As debate continues to rage over at The Conversation I have now mentioned several times regarding future Carbon emissions, I continually come across people who misunderstand our energy conundrums. It gives me satisfaction to be able to rattle their collective cages, and introduce them to notions like the energy cliff, and the utterly essential continuation of oil production for mining the resources we need to keep business as usual operating.
Interestingly, some of the commentators there introduce me to things I knew nothing about. Which is good; because it makes me think further about why their solutions will not save the day, and forces me to do some more research and keep the old brain cells alive and ticking. For instance, when I pointed the conversation towards Simon Michaux’s Peak Mining presentation available on this blog, and that I thought mining without diesel would be impossible, along comes this person who points me to mining trucks powered by overhead electricity, much like an electric train. This is readily feasible of course, because all those big Tonka Trucks are already running on electric motors, powered by a huge diesel enegine that spins an equally huge generator to produce the electricity for the motors….. very much like a diesel electric locomotive. My first reaction, however, was ‘how can they move the overhead lines constantly as the bottom of the mine expands and keeps changing shape’?
Here is a video of how they operate……
Now, this video makes claims such as ‘saving energy’, which I suggest it clearly does not. While running in ‘trolley mode’, diesel consumption may fall from 360L/hr to 45L/hr, but now it’s burning electricity instead, and it’s STILL burning diesel! On top of that, this video claims that by using electric lines, they can increase the speed of the truck from 8km/hr to 24km/hr…. hello, don’t they realise there is no free lunch? Going faster requires more energy, especially uphill! Instead of reducing energy consumption, I think this would actually increase it. I would like to see total energy consumption in MJ/km rather than merely saying the trucks use less diesel. You’ll notice that the overhead lines are only used in the uphill sections.
This then got me thinking about why they would go to this trouble. After all, spending capital to electrify the lifting of ores from the bottom of a mine pit just as the price of these commodities is falling, seems counter intuitive to me. Until that is, you put two and two together and realise that as the ore concentrations fall off a cliff, more and more ore has to be brought up for processing, and faster and faster to boot, just to keep up with production of the final resource, in this case Copper. But wait, there’s more… research shows Zambia produces 200 barrels of oil a day. NOT 200,000…… two hundred! On top of that, Zambia gets 100% of its electricity from hydro. So of course, what else would they do?
Further down The Conversation, someone else makes the comment “Solar thermal is a very new technology, do you think ERoEI values estimated now will apply for all time? ” Well no……. thermodynamics dictates that ERoEI will always fall!
“”To maintain a society like ours requires an overall ERoEI of about 12:1″. Perhaps, but perhaps not, that’s a fairly bold assertion, I’m not sure of the weight of evidence behind it. One would also assume that as the easily accessible fossil fuels are increasingly depleted, the ERoEI of fossil fuels would be decreasing (unlike that of renewables which is increasing).”
This is classic. People who want to believe in a renewables powered future apparently also believe that renewables’ ERoEI can magically rise, just as the fossil fuels’ ERoEI, the very energy sources used to make the renewables, falls. Talk about white man’s magic….
IF we require to build more and more robots, just build more and more robots, to make more and more PVs to power the robots, and make more robots to build more Tonka Tucks, to dig more and more mineral ores, just so we can build more factories to house more robots to…. well, you get the message. We are sinking alarmingly increasing amounts of energy and non renewable resources into a black hole, and for what…?
Making someone already rich even richer. Game over.
By the way, an alarmingly high number of people are predicting a looming financial correction of epic proportion, maybe even this month (October 2014). I’m not qualified to comment on this, except as just another passenger, but I found this quite concerning. A bit long at 34 minutes, and the interviewer keeps interrupting annoyingly, but what does everyone else think?