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PeakOil is You

PeakOil is You

Have Even A Partial Solution?

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

Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Cabrone » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 04:02:05

How is this so? Is all of elephant grass's biomass extracted from the air and sunlight?

Also, has anyone done any calculations on the total energy input to sow, grow, harvest and process this crop?


From everything I've read you harvest the crop in late winter. During the winter the leaves drop off the plant and fertilize the soil ready for the next growing season. As the plant dies off the goodness within the main stem is transferred back into the rhizome under the soil. All the literature that I have read says it actually makes the soil more fertile as it grows and if a farmer doesn't want to grow it anymore they can use the land without topping up the nitrate content.

I'm afraid I haven't got any calculations re EROEI but I do know that once this crop is planted in year one you can leave it alone. It is simply harvested every year using standard farm machinery.

This really is a very interesting plant and one that could be powering a lot of our society in the near-medium term.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4220790.stm
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Cabrone » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 04:39:37

One of the key stumbling blocks to a new energy order is not whether we can produce the raw power, it's the way that we store that power once we have created it. The humble battery is ancient technology but because hydrocarbons have been so cheap no-one has bothered to push this technology on, why bother when oil is on tap? Fortunately this is now changing and with better batteries all of a sudden technologies such as electric vehicles become feasible.

Here is a snippet of an interview with the CEO of a company that has come up with a new breed of lithium ion battery:

Gotcher estimates that a battery using nano materials will have 2-5 times the power density of a lead acid battery, 10-20 times the power density of current NiMH batteries, and be 5-10 times more powerful than conventional lithium-ion batteries used in cell hones and laptop computers. "We have a lot of the performance characteristics of a NiMH battery, the same energy density -- actually just a tad more -- and much more power. We can take very rapid rates of charge and discharge," he continued. "We can charge and discharge our battery in three to six minutes. That's full charge and discharge. That's one of the reasons why we are very excited about this battery technology being applied to full electric vehicles. One of the problems that all manufacturers have faced with electric vehicles is the long recharge time it takes; typically four to eight hours. And now, with this battery technology, it looks plausible that we can build an electric vehicle that you can pull into a charging station and charge in six-to-eight minutes." Clearly, that's approaching the same time it takes to refuel a conventional car with gasoline. Of course, fast charging a battery usually shortens the already short life of a conventional battery.
Gotcher is convinced this isn't a problem with batteries using Altair's nano electrode materials. "We have test data where we've recharged ours at a 20C rate, so that's three minutes and then
a full discharge in three minutes and we have data that illustrates these batteries' lifecycle will go out to at least 9,000 cycles, and probably more." The average cycle life of your conventional car battery is 300-500 cycles. Just as impressive, when it comes to energy density, which Gotcher said is comparable to NiMH batteries, a nanotechnology-based lithium battery has a far wider performance window. He commented that a NiMH battery can only safely utilize between 35-40 percent of its inherent energy density, whereas test batteries using Altair's electrodes can access 90 percent. "For the same sized battery, we can go twice as far."

With technology like this I think that commercially viable electric vehicles with decent performance (at least 70mph top speed) and a range of 200 miles between charges plus a recharge time of 6-8 minutes may be not too far down the line. A lot depends on whether the powers that be want to push for a network of electric points much like the current network of garages that fuel you car on it's journey but if they do then carbon neutral electric may be the way to go.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby TonyPrep » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 05:27:47

Doly wrote:
TonyPrep wrote:How long can you continue to make stuff from the bits of old stuff that people throw away? Don't you think this "resource" will dwindle? If not, why not?


If things were manufactured to be recycled, some stuff could be recycled almost indefinitely. Think glass, for example. There's no reason why glass couldn't be 99% recycled.
Doly, do you mean that 99% of all glass manufactured could be recycled? What about the glass in use (in windows, bottles, etc.)? So, if you need more windows and bottles, to service a growing population and economy, there is now less glass to recycle. This will always be a problem when you try to make stuff from "waste". The waste of the waste will be less than the original waste, and so ad infinitum.

Growth is unsustainable.

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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby TonyPrep » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 05:41:36

Cabrone wrote:[From everything I've read you harvest the crop in late winter. During the winter the leaves drop off the plant and fertilize the soil ready for the next growing season.
I don't understand this. Don't you harvest the leaves of elephant grass? If so, what is actually dropping to the ground? If you extract enough biomass to make a reasonable amount of diesel, I can't see how the rest can fertilize the soil enough to give you as big a crop next year, without added nutrients.
Cabrone wrote:I'm afraid I haven't got any calculations re EROEI but I do know that once this crop is planted in year one you can leave it alone. It is simply harvested every year using standard farm machinery.
And will it produce enough to power the farm machinery that harvests it, the processing plants that process it, the houses of the people involved, and leave some for sale?

Your link doesn't really provide this information but does say that fertilizer is needed (though not much, apparently). Nothing is said of pesticides.

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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby TonyPrep » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 05:50:57

Cabrone wrote:One of the key stumbling blocks to a new energy order is not whether we can produce the raw power, it's the way that we store that power once we have created it. ... With technology like this I think that commercially viable electric vehicles with decent performance (at least 70mph top speed) and a range of 200 miles between charges plus a recharge time of 6-8 minutes may be not too far down the line.
15 years to turn over the fleet of cars. So, if they do become viable (still a big "if"), they won't have a chance to make an impact, if peak oil is upon us (maybe anotherr big "if" but the supply figures over the last year don't make good reading).

You seem to dismiss the generation of the power needed to fuel these batteries, assuming it can always be generated from something or other. That is a big assumption and is the key stumbling block.

Like many others in this thread, you also ignore all of the other problems converging on us and the very real problem of growth.

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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Cabrone » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 06:49:25

Here is a more technical document about Miscanthus

http://www.ienica.net/crops/miscanthus.htm

The doc does say that some fertilizer is needed but generally the plant does not need much becuase by the time the plant is harvested the nutrients that were in the main stem have been returned back to the Rhizome in the soil.

The doc says that 11.7 to 25.3 t DM /ha/yr and even up to 44 t DM/ha/yr as reported from a source in Denmark have been yielded. The doc also says that 1kg of dry crop matter = 0.4kg of oil therefore if I take the average of the yield figures (18.5 t DM/ha/yr) each hectare would produce the equivalent of 7.4 tonnes of oil. I don't know the energy requirements of the farm machinery + the transportation but I find it hard to believe that it is going to use 7400kg of oil to get 1 hectare to the incinerator. Closeness of the crop to the biomass incinerator is important and the first biomass plant in the UK is using crops grown from a 30 mile radius. Everything that I have read sees this crop as a way of generating electricity rather than fuel but I may be wrong on that.

I don't underestimate Peak Oil or population expansion. I agree with Wildwell's suggestions on this issue, it really needs to be looked out and it's plain barmy to think that we can go on multiplying in numbers without serios consequences. What I am trying to show is that there are ways and means of transitioning to other energy sources without a mass die off.

To believe that everything will be rosey during the energy revolution is naeve but to believe in some kind of Olduvai scenario is just as naeve. We can pull through, we simply have to. What it requires is the will to do it.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Doly » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 06:53:12

TonyPrep wrote:You seem to dismiss the generation of the power needed to fuel these batteries, assuming it can always be generated from something or other. That is a big assumption and is the key stumbling block.


Agree completely. I've heard that if the whole fleet of cars was turned to electric, we would need roughly to double our electricity generation. At a time when we are struggling to keep it as it is.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Wildwell » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 07:00:59

Ludi wrote:I strongly disagree with you, Wildwell, but that's ok.

You can choose your path, I will choose mine. :)


Care to tell us why? I can be persuaded you know by a good argument!
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby EnergySpin » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 10:16:16

Graeme wrote:I can think of 2 comments immediately. Firstly, recycling. Secondly, intellectual property. We are not going to run out of new ideas. We simply reconstitute the same physical material to make something useful.

Pretty good ideas .... at least as far as the IT sector goes.

There is another technical term that I have seen around: "recycle of use". Basically our current recycling programs simply recycle the materials, not the use of the artefacts which is a waste of resources.
Take computers for example: a material recycle program would have a facility break down the PC to pieces, and recycle the metals + plastics for different uses (e.g. milk bottles, chips etc). A recycle-of-use program would:
a) sell the computer as a refurbished one
b) scrap Windows, install Linux and have the computer do different stuff (E.g. a print server, a cluster for scientific computing etc)
c) re-useindividual components (like the processor of the motherborad or the graphics card) in different contexts (a friend of mine doing neurophysiology has routinely recycled Pentium processors since the 75Mhz era into DSP boards for his experiments , thus saving a lot of money)
etc etc
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Ludi » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 13:18:10

Wildwell wrote:
Ludi wrote:I strongly disagree with you, Wildwell, but that's ok.

You can choose your path, I will choose mine. :)


Care to tell us why? I can be persuaded you know by a good argument!


If all of the websites in my signature and all of the books I have encouraged people to read over the many months I've been promoting solutions here on PO.com can't persuade you these solutions are practical and not "naive" there is nothing I, a very poor debater, could possibly say which could persuade you. If you can't be bothered to read all those websites and books, which I have asked, even begged people to read, I simply have nothing to say about it, really. Except that I am very very sad. I'm afraid I'm just not willing or able to rewrite books and websites which have already been written, which go into extraordinary detail about these solutions and how they are working in the real world.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby TonyPrep » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 14:15:14

Cabrone wrote:We can pull through, we simply have to. What it requires is the will to do it.
Elephant grass sounds like a miracle grass and maybe it can help ease the transition to a lower power society. But miracles don't happen, so I'm not optimistic that the grass can do everything you claim. Even if it could, it could not hope to more than put a very thin plaster over the huge hole that the decline of fossil fuels will open. Replacing fuel that is essentially energy concentrated over millions of years is impossible, especially if we want to grow our economies (which is was our societies need).

No, "we simply have to" is wishful thinking. Societies and civilisations collapse; there is no reason to suppose that ours will be immune.

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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Gridlock » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 16:00:06

Ludi/Wildwell – what do you see as the difference between your viewpoints? I don’t see how they are mutually exclusive. One of Wildwell’s suggestions was a move to sustainable farming practices, which is what I see the websites that Ludi’s list promote, as well as some of the other things on Wildwell’s list. Totally agree with the best PO model’s you give Wildwell, Sweden in particular.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Ludi » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 16:28:48

The differences between our approaches? I have no idea, Gridlock. I think Wildwell should promote what he thinks will work. I don't actually understand what he means about industrial vs agricultural. Ever since the industrial revolution we have existed with a combination of industrial and agricultural production. Certainly industry could not exist without some form of agriculture, as large settled populations do not exist without some form of agriculture and there is no "industry" as we understand it without large settled populations. So I am very much confused by his statement that these are mutually exclusive endeavors. Though I may certainly be wrong, I suspect he actually knows very little about what I am promoting and I can only assume this is because he is uninterested. I've been virtually a broken record the entire time I've been on PO.com trying to get people to read Bill Mollison's book "Permaculture: a designers manual," study the websites below, and continue on to read other literature on these subjects, the mass of information which taken together presents a cohesive, integrated solution to all the major problems we face as a culture. How Wildwell could have missed out on these ideas for so many months, unless he's really not at all interested, I don't know. I think for some people it's more important for the other person to be wrong (or "naive") than it is to actually understand what they are trying to say.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Ludi » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 16:45:18

I should mention what really seems the main difference between our approaches is that Wildwell appears to promote "top-down" solutions imposed by government, whereas I promote "bottom-up" solutions which individuals, families, and communities can choose to implement as they are able. I don't personally see any evidence whatsoever that government will help us with this mess, except to help make it worse. Plus I don't personally have any power in government on any level, so expecting government solutions would leave me feeling entirely helpless, whereas I can implement some kind of small-scale mitigation by myself following the information I have available, which does help keep me from utter despair. My hope is to provide a model for others to emulate if they are inspired by it.

So, there, I think, is the main difference. At least as far as I can see.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Gridlock » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 17:46:36

I should mention what really seems the main difference between our approaches is that Wildwell appears to promote "top-down" solutions imposed by government, whereas I promote "bottom-up" solutions which individuals, families, and communities can choose to implement as they are able.


But perhaps there is a balance? My opinion is that Human wants are infinite, whatever we have we’ll never be really happy, particularly if there is someone trying to sell you something that isn’t something you really need, (probably also having a negative effect on another somewhere else). Therefore our current paradigm is rather futile, utopia, whilst an honourable goal, isn’t achievable.

I think Governments have the power to preserve common values, hopefully, whatever it’s citizens decide them to be. I would also like to see a lot more power devolved to local communities, as at the moment they are being rode over roughshod world-wide, and in that sense maybe a good Government can support the ‘bottom-up’ solutions.

My concerns for the future are the continued progress of science and the arts, as well as human rights which is something I believe good Governments can preserve. I think, despite a great many global problems, right now we’ve never had it so good. But losing some of our wealth need not be such a bad thing, our values need to change, but I personally believe that this need not mean the loss of what we really cherish.

In the end I find that a lot of PO predictions for the future are what you want them to be. If you are an anarchist, you expect anarchy, a socialist expects socialism, a capitalist expects that the free-market will solve everything. I myself try to avoid predictions, although it’s important I feel to anticipate the future.

Forgive the garbled post, I’ve been to the pub, which no doubt I will find tomorrow was not in my own self-interest. But basically what I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is I find your solutions quite compatible with Wildwell’s, and I hope both will be implemented, by better governments than we have now. Bedtime beckons…
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Wildwell » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 18:26:48

Ludi wrote:I should mention what really seems the main difference between our approaches is that Wildwell appears to promote "top-down" solutions imposed by government, whereas I promote "bottom-up" solutions which individuals, families, and communities can choose to implement as they are able. I don't personally see any evidence whatsoever that government will help us with this mess, except to help make it worse. Plus I don't personally have any power in government on any level, so expecting government solutions would leave me feeling entirely helpless, whereas I can implement some kind of small-scale mitigation by myself following the information I have available, which does help keep me from utter despair. My hope is to provide a model for others to emulate if they are inspired by it.

So, there, I think, is the main difference. At least as far as I can see.


I’m probably slightly disinterested because I don’t even have a garden. Not to say that was always the case, because we did grow much of our food and keep chickens and ducks at one stage and have lived ‘in the country’ almost all my life.

I think it’s best to start by explaining what I mean by an ‘agricultural economy’ and an ‘industrial economy’.

An agricultural economy is a society based around agriculture and can be traced back towards improvements in seed drills, livestock rearing, ploughs, and different methods of breeding. This existed before the industrial revolution, and came in different forms. For example in England, there was small holders, a peasantry, landlords, local barons and so on. Essentially people lived on farms and grew their own food. In addition some had trades (wheelwrights, carpenters, ironmongers, shipwrights, tailors and so on). The economy was highly localised, so much so, that even in a small country like England you had several time systems. The time was different in Norwich, compared to Bristol. Disease and poverty were rife. Life expectancy was low, because of poor water supply, sanitation and medicine. Education standards were very low, because before Caxton’s printing press, all books had to be hand written and few could afford them, even fewer could understand them, provided to could ‘distribute’ the knowledge. These days we take it for granted that you can set up a website and broadcast your ideas to the world.

An industrial economy is one where the economy is diversified but generally centralised and people don’t necessarily grow their own food, build their own houses. Instead, through skills they trade for essentials and non-essentials using money. Most production of products, including agricultural ones is done on industrial scale, usually using machines or large farmsteads.

I’ve read some of the permaculture stuff and quite frankly most of it is utter bollocks. A lot of it is very middle class, and based upon this mis-guided romantic notion that farming your own food and procuring your own water is fun. The agricultural economy was especially unstable because of: Poor harvests, disease and poor education. Believe me, self sufficiency during poor weather will result in die off, war, famine and God help you if you catch anything. How on earth do you think education and medicine can thrive without some degree of centralisation?

I have to chuckle when the writers talk about cars. Especially as cities are generally less energy intensive as people can walk between places, or don’t even own cars. (aprox 50% in most European cities). If we all moved out to the country, or lived in less dense development, it would require more energy and more cars.

The writers often argue that culture is unimportant and people can (and wish) to live very locally. In fact people have always travelled because of famine, looking for trade, and natural inquisitiveness and obtaining land (usually through force). There is no evidence that people enjoy living within a few miles from birth, or it is sustainable. In short, most of those sites describe an agricultural economy – with cars. An absolutely bizarre mix, especially as you are trying to reduce car use and energy consumption. But hey, there are 'car free' days.

Until I’m blue in the face I have pointed out that cars (and to an extent) air travel are principal components in unsustainable oil use and you had no such problem pre (aprox) 1950.

Permaculture is not a solution for people who live in towns and cannot afford large tracts of land. Have you any idea how expensive land is in Europe and Japan? Compact European and Japanese cities do not have huge dwellings nor land to grow food and if you were to decant the urban population into the country or de-centralise cities, you would need much, much more land, which is simply unavailable, it also makes less energy intensive mass transit unviable. Therefore is not an acceptable solution.

Perhaps I am suggesting a predominantly (although not exclusively so) top down solution, because I see very little evidence, apart from a certain section of the middle class who actual want to go off and live the good life or who are remotely interested in environmental affairs. I’ve said many times, most people do not know where their food, water, products, services or anything else comes from. Do you? They are not interested in sustainability; they are interested in getting by in everyday life, which is hard for the majority of the world, even in rich western countries.

So I see no other choice that the government(s) must educate the population and put in certain checks and balances as well as plan adequately for PO and long term sustainability.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Ludi » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 19:53:09

See, there's the problem, calling something "bollocks" when you know so very little about it.

And claiming permaculture and related technologies can't help people in cities and towns. If you'd read "Solviva" you'd see most of the technology is geared toward town and even city life.

I'm really sorry, Wildwell, that you're not more interested. So little interested that you're not even willing to look beyond your preconceptions to see that most of what I'm promoting is very much applicable to towns and small cities. As I recall you live in a village or small city. Yet you have apparently utterly convinced yourself that none of this can help you or apparently anyone you know. Have you looked at the Dervaes Institute website? (pathtofreedom) None of this is about living in the country or having much land at all. Growbiointensive is about growing your food on the smallest amount of land possible. All of this is about what people can do on their own to help themselves and their communities.

This is why I am so nearly completely hopeless about our situation. That people are so uninterested in solutions they would rather just leap to conclusions based on - what? Nothing. Based on nothing, an impression they got somewhere that something is "bollocks."

Gridlock, I have no problem with a combined top-down, bottom-up approach. I think that would be best. But I only promote what I can do myself, and as I mentioned I have no power in government. I don't have any issue with Wildwell's approach except the fact that he is grotesquely ignorant and apparently intends to remain that way.

I'm afraid I don't personally have the strength to carry on this fight. If people can't look at beautiful websites, or read books, or really, do anything but leap to vastly ignorant conclusions, there's nothing I can do to fix the situation. Trying to convince people of things is not what I'm good at.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby TonyPrep » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 19:54:09

Wildwell wrote:So I see no other choice that the government(s) must educate the population and put in certain checks and balances as well as plan adequately for PO and long term sustainability.
Wildwell, you might see no other choice but do you think it likely? If you don't think it likely (and remember that PO may already be upon us), then what do you plan to do, to increase your chances or survival/comfort?

I don't think it likely, even in a small country like New Zealand. The leaders of almost all of the main parties agree that peak oil is here or very close and yet the two biggest parties (including the governing party) welcome huge planned extra spending on roads. What on earth are they thinking? Certainly not long term.

It's no good harking back to the 1950s, saying we did OK then, because we have a very different society now, much more global, much bigger and with aspirations that are almost expected, rather than hoped for. The 1950s wasn't fossil fuel free but that is what we have to aim for, for sustainability. Of course, sustainability may not be desireable for some people.

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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Ludi » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 20:00:44

I agree, Tonyprep. If we have no other choice than to rely on the government then we are truly doomed.

We are doomed.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby MonteQuest » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 20:57:12

Doly wrote:
TonyPrep wrote:How long can you continue to make stuff from the bits of old stuff that people throw away? Don't you think this "resource" will dwindle? If not, why not?


If things were manufactured to be recycled, some stuff could be recycled almost indefinitely. Think glass, for example. There's no reason why glass couldn't be 99% recycled.


Yes there is. It's called material entropy. Take tires for instance. How are you going to recycle the bits of tire that are worn off as you go down the road? No matter what we do, there will always be a diminishing amount of available usable material as well as energy.

Google "Cradle to Cradle" and you find some unique ideas along these lines though. We need to design things to be reused not thrown away.
A Saudi saying, "My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet-plane. His son will ride a camel."
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