
To believe otherwise is delusional.
And no, Elon Musk is not going to build mines on Moon, let alone Mars.
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