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PeakOil is You

PeakOil is You

The Myth of energy and GDP

Discussions about the economic and financial ramifications of PEAK OIL

Unread postby Ludi » Tue 19 Apr 2005, 20:31:25

JohnDenver wrote:In terms of oil use per capita in the US, I think efficiency gains as large as 50% could be achieved in a period of 5 years if people set their minds to it.


Do you believe this is likely? Do you believe everyone will agree to set their minds to such a thing?
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Unread postby JohnDenver » Tue 19 Apr 2005, 21:08:52

Ludi wrote:
JohnDenver wrote:In terms of oil use per capita in the US, I think efficiency gains as large as 50% could be achieved in a period of 5 years if people set their minds to it.


Do you believe this is likely? Do you believe everyone will agree to set their minds to such a thing?


I think it will happen as autonomous process, just like it does in nature. When the stress of a limiting resource is applied, the growth of the most dependent species is retarded, and this opens up the niche to less dependent species which are more complex, but also more efficient users of the limiting resource. The resources which the dependent, dying species was consuming are freed up, and can be used to fuel the growth of the less dependent successor species.

You don't have to agree with the process. It's just a choice. But if you choose to be dependent on the limiting resource (oil), you'll be punished, and your nimble, less-dependent competitor will steal your cheese!
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Unread postby tokyo_to_motueka » Tue 19 Apr 2005, 21:24:21

i would certainly agree with JD that if you don't adapt post-peak to less oil use you will find yourself in trouble. so in this sense people in the US will have an incentive to become less oil-dependent.

but will MOST people do this willingly? (cf. Dick Cheney "our way of life is not negotiable")

and either way, these adaptations are not going to lead to economic growth. not possible if you are consciously "powering down".
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Unread postby JohnDenver » Tue 19 Apr 2005, 21:54:54

tokyo_to_motueka wrote:i would certainly agree with JD that if you don't adapt post-peak to less oil use you will find yourself in trouble. so in this sense people in the US will have an incentive to become less oil-dependent.

but will MOST people do this willingly? (cf. Dick Cheney "our way of life is not negotiable")


It is very negotiable if Dick Cheney can't get the price down.

and either way, these adaptations are not going to lead to economic growth.


They will lead to powerful economic growth in sectors which can function on (say) electricity. Why? Because the oil-dependent locations and systems will be dumping all their money into oil, and this will profoundly reduce consumption of their other inputs (including electricity). If they have competitors who can function on electricity rather than oil, those competitors can now purchase the freed up inputs at lower prices, and steal the unoccupied niche. It's a lot easier to expand market share when your competitors are withering away.

not possible if you are consciously "powering down".


Who's going to be consciously powering down? The oil-efficient industries will be growing into the vacuum left by the dead oil-dependent industries. It's a metamorphic process. Something is dying, and something is growing, in the same space.
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Unread postby johnmarkos » Tue 19 Apr 2005, 22:26:20

MonteQuest wrote:No, it means that through efficiency gains you can produce more product with less energy and achieve growth in GDP because of waste. If we were 100% efficient, or had maximized efficiency, then you would have to increase energy use to grow GDP.

We don't need to become 100% efficient. We just need to become efficient enough so that we can get by on renewables.
This isn't a decoupling, just a short-term fix. In the future, do you think the only economy we will have is people producing services that require no energy? The number one consumer of energy is the military. 8O Can we improve efficiency by roughly 8% every year (5% for decline and 3% for growth) every year during the transition to renewables? Get real!

I don't know what the maximum annual efficiency gain for the entire economy is but it could probably be quantified. In some places dramatic, immediate gains are possible.
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Unread postby jato » Tue 19 Apr 2005, 22:32:06

We don't need to become 100% efficient. We just need to become efficient enough so that we can get by on renewables.


So renewables can take the place of fossil fuels? WTF?
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Unread postby MonteQuest » Tue 19 Apr 2005, 22:40:10

JohnDenver wrote:
I think it will happen as autonomous process, just like it does in nature. When the stress of a limiting resource is applied, the growth of the most dependent species is retarded, and this opens up the niche to less dependent species which are more complex, but also more efficient users of the limiting resource. The resources which the dependent, dying species was consuming are freed up, and can be used to fuel the growth of the less dependent successor species.

You don't have to agree with the process. It's just a choice. But if you choose to be dependent on the limiting resource (oil), you'll be punished, and your nimble, less-dependent competitor will steal your cheese!


John, you have embraced some new facts without understanding the big picture. Ecological succession is a force of nature. It is the observed process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time. In other words, ecological succession is a change over time of what is living in any given ecological system.

Any disturbed ecosystem will immediately begin a process of ecological succession. For example, look at our agriculture. We must expend a huge cost in terms of time, fuel, herbicides and pesticides every growing season because of the force of ecological succession trying to turn our “garden” into a weed patch.

This weed patch is the start of an ecological succession that culminates in a "climax" community, usually a forest. The apparent species structure and composition will not appreciably change over observable time .This forest may stay stable until such time as a disruptive force like a fire re-starts the succession process. The fires in Yellowstone, where I worked as a ranger, brought new life and diversity to the ecosystem. This image shows the ecological succession of a pond.

.Image


William Catton wrote:Crash can be thought of as an abrupt instance of "succession with no apparent successor." As in ordinary succession, the biotic community has changed its habitat by using it, and has become (much) less viable in the changed environment. If, after the crash, the environment can recover from the resource depletion inflicted by an irrupting species, then a new increase of numbers may occur and make that species "its own successor." Hence there are cycles of irruption and die-off (among species as different as rodents, insects, algae). Our own species' uniqueness cannot be counted upon as protection. Moreover, some of the resources we use cannot recover.

Nature treated human beings as winemakers treat the yeast cells, by endowing our world (especially Europe's New World) with abundant but exhaustible resources. People promptly responded to this circumstance as the yeast cells respond to the conditions they find when put into the wine vat.

When the earth's deposits of fossil fuels and mineral resources were being laid down, Homo sapiens had not yet been prepared by evolution to take advantage of them. As soon as technology made it possible for mankind to do so, people eagerly (and without foreseeing the ultimate consequences) shifted to a high-energy way of life. Man became, in effect, a detritovore, Homo colossus. Our species bloomed, and now we must expect crash (of some sort) as the natural sequel. What form our crash may take remains to be considered…

Such total exploitation of an ecosystem by one dominant species has seldom happened, except among species which bloom and crash…It was thus becoming apparent that nature must, in the not far distant future, institute bankruptcy proceedings against industrial civilization, and perhaps against the standing crop of human flesh, just as nature had done many times to other detritus-consuming species following their exuberant expansion in response to the savings deposits their ecosystems had accumulated before they got the opportunity to begin the drawdown.


Liebig’s Law is about what determines the carrying capacity of an environment. It does not determine whether the result will be collapse or ecological succession. Dominant exploitation of an ecosystem by one species has always ended with a bloom and then a die-off. We will be our own successor following the die-off.

Oh, and John, it is not a choice once we are in overshoot, which we are. We were already in overshoot when we first learned we had a choice, and by then it was too late. The sequel to overshoot is a dieoff, which may take decades. We don't know the rate and magnitude, just it's certainty
Last edited by MonteQuest on Tue 19 Apr 2005, 22:50:28, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby MonteQuest » Tue 19 Apr 2005, 22:47:03

johnmarkos wrote:
MonteQuest wrote:No, it means that through efficiency gains you can produce more product with less energy and achieve growth in GDP because of waste. If we were 100% efficient, or had maximized efficiency, then you would have to increase energy use to grow GDP.

We don't need to become 100% efficient. We just need to become efficient enough so that we can get by on renewables.
This isn't a decoupling, just a short-term fix. In the future, do you think the only economy we will have is people producing services that require no energy? The number one consumer of energy is the military. 8O Can we improve efficiency by roughly 8% every year (5% for decline and 3% for growth) every year during the transition to renewables? Get real!

I don't know what the maximum annual efficiency gain for the entire economy is but it could probably be quantified. In some places dramatic, immediate gains are possible.


I'm not sure where you are going with this, but if anyone thinks we can become as efficient as a barrel of oil, then they don't understand the first thing about energy. There is no energy/matter equivalent for oil, never will be. It has given us a phantom carrying capacity that we can't replace, ever...not at this population level of demand.
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Unread postby johnmarkos » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 00:19:15

MonteQuest wrote:I'm not sure where you are going with this, but if anyone thinks we can become as efficient as a barrel of oil, then they don't understand the first thing about energy.

I think you're talking about yield (EPR or EROEI) whereas I'm talking about efficiency in energy use: that is, the productivity of the energy we already have irrespective of its source.
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Unread postby JohnDenver » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 01:13:05

MonteQuest wrote:Oh, and John, it is not a choice once we are in overshoot, which we are.


I strongly disagree. Even a simple calculation shows that the U.S. produces way more food, shelter and clothing than is necessary for its inhabitants to live healthy lives.

I know you subscribe to the work of David and Marcia Pimental, and they have written:

"With a self-sustaining solar energy system replacing our current dependence on fossil energy, the energy availability would be one-fifth to one-half the current level. Then if the U.S. population remained at its present level of 246 million, a significant reduction in our current standard of living would follow..."

So they suggest that our overshoot and collapse will only lead to a lowered standard of living, not mass death. Probably a billion people or more could be supported by the U.S. at a lowered standard of living.

Also, I do not agree that an 80% drop in per capita energy consumption by U.S. residents would necessarily lower their standard of living. I can easily imagine a U.S. without (for example) cars, where people enjoy most if not all of the electrical comforts they enjoy today. Cars are a luxury, not a necessity. The need for them can be eliminated with good design practices.

The Pimentals also have this to say:

"On the positive side, however, we do have sufficient fossil energy, especially coal, to help us make the needed transition in energy resources and population numbers over the next century, if we manage the environmental impacts."
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Unread postby Mercani » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 03:43:35

montequest wrote:
This isn't a decoupling, just a short-term fix. In the future, do you think the only economy we will have is people producing services that require no energy? The number one consumer of energy is the military. Can we improve efficiency by roughly 8% every year (5% for decline and 3% for growth) every year during the transition to renewables? Get real!



In your calculation you asume that we will not try to replace some of oil by renewables. How is this reasonable? Do you think we will switch to renewables instantly at some future date? It is a continous process. Oil declines, efficiency increases, renewables increase.

Europe has already started conversion to renewables. I acknowledge that it is not enough. But it can be prioritized once the idea of "peak oil" sinks in the minds of people.

Therefore,

1- In the short term (1-15 years after peak), we can continue to increase GDP by efficieny gains and some new power producing capacity(nuclear, coal, hydro) while we are still using the remaining oil.

2- In the medium term (15-50 years after peak) almost all of energy capacity could be renewables and nuclear.

3- In the long term (50+ years after peak) the population starts to stabilize at some point.
Here many options:
3a. Continue growing slowly by additional energy capacity
3b. Get rid of the idea of growth
3c. Start population decline(not die-off), growth can be zero or negative but still per capita income would be increasing
3d. Start colonizing space


As you see, there is nothing certain about a die-off or economic collapse. I still expect an economic depression not mainly due to peak-oil, but due to imbalances in global economy(huge trade and budget deficits of US, near-zero savings rate, export-dependent economies of Asia)
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Unread postby Licho » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 04:11:14

Actualyl Wildwell was right about sweden. Sweden had decreasing energy use from 1985 till 1993, while GDP is growing. Many countries have had such periods.
This is energy in my country..
http://earthtrends.wri.org/pdf_library/ ... ou_203.pdf

Total energy consumption declined by 25% since 1970 while GDP doubled and fossil fuels share has been reduced.

Even USA is doubling GDP over last 30 years with almost no growth in per capita energy use.
http://earthtrends.wri.org/pdf_library/ ... ou_840.pdf
(Note that 42% of USA energy consumption goes to transportation and 1% to agriculture... )
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Unread postby Wildwell » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 04:43:12

http://www.chris-longhurst.com/supersize.html

Quote

'I live in amazement at how energy-unconscious a lot of Americans are. The generation-X'ers aren't so bad, and well educated, well-informed people are just fine. But there is an underlying core of people, mostly in the pro-Bush "red" (ie. dumb) states, who don't understand that it's totally unreasonable to leave 3 TVs on all day, even when you're not at home, with the a/c set to 84°F in the winter and 60°F in the summer. We bought a house here and as part of the buying process, we asked to see the energy bills from the previous year. They weren't too bad - a little high I thought but do-able. A year on, I compared our energy bills for the same house. On gas, we were spending about half as much despite having had a gas water heater put in. On electric, about a third as much and on water, less than a quarter as much. This was for the same house! I'm at a loss to explain how the previous owners managed to burn over twice as much gas, use three times as much electricity and four times as much water.

Well not so much of a loss. For example, our garden has a pair of floodlights to illuminate it at night. Looks pretty and has a nice safety aspect. When we bought the house, there were two 400watt bulbs out there. I swapped them for low-energy bulbs rated at 19watts each and the light output is the same. From 800watts to 38watts. Lights are on for an average of 7 hours a night - longer in the winter, shorter in the summer. So we're down from 5.6Kw a night to 266w a night. Add it up, those floodlights alone save us 1.9Megawatts of power a year.

One thing I cannot understand though is Detroit's inability to grasp the concept of a fuel-efficient car. Or for that matter, a car that handles well. How is it that Japanese and European cars have better handling, and more power from smaller, more fuel-efficient engines than just about anything that the American manufacturers can produce? I know it's to do with energy costs and prevailing economies, and in Europe and Japan, the high cost of fuel necessitates great cars. But can't we have just one Ford or Chevy that handles well and has an engine that works? Just one? While Honda and the like are going headlong into multi-fuel and hybrid engines, Detroit continues to churn out massive SUVs with gloriously underpowered, inefficient engines. "The most powerful car on the planet" one commercial proclaims. Strange. There's 12 cars made in Europe right now that are more powerful than this particular one. Apparently Europe isn't on the planet though. It's all very amusing.

Then there's the Hummer, a military vehicle which was softened up (only slightly) for the public. That spawned the H2 which is in fact a GM Yukon with a clever body kit and some suspension and drivetrain mods. It is most definitely not a military vehicle. Both Hummers look ridiculous, have laughable single-digit fuel economy figures, heart-stopping insurance rates, and are so grossly oversized and impractical than whenever I see one driving around, all pimped out and posing, it just makes me laugh. I'm sure the intention is for people to stop in awe and point and stare. However, the overriding impracticality and sheer expense of these behemoths just makes me think "well the dealer saw you coming a mile away."'

And people can't become less energy intensive in the states?
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Unread postby jato » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 05:10:19

Even USA is doubling GDP over last 30 years with almost no growth in per capita energy use.


Sure...that one is easy...who is going to have a greater GDP given the same energy consumption per capita?

country A with 10 million people

or

country B with 300 million people.


Of course, country B would need to use way more energy than A.
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Unread postby Licho » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 05:15:52

Actually Jato USA has higher GDP per unit of energy. I don't see how size of country relates to it anyway..
USA has more energy efficient economy than most of eastern europe. Less efficient than western europe.
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Unread postby jato » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 05:46:33

Even USA is doubling GDP over last 30 years with almost no growth in per capita energy use.


Population increase will increase GDP given same per capita energy use.
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Unread postby Wildwell » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 06:25:32

I think the time is coming where people will have to get a licence to have children, they will need to prove they are responsible parents and have the money to bring them up. For some reason poor, uneducated people like breeding. Controversial stuff I know, but China already has a one child policy, so that would be the alternative.

Immigration has to be the other consideration.
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Unread postby Ludi » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 08:00:31

JohnDenver wrote: Cars are a luxury, not a necessity.


How will people get to the store to buy food, clothing, etc?
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Unread postby Licho » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 08:20:42

Ok Jato, but USA didn't double population and graph is showing GDP per unit of energy. I only didnt say it clearly enough. USA almost doubled GDP per unit of energy.. It also almost doubled GDP per capita (per capita energy use remained the same).
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Unread postby Licho » Wed 20 Apr 2005, 08:22:36

Ludi wrote:
JohnDenver wrote: Cars are a luxury, not a necessity.


How will people get to the store to buy food, clothing, etc?

Walk? Bike? Mass tranport?
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