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“Energy Dominance,” what does it mean? Decoding a Fashionable Slogan

“Energy Dominance,” what does it mean? Decoding a Fashionable Slogan thumbnail

“Now, I know for a fact that American energy dominance is within our grasp as a nation.” Ryan Zinke, U.S. Secretary of the Interior (source)

“All Warfare is Based on Deception” Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

Over nearly a half-century, since the time of Richard Nixon, American presidents have proclaimed the need for “energy independence” for the US, without ever succeeding in attaining it. During the past few years, it has become fashionable to say that the US has, in fact, become energy independent, even though it is not true. And, doubling down on this concept, there came the idea of “energy dominance,” introduced by the Trump administration in June 2017.  It is now used at all levels in the press and in the political debate.

No doubt, the US has good reasons to be bullish on oil production. Of the three major world producers, it is the only one growing: it has overtaken Saudi Arabia and it seems to be poised to overtake Russia in a few years. (graphic source).

This rebound in the US production after the decline that started in the early 1970s is nearly miraculous. And the miracle as a name: shale oil. A great success, sure, but, if you think about it, the whole story looks weird: the US is trying to gain this “dominance” by means of resources which, once burned, will be forever gone. It is like people competing at who is burning their own house faster. What sense does it make?

Art Berman keeps telling us that shale oil is an expensive resource that could be produced at a profit only for market conditions that are unrealistic to expect. So far, much more money has been poured into shale oil production than it has returned from the sales of shale oil. “Energy dominance” seems to be just an elaborate way to lose money and resources. Again, what sense does that make?

But there is a logic in the term “energy dominance.” It has to do with the way slogans are used in politics: a slogan is not just a compact way of expressing a certain political concept, it is often a coded message that hides much more than it says. So, we know that “bringing democracy” to a foreign country means to bomb it to smithereens. “Make America great again” means subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. “The Indispensable Country” means, “The American Empire.” And more.

There is nothing wrong in using coded slogans: you only have to know how to decode them. So, “energy dominance” has to be decoded and turned into “military dominance.” Then, things start making sense.

One quick note before you accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist: I am reasonably sure that there is no “control room” in a dark basement of the Pentagon or of the White House deciding long-term economic and military objectives. The decision mechanism of modern states is collective and networked. It is akin to that of anthills: there is nobody in charge, plenty of people push in different directions and, eventually, the giant engine may move in a certain direction.

So, the fact that so much money has been directed toward the exploitation of shale oil and gas doesn’t mean that someone at the top decided that it was the thing to be done. It is simply, that investors tend to direct their financial resources where they think they’ll have the highest return in the shortest time. Investing in shale oil doesn’t generate profits, but it moves money, benefits contractors, raises the GDP, and the more money is invested the more expectations of profits grow.

But there is more than that in this story: it is the military side. We all know that wars are won by the side that can pour more resources into the fight. It was in this way that the first and the second world war were won: the allies could produce more energy in the form of oil, coal, and gas. And with these energy sources, they could produce more stuff, planes, tanks, cannons, bombs, bullets, and more stuff that was thrown at the Germans until they gave up. Matthieu Auzeannau gives us plenty of examples of this mechanism in his book “Oil, Power, and War.” The Germans were always lacking enough oil to power their military machine and that’s why they were doomed from the beginning.

For the military, the lesson of the past world wars is that wars are won by the side which has the largest oil supply. And they remember it. So, if you want to attain military dominance, energy independence is not enough, you need to attain energy dominance.

And so, everything makes sense, also in view of some recent results on the statistical patterns of wars. Wars, it seems, are correlated to the thermodynamic phenomenon of entropy dissipation in complex systems. The more energy there is to dissipate, the faster it is dissipated. And if this dissipation is really fast, it may take the shape of a war — surely war is the fastest way to destroy (dissipate) accumulated resources. But, in order to dissipate resources, you need to accumulate them first, and that’s the role of shale oil in the current situation.

Which means that shale oil is not a natural resource, it is a military resource. As such, it doesn’t matter if it brings a profit or not for the investors. What matters is how it can be used to maintain and expand that gigantic social and economic structure that we call “Globalization” (another slogan that can be decoded as “the global empire”).

As long as the production of shale oil increases, we face the risk of a new, major world war. We can only hope that the shale bubble bursts by itself first. One more good reason why a Seneca Collapse of oil production would be good for all of us.

Cassandra’s legacy by Ugo Bardi

83 Comments on "“Energy Dominance,” what does it mean? Decoding a Fashionable Slogan"

  1. I AM THE MOB on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 3:31 pm 

    Drink, Fuck, Fight..

  2. Cloggie on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 3:44 pm 

    “electrical college”

    That sounds fascinating… renewable electrical, I hope?

    “Russian influence”

    Could you elaborate a little about how the alleged “Russian influence” could bring a majority to vote for DJT?

  3. Antius on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 4:31 pm 

    “Do we need autonomous driving to combat our energy problems?

    Perhaps not, here is a serious alternative:”

    Clog, that looks interesting; not unlike the smart car. And at €8000, it is relatively affordable. The 45kmh speed limit is a bit restrictive. I can imagine driving it with a queue of frustrated drivers behind. But this does at least provide a solution that offers the advantages of a car, yet remains both affordable and sustainable from a power consumption point of view.

    1kWh will take you 17km in the Carver. That means that 10 million of these vehicles will use 20GWh per day. The Carver is small enough that batteries could be made swappable. Hence, one can charge slowly whilst the other is in use. This will make it much easier to use renewable energy sources to recharge the batteries, as it moderates the peak loads exerted on the grid, which would otherwise be considerable. One of biggest challenges with vehicles like Tesla, is not the total energy required, but the rate at which fast charging requires it to be delivered.

    As an aside, 5.4kWh of energy could also be stored in a compressed air tank with volume 400 litres at 100bar. The tank has the advantage that it can be made from steel and will not need replacing in the lifetime of the vehicle. Compressed has the disadvantage of lower cycle efficiency. Swings and roundabouts.

  4. makati1 on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 4:54 pm 

    MOB is just as delusional as Davy, Cloggie. He too believes all the propaganda he is fed 24/7/365 by the USMSM. He doesn’t remember that China and Russia were both buddies about 20 years ago, until they became the leaders in weapons and manufacturing. Now they are “enemies” because they will not kiss the US ass and are too big and powerful to invade unlike Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. The Us is going down the shitter faster every day.

  5. makati1 on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 5:02 pm 

    Antius, one question: Where does the energy come from to compress this air or the other energy ideas you post? Every change of energy is a loss. At least that is the physics I remember.

    Oh, and, how long would it take to make this change to replace over 1 billion cars in the world today? ($$$)

    Either way, the US suburban lifestyle is going to end. How and what will replace it? I could guess but you would not like the answer.

    I drove thru Kansas and most of the Midwest years ago, and flew over it many times since. How will those who live tens of miles from anything manage? Horse and buggy? A 30 minute car trip today could take a day tomorrow. We shall see.

  6. Cloggie on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 5:22 pm 

    @Antius – here some info about (British) driving patterns, but no doubt valid for NW-Europe in general:

    Perhaps a compromise transport system could be a cheap, 120 kmh e-scooter-with-a-roof for 95% of the trips that are below 25 miles and the rest bus-train-autonomous vehicle from the pool.

    Antius, one question: Where does the energy come from to compress this air or the other energy ideas you post?

    From the skies 😉

  7. Anonymouse on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 5:33 pm 

    Ahem, ‘Mob’ IS Davy dumbshit. Just because the exceptionalturd stopped using him to attack you and (Greg) back when, non-stop using all the davytards exact talking points, means nothing. It only means he has learned a basic rule sock-puppeting. The only reason he even learned that much, is because I pointed out it out to this dumbass.

    The day delusional davy finally gets hauled off to whatever passes for public mental health-care in the swamplands of missishiti, will be last time we ever hear from ‘MOB’ as well.

    Cant happen soon enough.

  8. makati1 on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 5:39 pm 

    Anon, IF MOB is Davy, then Davy does not sleep very much. But, I agree with your solution. I keep posting free mental clinic sites in Missouri but…

  9. makati1 on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 5:42 pm 

    Delusional Cloggie, solar will NEVER replace even a small percentage of the energy to power a world such as exists now. Not even close. Maybe an 1800s level but nothing higher. You keep up the dream but don’t be surprised when it doesn’t happen.

  10. Davy on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 5:49 pm 

    “I keep posting free mental clinic sites in Missouri but…”

    Billy, you try anything you can to put me down and the reason is I have moderated your message for so many years you are completely frustrated. Your only friend left is loser JuanP and anon the millennial mental case. That is a perfect reflection of who you are.

  11. Davy on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 5:52 pm 

    “It only means he has learned a basic rule sock-puppeting.”

    LOL, the lunatic comes out with it…now there are rules to sockpuppeting. You can’t make this shit up. anon, you are the biggest loser on this board. You are nothing but background noise.

  12. Anonymouse on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 6:05 pm 

    And there he is, the dumbass himself, leaping to I AM THE DAVYTURD’s, ahem, ‘I AM THE ‘mob’s, defense, right on schedule.

    So, how are things in the multi-polar world dumbass? Hows that .9 acres of weeds, old refrigerators, stumps and abandoned vehicles doing? Expecting a bumper crop this year?

  13. Davy on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 6:10 pm 

    anon, what’s da matter boy are you feeling frustrated? I am sorry you don’t have an idea in your head other than rules of sock puppeteering. Wow, that is some deep shit. LMFAO

  14. Antius on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 6:22 pm 

    “Antius, one question: Where does the energy come from to compress this air or the other energy ideas you post? Every change of energy is a loss. At least that is the physics I remember.”

    Which ideas in particular? For the compressed air, the most promising energy source would be the wind. In fact, we could attach the shaft of a wind turbine directly to a rotary or piston compressor. This cuts out the need for complex electrical systems, making this something that could be constructed locally in machine shops from common materials like carbon steel, wood and thermoplastics. Not quite as efficient as electrical systems, but much easier to make. Compressed air produced by simple wind machines could power a lot of things in a scaled down economy. Wherever mechanical power is needed, this is a very effective way of doing things. Compressed air tools are both more powerful and easier to make than portable electrical tools, although they do tend to be less efficient.

    Hydraulic power transmission is another option, I.e. using pressurised water. No good for charging vehicles, but very efficient and cost effective as a means of powering fixed mechanical equipment, I.e. tools within a machine shop. Such an option could power transport by pushing water through pipelines carrying floating plastic containers.

    For the hydraulic option, a geared centrifugal pump could be driven by a rotating shaft, or for an even simpler system, a single cylinder fluid pump fitted with check valves would be coupled to the rotating hub of the wind machine. A very simple system with only a handful of moving parts. Much like you said, greater simplicity is the way to go.

    “Oh, and, how long would it take to make this change to replace over 1 billion cars in the world today?”

    I haven’t a clue. I would imagine quite some time, though mass production can achieve impressive results in relatively short time scales if there is enough money involved. Nothing is the answer to everything. But small electric commuting vehicles like this have a definite target market and would appear to be affordable to a lot of people.

  15. makati1 on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 6:47 pm 

    Antius, where does the energy come from to make that wind powered stuff? Gears, shafts, etc? More wind power stuff? A circular system with a loss at every step. You are a delusional techie just like Cloggie. You obviously do not live on the real world.

    I suggest you read this if you haven’t already.

    The laws of Physics hasn’t changed since 2011. LMAO

  16. makati1 on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 6:54 pm 

    Anon, Davy will disappear in an hour or so and MOB will appear. Then there will be a break of a few hours (he has to sleep sometime) and guess who will reappear? Davy! Then MOB. Then Davy. Then… It does get comical when they “debate”. Schizophrenia?

    “Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal behavior, strange speech, and a decreased ability to understand reality.[2] Other symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, hearing voices that do not exist, reduced social engagement and emotional expression, and lack of motivation.[2][3] People with schizophrenia often have additional mental health problems such as anxiety, depressive, or substance-use disorders.[11] Symptoms typically come on gradually, begin in young adulthood, and in many cases never resolve.” WIKI

    Perfect description of Davy/MOB! LOL

  17. I AM THE MOB on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 7:33 pm 


  18. I AM THE MOB on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 7:50 pm 

    How many times has the human population doubled? Comparisons with cancer (Hern 99)

    These observations support the hypothesis that the human species has become a malignant process on the planet that is likely to result in the equivalent, for humans, of ecosystem death, or at least in a radical transformation of the ecosystem, the early phases of which are being observed.

  19. Anonymouse on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 7:54 pm 

    Mak, you understand the situation perfectly. Small wonder, ‘MOB’ here, never actually responds, even indirectly to, anything. He spams, farts and darts. He knows if says anything, beyond his canned, generic insults, , the more likely davyturd will trip up and use one of his old and stupid canards and give the game away. (again).

  20. I AM THE MOB on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 8:06 pm 

    Russian Official Cancels US Visit, Saying ‘Second American Civil War’ Is Underway

  21. makati1 on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 8:11 pm 

    Anon, I do get a response from MOB every few days but they are the same putdowns Davy uses. Nothing original. All are laughable. Perfect example of what is wrong with America today.

  22. Anonymouse on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 8:33 pm 

    Yea, davyturd replies, in fact, he is watching this exchange right now. Either seething with rage, contemplating another one of his tirades, or thinking about letting it go and head off to his goat pen to abuse his captive animals..again.
    The ones still alive anyhow.

    Eventually though, he will show up to lend I AM THE DAVYTURD more moral support.

    You might want to put up those mental-health clinic links for the (both) lol of them again.

  23. I AM THE MOB on Thu, 10th Jan 2019 10:23 pm 

    The very beginnings of fracture lines are appearing. Unlike a war that basically was divided along the Mason-Dixon Line, this one will be entirely about class. The first civil war had class underpinnings but this one will know no boundaries.

  24. Cloggie on Fri, 11th Jan 2019 1:34 am 

    Delusional Cloggie, solar will NEVER replace even a small percentage of the energy to power a world such as exists now. Not even close. Maybe an 1800s level but nothing higher. You keep up the dream but don’t be surprised when it doesn’t happen.

    We had this discussion 100 times before. You, like Davy and most of the rest here, are fighting tooth and nail against the idea that a renewable future is possible. You all are too much in love with the idea of “collapse”, an idea you have invested so much prepping and personal prestige in that for you all there is no way out from the hole you dug yourselves into.

    But you can’t explain this:

    And if in 2018 you can achieve 44%, it is a mathematical certainty you can achieve 200% (1990 level) in 2050. Producing renewable kWh’s is no longer a challenge. The challenge is storage.

    I’m betting on hydro storage in the North Sea…

    …to cover the hours range,

    and hydrogen for the bulk of the seasonal storage (converted if necessary in NH3 or methanol)…

    (the 2nd video shows a British presentation of a 10 MW working electrolyser operating at 77%. The trick is to electrolyse steam, not water. Efficiencies of up to 94% are in the pipeline. The company is now aiming at 100 MW).

    Add to that autonomous driving and lightweight vehicles like this…

    …and you have a Plan.

    In principle the technology is already there, as well as the preparedness of a few advanced NW-European nations to go all the way to 100% and do the necessary pioneering work, making it easier for the rest of the world to follow.

    There are no physical or mathematical constraints that would make a 100% renewable energy future impossible.

    Sitting on your ass and gloating about how the world will come to an end is NOT an honorable attitude.

  25. Cloggie on Fri, 11th Jan 2019 1:41 am 

    And here is the overall accurate plan including the numbers:

    And you need seasonal storage of heat like this:

    And then you are good.

    It is admittedly a huge task, but it can be done in 30 years.

  26. makati1 on Fri, 11th Jan 2019 1:53 am 

    Delusional Cloggie, you can deny reality 100 million times, but it will not change it.

    Techie priests have you brainwashed with their propaganda. Wanting something does not make it so. Your dream world will never happen. Not possible. Food, water and shelter will soon be all that humans are concerned about.

    You never consider time lines or the scaling up required or the $$$$$. Easy to dream. But the nightmare of reality will still be there when you awake. The world economy is collapsing. The world financial system is fracturing. DEBT has destroyed the future. The climates are changing for the worse. A World War is closer than it has been in the last 75 years. Nothing will change that.

    IF (big word!) today’s cars could be replaced with your dream cars at 100 million per year, it would take a minimum of 12 years. It will never happen. Cars will just die out. The economy will never support your dream world. Especially after the crash and reset to a much lower tech world where the average EU/US income will probably be about $10,000, or less, per year. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Are you prepared?

  27. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 11th Jan 2019 4:03 am 


    Renewable energy ‘simply won’t work’: Top Google engineers

    Solar and Wind produced less than one percent of total world energy in 2016 — IEA WEO 2017

    Study predicts world economy unlikely to stop relying on fossil fuels

    Keep posting your biased sources you dimwit..The big tech industry and China thanks you..


  28. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 11th Jan 2019 4:07 am 

    Warning of shortage of essential minerals for laptops, cell phones, electric cars, solar panels, wiring

    We Might Not Have Enough Materials for All the Solar Panels and Wind Turbines We Need

    At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system

    It Will Take 131 Years To Replace Oil, And We’ve Only Got 10

  29. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 11th Jan 2019 4:24 am 

    Europe is falling!

  30. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 11th Jan 2019 5:10 am 

    America should just divorce itself before things get worse..The northeast can join Europe..The northern states can join Canada..And the west coast can have their own country..And the religious right can have the south and rustbelt to turn into the “Handmaid’s tale”..A right wing military/religious dictatorship with guns and god in every school..And they can force their young woman into breeding stock for the “faithful”..And they can finally fulfill Hitler’s ultimate solution with an all white Aryan state..

  31. Cloggie on Fri, 11th Jan 2019 5:14 am 

    For the first time I agree with monster… uh mobster.

    Let’s bring it on, pref without bloodshed.

    We in Europe happily take the natzis.

  32. Antius on Fri, 11th Jan 2019 5:34 am 

    “Antius, where does the energy come from to make that wind powered stuff? Gears, shafts, etc? More wind power stuff? A circular system with a loss at every step. You are a delusional techie just like Cloggie. You obviously do not live on the real world.
    I suggest you read this if you haven’t already.”

    Makati, thank you for the link, it is informative. Building kit like wind turbines and vehicles does require a long chain of industrial activities. Fossil fuels have powered all of these processes in the past. But I would posit that there is nothing in the laws of physics that says that fossil fuels have to be the power source for these things. Let us consider a few examples:

    1. Mining requires mechanical energy. Much of this presently comes from diesel engines to power vehicles; electric power for conveyors and mills and compressed air for most underground equipment. Renewable energy can generate electric power, compressed air and hydraulic energy that does the same things, although the vehicles and tools may look different.

    2. Aluminium production requires 20kWh of electrical energy per kg of aluminium produced. That is quite a lot of energy, but there is nothing that prevents it from coming from wind turbines, solar panels, wave energy converters or nuclear reactors. Much of it does come from these devices already.

    3. Steel production requires a reducing agent (usually carbon monoxide) and a source of heat. There is nothing to prevent us from manufacturing steel in electric furnaces powered by renewable electricity, using electrolytic hydrogen or biogas as the reducing agent.

    4. Mechanical power can be provided using renewable energy, either through electric motors, or in the case of wind, wave, tidal and hydropower, through direct mechanical, pneumatic or hydraulic coupling.

    At worst, using renewable or nuclear energy to power industrial activities will result in higher costs, which implies reduced consumption and lower GDP. This will almost certainly be the case, as renewable energy is intermittent, which imposes limitations on the intensity of activities or additional costs associated with storage.

    But I think that this is generally accepted by Cloggie, Davy and me. Life will inevitably be less affluent. We are headed that way in any event. A transition to more sustainable energy implies changes at all levels of society, not just in our levels of consumption, but also the way in which we do things. Hence, the commuter vehicles we are discussing are smaller, slower and consume only a fraction of the energy of a conventional car. If powered by compressed air, they could last for fifty years with careful maintenance. This implies far less embodied energy in the road vehicles of the future. Generally there will be less car travel and more cycling, walking and use of buses. The hydraulic pipelines I have discussed here, transport goods more slowly than diesel trucks, but use a tiny fraction of the energy and resources. The horticulture based food systems we have discussed use very little synthetic energy, save that needed to manufacture tools. The price is a generally greater intensity of labour and reduced variety in diet. We have discussed cohousing and other collective solutions for things like refrigeration, washing, cooking, etc. These allow groups of people to achieve the same end use functions, using generally smaller amounts of more intermittent energy.

    A largely renewable energy economy would appear to be achievable, but it does require very different ways of life. Some parts of the world will adjust to this; others will not. Much does depend upon individual actors. People need to realise that they can build these things and they need to make the effort to do so, working with those around them. It won’t happen on its own.

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