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Complex Systems and Net Energy

General discussions of the systemic, societal and civilisational effects of depletion.

Complex Systems and Net Energy

Unread postby AdamB » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 11:09:38

sjn wrote:Maybe approach it from the other direction. What is it that makes people refuse to even contemplate the idea? There's much of that even here, whatever it is. Perhaps if we can identify that, a good antonym will present itself?


Contemplate what idea? Which peak oil? The one just about falling production, which sometimes stops falling and begins increasing again, or the claimed economic effects of peak oil, more recently known as glut and oversupply? Perhaps economic upheaval, like we have in Venezuela, except of course they have more oil resources than just about anyone else on the planet, so oil doesn't even appear to be an advantage when it comes to political stability. Maybe NOT having oil is not only the answer, but the right thing to do, Japan has none, yet built themselves into an economic powerhouse in spite of it. Russia is a one trick economic pony, the US isn't, and the two are similar in size in terms of oil resources, so what is it about the US that makes us so much more special than those who have either been clobbered by the resource curse, or done quite well without much of any at all?
Peak oil in 2020: And here is why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b3ttqYDwF0
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Re: Peak Oil: A Love Story

Unread postby sjn » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 12:43:02

Okay, AdamB, since you're here:

Why is it net energy analysis is invalid?

Why do thermodynamics not apply to human activities?

How does contemporary Economic Theory deal with Complex Systems Theory? Or do you believe the Economy not a complex non-equilibrium system as many economists assert?
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Re: Peak Oil: A Love Story

Unread postby sjn » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 13:16:35

pstarr, I'm just trying to make sense of the resistance to understand or even contemplate the concept.

Just for fun here's a link to a book published in 1933 on this topic I'm going to read over the holiday:
WEALTH, VIRTUAL
WEALTH and DEBT


THE SOLUTION OF THE
ECONOMIC PARADOX

By
FREDERICK SODDY, M.A., F.R.S.

Dr. Lee’s Professor of Chemistry in the University of Oxford;
Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, 1921
Author of “Science and Life,” “Money versus Man,” etc.

Maybe AdamB will read it? :roll:
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Re: Peak Oil: A Love Story

Unread postby AdamB » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 14:49:43

sjn wrote:Okay, AdamB, since you're here:

Why is it net energy analysis is invalid?


It doesn't account for the difference in value to humans between BTUs. A gasoline BTU being worth far more to humans than one from sunlight, as just one example.

sjn wrote:Why do thermodynamics not apply to human activities?


You must be kidding....the laws of thermodynamics are in everything we do as humans, no different than the laws of physics. But we don't choose to drill wells and develop oil and gas because of a thermodynamic advantage over THERE, compared to over HERE. We develop oil and gas to maximize economic return, not thermodynamic.

sjn wrote:How does contemporary Economic Theory deal with Complex Systems Theory?


Don't know. Don't even know if I should care. Anyone who must ask if the human world is underpinned by the laws of thermodynamics falls under suspicion in general, let alone what you think "contemporary" even signifies.

sjn wrote: Or do you believe the Economy not a complex non-equilibrium system as many economists assert?


What is the Economy? A country somewhere, or a proper name of something? And how many is "many"? And what is "complex" about non-equilibrium systems, and do you even know what they are, or can name one?

I don't object to loaded questions, but how about you try and limit the gobbly gook bait to one small assertion or question at a time. Pick one point, and stick with that, and we can have a go of it.
Peak oil in 2020: And here is why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b3ttqYDwF0
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Re: Peak Oil: A Love Story

Unread postby sjn » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 15:15:34

They we deliberately loaded questions because there's a pattern to the answers.

Net energy analysis is not about comparing sunlight, a defuse energy source (from our point of view) to gasoline, an energy carrier. But the processes involved, in an attempt to quantify how much exergy remains at the end of the process within established boundaries of the analysis. The utility of the (petrochemical product) gasoline is very much a function of the net energy from the petroleum production system. A direct comparison would be to "gasoline" or similar liquid fuel synthesised through a process powered by sunlight.

Thermodynamics and complex systems theory provides the framework to explain why one process has more utility than another.

And what is "complex" about non-equilibrium systems, and do you even know what they are, or can name one?

Seriously?

I used capitalised "Economy" because I'm talking about the Economy, rather than an economy, or economies in general. It's shorthand for the system of trade arrangements between Sovereign States, Regions and Trade Blocks principally as managed through the WTO.
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Re: Peak Oil: A Love Story

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 19:49:45

sjn wrote:They we deliberately loaded questions because there's a pattern to the answers.

Net energy analysis is not about comparing sunlight, a defuse energy source (from our point of view) to gasoline, an energy carrier. But the processes involved, in an attempt to quantify how much exergy remains at the end of the process within established boundaries of the analysis. The utility of the (petrochemical product) gasoline is very much a function of the net energy from the petroleum production system. A direct comparison would be to "gasoline" or similar liquid fuel synthesised through a process powered by sunlight.

Thermodynamics and complex systems theory provides the framework to explain why one process has more utility than another.

And what is "complex" about non-equilibrium systems, and do you even know what they are, or can name one?

Seriously?

I used capitalised "Economy" because I'm talking about the Economy, rather than an economy, or economies in general. It's shorthand for the system of trade arrangements between Sovereign States, Regions and Trade Blocks principally as managed through the WTO.

1). Have you ever heard of proofreading? It might make your points clearer.

2). I'm suspicious about someone who apparently doesn't know the difference between "defuse" (i.e., a bomb) and diffuse (like the usable energy in sunlight, compared to that in gasoline) -- who in the same post says "Thermodynamics and complex systems theory provides the framework to explain why one process has more utility than another.", in a lecturing context. (The term "poser" comes to mind).

When I looked at "complex systems" in Wiki, I noticed a few points while briefly parsing the topic:

A consensus regarding a single universal definition of complex system does not yet exist.


Complexity theory is rooted in chaos theory ...


The study of mathematical complex system models is used for many scientific questions poorly suited to the traditional mechanistic conception provided by science.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_s ... aos_theory

I bumped into chaos theory when studying a bit about the (new to me at the time) phenomenon of fractals (i.e. fractal geometry).

I'll admit that chaos theory is mostly beyond me, as I'm not a professional mathematician.

But why are such ideas being mixed in with what is (or could be, it seems to me) a simple discussion about economics vs. entropy, and how they relate to various energy sources/carriers with different densities?

To me, if you can't explain that without resorting to PHD word games, you're showing off more than knowing what you're talking about, IMO.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: Complex Systems and Net Energy

Unread postby Zarquon » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 20:01:01

sjn wrote:Maybe approach it from the other direction. What is it that makes people refuse to even contemplate the idea? There's much of that even here, whatever it is. Perhaps if we can identify that, a good antonym will present itself?


You're trying to sell cancer. Maybe try being upbeat instead. Call it the Clean Fuel Age, or something like that. More walking, and in clean air. Less unhealthy meat consumption, less cardiac disease. Or what about Power Freedom? $200 oil, whenever it happens, will liberate us from so many unwanted byproducts of the fossil fuel age. Congested highways. Plane and car crashes. Oil spills. New jobs in bicycle manufacturing.

Obviously you might have to make up a lot of bullshit arguments to sell the idea to a wider audience, or at least make people listen. But if you don't stress the positive aspects of a changing world, you'll only reach those people who like being worried. That's preaching to the choir. Don't be a whining green leftie - hire Chuck Norris as a spokesman for the Power Freedom Alliance. Buy every lawmaker and journalist you can. After all, that's what the other side does, and they're clearly winning. Embrace the bullshit!

That leaves only the problem of financing the campaign...
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Re: Peak Oil: A Love Story

Unread postby AdamB » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 22:07:50

sjn wrote:Net energy analysis is not about comparing sunlight, a defuse energy source (from our point of view) to gasoline, an energy carrier.


Really? So net energy calculations aren't about energy, but arbitrary distinctions possibly without a difference? Tell me, if I generate 1 kWh of power from solar panels on my roof, or from a generator burning gasoline, how meaningful is your arbitrary distinction (source versus carrier)?

sjn wrote: But the processes involved, in an attempt to quantify how much exergy remains at the end of the process within established boundaries of the analysis. The utility of the (petrochemical product) gasoline is very much a function of the net energy from the petroleum production system. A direct comparison would be to "gasoline" or similar liquid fuel synthesised through a process powered by sunlight.

Thermodynamics and complex systems theory provides the framework to explain why one process has more utility than another.


So does economics. Thermodynamic efficiency or theories are meaningless in the face of economics, if your thermodynamically superior system delivers power at $0.40/kWh, when another less efficient one delivers it at $0.20/kWh.


sjn wrote:
And what is "complex" about non-equilibrium systems, and do you even know what they are, or can name one?

Seriously?

I used capitalised "Economy" because I'm talking about the Economy, rather than an economy, or economies in general. It's shorthand for the system of trade arrangements between Sovereign States, Regions and Trade Blocks principally as managed through the WTO.


So Economy isn't about what happens at the local flea market as well? Seems to me that such behavior is about as pure an Economy as there is, compared to the more complex one carried out at the aggregate level, that aggregate level being more complex certainly, being amongst states regions or blocks.
Peak oil in 2020: And here is why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b3ttqYDwF0
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Re: Complex Systems and Net Energy

Unread postby Zarquon » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 23:49:26

pstarr wrote:I like that. It's happy :) I'll give. Have an paypal account?


Are you serious? If you guys are right, I'd be an idiot to accept anything but gold. Or you can send me canned food.
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Re: Complex Systems and Net Energy

Unread postby Zarquon » Wed 21 Dec 2016, 00:14:16

I forgot how to count volumes in anything but barrels. Anyway, just fill up a tanker and send it my way.
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Re: Peak Oil: A Love Story

Unread postby sjn » Wed 21 Dec 2016, 11:29:34

Outcast_Searcher wrote:
sjn wrote:They we deliberately loaded questions because there's a pattern to the answers.

Net energy analysis is not about comparing sunlight, a defuse energy source (from our point of view) to gasoline, an energy carrier. But the processes involved, in an attempt to quantify how much exergy remains at the end of the process within established boundaries of the analysis. The utility of the (petrochemical product) gasoline is very much a function of the net energy from the petroleum production system. A direct comparison would be to "gasoline" or similar liquid fuel synthesised through a process powered by sunlight.

Thermodynamics and complex systems theory provides the framework to explain why one process has more utility than another.

And what is "complex" about non-equilibrium systems, and do you even know what they are, or can name one?

Seriously?

I used capitalised "Economy" because I'm talking about the Economy, rather than an economy, or economies in general. It's shorthand for the system of trade arrangements between Sovereign States, Regions and Trade Blocks principally as managed through the WTO.

1). Have you ever heard of proofreading? It might make your points clearer.
You're absolutely right, I should have proof-read, I'm usually quite careful about typos and poorly constructed sentences. My apologies.
2). I'm suspicious about someone who apparently doesn't know the difference between "defuse" (i.e., a bomb) and diffuse (like the usable energy in sunlight, compared to that in gasoline) -- who in the same post says "Thermodynamics and complex systems theory provides the framework to explain why one process has more utility than another.", in a lecturing context. (The term "poser" comes to mind).
"defuse" is a typo, see "1)". Have you never typed the wrong word before? It happens. Posing? Indeed if I was posing, don't you think I would have proof-read? :roll: I named this topic "Complex Systems and Net Energy", what did you think I was going to be referring to? The application of the Laws of Thermodynamics are an essential part to understanding the topic, don't you think? I didn't invent the ideas behind or the methodology of Net Energy Analysis, but I did want to discuss why it isn't commonly accepted even by people on a Peak Oil site which I would expect to be predisposed to thinking in such terms.
When I looked at "complex systems" in Wiki, I noticed a few points while briefly parsing the topic:

A consensus regarding a single universal definition of complex system does not yet exist.

Which may well be because so many people refuse to think in such terms? Despite that there is plenty of literature on the subject.
Complexity theory is rooted in chaos theory ...

Right.
The study of mathematical complex system models is used for many scientific questions poorly suited to the traditional mechanistic conception provided by science.

I'm of the opinion that the "traditional mechanistic conception" methodology is poorly suited to most scientific questions.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_s ... aos_theory

I bumped into chaos theory when studying a bit about the (new to me at the time) phenomenon of fractals (i.e. fractal geometry).

I'll admit that chaos theory is mostly beyond me, as I'm not a professional mathematician.

But why are such ideas being mixed in with what is (or could be, it seems to me) a simple discussion about economics vs. entropy, and how they relate to various energy sources/carriers with different densities?

To me, if you can't explain that without resorting to PHD word games, you're showing off more than knowing what you're talking about, IMO.

I'm bringing this up because economics vs. entropy isn't simple. On the ETP Q&A topic I layed out my thoughts in great detail on this, but the gist is this:

An economy is a complex non-equlibrium system. The amount of entropy generated in the system is a function of the complexity, every transformation incurs losses (2nd Law). As the economy grows we increase complexity because it allows us to perform activities that would otherwise be impossible through the application of energy, or improve efficiency of processes we care about (hybrid cars?), locally lowering entropy, at the cost of using more energy elsewhere increasing the entropic gradient. This lets the system grow, which means even greater flows of energy, more complexity, more entropy. This is essentially what "Biophysical Economics" is about as I understand it.

More here:
http://www.resilience.org/stories/2010-01-21/biophysical-economics-putting-energy-center/
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Re: Peak Oil: A Love Story

Unread postby sjn » Wed 21 Dec 2016, 12:05:01

AdamB wrote:
sjn wrote:Net energy analysis is not about comparing sunlight, a defuse energy source (from our point of view) to gasoline, an energy carrier.


Really? So net energy calculations aren't about energy, but arbitrary distinctions possibly without a difference? Tell me, if I generate 1 kWh of power from solar panels on my roof, or from a generator burning gasoline, how meaningful is your arbitrary distinction (source versus carrier)?
It doesn't make sense to compare apples with trees. The point of the analysis is to perform it on the "full system", if you draw the boundary around yourself and your house you are not measuring the net energy from a given source through the economic system. Good luck running your generator when you run out of gasoline without enlarging your boundaries!

That doesn't mean the boundary should encompass the Sun, I think it's quite obvious that the Sun is outside the economic system, as are the micro-organisms that died to lay down the source of hydrocarbons in the gasoline!
sjn wrote: But the processes involved, in an attempt to quantify how much exergy remains at the end of the process within established boundaries of the analysis. The utility of the (petrochemical product) gasoline is very much a function of the net energy from the petroleum production system. A direct comparison would be to "gasoline" or similar liquid fuel synthesised through a process powered by sunlight.

Thermodynamics and complex systems theory provides the framework to explain why one process has more utility than another.


So does economics. Thermodynamic efficiency or theories are meaningless in the face of economics, if your thermodynamically superior system delivers power at $0.40/kWh, when another less efficient one delivers it at $0.20/kWh.
As far as I understand, Economic Theory fundamentally assumes the economy is an equilibrium system. It's also not based on any physical laws or scientific principles. Energy is accounted for as a commodity, rather than the necessary prerequisite to perform work.

sjn wrote:
And what is "complex" about non-equilibrium systems, and do you even know what they are, or can name one?

Seriously?

I used capitalised "Economy" because I'm talking about the Economy, rather than an economy, or economies in general. It's shorthand for the system of trade arrangements between Sovereign States, Regions and Trade Blocks principally as managed through the WTO.


So Economy isn't about what happens at the local flea market as well? Seems to me that such behavior is about as pure an Economy as there is, compared to the more complex one carried out at the aggregate level, that aggregate level being more complex certainly, being amongst states regions or blocks.

The local flea market is a subset of a larger economy. But you clearly get what I was saying, the term I was using was "Economy" at the aggregate globalised level. If we didn't have a Global Economy then it would make more sense to treat each economy as an separate entity, since the properties of each could differ quite considerably.
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Re: Complex Systems and Net Energy

Unread postby evilgenius » Wed 21 Dec 2016, 12:18:41

I think what you are getting at is what the oil industry originally faced when they had to overcome competition with coal and whale oil. In order to do that they had to cut down on the complexity. They did this by developing the integrated oil company model. Instead of factions fighting it out for supremacy in diverse modules related to the whole process that oil would require, effort could be done in the name of the company. Later, when oil as an economic means to extract energy, and don't forget plastics (an example of making byproducts work toward the company goal as well), became viable complexity was reintroduced. That's when gas stations became branded with names of oil companies they were no longer tied to in that more significant way.

Alternative energy as a means to a viable economic future has to supplant oil, as well as succeed at the task at hand. The modern version of the integrated solution is being tried by all kinds of different people. No one has rolled it out, but they are each trying to build something that they can use as a platform to do so. Elon Musk is doing it with Tesla, and the associated Solar City. Uber is doing it from the transportation corner as well, hoping for an AI boost into it with self-driving cars in the next few years. Then they can go all electric, taking advantage of the reduced maintenance costs of electric cars. Google has its hand in there. So does Apple. Google understand power generation, especially from the standpoint of server farm power and cooling. Apple is facing the need to maintain a level of growth which can only be achieved by grasping the vision, a self-driving car project is only the start for them.
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Re: Peak Oil: A Love Story

Unread postby AdamB » Wed 21 Dec 2016, 13:35:56

sjn wrote:It doesn't make sense to compare apples with trees.


Neither does it make sense to make distinctions without difference.

sjn wrote: The point of the analysis is to perform it on the "full system", if you draw the boundary around yourself and your house you are not measuring the net energy from a given source through the economic system. Good luck running your generator when you run out of gasoline without enlarging your boundaries!


I didn't draw a boundary around anything. Only demonstrated that power generation is power generation, and the type or size of the energy involved to make the power might be completely meaningless, my requirements being for POWER generation, not the energy required to generate it.



sjn wrote:That doesn't mean the boundary should encompass the Sun, I think it's quite obvious that the Sun is outside the economic system, as are the micro-organisms that died to lay down the source of hydrocarbons in the gasoline!


It "might not mean", but there is no way you can discuss energy available to humanity and NOT discuss the fraction of the 64 million watts per square meter it generates that enters and effects our atmosphere, climate systems, and power generation systems. Our world is not a closed system when it comes to energy, we both accept inbound energy, and radiate it outward.

sjn wrote: But the processes involved, in an attempt to quantify how much exergy remains at the end of the process within established boundaries of the analysis. The utility of the (petrochemical product) gasoline is very much a function of the net energy from the petroleum production system. A direct comparison would be to "gasoline" or similar liquid fuel synthesised through a process powered by sunlight.


There is no question that the utility of a BTU of gasoline is worth more than a BTU of sunlight. We use economics to quantify that utility. However, you are now wiggling terribly hard, and are wrong in your claim that one liquid fuel can only be compared to another.

The wife requires approximately 2.5 kWh of power to do the work necessary to get to and from her job each day. It is IRRELEVANT to her where that power comes from, and she has in fact replaced her liquid fuel use not with another liquid fuel, but electrical power from solar panels and natural gas fired grid power. Not a liquid fuel in sight.

So no, I was specific earlier about why you were making a distinction without a difference, as you have here by making up faux rules of what is comparable and what is not.

Feel free to explain your concept, but don't confuse energy or power, they are neither interchangable or synonymous.

You started off this conversation saying net ENERGY, and I started off by talking about the things of importance we DERIVE from energy (not even specific to fossil fuels), the things of value. This IS a distinction with a difference, and one that many net energy people trip over because they don't understand the difference.

sjn wrote:As far as I understand, Economic Theory fundamentally assumes the economy is an equilibrium system. It's also not based on any physical laws or scientific principles. Energy is accounted for as a commodity, rather than the necessary prerequisite to perform work.


Of course energy is a prerequisite for work. But NOT substituting only liquid fuels for other liquid fuels. And I really am not about to define economic theory in a sentence that you want to relate to what appears to be thermodynamics, because they are not the same thing. Economists is a social science, basically it ATTEMPTS to describe 1) the aggregate behavior of many individual decisions when subjected to certain stimuli or 2) the individual behavior of a human when subjected to certain stimuli.

And for the record, empirical observations are themselves fundamental to forming a scientific hypothesis, and how many discoveries have been made. Including those in non-social sciences, geology, enginering, medicine, just about every one I can think of. But no, it isn't based on the kind of first order principles as physics. And it doesn't need to be.

sjn wrote:The local flea market is a subset of a larger economy. But you clearly get what I was saying, the term I was using was "Economy" at the aggregate globalised level. If we didn't have a Global Economy then it would make more sense to treat each economy as an separate entity, since the properties of each could differ quite considerably.


Can you please couch your terms, in the future, as to whether or not you are discussing micro or macro economic theory. You are correct, there are differences, and a concept in one might not apply to another. For example, your globalize Economy is subject to decisions on the part of regulators or politicians that might have NOTHING to do with normal economic behavior, but generate economic consequences. Think...Venezuela.

And little Economies also interact with their larger counterparts...think about crude oil exports. Each larger entity in economics can be broken down until we arrive right back at the local flea market, and a buyer and seller debating the price for a thing.
Peak oil in 2020: And here is why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b3ttqYDwF0
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