Tuesday, June 23, 2009

OK, you want to stop the fossil fuel. Aren't you nice?

Five guys were on a ship going across the ocean. Unfortunately a wave hit their ship and took most of the gasoline they had for their motor. Doing a quick calculation on the remaining fuel, they decided that the only way to make shore was to use the fuel on a much smaller boat. The smaller boat wasn't seaworthy and wouldn't hold all of them. They had enough food for months on the big ship but only enough for a week on the small life boat. They got into the life boat because it was the 'rational' thing to do and the boat sank. All lives were lost. The next day a frieghter found the abandoned ship, which became another of those mysterious crew disappearance stories.

Moral: Be careful of what actions you take.

So you are a person who thinks we need to stop the use of fossil fuel.
You advocate ‘green’ energies, like nuclear, solar and wind, energy sources which don’t involve the emissions of CO2. My bet is that you haven't actually run the numbers to see how feasible it is for us to do what you suggest.

Today the world, in toto, uses 82 billion barrels of oil worth of energy. 29 billion of that is in the form of oil; 20 billion from natural gas; 24 billion from coal; 4 billion from nuclear and 5 billion from hydro-electric. This is data taken from the BP 2009 Statistical Review of World Energy, and the data is for 2008.

Now, the reason for stopping the warming is to save the poor Bangladeshi's who will be flooded. They are, you think, so stupid that they will stand still while the ocean levels rise and drowns them. (Well at least that is what it always sounds like the argument is to me). Anyway, for everyone's information, Bangladeshi's are busy burning carbon-based fuels so that they can have a better life. 98.5% of their energy comes from fossil fuels. For my part, I think the first people who should go back to the Neolithic are the Bangladeshi's. They should at least have the honor to stop using all carbon-based fuels and contributing to their drowning.

You say we should go to solar. Cumulative solar energy production accounts for less than 0.01% of total Global Primary Energy demand. http://www.solarbuzz.com/FastFactsIndustry.htm

That is one million tonnes of oil. Yep solar energy, the savior of the world is only today generating about 8 million bbl of oil per year. We use 29 billion barrels of oil each year and the equivalent of 82 billion barrels of oil in energy.
We have an extremely long way to go if solar is going to save our butts. But of course, this fact doesn't deter you from your holy jihad to stop the carbon-based economy.

What about that other savior of mankind, wind?

Global wind energy capacity grew by 28.8% last year, even higher than the average over the past decade, to reach total global installations of more than 120.8 GW at the end of 2008. Over 27 GW of new wind power generation capacity came online in 2008, 36% more than in 2007. http://www.gwec.net/index.php?id=30&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=177

"120.8 GW of global wind capacity will produce 260 TWh" http://www.gwec.net/index.php?id=13

So how much is this? the BP Statistical Review says:
"One million tonnes of oil produces about 4400 gigawatt-hours (=4.4 terawatt hours) of electricity in a modern power station."

One million tonnes of oil is 7.33 million barrels. So, 260 TWh/4.4 TWh per million tonnes = 433 million barrels of oil. This amounts to .0024 of the world's primary energy usage--Whoop-dee-do. Wind and solar account presently for .0025 of the world's energy.

It is clear that we aren't going to save ourselves with wind and solar. Secondly, I looked into getting wind and solar for my ranch and going off grid. It would cost me $250,000 for solar, it would have a cost payout time of 50 years, but the equipment would only last 30 years. It would cost me $80,000 to get the 4 Skystream turbines necessary to power the house with wind. How many of you have that much money hanging around in your bank accounts awaiting spending on a conversion to green energy?

You, the advocate for stopping the carbon-based economy, want everyone to spend a quarter million dollars to power their homes. Aren't you just so nice!
Oh? what's that? We should tax the rich? Yeah, they are always good for another milking. But have you ever gotten a job from a poor man? All the jobs I ever got were from a rich man. The poor never seem to be hiring when I come around. But, of course, you, the advocate for a carbon-free world are so nice and wise that you get to pick which of us get to not have a job. Aren't you so nice for doing that for us?

Now, let's look at what we need to do to stop the CO2. According to one news report of a couple of days ago the House cap and trade bill wants to cut CO2 emissions by 17% in 2020 and 83% by 2050. Fine, what do we stop doing?

One very expensive place for energy use is agriculture. 1% of the world's energy is spent making fertilizer. (Science 6 September 2002: Vol. 297. no. 5587, pp. 1654 - 1655 ) If we cut that, we don't eat. But, you, the advocate for stopping carbon, have already seen two steps ahead of us. You know that if we starve a few billion people we wont' have a CO2 problem anymore. You, of course, like the pig in Animal Farm know that some pigs are more equal than other pigs. Aren't you so wise?

But the above is only 1% of the energy use. Food takes 10% of the world's energy. This includes tractors, food processing and trucking. You don't want us to eat in order to save those poor Bangladeshi's? Aren't you so nice?

On the other hand, we could simply starve the Bangladeshi's and then we wouldn't need to save them. A 30% reduction in agriculture energy use would probably finish the Bangladeshi's off. Wouldn't that be a grand idea?

Now, do you want a job? Most of our driving is to and from work. While we can all get into tiny clown cars (and risk being mowed down by Semi's) most of us wish a modicum of safety from our cars. But you, oh wise advocate of a no-carbon world, know that mowing down a few global warming skeptics will mean more energy for you. Aren't you so nice?

60-70% of the oil is used for transportation--the fuel with which we drive to work. An easy way to reduce this is to stop going to work. That will significantly reduce CO2 emissions but you will have trouble buying your food. But then, so what, sacrifices must be made, for the greater good of those who advocate a no-carbon world. They are so wise and so superior to all uv us pur unedjukated pipple.

I know, some will be saying what about higher gas mileage. If we assume we get 25 mpg on average, let's look at what will happen if we raise it to 43 mpg, a 40% reduction in energy for transportation. The first thing that will happen is that all the oil companies will have financial problems. Such a severe reduction in demand for oil would lead to massive layoffs of those of us who have survived the layoff-prone oil industry up to this point. Exploration for oil will cease. Great, some will say. Fantastic.

But what they don't know is that if we were to cease exploration, the pressure decline in oil fields would cause us to lose 5.5 million bbl/day of productive capacity per year. What would this mean? Well, we would certainly emit less CO2 but also the price of oil would be so low that everyone would start buying Hummers again. Within 6 years, oil production in the world would be about 40% less and the price of oil would spike, causing all the other industries to begin to lay people off. My estimate would be that you would see by then $500/bbl prices. The poor of course couldn't afford to go to work, and the GDP would plummet again. Aren't you so nice for advocating such a policy?

Do you hate coal? Let's stop burning it. Just remember you in the US will lose 20% of your its electricity. Sell the coal to China and the CO2 will still get into the atmosphere. So to stop it you need to put the coal miners out of work. Aren't you nice. Look at all the jobs you have stopped. All those wee idiots aren't on the freeways any more and the air is being cleansed of CO2.

China, who gets about 70% of their energy from coal. They will burn it because the minute their economy stops growing, there will be a revolution. Their people are just beginning to have a nice life and you want to tell them to stop having a good life. Aren't you nice. Yes, you get to engage in economic and environmental imperialism. You get to have a nice life but no one else can have it. Aren't you so nice to all those little brown people over seas! (seriously I think it is racism when these advocates for a no carbon world always tell other countries they can't develop their economies.

In any event you won't stop all the coal from being burned. The US with 20% less electricity would not be able to run its computer based economy. You will put 20% of the office workers out of work. Have fun in the dark without a job. Don't you love the world you have created?


  1. It certainly paints a dark picture if only the most draconian measures are taken.

    As the old adage goes; the only people we can control are ourselves. As such I am less interested in how we "command" other countries about development as I am about what _we_ in the U.S. can and should do.

    We make up only about 5% of the earth's population and we use about 25% of the world's petroleum. We may have brought many good things to the earth but we've taken far more than our share. It is up to us, the richest nation in the history of the entire world, to take the lead.

    If not us, who better to develop the technology, if not us, who _OWES_ the world a modification of our voracious appetites?

    If _we_ do nothing, you can be guaranteed that China won't, and you would be hard pressed to figure out a rationalization to suggest to them anything else.

    But the most fascinating thing about this, whether it's from the point of view of massive global change or catastrophic depletion of energy is that it's going to be painful no matter what.

    But as in all good medicine it's best to take it while you have a choice rather than having to have limbs amputated when things go horribly awry.

    I don't expect it will be easy. I'm doing what I can because I want to. I drive a "clown car" (thanks for that, by the way) because I don't see any reason to be driving a big SUV or Hummer around town. I have solar on my house (the ROI is much better for me because the payoff is only about 15 years and the lifespan is about 25 for the panels), but I did that again because it's "the right thing to do" and I could afford to do the right thing now.

    Not everyone can. Just like the Bangaldeshis who, unlike the vision posted here of them just standing around while the water rises, will actually have to face what many people all over the earth have faced: migration, which as you no doubt know, isn't always appreciated by the neighboring countries. That's why so many areas have festering refugee camps across borders from war-torn or drought ravaged countries.

    The Bangladeshis can move, but only so far.

    It's going to cost. No doubt. It's going to cost a lot.

    But in the end we don't have a choice. We are between the Scylla and Charybdis. It's either global climate change or it's resource depletion.

    Interestingly both can be at least somewhat ameliorated by people changing their actions with regards to fossil fuels.

  2. Thanks for the kind comments, Lemon.

    Hagiograph, Yeah, we are offered a bad set of choices, however, I would disagree strongly that 'we have taken far more than our share'. I have lived on 3 different continents and been in 30 different countries. Americans work far harder than anyone else anywhere that I have seen. We work more hours and are far more productive than others

    Last Updated: Monday, 3 September 2007, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK

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    US workers top productivity table

    US workers are 14% more productive than the best of the rest
    Workers in the US are still more productive per person than any others in the world, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) says in a report.

    "In 2006 each US worker produced $63,885 (£31,651) of wealth, well ahead of second placed Ireland at $55,986." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6976084.stm

    We in the US produce the most goods and services, i.e. have the highest GDP of anywhere in the world. The reason the other countries haven't 'taken their share' is because their economic systems suck, not because we are rapacious. If a forest has a bucket load of apples and the a person fails to do the work to climb the tree and collect them, it is not a very logical to proclaim that those who do work are taking more than their share!

    But, if you want you want to live on your 'share' of the world's income, then you should give away everything above about $2500 per year! Yep, that is YOUR SHARE.

    Having lived in China and been to Tibet I can assure you that about a billion people there think you are insufferably rich. Many people in China make only $300 per year and it is NOT because we are holding them down but because their past leaders had no clue how the economy worked and they embraced the 'let's make everyone take their fair share' communistic approach to life and it created one of the poorest countries on earth before their leaders (Deng Xiao Ping) decided to try capitalism and call it communism.

    As to a clown car, you have the personal liberty to make your choice for your automobile. I will defend that as your free choice. But don't try to force your choices on everyone else as if it is your right to be dictator of the universe. For my part I drive a small sports car that gets about 30 mpg, but I am always the one at work when we go to lunch that can't drive because not everyone fits into my car. My next car will be bigger.